Oct. 2nd, 2010

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Book 62

Third of the Superintendent Hannasyde mysteries. Silas Kane is the senior male member of the Kane family, childless owner of the Kane family fortune. When he's found dead at the foot of a cliff one morning' his family are distressed, but most of them suspect nothing more than the obvious -- he insisted on having his usual evening walk along the clifftop path in spite of it being a foggy night, and must have missed his way. But when his heir is found shot dead not long after moving into the family residence, Silas's death takes on a more sinister aspect. And it's not as if there's a shortage of motives. A nice obvious one is that the other partners in Silas's business wanted to go into a risky but potentially profitable deal, one that could only go ahead with a capital injection from Silas, which Silas wasn't willing to give. And of course, Silas's nephew and heir Clement needed the money he inherited, and Clement in turn has the next oldest cousin as his heir. Then there's pure personal animosity as a motive for an eighty-year-old lady, of all people, to have committed one of the murders.

Hannaysde's problem is that there are several good candidates for each murder, but anyone with good motive and means for one is a poor candidate for the other. If, of course, the death of Silas really was a murder and not just an unfortunate coincidence of an accident. And that's before it becomes clear that someone is now targeting Clement's heir.

I spotted the murderer fairly early on, when the second murder took place, although I didn't work out how he'd done it. It took me a little longer to make the connection on what his true motive was. This is no criticism of the book, because Heyer kept me guessing almost to the end as to whether I was right. That's just as much fun as not spotting the clues until near the end. And there's plenty of entertainment along the way, with ample red herrings, a cast of characters large enough to provide plenty of character interaction without being too large to keep track of, and some sparkling dialogue.

Hannasyde is a recurring character, and there are references to earlier cases, but he's actually something of a cypher in comparison with the one-off characters he encounters. There's no real development of him as a character from book to book. Instead, what shines here are the character studies of the people caught in the backwash of murder. They're often stereotypes or exaggerations, but still are nicely drawn caricatures of certain personality types, and the way they react to stress.

Great fun, and I'm looking forward to the next one.

LibraryThing entry
julesjones: (Default)
I've been too out of sorts to compose a post of my own for the last week, but I have been reading other people's posts. Here are some interesting things I found via Making Light:

***
Columnist Dan Savage reacted to the news of a gay teenager's suicide with this:

I had the same reaction: I wish I could have talked to this kid for five minutes. I wish I could have told Billy that it gets better. I wish I could have told him that, however bad things were, however isolated and alone he was, it gets better.

But gay adults aren't allowed to talk to these kids. Schools and churches don't bring us in to talk to teenagers who are being bullied. Many of these kids have homophobic parents who believe that they can prevent their gay children from growing up to be gay—or from ever coming out—by depriving them of information, resources, and positive role models.

Why are we waiting for permission to talk to these kids? We have the ability to talk directly to them right now. We don't have to wait for permission to let them know that it gets better. We can reach these kids.

So here's what you can do, GBVWS: Make a video. Tell them it gets better.


Scroll to the last item on Savage's Sep 23 column for the full details. The YouTube channel is at http://www.youtube.com/itgetsbetterproject

***

A professional scribe discusses the making of parchment in the context of materials for making a Torah. It is full of the sort of Interesting Facts About Stuff that fannish types like, not least being the lusting after a giraffe skin in order to make a really long parchment.

***

A back of the envelope calculation of the "so many books, so little time" problem, which shows exactly why I have decided that I am no longer going to keep reading a book just because it is there. Now, I used to get through nigh on 400 books a year, but that was back when I was a teenager with lots of free time, no internet, and rather better health than I currently enjoy. I don't think I'm ever going to get back to that rate again, even if I do know at least one person with older and worse eyesight than mine who manages it. James Nicoll reads for a living, so I'm not going to try to compete with him. :-)

***
julesjones: (Default)
Book 63

First in the long-running Hamish Macbeth mystery series. I picked up four of the early entries in the series a couple of weeks ago, as I was a fan of the 1990s tv adaptation but somehow had never seen the books before. Unsurprisingly, there are significant differences between tv and book in the details of the universe, but the tone is pretty much the same. Hamish is a gentle, lazy, laid-back crofter's son who has found a comfortable niche as the village constable in a remote Highlands village. But when murder comes to Lochdubh, he finds himself unwilling to be pushed aside by the city cops who have written him off as too lazy and stupid to be of use. And lazy Hamish may be, but stupid he certainly isn't.

The titular gossip is Lady Jane Winters, a member of the new class at the local fishing school. The students on the residential course are a mixed bag of people, all with their secrets to hide -- secrets Lady Jane is only too willing to hint at, making it clear that she knows more about each of them than they'd like. And when her corpse is all too literally fished out of the river by one of the class, it becomes clear that there's more than a spoilt fishing holiday at stake for someone.

It's an enjoyable enough book, although I think I liked the tv adaptation better. The characterisation feels a bit thin to me, even allowing for it being a fairly short novel. On the strength of this and the second one, I wouldn't be inclined to go out and explicitly collect the entire series as I have with some other mystery series, but I'd be perfectly happy to read any that came my way.

LibraryThing entry
julesjones: (Default)
Book 64

Second in the Hamish Macbeth series. In this one, Priscilla Halburton-Smythe, Hamish's friend and object of adoration from afar, brings her new fiance home to meet her parents and assorted house guests, most of whom have cadged an invitation because Henry Withering is a successful playwright and thus has snob value. Unfortunately one of the house guests is Captain Bartlett, boor, ladies' man, and all round cad. Bartlett is found dead by shotgun on the morning of a grouse shoot, apparently having made an all too common mistake of using the gun as a prop to get over a fence without making sure it was unloaded first. Hamish is unconvinced by this explanation, but Priscilla's father is determined to believe that it was an accident, and Priscilla's father is chums with the Chief Constable. Even when Hamish provides evidence that can't be ignored, he's initially pushed out of what has now become a murder investigation. But wiser heads prevail, and Hamish finds himself on the trail of a killer.

An enjoyable piece of light reading, though as with the first not one that inspires me to hunt down the titles I don't already have.

LibraryThing entry
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Book 65

I received an uncorrected proof copy of this through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme, having been sufficiently intrigued by the description to request it even though it's outside my usual reading range.

Description: In the tunnels beneath New York a young man is missing. With each passing minute he heads deeper underground, further from the world of light and reason and closer to the moment of his great surrender. Above ground Ali Lateef of the NYPD is assigned the case. The boy's mother Violet is reluctant to help and Emily, Lowboy's girlfriend and only confidante, appears to have vanished too Can Lateef find Lowboy before it's too late?

As it turns out, I think on the basis of the first few chapters that it's probably a superb piece of writing, but I'm finding it sufficiently disturbing to read that I don't really want to keep reading it. Lowboy is a 16-year-old paranoid schizophrenic, off his meds and on the run in the subway system of New York. The book opens in his viewpoint, and he's clearly already losing connection with reality, although you don't get the details until the next chapter, in Lateef's point of view. Wray's prose is stunning, in a blend of psychological thriller and litfic that provides a dizzying look inside Lowboy's damaged mind, contrasting it with the world as it appears from consensus reality. Too dizzying for me, and I'm abandoning ship in large part because Wray is so good at what he's doing here.

In spite of which, I'd still say that this book is one more reason for me to keep requesting Canongate's offerings to the Early Reviewers. I'm glad I tried this one, even if in the end it wasn't for me.

LibraryThing entry

[Normally I'd pass this on via the "who wants it next?" thread on Early Reviewers, but I've had it such a long time there may be no point. If anyone wants dibs on it, yell.]
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Yes, you're getting spammed with the book log today. Sorry about that, but it's the first time in a week I've felt up to posting. I'm going out to meet kalypso_v at the local Thai takeaway shortly, so I'll shut up after this one. :-)

54) Agatha Christie -- Sparkling Cyanide [audiobook]
Reviewed 12 September.

55) Agatha Christie -- The Blood-Stained Pavement and other stories [audiobook]
Reviewed 15 September.

56) Brian Aldiss -- "Equator" and "Segregation"
http://www.librarything.com/work/182737

57) Philip Jose Farmer -- Timestop
http://www.librarything.com/work/465053/

58) Frank Herbert -- The worlds of Frank Herbert
http://www.librarything.com/work/19078

59) Diana Dors -- Behind closed Dors
Logged with brief notes on 19 September.

60) Miss Read -- Village School
Logged with brief notes on why DNF on 25 September.

61) Roger Elwood -- Continuum 1
Logged with notes about individual stories on 26 September

62)Georgette Heyer -- They Found Him Dead
Logged with notes 2 October

63) MC Beaton -- Death of a Gossip
Logged with notes 2 October

64) MC Beaton -- Death of a Cad
Logged with notes 2 October

65) John Wray -- Lowboy
Reviewed 2 October


Plus a book discussion thread about Shamini Flint's "Inspector Singh Investigates" series, posted on Dreamwidth and LiveJournal on 18 September.

That looks like quite a lot of books, but given that two of them were DNF and a third had been mostly read some time back, it's not as impressive as it looks. Still not bad on the ones actually read all the way through.

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