Category Archives: Mysteries

Death in the Castle

The Classics Club issued a DARE for the month of October. Choose one book from my list of classics to be read in five years, and dare myself to read it.

“Simply read a CLASSIC book from your #CClist that you classify as thrilling, a mystery, or Gothic. It could even be a book or author that SCARES you (because of it’s length, it’s topic, it’s reputation etc).”

This sounded like a lot of fun to me, and it was a perfect blend with my RIP XIII challenge, as well as my 2018 TBR Pile challenge! So I chose to read Death in the Castle, by Pearl S. Buck, for both the Classics Club Dare 2.0 and for the Readers Imbibing Peril XIII challenge.

The old castle is a thousand years old, and although it has been in the family for generations, SIr Richard Sedgeley and his wife, Lady Mary, can no longer afford to keep it. The National Trust will only agree to take it over if they can turn it into a prison–not an acceptable option for the aging Sir Richard. However, a young and wealthy American is interested in it and wants to buy it. But he also wants to move the castle, stone by stone, to Connecticut! What a difficult dilemma for the aging owners of the castle!

He let the reins lie slack as he went and his eyes roved over the mellow landscape of field and forest. The afternoon light lengthened the shadows and deepened the gold of the willows and the green of growing wheat. In the distance the castle stood against the sunset in all its stately beauty. It was his home, his inheritance, and how could he give it up?

Lady Mary has always believed in “others who had lived in the castle and until now she had accepted the possibility of the persistence of the dead beyond life.” Not ghosts, but the life forces of those ancestors who lived there before her. And Lady Mary is quite sure that the Others can show her where some treasure is hidden so that they will have the money to save the castle.

“There’s no such thing as death, not really,” Lady Mary said. “It’s just a change to something—I’ve told you—another level of whatever it is that we call life. It’s only a transfer of energy. Can you understand? Please try, Kate! It would mean so much to me.

This was a story that involved mystery, intrigue, suspense. A gothic-type mystery is not the usual subject matter for a book by Pearl Buck, but it was, as always with her books, well-written and enjoyable to read. The suspense definitely worked for me because I couldn’t stop reading until I found out what would happen to the castle and the different characters. A fun read!

RIP XIII: The Seer of Shadows

If you are interested in reading a good ghost story for the season then you must read The Seer of Shadows, by Avi. I know this book would have been a popular book to have on my classroom bookshelves for my 6th graders. My students always loved Avi’s books so I know this one would have been a popular choice for them to read. Eerie, fascinating, well-written and informative. It was easy to get caught in it and read it straight through.

From the  publisher, Harper Collins, 2008:

The time is 1872. The place is New York City. Horace Carpentine has been raised to believe in science and rationality. So as apprentice to Enoch Middleditch, a society photographer, he thinks of his trade as a scientific art. But when wealthy society matron Mrs. Frederick Von Macht orders a photographic portrait, strange things begin to happen.

Horace’s first real photographs reveal a frightful likeness:  it’s the image of the Von Machts’ dead daughter, Eleanora.

From the book:

It was like the process of developing a photograph I have described: as if the shadow were coming from some mystic depth, emerging from another world, taking, little by little, bodily shape and form until that shadow becomes . . . real. Exactly what I’d done for Eleanora’s spirit!

…The facts of the matter were perfectly clear—though surely not normal. My picture taking had summoned a ghost, and not just any ghost, but one bent on murder!

Avi is a wonderful writer and storyteller! This was a spooky and fun read for both middle grade readers…and us older folk!

Click here to visit Avi’s web site.

 

This was my fifth book read for Readers Imbibing Peril, XIII.

 

Reflections: September 2018

Reflections on the Columbia River, September 2018…

September was both a busy reading month and a busy family month! At the first of the month, I  happily joined the Readers Imbibing Peril XIII challenge, hosted by Heather (@Capricious Reader) and Andi (@Estella’s Revenge) and got right to the job of reading from the list of genres that make up the focus of this challenge. It continues until the end of October, which is great because I’m really enjoying reading the books I chose.

I took a reading and blogging break in the middle of the month to travel to Salt Lake City for my mother’s Celebration of Life. It was a beautiful celebration of a life well-lived. My husband and I enjoyed the road trip, being with family, and spending time in the beautiful Rose Garden at Red Butte Garden where we have my parents’ memorial bench. Both my parents donated their bodies to the University of Utah Medical School, so the Garden and the bench are extra special to us, and the bench is a cherished place we visit a often as we can. The bench itself sits in the Rose Garden surrounded by beautiful roses, which they both loved, and is a happy, peaceful place for us to spend time.

My reading has been a great solace to me in the last two months. My extra hour of reading in the afternoon, dedicated to my Mom, has been wonderful! So despite the long-distance road trip, and all the planning that took up so much time, I was able to enjoy 7 books in September. It really should be 8 books, because I am almost finished with Rosamunde Pilcher’s, September, but, unfortunately, I won’t finish it before midnight tonight.

My September reads:

 

 

RIP XIII: The Silkworm

The Silkworm, by Robert Gailbraith, (a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling) is the second in the Cormoran Strike series of mysteries. Gailbraith’s mysteries are riveting and powerful. Cormoran Strike is a private detective and a war veteran who was severely wounded during his service. He and his assistant, Robin Ellacott, take on difficult and brutal cases. The solving of these crimes is fascinating, as is the growing, changing, relationship between those two main characters.

Summary from Robert-galbraith.com:

The Silkworm – It takes a unique mind to solve a unique crime.

A compulsively readable crime novel with twists at every turn, The Silkworm is the second in the highly acclaimed series featuring Cormoran Strike and his determined young assistant Robin Ellacott.

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, she just thinks he has gone off by himself for a few days – as he has done before – and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realises. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were published it would ruin lives – so there are a lot of people who might want to silence him.

And when Quine is found brutally murdered in bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any he has encountered before…

My responses to the book: I didn’t listen to this audiobook straight through. When I first started it a few months ago, it seemed a little too gruesome and dark, and that wasn’t what I wanted to be reading at that time. So I set it aside for a while and then decided to go ahead and listen to it for RIP-XIII.  This time, I found it impossible to stop listening to it!  The plot was complicated and compelling, and the narration by Robert Glenister was excellent.

J.K. Rowling is an amazing and versatile writer, and I am now completely hooked on this series.


This was my second book read for Readers Imbibing Peril, XIII.

RIP XIII

It’s been a number of years since I participated in the Readers Imbibing Peril Challenge that heralds the arrival of Autumn. I love reading mysteries, so it’s always a lot of fun to put together a want-to-read list and join this challenge. It was designed by Carl V. Anderson @ Stainless Steel Droppings and he hosted it for many years. This year, Andi (@Estella’s Revenge) and Heather (@Capricious Reader) are cohosting it, and it’s a very special year for this challenge: Number 13!  So I can’t resist…I’m signing up!

My list of possible reads for this challenge is enormous, but I already own all of these books, so that’s easy. Some of them are also on my TBR Challenge list or my Classics Club list, so that’s another good reason to participate! Plus, these are all books I want to read, so I foresee many hours of very pleasant Fall reading ahead!

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.
The emphasis is never on the word challenge, instead it is about coming together as a community and embracing the autumnal mood, whether the weather is cooperative where you live or not.

The goals are simple. 

1. Have fun reading.

2. Share that fun with others.

Click here to go to the Challenge Website to see how it works, read a description of the different “Perils” you can choose, and learn how to sign up.

I am choosing PERIL THE FIRST  [to read four books of any length during the challenge time period]. Here are some of the books in my pool of choices for this Peril. I am looking forward to starting this reading project on September 1st!

 

 

The  books I read for PERIL the FIRST:

  1. The Whispering Statue, by Carolyn Keene
  2. The Silkworm, by Robert Galbraith
  3. The Eyes of the Amaryllis, by Natalie Babbitt
  4. This Rough Magic, by Mary Stewart
  5. The Seer of Shadows, Avi
  6. Death in the Castle, Pearl S. Buck
  7. The Keeper of Lost Causes, Jussi Adler-Olsen
  8. The Witches, Ronald Dahl
  9. The Coroner’s Lunch, Colin Cotterill
  10. The Seventh Seal, Ingmar Bergman

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Crooked House

Last week I finished reading Crooked House, by Agatha Christie, but it’s been such a busy week and weekend, that I’m just now getting around to posting about it.  I’ve read many of Agatha Christie’s mysteries over the years, starting with And Then There Were None when I was in the 5th grade many, many years ago! I’ve read quite a few since then with Miss Marple as the detective, a number with Poirot,  and one or two with Tommy and Tuppence. And, happily, there are still a lot of them I can look forward to reading!  Crooked House is a stand alone novel, not part of one of her series, but is a very enjoyable mystery to read!

From the Agatha Christie web site, here is a synopsis of the story:

A wealthy Greek businessman is found dead at his London home… The Leonides were one big happy family living in a sprawling, ramshackle mansion. That was until the head of the household, Aristide, was murdered with a fatal barbiturate injection. Suspicion naturally falls on the old man’s young widow, fifty years his junior. But the murderer has reckoned without the tenacity of Charles Hayward, fiance of the late millionaire’s granddaughter…

In this book, I was particularly struck by Christie’s chilling description of the mindset of a murderer:

“What are murderers like? Some of them,” a faint rather melancholy smile showed on his face, “have been thoroughly nice chaps.”

… “Murder, you see, is an amateur crime. I’m speaking of course of the kind of murder you have in mind–not gangster stuff. One feels, very often, as though these nice ordinary chaps, had been overtaken, as it were, by murder, almost accidentally. They’ve been in a tight place, or they’ve wanted something very badly, money or a woman–and they’ve killed to get it…

…”But some people, I suspect, remain morally immature. They continue to be aware that murder is wrong, but they do not feel it. I don’t think, in my experience, that any murderer has really felt remorse…And that, perhaps, is the mark of Cain. Murderers are set apart, they are ‘different’ — murder is wrong– but not for them — for them it is necessary — the victim has ‘asked for it,’ it was ‘the only way.'”

Crooked House was one of Christie’s own favorites of the books she wrote:  “Writing Crooked House was pure pleasure and I feel justified in my belief that it is one of my best.”

I chose to read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

 

Death Without Company

9780143038382_DeathWithout_CVF.indd

This afternoon I finished listening to the audiobook version of the 2nd book in the Walt Longmire series.  Death Without Company, by Craig Johnson, was another story that keeps you reading/listening without wanting to take breaks. Walt Longmire, sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming, is just a decent human being and a fine investigator. There’s a great cast of characters that help him solve the mysteries that come his way — his daughter, Cady; his lifelong friend, Henry Standing Bear; his deputies, Vic (Victoria) and Ferg; and his ever patient secretary, Ruby. They are all devoted to their boss.

I love it when I have an entire series to look forward to reading!  And if you haven’t seen the Longmire TV series, you should treat yourself and watch it. Hubby and I enjoyed it very much, and felt they did a great job of casting the characters and staying true to the books. Oh yes, I must admit that I’ve got a big crush on the character of Walt Longmire in both the books and the TV series!

Actor Robert Taylor as Walt Longmire...

Actor Robert Taylor as Walt Longmire…

 

Silent Voices

Silent Voices

Silent Voices is such a good mystery! This was the first book I could get hold of in the Vera Stanhope series, by Ann Cleeves, although it’s actually the 4th book. Looks like the series will be republished and the earlier books available next February? I will definitely read the earlier books when they come out. And, in the meantime, I do love the TV series starring Brenda Blethyn! She does a great job as Vera!

The Lake District Murder

Lake-District

I hadn’t heard of the “British Library Crime Classics” until I found John Bude‘s book, The Cornish Coast Murder, last year. I liked it a lot and just read another fun one by him, The Lake District Murder, which I also enjoyed very much. Now I’m excited to read as many of these fun classic mysteries, by John Bude and a number of other authors. The books in this series are considered the  “forgotten gems of the Golden Age of British crime writing,” according to the Globe and Mail.

Superintendent Meredith is the persistent and creative problem-solver of the Lake District Murder. He is a hard-working and very thorough detective who follows up on every clue.

It was all very well to expound suppositions, but the cleverest supposition in the world was quite worthless in the eyes of the law, unless backed by proof. To reconstruct a crime was fairly simple but to prove the truth of that reconstruction was a task that called for tremendous patience, acute observation and the devil’s own amount of hard work!

By the time I finished the book, I felt as if I had solved the crime myself, detail by minute detail! And being the armchair detective that I am, (trained by Nancy Drew herself, and with skills honed by many hours of reading the books of Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh!) I can’t wait to “solve” my next mystery by John Bude, and then move on to read all the other authors in this series. Lots of mystery and fun ahead for me!

The Cornish Coast Murder

Bude

The Cornish Coast Murder, by John Bude, was a very enjoyable read.

In the coastal town of Boscawen, in Cornwall, the vicar and the town doctor have a pleasant Monday evening ritual. They meet at the vicar’s house, have dinner followed by the lighting of cigar and pipe and the opening of the weekly crate of 6 books ordered from the lending library in the neighboring town — 6 mysteries, of course. They each take three to read, and then will switch and read the other three before the week is up. They are two old bachelors and armchair detectives honing their powers of observation and insight through the works of their favorite mystery writers.

When a murder happens in their own town, and a young woman and her boyfriend are implicated, they are able to put their deductive reasoning to good use helping Inspector Bigswell solve the mystery. The vicar, especially, has a talent for problem-solving, using his intuition and a wonderful way of processing all the information he comes across:

My idea was to sit in this arm-chair for a couple of hours with a cigar–a policy of splendid inaction.

The vicar’s “splendid inaction” way of processing all the clues, coupled with the Inspector’s facts-only approach made a great combination for solving the mystery, and was fun for the reader.

I liked the way this book was written and the way you get to know each of the characters. And I liked all the characters (except for the murdered despicable uncle), and even felt sympathy for the murderer. It wasn’t a story of evil, but of very human failings and suffering. In the end, the vicar sums up his part in the mystery and the whole idea of murder:

By a lucky series of circumstances he has been guided to the solution of the mystery–but he felt no elation, no triumph, no satisfaction. Murder was all right in books and plays, but in real life it was a sorrowful, suffering business.

I look forward to reading more of Mr. Bude’s very enjoyable mysteries.