These gardens are green, because green is the colour that most pleases and soothes men’s eyes; and however you may shut people up between bars of yellow and mud colour, and however hard you may make them work, and however little wage you may pay them for working, there will always be found among those people some men who are willing to work a little longer, and for no wages at all, so that they may have green things growing near them.
Merry Christmas! Wednesday the 25th of December–Shelf Control time once again, and the final one of the year! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile and write a post about it–what its all about, what makes you want to read it, and such. Link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks!
This week, once again, I have a mystery (endless numbers of those on my TBR), and a Golden Age one, but not a British Library Crime Classic, but an American mystery, The Bishop Murder Case by S.S. Van Dine (1928).
This is the fourth in the Philo Vance series of mysteries which has twelve books published between 1925 and 1935. In this one, a wealthy neighbourhood in New York City (most of the books are set in the Manhattan Borough) is hit by a series of murders. The first victim is a Mr Joseph Cochrane Robin, accompanied by an extract from the rhyme ‘Who Killed Cock Robin’. The District Attorney finds the circumstances so unusual that he calls in Philo Vance. Then comes a murder with extracts from Mother Goose, further complicating matters. The Bishop’s Murder Case is believed to be the first nursery-rhyme mystery book, and a precursor to other mysteries including Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders, and One, Two Buckle My Shoe.
Vance himself is portrayed in the books as a stylish, foppish dandy, highly intelligent, but rather pompous and conceited. In film adaptations, Vance has been portrayed by Basil Rathbone and William Powell, among others.
The Author: S.S. Van Dine was the pen name of William Huntingdon Wright (1888-1939), American art critic and writer. He used the pseudonym to write his detective fiction. Wright had also worked as Literary Editor for the Los Angeles Times, but was most respected for his writings about art. According to Wikipedia, “….Wright became one of the most progressive (and belligerently opinionated) art critics of the time…” He also wrote a series of scenarios for Warner brothers, used as the basis for short (twenty-minute) mystery films!
I have read one Philo Vance mystery earlier but it was I think fairly long ago, because I really don’t remember how I liked it (or even what it was about), or Vance. But apart from Vance’s pompousness, the mysteries themselves are supposed to be fairly complex (this one with not just nursery rhymes but also mathematics and physics involved) and interesting, and that makes me certainly want to give them a try.
Have you read any mysteries featuring Vance? Which ones and How did you like them? Any you’d recommend? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!
Info on the book is from wikipedia (here), also Goodreads (here) and on Vance (here), and Van Dine (here).
Everything was pleasant that day somehow. There are days like that, you know, when everything goes well from the very beginning; all the things you want are in their places, nobody misunderstands you, and all that you do turns out admirably.
Wednesday the 18th of December–Shelf Control time once again! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile and write a post about it–what its all about, what makes you want to read it, and such. Link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks!
This week, once again I’m back to featuring a mystery, and yet again a British Library Crime Classic, The Lake District Murder by John Bude.
First published in 1935, The Lake District Murder is the first in a series of mysteries (eleven books according to the Goodreads listing) to feature Superintendent William Meredith. In this one of course, he is still an inspector. A body is found in an isolated garage in what looks at first sight to be a suicide. But when Inspector Meredith begins to look into the matter, he finds a few things that don’t add up. Also, the garage itself seems to be the site of some rather shady dealings. And so start Inspector Meredith’s investigations into both the death as well as the mystery of the garage in this book that seems to be heavy on the procedural detail.
The Author: John Bude was the pen name of Ernest Elmore, English theatre producer and director, who wrote both crime and fantasy novels. Born in 1901, he went on to attend Mill High School and became games master at St Christopher School, Letchworth. He wrote thirty crime novels, many of which feature Inspector Meredith. He also wrote a handful of books in his own name including the children’s book The Snuffly Snorty Dog (1946).
I found this one in public domain via fadedpage.com (here), and picked it up since it was a golden age mystery, which I usually enjoy reading. This is an author I’ve never read before so I am looking forward to giving this a try. Some goodreads friends have found this a little too bogged down in procedural detail which made them lose interest after a point, but I still think I will give it a go all the same.
Have you read this one or any other mysteries by John Bude? Which ones and how did you find them? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!
Info on the book is from Goodreads (here), and on the author, from Wikipedia (here)
Once again, it’s been a while since I did a #MurderousMondays post, but I have been reading a few mysteries lately, so I think I will have some of these in the coming weeks as well. #MurderousMondays is a feature started by Mackey at Macsbooks, to share her latest murder read. A historical mystery, a contemporary, paranormal, or cosy–there are so many kinds of murder mysteries, and if you’re reading any, you can share them with this feature too! Today of course, I’m reviewing a historical mystery!
This is the fourth in the Angela Marchmont mystery series, set in 1920s England, which I’ve been quite enjoying reading. In this one Angela goes down to Kent, to visit friends at Romney Marsh. But on the way there, when her driver William lands them in a ditch because of very thick fog, they end up stumbling upon the disfigured body of a young woman, and so begins another mystery. (Once again Angela doesn’t really wish to be involved, but ends up investigating all the same.) There is no clue to who the mystery woman might be (no handbag or other identifiers are found, nor has anyone been reported missing) or what she might have been doing there. However, it seems that there is more to the murder than meets the eye, since Scotland Yard is called in and with it Inspector Jameson, Angela’s old acquaintance. The mystery takes us into the jazz clubs of London, particularly a club run by Mrs Chang and her son, that thrives on not being all above board, and the country side, with a stately home, as well as an odd mix of guests and an eccentric artist, at the Harrisons’ where Angela is staying. Among the guests is Freddy Pilkington-Soames, a somewhat indolent young man, whose mother has got him a job as a reporter, but who Angela finds is much more perspicacious than it first seems. He too joins in the investigations (The author has a separate mystery series featuring this character). Alongside, Freddy’s mother is intent on getting Angela to give her an interview about her ‘adventurous’ life, while her hostess, Margurite Harrison, an artist, is preparing to have an exhibition of her own and her protégé’s works in the village. At the stately home, Blakeney Park, are Lady Alice, and her son Gil, soon to be married to Lucy Syms who doesn’t quite get along with her mother-in-law to be. Between the murder investigations and local happenings, there is plenty going on in this one.
Like the earlier books in the series, I found this to be a quick and enjoyable read. The book is certainly ‘inspired’ by Agatha Christie, specifically A Body in the Library, in many of its aspects like the way in which the body was found (condition I mean—it isn’t found in a library), also who the victim turned out to be and such, though the mystery itself was different from that one. Some of the other characters too, reminded me of those from another Agatha Christie book. Freddy Pilkington-Soames I thought was a fun character to be introduced to—He very much reminded me of Freddie Threepwood from the Blandings books, but of course a version of Freddie with brains. In fact, his set, if one could call it that, and the antics they get up to were very much like characters out of Wodehouse. It would be fun to see what Freddy Pilkington-Soames gets up to in his own series. The puzzle, while not too complex or full of twists (there are some surprises of course) was enjoyable as well. Though (as in an another book in this series) I did manage to more or less guess whodunit, this was still a very pleasant read. Three and a half stars!
p.s.: I had featured this book in a Shelf Control post earlier (find that here)
Wednesday the 11th of December–Shelf Control time! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile and write a post about it–what its all about, what makes you want to read it, and such. Link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks!
This week my pick is a fantasy classic, T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. First published in 1958, the book is a revised collected edition of four of his works written between 1938 and 1958, telling the legends of King Arthur.
The book comprises The Sword in the Stone, The Queen of Air and Darkness, The Ill-Made Knight, and The Candle in the Wind. They cover the youth and education of Arthur, his reign including his son Mordred’s revolt, and the romance between Guinevere and Lancelot. A fifth book, The Book of Merlyn, published much later in 1977, chronicles Arthur’s last night on earth, and addresses profound issues of war and peace. Combining humour and fantasy, White’s version of Arthur’s tale is loosely based on Le Mort d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory. But the telling is essentially White’s own interpretation and includes aspects like Arthur’s youth, not covered in the work by Malory. The setting of the book in the 14th century is much later than the period when Arthur would actually have ruled.
Born in Bombay in 1906, Terence Hanbury White graduated with a first class degree in English in 1928 from Queen’s College, Cambridge, where he also wrote a thesis on Le Mort d’Arthur. Besides the Arthur books for which White is best known, he wrote a memoir of a year spent in England, England Have my Bones (1936), some science fiction (Earth Stopped (1934) and Gone to Ground (1935)), the children’s fantasy book Mistress Masham’s Repose (1946), where a young girl discovers a group of Lilliputians living near her house, and various other works.
The Once and Future King is a book that I’ve heard a lot about, especially how it combines humour and fantasy, and yet one I haven’t gotten down to reading yet. I haven’t actually read much on King Arthur either except The Story of King Arthur and his Knights by Howard Pyle, which was a young person’s or children’s version of the legends (covering pretty much all these parts, but also Merlin’s demise) and Mary Stewart’s The Wicked Day which explored Mordred’s tale, and paints a different version of him (not an entirely dark character) than popular versions. So I am looking forward to picking this one up soon, and reading this classic of Arthur and his Knights.
Have you read this book? How did you like it? Any other Arthur tellings/retellings that you’d recommend? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!
The info on the book is as always from wikipedia (here) and goodreads (here) and on White, from goodreads (here)
My thanks to NetGalley and Europe Comics for a review copy of this one.
This is the first volume of a graphic novel which tells the story of the prophet, Zarathustra or Zoroaster, the founder of Zoroastrianism or Mazdaism, or the religion of the Parsis as we in India might identify it more commonly. I know next to nothing about Zoroaster, and felt a graphic novel would be a great place to get an introduction to at least the legends surrounding him. The Lion that Carried the Flame is of course only the first part of the story. The story opens in the Karakum dessert, the land of the Bactrians and the Margians, where a young boy begs his father to tell him the story of the gods, including the one he ‘killed’. The father of course has to give in to the request and tells of the time when he, Amru, was a traveller who decided to set up as a trader in the merchant city of Gonur-Depe where he has bought a little shop—though he was not quite made (or destined) to be a merchant. But he finds things are not so easy in that city where merchant guilds are led by powerful women. Despite warnings from various quarters, Amru continues to try and do business, but is soon driven to debt, also attracting the enmity of a powerful woman merchant, Vivana. Amru however, also has a secret from his past, for among his belongings are a sword and a skull and we of course, don’t know what they signify, and who he really was before he came to Gonur-Depe.
In the meantime, alongside, a prince, Zahak, who has gone down the wrong path, praying to the evil forces of Angra Mainu is seeking something (once again, we don’t know what), which leads him to Gonur-Depe which he is bent on destroying, in fact, wiping out even from memory. Amru soon finds he has to contend with not only Vivana and her schemes but also the evil forces unleashed by Zahak who he alone seems to have the strength and resources to withstand. Thus starts his adventure, on which Amru must flee the city with an unexpected travelling companion. And out in the dessert, the terrain is not the only danger they face for other creatures not of this world also roam there!
This was an interesting telling of the story of Zarathustra, rather of the legends surrounding him which take one into the territory of myth, where civilisation flourished but where the gods (sometimes in fantastic forms) too still walked the earth alongside mortals. Of the characters, I didn’t know quite what to make of Amru with all the mystery surrounding him (though of course we know he is our ‘hero’), while Vivana herself is quite a handful—arrogant, but also very spirited. The story set out well the background to Amru’s adventures, preserving the element of mystery that surrounds his past (to which we get some small clues), and also of exactly what befell him when he ‘met’ a god, which intrigued me, and made me really want to read on. But like some (not all) of the graphic novels I’ve read from Europe Comics, being only part of the story, it doesn’t quite feel complete in itself, which leaves one feeling perhaps not entirely satisfied. However, this didn’t prevent me from wanting to read the next instalment to see how the story continues and what secrets are revealed. Three and a half stars.
Wednesday the 4th of December–time again for Shelf Control, the first one this month. Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile and write a post about it. Link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks!
Like last week, this week too I have picked a non-fiction read to feature in this post, but something quite different from last week (which was Modern India, a travelogue of sorts written in 1903-find that post here), My Husband & Other Animals by Janaki Lenin. Published in 2012, this is a collection of stories by the author describing what’s its like being married to Rom Whitaker, herpetologist, wildlife conservationist, and founder of the Madras Snake Park and Madras Crocodile Bank. From battling tree frogs colonising their house, to travelling to the wild in pursuit of snakes and enormous crocodiles, to playing with porcupines, and various other trysts with nature, they’ve certainly had an interesting and entertaining life.
The Author: Janaki Lenin is a former film editor who is now a freelance journalist. She started writing in 2004, beginning with articles in wildlife magazines, and in 2010 starting a series of columns in the newspaper, The Hindu titled My Husband and Other Animals. It is a collection of these columns that forms this book. A sequel, My Husband and Other Animals 2 appeared in 2018. The author has also been working on issues relating to the management of human-wildlife conflict situations, contributing to various action plans and guidelines. (More about her on her page here).
I enjoy reading nature books in general (total tangent but Enid Blyton also wrote some wonderful ones) and this one being nature stories from closer home made me want to pick this up. Also, the title of the book and the fact that it has a foreword by Lee Durrell is making me think this collection is going to be something on the lines of Gerald Durrell’s writings which I really enjoy–both My Family and Other Animals which I loved and some of his other writings as well. I haven’t read anything by the author before but the collection has been described as ‘entertaining, playful, and downright amusing’. So I am certainly looking forward to reading this. The only thing that worries me is that while I love animals, snakes do give me the chills! I picked the book up, by the way, on kindle when it was on sale a while ago.
Do you enjoy reading nature books? Which ones are some of your favourites? have you read this one? How did you find it? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!
Info about the book is as always from goodreads (here), and on the author from goodreads (here) and the author’s page (here)