Category Archives: Mysteries

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.

 

From My Reading Notebook: Dorothy Gilman

One of my favorite mystery series is the Mrs. Pollifax series by Dorothy Gilman. I’ve been slowly “re-reading” the series by listening to the audiobooks on Audible (you can read one of my reviews here).  In my reading notebook, I found a number of quotes that I wrote down the first time I read the series.This one was from Mrs. Pollifax on Safari. It reveals the personality of the main character and gives you a flavor of these fun-to-read books.

“Of course I’m not being logical,” she conceded, “but I find it so difficult to dislike people. I know they’re frequently selfish or opinionated and egotistical, or dull or contrary and sometimes dishonest, but if one expects nothing from them it’s astonishing how fascinating they are, and always full of surprises.”

This series itself is full of surprises and humor, and is just fun to read.

…photo from Pinterest

Reading Cures


My family has long claimed that watching the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice (with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle) is a great cure for whatever illness puts you on the sofa for a week or more. It used to be sold in VHS format on six cassettes, so one episode a day was the prescription, and it made being sick a bit less miserable.


Nowadays, we can just stream the whole series at once, and can also watch our other favorite version — the one with Kiera Knightly as Elizabeth Bennett — and although not in the one-a-day format, they also help one feel slightly less miserable while fighting a miserable cold.

And audio books also are a great prescription for one who is fighting a nasty cold. It’s particularly soothing to listen to something out of the ordinary and quite humorous such as Paul Gallico’s view of our human species as seen through the eyes of the cat world, in The Silent Miaow. And there’s nothing better than listening to another book in a captivating mystery series by Deborah Crombie.

But the best medicine of all, for someone who hasn’t been sick in years and years, is all the well-wishes from friends and family. I want to thank you all for your kind wishes and sympathy as I fought this really mean modern viral form of a nasty cold!

Stay healthy, my friends!

Whiteout

This week I read Ken Follett’s Whiteout. He writes the most thrilling books, and this one was another stay-up-late-and-finish-the-book read. I didn’t think it was one of his best, but it was exciting and had humorous undertones to a story about a very serious chemical warfare crisis.

from the publisher:

A lab technician bleeding from the eyes. Twelve missing samples of a deadly virus. Toni Gallo, the security director of a Scottish medical research firm, knows she has problems, but she has no idea of the nightmare to come.

As a Christmas Eve blizzard whips out of the north, several people, Toni among them, converge on a remote family house. All have something to gain or lose from the drug developed to fight the virus. As the storm worsens, the emotional sparks – jealousies, distrust, sexual attraction, rivalries – crackle; desperate secrets are revealed; hidden traitors and unexpected heroes emerge.

Although it had all the usual high tension intrigue that I like so much about many of Ken Follett’s books, this one seemed to me to have a bit of slapstick humor alongside the serious action. Nobody’s cell phone would work or was within grabbing distance. The burglary team had all kinds of trouble and things definitely did not work out the way they had planned. All of this, along with the usual thrilling suspense, made it fun to read, and I did indeed stay up really late to finish it.

 

This was another fun read for my PERIL the FIRST for the R.I.P.-XIV challenge.

 

 

It also another book read for my Holiday Reading this year.

 

Trouble in Nuala

 

I was looking for a new mystery series to become absorbed with and found Trouble in Nuala, the first book in a series by Harriet Steel. The setting is in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) during the 1930s, and I was fascinated to see if it is a series I’d like to follow. I immediately liked the main character and his wife, and enjoyed the glimpses of the culture of Ceylon at that time. The mystery kept me interested, and I thought that the author set everything in motion for an enjoyable series — good main characters that I will enjoy getting to know more about with each book, and good solid mysteries steeped in an interesting culture. I look forward to reading more from this author.

…from the publisher

When Inspector Shanti de Silva moves with his English wife, Jane, to his new post in the sleepy hill town of Nuala, he anticipates a more restful life than police work in the big city entails. However an arrogant plantation owner with a lonely wife, a crusading lawyer, and a death in suspicious circumstances present him with a riddle that he will need all his experience to solve.

Set on the exotic island of Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka) in the 1930s, Trouble in Nuala is an entertaining and absorbing mystery spiced with humor and a colorful cast of characters.

 

 

This was a fun read for my PERIL the FIRST for the R.I.P.-XIV challenge.

 

This book also qualifies 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 book from Sri Lanka.

The House on the Strand

Many years ago, I listened to the audiobook version of The House on the Strand, by Daphne du Maurier. It was narrated by Ron Keith (a favorite narrator of mine!), and I remember really liking it, although I didn’t remember much about the story except that there was time travel in it. So I decided to reread it for my R.I.P.-XIV challenge this fall. Perfect suspense/mystery/good book! Daphne du Maurier’s books are so good.

Short summary from the publisher:

In this haunting tale, Daphne du Maurier takes a fresh approach to time travel. A secret experimental concoction, once imbibed, allows you to return to the fourteenth century. There is only one catch: if you happen to touch anyone while traveling in the past you will be thrust instantaneously to the present. Magnus Lane, a University of London chemical researcher, asks his friend Richard Young and Young’s family to stay at Kilmarth, an ancient house set in the wilds near the Cornish coast. Here, Richard drinks a potion created by Magnus and finds himself at the same spot where he was moments earlier–though it is now the fourteenth century. The effects of the drink wear off after several hours, but it is wildly addictive, and Richard cannot resist traveling back and forth in time…

It was quite an addictive book to read…one of those that you just have to keep reading so you know what happens in the end. I thought du Maurier did a great job of the time travel transitions! I enjoyed it because I do like a good time travel book!

Click here to read a full review of this book on the Daphne du Maurier web page. 

This was another fun read for my PERIL the FIRST for the R.I.P.-XIV challenge.

September Reflections 2019

Have a told you that I love Septembers? This retired teacher finds particular pleasure in the warm and lovely freedom of Septembers without having to start a school year! I do miss the kiddos, but I am so happy to have time now to read, travel, volunteer and simply enjoy setting my own agenda for each day.

This September was full of books. I’ve been reading books that fit in with a variety of challenges that I either joined or created for myself. Mysteries have been the major focus of the month due to the annual Readers Imbibing Peril challenge, which I love. But I have read a book for my Official TBR Pile challenge, and read a few things that fit with my Embracing Seventy self-challenge, and my Wanderlust self-challenge. So it’s been a productive month as well as an enjoyable one. Here are some lists of books read in September.

Mysteries I read this month for R.I.P.-XIV:

  1. Christmas in Absaroka County, by Craig Johnson
  2. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
  3. The Religious Body, by Catherine Aird
  4. An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good, by Helene Tursten
  5. The Case of the Famished Parson, by George Bellairs
  6. Rose Cottage, by Mary Stewart
  7. The House on the Strand, by Daphne du Maurier (review pending)
  8. Trouble in Nuala, by Harriet Steel (review pending)

Other books I read in September:

  1.  Beyond the Wall: Essays from the Outside, by Edward Abbey
  2. Water Buffalo Days: Growing Up in Vietnam, by Huynh Quang Nhuong
  3. Legends of the Maori, by Witcombe’s Story Books
  4. The Librarian of Basra, by Jeanette Winter
  5. Lonely Road, by Nevil Shute

September was also filled with walking and exercise class, gardening, volunteering with Moms Demand Action, and a wonderful trip to the Washington Coast in celebration of our 50th wedding anniversary in August. Life is full and it’s a happy time for us. How nice to be able to say that. I hope your own September was a full and happy one.

Rose Cottage

I couldn’t help myself! I just had to read another Mary Stewart for my R.I.P.-XIV challenge! I do love Mary Stewart’s books, and Rose Cottage has been on my TBR list for quite awhile, so this weekend I picked it up and read it almost in one sitting.

from the publisher…

Rose Cottage, a tiny thatched dwelling in an idyllic English country setting, would appear the picture of tranquility to any passerby. But when Kate Herrick returns to her childhood home to retrieve some family papers in the summer of 1947, she uncovers a web of intrigue as tangled as the rambling roses in its garden. The papers are missing. The village is alive with gossip. Did her elderly neighbors, suspected of being witches, really see nighttime prowlers and ghosts in the cottage garden?

This was a fun read for my PERIL the FIRST for the R.I.P.-XIV challenge. A very nice read for a rainy weekend.