Throwback Thursday 11.18.2021

I’ve been tracking my reading on the internet since approximately 2013 more or less continuously, and if you look on my sidebar, you will find 8 pages that are titled Book List with a designated year.

On occasional Thursdays I will use a random number generator to point me to three books from the lists (leaving out 2021), and then I’ll post about them – what I remember (if anything), whether I would recommend them – probably not, if I don’t remember anything about them – and if they have stuck with me in the years since I read them.

2018, Book 82:

The Brass VerdictThe Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly
Rating: ★★★
Series: Harry Bosch Universe #18
Publication Date: October 14, 2008
Pages: 422
Genre: mystery
Project: throwback thursday

Things are finally looking up for defense attorney Mickey Haller. After two years of wrong turns, Haller is back in the courtroom. When Hollywood lawyer Jerry Vincent is murdered, Haller inherits his biggest case yet: the defense of Walter Elliott, a prominent studio executive accused of murdering his wife and her lover. But as Haller prepares for the case that could launch him into the big time, he learns that Vincent's killer may be coming for him next.

Enter Harry Bosch. Determined to find Vincent's killer, he is not opposed to using Haller as bait. But as danger mounts and the stakes rise, these two loners realize their only choice is to work together.

Bringing together Michael Connelly's two most popular characters, "The Brass Verdict" is a thriller which reaches for, and then surpasses, the highest level!

I am a huge fan of most of the Harry Bosch Universe and really enjoy the majority of Connelly’s long-running series. The main exception to this are the Mickey Haller books,  which I generally don’t love. I found this entry mediocre – the pace dragged and the plot was uninspired. I’m sort of an outlier here, though, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

2016: Book 122:

Tomorrow, When the War BeganTomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden
Rating: ★★★★½
Series: Tomorrow #1
Publication Date: May 1, 1993
Pages: 276
Genre: fiction, suspense, YA
Project: throwback thursday

When Ellie and her friends return from a camping trip in the Australian bush, they find things hideously wrong — their families are gone. Gradually they begin to comprehend that their country has been invaded and everyone in their town has been taken prisoner. As the reality of the situation hits them, they must make a decision — run and hide, give themselves up and be with their families, or fight back.

This is the first book in a fantastic YA series that I listened to on audio. Published all the way back in 1993, the book involved sort of a “Red Dawn” scenario, set in Australia, with a group of young Australians who end up engaged in guerrilla warfare and a resistance against the occupiers who have taken over their community while they were camping. I ended up blowing through the entire 5 book series in about a month. I am a little bit surprised, on reflection, that this series hasn’t had a prestige t.v. adaptation, since it seems ripe for that sort of treatment.

2014, Book 155:

The Shivering SandsThe Shivering Sands by Victoria Holt
Rating: ★★★★
Publication Date: September 3, 1969
Pages: 331
Genre: fiction, gothic romance, suspense
Project: throwback thursday

Ancient ruins. Family scandal. Forbidden love.

Caroline knows something is wrong. Her sister Roma has gone missing, and no one can tell her why. The only option is to go where Roma was last seen—an estate with a deadly history...

The Stacy family has lived off the Dover coast for generations, carefully navigating the treacherous quicksands nearby. But the sands aren't Caroline's biggest threat. Everyone here has a secret, especially enigmatic young heir Napier Stacy. No matter where Caroline turns, the ground she walks is dangerous. And the closer she comes to unraveling the truth, the closer she comes to sharing her sister's fate...

Victoria Holt can be very hit-or-miss, and this one was a hit for me. I liked the setting a lot, and I still remember the very effective use of “the shivering sands” or the quicksand that plays such a significant role in the events. The villain/ess is quite convincingly scary and the book itself, at least as far as I recall, was suspenseful. The plot was no more implausible than is usual for these old-fashioned gothic romances.

Sunday Post: 11.14.2021

I’m interrupting my normal Sunday Post routine to ask the following question:

What the actual fuck is happening in the United States?

I’m horrified at the overt attempts at book banning and historical white-washing that are being perpetuated and perpetrated right now in the U.S.

Texas, for example, is a hotbed of parental activism seeking to ban books:

In Austin, Texas, which is a curiously blue stronghold in a ruby red state, a parent is demanding that the police arrest the librarian, because Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evinson is on the shelves. According to Goodreads, Lawn Boy, which won the Alex Award in 2019:

For Mike Muñoz, a young Chicano living in Washington State, life has been a whole lot of waiting for something to happen. Not too many years out of high school and still doing menial work—and just fired from his latest gig as a lawn boy on a landscaping crew—he knows that he’s got to be the one to shake things up if he’s ever going to change his life. But how?

Jonathan Evison takes the reader into the heart and mind of a young man on a journey to discover himself, a search to find the secret to achieving the American dream of happiness and prosperity. That’s the birthright for all Americans, isn’t it? If so, then what is Mike Muñoz’s problem? Though he tries time and again to get his foot on the first rung of that ladder to success, he can’t seem to get a break. But then things start to change for Mike, and after a raucous, jarring, and challenging trip, he finds he can finally see the future and his place in it. And it’s looking really good.

The book is available to be checked out by junior and senior aged students – 17 or 18 year olds, one to two years away from college. Imagine what they see when they open their internet browsers, and then ask yourself, are these parents delusional, dumb, disingenuous, or all three?

See: Leander Police Are Investigating Parent Complaints About Library Book

Representative Matt Worth, R-Ft. Worth, recently announced a probe of school libraries, demanding that they account for the presence of any of a list of 800 books, covering subjects including human sexuality and race on their shelves.

His list of titles includes bestsellers and award winners alike, from the 1967 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Confessions of Nat Turner” by William Styron and “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates to last year’s book club favorites: “Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot” by Mikki Kendall and Isabel Wilkerson’s “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.”

In addition to these race-related titles,

Other listed books Krause wants school districts to account for are about teen pregnancy, abortion and homosexuality, including “LGBT Families” by Leanne K. Currie-McGhee, “The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to their Younger Selves” edited by Sarah Moon, and Michael J. Basso’s “The Underground Guide to Teenage Sexuality: An Essential Handbook for Today’s Teens and Parents.”

In an effort to completely break irony, Krause is a founding member of the Texas House “Freedom Caucus.” Apparently “freedom” only extends to majoritarian, white, Christian, heterosexual viewpoints in Texas.

See : Texas House committee to investigate school districts’ books on race and sexuality

But it’s not just Texas where this type of disturbing activism is on the rise. Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Virginia have their own tiny reactionaries claiming the right to decide, not just what their children (many of whom aren’t even enrolled in public school, by the way) read, but what all children read. The issue may actually have won the Governorship of Virginia for the Republican candidate.

You can read more in this Washington Post article, or this LA Times article or this one or this one or this one.

These are really just a small smattering of the attempts to ban/suppress books written by authors of color and LGBTQ authors who want to present characters and viewpoints that supplement the majority, white, Christian, heterosexual characters and viewpoints that continue to be well-represented in school districts nationwide.

The fact that are afraid to expose their children to those viewpoints cannot and does not mean that they are entitled to impose their narrow, terrified perspective on the rest of us and our children, nor does it mean that they should be able to purge the world of that which they fear. Because, at the end of the day, that’s what this is – it’s fear.

These books are not pornography. A book that acknowledges the real world that our children are required to navigate, and that is all children: privileged and unprivileged; loved and unloved; safe and unsafe; white and of color; heterosexual and queer/LGBTQ+ – those books should be celebrated and not condemned. Books can be windows or they can be mirrors, depending upon the perspective of the reader. All children deserve to have their perspectives represented within the walls of their school libraries, and reactionary parents should be shamed and not empowered when they seek to control representation to only their children and only things with which they are comfortable.

Book banning never leads a society in a positive direction.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

The Thursday Murder ClubThe Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
Rating: ★★★★½
Series: Thursday Murder Club #1
Publication Date: September 3, 2020
Pages: 382
Genre: mystery
Project: halloween bingo

Four septuagenarians with a few tricks up their sleeves
A female cop with her first big case
A brutal murder
Welcome to…
The Thursday Murder Club

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves The Thursday Murder Club. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the Thursday Murder Club suddenly find themselves in the middle of their first live case. As the bodies begin to pile up, can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late?

This is a book that I had seen everywhere in the last several months. As soon as I looked at the plot summary, I was really excited to read it. There really aren’t enough books that focus on men and women (especially women) in their retirement years and this one looked like so much fun.

And it was. I read this particular book on a vacation at the Oregon coast and found the mystery to be a little bit meh, but the characters were just wonderful. It was just delightful. So far I’ve convinced my mom and a friend to read it as well, and it’s my new go-to recommendation. It was a perfect vacation read.

I understand that it has already been optioned for film. I can understand why, and anticipate that it could be a really good movie. If Helen Mirren isn’t cast as Elizabeth, there’s no justice in the world because she would be amazing.

The Man Who Died TwiceThe Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman
Rating: ★★★★★
Series: The Thursday Murder Club #2
Publication Date: September 16, 2021
Pages: 336
Genre: mystery

It's the following Thursday.

Elizabeth has received a letter from an old colleague, a man with whom she has a long history. He's made a big mistake, and he needs her help. His story involves stolen diamonds, a violent mobster, and a very real threat to his life.

As bodies start piling up, Elizabeth enlists Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron in the hunt for a ruthless murderer. And if they find the diamonds too? Well, wouldn't that be a bonus?

But this time they are up against an enemy who wouldn't bat an eyelid at knocking off four septuagenarians. Can The Thursday Murder Club find the killer (and the diamonds) before the killer finds them?

After finishing The Thursday Murder Club, I put the sequel, which had just been released, on hold at my library. It took about 6 weeks to become available.

I think I liked this one even more than the first. The mystery was better and more tightly plotted, and the characters remain likeable, engaging and fun. Osman is doing a great job doling out the information about the character’s pasts. Elizabeth continues to be a force of nature. This is the best new mystery series I’ve found in several years.

I can’t wait for book 3.

Throwback Thursday 11.11.2021

I’ve been tracking my reading on the internet since approximately 2013 more or less continuously, and if you look on my sidebar, you will find 8 pages that are titled Book List with a designated year.

On occasional Thursdays I will use a random number generator to point me to three books from the lists (leaving out 2021), and then I’ll post about them – what I remember (if anything), whether I would recommend them – probably not, if I don’t remember anything about them – and if they have stuck with me in the years since I read them.

2015, Book 161:

Many WatersMany Waters by Madeleine L'Engle
Rating: ★★½
Series: Time Quintet #4
Publication Date: September 1, 1986
Pages: 369
Genre: classic, fantasy, YA
Project: throwback thursday

Some things have to be believed to be seen.

Sandy and Dennys have always been the normal, run-of-the-mill ones in the extraodinary Murry family. They garden, make an occasional A in school, and play baseball. Nothing especially interesting has happened to the twins until they accidentally interrupt their father's experiment.

Then the two boys are thrown across time and space. They find themselves alone in the desert, where, if they believe in unicorns, they can find unicorns, and whether they believe or not, mammoths and manticores will find them.

The twins are rescued by Japheth, a man from the nearby oasis, but before he can bring them to safety, Dennys gets lost. Each boy is quickly embroiled in the conflicts of this time and place, whose populations includes winged seraphim, a few stray mythic beasts, perilous and beautiful nephilim, and small, long lived humans who consider Sandy and Dennys giants. The boys find they have more to do in the oasis than simply getting themselves home--they have to reunite an estranged father and son, but it won't be easy, especially when the son is named Noah and he's about to start building a boat in the desert.

A few years ago, I started a Madeleine L’Engle project. I planned to read all of her books – I got somewhat sidetracked, but I did manage to read the entire Kairos series (the Murry family novels) and all of her Austin series, as well as a few others. This one was probably the weirdest of all of them, and that is definitely saying something. In Many Waters, the twins – who are typically depicted as the most “normal” of the Murry kids – disrupt time and end up in the Old Testament, during the Flood. Yeah, that flood – the one that involves Noah. I’m not sure if it was my least favorite of L’Engle’s books, but it definitely competes. If you are interested in a L’Engle YA, read either A Wrinkle in Time or A Ring of Endless Light. Do not read this one until you’ve read at least four or five of her other books first.

2019, Book 72:

Touch Not the CatTouch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart
Rating: ★★★½
Publication Date: April 28, 1976
Pages: 384
Genre: gothic romance, magical realism, romance, suspense
Project: throwback thursday

After the tragic death of her father, Bryony Ashley returns from abroad to find that his estate is to become the responsibility of her cousin Emory. Ashley Court with its load of debt is no longer her worry. But there is something odd about her father's sudden death . . . Bryony has inherited the Ashley 'Sight' and so has one of the Ashleys. Since childhood the two have communicated through thought patterns, though Bryony has no idea of his identity. Now she is determined to find him. But danger as well as romance wait for her in the old moated house, with its tragic memories . . .

This book was so problematic for me, and yet I still really liked it. What I remember about it is that the main heroine was named Bryony and there was some bizarre telepathy thing. In addition, Bryony referred to her cousin, with whom she can communicate telepathically, as “lover.” I loathe word “lover” and cousin-love doesn’t work for me at all. Given that those were the main points of the book, along with the suspense because someone is trying to kill Bryony, of course, I would have expected to hate it. But, Mary Stewart is such an exceptional writer, that I still enjoyed it. So, if you want a book that will carry you gently away, with evocative prose, to crumbling manors where beautiful young women who communicate telepathically with their cousin-lovers are being stalked by a would-be murderer (who may also be the cousin-lover), this book is for you.

2018, Book 124:

In the BalanceIn the Balance by Patricia Wentworth
Rating: ★★★
Series: Miss Silver #4
Publication Date: January 1, 1941
Pages: 342
Genre: mystery
Project: throwback thursday

His first wife died suddenly—and his wealthy new bride may be about to meet a similar fate . . .

Former schoolteacher Miss Maud Silver is on her way back to London when, with a violent shudder of the train, a young woman is thrust into her compartment. She’s beautiful, well dressed, newly married, and wealthy—a lethal combination.

In a state of shock, Lisle Jerningham explains that she fled her home in a hurry after overhearing a sinister conversation. Her new husband’s first wife died in an apparent accident, and the resultant infusion of cash saved his family home. Now, he’s broke again—and attempting to engineer a second convenient mishap. Miss Silver is unsure whether the drama is real or a figment of Lisle’s imagination—but if this frightened young lady is a target for murder, the killer will have to deal with the governess-turned-sleuth first.

I have read a lot of the Miss Silver books. I remember NOTHING about the plot of this book, so my rating is basically based on the fact that my baseline enjoyment of Miss Silver is 3 stars, except for Grey Mask, which I hated.

Good Evening, Mrs. Craven by Mollie Panter-Downes

Good Evening, Mrs. CravenGood Evening, Mrs. Craven by Mollie Panter-Downes
Rating: ★★★★
Publication Date: January 1, 1999
Pages: 203
Genre: short stories
Project: a century of women

For fifty years Mollie Panter-Downes' name was associated with "The New Yorker", for which she wrote a regular 'Letter from London', book reviews and over thirty short stories; of the twenty-one in "Good Evening, Mrs Craven", written between 1939 and 1944, only two had ever been reprinted - these very English stories have, until now, been unavailable to English readers.

Exploring most aspects of English domestic life during the war, they are about separation, sewing parties, fear, evacuees sent to the country, obsession with food, the social revolutions of wartime.

In the Daily Mail Angela Huth called "Good Evening, Mrs Craven" 'my especial find' and Ruth Gorb in the "Ham & High" contrasted the humour of some of the stories with the desolation of others: 'The mistress, unlike the wife, has to worry and mourn in secret for her man; a middle-aged spinster finds herself alone again when the camaraderie of the air-raids is over ...'

This book collects short stories that were first published in New Yorker magazine between October 1939 and December 1944. Prior to ordering the book, I had never heard of Mollie Panter-Downes. It seemed like a great companion to The Splendid and the Vile, which is why I chose to read it now. Persephone published two other anthologies of her work: Minnie’s Room: the Peacetime Stories, which were written after the end of WWII, and London War Notes, which compiles her “Letters from London” published in the New Yorker between 1939 and 1945.

The stories were relatively short, and are deceptively light in tone, containing rich details and deep humanity. The setting for the stories included both London and English villages. The war and the Blitz are omnipresent, and the perspective was that of the (mostly) women who were left at the home front while their men went off to fight. The Red Cross Sewing Party at Mrs. Ramsay’s shows up in a couple of stories, including one of my favorites, titled “Literary Scandal at the Sewing Party.”

One of the most poignant stories, Goodbye My Love, details a young couple’s last few days before the husband, Adrian, is required to report for service. They visit his mother and go to church. They go out dancing with friends and drink and then spend their last day together, the clock chiming the quarter hour and reminding Ruth that time is almost up. She bravely puts him in a taxi in the morning without breaking down, and then copes for the next two days, when he calls and tells her that there’s been a mistake, and he doesn’t need to report for ten more days – he’s catching a taxi and he’ll be home in two hours. And that’s the point at which she breaks down:

Ruth heard the click as he hung up, and she hung up slowly, too. For a moment she sat quite still. The clock on the table beside her sounded deafening again, beginning to mark off the ten days at the end of which terror was the red light at the end of the tunnel. Then her face became drawn and putting her hands over it, she burst into tears.

If this time period interests you at all, I highly recommend these stories..

Nothing Can Rescue Me by Elizabeth Daly

Nothing Can Rescue MeNothing Can Rescue Me by Elizabeth Daly
Rating: ★★★★
Series: Henry Gamadge #5
Publication Date: December 15, 1943
Pages: 201
Genre: mystery
Project: a century of women

In mid-1943, and up to his elbows in war work, Henry Gamadge is longing for a quiet weekend. But when a half-forgotten classmate requests assistance, Gamadge is unable to refuse the tug of an old school tie. The problem, says Sylvanus, concerns his Aunt Florence—a giddy socialite terrified of Nazi bombs. Florence has moved her extensive household of hangers-on to the family mansion in upstate New York. But menace seems to have followed them, in the form of threatening messages inserted into the manuscript of Florence’s painfully bad novel in progress. Several members of the household are convinced the messages are emanating from Another World, but the politely pragmatic Gamadge suspects a culprit closer to home.

I stumbled across these Henry Gamadge mystery reissues by Elizabeth Daly on Goodreads, and when I started researching them, I realized that my local library has most, if not all, of the series available for digital checkout. I just picked one sort of randomly – about half of them were available and the other half had holds, so I just went with one that I could download immediately.

I really enjoyed this book – it reminded me a bit of a Patricia Wentworth Miss Silver mystery. The set up of the mystery is basically that Henry Gamadge, who is apparently known as a bit of an amateur sleuth, runs into an old friend while he is out at his club. When they begin catching up, the friend, Sylvanus, convinces him that there is a mystery afoot that he needs some help with. Henry agrees to accompany him to Underhill, a country house in upstate New York, to see what he can find out.

Once Henry arrives, he is immediately concerned about the safety of Aunt Florence, whose death will benefit quite a large number of the young people living in her house. It feels very Poirot-like, all of the mutterings about what appear at first blush to be pranks being much more serious than that (see, e.g., Hickory Dickory Dock). There is a lot of activity around Aunt Florence’s Will, and which of her young hangers-on will be receiving legacies, and which will not.

The solution itself is convoluted, but still clever. There’s a lot of fairly skilled misdirection, although I had some pretty good inklings about whodunit, she did a good job concealing the motive.

It’s always fantastic to find a new vintage mystery series to enjoy, and when the series is also available from my local library for free, that is extra-fantastic. I will definitely be reading more from Elizabeth Daly.

Company in the Evening by Ursula Orange

Company in the EveningCompany in the Evening by Ursula Orange
Rating: ★★★½
Publication Date: March 20, 1944
Pages: 240
Genre: fiction
Project: a century of women, furrowed middlebrow

Of all the unhappiness my divorce has brought upon me, loneliness has never been in the least a part. Lack of company in the evening is to me an absolute luxury.

Thus does Vicky, a young divorcée in London with a small daughter to support, reassure herself.

But as the plucky courage of the early days of World War II gives way to the fatigue and deprivations of its middle, company in the evening is just what she gets. To the chagrin of her housekeeper, Vicky agrees to take in a pregnant, widowed sister-in-law (“Talking to her is like walking through a bog—squash, squash, squash—never, just never do you really crunch on to anything solid”). As she is adapting to this change and the tensions it creates, and dealing with an impossible client at work at a literary agency, she happens to meet ex-husband Raymond one night…

Told in a first-person confessional style ahead of its time, and featuring Ursula Orange’s trademark humour, Company in the Evening is a charming evocation of wartime life, snobbishness in many forms, and the difficulties of being a woman on her own.

I actually wanted to like this book more than I ended up liking it, although I expect that it will stick with me for a while. This is the first book that I’ve read by Ursula Orange – she has two others published by the Furrowed Middlebrow imprint: Begin Again and Tom Tiddler’s Ground. I am sure that I will read both of them eventually.

Company in the Evening was published in 1944, and is set in around 1941, during the early days of WWII and during the blitz. I’ve been reading a lot of this books recently – this time period is like catnip for me right now. Vicky, the narrator character, is a 24 year old divorcee living in London. Her marriage fell apart approximately 5 years prior to the start of the book, after her former husband, Raymond, had an affair. Vicky learned that she was pregnant after she had filed for divorce, and kept the secret of her pregnancy until the divorce was final, understanding that it would potentially derail the proceedings. Raymond had indicated during their marriage that he didn’t want children, and once she learned she was pregnant, she decided that it wouldn’t be fair play to inflict parenting on him. He knows about his daughter, Antonia, but so far he has had no interactions with her. Vicky supports herself and Antonia quite ably on her own, with a job in the publishing industry.

Vicky is a hard character to like – she is pragmatic and independent, but she is also a bit of a snob, and has a judgmental side. Some of this, I think, is her defense mechanism – Raymond’s affair was emotionally devastating to her, but she is part of a breezy, monogamy-is-for-squares social class that takes in pride in their bohemian approach to relationships, love, marriage and friendships. In response to this, she has sort of decided to just forgo romance.

The title of the book refers to Vicky’s decision to take in her brother’s pregnant widow, Rene. If Vicky is self-sufficient and independent, Rene is the opposite – utterly helpless. Someone is going to need to care for her, now that her brother has died in combat, and that someone is, apparently, going to be Vicky. This creates drama all around. Vicky manifestly doesn’t really want Rene there, although she is kind to her, and Rene knows this. Her ill-tempered servant, Blakey, who helps Vicky care for Antonia on her own, is thoroughly annoyed by Rene.

While Vicky can be a little bit difficult to like, I admired her, and I think that it’s fascinating that this book was written about a young woman in the thick of WWII. Vicky is carving out independence for herself during a time when that is no easy task for a young woman raising a child as a single mother. There were elements that I liked, but overall, it didn’t quite hit the mark for me, which is why I gave it 3 1/2 stars.

#Friday Reads 11.05.2021

A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor: This is part of my non-fiction November reading, and has been on my TBR for at least a couple of years I have the NYRB edition that is pictured, and I’m at 30%, enjoying a rather leisurely trek across a snowbound Europe with the author. I’m taking my time with this one, so it may reappear next week as well.

Since the festive season is just around the corner, I thought I would share this rather lovely description of Fermor’s Christmas holiday early in his travels, as he is crossing Germany:

The only customer, I unslung my rucksack in a little Gasthof. Standing on chairs, the innkeeper’s pretty daughters, who were aged from five to fifteen, were helping their father decorate a Christmas tree; hanging witch-balls, looping tinsel, fixing candles to the branches, and crowning the tip with a wonderful star. They asked me to help and when it was almost done, their father, a tall, thoughtful-looking man, uncorked a slim bottle from the Rüdesheim vineyard just over the river. We drank it together and had nearly finished a second by the time the last touches to the tree were complete. Then the family assembled round it and sang. The candles were the only light and the solemn and charming ceremony was made memorable by the candle-lit faces of the girls—and by their beautiful and clear voices. I was rather surprised that they didn’t sing Stille Nacht: it had been much in the air the last few days; but it is a Lutheran hymn and I think this bank of the Rhine was mostly Catholic.

In the inn where I halted at midday—where was it? Geisenheim? Winkel? Östrich? Hattenheim?—a long table was splendidly spread for a feast and a lit Christmas tree twinkled at one end. About thirty people were settling down with a lot of jovial noise when some soft-hearted soul must have spotted the solitary figure in the empty bar. Unreluctantly, I was drawn into the feast; and here, in my memory, as the bottles of Johannisberger and Markobrunner mount up, things begin to grow blurred.


Nothing Can Rescue Me by Elizabeth Daly: I have just barely started this one by reading the first three pages or so. This is a Felony & Mayhem reissue, originally published in 1943, and I checked it out of my library. A number of Daly’s mysteries were republished, and I just randomly picked this one because of the publication date – it fits with my current obsession with all literature WWII related.


The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman: I put a hold on this as soon as I finished the first in series, The Thursday Murder Club, before it was even published. My library has 37 copies, and it still took about 6 weeks for my hold to come up. My mom absolutely loved the first book as well, and we share a kindle account, so we will both be reading this one over the weekend! Reviews suggest that it may even be better than the first book, and I for one can’t wait to spend more time with the Thursday Murder Club.

Mrs. Lorimer’s Quiet Summer by Molly Clavering

Mrs. Lorimer's Quiet SummerMrs. Lorimer's Quiet Summer by Molly Clavering
Rating: ★★★½
Publication Date: January 1, 1953
Pages: 192
Genre: fiction

The two were friends and had been for many years before Miss Douglas, a little battered by war experiences, had settled down in Threipford, to Mrs. Lorimer's quiet content. ... Both wrote; each admired the other's work. Lucy possessed what Gray knew she herself would never have, a quality which for want of a better name she called "saleability."

In what is surely Molly Clavering's most autobiographical novel, two middle-aged women writers, close friends and neighbours, offer one another advice and support while navigating life in a lively Border village. Lucy Lorimer, the more successful author, with her four children, in-laws, and grandchildren gathered for a summer reunion, must try to avert disaster in one daughter's marriage, help a daughter-in-law restless with mundane married life after flying planes in the war, and deal with the awkward reappearance of an old flame. Unmarried Grace ('Gray') Douglas, meanwhile, has struggles of her own, but is drawn delightfully into her friend's difficulties.

In real life, Molly Clavering was herself for many years a neighbour and close friend of bestselling author D.E. Stevenson. First published in 1953, Mrs. Lorimer's Quiet Summer is not only an irresistible family story, but undoubtedly provides some indication of the inspiring friendship between these two brilliantly talented women. This new edition includes an introduction by Elizabeth Crawford.

I can’t emphasize enough how much I appreciate the Dean Street Press and their Furrowed Middlebrow imprint. There isn’t a single one of their reprints that doesn’t look absolutely terrific to me. Some of them appeal more strongly than others, but I could put them in a randomizer, and I’d read whatever popped up (in fact, this is an idea that I may implement).

This is a very quiet book. Molly Clavering was, as I understand it, neighbors and friends with D.E. Stevenson, another author that I enjoy. This is one of those mid-century books written by English women in which nothing really happens, but which is still deeply satisfying, with scenes of village life and the Scottish landscape.

The title is, of course, very tongue-in-cheek, because Mrs. Lorimer’s summer is anything but quiet. She and her husband are empty-nesters with four children, some of whom have spouses and children of their own. During the summer, all four of the children come home, not merely for a visit, but because there is some crisis in their lives that they have to solve. Mrs. Lorimer doesn’t do the solving for them, but home is a catalyst to put things in order that have come a bit undone.

There’s no murders, no mayhem, no real mysteries to solve. Nonetheless, there are conflicts and tensions that arise, and small family travails that need to be resolved. As in life.

Johnny Under Ground by Patricia Moyes

Johnny Under GroundJohnny Under Ground by Patricia Moyes
Rating: ★★★★
Series: Inspector Henry Tibbet #6
Publication Date: January 31, 1965
Pages: 253
Genre: mystery
Project: a century of women

Emmy Tibbett was uneasy about attending her twentieth Royal Air Force reunion. Emmy had been a native nineteen year-old auxiliary officer at Dymfield Air Base during the war when she had fallen in love with the handsome hero pilot Beau Guest. She had been devasted when he committed suicide by deliberately crashing his plane into the North Sea. At the reunion Emmy was shocked to discover she had been the very last to see Guest alive. Even more disturbing was her discovery that everyone connected with the fatal flight had something to hide.

Chief Inspector Henry Tibbett of Scotland Yard knew his wife had stumbled onto something sinister. But he couldn't keep her from investigating the past - not even when anonymous letters and a suspicious suicide made it clear someone meant to keep a nasty secret buried and wouldn't hesitate to kill.

My crazy pup chewed up my first paperback when I was at about 30%, so I had to get my hands on a new copy to finally find out whodunit.

I quite liked this entry in the series – much better than the prior book that I read, Falling Star. This one reaches back into Emmy Tibbitt’s past as a 19 year old member of the RAF auxiliary, long before she met and married Chief Inspector Henry Tibbets.

The book opens with a reunion of her old colleagues, in which she is convinced to participate in a book project where she and another of the old group are convinced to begin writing a book about Beau Geste, a famous pilot who is believed to have committed suicide by crashing into the sea in a bet with one of the other pilots. This stirs up some secrets that at least one of the old crowd would prefer to remain buried.

The mystery develops in two timelines, with flashbacks from Emmy. Emmy is one of my favorite series characters, so getting more of her backstory, as well as more interactions between her & Henry and her and all of those old colleagues was great. In addition, someone is trying to set Emmy up to take the fall, so Henry has to use his famous investigative skills to make sure they don’t succeed. The mystery itself was clever and the solution took me by surprise.