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Reading report for September 2008

I have been on leave from work with nothing to do except exercise for 50 minutes 2-3 times a day, eat my meals and attend the occasional lecture designed to improve my lifestyle. This has given me time to read voraciously. I therefore got through 20 books in September (I could have read a book a day, but I was pacing myself). This is not a record number of volumes for me but I am sure it comes close to being a record number of pages (or words) I have read in one month, since I only started reading 3 of the books before the beginning of the month, and some of the books were above average length. Only one was a reread (I think you can guess which one, at least if you read this blog regularly). I doubt I will be able to keep this up in October, as I will be going back to work then and starting an exercise regime where I work out for a minimum of 60 minutes a day, meaning I will have 60 minutes less potential reading time. But my health comes first, so I will be on the lookout for interes…

Mystery author #47: Charlotte MacLeod

I have read 7 of MacLeod’s books so far, but I am only going to do full reviews the first book from each of her 2 series. I will also list the others with short reviews. I may do full reviews of some of them later on.

The Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn series:
This series deals with the adventures of Sarah Kelling (later Bittersohn) and Max Bittersohn. She is a member of one of Boston’s old blood families and starts out as a housewife and later becomes the owner of a boarding house, and Max is a private investigator who specialises in art and jewellery.

The series starts out with Sarah as the main sleuth and Max as the helper, but in the 4 books I read (in order of publication) the focus shifted gradually towards having Max as the main sleuth and Sarah as the helper. This is perhaps natural, as Max is a kind of private detective, and as a matter of fact art and/or jewellery feature in all 4 murder cases.

The books are full of funny and eccentric characters, many of whom belong to Boston…

Mystery author #46: John D. MacDonald

Title:One Fearful Yellow Eye
Series detective: Travis McGee
No. in series: 8 (of 21)
Year of publication: 1966
Type of mystery: Blackmail and other nefarious business
Type of investigator: Private detective
Setting & time: Chicago, Illinois, and Florida, USA; 1960s

Story:
Travis McGee responds to a call for help from his former lover, Glory Doyle Geis, and flies up to Chicago to meet her. Her brain surgeon husband had died a long, slow death and while he was dying he had managed to turn most of his assets into money which then disappeared. His grown children by his first wife are deeply suspicious of Glory, who wants to find out what happened for her own peace of mind and to prove her innocence in the matter. Travis immediately suspects blackmail, and when he starts digging he uncovers a sordid trail of blackmail and violence.

Review:
When I picked up this book to read it I knew I was about to meet one of America’s most famous fictional PIs, but I didn’t know I was in for a stylistic treat …

Reading report for August 2008

I was slightly above my average reading level in August, with 14 books, perhaps subconsciously trying to make up for June and July. I started all but one of the books I finished within the month, which is unusual. The exception was the Heyer biography which I had been reading on and off for more than a year.

I have been on a travel book kick lately, finishing 3 within the month and I have started 2 more which I expect to finish in September. I also added 2 more authors to the reading challenge. Susan Dunlop I have already reviewed, and I am planning to read a couple more of Charlotte MacLeod’s books before I post a review. I am beginning to see a light at the end of that particular tunnel and will hopefully finish the challenge by the end of the year.

Ideas for a new challenge are welcome. I am leaning towards a travel book challenge, but it may be difficult to implement as I want to read about a new country every week and don't want to read guide books.

In the months to come you m…

Mystery author #45: Susan Dunlap

Title:Karma
Series detective: Jill Smith
No. in series: 1
Year of publication: 1981
Type of mystery: Murder
Type of investigator: Police
Setting & time: Berkeley, California, USA; 1980s

Story:
Jill Smith is off duty when she witnesses the mysterious murder of a guru at a Buddhist temple, but as the first officer on the scene she gets to lead the investigation, which soon turns out to be anything but simple. A number of people have various reasons for wanting the victim dead, most of them have something to hide, and none are willing to reveal all they know.

Review:
This is an enjoyably twisty mystery, plot driven with a nice old-fashioned puzzle plot. There are a number of red herrings, and like in so many good detective novels, the murderer is hiding in plain view all the time.
The negative thing is that Jill, the investigator, is in no way a unique character. She is just a typical stereotypical literary cop: married to her job, divorced because of it, seems to have few friends (all of th…