Friday, August 7, 2020

Book Review - J.J. Murphy's Hair of the Dog

Hair of the Dog by J.J. Murphy
Published by: Amazon
Publication Date: May 17th, 2011
Format: Kindle
Rating: ★★★
To Buy

Dorothy Parker just wants a quiet lunch, but the dining room at the Algonquin is anything but. There's a big brouhaha over some missing meat. With the owner steaming mad he points the finger at the likely suspects, the waiter, or Dorothy's dog. One being in the vicinity when the veal was purloined, the other being a dog. But in this day and age with liquor being illegal counterbalanced by the continuing need to slack the thirst, there's more fluidity to crime and punishment. There's a give and a take. There's a barter system that might just be what's at work. This quick little story was not nearly enough to slack my thirst for this new series. Hair of the Dog was a quick little read that offered yet another glimpse into the bygone era Dorthy Parker lived in. Here instead of the publishing world we see more the lower classes and how, even in the darkest of times, there are ways to have a grand celebration, if you are willing to turn a blind eye and bend the rules but not break them.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Book Review - J.J. Murphy's Murder Your Darlings

Murder Your Darlings: Algonquin Round Table Mystery Book 1 by J.J. Murphy
Published by: Signet
Publication Date: January 4th, 2011
Format: Paperback, 336 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

"In all reverence I say Heaven bless the Who-dunit, the soothing balm on the wound, the cooling hand on the brow, the opiate of the people." - Dorthy Parker

Dorthy Parker may be at the center of a vicious circle of writers in New York, in fact, THE Vicious Circle... that still doesn't mean that any of them are responsible for the appearance of a corpse under their celebrated round table at the Algonquin. But, as any good writer knows, that doesn't eliminate them from the suspect pool. The fact that the corpse is a reviewer that one or more of them has wished dead at one time or another doesn't help matters. Once the press gets a hold of the story and starts to sensationalize the scenario, things are libel to get out of hand. Dorthy and her fellow writer, Robert Benchley, decide to solve the case on their own without the cops, who seem to be questioning all the wrong people. Not to mention the flatfoots seem obsessed with the young wannabe writer Billy Faulkner, who Dorothy just knows couldn't have done it. She must make sure that Billy is safe and not the prime suspect! With her dog's lead in one hand, a cup of tea filled with anything but in the other, and a heart longing for the married Benchley, Dorothy will solve this crime if she has to go to every illegal gin joint, speakeasy, and bad play that stands in her way.

Murder Your Darlings throws you headlong into the heart of the Vicious Circle at the height of their powers. Therefore I will caution, the unwieldy cast coupled with the plethora of puns does take a while to adjust to, like getting your sea legs or finding your tolerance level for alcohol. But once you grasp who everyone is and what they're notorious for the story fully captures you. I wouldn't say that it's one of those books you just start and plow through cover to cover, with it's wonderfully short chapters and it's witty dialogue it's a book you can pick up and set down like an indulgent afternoon snack. You get a little bit of refreshment and go on with your day, mulling over the wonderful little world you've been reading about. It's a nice leisurely stroll to the conclusion, which, when reached, makes you wish that you had a few more hours to bask in the time period. I was left with a happy glow that I still look back on fondly and look forward to having again when the next book comes out. Perhaps this time a who's who and maybe a map would improve the reading experience. Or little bios of everyone... because this wonderful world is made that much more interesting when you know the history. Thanks Wikipedia, I phrase I rarely utter and which I'm sure Dorothy would abhor.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Tuesday Tomorrow

Igniting Darkness by Robin LaFevers
Published by: HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 4th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 560 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Two assassins will risk absolutely everything - even their own divinity - to save the people and the country they love in this lush historical fantasy from New York Times bestselling author Robin LaFevers. Set in the world of the beloved His Fair Assassin series, this smart, sensational follow up to Courting Darkness is perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Holly Black.

When you count Death as a friend, who can stand as your enemy?

Sybella, novitiate of the convent of Saint Mortain and Death’s vengeance on earth, is still reeling from her God’s own passing, and along with him a guiding hand in her bloody work. But with her sisters on the run from their evil brother and under the watchful eye of her one true friend (and love) at court, the soldier known as Beast, Sybella stands alone as the Duchess of Brittany’s protector.

After months of seeking her out, Sybella has finally made contact with a fellow novitiate of the convent, Genevieve, a mole in the French court. But Sybella, having already drawn the ire of the French regent, may not be able to depend on her sister and ally as much as she hoped. Still, Death always finds a way, even if it’s not what one expects.

No one can be trusted and the wolves are always waiting in this thrilling conclusion to the Courting Darkness duology, set in the world of Robin’s beloved His Fair Assassin trilogy."

I'll read this because I'm a completest, but I've not been a fan of this duology. I have issues. 

The Heirs of Locksley by Carrie Vaughn
Published by:
Publication Date: August 4th, 2020
Format: Paperback, 128 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Carrie Vaughn follows up The Ghosts of Sherwood with the charming, fast-paced The Heirs of Locksley, continuing the story of Robin Hood's children.

"We will hold an archery contest. A simple affair, all in fun, on the tournament grounds. Tomorrow. We will see you there."

The latest civil war in England has come and gone, King John is dead, and the nobility of England gathers to see the coronation of his son, thirteen year old King Henry III.

The new king is at the center of political rivalries and power struggles, but John of Locksley - son of the legendary Robin Hood and Lady Marian - only sees a lonely boy in need of friends. John and his sisters succeed in befriending Henry, while also inadvertently uncovering a political plot, saving a man's life, and carrying out daring escapes.

All in a day's work for the Locksley children..."

Nothing says summer like Robin Hood. So get in a little more summer before it's over!

The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne by Elsa Hart
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: August 4th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From the author of the acclaimed Li Du novels comes Elsa Hart's new atmospheric mystery series.

London, 1703. In a time when the old approaches to science coexist with the new, one elite community attempts to understand the world by collecting its wonders. Sir Barnaby Mayne, the most formidable of these collectors, has devoted his life to filling his cabinets. While the curious-minded vie for invitations to study the rare stones, bones, books, and artifacts he has amassed, some visitors come with a darker purpose.

For Cecily Kay, it is a passion for plants that brings her to the Mayne house. The only puzzle she expects to encounter is how to locate the specimens she needs within Sir Barnaby’s crowded cabinets. But when her host is stabbed to death, Cecily finds the confession of the supposed killer unconvincing. She pays attention to details - years of practice have taught her that the smallest particulars can distinguish a harmless herb from a deadly one - and in the case of Sir Barnaby’s murder, there are too many inconsistencies for her to ignore.

To discover the truth, Cecily must enter the world of the collectors, a realm where intellect is distorted by obsession and greed. As her pursuit of answers brings her closer to a killer, she risks being given a final resting place amid the bones that wait, silent and still, in the cabinets of Barnaby Mayne."

I have always been intrigued by cabinets of wonder. This combines that love with my passion of murder mysteries!

Brontë’s Mistress by Finola Austin
Published by: Atria Books
Publication Date: August 4th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"This dazzling debut novel for fans of Mrs. Poe and Longbourn explores the scandalous historical love affair between Branwell Brontë and Lydia Robinson, giving voice to the woman who allegedly corrupted her son’s innocent tutor and brought down the entire Brontë family.

Yorkshire, 1843: Lydia Robinson - mistress of Thorp Green Hall - has lost her precious young daughter and her mother within the same year. She returns to her bleak home, grief-stricken and unmoored. With her teenage daughters rebelling, her testy mother-in-law scrutinizing her every move, and her marriage grown cold, Lydia is restless and yearning for something more.

All of that changes with the arrival of her son’s tutor, Branwell Brontë, brother of her daughters’ governess, Miss Anne Brontë and those other writerly sisters, Charlotte and Emily. Branwell has his own demons to contend with - including living up to the ideals of his intelligent family - but his presence is a breath of fresh air for Lydia. Handsome, passionate, and uninhibited by social conventions, he’s also twenty-five to her forty-three. A love of poetry, music, and theatre bring mistress and tutor together, and Branwell’s colorful tales of his sisters’ elaborate play-acting and made-up worlds form the backdrop for seduction.

But Lydia’s new taste of passion comes with consequences. As Branwell’s inner turmoil rises to the surface, his behavior grows erratic and dangerous, and whispers of their passionate relationship spout from her servants’ lips, reaching all three protective Brontë sisters. Soon, it falls on Lydia to save not just her reputation, but her way of life, before those clever girls reveal all her secrets in their novels. Unfortunately, she might be too late.

Meticulously researched and deliciously told, Brontë’s Mistress is a captivating reimagining of the scandalous affair that has divided Brontë enthusiasts for generations and an illuminating portrait of a courageous, sharp-witted woman who fights to emerge with her dignity intact."

I love a good Branwell deep dive!

Shadows in Time by Julie McElwain
Published by: Pegasus Crime
Publication Date: August 4th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In 1816 London, Kendra Donovan tries to track down a missing man, but also finds trouble brewing closer to home in the fifth book in Julie McElwain’s riveting time-travel mystery series.

When Kendra Donovan is approached by Mrs. Gavenston with an unusual request - to find her business manager, Jeremy Pascoe, who recently vanished - the FBI agent is eager to accept the challenge. To Kendra’s way of thinking, spending her time locating a missing person suits her more than perfecting her embroidery, painting watercolors, practicing on the pianoforte, or any of the other activities that are socially acceptable for young ladies in the early nineteenth century.

Unfortunately, the missing person’s case turns into a murder investigation after Kendra finds the man stabbed to death in a remote cottage that he’d been using as a writer’s retreat. Everyone who knew him says that Pascoe was a fine fellow. So who hated him enough to kill him?

Seeking the answer to that question plunges Kendra into the world of big business, as Mrs. Gavenston happens to run one of the largest breweries in England. And if there is one thing Kendra knows hasn’t changed, it’s that big business means big money...and money is always a motive for murder.

While Kendra works to sift through the truth and lies swirling around Mr. Pascoe’s life - and death - her world is rocked closer to home when a woman arrives claiming to be the Duke of Aldridge’s presumably dead daughter, Charlotte. It is a distraction Kendra cannot afford, not when there is a killer lurking in the shadows who will do anything to keep the truth from being exposed."

Regency procedural time!

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
Published by:
Publication Date: August 4th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 512 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"She answered the Emperor's call.

She arrived with her arts, her wits, and her only friend.

In victory, her world has turned to ash.

After rocking the cosmos with her deathly debut, Tamsyn Muir continues the story of the penumbral Ninth House in Harrow the Ninth, a mind-twisting puzzle box of mystery, murder, magic, and mayhem. Nothing is as it seems in the halls of the Emperor, and the fate of the galaxy rests on one woman's shoulders.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, last necromancer of the Ninth House, has been drafted by her Emperor to fight an unwinnable war. Side-by-side with a detested rival, Harrow must perfect her skills and become an angel of undeath - but her health is failing, her sword makes her nauseous, and even her mind is threatening to betray her.

Sealed in the gothic gloom of the Emperor's Mithraeum with three unfriendly teachers, hunted by the mad ghost of a murdered planet, Harrow must confront two unwelcome questions: is somebody trying to kill her? And if they succeeded, would the universe be better off?"

I've been wanting to read Gideon the Ninth for awhile, now's the time with a second book waiting in the series!

Lobizona by Romina Garber
Published by: Wednesday Books
Publication Date: August 4th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Some people ARE illegal.

Lobizonas do NOT exist.

Both of these statements are false.

Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who's on the run from her father's Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.

Until Manu's protective bubble is shattered.

Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past - a mysterious "Z" emblem - which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.

As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it's not just her U.S. residency that's’s her entire existence."

The reviews about "a hidden magical species" are what sold me on this book!

Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer
Published by: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 4th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 672 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"It's here! #1 bestselling author Stephenie Meyer makes a triumphant return to the world of Twilight with this highly anticipated companion: the iconic love story of Bella and Edward told from the vampire's point of view.

When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella's side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward's version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun.

This unforgettable tale as told through Edward's eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting Bella is both the most unnerving and intriguing event he has experienced in all his years as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward's past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he justify following his heart if it means leading Bella into danger?

In Midnight Sun, Stephenie Meyer transports us back to a world that has captivated millions of readers and brings us an epic novel about the profound pleasures and devastating consequences of immortal love."

Twilight money grab! Because wasn't at one time this free online?

The Eighth Detective by Alex Pavesi
Published by: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: August 4th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"There are rules for murder mysteries. There must be a victim. A suspect. A detective.

Grant McAllister, a professor of mathematics, once sat down and worked all the rules out - and wrote seven perfect detective stories to demonstrate. But that was thirty years ago. Now Grant lives in seclusion on a remote Mediterranean island, counting the rest of his days.

Until Julia Hart, a brilliant, ambitious editor knocks on his door. Julia wishes to republish his book, and together they must revisit those old stories: an author hiding from his past and an editor keen to understand it.

But there are things in the stories that don’t add up. Inconsistencies left by Grant that a sharp-eyed editor begins to suspect are more than mistakes. They may be clues, and Julia finds herself with a mystery of her own to solve.

Alex Pavesi's The Eighth Detective is a love letter to classic detective stories with a modern twist, where nothing is as it seems, and proof that the best mysteries break all the rules."

The best mysteries DO break all the rules! Unless it's Josephine Tey, when she breaks the rules it's not fun.

The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis
Published by: Dutton
Publication Date: August 4th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In nationally bestselling author Fiona Davis's latest historical novel, a series of book thefts roils the iconic New York Public Library, leaving two generations of strong-willed women to pick up the pieces.

It's 1913, and on the surface, Laura Lyons couldn't ask for more out of life - her husband is the superintendent of the New York Public Library, allowing their family to live in an apartment within the grand building, and they are blessed with two children. But headstrong, passionate Laura wants more, and when she takes a leap of faith and applies to the Columbia Journalism School, her world is cracked wide open. As her studies take her all over the city, she is drawn to Greenwich Village's new bohemia, where she discovers the Heterodoxy Club - a radical, all-female group in which women are encouraged to loudly share their opinions on suffrage, birth control, and women's rights. Soon, Laura finds herself questioning her traditional role as wife and mother. But when valuable books are stolen back at the library, threatening the home and institution she loves, she's forced to confront her shifting priorities head on...and may just lose everything in the process.

Eighty years later, in 1993, Sadie Donovan struggles with the legacy of her grandmother, the famous essayist Laura Lyons, especially after she's wrangled her dream job as a curator at the New York Public Library. But the job quickly becomes a nightmare when rare manuscripts, notes, and books for the exhibit Sadie's running begin disappearing from the library's famous Berg Collection. Determined to save both the exhibit and her career, the typically risk-adverse Sadie teams up with a private security expert to uncover the culprit. However, things unexpectedly become personal when the investigation leads Sadie to some unwelcome truths about her own family heritage - truths that shed new light on the biggest tragedy in the library's history."

Time for a little Patience and Fortitude!

The Last Mrs. Summers by Rhys Bowen
Published by: Berkley
Publication Date: August 4th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Lady Georgiana Rannoch is just back from her honeymoon with dashing Darcy O’Mara when a friend in need pulls her into a twisted Gothic tale of betrayal, deception and, most definitely, murder....

I am a bit at loose ends at the moment. My cook, Queenie, is making my new role as mistress of Eynsleigh something akin to constant torture as Darcy is off on another one of his top secret jaunts. And Grandad is busy helping wayward youths avoid lives of crime. So when my dearest friend, Belinda, inherits an old cottage in Cornwall and begs me to go with her to inspect the property, I jump at the chance.

After a heart-stopping journey in Belinda’s beast of a motorcar, we arrive at the creaky old cottage called White Sails and quickly realize that it is completely uninhabitable. Just when I’m starting to wonder if I would have been better off trying to get Queenie to cook a roast that hasn’t been burnt beyond all recognition, we meet Rose Summers, a woman Belinda knew as a child when she spent time in Cornwall. Rose invites us to stay at Trewoma Hall, the lovely estate now owned by her husband, Tony.

Belinda confesses that she never liked Rose and had a fling with Tony years ago, so staying with them is far from ideal but beggars can’t be choosers as they say. Trewoma is not the idyllic house Belinda remembers. There’s something claustrophobic and foreboding about the place. Matters aren’t helped by the oppressively efficient housekeeper Mrs. Mannering or by the fact that Tony seems to want to rekindle whatever he and Belinda once had right under his wife’s nose.

Our increasingly awkward visit soon turns deadly when a member of the household is found murdered and all clues point to Belinda as the prime suspect. I soon learn that some long buried secrets have come back to haunt those in residence at Trewoma Hall and I’ll need to sift through the ruins of their past so Belinda doesn’t lose her chance at freedom in the present...."

It's the first week of August, time for a new Lady Georgiana adventure!

Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman
Published by: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: August 4th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Living through World War II working in a Paris bookstore with her young daughter, Vivi, and fighting for her life, Charlotte is no victim, she is a survivor. But can she survive the next chapter of her life?

Alternating between wartime Paris and 1950s New York publishing, Ellen Feldman's Paris Never Leaves You is an extraordinary story of resilience, love, and impossible choices, exploring how survival never comes without a cost.

The war is over, but the past is never past."

Books about the book world? YAS!

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin
Published by: St. Martin's Press,
Publication Date: August 4th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Ever since her true-crime podcast became an overnight sensation and set an innocent man free, Rachel Krall has become a household name - and the last hope for people seeking justice. But she’s used to being recognized for her voice, not her face. Which makes it all the more unsettling when she finds a note on her car windshield, addressed to her, begging for help.

The new season of Rachel's podcast has brought her to a small town being torn apart by a devastating rape trial. A local golden boy, a swimmer destined for Olympic greatness, has been accused of raping the beloved granddaughter of the police chief. Under pressure to make Season 3 a success, Rachel throws herself into her investigation - but the mysterious letters keep coming. Someone is following her, and she won’t stop until Rachel finds out what happened to her sister twenty-five years ago. Officially, Jenny Stills tragically drowned, but the letters insist she was murdered - and when Rachel starts asking questions, nobody in town wants to answer. The past and present start to collide as Rachel uncovers startling connections between the two cases - and a revelation that will change the course of the trial and the lives of everyone involved.

Electrifying and propulsive, The Night Swim asks: What is the price of a reputation? Can a small town ever right the wrongs of its past? And what really happened to Jenny?"

Here for the true-crime podcast! 

They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman
Published by: Razorbill
Publication Date: August 4th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Gossip Girl meets One of Us Is Lying with a dash of The Secret History in this slick, taut murder mystery set against the backdrop of an exclusive prep school on Long Island.

In Gold Coast, Long Island, everything from the expensive downtown shops to the manicured beaches, to the pressed uniforms of Jill Newman and her friends, looks perfect. But as Jill found out three years ago, nothing is as it seems.

Freshman year Jill's best friend, the brilliant, dazzling Shaila Arnold, was killed by her boyfriend. After that dark night on the beach, Graham confessed, the case was closed, and Jill tried to move on.

Now, it's Jill's senior year and she's determined to make it her best yet. After all, she's a senior and a Player - a member of Gold Coast Prep's exclusive, not-so-secret secret society. Senior Players have the best parties, highest grades and the admiration of the entire school. This is going to be Jill's year. She's sure of it.

But when Jill starts getting texts proclaiming Graham's innocence, her dreams of the perfect senior year start to crumble. If Graham didn't kill Shaila, who did? Jill vows to find out, but digging deeper could mean putting her friendships, and her future, in jeopardy."

I always am drawn to dark Gossip Girl... 

Pulp by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
Published by: Image Comics
Publication Date: August 4th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 72 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A gorgeous original graphic novel from the best-selling creators of Kill Or Be Killed, My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies, and Criminal.

Max Winters, a pulp writer in 1930s New York, finds himself drawn into a story not unlike the tales he churns out at 5 cents a word - tales of a wild west outlaw dispensing justice with a six-gun. But will Max be able to do the same, when pursued by bank robbers, Nazi spies, and enemies from his past?

One part thriller, one part meditation on a life of violence, Pulp is unlike anything the award-winning team of Brubaker and Phillips have ever done. A celebration of pulp fiction, set in a world on the brink. And another must-have hardback from one of comics most-acclaimed teams."

I have one rule, buy everything that Brubaker and Phillips do together and you should too.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker is easily the most quoted American author known for her caustic wit and sharp tongue. An American Oscar Wilde, if you will. She had the brains and the bite. Dorothy Rothschild, not those Rothschilds, was born in New Jersey but quickly whisked back to New York, so as she could be a true New Yorker. Once her mother died her relationship with her father was contentious until his death when she was twenty. A year later she sold her first poem to Vanity Fair, a magazine she would eventually work at after a two year stint at Vogue. In fact she'd bounce around the various New York publications, from The New Yorker to Esquire and all those in between, for many years, though it was her work as the theatre critic for Vanity Fair, where she was filling in for P.G. Wodehouse when he was on vacation, that made her career take off. This time in her life was centered around her lunches at the Algonquin Round Table. She held her own as one of the few women at a table of (almost) equally smart and wisecracking male colleagues.

As a member of the Algonquin Round Table she became famous as much for her biting remarks as for her brilliant writing. A prolific poet and critic, Dorothy published more than 300 poems in the 1920s. The collection of her writing, The Portable Dorothy Parker, has never gone out of print. Her romantic life was a bit of a roller-coaster, marrying Edwin Parker just before he was deployed in the Great War, by the time he was demobbed their marriage was over. Numerous affairs led to a pregnancy, an abortion, and her first suicide attempt in that order. She had slightly better luck with her second husband, Alan Campbell, even if at times it was tempestuous their union brought about two Oscar nominations for Best Writing-Screenplay. The looming second war brought out Dorothy's political side, she took up pet political causes, and numerous pets, and eventually bequeathed her literary estate to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. After his assassination her estate passed to the NAACP. For her tombstone epitaph she suggested “Excuse My Dust.”

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Bright Young Detectives

If you pay any attention to the cozy genre you'll have seen an adjacent subgenre that's been making itself more and more prominent in recent years, the famous author as sleuth. Yes, there are more "literary" ambitions thrown in like Arthur and George by Julian Barnes, but for me, when they hew closer to the cozy they are more fun. A complete fantasy versus something mired in reality. Josephine Tey, Dorothy Parker, Daphne Du Maurier, and even Agatha Christie herself have solved crimes at the hands of modern day authors. What speaks to me about these books is their meta nature. It's a fun what if! What if these writers, especially those who wrote crime fiction, had some real life inspiration? What if they stumbled on a crime and had a compulsion to solve it? What if said crime inspired them to write? A completely and wonderfully absorbing fantasy. But I also love it when popular literary figures who are in no way connected with crime solve mysteries. One of my favorites in this very niche genre is the Algonquin Round Table Mysteries that has that ever so chic of twenties authors Dorothy Parker solving crimes, often with the likes of Houdini and Conan Doyle! Then there's the Mitford Murder series by Jessica Fellowes. While none of the Mitfords who took pen to paper actually wrote mysteries, the six sisters were a staple of twenties gossip columns so it makes sense that they would fictionally turn to solving crimes. Or at least it does in my mind. So join me in experiencing the roaring twenties through the prose of modern authors envisioning the past through the eyes of some of the twenties most interesting literary and historical figures.      

Monday, July 27, 2020

Tuesday Tomorrow

A Wicked Magic by Sasha Laurens
Published by: Razorbill
Publication Date: July 28th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina meets The Craft when modern witches must save teens stolen by an ancient demon in this YA fantasy-thriller debut.

Dan and Liss are witches. The Black Book granted them that power. Harnessing that power feels good, especially when everything in their lives makes them feel powerless.

During a spell gone wrong, Liss's boyfriend is snatched away by an evil entity and presumed dead. Dan and Liss's friendship dies that night, too. How can they practice magic after the darkness that they conjured?

Months later, Liss discovers that her boyfriend is alive, trapped underground in the grips of an ancient force. She must save him, and she needs Dan and the power of The Black Book to do so. Dan is quickly sucked back into Liss's orbit and pushes away her best friend, Alexa. But Alexa has some big secrets she's hiding and her own unique magical disaster to deal with.

When another teenager disappears, the girls know it's no coincidence. What greedy magic have they awakened? And what does it want with these teens it has stolen?

Set in the atmospheric wilds of California's northern coast, Sasha Laurens's thrilling debut novel is about the complications of friendship, how to take back power, and how to embrace the darkness that lives within us all."

There's a cat on the cover. I was sold on this book before they even mentioned The Craft! 

Tales from the Folly by Ben Aaronovitch
Published by: JABberwocky Literary Agency, Inc.
Publication Date: July 28th, 2020
Format: Kindle, 139 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Return to the world of Rivers of London in this first short story collection from bestselling author, Ben Aaronovitch. Tales from the Folly is a carefully curated collection that gathers together previously published stories and brand new tales in the same place for the first time.

Each tale features a new introduction from the author, filled with insight and anecdote offering the reader a deeper exploration into this absorbing fictional world. This is a must read for any Rivers of London fan.

Join Peter, Nightingale, Abigail, Agent Reynolds and Tobias Winter for a series of perfectly portioned tales. Discover what’s haunting a lonely motorway service station, who still wanders the shelves of a popular London bookshop, and what exactly happened to the River Lugg...

With an introduction from internationally bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse series, Charlaine Harris."

Really excited about this, but I think, perhaps, the cover needed some more work...

Subterranean Tales of Dark Fantasy 3 edited by William Schafer
Published by: Subterranean Press
Publication Date: July 28th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 240 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Tales of darkness and inexplicable happenings have always been with us - and always will. In its contemporary form, this sort of story is not only alive and well, but flourishing, and it continues to speak to us in a variety of voices. Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy 3 is the latest installment in an acclaimed anthology series, and it brings together ten voices - some familiar, some less so - that are at once distinctive, compelling, and irresistible. The volume opens with award-winning novelist Kat Howar's “An Ordinary Progression of Hearts,” an elegant meditation on the fragility of the human heart; and closes with acclaimed newcomer P. Djèlí Clark's “Skin Magic,” a stunning account of sorcery and dark magic set in an unnamed third world country. Elsewhere in the anthology, Caitlin R. Kíernan (“Cherry Street Tango, Sweat Box Waltz”) offers a piece of near-future noir in which a “blackstrap” (a hired assassin) contemplates the failure of her latest murderous assignment. “At the Threshold of Your Bedchamber on the Fifth Night” by Sarah Gailey is the tale of a courtship that leads to a most unusual consummation. In “Final Course,” a rare short story by rising star C.J. Tudor, the reunion of old school friends takes a savage and unexpected turn. In addition to these and other stellar tales by the likes of Bentley Little, Richard Kadrey, Stephen Gallagher and Ian R. MacLeod, Tales of Dark Fantasy 3 contains Robert R. McCammon's “Death Comes for the Rich Man,” a rare novella set in Colonial America and featuring McCammon's popular “problem solver,” Matthew Corbett."

I am here for literally any book Subterranean Press puts out! 

Crossings by Alex Landragin
Published by: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: July 28th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Alex Landragin's Crossings is an unforgettable and explosive genre-bending debut - a novel in three parts, designed to be read in two different directions, spanning a hundred and fifty years and seven lifetimes.

On the brink of the Nazi occupation of Paris, a German-Jewish bookbinder stumbles across a manuscript called Crossings. It has three narratives, each as unlikely as the next. And the narratives can be read one of two ways: either straight through or according to an alternate chapter sequence.

The first story in Crossings is a never-before-seen ghost story by the poet Charles Baudelaire, penned for an illiterate girl. Next is a noir romance about an exiled man, modeled on Walter Benjamin, whose recurring nightmares are cured when he falls in love with a storyteller who draws him into a dangerous intrigue of rare manuscripts, police corruption, and literary societies. Finally, there are the fantastical memoirs of a woman-turned-monarch whose singular life has spanned seven generations.

With each new chapter, the stunning connections between these seemingly disparate people grow clearer and more extraordinary. Crossings is an unforgettable adventure full of love, longing and empathy."

I LOVE books that aren't easily quantifiable but come together in an epic way.

A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Murder by Dianne Freeman
Published by: Kensington
Publication Date: July 28th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 288 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In Dianne Freeman’s charming Victorian-era mystery series, Frances Wynn, the American-born Countess of Harleigh, finds her sister’s wedding threatened by a vow of vengeance.

London is known for its bustle and intrigues, but the sedate English countryside can host - or hide - any number of secrets. Frances, the widowed Countess of Harleigh, needs a venue for her sister Lily’s imminent wedding, away from prying eyes. Risings, George Hazleton’s family estate in Hampshire, is a perfect choice, and soon Frances, her beloved George, and other guests have gathered to enjoy the usual country pursuits - shooting, horse riding, and romantic interludes in secluded gardens.

But the bucolic setting harbors a menace, and it’s not simply the arrival of Frances’s socially ambitious mother. Above and below stairs, mysterious accidents befall guests and staff alike. Before long, Frances suspects these “accidents” are deliberate, and fears that the intended victim is Lily’s fiancé, Leo. Frances’s mother is unimpressed by Lily’s groom-to-be and would much prefer that Lily find an aristocratic husband, just as Frances did. But now that Frances has found happiness with George - a man who loves her for much more than her dowry - she heartily approves of Lily’s choice. If she can just keep the couple safe from villains and meddling mamas.

As Frances and George search for the culprit among the assembled family, friends, and servants, more victims fall prey to the mayhem. Mishaps become full-blooded murder, and it seems that no one is safe. And unless Frances can quickly flush out the culprit, the peal of wedding bells may give way to another funeral toll...."

Now this is what I like, weddings with funerals built in!

The Fate of a Flapper by Susanna Calkins
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: July 28th, 2020
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The Fate of a Flapper, the second mystery in this captivating new series, takes readers into the dark, dangerous, and glittering underworld of a 1920's Chicago speakeasy.

A 2019 Agatha Award Nominee for "Best Historical Mystery"!

After nine months as a cigarette girl at the Third Door, one of Chicago’s premier moonshine parlors, Gina Ricci feels like she's finally getting into the swing of things. The year is 1929, the Chicago Cubs are almost in the World Series, neighborhood gangs are all-powerful, and though Prohibition is the law of the land, the Third Door can't serve the cocktails fast enough.

Two women in particular are throwing drinks back with abandon while chatting up a couple of bankers, and Gina can't help but notice the levels of inebriation and the tension at their table. When the group stumbles out in the early morning, she tries to put them out of her head. But once at home that night, Gina's sleep is interrupted when her cousin Nancy, a police officer, calls—she's found a body. Gina hurries over to photograph the crime scene, but stops short when she recognizes the body: it’s one of the women from the night before.

Could the Third Door have served the woman bad liquor? Or, Gina wonders, could this be murder? As the gangs and bombings draw ever closer, all of Chicago starts to feel like a warzone, and Gina is determined to find out if this death was an unlucky accident, or a casualty of combat."

It's the 20s again, we ALL need to be flapping it up!

The Last of the Moon Girls by Barbara Davis
Published by: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: July 28th, 2020
Format: Paperback, 400 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A novel of secrets, memory, family, and forgiveness by the bestselling author of When Never Comes.

Lizzy Moon never wanted Moon Girl Farm. Eight years ago, she left the land that nine generations of gifted healers had tended, determined to distance herself from the whispers about her family's strange legacy. But when her beloved grandmother Althea dies, Lizzy must return and face the tragedy still hanging over the farm's withered lavender fields: the unsolved murders of two young girls, and the cruel accusations that followed Althea to her grave.

Lizzy wants nothing more than to sell the farm and return to her life in New York, until she discovers a journal Althea left for her - a Book of Remembrances meant to help Lizzy embrace her own special gifts. When she reconnects with Andrew Greyson, one of the few in town who believed in Althea's innocence, she resolves to clear her grandmother's name.

But to do so, she'll have to decide if she can accept her legacy and whether to follow in the footsteps of all the Moon women who came before her."

A legacy and unsolved murders? Yes please!

Until It's Over by Nicci French
Published by: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: July 28th, 2020
Format: Paperback, 448 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From the internationally bestselling author of the Frieda Klein series, Nicci French, comes this steamy and suspenseful stand-alone thriller about a group of housemates who must determine the killer among them when a series of murders occur.

Be careful of the ones closest to you...

London cycle courier Astrid Bell has known most of her housemates for years, but while they have a tangled history together - romantic pairings, one-night stands, friendships - they each have secrets.

Astrid is on her way home one day when her neighbor accidentally knocks her off her bike. Suffering a few bruises, her roommates help her home. The next day, they learn that same neighbor was bludgeoned to death only hours after the accident. Each of them tells the police what little they know and are dismissed. Then a few days later, Astrid is asked to pick up a package from a wealthy woman called Ingrid de Soto. When she arrives, the client is lying in the hall of her luxurious home - and it’s apparent she’s also been murdered.

For the police, it’s more than bad luck. For Astrid and her six housemates, it's the beginning of a nightmare: suspicious glances, bitter accusations, and a growing fear that the worst is yet to come.

As the difference between friend and stranger grows harder to judge, the line between attraction and danger thins. The housemates - unsure if there’s a killer in their midst - guard themselves against becoming the next victim. Because if it’s true that bad luck comes in threes - who will be the next to die?"

Murderous roommates? In the age of Covid-19, it's a real concern!

Friday, July 24, 2020

TV Movie Review - Agatha and the Truth of Murder

Agatha and the Truth of Murder
Starring: Stacha Hicks, Joshua Silver, Ruth Bradley, Michael McElhatton, Liam McMahon, Clare McMahon, Pippa Haywood, Brian McCardie, Amelia Dell, Richard Doubleday, Derek Halligan, Samantha Spiro, Blake Harrison, Tim McInnerny, Bebe Cave, Dean Andrews, Seamus O'Hara, and Ralph Ineson
Release Date: December 23rd, 2018
Rating: ★★★
To Watch

Agatha Christie has asked Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for help. She needs to know how one pushes through writer's block. She doesn't want her career to be over just when it's starting. His oblique advice is to design a golf course. Though Agatha does attempt this it's not very successful given the real reason she's blocked; her husband Archie wants a divorce because he wants to marry his mistress. Who just happens to be a golfer. The perfect antidote to her problem arrives on her doorstep in the form of Mabel Rogers. Six years previously the love of Mabel's life, Florence Nightingale Shore, was brutally attacked on a train and succumbed to her injuries days later with Mabel by her side. Mabel has spent the last six years devoting her life to solving the murder of Florence and has come to Christie believing she can help. At first Agatha is disinterested, but then realizes that this might be just the thing to fix her writer's block. They decide to lure the suspects to a country house with the incentive that they might get a share in a large inheritance. Agatha will be "Mary Westmacott" a representative of the law firm sent to validate the claimants legitimacy and suitability, with many questions needing answering, in order to figure out who might be a murderer. Mabel will act as an all-round servant, able to root through the guests possessions when they are otherwise engaged. The suspects are a young nurse, whom Florence censured, Florence's cousin, whom inherited Florence's not inconsiderable estate, a solider, a boxer, and a mother whom Florence was intending to visit before her untimely death. Agatha and Mabel have set it up just like one of Christie's novels, get all the suspects together and find out who the guilty party is. The only problem is their ruse results in the death of one of their suspects. So now they have a second murder to solve as their time runs short. There's only so long they can hold their suspects and the outside world has gone mad with Christie's disappearance! They must catch the culprits AND get Agatha out of the news with her timely reappearance as soon as possible.    

Agatha and the Truth of Murder is based on the clever conceit of taking two real life mysteries and having the investigation of one being the reason for the other. The first mystery is the murder of Florence Nightingale Shore in 1920, which this film postulates Agatha Christie as solving during her 1926 disappearance. It's complete fabrication, they don't even stick too closely to the actual facts, especially where suspects are concerned, but for it's entertainment value it's a fun diversion in the style of Christie's own work. Though what faults it has could have been easily fixed. The movie's problems, like the mysteries, number two. Firstly there needed to be a better understanding of exactly who Florence Nightingale Shore was. She was an amazing woman, a war hero, a nurse as formidable as her godmother and namesake. Yet we only see a glimpse of her at the beginning of the film when she's attacked and then learn secondhand through her friend Mabel Rogers about the crime and only a little about the woman she loved. How can we care about Florence's murder if the character isn't grounded? This wouldn't have taken much to solve, just a little more exposition instead of passing over her to get to Agatha as fast as they could. And that speed is the second problem, the pacing is all off in this film. The narrative is rushed. I defy anyone to actually know whose country house the investigation is taking place in and how all the suspects are connected to Florence Nightingale Shore before the revelation of the killer who you can't see coming and then the final denouement! The filmmakers were too intent on getting everyone closeted away from the world, cloistered in that big house just like Agatha Christie would do in one of her own books that they forgot that as an author she always made her books accessible. If you paid close enough attention you could solve it. Everything made sense. Here it's just a jumble whirling around you like an out of control ride at an amusement park. That's not to say it isn't fun, it just isn't as satisfying an experience as it could have been if a little more care had gone into making it. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

TV Movie Review - Agatha Christie's Poirot: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Agatha Christie's Poirot: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Based on the book by Agatha Christie
Starring: David Suchet, Roger Frost, Oliver Ford Davies, Malcolm Terris, Nigel Cooke, Jamie Bamber, Rosalind Bailey, Gregor Truter, Clive Brunt, Selina Cadell, Daisy Beaumont, Flora Montgomery, Vivien Heilbron, and Philip Jackson
Release Date: January 2nd, 2000
Rating: ★★★
To Buy

Poirot arrives at a bank. He carefully removes a waterlogged journal from a safety deposit box. He sits himself down and reviews the journal of a depraved mind. A mind for murder. The events of which happened when Poirot retired to King's Abbot to grow mallows. On the day that Mrs. Ferrars was to kill herself Dr. Sheppard accompanied Roger Ackroyd's butler over to his neighbor Poirot's house. Poirot was attempting to successfully cultivate mallows with the loving care only an obsessive compulsive could lavish on the vegetables and yet he does not succeed. Thankfully Parker has come at the request of his employer to ask if Poirot's tour of the factory could be moved forward an hour, to which Poirot is glad to accede, the mallows will only frustrate him more. Years earlier Poirot lent his friend Roger Ackroyd startup capital and he has turned it into an empire. An empire with many pieces and many players, some of whom aren't happy. Before the tour concludes, Poirot will see Roger's unhappy secretary, Geoffrey Raymond, and Roger's distraught stepson, Ralph Paton, who is begging his father to not announce his engagement to Flora Ackroyd, Roger's niece, in this coming Sunday's paper, as well as a frantic phone call from Mrs. Ferrars. That night Mrs. Ferrars takes her own life and the next morning Roger asks Poirot to stop by his house. Poirot is disturbed to learn that Mrs. Ferrars was being blackmailed, though she refused to say who the culprit was. Poirot leaves as a dinner party arrives at Roger's house and he goes home to ruminate. Something isn't sitting right with him and he's worried for his friend. He has every reason to be worried because by the time Poirot returns to Roger's house later that evening Roger is dead, in a locked room. The sequence of events seems to be simple enough and Ralph Paton seems to be the culprit, but Poirot isn't so sure. He is reluctant to return to detection but to avenge his friend he must! And when another old friend arrives to help solve the crime it's like old times. Too bad it's old times that drove Poirot to the mallows.    

I went into this episode of Poirot expecting many changes from the source material. There are some things unique to literature that can not be replicated in a visual medium. A story narrated by the killer whilst simultaneously concealing their guilt from the reader, a trope that Christie used several times, would be virtually impossible to pull off for television, so in swoops the dramatist, Clive Exton, who restructures the story to a more traditional Poirot story. He takes Poirot, who was more a spectator, an outsider in the original story and puts him in the thick of it while bringing Chief Inspector Japp along for the ride, as we have seen in countless previous adventures. And that's what I missed most about The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, I missed how unique and original it was within Poirot's cannon. I missed this different kind of story that could have been told, instead we are given a framing device of the journal of the killer, which when you read the book is actually the book you are reading. What's more Exton upped the vitriol of our killer who is woefully miscast resulting in the denouement being totally unsatisfactory. Yet, despite all this it isn't a "bad" episode, it just could have been so much more, but it is thankfully saved because of the charm of Suchet and Jackson. The nuanced humor these two actors have developed over the years of working together brings joy to the screen because you can see how much fun they are having. What's more, Suchet is so effortlessly Poirot that he brings humor and pathos to the role in even the quietest of moments. My favorite scene is at the very beginning when Dr. Sheppard and Parker come over to Poirot's house. In the book I always thought it was odd that Poirot would retire to the country in order to raise mallows. Well, here we see a far more honest depiction of how that might have gone. His exasperation with his garden given with a sigh, a grunt, a flung vegetable, and a raised eyebrow are sheer perfection. In fact I couldn't help but think his babying of his garden combined with his frustration is something all of those who have taken to our gardens during quarantine are feeling. There's a little bit of Poirot in us all I think. 

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