Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Crime Coast - Elizabeth Gill


Paul Ashby is off to the south of France for a vacation.  Before he leaves, an old man falls down the steps outside his flat.  He brings the man in for a drink and a chat to make sure he's recovered.  When the old man, Major Kent, finds out he's off to the French Riviera, he asks him to look for his son, Adrian Kent.  Adrian is an artist who's disappeared after the his older lover is murdered.  He's a prime suspect and the fact that he's disappeared makes him look even more suspicious.

On the train, Paul shares a compartment with a lovely girl, but she runs off when he asks if she knows Kent.  Once along the coast and settled in his hotel, he begins his detective work.  He meets Benvenuto Brown and discovers that he's trying to find out who killed the woman that Adrian's suspected of killing.  He knows Adrian well and knows that he didn't do it.  He also knows the beautiful girl on the train, Adelaide Moon, also an artist.

Paul and Ben (Benvenuto) team up to find Adrian and the killer.

Elizabeth Gill only wrote three mysteries before her death from complications of surgery when she was in her early thirties.  I enjoyed this book.  I have the author's other two mysteries and am looking forward to reading those.  They were all written in the 1930s, a period I like.


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Earthly Remains - Donna Leon


Commissario Guido Brunetti needs a vacation.  In order to stop one of his policemen from making a serious mistake, Brunetti fakes a heart attack.  The doctors, however, tell him he needs to take a break  from the constant stress of his job.  A relative of Paola's has a villa on one of the islands, so Brunetti goes there, alone, for two weeks.

His plan is to read and swim and ride bicycle and isolate himself from the world.  He discovers that the man who maintains the villa, Davide Casati, was a friend of his late father's.  They had rowed together.  Casati asks Brunetti if he'd like to row.  They spend their days rowing in the lagoon and visiting Casati's beeshives.  Casati says his bees are dying.  He says that he killed them and that he killed his wife, who died of cancer.  Brunetti doesn't understand why he says that.  Casati disappears after a storm and his daughter asks Brunetti to find him.

I read my first Donna Leon / Brunetti mystery in 1999, so I'm a long-time fan.  Several of her recent books have dealt with the gradual destruction of Venice and the lagoon from climate change, pollution, and the dumping of toxic waste.  I still enjoy the books and I appreciate Leon's emphasis on environmental and ethical issues.   But I miss Paola, with her constant reading and cooking, who appears only briefly in these later books.  These books introduced me to prosecco, so, thank you, Donna Leon!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

A Rainy Day in April

My husband still insists on watching the television weather forecasters  -  who seem to be wrong 98% of the time.  Today we were told excitedly that there would be heavy rain and flooding.  As the host of the classical radio station we listen to in the morning noted, he wasn't sure if it was light rain or a heavy mist.  Really.

I have two books to write about.  The first is one many people know:  The Moon-Spinners by Mary Stewart.  I read this decades ago and watched the Hayley Mills movie an eternity ago.  I've been re-reading Mary Stewarts books after having read some recent blog posts and finding three almost new  paperbacks in a Boston used book store.



Nicola Ferris, on vacation from her job at the British Embassy in Athens, encounters a disheveled and armed man while walking to her hotel in Crete.  He takes her to a shepherd's hut, where an injured man is hidden.  The injured man is Mark Langley, shot when he, his friend, Lambis, and his little brother, Colin, witnessed a local man being murdered.  Mark was shot when they escaped.

Nicola helps the men, although Mark doesn't want to endanger her.  She gathers information in the village and hunts for Colin, who has disappeared, probably kidnapped by the murderers, maybe murdered.  Her Aunt Frances, a botanist, joins her and, between the two of them, they discover who the murderers are and why they killed one of their cohort.

As with all the Mary Stewart books I've read, there are detailed and wonderful descriptions of locations and landscapes.  You can feel the heat of the sun, taste the salt of the ocean, see the wildflowers and birds.  There's also just the right mixture of suspense and romance.  To me, it was a  pleasurable book.


This is a mystery and author you may not be familiar with unless you're a fan of Golden Age Mysteries.  I read it on my Kindle.  I discovered that I have a hardback of another of Burton's mysteries.  I've had it for ages but haven't read it.  After reading Heir to Murder, I'm eager to read it.

If you're a fan of Murder She Wrote, you may think that Cabot Cove and Carmouth are very much alike.  The ratio of murder to residents is very high.  Carmouth is a small, coastal English village.  Heir to Murder starts out with the drowning death of the local doctor, drowned when his car rolled off the pier into the water.  His death is ruled accidental.  Then his nurse falls of a cliff walk one night on her way back to the village after attending to a patient.  Another accident.

Desmond and Mavis Merrion come to spend some time in Carmouth for Mavis's health.  Desmond is an ex-military intelligence officer.  Mavis wants to say hello to Lady Violet Vernham, an old friend of her late mother.  She lives on her estate, Dragonscourt, outside the village.  Lady Violet insists that they leave the hotel and stay with her indefinitely.

To amuse himself, Desmond investigates what he feels are the murders of Dr. Murford and Nurse Penruddock.  Then someone shoots at Lady Violet's estranged nephew, Philip Sampson, and bashes the local curate, Colin Carew, over the head one dark night.  Desmond realizes that, somehow, the murders and attempted murders are related to Lady Violet and who will inherit her wealth.  Because she has no children, she wants to leave her money to whomever will use it to help the people of Carmouth.  Oh, by the way, her niece works for her as a companion.  No one knows that Olivia Jones is her niece.

I think the book is written well and that the narrative flows.  I liked the characters.  I was kept guessing about the murderer until the very end.  Miles Burton is an author I'll look for again.


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Middling March

I'm having an awful time reading at the moment.  I've been distracted by several things.  Sometimes that means that I can lose myself in a book, but other times it means that I'm stuck in the real world.  In a fit of discontent, I've started and tossed several books, not even giving some of them the 20 or 50 pages I normally would.  'Off with their heads!'

I did finish two books, one of which I'm not going to review.  It was about a British couple and their two dogs.  They're looking for a retirement estate in France, someplace where they can shoot wildlife.    I tried to overlook that, but it colored my feelings about the book.  There were some funny incidences, but I wasn't enjoying myself.  Enough said.


The other book I read was The Mill on the Shore by Ann Cleeves.  I haven't read a lot of hers, but I think I prefer the ones that take place in the Shetlands.  The Mill on the Shore wasn't a compelling read, but I was surprised when the murderer was revealed.

I hope I'll do better in April.  I'm still reading Don Quixote and The Travels of William Bartram, both of which I started over a year ago.

Yesterday was the birthday of my first dog, a gorgeous blonde Afghan hound named Sinya's Wild Child.  She was my companion when I was a mid-teen, about 50 years ago.  I often think about her and the other animals I've loved and lost.  Maybe I think about them too much.  Gone but definitely not forgotten.

Happy April!  Where are those spring flowers?!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Not Quite the Complete (I Hope) Second Half of March

Accumulating my little reviews and publishing them twice a month is boring me.  So here are a few books I finished reading since my last post.



Lara McClintock is wondering why a famously reclusive millionaire would contact her and ask her to buy a piece of Etruscan art on his behalf.  She meets him and is satisfied that he wants her to represent him because no one would imagine that he's behind the purchase.

But purchasing the elusive Etruscan piece is not that easy.  It's owned by a dying man in a wheelchair  who is selling off his art to finance a trip to a secret Etruscan admiration group.  Except that he doesn't really want to part with any of his things.  He's found dead shortly after Lara visits him.  At least one of his Etruscan pieces is missing  -  and turns up in the trunk of Lara's car.

There's a lot of back and forth with the piece.  It's like a game of 'hot potato'.  Lara puts it in someone else's car, then it turns up in her hotel room.  No one wants to get caught with it because it doesn't seem to be legal.  No one has purchased it since the dead man's father purchased it, and he may not have done that legally.

There are a lot of fakes around:  fake Etruscan pieces and fake people.  The Eturscan Chimera was a fun read, but my head was spinning by the end of the book.  



I am not a Romance reader.  Yes, I enjoy a bit of romance in books, but I don't want it to be the focus of the story.  However, after reading so many enthusiastic reviews of The Grand Sophy, I bought it and read it.  It was great fun!

Sophia Stanton-Lacy arrives to stay at her Aunt Elizabeth's in London while her father is overseas on business.  He hopes that she'll find a husband while he's away.  

Sophia (The Grand Sophy) has been living in Spain with her widowed father.  She has quite a reputation for unconventionality and she sets her aunt and uncle's lives spinning.  She gallops her horses in the park, drives her own carriage pulled by spirited steeds, she carries a loaded pistol (of ladylike proportions), and she can take care of herself.  Woe to those who think she can't.  Or shouldn't.

Although she's only about eighteen, she is perceptive and adept at problem solving.  She sees that her cousin Cecilia has made a mistake by throwing over a terrific man for an oblivious and poor but handsome poet.  Her cousin Charles has engaged himself to a very proper (in her own mind) woman who believes that correct behavior is everything and that fun is suspicious.  No one is with the ones they love, so Sophy decides to fix things.

The ending is like a Marx Brothers movie.  This person enters from one door while another exits by another, a box of ducklings intent on escape appears, an Italian greyhound dances around, a grand Spanish woman cooks in the kitchen, the poet wanders abstractedly about looking for his muse.  But Sophy accomplishes her mission.  As Shakespeare said, all's well that ends well.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Snow Day Madness

A 'perfect storm' (I survived a couple of those when I lived in New England) was predicted for this past Monday night and Tuesday.  We were all going to die if we stepped outside or didn't have enough chips and beer to last for a week or two.

We took appropriate action and broke open a jigsaw puzzle, which soon became an obsession.  In less than two days, we were finished.  We've vowed not to start another one right away.  Maybe next week.  I've been buying them and stockpiling them (for the perfect storm), but we don't have a good place to work on them.  This time, I sacrificed half of the dining room table.

Here are two photos, one in progress and one of the finished puzzle.  I like these old travel posters, as do a couple other bloggers I know.




Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Marching Along





I love Ellery Queen, both the books and the TV show from the 1970s.  The first book I finished in March was The Siamese Twin Mystery.  Ellery and his father are returning from a vacation.  Ellery decides to take the scenic route back to New York City and ends up racing up a mountain to avoid a forest fire.  They arrive at the top of Arrow Mountain at night to find a dead end road and a creepy  house.

No one answers when they pound on the door.  Eventually, a man answers.  He says that they were wary of strangers arriving at their remote location at night.  More people appear, some very strange.  They all seem tense and Ellery and his father don't know why.  One of the men is a famous retired surgeon, another is his brother.  Then there's the doctor's wife, another young woman, and the servants.  And a mysterious scrabbling in a dark hallway and a hidden person.

It's not fair to reveal too much when talking about a mystery.  So I'll just tell you that there are two murders, some mysteries are solved, there are misdirecting clues, and that raging forest fire that puts everyone in jeopardy.  It's a page turner.  Ellery solves the murders after some complicated cogitating.


I tend to think that animal mysteries are often too cute for me.  But this series by Lydia Adamson has a bit of heft to it.  I bought several of the series in a used book store last year and have enjoyed this one and the other one I read.

Alice Nestleton is a beautiful actress of a certain age and a cat sitter.  She has two of her own cats and loves cats in general.  She and some friends have been gardening in a community plot, raising herbs and flowers.  They plan to sell their organic catnip.  They have a small party to celebrate the harvest and brewing of peppermint tea  -  and one of the friends jumps to her death from the balcony during the party.

Alice can't believe that the woman committed suicide.  As she digs further into the woman's life, she's sure she didn't commit suicide.  But she's having trouble convincing others.  Alice figures out how and why the woman was killed.  Her friend on the police force helps out and he and she capture the killer, who has a secret history.

These books are fast reads and are fairly short.  They're a pleasant break from more serious or longer fiction and from more violent mysteries.


I must have read The Story of Doctor Dolittle when I was a child.  I know the story, I loved / love animals, I couldn't have missed it.  But, just in case, I read it again.

Doctor Dolittle, a kindly doctor, is always treating people for free.  When his parrot, Polynesia, tells him that all animals have their own languages and arranges for him to learn them, he becomes an animal doctor.  Of course, he's still kind and too generous for his own good.  He becomes a poor but famous doctor.

He gets a message that monkeys in Africa are dying of a mysterious illness.  The monkeys ask him to come help them.  He borrows a boat, loads up his animal friends, and sets off for Africa.  When they get there, they're captured by a wicked king.  Polynesia helps them to escape.  There are a few hair-raising episodes, with the king's men on their trail, and a wonderfully original end to the chase.

Dr. Dolittle saves the monkeys and then sets off for home.  Polynesia and the other animals originally from Africa decide to stay there.

On their way home, they're belayed by an evil pirate.  They outsmart the pirate and find a little boy who's lost his uncle.  Jip, the dog, smells his way to a rescue.  Dr. Dolittle and Jip are richly rewarded.

When they finally get back to their own country, they travel around displaying the pushmi-pullyu, who has decided to allow this to help Dr. Dolittle to earn money.  The pushmi-pullyu is there at his own free will.  He's a rare creature and many people want to buy him, but Dr. Dolittle refuses.  By the time they get tired of touring and return to Dr. Dolittle's home, they have lots of money.  As Dr. Dolittle says, money may be a bother, but it's nice not to have to worry about it.


This Dutch author has at least two books that take place in Maine.  I was puzzled about that until I read his biography on Wikipedia.  He moved to Maine and died there.  Now it makes sense.

In The Maine Massacre, the commissaris (who is never named) goes to Maine after his brother-in-law dies in an accident.  His sister can't wait to sell up and move back to Holland.  A few of the people at the police station in Amsterdam where he works are concerned about him because he's been very ill and has debilitating rheumatism.  They want someone to go with him.  He refuses, but they send one of their men, Sergeant de Gier, as part of a police exchange program.

While there, they both realize that there have been five accidental deaths in the last three years on a small area called Cape Orca.  They can't all have been accidents.  There's a new sheriff in town and he's been thinking the same thing.  Together they collect evidence and piece together the solution.

They have to deal with an obnoxious local gang of troublemakers and intellectuals.  Plus the strange people who live in the area.  They live far away from cities and towns, so they're independent and tough.

The police from Maine and Holland share techniques and experience.  They bring justice to the small town of Jameson, Maine.





I'm finished.  I'm done.  Whatever am I going to do now?!  

All Change is the final (fifth) book in The Cazalet Chronicles.  I started reading the series tentatively but quickly became engrossed in the family and their triumphs (not really that many) and tragedies (more of them).

I admit that even reading the fifth book, I had to refer to my list of characters, in particular which children belonged to which couple.  There are a lot of children!  But the reader has the privilege of watching them grow up.

Just like in real life, I liked some characters better than others.  I despised some and I wanted to shake others and tell them to wake up!  I could see the mistakes they were about to make and wanted to spare them the consequences.  I would like to have gone out for dinner or drinks with a few of them.

I don't want to get into much detail because I don't want to ruin things for new readers.  There are marital problems for most of the couples.  Some of them are worked out satisfactorily, others are not.  By the end of the book, most of the adults have been married at least once and most have children.

There's nothing spectacular in this series.  The stories are the kinds of stories that you might hear from your friends.  Or might have yourself.

I know there are other family sagas out there, but I'm not ready to commit to any of them just yet.  I'm still living with the Cazalets.