Shelf Control #79: The Black Cabinet by Patricia Wentworth #GoldenAge #TBR

Wednesday, the 26th of February–time for Shelf Control once again–the last one this month! Shelf Control is a feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. It appears every Wednesday. To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it–what its about, what makes you want to read it, where you got 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!

After a children’s book which isn’t really one last week (here), this week I’m back to a Golden Age mystery, and one by an author I read recently and enjoyed very much, Patricia Wentworth. The Black Cabinet, published in 1925, is also not from the Miss Silver set of books, but a standalone, and I got this around the same time I got The Dower House Mystery (which I recently reviewed-here) on kindle.

In The Black Cabinet, poor but beautiful Chloe is assistant to a dressmaker, yearning for a better life; with memories of her time at her family’s country estate Danesborough, where played as a child. Suddenly, decades later, she finds herself heiress to the estate, and to a mysterious cousin who has made his fortune by blackmail. And what he has left her includes the indiscreet letters by which he got his wealth, all kept in a black cabinet. Her cousin whispers the combination to her just before he dies, but in leaving this to her he also puts her in grave danger at the hands of his accomplices who won’t even stop at murder to keep their secrets.

This sounds like another fun adventure/mystery from Wentworth, perhaps along the lines of the Dower House Mystery. While as I had said in my review of that book, the plot–the haunted house and such–weren’t out of the ordinary, the way it was written made it a really exciting read. I enjoyed the writing a lot and it drew me in within the first few pages, which I am expecting with this one as well. So certainly looking forward to reading to this one.

Patricia Wentworth, or Dora Amy Elles, was born in India (in Mussoorie (where I have lived before) according to Wikipedia, but Gwalior according to the note that was in the Dower House Mystery). Publishing her first novel in 1910, she went on to write several others, 32 in the series featuring Miss Maud Silver, retired-governess-turned-private-detective and 34 others. Her first book, A Marriage under the Terror (set in the French Revolution, and not a mystery), won the Melrose Prize.

Have you read The Black Cabinet or any other books by Wentworth? Which ones and how did you find them? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

Info on the book is from Goodreads (here), and Google Books (here), and on Wentworth from Wikipedia (here) and the Google books (same as before).

#MurderousMondays: Love Lies Bleeding by Edmund Crispin #Mystery #Review #GoldenAge

#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 your reviews/thoughts in this feature as well!

The fifth of the Gervase Fen books by Crispin, this was the second of these that I’ve read. The book opens in Castrevenford school where preparations are on for speech day (and prize day etc), but lots it seems is going wrong. One of the girl students from the sister school, participating in the school play for the occasion is visibly upset, but no one knows why, and then she goes missing leaving an uncharacteristic note about running away; there has been a theft in the chemistry lab; and now the night before the big day, not one but two of the teachers are found dead—shot—within a short time of each other. Luckily for the Headmaster, Dr Stanford, due to a last minute change in programme, he had invited his friend, Oxford Don Gervase Fen to deliver the speech. With his considerable experience on previous cases, and the fact that the local Superintendent, Stagge, is out of his depth and would welcome any assistance, Fen is involved in the matter right from the start.

This was an enjoyable read for me, a good combination of a fairly complicated mystery (in a sense) and humour—and I certainly enjoyed the writing a lot as well. The mystery as I said had plenty of elements, a kidnapping, theft, and murders (a third murder, apparently unconnected also occurs, and a second theft, from the armoury is also discovered), all of which are connected of course, and it is up to Fen to work out how. There are a number of people who could have done it, but in this one I felt, none really stood out throughout the book as having a strong enough motive (I mean as in a usual whodunit, one can narrow it down to a specific set of suspects—that didn’t happen for me here), it could have been any one of the characters around, though there was a clue about the person who turned out to have done it. But there were an assortment of them—masters, and some staff, including one who is the in-house gossip in a sense (Mr Etheredge), keeping his eye on all that goes on. There was also quite a bit of action in the plot too with a search for the missing girl, and more in a full-fledged car-chase at the end, reminiscent of movies.

The atmosphere of the school too I thought came through pretty well—activities (from exams and reports to various clubs and games), student love affairs, to teachers who get along and not with each other and the students (their approaches to their work, and the students etc)—one felt that one was amidst all the hustle and bustle and all the goings on. In the plot, one along with Fen keeps going between the activities of speech day (morning service, the speech, cricket, a garden party, and much more) and the investigations, with things having to be hushed up as much as possible since speech day must go on as usual.

There was also a fair bit of humour as mentioned, in for instance Fen writing his own detective story, which he keeps trying to tell Dr Stanford about, and the animals in the book. There is Mr Merrythought, a bloodhound with a tendency to ‘homicidal fits’ who seems to take a liking to Fen (Harold Bloom has described him as ‘a masterpiece of canine creation’), and who turns out to have a fairly strong role throughout the book. Fen and Mr Plumstead, another character who appears as the story moves on, also have an encounter with a ‘gross and evil smelling’ duck who has a ‘truculent gaze’, present at the site of the third murder. Both fun even if the duck had just a ‘guest appearance’. Other touches are there too including Crispin poking a bit of fun at his readers, also perhaps himself himself—with Fen observing when told that he was recognised from his picture in the papers, that this was ‘more than Crispin’s readers manage to do’).

All in all, a great deal of fun.

Find other bloggers’ reviews here: the Puzzle Doctor finds it an ‘entertaining read’ (here) another review here ‘unreservedly recommend[s]’ the book.

The Grass is always Greener… #Poetry #FrancesCornford

From Danish Fairy and Folk Tales
via Wikimedia commons

‘The Princess and the Gypsies’ by Frances Cornford tells of a conversation between a princess and some gypsies, narrated in the ‘voice’ of the Princess. One May morning, the Princess decides to lay down her crown ‘And live no more like a queen‘, and so, still dressed in her silken gown she steps down the ‘golden steps‘ of her palace and into the open wood. Here she meets some gypsies. As she begins to speak to them, we learn that the princess is unsatisfied with her ‘crown and state‘, and her life in the palace where her ‘old and grey‘ councillors ‘sit in narrow chairs‘, at all times perhaps in stifling surroundings away from nature and the open sky. She longs to join the gypsies for they ‘can hear the birds sing clear‘, and their ‘hearts are as light‘ as the birds’.

The gypsies, while not unwilling to take her along, enlighten her about the realities, that is to say, the hardships of their lives, which may appear attractive but are certainly not easy even if they may be ‘free’. And so they tell her,

If you would come long with us,

Then you must count the cost

Life away from the comforts of the palace is far from easy; the weather, the food, even the path that one has literally to walk on, all are often hard even if they also bring some pleasure. In the springtime, one may be treated to birdsong but in the winter, ‘comes the frost‘. In food too, she must compromise for there won’t be the ‘sugary cakes’ that please but barley-bread that is ‘bitter to taste‘. And when she has to wash in the palace, she has not only basins of gold but water that is warm while the gypsies must make do with streams that might ‘have silvery foam‘ but are cold! The princess is served by her ladies ‘all the day‘ but the gypsies must go barefoot.

So if she chooses to join them, to eat barley bread that is bitter, and wash in streams that are cold, her heart may be ‘as free as birds in the tree‘, but her feet will be cut by stones. Not only that, her silken gown will be spoiled by mud, and dogs in farms will bark when she with the gypsies will pass by.

Encampment of Gypsies by Van Gogh
via Wikimedia Commons

Life every day is hard for the gypsies, and the end when it comes, is not much better for as they tell the princess,

‘And you will die in a ditch’

Their life may have its attractions, not only birdsong and the open air but hearts that are ‘deep and gay‘ and ‘wise and rich‘ but all of that comes at a price as they explain to the princess. The princess, her head heavy, realises that this life although she may well praise it is not for her and all she can do is to turn back and return to her palace. She may want the freedom that comes with it, but the price is too heavy a one to pay. So giving her ruby rings and chain to the gypsies, she heads back up the stairs, her heart (and dreams) broken, while the gypsies laugh.

The poem through the story of the princess and the gypsies tells us of a situation that almost every person must face or dreams of in one way or another–many dream of lives different from their own–free of the frustrations, problems, that they face–but that other life be it a gypsy one or any other has its own problems, and perhaps not the comforts that one is used to. The grass seems greener but is perhaps only a different kind of green with its own set of problems and hardships.

Reading this poem reminded me of a Jeffrey Archer short story called ‘The Grass is always Greener…’ which starting with a tramp who lives outside a bank takes us through his life, and the lives of various employees in the bank including its chairman, each of whom envy the life of the next ‘higher’ person in the hierarchy thinking, if only they had what that person had, life wouldn’t be so bad. But as we find, even though each one may have something that the other doesn’t, their life isn’t better or rosier because of it–they always have their own problems. And when we get to the story of the chairman, well, that would be a spoiler.

The poem is supposed to be based on an older ballad according to the book I read it in but it doesn’t mention which one. (Let me know if you do).

The poet, Frances Crofts Cornford, was a granddaughter of Charles Darwin (daughter of his son Francis Darwin and Ellen Wordsworth Crofts). She wrote several books of verse. The best known (according to wikipedia; as also the Encyclopaedia Britannica which says this is unfair) is her sad/comic poem ‘To a Fat Lady Seen from a Train’ (1910) to which G.K. Chesterton wrote ‘The Fat Lady Answers’ in response. As both her father and her husband were named Francis, she was known to her family as FCD before marriage and as FCC after.

Have you read this one before? What did you think of it? There are some things that may not be all PC (references to colour and such) but still the point of it makes sense irrespective of setting. Looking forward to your thoughts!

Find the full poem here and info on Frances Cornford here. I’ve taken all the info from wikipedia as always.

Shelf Control #78: Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard by Eleanor Farjeon #Children’s Fiction #TBR

Wednesday, the 19th of February–time for Shelf Control once again! Shelf Control is a feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. It appears every Wednesday. To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it–what its about, what makes you want to read it, where you got 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 Wednesday my pick is Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard (1921) by Eleanor Farjeon. This one is classed as a children’s book but from reviews it seems that it would fall more into the young adult, or perhaps even adult reads, since it has a great deal of depth underneath the surface and themes such as loss of love and betrayal. Martin Pippin is a wandering mistrel. One day he comes upon a young ploughman who is crying as his love, a farmer’s daughter, has been locked away, and is guarded by six young milkmaids. To help the young man, Martin sings and tells six love stories to each of the milkmaids to win their trust and get to the farmer’s daughter. He must in the process find out why she was locked up. Each of the tales he tells is a fairy tale, magical and dreamy. The stories are set in Sussex, and include descriptions of actual villages. A sequel Martin Pippin in the Dairy Field appeared in 1937 which featured Pippin telling stories to six young girls making daisy chains; these were children’s stories.

The Author: Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965) was an English author, who wrote not only children’s stories but also poetry, biography, history, and satire. Among her earliest works was a book on poems, Pan Worship published in 1908. She got much of her inspiration from family holidays, including a trip to France on which she created the story which was later to become Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard. After World War-I, Farjeon also worked as a broadcaster. The Children’s Book Circle, a society of publishers awards the Eleanor Farjeon Award for children’s literature annually in her memory. Mystery writer J. Jefferson Farjeon whose book, Thirteen Guests I have featured on Shelf Control before (here), and another of which The Z Murders I have read earlier (review here) was her brother. Not only him, her other brother Herbert was a theatre critic and playwright, with whom she also collaborated on some works, while their father Benjamin Farjeon was a novelist, playwright, and journalist.

Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard was recommended to me by a friend, and since I found this available through Project Gutenberg, I downloaded a copy. This sounds like a really charming book, especially the dreamy quality that many ascribe to it, plus the inspiration from or form of fairy tales that the stories in the story take. Of course, I think I will read this one only next year when it turns 100. [The cover is also so pretty: I will keep a lookout for a physical copy if I can find one].

Have you read this one or any others by Farjeon (or any of her family)? Which one/s and how did you find it/them? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

The info on the book is from Amazon (here) and Goodreads reviews (here), and on both the book and Farjeon wikipedia (here).

The Project Gutenberg version of the book is here

Review: The Dower House Mystery by Patricia Wentworth #Mystery #GoldenAge #BookReview

Amabel Grey is a widow living in a small country village on a limited income. Her daughter, nineteen-year-old Daphne, brought up by Amabel’s much wealthier sister, Agatha, is spoiled to say the least and desperately wants to go on a trip to Egypt with some friends (mostly so that a rich young man she knows will propose to her). This requires Amabel to spend £200, money she does not have. Still, since Daphne is throwing tantrums (no better way to describe it) and shedding what seem to be crocodile tears, Amabel heads off to her lawyer Mr Berry to see if anything can be done. (She can’t borrow the money since she has no means to pay it back.) There she overhears George Forsham, a man she used to know years ago, asking Mr Berry to find him a tenant for the Dower House in his family home, in which he is unable to keep a tenant since it is supposed to be haunted. Of course he is going to pay £200 (just the sum she needs) to anyone who will live there for six months (with a number of odd conditions). Despite being dissuaded by Mr Berry, Amabel who has stayed at Forsham as a young girl, takes up the offer and heads there. At Forsham she also runs into George’s brother Julian who she was in love with at one time. And there is certainly something wrong with the house with plenty of odd (and rather unsettling) happenings. Julian is keen to investigate, and Amabel to hold her ground and keep up her end of the bargain. This, though not a murder mystery, was such a fun read, I enjoyed every bit of it.

A few days ago after finishing my last book, I wasn’t sure what to pick up next, didn’t ‘feel’ like reading any of the physical books I had with me; so glanced through what I had on Kindle, and this one caught my eye. I opened it up and began reading and within minutes, it had me hooked, and in fact excited to get back to it each time I had to put it down. The book had the typical atmosphere of a creepy haunted house (the kind we see in films sometimes)—all the quintessential elements like thuds on the front door at night, doors mysteriously closing (no matter how many times they are opened and left open), mewing cats, sinister laughter, and even the feeling of being followed when out on the stairs at night. Amabel’s own dog runs away the very first day, and is found back at her old home. Another dog which Julian borrows for security does the same (heading to his own home). Amabel’s own maid is too scared to stay on. One knows of course, that it won’t be a real ghost but still I thought Wentworth did the entire atmosphere really well, even if it was typical. There are other aspects too—like a medium (clearly putting on an act—we are pretty much told that at once), and the story of a girl (one of George and Julian’s former nurse’s twin daughters) who had run away years ago, and who might well be among the newer residents in the village—connected with the main plot but one doesn’t know exactly how. The solution itself was perhaps a little on the lines of a children’s mystery (Enid Blyton or one of the older Nancy Drews) but still good fun. (This was something I felt in the Miss Silver book I’d read earlier as well.)

The characters were for the most part fairly likeable: Amabel showed spirit in wanting to stick it out rather than running away though she didn’t seem to want to get to the bottom of things. I liked that she didn’t behave like the typical damsel in distress waiting to be rescued (both in terms of wanting to earn the money herself, and staying her ground), but I felt she was rather foolish in heading downstairs and opening the door almost every night when she knew from previous experience what would happen—why not just stay in her room and lock the door? Daphne, her daughter, was a real brat, though. The other characters in the village are a mix of suspicious and a couple of friendly ones (people Amabel had known before). There are also characters from other Wentworth books like Jane (Smith) March, Molloy, and Police Chief Sir Julian Le Mesurier (‘Piggy’) who make an appearance, but not having read those books, these were not familiar to me. The romance in the story I thought was refreshing being between older people getting another chance, rather than a typical one.

I had only read a Miss Silver mystery before, none of her standalones so didn’t know what to expect when picking this up, but it turned out to be a very pleasant surprise and I enjoyed it thoroughly! Will certainly be reading more of hers soon.

Children’s Book of the Month: The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

This is a book that I hadn’t read (or heard of) as a child, but was recommended to me by a ‘book’ friend who has led me to discover many ‘new’ favourites, and so I was very much looking forward to reading this. I had seen parts of a movie version of this (The Secret of Moonacre) but didn’t know until much later that this is what it was based on.

Maria Merryweather, a thirteen-year-old is heading from London into the country, to Moonacre Manor where she is to live with her cousin, Sir Benjamin Merryweather, as she has lost her father, while her mother had died when she was younger. With her are her strict but loving governess Miss Heliotrope, and King Charles spaniel, Wiggins. Maria is sceptical of going to the country which she feels will be dull after life in London, and the way there has not been very promising. But as soon as they begin to approach Moonacre Manor, it begins to work its magic on her and when they arrive and she meets Sir Benjamin and they are shown their rooms, she knows she is home. So begins her life at Moonacre where there is much that is mysterious and magical, mostly in a good way (little sugary biscuits placed in her room, her clothes being laid out for her everyday when there seems to be no maid in the house). But life there has its share of troubles too, with broken hearts and relationships, and a band of wicked men out to cause trouble, and Maria finds that it is up to her and her friends, new and old, but much of the time the band of animals at Moonacre–Wrolf the dog, Zacariah the cat, Perriwinkle the pony, Serena the Hare, and Wiggins (well, Wiggins doesn’t really do anything), to put things to rights, as has been foretold by a prophecy. To do this of course, she must also overcome her own shortcomings.

I simply loved this one right from the start, mostly because there is something very magical about the atmosphere Goudge creates—she makes you want to almost step into the book and live in Moonacre manor which is a warm, welcoming place, with lovely surroundings—so are the other houses described, like the old parsonage and Loveday’s house. Her descriptions too are beautiful. As usual I never remember to mark them when I read them but this for instance:

Never in all her short life had she seen such wonderful trees; giant beeches clad in silver armour, rugged oaks, splendid chestnuts, and delicate birches shimmering with light. They had no leaves as yet but the buds were swelling, and there seemed a mist of pale colour among their branches—amethyst and chrome and rose and blue, all melting into each other like the colours of a rainbow that shines for a moment through the clouds and then changes its mind and goes away again.

There are plenty of others as well. Here what she has to say of Wiggins:

But it is difficult to draw up a list of Wiggins’ virtues… In fact impossible because he hadn’t any… Wiggins was greedy, conceited, bad-tempered, selfish and lazy. … But though Wiggins’ moral character left much to be desired, it must not be thought of that he was a useless member of society, for a thing of beauty is a joy for ever, and Wiggins’ beauty was of that high order that can only be described by that tremendous trumpet sounding word ‘incomparable’. He was a pedigree King Charles Spaniel. His coat was deep cream in colour, smooth and glossy everywhere except his chest where it broke into an exquisite cascade of soft curls like a gentleman’s frilled shirt cuff….

While the plot may have its issues if looked at from a present-day point of view, I didn’t think those issues took away the generally magical atmosphere of it or affected my enjoyment of it. I loved the characters too—I thought they were quite unique and likeable. But they are realistic too, some of them allowing their egos to get in the way and taking the wrong decisions, as human beings are apt to do. And there are those that are a mix of the real and the fantastical, like Maria’s friend Robin (who she magically knows in London but meets once again at Moonacre), who might be real but has elements of Pan (I initially thought Puck since he was called Robin but then realised from his playing the pipe and connection with animals that he was more Pan). All the animals too are wonderful—from the lion-like Wrolf to Zacariah who can write in hieroglyphics (a tad much, but fun all the same, it’s a fantasy after all). Wiggins might do nothing but he’s still a sweet fellow.

And of course, I can’t not mention all the food—that was pretty much the level of Enid Blyton, plenty of it, delicious sounding too, and makes one hungry reading about it. This was a lovely read—I thoroughly enjoyed it. Four and a half stars!  

Indian Fictional Detectives- II

In the first part of this post (here), I started taking a look at some Indian fictional detectives, the stories they appear in, and writers who wrote them, for, as I mentioned in that post, I really didn’t know much about fictional detectives from Indian stories since many of them appeared in languages I don’t know, and as a result, don’t read in. Also, as I mentioned in that post, the ones I’ve come across on my searches so far have mostly been from Bengali detective fiction, with a couple from Tamil detective fiction. (There are a bunch that have appeared in detective fiction in English–those I’ll also go into, but in a separate post.) This post features another set of detectives, all from Bengali fiction. So here goes.

Debendra Bijoy Mitra, Arindham Basu, and Gobindoram

Debendra Bijoy Mitra, Arindham Basu, and Gobindoram were detectives created by author Panchkari Dey (1873-1945). The three appeared in twenty-eight stories written between the 1910’s and 1920s. These include ‘Neelbashna Sundari‘ (‘The Beauty in Blue’), ‘Maya Bini‘ (‘Mysterious Lady’), and ‘Hartoner Naola‘ (‘The Trick of the Cards’). While seen as the first ‘indigenously conceived’ detective stories, these are however also described as ‘Western Tales in Eastern Garb’. Of the detectives, Mitra and Basu adopt a hybrid form of dress including the Indian dhoti, but pleated shirts, and Derby shoes. Also like in the stories by Priyanath Mukhopadhyay (below), Mitra and Basu are employed as police officials under the colonial government, and work in and around Calcutta. And Basu is Mitra’s grandfather-in-law. [I couldn’t find anything about Gobindoram, other than his name].

Panchkari Dey
Digital Library of India [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

Parashor Barma

Created by writer Premendra Mitra, Parashor Barma is a fictional detective whose passion is poetry; in fact he is a poet, though not a very good one. Like Byomkesh and Feluda (and literally, most fictional detectives from any language), he is accompanied by Kirttibhas Bhadra, editor of a magazine, and the narrator of the stories. Parashor relies on his intuition, sense of humour, and poetry, and like Poirot ‘his little grey cells’ to solve his cases, though he seems to approach them rather casually, which annoys Kirttibhas. He first appeared in ‘Goyenda Kabi Parashor‘ (Parashor, the Poet-Detective) in 1932.

Kiriti Roy

Standing six and a half feet tall, fair, and stout, and described as the ‘most stylish detective’ is Kiriti Roy, a detective created by Dr. Nihar Ranjan Gupta. He wears a ‘long coat and cap’ and has ‘a briar pipe hanging from his lips’, and while at home, he wears a silk kimono and tatami grass slippers. The stories are set in the 1940s. Roy’s clients are affluent, including royalty and zamindars. His is assisted by Subrata Roy, who also narrates some of the stories. The author, Dr Nihar Ranjan Gupta was a dermatologist (having also served in the army as a doctor during the second world war), as well as a novelist. He has written over 200 novels, short stories, and other writings. The Kirtti Roy stories have also been adapted for movies, as well as radio.

Col. Niladri Sarkar

Col. Niladri Sakar, a retired colonel and detective, was created by author Syed Mustafa Siraj (author of over 150 novels and 300 short stories) in stories for children. The colonel is a naturist, butterfly collector, and orinthologist, and is said to look like Santa Claus. The stories are as always narrated by his sidekick, in this case, a lazy journalist called Jayanta. The first story appeared in 1970. The stories have been translated into various Indian languages but only one collection, The Colonel Investigates, appeared in English in 2004.

Darogar Daphtar by Priyanath Mukhopadhyay

This one is not a specific detective but a periodical titled Darogar Daphtar or the Inspector’s Office, which was the first ever in Bengali dedicated to crime stories, and which was the first detective fiction in the language. The author Priyanath Mukhopadhyay, served for thirty-three years in the detective department of the Calcutta Police force, and wrote stories based on his own experiences in the force. His views however were of one working under the British administration, and thus inimical to his own countrymen, though in a later story ‘Ingrej Dakait’ (‘Englishman Dacoit’), he ‘obliquely hinted at evil in the colonisers’ psyche’ (here). The stories appeared in several volumes.

So this is my next set. I am still on the look out for more detectives from fiction in Indian languages so will be writing further posts when I have enough. [I haven’t read or come across any of these detectives before so all the information and descriptions are entirely from wikipedia and other sources I’ve listed below.] In the meanwhile, as mentioned, I will also be writing one on Indian fictional detectives in English.

Have you read or heard of any of the ones in my list? Any others that you have read which I can include? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

Shelf Control #77: The Case of the Careless Kitten by Erle Stanley Gardner

Wednesday, the 12th of February–Shelf Control time once again! A weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, Shelf Control 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 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!

Writing my review/check-in of how I’ve been doing in Shelf Control posts so far (here) last week, I noticed that while I have featured mysteries quite a few times (as expected), it wasn’t as much as I’d thought. So here’s another one! 😀 This time a Perry Mason Mystery–The Case of the Careless Kitten by Erle Stanley Gardner.

First published in 1942, this is book 21 in the Perry Mason series. In this one, banker Franklin Shore disappeared ten years ago, leaving all his money behind. Now, his niece Helen Kendell mysteriously receives a phone call from Franklin urging her to contact Perry Mason. But before she knows it, she becomes a suspect in the murder of an unfamiliar man. Meanwhile, her kitten and her aunt have both survived attempts at poisoning. Her aunt, in fact, was one who maintained that Franklin was alive. The poisoning attempts, disappearance, and murder also seem to be connected to a long buried check-forging scheme. Franklin’s brother Gerald is a key suspect. This presents a highly complex puzzle even for the brilliant mind of Perry Mason, as always assisted by Della Street, and private detective Paul Drake. This one has been described as one of the ‘most highly praised cases’ and ‘one of the best Perry Mason tales’.

This was a book I picked up (second hand) a long time ago, and had in fact planned to read when I reading my animal and bird themed books (books which had animals or birds in their titles) a couple of years ago, but I ended up putting this in a shelf behind a whole row of books (pretty much all of my shelves have double rows) and couldn’t find it till I rearranged my shelf, and then didn’t get down to reading it since. But I certainly do want to pick it up soon now.

The author: Erle Stanley Gardner (1889-1970) was an American lawyer, and author of among others the Perry Mason mysteries, as well as the Bertha Cool and Donald Lam stories, Doug Selby stories, and Gramps Wiggins stories. Gardner wrote under his own name as well as several pseudonyms including A.A. Fair, Charles M. Green, and Robert Parr. Besides full-length mystery novels, Gardner also wrote short stories as well as non-fiction, particularly travel writings, including on his trips to Baja and Mexico.

Have you read this one? How did you find it? Which series by Gardner do you like the most (I enjoy the Perry Mason books, but also love the ones with Gramps Wiggins a lot, though there only a couple). Any particular titles you’d recommend? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

Info on the book is from the blurb at the back of my copy and Goodreads (here), and on Erle Stanley Gardner from Wikipedia (here); a full bibliography of his works is listed on Wikipedia (here)