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.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February: Part 2

In Diamond Solitaire, Peter Diamond, having lost his job as a policeman, proceeds to lose his job as a security guard at Harrods.  A little Japanese girl is found hiding in the furniture section after hours.  She doesn't speak and no one can find out who she is.  No one claims her.  

It's decided that she's autistic.  She's placed in a school for autistic children in London.  She haunts Peter.  He decides to devote himself to finding out who she is.  She begins to trust him and to draw.  The drawings are clues to where she came from.

The clues lead to an international pharmaceutical company and the development of a drug for treating Alzheimer's and which may also help maintain youthful brain function.  It turns out that the little girl's mother is a chemist who had worked on the drug.

Peter is helped by a very famous sumo wrestler who foots the bill for Peter's investigation.  He also plays a large, if you'll excuse the pun, part in an exciting rescue.

I like The Cazalet series very much, but this third book was aptly named.  I had difficulty reminding myself which character the chapter was about or which character was talking.  Confusion concerns mostly the young women in the family:  Zoe, Louise, Angela, Clary, and Polly.  They're all unlucky in love.

If you've read the series in order, you've watched the girls grow up and move out into the world.  Zoe's husband Rupert is MIA in World War II.  She's in limbo, not a wife and not a widow.  Louise marries Michael, a painter who is too devoted to his manipulative mother.  Clary and Polly are dipping their toes into romance and life in London.  Angela, after an unfortunate affair with a co-worker and an unwanted pregnancy, has given up.

Don't count on Elizabeth Jane Howard to deliver a happy ending, just interesting characters and slices of life in England before, during, and after the war.

It just so happened that while I was reading Confusion (see above), I was also reading Mrs. Milburn's Diaries.  I love reading diaries written by normal civilians during World War II.  Mrs. Jack Milburn (Clara) kept her diaries from 1939 through 1945.  She and her husband lived near Coventry, England.  Their only son, Alan John, was captured at Dunkirk and spent the next six years in German prisoner of war camps.  News of him was sporadic, although he and his mother exchanged letters, often much delayed.

Clara was active in the war effort, the Land Girls and the Women's Institute.  She was proud of their cars and volunteered to drive people from place to place, patients to doctors and hospitals, etc.  She also gardened and kept chickens.  A photograph of a watercolor she did of Coventry Cathedral shows that she was an accomplished artist as well.

She had a housekeeper, Kate, who cooked and cleaned and kept things in order.

Alan came home on May 10, 1945, and the diaries end.  Judy Milburn, the woman Alan married, adds information about what happened to everyone after the war.

I enjoyed reading these diaries.  It still overwhelms me when I read the number of people killed, soldiers and civilians, the amount of planes and bombs.  And it happened within living memory.

As diaries of World War II go, my favorites are still the diaries of Nella Last.  Her personality came through more in her writings.

Does anyone know of any World War II diaries by American women?

Murder at the Motor Show was first published in 1935.  Mr. Nigel Pershore, a wealthy gentleman, goes to an auto show and drops dead.  The coroner can't find a cause of death, except that his healthy heart suddenly stopped.  The autopsy reveals, however, that he had arsenic in his body, but not enough to kill him.

The police investigate and are sure they have the killer.  It must be the man's niece, who stands to inherit the bulk of his fortune.  Or is it his nephew, who will inherit even more because he knows something that the others don't know.  But maybe it's the man whose mortgage will be satisfied by Pershore's death.  Maybe it's not any of those.  Who is the mysterious woman who visits Nigel Pershore?

The book starts slowly, in my opinion, with too much detailed information about the innovative cars at the show.  Dr. Priestly, the detective of the series, doesn't intervene until late in the book.  I've only read one other Rhode book, The Claverton Affair.  I think I need to read a few more before I decide whether or not I like this series.    

Who knew that going to a car show could be so dangerous?!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

February 1st Through the 15th

A woman of my word, here are brief reviews of the books I read in the first half of February.  I hope you all had happy Valentine's Days.  I spent mine at the doctor's and then in bed with a stomach virus.  Fortunately, I had my Valentine to take care of me.  Much better now.

I usually don't read modern books that continue an older series, but the two books I've read by Guy Fraser-Sampson that continue the Mapp and Lucia series are well done and capture the flavor of the originals.

Mapp (not very wealthy) and Lucia (wealthy) are continuously trying to outdo each other socially.  Lucia and her husband, Georgie, decide to vacation in the lakes section of Italy.  Mapp finds out and, lucky for her, one of Benjy's old India friends, a very wealthy man, asks Benjy if he'll escort his son on vacation until he is free to take him  -  all expenses paid.  So Mapp connives to go to the same little town and stay in the same hotel as Lucia.  All I can say is that pandemonium and laughter ensue.

I've read a few of the Judge Dee mysteries and this one wasn't one of my favorites.  It dragged and I didn't like the theme.  Judge Dee stops at a festival at which a young man is poisoned.  And a woman is found murdered.  There's much talk about the Emperor's Pearl, a valuable pearl stolen years ago from the royal jewels, thought to be a myth by many.

Judge Dee must solve the mystery.  What he finds is a sadist and a surprise.

This book was disappointing, too.  I like Amy Poehler.  I don't think you can beat her and Tina Fey for laughs when they get together.  But this book felt forced, disjointed, didn't make me like Amy more, and maybe even a little less.  I thought it would be funnier.

Another celebrity memoir, but this one was more enjoyable.  That is, despite the fact that much of the book is about Cumming's horrible father and how he beat Alan and his brother and made them feel that they were worthless.  When Alan was 45, his father called and told him that he wasn't his real father.

Alan, in the middle of the British show Who Do You Think You Are? is devastated.  Elated to think that he's not the blood of a monster, but having to reevaluate his life and family.  So, simultaneously, he investigates the truth of his father's declaration and the story of his mother's father, who elected to leave his family after the war and who died in a mysterious shooting incident in the Far East.

And, finally, an old mystery by a well-regarded mystery author.  During a dinner with his neighbors, a man complains of stomach pains.  One of the neighbors, a doctor, opines that it's an ulcer and advises him to lay off the booze and rich food for a while.  He sends over some medicine.  The next day, the man is much worse and he dies a few days later.

The dead man's estranged brother arrives and demands an investigation.  They find that the man died of arsenic poisoning.  There is much speculation about how he ingested the arsenic:  in the medicine is the first supposition, but he also could have committed suicide (his finances are tanking), or it could have been accidental (he's been experimenting with different washes for his fruit trees), or, his brother's favorite, his younger wife could have done it because she wanted to leave him for another man.  The revelation was a surprise to me.

So, there you are.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Rest of January

I like posting a half month at a time, so I think I'll continue this way.  I may post about single issues occasionally.  So, here are the books I read in the second half of January:

I like archeological mysteries and I bought a bunch of Lyn Hamilton's series at a local used book store.  The series features Lara McClintoch, an antiques dealer.  She's in business with her ex-husband, which causes some problems.  In this book, Clive, her ex, gets the brilliant idea that to stimulate interest in their antiques business, Lara should lead a history / antiques tour somewhere in the world.  They pick Tunisia.

A varied group signs up for the tour.  A couple of celebrities, a couple of widows and single women, a fellow antiques dealer whose interest is ancient coins, a guy who only talks about investments and is constantly on his phone.  One member of the group is found dead in the swimming pool, but it wasn't an accident according to Lara.  She has experience with murder.  A fire breaks out in a travel critic's room.  The clothes and accessories in another member's room are rearranged and her necklace is stolen.  

There's an archeological 'dig' going on in the harbor, searching for a sunken ship with a cache of gold.  One of their members dies and one is injured.  That's not an accident either.  Someone tampered with their air tanks.

There's a lot going on.  Mixed in with the contemporary story is the story of the sunken ship, sunk in the time of Carthage.  So I had some fun and I learned some things, too.


This was my first Dorothy Whipple book.  I've already bought another of hers, Because of the Lockwoods.  I loved this book, a domestic mid-20th century novel.  It's a genre that I've previously disregarded.  My copy of The Great Mr. Knight, which seems to be the American title of They Knew Mr. Knight, was from my library, firmly covered in unremovable plastic, hence the lousy photograph of an interesting cover.

Thomas Blake works at the factory his family founded.  Against Thomas's pleading, his father sold the factory to raise cash after his mismanagement caused the business to falter.  Thomas believes that the factory should be his.  He, his wife and three children live in The Grove, a respectable neighborhood.

Thomas contrives to meet Mr. Knight, a wealthy financier who rides the same train.  Knight takes Thomas under his wing and gives him investment tips.  He buys Thomas's factory and puts Thomas in charge.  As he makes more money, Thomas and his family move up the wealth ladder.  They move to Fairholme, a house his wife doesn't like.

When Knight moves out of his country estate, Field Place, and back to London, he suggests that Thomas buy Field Place and offers him a good deal.  He and his family love Field Place.  But Knight has abandoned Thomas and Thomas has gotten himself entangled in too many questionable financial dealings, in way over his head.  You see what is coming, don't you?  I did, but I still wanted to read about how each family member reacted to their changing fortunes.

I felt it was time for more mystery and a move to Sicily, so I reached for an Inspector Montalbano book by Andrea Camilleri.  They're dependably good.  I can't form a good image of Montalbano, though.  I believe him to be a middle-aged (early 50s), sort of heavy man, not especially attractive  -  but women in the books seem to find him appealing.  He's always getting involved with beautiful women, despite his longterm, long-distance relationship with his girlfriend / fiancee (?) Livia.

There are two mega yachts in the harbor.  One has brought in the body of a badly beaten man, so badly beaten that he can't be identified.  The wealthy owner of the sailing yacht is gorgeous and overbearing.  The woman from the harbor master's office is gorgeous, too, and attracted to Montalbano.  They play relationship tag.

Montalbano is, as usual, in trouble with the police department he works for.  He lies, he avoids, he annoys his bosses.  But he does figure out the identity of the dead man and the secret of the two ships.

This classic was interesting for many reasons.  I realized that this book and The Great Mr. Knight were both about reaching for financial and social success and the risks people will take to acquire and keep them.

Pere Goriot lives in a down at the heels boarding house.  It appears he's very poor, but he always seems to be able to sell something when one of his spoiled daughters makes a demand.  He was once wealthy, a self-made man.  His daughters' wishes were always granted, so they grew up to be selfish and thoughtless women, continuing to make financial demands of their poor father while relegating him to his poverty and shunning his company.  Both are married to men of social and financial standing.  Goriot worships his daughters.

A young medical student is also a boarder at the house.  He comes from a modest family in the country, but he soon abandons his studies for the more attractive social scene.  The problem is that he doesn't have any money.  He thinks that being a doctor will take too long and won't produce enough income.  He decides that he must edge his way into society, which he does with the assistance of a distant relative.  He plans to marry or pledge himself to a wealthy woman.

He has a choice between another boarding house resident, a young heiress whose father refuses to recognize her.  If her father makes her his heir, she'll be very wealthy.  She's a sweet, innocent pretty girl.  But he's attracted to one of Goriot's married daughters.  Goriot likes him and is delighted.  He does everything he can to encourage the relationship because he thinks the young man makes his daughter happy and that her husband doesn't.

My goodness.  I'm glad I don't have either social or unattainable financial goals.  I wanted to shake several of the characters in the novel, Goriot and his daughters, and others, too.  At the end, Goriot realizes what his daughters are, but he blames himself.  It's a sad ending.

I hope that life is calming down and that I will have time to continue reading Don Quixote.  It's a funny and surprising book, but a long one.  I haven't found a good audio of the whole book, parts 1 and 2, to listen to while reading.  That helped me through Moby Dick and I was hoping listening and reading would get me to the end of Don Quixote.  I'm not forcing myself to read it, I just need a nudge to keep focused.  Wish me luck!

Monday, January 16, 2017

So Far in January ....

I've been reading, but I haven't been writing about what I've read.  I've told you before, I'm lazy.  Every minute spent not reading is taking away from my reading time.  It's that simple.  But the whole point of a blog is to communicate.  I want to talk to you about books and I want you to talk to me.  A pet peeve:  bloggers who don't respond to comments.  That's one-way.  I'm not interested in a lecture.  I want a conversation.

I like archeology and I love mysteries.  Even in real life, they often go hand in hand.  I've bought all of the books in Margot Arnold's Dr. Penny Spring and Sir Toby Glendower mystery series.  They're an odd couple, to be sure, but they're great at solving mysteries.  This time, they're in Hawaii.  They're supposed to be there for a vacation and so Penny can mediate an argument between two professionals regarding the existence of Hawaiian 'little people', like leprechauns.  But the bodies start piling up, so Penny and Toby go to work.

Although I like the Miss Silver mysteries, she hardly makes an appearance in this one.  Two sisters inherit.  One is married to a very handsome man, one is single.  The single one, lost in the London fog, overhears someone hiring a man to commit murder for hire.  She also meets a handsome architect in the fog.  All three meet again at her sister's house, the one they're renting and that her husband wants desperately to buy  -  using his wife's in-trust inheritance.  The husband's ward, an obnoxious young girl, falls to her death.  There's something odd going on here and Miss Silver helps point the police in the right direction.

This one was a Christmas gift from my niece Amy.  She knows how much I love the inside story on musicians.  Howard Smith was a journalist who had a radio show, too.  He was the only journalist who broadcast live from Woodstock (I think I have that right).  He made hundreds of tapes of his interviews with people like Ravi Shankar, John and Yoko, Frank Zappa, Jane Fonda, Eric Clapton, Dr. John, Norman Mailer, Jerry Garcia, Dick Cavett, Mick Jagger, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin (just days before she died), and many, many more.  The tapes were made between 1969 and 1972 and lay untouched in an attic for decades, until Smith's son found them.  I told Amy that the book brought back so many memories for me.  Ramparts and Avant-Garde magazines (I've always been ahead of the curve), the news on the radio of the Manson murders and the deaths of Hendrix, Morrison, and Joplin, Vietnam anti-war marches.  It was an exciting and terrifying time to come of age.  Things were far more turbulent then than they are now, IMHO.

I think Australia is too alien for me.  I don't doubt that it's breathtaking and amazing, but I think it's so different from any landscapes I know.  When I got off the plane in Salt Lake City, Utah, I felt like I'd landed on Mars.  I feel the same way about Australia, even though I've never been there.  Napoleon Bonaparte is a police detective, part white, part Aborigine.  He's very good at what he does, so he's sent to the east coast of Australia to find out who killed a former Scotland Yard inspector.  He went out deep sea fishing and disappeared with the two men who owned and ran the boat.  Until his head came up in a trawler's net.  There were some incredibly boring (to me) parts, with pages and pages of descriptions of catching sport fish.  I thought I'd put down Swordfish Reef and accidentally picked up The Old Man and The Sea!  The mystery was fine, but I'll take my time before reading another in this series.

I've had Richard Adams' A Nature Diary for years.  I read Watership Down when it first came out in the 1970s and remember liking it.  In A Nature Diary, Adams identifies and lists the birds, insects, and plants that he sees while taking extensive walks with his dog, Tetter, on the Isle of Man, where he lived.  Adams just died this past December, at the age of 96.  According to Wikipedia, his wife died in 2016, too.  He's left most of the descriptive writing out of his Nature Diary.  It's mostly notes about the weather and what he sees while walking.  I'm envious of (or exhausted by) his walks of four to six miles.  I like the illustrations very much.  I've sent the book on to my friend Jenny who is a veterinarian, vegetarian (as all veterinarians should be), writer, and artist.  I think it'll be the perfect book for her.

Then, for some excitement.  I still haven't read the first Harry Hole book, although I have it on my Kindle.  This one, the second in the series, came up first, so I read it.  Harry is sent to Bangkok to discover who murdered the Norwegian ambassador, found stabbed in the back in a cheap motel, waiting for a prostitute.  But Harry's been sent just to wrap things up without unleashing a diplomatic scandal.  Of course, Harry can't do that.  He's got to get to the bottom of the corruption and evil.  And he does.  It's dark, and Harry may not make it out of the hole (get it? a play on this name? am I not a clever girl?) that he throws himself into after solving the murder(s).

Now I'm on to Old Goriot, as my copy calls Pere Goriot, The African Quest by Lyn Hamilton, and Mrs. Milburn's Diary.  A classic, another archeology mystery, and a WWII diary.

BTW, can anyone recommend a WWII AMERICAN war diary?  I've read several British ones and, undoubtedly, life during the war in Britain was a completely different experience from life in the United States.  But we were affected, too, and I'd be interested in the diary / diaries of ordinary people and their every days lives in that time period.  Anyone?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Leave Me the Bleep Alone!

I don't know how you feel about it, but I'm sick to death of machines telling me what to do.  Alarms, warnings, alerts.  Enough already!

This is precipitated by our security system warning us of something, we didn't know what, on Sunday afternoon.  Because the system wasn't armed, it was a constant high-pitched noise.  The security panel said Check 16, which is the Glass Break alarm in the kitchen.  We had been in the kitchen and hadn't noticed anyone breaking in.  I called the security company and they directed me to reset the system.  Fine.

At about 3:30AM Monday, system armed for the night, the alarm went off.  The real one, the one that wakes the neighbors because we're under siege.  But we weren't.  I flew downstairs to the security panel and reset the system.  The security company called us that time to make sure we weren't being held captive in our home.   They said they'd send a technician out on Tuesday.  Nerves jangled, I tried, unsuccessfully, to go back to sleep.  What a fun way to start a Monday.

When they came on Tuesday, they said the sensor in the kitchen just needed batteries.  Well, why hadn't the panel said so?  We might have been able to manage that on our own.

I'm very sensitive to noise.  All noise.  There was one upside to 9/11:  there were no planes for a week.  I noticed that and I loved it.  Humming, buzzing, clanging, backup alarms, smoke detectors with their intermittent and random beeping when their batteries need to be changed.  Our car beeps when you lock it, although it often doesn't recognize me as someone authorized to unlock it with our keyless system.  I stand beside it like a supplicant, waiting for it to allow me in.

I've turned off the End of Cycle alert on my dryer, but I can't find where to do it on my washer.  My dryer beeps while I remove the clothes.  Door Open it says, yes, I know;  I opened the door and I'm standing right here.  Thanks for nothing.  My refrigerator beeps if the door's left ajar or if either the refrigerator or the freezer drops below a certain temperature.

To me, trying desperately to read or relax (I'm pretty much retired, I've put in my time and deserve it), this all sounds like someone snapping their fingers and yelling 'Hey, you, get out here and fold the clothes (change the batteries, close the door, etc.).  Who died and made you the boss?!

Do we really need all these cautions?  Aren't we grownups who can look after ourselves?  Do we need all this help to function today?  I'm ready to throw out anything that requires electricity or thinks it knows better than I do.  If I need a burglar alarm, I'll get a dog!  Just leave me the bleep alone!

Monday, January 2, 2017

2016 Books / December Books Read

It's that time of year when many readers tally up the books they read during the year.  I don't keep detailed tallies: sex or nationality of author, fiction or non-fiction, etc.  You're welcome to keep spread sheets, I'd rather read.  I read 110 books last year, more than the two previous years.  Because I've been posting the books I've read each month, that's what you get in this post.

Death Under Sail  -  C. P. Snow

Airs Above the Ground  -  Mary Stewart

The Crime at the Noah's Ark  -  Molly Thynne

Tamarack County  -  William Kent Krueger

Maigret and the Headless Corpse  -  Georges Simenon

Murder in Academia  -  Christine Poulson

Windigo Island  -  William Kent Krueger

Turbo Twenty-three  -  Janet Evanovich

The New Adventures of Ellery Queen  -  Ellery Queen

You can see that I needed comfort reads, all mysteries of one sort or another.  I'm hoping 2017 will be a year of peace and quiet and good health so I can enjoy some books that require more attention.  I have to admit, though, that mysteries are my first love.  When I was a child, I wanted to learn to read so I could read Nancy Drew by myself.

I wish you all a happy reading year, with many interesting books and the time to read them.