There’s some great bits of atmosphere in here — the Belfry is genuinely creepy-sounding, and the foggy interludes too. It’s a fairly typically entangled plot for a Golden Age crime novel, featuring all kinds of motives and inheritances and missing heirs, but you get the clues to guess the culprit, and I found it fun to follow through. I also appreciated that the solution is arrived at mostly by solid routine police work, not wild leaps of intuition or luck.
Definitely good enough that I’m picking up another of Lorac’s works, even if most of the characters are pretty unlikeable. (The cold, hard, cheating wife who is an actress and doesn’t forgive her husband’s lack of success, bleh.) I wasn’t expecting miracles, and thus enjoyed it accordingly.
The reasons why we lie and to what extent we’re willing to lie are pretty fascinating, and if you haven’t read anything else of the sort before, this might be pretty revelatory. Ariely explains the various studies and results pretty clearly, and it’s definitely not aimed at people who have actually dug into the academic publications: it’s accessible to a layperson, definitely, and to my mind pretty much aimed at the layperson. At any rate, I didn’t find any of it surprising, because I’ve read most of this before and know something of the way we’ve discovered our brains work. I’m not 100% positive there was nothing new, but there wasn’t much that didn’t sound familiar.
So, a good read if you’re looking for something on the subject, but probably not much point if you’re already pretty aware of research into dishonesty and why we lie.
There’s a lot going on in this novel — it tracks the development of crime fiction and mystery stories, deals with the biographies of various famous Golden Age crime writers (including Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and Anthony Berkeley, of course) and deals with the development of the Detection Club. There’s a lot of stuff I didn’t know, even about Sayers (whose work I adore), and the whole thing left me feeling that my experience of the Golden Age of crime fiction was rather limited. Fortunately, and not coincidentally, Martin Edwards has also been curating the publication of the British Library Crime Classics, so I’ve been able to check out some of the authors that were totally unfamiliar to me (and I have a whole stack more to get to, too).
It’s an enjoyable read, though it does get a little bogged down or distracted at times — I think because it does try to tackle so much. It doesn’t stick purely to a single writer, but nor does it stay firmly focused on the Detection Club as a whole. If you’re interested in the period, though, it’s a gem.
The three ‘W’s are what are you reading now, what have you recently finished reading, and what are you going to read next, and you can find this week’s post at the host’s blog here if you want to check out other posts.
What are you currently reading?
I’m rereading Exiled from Camelot, by Cherith Baldry. I wrote part of my MA dissertation on it, way back when I was still a lit student, so I have fond memories. Sometimes the emotion feels a bit… overwrought, though at other times it feels just right — and really, aren’t I just internalising the whole modern masculinity shtick? Kay can cry about Arthur if he wants to. (And he does. A lot.)
I’ve also picked up Kushiel’s Chosen, and currently Phèdre and Joscelin are breaking each others’ hearts. Which tells you absolutely nothing by way of where I am in the book, since they do that all the time.
What have you recently finished reading?
I read War for the Oaks over the weekend — that was pretty fun, felt like meeting October Daye and Kate Daniels’ grandma, kind of. I really liked it, actually; it doesn’t feel so unique since I’ve read urban fantasy that followed it first, but I get a sense of the energy around it and, yeah, very fun.
Today, I read A Long Day in Lychford, by Paul Cornell. Didn’t love it, but appreciated it a lot.
What will you be reading next?
I’m partway through Too Like the Lightning, by Ada Palmer, so that’s probably what I’m going to read once Exiled from Camelot is finished. I’m not yet entirely sure what I make of it (it’s one of those that make me wonder if I’m smart enough/have enough background knowledge), but I was just getting into it at the point I stopped.
Also, The Brain Supremacy, by Kathleen Taylor — I’m in a challenge which takes on one Dewey Decimal category per month, and this month is 600-699, and that fits, so, woo.
Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 17th April 2018
I really liked the sound of The Atrocities right up front; I did expect something horror/Gothic ish in tone, but kind of expected something maybe less dramatic than this turned out to be. It starts out with great atmosphere and that uncanny feeling, but even after thinking it over for a few days, I’m not entirely sure what I make of it as a whole. Once things started being explained, it didn’t feel quite satisfactory to me, and by the end I was a little confused about what was real. The main character is probably meant to be unreliable, given the recounting of her dreams as almost seamlessly integrated into the text, but it didn’t quite work for me — it just felt confusing as in I couldn’t figure out what was going on, not in not being able to figure out what’s true, if you see the difference there. It started feeling rather rushed, too.
However, I’m generally not a horror fan, so it’s very likely I’ve missed some aspects of the shape of the narrative — the ending felt familiar from seeing the ends of a few horror movies over my wife’s shoulder, at least. So it might be that someone more into the genre would appreciate it more. I did love the atmosphere and the whole first scene, with the entrance to the estate, was perfectly uncanny and discomforting.
The members of the Crime Circle filed out of the room, leaving one figure sitting in the darkness on the edge of the scene. The figure was of indeterminate height, weight and sex; in fact, it would be impossible for anyone to explain what they looked like, and even Sheringham would have been unlikely to perceive them. Nonetheless, they had watched the entire proceedings.
“I have another suspect,” this figure said. The voice, too, was androgynous; like everyone and like no one. It was the voice, of course, of the Readers.
A man’s voice. “You do?”
“I suspect you, of course. You’re guilty of the murder of Mrs Bendix.”
“I might as well suspect you,” the man replied, after a moment.
“But you’re the Writer,” the indeterminate voice said. “Anthony Berkeley Cox: also known as Francis Iles, and A. Monmouth Platts. With the benefit of hindsight, of course, we can see right through you. You’re guilty of the murder. Without you, Mrs Bendix wouldn’t even have existed.”
The man laughed, running a finger over his moustache. “Indeed? Or are you the guilty ones? Without readers to enact the crime in their heads, the story would be nothing. Mrs Bendix has died over and over again — at your hands, not mine.”
There was no possible answer to this last point, and the writer received none.
I should leave it at that, but I can’t quite resist having my say as well: The Poisoned Chocolates Case is a fun enough puzzle novel, as much a study of the characters investigating the crime and how they think, how they come to their conclusions. I rather enjoyed the plethora of solutions, though of course, I can’t help but feel that the one I wrote above is the real solution.
I read this shortly after Ursula Le Guin’s death was announced, and it was a comfort: “Only in silence the word, only in dark the light, only in dying life.” There are aspects of Le Guin’s world that it takes The Other Wind to truly make satisfying and comforting, but all the same, it’s always a relief to come to Earthsea. It’s beautifully written, and though the women are absent (fixed or at least commented on in later Earthsea books) and one could wish for more dragons, it still works.
I’m safely back in Belgium! And in our little game of doing chores and healthy things, my wife and I have hit 200 stars (ish), so we’re off to Amsterdam today for books, yarn and goodness knows what. (Mostly books and yarn.) So I’ll reply to any comments tomorrow!
I hadn’t heard anything about Lost for Words before I picked it up, but it’s set in a bookshop — a bookshop which gradually leads Loveday, the main character, towards growth and healing after a troubled childhood. I was sold from the word bookshop, of course; I kind of expected something romance-based with some quirkiness, because, well, bookshop.
There is a certain degree of that, and the romance is quite good — Nathan is sweet and understanding, a sort of undemanding romance that is a joy to read. Loveday’s background is darker than I expected, and sadder; I found it interesting to read about her process of coming to terms with it, but it wasn’t quite what I’d expected. The ending was sadder and more dramatic than I’d expected too.
Even given that, I’d rate this higher if it weren’t for the stalker psycho ex. He’s supposed to have bipolar disorder, but the ‘warning signs’ Loveday mentions are things like his obsession with doing things at a certain time or in a certain way. That’s more like obsessive-compulsive disorder, and it doesn’t make you hurt anyone. For me, it just means laundry has to be done on Fridays (unless it’s bedsheets, which can be done on Saturdays) and I can’t stop reading on an odd-numbered page or chapter. From all these books you’d think you should run screaming the minute someone wants to line things up in a particular order because ooh it’s a warning sign! You should’ve known! But for most people, it’s not a warning sign that they’re ultimately going to hit their partner and set a place on fire with them inside it.
I wish the psycho ex wasn’t used so often to create drama and tension. That character could’ve acted in that way without all those little tags of mental illness which lead some people to assume that any sign of mental illness is only a skip and a jump away from arson and abuse. Being “off your meds” doesn’t automatically mean that you’re going to do something awful; can’t we just drop that trope?