Category Archives: Mysteries

The Amethyst Box

The Amethyst Box, by Anna Katharine Green, was a short mystery that kept me guessing until the end.

Two young women, their fiances,  and a group of friends were gathered for the wedding of one of the young women, Gilbertine. Both she and her cousin, Dorothy, were accompanied by their Aunt, who is their tyrannical and cruel guardian. Gilbertine and Sinclair’s  wedding was to be held the next day, but that night, just after everyone had retired for the evening, a piercing scream was heard and the Aunt lay dead. Natural causes? Nope, although it looked that way at first.

Sinclair had brought with him from his collection of oddities, a tiny amethyst box, a beautiful and rare trinket containing a tiny vial with one drop of the world’s most potent poison. It went missing in the early evening, so Sinclair and Worthington (Dorothy’s fiance) began to search. With the Aunt’s death, they realized that they were too late in finding the poison. Who had stolen the vial and administered the poison?  It seemed the two most likely suspects are Gilbertine and her cousin, Dorothy!

Anna Katharine Green wrote many mystery/detective stories in the early 1900s. She was actually a poet, but couldn’t make a living with her poetry, so turned to mystery writing, instead. She was wonderful at creating enjoyable plots, so her mysteries are compelling and she became an influential author in this genre.

Anna Katharine Green (photo by Hulton Deutshc)

I read this book for the Readers Imbibing Peril XVI challenge. It was also a book chosen to read for my The Classics Club, Round 2.

One More Body in the Pool

The reason that Ray Bradbury is one of my favorite authors is because he was a joyful writer. He was an idea man who loved writing, and that joy shines through in all his works.

I just read one of his short stories, One More Body in the Pool, and enjoyed the fun of it, but was completely captured by the joy he must have had in writing it.
It begins with this:

I walked across the beach and stood in the hot sun for a long moment, staring down at the man lying there with his head covered by a newspaper. I took a deep breath, held it, and at last said. “Scottie?” There was no motion beneath the paper. I took another breath and said, “Mr. Fitzgerald?” At last the paper drifted aside and the young old man underneath it opened his eyes. His face was familiar and young and terribly haunted. The cheeks were smooth and the chin was very fine. The eyes, which were clear blue, seemed to have trouble focusing on me. “Well?” he said at last. I replied, “God, I hate to bother you, but I’m a sort of literary agent and, well, forgive me, but I have an idea that I want to offer you.”

The story is about a time-traveling idea man who visits some iconic American authors (F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner) to introduce an idea to each of them for their writing. Of course, we readers recognize the ideas that will eventually become their greatest novels. It’s tremendous fun to have a very brief glimpse into the lives of those authors while this mysterious idea man plants the seeds of those stories in their minds.

I can picture Mr. Bradbury writing this story. He is enjoying every moment of the idea and of the storytelling that will bring it to life with tongue-in-cheek humor and a playful respect/disrespect for those men.

A fun short story for my Readers Imbibing Peril -XVI challenge!

Pietr the Latvian


Pietr the Latvian is the first book in George Simenon’s extensive series with “Inspector Maigret.” I’ve been curious about this series for years, so I thought it was about time to find out why so many people seem to like Inspector Maigret. And I discovered that I liked him, too!

According to Wikipedia, the character of Inspector Jules Maigret “was invented by Simenon while drinking in a cafe by a Dutch canal and imagining a Parisian policeman: “a large powerfully built gentleman…a pipe, a bowler hat, a thick overcoat.”  Maigret was reputed to be based on Marcel Guillaume, an actual French detective, although Simenon himself variously claimed not to remember the inspiration or that Maigret was influenced by Simenon’s own father.”

Inspector Maigret was a man that people would often underestimate. His size and his unassuming manner were a perfect cover for his keen instincts and skills.  His knowledge of human behavior, his uncanny ability to observe the smallest details, and his brilliantly deductive mind made him an enjoyable detective to follow.

Summary of this first Maigret novel from the publisher:

Inspector Jules Maigret, a taciturn detective and commissaire of the Paris Brigade Criminelle, receives notice from Interpol that a notorious conman known only as Pietr the Latvian is en route to France. Armed with a broad description and a scant few clues, Maigret plans to intercept him at the train station outside Paris. But when he arrives, he finds that there are several suspects—some living, and some dead—who meet the description uncannily well.

Who is Pietr the Latvian, truly? A vagrant, a seaman, a businessman, a corpse? Russian, Norwegian, American or Latvian?  In Pietr the Latvian, the iconic first novel of Simenon’s classic series that made Inspector Maigret a legendary figure in the annals of detective fiction, Maigret must use his every instinct to unravel the mystery and track down the truth.

There are twenty-two books in the Inspector Maigret series. It would be very easy to get caught in this series … a terrific winter reading project, perhaps?

 

Author, George Simenon

I read this book for the Readers Imbibing Peril XVI challenge. It was a book that was on my list of 50 books in 5 years for The Classics Club.

A Mystery Short Story

A Christmas Tragedy, by Baroness Orczy, was a fun and interesting short story I listened to for the Readers Imbibing Peril-XVI reading challenge. The very first audiobook I listened to (some 40 or so years ago!) was Baroness Orczy’s, The Scarlet Pimpernel. I loved that story and her writing, so I knew this would be a good choice for a quick mystery to read for my “Peril of the Short Story”.  And I did enjoy this classic who-done-it.

from the publisher:

A Christmas Eve party at Clevere Hall ends in tragedy when the host is found stabbed to death. Major Ceely certainly wasn’t short of enemies, but who hated him enough to commit the crime?

Baroness Emma Orczy (1865-1947) was an Hungarian-British author who is known for her popular series of books starting with The Scarlet Pimpernel. That series was groundbreaking in terms of introducing a hero who specialized in disguises and appeared to be just a bit of a dolt in his daily life. Sort of a Clark Kent of that time. She also created the character of Lady Molly of Scotland Yard, who was one of literature’s first female detectives.

Her books are fun to read, ahead of their time, entertaining, and are well worth reading.

I read this book for the Readers Imbibing Peril – XVI challenge.

 

 

It was also one of my choices to read 50 books in 5 years for The Classics Club.

 

Waiting Room Reading

While waiting for my husband’s radiation treatments this week, I read and/or listened to two books and a short story. In all honesty, I did not sit in the waiting room (Covid restrictions), but found a very nice bench for my waiting right outside the clinic.

I started my RIP-XVI challenge early because of this opportune time to read, and I actually enjoyed my waiting time. This challenge is divided into different “Perils” you can choose — “Peril of the Fiction;”  “Peril of the Short Story;”  “Peril of the Screen;”  “Peril of the Group Read;”  “Peril of the Listen;” and “Peril of the Real.”  So obviously, there’s room for all kinds of spooky and mysterious reading and viewing choices!

For “Peril of the Fiction,” I read another book in a fun mystery series that I’m slowly rereading.  Mrs. Pollifax and the Second Thief, by Dorothy Gilman, was the 10th book in the series. Many of the usual characters from earlier in the series showed up in this one, with some fun twists. Mrs. Pollifax, elderly member of the local garden club and accomplished spy, was up to her usual brilliant mystery solving. I laughed out loud in the scene where she karate-chopped (one at a time) a whole group of bad guys trying to push their way into the safe haven she and her colleagues were sheltering in. Mrs. Pollifax is a trained operative that should not be messed with!

For “Peril of the Short Story,”  I listened to the short story, Hero, by Susan Hill. It’s a back-story to her Simon Serrailler series, and tells the story of an event that happened when Simon was a rookie cop. I really enjoyed it. No, I haven’t read the series yet, so I thought I’d start with this short story. I’ve read a number of other books by Susan Hill and like her writing very much, so I look forward to reading this series at some point.

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In the evenings this week, Hubby and I have been watching a Korean urban dark fantasy series called “Tale of the Nine-Tailed,” and it fits right in with “Peril of the Screen.” It is a story based on Korean folklore about  “mythical nine-tailed fox, or gumiho, Lee Yeon had to settle in the city many centuries ago. Able to transform into human form, he eradicates supernatural beings that threaten the mortal world. His real aim is to find the reincarnation of his lost first love.”  It’s been a great entertainment during a busy and stressful week.

My One-Book Read-a-thon

“Fear was the scariest of emotions and it nestled there, growing ever stronger and sprouting shoots, a seed in the fertile soil of doubt.”

Usually, my participation in Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon is theme-based and full of books. This time, however, I had my first one-book read-a-thon. I simply spent the day reading Jacqueline Winspear’s latest book in her Maisie Dobbs series, The Consequences of Fear. It was a great way to spend my day, and after a very busy week, I enjoyed my rainy day read-at-hon reading!

From the publisher:

October 1941. While on a delivery, young Freddie Hackett, a message runner for a government office, witnesses an argument that ends in murder. Crouching in the doorway of a bombed-out house, Freddie waits until the coast is clear. But when he arrives at the delivery address, he’s shocked to come face to face with the killer.

Dismissed by the police when he attempts to report the crime, Freddie goes in search of a woman he once met when delivering a message: Maisie Dobbs. While Maisie believes the boy and wants to help, she must maintain extreme caution: she’s working secretly for the Special Operations Executive, assessing candidates for crucial work with the French resistance. Her two worlds collide when she spots the killer in a place she least expects. She soon realizes she’s been pulled into the orbit of a man who has his own reasons to kill—reasons that go back to the last war.

One of the things I enjoy so much about Jacqueline Winspear’s series is that each book is equally compelling and fun to read. I might be able to pick out a favorite, but mostly the series is just really consistent and even. This latest volume didn’t disappoint and kept me reading on and on.

Another thing I enjoy about this series is the growth and changes in the main characters over time. The characters have become my friends, and I care about them. I also love Maisie’s insights and intuitions. She’s a trained professional psychologist, and combined with her empathy and life experience, she’s a compassionate investigator, and her insatiable curiosity and questioning mind leads her to solve the most baffling cases.

“Truth walks towards us on the paths of our questions.” [Dr. Maurice Blanche]”
~ quote from Maisie Dobbs, the first book in the series

Although I stayed up late last night to finish the book, today I am feeling a satisfied tired — the aftermath of a successful readathon!  And I am already looking forward to another Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon in the Fall.

Mrs. Pollifax and the Whirling Dervish

During the quarantine, I started rereading Dorothy Gilman’s Mrs. Pollifax series, a cozy mystery series I enjoyed reading many years ago. Mrs. Pollifax is an elderly lady who got bored with her orderly life of garden groups and tea with friends, and decides to join the CIA and do something more exciting with her life. Most people don’t get hired by the CIA by walking in and offering their services, but by a twist of fate, that’s what happened. Mrs. Pollifax, with her keen intelligence, little-old-lady look, and top form karate skills is the perfect spy!

In this 9th book in the series, Mrs. Pollifax and the Whirling Dervish, she is called on to travel to Morocco.

From the publisher:

All Mrs. Pollifax has to do is to masquerade as the aunt of an inept CIA representative while he confirms the identities of seven undercover agents in Morocco—and keep him from making an unpleasant ass of himself. Immediately, things go horribly wrong. The first informant is murdered minutes after Mrs. Pollifax and her companion identify him in his brassware stall in Fez. Worse, she senses that her colleague is not who—or what—he says he is.

As in all the Mrs. Pollifax books, author Dorothy Gilman sends her character into different cultures and situations. We travel along to learn a little about each culture, and the respectful research done into each of them always makes for an enjoyable journey. These books are just plain fun, and they are extra fun when you listen to the audiobook version, narrated by Barbara Rosenblat!

 

I chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “Wanderlust,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each country of the world. This was a story that takes place in Morocco.

September Reflections, 2020

September reflections…

September, this year, was an unusual month. The first half was filled with smoke and anxiety due to the many fires burning here in Oregon. The air quality was at the very hazardous level, and so our family all had to stay inside even more than usual — a quarantine within the quarantine! Many (but not all!) of the fires were finally brought under control, and the air cleared, so we could begin to enjoy the outdoors again, within the limitations of the pandemic.

With all of this necessary indoor time, I filled my hours with lots of reading. I focused mostly on reading mysteries for the Readers Imbibing Peril challenge, and thoroughly enjoyed myself! But I read other things, as well, including starting the first books for my annual Holiday reading. So all in all, September was a good, and very enjoyable, reading month for me.

Readers Imbibing Peril, XV

It sort of snuck up on me this year (my sense of time is pretty confused by this pandemic), but I’m so excited that the annual challenge, Readers Imbibing Peril, is now upon us! It’s my favorite challenge of the year, and always marks the coming of Fall. This is the 15th year and it just gets better and better.

The purpose of the R.I.P. Challenge is to enjoy books that could be classified as:

Mystery.
Suspense.
Thriller.
Dark Fantasy.
Gothic.
Horror.
Supernatural.

Basically, read scary.

“Are you reading for spooky season? We need more wicked good books (and screen) in our lives, so being the rule-breakers we are, #RIPXV BEGINS NOW. How do you play? Tag @PerilReaders and #ripxv in your Twitter and/or Instagram posts. It’s that easy. Wicked easy.”

This post will be my “tracker” for the challenge. I will keep an ever-growing list of books read and movies watched, so check back here frequently. Just click on the R.I.P.XV graphic in my sidebar and it will bring you here.

My books read list:

The Body on the Beach, by Simon Brett.
The first book in the Fethering Village series. Recently retired, Carole Seddon, finds a body on the beach while walking her dog one morning. However, a short while later the police can’t find the body so they don’t take her very seriously. It’s up to Carole and her next door neighbor, Jude, to solve the mystery themselves. Fun!  I rated it 3.5 stars on Goodreads.

The House of Dies Drear, by Virginia Hamilton.
I really enjoyed this book, and would have loved it had I read it as a middle grade student! I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads.    “The house of Dies Drear loomed out of mist and murky sky, not only gray and formless, but huge and unnatural. It seemed to crouch on the side of a hill high above the highway. And it had a dark, isolated look about it that set it at odds with all that was living.“

Blanche White on the Lam, by Barbara Neely.
This was a fun book, the first in a series that I’m looking forward to reading. I gave this first book 4.5 stars on Goodreads.   “Blanche White is a plump, feisty, middle-aged African-American housekeeper working for the genteel rich in North Carolina. But when an employer stiffs her, and her checks bounce, she goes on the lam, hiding out as a maid for a wealthy family at their summer home. That plan goes awry when there’s a murder and Blanche becomes the prime suspect. So she’s forced to use her savvy, her sharp wit, and her old-girl network of domestic workers to discover the truth and save her own skin.” 

Hearts of the Missing, by Carol Potenza.
This first book by author Carol Potenza won the Tony HIllerman Prize in 2017. I loved all the Tony Hillerman mysteries, so when I discovered that this book had won the Tony Hillerman Prize, I had to read it. It did not disappoint and was a book I’ve now recommended highly to family and friends. I gave it 5 stars on Goodread!     “When a young woman linked to a list of missing Fire-Sky tribal members commits suicide, Pueblo Police Sergeant Nicky Matthews is assigned to the case. As the investigation unfolds, she uncovers a threat that strikes at the very heart of what it means to be a Fire-Sky Native: victims chosen and murdered because of their genetic makeup. But these deaths are not just about a life taken. In a vengeful twist, the killer ensures the spirits of those targeted will wander forever, lost to their family, their People, and their ancestors. When those closest to Nicky are put in jeopardy, she must be willing to sacrifice everything–her career, her life, even her soul–to save the people she is sworn to protect.”

The Clue of the Tapping Heels, by Carolyn Keene.
I am slowly rereading the original series of Nancy Drew mysteries. This one was #16 in the series, and I vaguely remember it from my early years. These books are much fun to revisit, although I can only read one or two every once in awhile. It was very different way back then. I’d go to the library and come home with 5 or 6 of them that I would read straight through.  I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads.    “Challenging questions confront Nancy Drew when she attempts to solve the mystery of the strange tapping sounds in the house of a retired actress. Who is the tapper? How does he gain access to Miss Carters house, despite securely locked doors and windows? Why do the tapping sounds come in Morse code? Is there a sinister motive behind the prowlers actions? While trying to learn the answers to these and other puzzling questions, Nancy finds her investigations complicated by the dishonest administrator of a will and by a thief who steals the actress’s prize Persian cats.”

The Day of the Jackal, by Frederick Forsyth.
An old suspense thriller that I missed reading as a young mother chasing a toddler around all day. I remember hearing about this book, but didn’t have time to follow through in those days. How nice to be retired and have time to catch up on books I missed reading back then! I gave this book 3.5 stars on Goodreads.    “He is known only as “The Jackal”—a cold, calculating assassin without emotion, or loyalty, or equal. He’s just received a contract from an enigmatic employer to eliminate one of the most heavily guarded men in the world—Charles De Gaulle, president of France.”

The Sea Detective, by Mark Douglas-Home.
A new-to-me author, I really liked this first book in a mystery series by Mark Douglas-Home. It was well-written and very interesting, taking place in Scotland. I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads.    “Cal McGill is an Edinburgh-based oceanographer, environmentalist and one-of-a-kind investigator.  Using his knowledge of the waves – ocean currents, prevailing winds, shipping records – McGill can track where objects have come from, or where they’ve gone. It’s a unique skill that can help solve all sorts of mysteries.”

Gently in the Sun, by Alan Hunter.
This is the sixth book in the George Gently detective series by Alan Hunter. I started this series a few years ago, and thought I’d read another episode for the RIP-XV challenge. I loved the George Gently tv series on PBS, so for me, the books are enhanced by picturing the actor that played this character on TV.     “Every man in Hiverton knows Rachel Campion. She is the most gorgeous girl to have turned up in the fishing village in living memory. When she is discovered lying dead on the beach, Gently joins the throngs of summer visitors on their annual pilgrimage to the seaside in the midst of a summer heatwave – and as the temperature soars, the mystery deepens.”

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Ready For Another Adventure

Isn’t it terrific when you find a book series that totally captures you and carries you away for the time you spend reading it? That happened to me starting in November when I began reading Deborah Crombie’s mystery series with her two detectives, Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James. I have just finished the last book (so far!) in the series, book #18, and now hoping there will be another new book in this series before too long!

Here are some of the reasons I enjoyed this series so much:

  • The two main characters are two decent, kind, and talented people who grow and change over time. The story of their relationship, and the life they put together as working parents, is as riveting as the mysteries they solve. I like both characters very much!
  • Compelling mysteries to be solved by these two talented detectives.
  • Very consistent writing all the way through the series. Eighteen books, one after another, and all of them were really well done.
  • These stories are also great as audiobooks.

I am very happy to hear that Deborah Crombie is working on book #19!  In the meantime, I am ready for another reading adventure…if I can find one as good as this one!

Deborah Crombie ~photo from her web site.