31 May 2009

Quotation of the day

I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.
Jorge Luis Borges 24 August 1899 – 14 June 1986)

This is the motto of my favourite book discussion forum, Reader's Paradise.

30 May 2009

To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all of the miseries of life.
W. Somerset Maugham (1874–1965)

29 May 2009

News: And the winner is...

Johan Theorin (Sweden) for Nattfåk (Night Blizzard).

Glerlykillinn 2009

Here are the authors, from left to right: Johan Theorin, Marko Kilpi, Lene Kaaberbøl, Agnete Friis, Vidar Sundstøl and Arnaldur Indriðason.

I was tempted to use a photo that includes a press photographer herding them into formation. Why on earth she wanted to photograph them out in the wind with the sun at their backs, I don't understand. She was also trying to get them to not smile and look menacing instead. Cliché!

Before the awards ceremony there was a short lecture on the Nordic crime novel, and afterwards the nominees participated in an interesting panel discussion about their books, their motivations, research and crime fiction in general. The majority of the audience were invited guests, with a few stragglers like myself in between. I wasn't doing any name-spotting, but I did notice Susan Moody among the audience, which is why I am going to read one of her books next: Penny Black, which happens to be on the top mysteries list.

Tomorrow there will be another panel discussion and a couple of lectures.

Time for a quotation from a book

Travelogues are my favourite non-fiction genre, and therefore you can expect to find a number of quotations from such books here once they start piling up for real. Not all are about travel, some are about the destination or the natives, expats or other travellers (I have yet to come across a travelogue written by a self-confessed tourist...).

I love this one:

"The gentle reader will never, never know what a consummate ass he can become, until he goes abroad. I speak now, of course, in the supposition that the gentle reader has not been abroad, and therefore is not already a consummate ass. If the case be otherwise, I beg his pardon and extend to him the cordial hand of fellowship and call him brother. I shall always delight to meet an ass after my own heart when I shall have finished my travels."
Mark Twain (1835–1910), The Innocents Abroad (Ch. XXIII)

This paragraph is followed by examples, and although Innocents... was published 140 years ago, the observation is still quite valid.

28 May 2009

Top mysteries challenge review: The Seven-Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer

Year of publication: 1974
Genre: Mystery thriller
Type of investigator: Professional
Series detective: Sherlock Holmes
No. in series: 1
Setting & time: London, UK and Vienna, Austria; 1891.

This is one of the numerous attempts to continue the saga of Sherlock Holmes from where Arthur Conan Doyle left off, although in this case the story actually happens right in the middle of the Holmes canon and is offered as an alternative account to what happened when Holmes disappeared in “The Final Problem” (The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes). Two subsequent novels in the series fill in some more of what Holmes is supposed to have been up to during his absence, up to Doyle’s “The Adventure of the Empty House” (The Return of Sherlock Holmes).

Much like three of the four Holmes novels written by Doyle, the book is divided into two parts, but unlike them the story is told sequentially and has Holmes in both parts. In part 1, Watson, who is the narrator, finds his old friend in a state of paranoia induced by cocaine addiction and conspires with Mycroft Holmes to take Sherlock to Vienna where there is someone who may be able to rid him of the addiction. In part 2 Holmes solves a mystery in Vienna which helps him regain his old energy and zest for life.

While I do, on a certain level, find it strange that an author who is as capable a writer as Meyer is should choose to take characters invented by another author and put them into a story in which he could so easily have used characters of his own creation, I also understand the fascination Sherlock Holmes holds for many people and the desire to read more about him. In the afterword Meyer writes that in the book he took some of the theories and deductions made by Holmesian scholars and incorporated them into the book, so it appears that he really did his homework before starting, which is to be commended. The book was probable made more saleable by the inclusion of Holmes, and it would be an interesting exercise in writing for an author to pastiche another's work.

I am not going to do a comparison of the writing styles of Meyer and Doyle, so I can’t comment on how true the writing rings style-wise, but the events and the behaviour of the characters do feel true to the original stories. The writing is skillful and the plot draws one in easily, and the cocaine addiction part is interesting and written in such a way as to make one really care what happens to Holmes. The mystery part, however, is weak (although the thriller element is good), and content-wise could really have been presented better in short story or novella form. As a whole, however, this is an interesting “what if” story and not all a bad book, but its inclusion in a list of the best mysteries of all time is, in my opinion, not warranted.

Rating: An interesting look at what Sherlock Holmes could have bee doing whole he was supposed to be dead. 3 stars.

Books left in challenge: 101

Awards and nominations: None that I’m aware of.

P.S. There is a movie, with an Academy-award nominated script adapted from the book by the author.

27 May 2009

Guerilla lending library

How cool is this?

Ok, so the school is probably within its rights to ban these books, but has banning a book ever stopped a determined teenager from reading it?

Minus point for the Twilight comment.

Wednesday reading experience #21

Choose a profession that you have read about in a novel and found interesting. Read some non-fiction about the same job or profession and compare the view the novels give with the view non-fiction books do.

It is quite likely that you will find that the novels either romanticise the profession or make it seem in some other way different from what is actually the case, depending on the kind of profession and the kind of novel.

This is, for example, common in crime novels. If crime novels are to be believed, private detectives frequently investigate murders, kidnappings, rapes, bank heists and other serious crimes, while in real life you are more likely to find them digging up dirt for divorce cases or running background checks on someone’s potential spouse or employee. And specialised forensic experts like pathologists and physical anthropologists, who in real life are confined in their work to the laboratory and the courtroom, in the books always seem to be questioning or chasing suspects or investigating aspects of crimes that have nothing to do with their training.

26 May 2009

Quotation

"Librarians are wonderful people. They should be in the detective business."
Wilson Tucker: The Chinese Doll

24 May 2009

Quotation

What's a book?
Everything or nothing.
The eye that sees it all.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

23 May 2009

Quotation

"Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life. Libraries change lives for the better."
Sidney Sheldon

22 May 2009

News: The Crime Writers of Scandinavia’s Glass Key will be awarded in Iceland this year – and I’m going!

The award will be delivered to the winner in the Nordic House in Reykjavík on Friday, May 29th, by the Icelandic Minister of Education, Katrín Jakobsdóttir.

The nominees are:
  • Iceland: Arnaldur Indriðason for Harðskafi (Hypothermia)
  • Sweden: Johan Theorin for Nattfåk (Night Blizzard)
  • Denmark: Lene Kaaberbøl & Agnete Friis for Drengen i kufferten (The Boy in the Suitcase)
  • Finland: Marko Kilpi for Jäätyneitä ruusuja (Frozen Roses)
  • Norway: Vidar Sundstøl for Drømmenes land (The Land of Dreams)

There will be a panel discussion with the authors afterwards, and on Saturday there will be lectures, followed by a panel discussion with the participation of Jo Nesbø, Diane Wei Liang and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir.

Unfortunately, none of the Scandinavian books are available at a library I have access to, and none have so far been translated into Icelandic, so I have had no opportunity to read them.

Quotation

"Book lovers never go to bed alone."
Unknown

21 May 2009

Mystery review: Appleby on Ararat by Michael Innes

Genre: Mystery thriller
Year of publication: 1941
No. in series: 7
Series detective: John Appleby
Type of investigator: Police
Setting & time: An unnamed island in the Pacific during World War 2

Story:
Appleby and six others are shipwrecked in the Pacific when their passenger ship is torpedoed. They end up on an island that at first seems deserted, but then one of them is murdered and it really seems impossible that one of them could have done it. Shortly afterwards, one of the group discovers a hotel at the other end of the island, and Appleby meets an archaeologist on the beach. At the hotel another murder is committed, and a group of natives attack the hotel. Appleby has by now figured out what is going on, but I will not go into it as it would be a spoiler.

Review:
This is my first Appleby book. I have read one other Innes book, The Journeying Boy which I enjoyed, but found a bit confusing because halfway through it shifted genres, from a mystery to a thriller. This book does the same, not once but twice. It begins as a lightly comic Robinson Crusoe adventure that seems set to turn into a desert island mystery, then becomes a country house mystery, and finally turns into a war thriller.

I had been expecting a straight-forward mystery, but found my expectations challenged, fortunately in a good way. Innes breaks the rules repeatedly, peppers the narrative with obscure literary references, writes funny and interesting characters, hides clues in such a way that the reader is kept constantly on her toes, and drops Latin like he thinks everyone can understand it. Some of these I consider to be good points, others not so good. The plot involving the bad guys, while imaginative and apt for the time of writing, is unfortunately one of the points I didn’t like. But taken altogether I enjoyed the book more than I didn’t.

Rating: A confusing but enjoyable mystery thriller. 3 stars.

20 May 2009

Wednesday reading experience #20

Have you ever found a description of a dish or a meal in a book that made you hungry? If you have, find the recipe or recipes and cook the dish or meal for yourself, or, if you don't cook, go to a restaurant and order it.

If you are the kind who reads while you eat, try reading the appropriate passage from the book while you eat.

Did the dish or meal stand up to expectations?

--
I have done this a number of times, with varying results. Some of the failures can be blamed on not having found the right version of the recipe, others on something going wrong with the cooking.

19 May 2009

Top mysteries challenge review: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Sub-title: A true account of a multiple murder and its consequences.
Year of publication: 1965 (as 4 long newspaper articles; in 1966 in book form)
Genre: True crime
Setting & time: Kansas, USA (mostly Holcomb and Garden City), other places around the USA; Mexico; 1959-1960.

Story and review:
In November 1959, a respectable and prosperous Kansas farmer, his wife and two of their children were murdered by two ex-convicts. The men had come there to rob them of what they expected would be a fortune. They only scored a small amount of money but left behind them a carnage that horrified the peaceful small town of Holcomb. Truman Capote read a short piece of news about the murders and went there to investigate. What emerged was this book which is part fact and part fiction. The Wikipedia entry on the book calls it a non-fiction novel, i.e. a basically true story written using the techniques of fiction.

I must admit that I am squeamish when it comes to reading about real crimes, especially violent ones. Even so, I found this story keeping me spellbound, and I think this is mostly because Capote makes it seem like fiction, even while drawing up excellent images of the participants so realistic that one can almost see them, and describing in cinematic detail events one knows really took place. The novelization technique he adopted, including the use of an omniscient narrator who tells the story in an impersonal manner instead of telling the story as himself, is a very good way to make the story seem like a novel and thus remove any misgivings the reader might feel upon reading, for example, the descriptions of the murders.

As in most cases of true crime writing, there is always some speculation going on, and Capote has been accused not only of speculation, but of downright fiddling with the truth in unverifiable parts of the story. Additionally, long passages of the story are based solely on what the two men told Capote about themselves, and are probably not totally reliable. That doesn’t detract from the quality of the storytelling, which is excellent and in the best tradition not only of the police procedural, but also of the psychological thriller. With the police procedural it has in common the detailed descriptions of the police’s gathering of evidence, and with the psychological thriller the building up of tension that one can’t help but feel, even though one knows perfectly well what’s going to happen. The slow unfolding of events, jumping first between the victims and killers, and then between the police and the killers, and between the past and the (narrative) present, along with the piecemeal passing out of information, so that one doesn’t have the whole picture until the last sentence, is brilliant.

Rating: An excellent example of true crime writing that many writers of true crime stories could learn something from. 4+ stars.

Books left in challenge: 102

Awards and nominations: None that I know of.

17 May 2009

Quotation

"Books are like imprisoned souls till someone takes them down from a shelf and frees them."
Samuel Butler (1835–1902

16 May 2009

Quotation

"The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who'll get me a book I ain't read."
Abraham Lincoln

15 May 2009

Quotation

"They thought the Library was a dangerous place because of all the magical books, which was true enough, but what made it really one of the most dangerous places there could ever be was the simple fact that it was a library".
Terry Pratchett: Guards!Guards!

14 May 2009

Book quotations

Back when I was blogging on my original 52 Books blog on Tblog I had, for a while, a feature called “quotation of the day”, where I would post daily quotations about books, reading or libraries. For some reason this feature didn’t follow me here, but now I’m resurrecting it. I’m not going to make it a daily or even a regular thing, but will try to post quotations on days when I don’t post anything else, if only to keep the feed readers busy.

I am widening the scope and including quotations from books that I have read that caught my attention for some reason, even if they are not about books, libraries or reading. I have, for some time, been collecting quotations from books into a commonplace book, and this is a perfect venue to unload some of the quotations.

Here is one I like:

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”
G. K. Chesterton (1874 - 1936)

13 May 2009

Wednesday reading experience #19

Consider a favourite book and find music that expresses how it makes you feel.

You may want to play this soundtrack in the background while you re-read favourite parts of the book.

You could also try making a playlist that expresses the book in some other way - like the relationships between the characters, or even one that retells the story in music.

10 May 2009

My TBR challenge list

Lately I have been suffering from what we Icelanders call valkvíði when it comes to books. The word translates into English as “anxiety of choosing” and refers to the range of feelings from apprehension to terror suffered by one who has too many things to choose from. 809 TBR books are a very good reason for having valkvíði, and so I have gathered together 50 books that
  • I have, at one time or another, started reading and then put back on the shelf with the bookmark inside, or
  • I have been reading on and off for too long, or
  • I feel it‘s time I read, either because they have been TBR for too long, or because they keep calling out to me to read them, or because I feel guilty that I haven‘t read them already.
I put the list in the side-bar, under the title TBR books I want to finish before the end of 2009. The aim is to try to finish all of them and/or cull any that are too dull or bad to finish. If any books are left over at the end of the year, they will form the core of a new list of 50 books I want to finish before the end of 2010.

While the list is meant as an aid in the “TBR-for-more-than-a-year” challenge, it is not entirely composed of books that fall under that label. Some of the books are newer than that, but most of them will have qualified for the challenge by the time I get around to reading them. They are “started reading but then stopped” and “I've wanted to read this for ages – better buy it” books that have subsequently ended up on the shelves, temporarily forgotten because something else was more interesting when the time came to read them.

I am going to try to stick to this list and not read any of my other TBR books until it is empty, with the exception of books that belong in the other two challenges: Top Mysteries (listed below this list) and Icelandic books (which I do not have a list for, preferring to leave their choosing to chance and mood). I am also allowing myself the joy of library books on any subject – which is only fair considering that I have over a thousand books on my “Not Owned TBR”, many of which are available from one or more of the local libraries.

I am planning to finish the books I am currently reading to clear the slate before I delve into the list. To make it easier to stick to this regime, I am keeping all the books on the list in my bedroom.

08 May 2009

Top mysteries challenge review: The False Inspector Dew by Peter Lovesey

I started reading this book a couple of months ago and finished a couple of chapters, but for some reason I then put it aside and forgot about it for several weeks. Since it is also a TBR challenge book, having lingered on my TBR shelf for over 2 years, I have managed to kill two birds with this one stone, challengewise, and also got an enjoyable read out of it.

Year of publication: 1982
Genre: Historical mystery
Type of mystery: Murder
Type of investigator: Amateur
Setting & time: London, England, and aboard the passenger ship Mauritania on the way to New York; 1921.

Story:
Dentist Walter Baranov is devastated when his actress wife decides to go to Hollywood to pursue a career in the movies. As his practice is in her name and he is penniless without her, he sees no alternative but to go with her, that is until a young woman he has met and become attracted to puts into his head the idea of killing Lydia. The plan is to do it on board the passenger ship to New York and throw the body in the sea, but things go quickly askew when another woman on board is murdered and Walter, who is travelling under the assumed name of Mr. Dew, is mistaken for the detective who arrested Dr. Crippen and asked to find the murderer.

Review:
This is the second enjoyable humorous mystery I read this week, but it is completely different from the other one in all other respects. For starters, this is a parody, and quite a good one. Lovesey’s humour is bone dry and he is very good at leading the reader astray.

The characters are interesting – even if they are somewhat exaggerated and larger than life. Walter, who at first seems so meek, blossoms once he has to pretend to be Inspector Dew, and the idealistic Alma, with all her knowledge of love straight out of romance novels, is very entertaining throughout the book. While as a romance reader myself I suppose I should find her offensive, I would like to think she was meant as a parody of a stereotypical silly romance reader, just as Walter and the ship’s detective are parodies of certain types of detectives, and the Cordells stereotypes (although more toned-down than Walter and Alma) of a certain type of nouveau riche Americans well-known from movies and books. Whatever the case may be, she keeps the reader nicely interested with her silliness until Walter comes into his own as Dew. The thing is, though, that while it is easy to recognise these stereotypes, Lovesey has still managed to make them interesting and rounded up to a point. Walter and Alma, for example, both develop and change in the course of the story, which is not something you often see stock characters do.

The thing about this story is that while it may be a parody, the mystery is still good, even if it isn’t exactly inspired. However, there are certain logical points that don’t hold up to scrutiny, but they have less to do with the actual mystery than with one important plot element, which a clever reader will have anticipated early on precisely because of these points, but for a story this entertaining in other respects this apparent weakness is almost excusable.

Rating: An excellent parody of the mystery genre that manages to be an entertaining and nice little mystery in itself. 4 stars.

Books left in challenge: 103.

Awards and nominations: The 1982 Gold Dagger.

07 May 2009

A celebration of Bibliophilia

Books in the windows, books on the floor,
Books fill my shelves and block up the door.
Books in my bedroom, books in the hall,
Books on the tables and up against the wall.
Books in the attic, books on the stairs,
Books in the bathroom, books on the chairs.
Books in the kitchen, books in my head,
Books in the basement, books I haven't read.

I'm cozy and content in my quiet world of books,
I turn and read my pages in several little nooks.
I am relaxed and happy in my comfy little nest,
To read at least a book a day is what I love the best.
I feel alive and happy with my eyes fixed on a book,
I do my daily reading and sometimes forget to cook.
Some may think that all those books are keeping me in thrall,
It's true I will be old and gray before I've read them all.

Thank goodness!

Copyright by Bibliophile

06 May 2009

Wednesday reading experience #18

Play a casting director: Take a familiar book and decide who should play which character in a movie. Read the book with the cast list in mind and see if your choices stick.

I recommend doing this with a book that has not been filmed before, as actors from the real film, whether you have seen it or not, tend to interfere with the fantasy.

If you have or know of any blog entries about casting a book, please post the link in comments.

05 May 2009

News! Arnaldur Indriðason shortlisted for the Macavity award

Arnaldur Indriðason's book The Draining Lake (Kleifarvatn in Icelandic) has been shortlisted for the 2009 Macavity award, in the category for "Best Mystery Novel".

See my review of the book.

The Macavity Award is awarded annually in several categories, by Mystery Readers International, a large mystery fan organisation.

(Found through Petrona)

04 May 2009

Top mysteries challenge review: The Shortest Way to Hades by Sarah Caudwell

Year of publication: 1985
Genre: Mystery
Type of mystery: Murder
Type of investigator: Amateur (a law historian)
Setting & time: London, England and Corfu, Greece; contemporary

Story:
Professor Hilary Tamar tells the story of how she (or is it he? – it is not clear from the text) became involved in solving a murder connected to a legal case being handled by her/his barrister friends and ex-students. The heirs to a considerable fortune wanted to change an entail arrangement so that the main heiress wouldn’t have to pay inheritance tax. The case was successful but when one of the heirs in the tail (i.e. she will only inherit if the main heiress dies) falls off a balcony and dies, the barrister representing her thinks it may be murder, but neither Hilary nor the police can see how it could have been done. Then two of Hilary’s young friends go to Corfu for a holiday and are invited to stay with the family, which includes the heiress and three others who are after her in the tail (line of inheritance). When one of Tamar's friends writes of mysterious "accidents" and her growing uneasiness about the situation, Hilary puts two and two together and sets off to Corfu to prevent further foul play.

Review and rating:
This is a very enjoyable story. Not only is it well written, full of funny and interesting characters and sparkling with humour, it is also a very complicated and twisted mystery. The solution involves the terms of a will and there are some points of law that one needs to understand in order to be able to compete with the sleuth in solving the case. But by making the narrator a legal historian and not a lawyer, Caudwell cleverly enables herself to have the lawyers explain the legal points to the reader through Tamar, in plain English, without it becoming contrived or overcomplicated. The narrative is full of funny dialogue which reminds me of Georgette Heyer’s mysteries. It also has a solid and complicated plot that should give any mystery lover several hours of reading pleasure.

All in all, I liked it very much and will be on the lookout for the rest of Caudwell’s books. 5 stars.

Books left in challenge: 104.

Awards and nominations: Finalist, 1987 Anthony Award.

03 May 2009

2008 reading report mistake

I just discovered an error in my reading report for last year. I have been collecting all the statistically interesting information from my handwritten reading journal in an Excel file that allows me to make the statistical analysis I have published here at the end of each year. From the beginning of my journal-keeping I have written in the name of the publisher, but for some reason I never entered that information into the Excel file.

Having nothing better to do this afternoon, I decided to add the publisher information for this year and the last, so I got out the journal, opened last year’s spreadsheet, sorted the information by date and started entering the information. I soon discovered that I had somehow missed a couple of pages when entering the information for 2008, amounting to 4 books. The outcome is that instead of 153 books and 44691 pages I actually read 157 books and 45212 pages in 2008. It hardly affects any of the other stats, so I haven’t bothered recalculating them.

For those interested, this is how the publisher stats came out:

Jove: 14
Avon: 10
Dell: 7
Piatkus, Penguin, Harper (incl. H.Collins, H. Torch, H. Paperbacks, H. Business), Berkeley, Bantam: 5
St. Martin's Press, Pan, Mira, Headline, Doubleday: 4
Victor Gollancz, Pocket Books, Love Spell Books, Fontana, Fawcett Crest (incl. Fawcett Books), Arrow, Coronet: 3
11 others: 2 each
20 others: 1 each

This doesn’t quite tally with the book count because in some cases I didn’t write down the publisher for some reason.

02 May 2009

Reading report for April 2009

I read 16 books in April, which is slightly fewer books than the average of the three preceding months. Of these, I had started five in an earlier month and one in the previous year, and 5 were under 150 pages, so in pages I read much less than in March. Asterisked books have been or will be reviewed on this blog.

The challenges:
  • Top mysteries: 4. These were the only crime books I read in April.
  • Icelandic books: 3. Should have been 4, but I was one book ahead so I am still on track.
  • TBR for more than a year: 4, which is disappointing but not unexpected, as I found a lot of interesting library books that I wanted to read.

The books:
Michael Bell, ed.: Scouts in Bondage and other violations of literary propriety (collection of unintentionally humorous book titles)
André Bernard: Now all we need is a Title (famous books and their original planned titles)
T.J.Binyon: Murder Will Out (overview of the history of the detective in crime fiction)
*Nicholas Blake: The Beast Must Die (murder mystery)
*Christianna Brand: Green for Danger (murder mystery)
Bill Bryson (issue editor) & Jason Wilson (series editor) : The Best American Travel Writing 2000 (travel writing)
*Bill Buford: Heat (foodoir (see Note))
*Lionel Davidson: The Sun Chemist (thriller)
*Fjodor Dostojevski: Crime and Punishment (novel, psychological thriller)
Halldór Kiljan Laxness: Kristnihald undir Jökli (English title: Christianity at Glacier, Under the Glacier) (novel, magic realism)
Huldar Breiðfjörð: Múrinn í Kína (title meaning in English: The Wall in China) (travelogue)
*William Least Heat Moon: Blue Highways (travelogue)
Alan Moore (story) & Dave Gibbons (illustration): Watchmen (graphic novel)
Pratchett, Stewart & Cohen: The Science of Discworld II: The Globe (popular science combined with fantasy)
Snjólaug Bragadóttir frá Skáldalæk: Allir eru ógiftir í verinu (romance)
Jan Werner: Angels from Hell (humour)
--

Note: foodoir = portmanteau of food + memoir. Although I came up with it all by myself, I discovered I wasn’t, to my disappointment, the first to coin it. When applied to food photography, it is a portmanteau of food + boudoir and refers to images that can also be labelled as food porn.

01 May 2009

Top mysteries challenge review: Green for Danger by Christianna Brand

Year of publication: 1945
Genre: Mystery
Type of investigator: Police
Setting & time: A military hospital in rural Kent, England; World War 2

Story:
An old man dies on the operating table during what should have been a routine operation to fix a broken bone, and Inspector Cockrill of the Kent police is called in to investigate what most people are sure will turn out to be an unfortunate accident or an unexplained but not malicious death. But then one of the nurses who attended the operation claims that she knows it was murder and that she has proof and knows who the killer is. She is subsequently murdered, and now everyone is convinced the first death was also a murder. Cockrill is sure he knows both the who and the why, but he still needs to find out how, and obtain solid evidence for the identity of the killer.

Review:
This story has a wonderfully evocative and atmospheric background: a rural military hospital during WW2, with bombs often falling nearby. The cast of suspects is quite small, only six people, but every one of them is made out to be likeable in their own way, and none seems to have a strong motive. Cockrill, the detective, is not doing much detecting. Instead, while he is presumably seeking evidence and connecting the dots of the case, the suspects speculate about the murder and discuss between themselves information about their alibis or non-alibis, some of which is unknown to Cockrill, who solves the case anyway, even though he has to use psychological warfare to squeeze a confession out of the quite unexpected killer, not having any physical evidence. Suspicion is cleverly deflected at every turn from the real killer, even at the climax which has an unexpected twist. The writing is deft, the characters (with the exception of Cockrill) memorable and interesting, and the story has many twists and turns and a number of red herrings. Unfortunately it also has the ending I don’t like and loses a half-point for that.

Rating: An atmospheric and thrilling puzzle plot murder mystery. 3 1/2 stars.

Books left in challenge: 105

I am definitely going to try to find more books by this author.