Murder at Christmas

December already . . .  And so many wonderfully seasonal books out there to keep you cozy on a frosty winter’s night. For example, one of literature’s most beloved detectives stars in Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, which I haven’t even read yet (gasp)! But I will be starting it shortly – I just have to wrap up Crimson Snow, first.
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I read a lot of mixed reviews for Crimson Snow (which is a collection of stories), so I really hemmed and hawed about adding it to my collection. But I am so glad I picked up a copy, because the stories are everything I hoped they would be. They are all set in the past, which makes them interesting from a historical perspective, and because they are short stories, you can sit down and read one from start to finish in a relatively short sitting. And in the Christmas season, where there is so much to do and so much going on, you might only have a few minutes at a time to sit down with a book.
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All the stories in Crimson Snow are murder mysteries, but with protagonists who are not as well known as Albert Campion, Hercule Poirot or Lord Peter Wimsey, for example. Nevertheless, the stories are quaint and enjoyable, with neat and tidy endings. Also, Martin Edwards’  introduction to each story is full of interesting tidbits about the author or the history of the particular story – so it’s educational, too!

Another great Christmas read is Mystery in White by J. Jefferson Farjeon. This is a full-length novel, also set is the past, having been originally published in 1937. It’s actually quite creepy at times, with all the loose ends tied up nicely at the end, and there are multiple murders to keep you guessing throughout.
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I’m sure you all have your Christmas reading well in hand at this point. But just in case anyone out there needs some additional ideas, I hope these have helped. Merry Christmas!

A bookish retrospective

Hello, and happy new year! I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that you are also amazed by how quickly 2016 went by. It happens every year, so I don’t know why it is such a surprise each time, but…I can’t believe it!

Every year people write about all the books they’ve read, and I was always left wondering how I would fit in on the spectrum of volumes read per year. So in 2016 I kept a list, and I managed to get 26 books read this year! That number has made me especially skeptical of those who read over 100 books a year. Unless their job is to read and review books, of course. But for anyone with a full-time job to read over 100 books a year, I have to wonder.

2016 Reading Highlights

  • I discovered a new series this year: A Victorian Bookshop Mystery series by Kate Parker. They are obviously fluffy reads, but I love that they are set in Victorian England; the protagonist is the proprietor of a bookstore; there’s a cat, murder, intrigue and romance. What’s not to love?! A wonderfully entertaining escape from reality.

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  • The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell. I enjoyed this novel about a descendant of the Brontë family, and I was especially impressed by the author’s insightful comments about the Brontë girls and how events in the lives of the other sisters seem to have ended up in Charlotte’s best-selling work, Jane Eyre.

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  • As some of my posts this year indicated, I re-read some books that I haven’t looked at in years. Re-reading books is always enjoyable, because it’s like visiting with old friends. I read The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, which is one of my all-time favourites, and I think I will try to tackle The Moonstone this year, which I haven’t cracked open in close to 20 years.
  • I renewed my acquaintance with Agatha Christie. I read lots of her books in high school, but hadn’t picked one up in years! So after following @agathachristie on Twitter and reading about The Bibulous Bibliobiuli‘s challenge to read all of Christie’s works last year, I thought I would re-visit those classics, and have thoroughly enjoyed them. I try to pay equal attention to M. Poirot and Miss Marple.

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Who knows what this new year will hold? If I could make a wish, it would be for the space to build some shelves that can hold all the books in my home. Aside from that, I can’t wait to read more M. L. Longworth books, find out what happens in the newest Birder Murder installation (being released in May), and meet more new books, as well as re-visit some old familiar ones. Oh, and let’s not forget the next illustrated Harry Potter book, due out in October!

On that note, I wish everyone a happy and healthy new year! All the very best in 2017 – may your tea always be hot and your bookshelves always full.  🙂

Great Detective Fiction

As winter approaches, time spent indoors with a good book and a cup of something hot becomes more and more appealing. Something to aim for at the end of the day, even. But maybe you don’t know what to read. Perhaps you’ve read all the books from your Amazon wish list and those hours on the couch under a blanket are making you anxious because you don’t have any books waiting (unlikely for a book lover, I know).

Well, be anxious no more! I have just the thing for a chilly winter’s eve: great detective novels from the early 20th century. Do you enjoy Agatha Christie? Then you will surely like the works by these award-winning mystery writers.

John Dickson Carr – Master of the “locked room mystery” where the detective solves an impossible-seeming crime, his books are easy and delightful to read. Dr. Fell is the main detective in the books he wrote under this name, although there are a few other titles with a different detective figure. Carr is perhaps best known for The Hollow Man, published in 1935 (US title- The Three Coffins).  Carter Dickson was a pseudonym, and books under this name have Sir Henry Merrivale as the detective. Carr was prolific, and his work The Crooked Hinge (1938) is often cited as a classic of great detective fiction.

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Ngaio Marsh – More murder, mystery and detection from the 1930s make these books a fun way to spend an evening. Marsh’s first novel was published in 1934, and Death in a White Tie (1938) is one of my favorites. She wrote eight books in the 1930s, but went on writing until the early 1980s. The main detective figure in Marsh’s mysteries is British CID detective Roderick Alleyn.

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Dorothy L. Sayers – As with the others listed in this post, books by Dorothy Sayers are pure entertainment, with interesting historical aspects for the history-lover as well. Whose Body? was one of her most popular, released in 1923, although the bulk of her mysteries were written in the ’30s.  (Five Red Herrings- 1931, Have His Carcase- 1932, The Nine Tailors- 1934 and several others). Lord Peter Wimsey is her main detective figure; she and Ngaio Marsh were both “Queens of Crime” along with Agatha Christie.

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