Uniform Justice

Leon, Donna. Uniform Justice. New York: Penguin, 2004.

Reason read: to end the series started in September in honor memory of plans to go to Italy. Fukc covid.

When we return to the Venetian world of Commissario Guido Brunetti he has found himself mired in the apparent suicide of a military cadet found hanging in a dormitory shower. It should be an open and shut case, but there is something about the death that doesn’t sit right with Brunetti. Moro’s father resigned from Parliament after Mrs. Moro was shot in an apparent hunting accident. Now Mr. Noro’s son is dead. Is this retribution for his meddling in a corrupt investigation? As usual, Brunetti”s boss, Vice-Questore Patta, is eager to move on. Looks like a suicide, smells like a suicide, so it is a suicide. Hog-tied by political play, Patta would rather Brunetti poke his nose elsewhere. Brunetti is forced to bend the rules in order to solve the mystery. It reminded me of how Brenda would stop at nothing to get a confession on one of my favorite television shows, The Closer.
Aside from the intriguing character of Guido Brunetti, Leon always illustrates Venice in a way that is mouth-watering and fills this reader with the yearning to pack her bags.

Author fact: Donna Leon was once a teacher.

Book trivia: Uniform Justice is #12 in the series, but the last one I will be reading for the Challenge.

Nancy said: Pearl said Uniform Justice is a “particularly good one.”

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “Ciao, Italia” (p 46).


A Noble Radiance

Leon, Donna. A Noble Radiance. New York: Penguin Classic, 2003.

Reason read: to continue the series started in September in honor of Leon’s birth month.

Commissario Guido Brunetti is back. This time he takes on a case of a kidnapping turned murder.
What was once an abandoned field is now the final resting place of a young man buried in a shallow grave. Although badly decomposed investigators can see he was killed with a bullet to the back of the head. The crest ring found with the body suggests it is the only son of a wealthy Venetian count. This son, Robert Lorenzoni, had been kidnapped under suspicious circumstances two years prior and was never heard from again. Dental records confirm that the body is Count Lorenzoni’s only son, sending the family reeling with grief.
Confessional: I was a little disappointed with this one. I figured out who did it and why pretty early on. There was a final twist that should have been a shock but really wasn’t. The best part about A Noble Radiance was learning more about Brunetti’s home life. The scene where he must suffer his daughter’s salty cooking is hilarious. I could see that in a movie. I also enjoyed his intimidating dinner date with his father-in-law (also a count) who inadvertently helps Guido solve the mystery.

Author fact: Leon also wrote Suffer the Little Children. Not to be confused with the documentary of the same name, or Suffer the Children by John Saul, or the 1980s song by Tears for Fears.

Book trivia: A Noble Radiance is the seventh in the series.

Nancy said: Pearl said she enjoyed A Noble Radiance. That’s it.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “Ciao, Italia” (p 46).


Acqua Alta

Leon, Donna. Acqua Alta. New York: Penguin, 2004.

Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of Leon’s birth month (in September).

Here is something I really enjoyed about Acqua Alta. The characters from Leon’s first Guido Brunetti mystery come back. First introduced in Death at La Fenice, talented opera singer Flavia Petrelli and her lover, archaeologist Brett Lynch, are back five books later, in Acqua Alta. Leon is strategic in how she reintroduces these characters and ties them back to Death at La Fenice. It’s as if she reassures the reader Acqua Alta will stand on its own. There is no need to go back and read previous mysteries.
Back to the plot. After Brett is brutally attacked in her apartment, Inspector Brunetti takes on her case. As an American in Venice, Brett seems an unlikely victim of a robbery and yet the attack on her was brutal. It can’t be her lifestyle; she and Flavia have been flaunting that for two years now. It can’t be her nationality; hundreds of foreigners run away to Venice on a daily basis. Brunetti focuses on her career as an archaeologist and soon a picture of corruption and scandal in the art world emerges.
As an aside, the title of the book comes from the phenomenon called acqua alta, the occasionally flooding of Venice. This happens when there is winter torrential rain, unusually high tides (during a full moon) and wind pushing water up from the Adriadic Sea into the Venetian Lagoon. It is important to understand this weather event because the acqua alta is truly another character in the book and crucial to the plot.

Best line, “‘Don’t joke, Guido,’ she said in that voice she used when humor was as welcome as the old boyfriend of the bride” (p 64).

Author fact: According to a wiki page, Leon is the recipient of the Corine Literature Prize.

Book trivia: Acqua Alta is also titled Death at High Tide.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Acqua Alta. She talked about another Leon book she liked and added Acqua Alta as another one to check out.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the cute chapter called “Ciao, Italia” (p 46).


Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

Larsson, Stieg. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. Translated by Reg Keeland. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.

Reason read: to finish the Millennium trilogy started in July.

As with all the other “Girl Who…” books in the Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is “chaptered” by dates and picks up pretty much where The Girl Who Played with Fire left off. Authorities are still looking for Lisbeth Salander as a murderer, even though she has been brought to a hospital with three gunshot wounds, including one to the head. Her admittance into the hospital is the opening scene to The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, allowing Larsson to begin this final installment in a full sprint. This is no dainty dip-a-toe-in-the-pool beginning. Larsson cannonballs right into the action without fanfare. Meanwhile, Lisbeth’s half brother has killed a bunch of people, stolen a police cruiser and escaped into the unknown. All the while Salander’s murderous, revenge-seeking father is in the same hospital…only two doors down.
Larsson is long winded in some places and could have used a little more editing in others, but the last installment in the Millennium series does not disappoint. Lisbeth Salander gets more and more interesting with every chapter. You never want her story to end. Her trial is riveting.
The only element to The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest I didn’t care for was the side story of Erika Berger and her stalker. For someone who calls Berger his best friend of twenty five years, Mikael Blomkvist was strangely missing from her drama.

Lines I liked, “History is reticent about women who were common soldiers, who bore arms, belonged to regiments, and took part in battles on the same terms a smen, though hardly a war has been waged without women soldiers in the ranks” (p 6).

As an aside, I sort of have an issue with the title of the book. As a rule, hornets are not solitary creatures. In a group they are called a “bike” so I would think the nest the girl kicked belongs to more than one hornet. Hornets, plural.
As an another aside, I just finished reading The Eye of the Leopard by Henning Mankell. Part of his story takes place in Sweden (Norrland, to be exact) so it was cool to see the same least populated region come up in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.

Confessional: I don’t know why, because Larsson doesn’t go into great detail about the landscape, but I really would like to visit Sweden someday. I am more intrigued by the country by reading the Millennium trilogy than ever before. I wonder if iFit has a series in Sweden…?

Author fact: who knows how many other “girl who” stories Larsson could have come up with! He was only fifty when he died and he never saw the success of any of his Millennium books.

Book trivia: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest was made into a movie in Sweden.

Nancy said: Pearl said it was a sad day when Larsson died just after finishing the Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Swede(n), Isn’t It?” (p 222).


Death at La Fenice

Leon, Donna. Death at La Fenice. New York: HarperPerennial, 2004.

Reason read: Donna Leon was born in September. Read in her honor.

Death at La Fenice is a super fast read. You could probably finish it in a couple of days if you didn’t have anything else going on in your life…
This is Donna Leon’s first novel featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti. When a world famous orchestral conductor dies of an apparent poisoning, Brunetti enters a world of snobbish culture of music and celebrity.
The best part of Death at La Fenice is Brunetti’s personality. The balance he must practice between home life, being a father and husband, with trying to solve a mystery without any real leads or suspects. Who would want to kill Helmut Wellauer; this esteemed man of music; so beloved in the music world? Another great reason to read Leon’s series is her descriptions of Venice. You will get to know this watery world in beautiful detail.

Quotes to quote, “Why was it that the word with which we confronted death always sounded so inadequate, so blatantly false?” (p 80), “To be a servant for twenty years is certainly to win the right not to be treated like a servant” (p 170).

Author fact: it is rumored that Leon wrote Death at La Fenice as a joke.

Book trivia: Death at La Fenice is the first in a series of mysteries to feature Commissario Guido Brunetti.

Nancy said: Pearl included Death at La Fenice in her list of books to read before traveling to Venice (More Book Lust). In Book Lust To Go, she reiterated that “no plans for a trip to Venice would be complete without reading the series of mysteries by American Donna Leon” (p 242).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the typical chapter called “Ciao, Italia” (p 46) and again in Book Lust To Go in the more clever chapter called “Veni, Vidi, Venice” (p 240).


Nemesis

Christie, Agatha. Nemesis. New York: Signet, 2000.

Reason read: Christie’s birth month is in September. Read in her honor even though I already read her Murder on the Orient Express this summer.

Nemesis is a breath of fresh air. When seemingly ordinary people: dentists, librarians, park guides (what have you) get caught up in murders again and again and again I get annoyed by the coincidence…especially if it is an unexplained phenomenon. Miss Jane Marple addresses crime’s ability to find her time and time again, acknowledging how odd it is for this elderly women to be an accidental investigator. I found that refreshing.
On to the plot: Jason Rafiel, an extremely wealthy man dies. Seeing his name in the obituary section of the newspaper sends Miss Marple down memory lane. She immediately beings to reminisce about the deceased even though she only met him once on a trip in the Caribbean West Indies. Oddly enough, they were thrown together to solve a mystery. Imagine that! What a coincidence when she receives a letter from the dead man asking her to take on an investigation without any information. If she can, she stands to earn 20,000. Is she to solve a crime or just a conundrum? Miss Jane Marple, elderly and nosy, is up to the task despite not knowing a single detail. Dear readers, this will be the final case of her investigative career. Back to the drama: Mysterious Mr. Rafiel sends her on a garden tour lasting two to three weeks and prearranges every detail for Miss Marple, right down to the people she needs to meet.
A warning to those sensitive to a time before political correctness: there is a lot of ageism and sexism. I have a high tolerance for the days before being polite…except for when they say a woman is asking to be raped. “Girls, you must remember, are far more ready to be raped nowadays than they used to be.” Whatever that means. I also took offense to the line, “Accuracy is more of a male quality than a female one.” Again, whatever.

Confessional: I have always wanted to read a Miss Marple mystery.

Lines I did like, “Well, she hadn’t wished to get mixed up in any murders, but it just happened” (p 8) and “Miss Marple lost herself in a train of thoughts that arose from her thoughts” (p 53).

Author fact: Besides the character of Miss Jane Marple, Christie is responsible for the creation of Inspector Hercule Poirot.

Book trivia: Nemesis is a Miss Marple mystery. The interesting thing is this is the only Miss Marple I am reading for the Lust Challenge, and it is well down the list in the series, meaning it was written late in Christie’s life. I have no idea why Pearl chose this particular title.

Nancy said: Pearl said Nemesis was “written quite late in Christie’s career, but up to her high standards” (Book Lust p 118).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the ginormous chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 117).


Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Complete Sherlock Holmes: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. New York: Barnes and Noble Classics, 2003.

Reason read: Doyle died in July. Read in his memory.

If you were to read the Complete Sherlock Holmes in chronological order, you would not start with the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The short stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, twelve in all, start after Holmes and Watson have gone their separate ways and are no longer sharing rooms of a flat together. Watson is by this time married with a house of his own while Holmes is still on Baker Street. One constant that remains throughout all the stories is Holmes’s ability to confuse people with his keen sense of observation. “How could you know that?” is a constant refrain. Another constant is that all of the stories are told in first person from Watson’s point of view.

Short stories:

  • “Scandal in Bohemia” – a Duke and heir King is blackmailed by an actress. Sherlock, with the help of Holmes, attempts to end the threat but the woman outsmarts them.
  • “Red-Headed League” – what do you get when you mix a redhead, an Encyclopedia, a bank, and a scam? Answer: a Sherlock Holmes mystery, of course!
  • “A Case of Identity” – How far will a man go to keep his stepdaughter from marrying?
  • “The Boscombe Valley Mystery” – Did a man really murder his father or is there more going on?
  • “The Five Orange Pips” – a curse has come down through the generations, terrorizing a family.
  • “The Man with the Twisted Lip” – This was my favorite. A man goes missing and is believed to be dead while his wife has faith he is alive.
  • “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” – Who stole this precious jewel?
  • “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” – another crazy story about a father not wanting his daughters to marry because of losing the inheritance.
  • “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb” – is it a spoiler to say this is one story where the criminals get away?
  • “The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor” – Just what the title says, a guy does the right thing.
  • “The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet” – family devotion illustrated with a coronet.
  • “The Adventure of the Copper Beaches” – a really interesting story about trying to thwart a wedding (another common theme for Sherlock).

Author fact: rumor has it, Sherlock Holmes is somewhat modeled after Dr. Joseph Bell, a professor of Dolye’s at Edinburgh University.

Book trivia: Despite publishing two novels previously, Doyle’s career didn’t take off until he started writing short stories. The twelve listed above were published together in 1892.

Nancy said: Pearl included the Complete Sherlock Holmes in a list of private-eye mysteries.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the really long chapter called “I love a Mystery” (p 117).


The Girl Who Played with Fire

Larsson, Stieg. The Girl Who Played with Fire. New York: Vintage, 2011.

Reason read: to continue the series started in July in honor of the Swedish festivals.

Here is the great thing about the continuation of Larsson’s “The Girl…” series. He doesn’t spend a lot of time recounting what happened in the first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It is as if he depends on you to immediately pick up the next book in the series order to keep the drama going at breakneck speed. Larsson does fill you in wherever necessary for the sake of plot flow; and to catch you up in case you have forgotten some small detail. How he knows that. I don’t know. For the most part, The Girl Who Played with Fire is its own story in and of itself.
Lisbeth Salander is “growing up” before our eyes. You cannot help but like this tough, odd woman-child. She starts removing tattoos and piercings, not because she wants to change her identity (although those simple changes and breast implants alter her previously recognizable look considerably), but rather because she is changing internally. She is starting to feel things which may or may not be a good thing. After being away from Sweden from a year she comes home which definitely is not a good thing. I won’t go into the details, but Lisbeth finds herself accused of a triple murder which is a brilliant move on Larsson’s part. This allows for Lisbeth’s past to be revealed under intense scrutiny. Many questions about Lisbeth’s character come to light.
Meanwhile, Salander’s former flame, Mikael Blomkrist, is busy as editor back at Millennium. Mikael continues to be the ladies’s man, this time starting a relationship with the very woman he was asked to find in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Considering how that book ended, this may or not be a good thing as well.

Author fact: Stieg’s given first name is Karl.

Book trivia: The Girl Who Played with Fire was made into a Swedish film (2009) and a television miniseries (2010).

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about The Girl Who Played with Fire.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Swede(n), Isn’t It.” (p 222).


Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Larsson, Stieg. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Translated by Reg Keeland. New York: Random House, 2008.

Reason read: Sweden festival of Trastock occurs in July.

Mikael Blomkrist put his tail between his legs when he lost a libel suit brought against him by multimillionaire Hans-Erik Wennestrom. Unlike the United States where if you are convicted of a crime you immediately start serving your sentence, in Sweden Blomkrist is allowed to travel to the coastal town of Hedestad to help an old man solve the case of his missing niece under the guise of writing Henrik Vanger’s storied biography. Beware, it’s a huge family tree so study it well.
Meanwhile, back in Stockholm Croatian born Dragan Armansky, financial director, CEO and COO of Milton Security, and expert in financial fraud is investigating Blomkrist. He knows there is more to the story than what was exposed in court. How can a top notch journalist screw up so badly? He puts his best researcher on the case. If anyone can dig up the dirt it’s Lisbeth Sander, the girl with the dragon tattoo. Known only as Wasp in certain circles, Lisbeth could pass for a child if it weren’t for a bunch of punk face piercings, a really bad attitude, and a steel trap memory.
It goes without saying Sander and Blomkrist team up. Together, they uncover corporate corruption and a horror that runs far deeper than the mystery of a missing niece.

Confessional: when I stand over a tombstone, the first thing I do after reading the deceased’s name is to do the math to figure out how old they were when they died. Is that horrible of me? In the beginning of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo there is a family tree. I was surprised to see at least four people died at a young age and immediately knew that would be part of the mystery.

Author fact: Larsson died in 2004 after delivering the manuscripts for his “Girl with…” series.

Book trivia: I think everyone knows The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was made into a movie. I also think everyone has seen it but me.

Nancy said: Pearl called Girl with the Dragon Tattoo an immediate best seller.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the odd chapter called “Swede(n), Isn’t It?” (p 222).


Shadow of the Wind

Zafron, Carlos Ruiz. Shadow of the Wind. Translated by Lucia Greives.

Reason read: the pilgrimage to El Rocio occurs in July.

When we first meet Daniel Sempre he is ten years old and his father has just introduced him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Daniel has been granted the choice of one book as a birthday present. By chance, he chooses Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. So the mystery begins. Daniel is no ordinary boy. When he was very young he coveted a fountain pen reputed to once belong to Jules Verne. His father would accompany him weekly to “visit” this pen in a storefront window. [As an aside, what ten year old would utter, “all the evidence to the contrary”? Had he been reading Sherlock Holmes?] Moving on from the pen, Daniel becomes fascinated with writer Julian Carax and the mystery surrounding him. From there, the mystery deepens to the point of harrowing. Shadows become dangerous. Secrets become lethal. It’s a story within a story best savored slow.

Quotes I just had to quote, “A secret’s worth depends on the people from whom it must be kept” and “To truly hate is an art one learns with time.”

As an aside, when I read the quote, “Childhood devotions make unfaithful and fickle lovers” I was reminded of Charles Causely’s poem, “Rhyme of Innocence and Experience” when he wrote, “Where are all the other girls and boys and why have you brought me children’s toys?”

Author fact: Sadly, Carlos Ruiz Zafron just passed away, reportedly from colon cancer.

Book trivia: Shadow of the Wind was an international bestseller and translated into dozens of languages.

Nancy said: the only thing Pearl said about Shadow of the Wind is that it offered a “vivid picture” of Spain.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Spain.” (p 220). How simple can you get?


Murder on the Orient Express

Christie, Agatha. Murder on the Orient Express. Read by David Suchet. New York: Harper Collins, 2013.

Reason read: July is the month smoke-generating trains were outlawed in New York in 1908. The first electric train ran in 1904.

The first thing you need to know about Murder on the Orient Express is that while it is a widely known title and probably one of Christie’s most popular, it is actually the eighth mystery novel to feature Belgian Inspector, Hercule Poirot. This time he is traveling back to London via the Orient Express. Despite the train being full, Poirot is able to obtain a first class berth, thanks to a friend who works for the railroad. On the very first night an unsavory passenger is stabbed twelve times and dies of his injuries. Initially, this was to be a three-day journey, but travel is halted due to a large storm dropping massive amounts of snow on the tracks. Since no one can get on or off the train, finding the killer should be easy. In true Poirot style the case is solved with wit and humor. The interrogations are the best.

For Murder on the Orient Express, Christie drew from different real-life events for inspiration. First, the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby in 1932 and her own experiences traveling the Orient Express.

Best quote, “Americans, as you know, don’t care what they pay.”

Author fact: Agatha Christie was a VAD in the First World War.

Book trivia: Murder on the Orient Express was made into two movies, three separate radio programs, three different television series, a play, and a video game. I told you it was popular!

Nancy said: Interestingly enough, Pearl first mentioned Murder on the Orient Express in relation to another book, The 8:55 to Baghdad, by Andrew Eames. Later in the chapter she includes Murder as a “classic crime novel.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Making Tracks By Train” (p 138).


June Travels

Of course I am not really traveling anywhere, but for the first time in a couple of months I have (finally) gotten back to reading. and. And! And, I did drive a car for the first time since 3/19/20. There’s that. In truth, I have been reading all along, just not with the pleasure and leisure I used to have. All of that is slowly coming back, in part due to the realization it’s okay to disappear into the pages from time to time. It is okay to read with no other agenda. I have started to think of the books as different forms of travel. Without further ado, here are the books for June:

Fiction:

  • The Second Summer of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares. Places I’ll go: Washington, D.C. & Alabama.
  • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. Places: Pennsylvania & something like heaven.
  • Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. Places: around Sweden.
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron. Places: Barcelona, Spain and thensome.
  • Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux. Places: My back yard of Western Massachusetts and Honduras.
  • Garden of the Gods by Gerald Durrell. Place: Cofu, Greece.

Nonfiction:

  • Perfection Salad by Laura Shapiro. Places: all around New England

Gunshot Road

Hyland, Adrian. Gunshot Road. New York: Soho Press, 2010.

Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of I have no idea what. I continue to have no idea.

In the last Emily Tempest installment, Emily had just returned to the Outback. When we catch up to her in Gunshot Road, she has settled in as a Aboriginal Community Police Officer (ACPO) for the Bluebush police department. Only half the uniform fits her and she is “allergic to authority.” Add her temperament as a hothead, not afraid of authority and you can imagine why the job isn’t sitting with her as comfortably as she (and others) would like. To top it off, her superior is a by-the-book replacement by the name of Bruce Cockburn. Cockburn is filling in for Emily’s old friend, Tom MacGillivray while Tom is hospitalized. Unfortunately, Bruce doesn’t get Emily at all. All the barriers are there; the biggest being gender. As a female investigator she isn’t taken seriously. Being biracial doesn’t help either. Her very first case is a murder investigation at the Green Swamp Well Roadhouse and she has very little support during the investigation. Par for the course, someone is covering up something much bigger.
As an aside, Emily is someone I could kick back with and enjoy a beer. I admire her smart, funny, and courageous attitude. I do not, however, believe she could fire a shotgun with her big toe while wrestling, with her hands tied, with a 200lb+ brute. As you can probably tell, there is a lot of violence in Hyland novels.
Best part of Gunshot Road: Emily’s best friend, Hazel, and boyfriend, Jojo, are back. Yes!

Quote to quote, “Rage and shame, deaf to reason, swept through me in storms that tore aware the flimsy tarps lashed above my soul” (p 241 – 242).

As another aside, I was bothered by the cruelty towards animals in both Hyland books. It seems as if the citizens of the Aboriginal bush like to take their revenge out on dogs. A dog in Moonlight Downs was punched a killing blow because it bit a trespasser. This time, in Gunshot Road, a dog was beaten with a hammer. I’m more of a cat person but geeze!

Author fact: I wish I was reading Hyland’s nonfiction, Kinglake-350. It won a few awards. As of Gunshot Road, I am officially done with this author.

Book trivia: the one thing I remember commenting on before is Hyland’s use of music in his books. Almost right away in Gunshot Road he quoted “Mother and Child Reunion.” He also introduced me to the Pigram Brothers, a band of seven brothers from Broome, WA in Australia. Coral Cowboys, Cold Chisel, and Buffalo Express are others.

Nancy said: Gunshot Road was included in the list of Australian fiction that shouldn’t be missed.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Australia, the Land of Oz: Fiction” (p 26).


Maisie Dobbs

Winspear, Jacqueline. Maisie Dobbs. Narrated by Rita Barrington. Hampton, NH: BBC Audiobooks America, 2005.

Reason read: March is International Women’s Month. I am also reading this for the Portland Public Library 2020 Reading Challenge. The category is “a cozy mystery.” I took “cozy” to mean a mystery without violence; no bombs exploding or crazy gun fights. Nothing fast paced; no cars screaming around corners on two wheels. Maybe “cozy” includes a sleeping cat or a steaming cup of tea.

Nancy Pearl should have included Maisie Dobbs in her list of characters she would like to befriend because I would like to hang out with Ms Dobbs myself. Maisie is one of those can’t-do-wrong girls that everyone, men and women alike, fall in love with. She is smart, pretty, loyal, and keenly perceptive.
We first meet Maisie Dobbs in 1910. After her mother dies, Maisie, at the age of thirteen, takes a job as a maid for Lady Rowan Compton. Living in the Compton mansion is a far cry from her father’s humble costermonger home and inquisitive Maisie can’t help but explore every richly decorated room, especially the well stocked library. Night after night she is drawn to sneaking down the stairs and taking advantage of the massive collection. When discovered, Lady Rowan does not seek punishment. Rather, recognizing a talent for learning, rewards Maisie with extensive tutoring from family friend, Maurice Blanche. Blanche is a private investigator who uses psychology and acute observation to solve mysteries. Maisie becomes his apprentice and subsequently takes over the business after Blanche’s retirement. One case takes Maisie back to her days as a volunteer nurse during the Great War. The plot takes a turn down memory lane as Maisie’s wartime ghosts are revealed. A second mystery concerning the love of Maisie’s life emerges.
War is a constant character throughout Maisie Dobbs, whether the reader is looking back to Maisie’s volunteer work as a nurse in France, or looking ahead to the mysterious retreat for disfigured veterans. The psychology of war is ever present.

Favorite line, “Dawn is a home when soft veils are draped across reality, creating illusion and cheating truth” (p 249).

Author fact: Winspear wrote a ton of books but I am only reading Maisie Dobbs for the Book Lust Challenge.

Book trivia: Maisie Dobbs is Winspear’s first novel and won an Edgar Award.

Nancy said: Pearl said Winspear does a outstanding job of conveying post-World War I English society. I would also add Winspear does an outstanding job of conveying post traumatic stress and other debilitating effects of war.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 169).


March Same As It Ever Was

This March will mark my eighth time running the St. Patrick’s Day Road Race. When I lived in town I would watch the runners race by, seemingly effortlessly. I could spy on them from my third floor apartment; while I sipped coffee I wondered what it would be like to able to run six miles knowing believing I couldn’t run a single one. Look at me now, Dad.

Here are the books I’m reading for the month of March:

Fiction:

  • Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear – in honor of International Women’s month and to check off a category from the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge list (a cozy mystery).
  • Miss Mole by E.H. Young – in honor of Young’s birth month.
  • The Calligrapher by Edward Docx – in honor of March is Action Hero month.
  • On the Night Plain by J. Robert Lennon – in honor of Yellowstone National Park.
  • Pandora’s Star by Peter Hamilton – in honor of sci-fi month.

Nonfiction:

  • All Elevations Unknown: an Adventure into the Heart of Borneo by Sam Lightner, Jr. – in honor of the first time Mount Kinabu was ascended (March 1851).
  • Baghdad without a Map and Other Misadventures in Arabia by Tony Horwitz – in memory of the March 2003 bombing of Baghdad.

Series Continuations:

  • Gunshot Road by Adrian Hyland – to continue the series started in January in honor something I can’t remember.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • The 21: A Journey into the Land of the Coptic Martyrs by Martin Mosebach (started in February).