I just finished an interesting book, the first of a series. It’s free on Amazon, so I gave it a try and wasn’t disappointed.
A Study in Stone
“You have all the tact of a gently lobbed hand grenade,” Alan Hargreaves tells his new neighbour, as they go about asking questions re: some strange writing on a stone and what it means. Alan, a writer of adventure stories for children, delivers these unique turns of phrase; all the deadpan humor, neatly woven into the text, gave me many chuckles.
Fresh from the dog-eat-dog world of corporate London, hard-nosed and wary, Dan Corrigan definitely lacks people skills. But the corporate world has chewed him up and spit him out; now he’s going to lick his wounds in a peaceful country setting, his sister’s rental cottage in a remote Devon village. When he arrives a passing neighbour stops to chat. The silence hits him. Settling in, he finds he can only get four channels on the telly – and no internet service! “Peaceful” soon becomes bored stiff so he joins his neighbour Alan at the local pub. All through the book the author has an amusing way of dealing with Dan’s “This isn’t London” frustrations.
In a coffee shop the next day a curious code on a stone attracts their attention and Dan’s tenacious attempts to learn the story behind it take them on this long adventure. I really liked Alan’s character; his level-headed and congenial nature makes a great foil for Dan’s skeptical, abrasive one. The two men form a unique give-and-take friendship and Alan helps Dan make the adjustment to another world, calling him on his “you out here in the sticks” attitudes.
The mystery in this story isn’t a menacing one and easy enough to guess if you’ve read some WWI history. But the story’s compelling and the dialogue enjoyable; once I started I didn’t quit reading until I was done. I enjoyed the excerpt for the next novel the author has included at the end and definitely want to read that one, too.
I debated between four and five stars, but I always hesitate to say I absolutely LOVED it. I really did enjoy it, though. 🙂 Checking the Goodreads reviews, I see that some others didn’t. A few people thought the mystery was too easy, which is true. Some enjoyed the historical details while for others there wasn’t enough suspense. Some readers couldn’t handle Dan’s behaviour, some liked the developing friendship between the two men. Reviews: 5 stars: 42 4 stars: 32 3 stars: 15 2 stars: 6 1 star: 5
Pondering these various reviews has given me fuel for my next post: The Inky Slope of Book Reviews.
Story grabs you from the get-go with its sympathetic main character. This may be a cozy mystery, but I see a few shades of Phillip Marlowe in Rick Carnes’ personality. Just a touch, less hard-boiled. An ex-army Captain who’s worked in govt investigations, Carnes doesn’t take any flak or swallow any lies. The story’s fairly clean over all, but one of the suspects has a foul mouth.
This is definitely a more cosy story than Chandlers’ works, no senseless murders, but almost as mystifying. I like it that Carnes works together with the law. Plus, he has Marlowe beat with all the modern technical resources. The “whodunit” was a complete surprise. I liked the Epilogue; it rounded out the story quite nicely. Kudos, Mr Bishop, on a very well written story!
I’m not sure why, but my name seems to have been listed in Amazon’s “BAD ONES” book recently, as the last three reviews I’ve done were rejected almost immediately — even the brief review for an adult coloring book. So I’ll post my reviews here.
Definition: The use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues. — Lexico Satire applies to writing that exposes or ridicules conduct, doctrines, or institutions either by direct criticism or more often through irony, parody, or caricature. — Merriam-Webster
Some years ago when we were in Quebec a friend introduced me to the Lucky Luke, the Western “bande dessinée” (comics) originally by Belgian artist, Morris, and later by Morris and Goscinny — the artist who did the Asterix series. If ever there were artists that did satire, it was these two!
I recall one scene that was supposedly in the US Legislature where the austere governors of the nation carried on their dignified duties. A hilarious scene and a definite parody. “Shyster” one yelled. “Corrupt!” the other rejoined. There was the story where Lucky Luke got into the middle of an old family feud à la Hatfield + McCoy.
I recall his adventures with the Dalton gang, especially where they crossed the border into Canada. A sign read, “Canadian Border.” On the US side everything appeared normal, not a flake of snow. On the Canadian side deep snowbanks, frozen trees. All the men were loggers. The RCMP, Corporal Winston Pendergast, walked into a bar at closing time and said, “Gentlemen, it’s time to go home,” and everybody vamoosed. Then he ordered himself “A cup of tea, please, with a little cloud of milk.”
Yes, I take my hat off to these two artists. They were masters of written satire and their illustrations were likewise hilariously fitting.
The Ragtag Daily Prompt for today is SHUFFLE, and a very fitting one it is. Two weeks after Christmas find me shuffling a lot of stuff — organizing, tidying, hopefully boxing up some things to be donated. “Out with the old and in with the new. Or, as FlyLady says, “If you aren’t using it, give it away so it can bless someone else’s life.”
When you have so and so much space and it’s already full to overflowing, then Christmas gifts come in, something’s gotta give. So we shuffle through cupboards to see which things we should part with to make room for the new. Hopefully by the first week in January most objects have all settled into the best place for them.
This morning I went through my stack of jigsaw puzzles. I collect and distribute to the folks at the Villa and other friends who like to do them, but somehow they come back in greater numbers than they go out. I spread them out on the bed and sorted out the ones I still hope to do someday myself, then piled the rest into laundry baskets. I took these — about thirty puzzles — to church, sending a WhatsAp message around for anyone who wants puzzles to help themselves. Now to say a prayer that they will all disappear. 🙂
Books and puzzles are best circulated; they get musty sitting around waiting to be opened and used.
Which reminds me that I did a shuffle in my closet last week and pulled out a dress I haven’t worn in awhile. It’s been a little..ahem..snug. It has — or had — elastic at the waist. But the moment I stretched it out to look at the dress, the brittle elastic just disintegrated. Ah, yes! There really is no point in storing clothes that don’t fit, either, because if elastic isn’t regularly washed, it dries up and crackles like the autumn leaves. (Ditto with the elastic in sheets that have been stored.)
Things are not made to be hoarded. Ornaments can sit around and the worst that will happen is they will fade — unless they get broken. But I’ve learned that most fabrics and paper, like food, can’t take continual non-use/storage and stay good-as-new.
This morning I got an e-mail from Goodreads. Titled Christine’s Year in Books, it’s a summary of my reading in 2020 — that they know about. Kobo and library books I’ve listed as READ, as well as books on my Kindle reader which show up automatically when I’ve finished, since the two companies are connected. According to their count, I’ve read 102 books this year. Probably 110 would be closer, as I’ve re-read half a dozen or so without registering that fact on Goodreads.
My average book length was 206 pages; the longest was a collection of Penny Powers stories — 1760 pages in all. Right now I’m reading and almost done Jake and the Kid, a book by W.O.Mitchell set on the prairies. Then I have a couple more e-books started that I hope to finish shortly. Are you one to start more than one book at a time? Or are you one of these self-disciplined sorts who always finishes one thing before you start another? 😉
I enjoy a variety of genres and authors, but when I get into a series I’ll usually read the whole works — and if I really enjoy the characters, I’ll read the books more than once. Like Diana Xarrisa’s mild mystery series featuring the Markham sisters and their bed and breakfast in “Doveby Dale.” These novellas come in alphabetical order and I’ve just bought the last one, The Zachary Case, but I’ve re-read most of the others.
I’ve read most of the Miss Marple stories by Agatha Christie. Another series I’ve followed is Elizabeth Lemarchand’s mysteries solved by Inspectors Pollard & Toye of Scotland Yard. These are police procedurals as are Emily Brightwell’s Victorian mysteries featuring Scotland Yard Inspector Witherspoon and his housekeeper, Mrs Jeffries. When a murder is committed among the toffs in London, Witherspoon is sent to find the guilty party. Acting as a team, his staff and friends quietly get involved in turning up and sharing pertinent information. Finally Mrs Jeffries sorts it all out in her mind and figures out whodunit and why, then tips off the inspector so he can arrest the perpetrator. I just read the newest, Mrs Jeffries and the Alms of the Angel, #38 in the series.
A much milder series I follow is Nicholas Rhea’s Constable series, which rarely involve serious crimes, just day-to-day policing among the farms and small villages in rural England circa 1950. The Miss Read stories about Fairacre and Thrush Green are likewise sent in the 40s in rural England.
But now I’m pondering my next year’s reading plan and making a New Year’s Resolution. I’m considering all the books I’ve bought waiting patiently in the “To Read Soon” pile. I’ve read that other folks load their e-readers with books that don’t get read — and I am definitely guilty! But there are always intriguing new ones! As a friend quoted lately: “So many books; so little time.”
I rarely ever make definite New Year’s Resolutions because I know they are so hard to keep when temptation sings its siren song, but I’m resolved that in 2021 I WILL NOT BUY or BORROW ANY MORE BOOKS until I’ve gone through those 280 books on my Kindle and read the ones I haven’t yet. (If possible.) Plus write reviews for the ones I have read — if I haven’t already. Any new ones that pop up during the year and specially appeal to me can go on my Goodreads “Want to Read” list — along with the 190 already listed there. 😉
Can I keep this resolution? Or is this an impossible dream? What do you think?