Monday, December 31, 2012

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

cover of The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan
I spent a good portion of the University winter break reading The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan. It is the second book in the Heroes of Olympus. The Percy Jackson & the Olympians told the story of the Greek demigods of Camp Half-Blood. This current series has a mix of Greek and Roman demigods. In the first book, The Lost Hero, Annabeth and Camp Half-Blood was looking for Percy Jackson who had gone missing. Jason Grace showed up, with a case of amnesia, and after Jason and Annabeth, Piper, and Leo from Camp Half-Blood freed Juno, Jason realized he was a Roman. In The Son of Neptune, Percy came back into the story. He had been missing for eight months. Juno had blocked his memory of who he was. Percy found himself making his way to Camp Jupiter. Percy had to prove himself to the Romans of Camp Jupiter, and of course, he does. Mars, aka Ares, appeared at camp, claimed Frank Zhang as his offspring, and told Frank that three of them would have to journey to Alaska to free Thanatos, the god of Death, who was imprisoned in Alaska. In order to free Thanatos, Because Thanatos was captured, people can’t die. In particular, monsters can’t die. Frank, Hazel Hazel Levesque, and Percy Jackson will have to kill the giant, Alcyoneus. We learned the back story of Frank, who was a mix of Roman and Chinese god, and would die when a particular piece of kindling he has burns out. Hazel died in the 1940s trying to prevent the rebirth of Alcyoneus. She was a daughter of Pluto, and was brought back by her half brother Nico di Angelo to right her wrongs.

As with the other books that Riordan wrote, this book had lots of good action and lots of mystery about what the future would bring. Would Frank die? What is his mystery? Will Hazel stay alive and right her wrongs? Would Percy get his memory back and rejoin Annabeth? Some of the questions were answered; others weren’t. Ever more questions were brought up before the book ends. Will Percy, Frank, Hazel, Jason, Annabeth, Leo, and Piper succeed in the Prophecy of the Seven? We’ll just have to read the other books to find that out. This book was a great example of Riordan’s action adventure for kids that even adults could enjoy. If you haven’t read Riordan, start with The Lightning Thief, and enjoy the journey!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Street of the Five Moons by Elizabeth Peters

cover of Street of the Five Moons by Elizabeth Peters
I have been busy with the end of term, and the best remedy for the stress is a good, ripping yarn! So, of course, I turned to Elizabeth Peters. Peters knows how to write a funny, entertaining story, with a bit of thrills and suspense. Since it’s been a while since I’ve read one of her Vicky Bliss novels, I chose the second one in the series, Street of the Five Moons.

Vicky Bliss is not your typical romantic suspense heroine. She is tall, blond, beautiful, smart, and able to take care of herself. Well, she has to take care of herself because she’s always getting herself into jams because she doesn’t stop to think about what she is doing. Street of the Five Moons is one of my favorites because it is the book that introduces Sir John Smythe, who we later learn is really John Tregarth. In Street of the Five Moons, the story begins with a dead man who has a fake copy of the Charlemagne necklace sewn into his clothes. This is brought to the attention of Vicky’s boss, Herr Professor Anton Z. Schmidt, who is the head of the museum that houses the Charlemagne necklace. Schmidt finds out that the necklace in the museum is really the real one, but he sends Vicky off to investigate the mystery. She talks to the police and figures out for a cryptic note in the dead man’s pocket that 37 Street of the Five Moons is the source of the necklace. Of course, she realizes that this is a street in Rome. Schmidt gives her the time off to investigate, and off goes Vicky. Of course, when she breaks into the antique store at that location, Vicky finds a list of names and a hungry Doberman. Vicky, although smart, isn’t sensible, and she goes back to the store the next day. She meets Smythe, and later winds up getting kidnapped. Smythe, although one of the bad guys, rescues her and tells her to get the heck out of Rome. Does our Vicky listen? No, of course not! Instead, she has figured out where she was taken while kidnapped. And of course, she manages to finagle an invitation to meet the people she thinks are the masterminds behind the crime. What else would she want to do? Well, before you know it, Vicky and Smythe are running of their lives, and murder is on the horizon.

The story is quite entertaining, and once I started reading, I didn’t want to put the book down. Peters knows how to write repartee, and Vicky and Smythe are quite likeable. Eventually, Peters tied in Smythe’s history to the Emersons, of the Amelia Peabody Emerson line. The youngest daughter of Ramses and Nefret is Smythe’s grandmother. The whole series is fun and entertaining. Smythe is an entertaining answer to other British criminals, like Raffles. I have the next book, Silhouette in Scarlet on my TBR pile from the library. If you haven’t read a Vicky Bliss, get Street of the Five Moons now. Read it; you’ll love it!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Trouble in the Brasses by Alisa Craig

cover of Trouble in the Brasses by Alisa Craig
I think that I have reached the saturation point with the Madoc and Janet Rhys mysteries. I just finished the fourth in the series, Trouble in the Brasses, written by Alisa Craig (aka Charlotte MacLeod). This one was really confusing for me, and definitely not my favorite. Madoc was called in to investigate trouble in the brass section of the orchestra that his father, Sir Emrys, was conducting. The book started with Madoc arriving at the concert. One of the guys in the brass section, Wilhelm Ochs, became ill and wound up dead right after the concert. Then a select few of the orchestra, singers, Sir Emrys, Lady Rhys, and Madoc go onto their next destination by private plane. Unfortunately the plane has an emergency landing in a secluded area. The story trundled on about the characters on the plane, how they were lost, how Janet must be thinking they are all dead, etc. Another murder, and plane-loads of news crews, but no rescue later, Madoc finally figured everything out just in time to hand off the murder to the local police.

As you might be able to tell from my description, I became disgusted with the book shortly into it, and it was quite a chore to get through the book. I found that it was taking forever to get through the book, which was surprising considering how short the book was (190 pages). The first thing that got to me was the even though Madoc was called in by his parents because of trouble in the brasses (hence the title), they seemed to be clueless that there was actually trouble. The characters all seemed rather two dimensional to me, and Janet Rhys only made an off-stage appearance at the end. That means that a message from Janet is relayed from Madoc to his parents. There’s only one more book in the series, but I just can’t bring myself to even be interested in wanting to read it. I think that if I continue with any other books written by Charlotte MacLeod, I’ll try another series. The Madoc and Janet Rhys series is as weak as skim milk. Okay, but not really filling.

Monday, November 12, 2012

4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie

cover of 4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie is one of my favorite authors. I started reading her books as a pre-teen, and I still enjoy them just as much as I did then. My favorite sleuth is Miss Marple. I can hear the groans from all of the Hercule Poirot fans. However, I feel a connection to Miss Marple. Her version of detection was recognizing the traits shared between the current batch of protagonists with those she has met throughout her life. Miss Marple only featured in thirteen of Christie’s novels, and in my opinion, all except for At Bertram’s Hotel, are very good books.
This past week, I read one of my favorites, 4:50 from Paddington or What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw. The first title was the original British title of the book, while the latter was common in the US. The book started with Elspeth McGillicuddy travelling by train from London to Saint Mary Mead a few days before Christmas. On the journey, another train passed Mrs. McGillicuddy’s train. The trains’ speeds matched as they rounded a curve, and as Mrs. McGillicuddy stared out the window, she saw a man with his back toward Mrs. McGillicuddy, strangling a woman in the adjoining train. Mrs. McGillicuddy was shocked. However, as she explained the situation to the ticket collector a few minutes later, she found that no one believed her. However, Mrs. McGillicuddy found someone who trusted her when she made it to Jane Marple’s house. Miss Marple took her friend seriously, and the pair started a short investigation. Since Mrs. McGillicuddy had to travel on to India, Miss Marple continued on the investigation herself. With the aid of a nephew and maps, she figured out where the body may have been dumped from the train, Rutherford Hall. Miss Marple was no spring chicken, so she enlisted the aid of Lucy Eyelesbarrow to find the body. Lucy, a highly-prized and expensive housekeeper, went to work at Rutherford Hall, working for Mr. Luther Crackenthorpe, an old curmudgeon, and his daughter, Emma. Luther’s grandson, Alexander Eastley came to visit for the school holidays with his school chum, James Stoddart-West. Lucy found a woman’s body in one of the old stables, stuffed in a sarcophagus. The woman matched the description of the woman that Mrs. McGillicudy saw being murdered. The question was if the woman was the mysterious Martine, the woman betrothed to the eldest son Edmund, who died in the war. Emma had received a letter from Martine before Christmas with an answering reply that Martine was returning to France. The other key members of the mystery:
  • Cedric Crackenthorpe, the eldest surviving son who lived on a remote island and painted
  • Harold Crackenthorpe, the married businessman
  • Arnold Crackenthorpe, the con artist
  • Bryan Eastley, Alexander’s father and widowed husband of Edith
  • Dr. Quimper, the family doctor
Miss Marple went to stay in the village around Rutherford Hall to be available for assistance, and to lend a helping hand to Dermot Craddock of Scotland Yard. Craddock was the godson of Sir Henry Clithering, who got a helping hand from Miss Marple in A Murder is Announced. Two more victims fell to the murderer’s hand before Miss Marple, Lucy, and the return of Mrs. McGillicuddy put the murderer behind bars.
I loved reading the book. The plot is tricky and convoluted enough to keep anyone guessing. Of course, if you watched any of the numerous movie and television adaptations, you knew whodunit. I’ve read the book a few times, and every time I reread it, I found a fresh clue. Sometimes people say that Christie made things up or provided the clues at the end only. Well, I think those folks just haven’t read the books, or they read them only once. I have to admit that I forgot that Martine was Lady Stoddart-West.
The only unresolved mystery in the book is Lucy Eyelesbarrow love life. Christie loved throwing in romance, and the suggestion was that Lucy found someone to marry. It’s left up in the air, but I think the clues are there. Every time the suggestion of marriage or choosing a partner came up with Lucy, she thought of the pig sty. That’s where Lucy had an interesting conversation with Cedric who was quite clear about NOT wanting to marry Lucy. Everyone else, including old Mr. Crackenthorpe, made a marriage offer to Lucy, including Alexander for his father. As Miss Marple told Dermot Craddock at the end, she was thought she knew Lucy’s choice. Miss Marple wasn’t keen on Brian, who was the suggested mate in the Joan Hickson television adaptation. Craddock was suggested as the mate at the end of the more recent Marple series. However, when you read the book, just pay close attention to the pig sty references. Also, Miss Marple wasn’t as keen on Brian. He was the sort who would never make wise financial decisions.
As a final note, the book was the basis for the Murder, She Said movie with Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple. The general plot was the same, but Miss Marple took a much move active role in the murder.
There’s so much to enjoy about 4:50 from Paddington or What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw. I strongly recommend it!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Dismal Thing to Do by Alisa Craig

cover of A Dismal Thing to Do by Alisa Craig
I’ve been slowly working my way through the few Alisa Craig books for Madoc Rhys and his new wife, Janet (nee Wadman). The third book in the series was A Dismal Thing to Do. In this one started out with Janet in danger. She was going to check out an old wooden washstand, and found herself stranded behind a crashed truck. Things got worse when Janet found herself trapped in a crashed barn, and later found out that the guy who crashed the barn claimed to have killed her. Fortunately, Janet’s car was stolen, and found by the RMPC. Madoc tracked down the directions Janet was following to the washstand and found Janet, relatively unscathed. Janet recognized the accent of the miscreants, AND she recognized the same accent in the mysterious Mr. X who was investigating the incident. It seemed that both the investigator and the perpetrator came from the same family, who just happened to live near Janet’s old homestead. Janet and Madoc go to stay with Janet’s brother, Bert, and his wife, Annabelle, to investigate, and with the help of the local residents, Madoc solved the the crime.

As with the other two in the series, A Dismal Thing to Do was a short book. There were several characters in the story, and at times, I found myself trying to write down who was who and how they were connected. I enjoyed the story, and I’ll probably continue with the last two in the series. I have found that I feel a connection to Madoc and Janet, and I wonder what will happen next.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Murder Goes Mumming by Alisa Craig

Cover of Murder Goes Mumming by Alisa Craig
The second book in the Madoc Rhys/Janet Wadman series was Murder Goes Mumming. Alisa Craig (aka Charlotte Macleod) set the book at Christmas time, hence the mumming part of the title. Madoc Rhys and his new fiance, Janet (pronounced Jennet), are invited to Graylings, a huge estate in the north of Canada. The Condrycke family was interested in Madoc because his father was a famous conductor, and his brother and sister were famous operatic singers. Donald Condrycke, who was on the board of the company where Janet worked, didn’t know that Madoc was just a lowly Mountie. When the family matriarch and her sister wound up dead, Madoc started his investigation. Well, he had to because the family was snowbound due to a blizzard. Of course, no one seemed to realize that Grannie Rosa was murdered, but Madoc guessed it. Then It looked like Cyril Condrycke killed his Aunt Adelaide while high on speed. Madoc, of course, figured out the murder, and had ample aid from his Janet.

The book was a nice pleasant read. I will admit that I was confused with all the characters. I was having trouble keeping all the brothers, sisters, and married partners straight. The Condrycke family was not very likable, so it didn’t matter that one of them was murdering the others. After the murderer was announced, it did make sense, but I was just confused trying to keep them all straight. I’ll continue on with the series because it is pleasant enough, and there are so few books in the total.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Pint of Murder by Alisa Craig (Charlotte MacLeod)

cover of A Pint of Murder by Alisa Craig
I came down with a touch of flu, and I really couldn’t seem to wrap my mind around anything. This was a problem because I had to grade proposals from my technical writing class. I put that off though, and I read A Pint of Murderby Alisa Craig. Alisa Craig was a pseudonym for Charlotte MacLeod, a prolific mystery writer, who wrote several series, including the Sarah Kelling/Max Bittersohn mysteries that I loved when I was younger. It’s been ages since I read any of MacLeod’s work, and I wanted to start with something that was brand new to me. The Madoc and Janet Rhys series was new to me, and A Pint of Murder was the first in the short series.

Madoc was a Mountie, a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He got called into a the suspicious deaths that happened next door to Janet (pronounced Jennet) Wadman. Janet had a bad experience with a jerk of a boyfriend, and she went to her brother’s farm to recuperate from an appendectomy. The woman next door died from botulism from a jar of home canned green beans. Janet thought it might be murder, and when she found a jar with cut beans instead of cracked beans, she wanted to take it to the doctor (and family member) of the murdered woman. When Janet arrived at the doctor’s home office with the beans, she found the doctor dead from a head injury. It looked as if the doctor had slipped on a rug while his wife was upstairs getting ready for an afternoon tea. Janet was sure both cases were murder, and she finally convinced the local marshal to call in the Mounties. Madoc appeared on the scene, fell in love with Janet, and found another murdered person. Madoc caught the murder, and paved the way for a future relationship with Janet.

The book was a very quick and easy read, and Janet and Madoc were very pleasant characters. A Pint of Murder was perfect for some light mystery reading while sick with flu. It was so good in fact, that I already started the second in the series, Murder Goes Mumming.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

cover of Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
I’ve read their individual novels, but I never read one by both Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. They have been writing the FBI Agent Pendergast series. Well, the best place to start a series is at the beginning so I got Relic from the local library. The book was written in 1995, and told the story of the Museum Beast. The Beast lived in the sub-basement of New York City Museum of Natural History. As the museum was setting up its Superstition exhibit, looking at various religious superstitions throughout history, two children visiting the museum are found disemboweled and headless. Agent Pendergast had investigated a similar killing in New Orleans, and he came to NY to help NY Police Lieutenant D’Agosta with the investigation. Dr. Flock, one of the museum associate directors, and his graduate student, Margo Green, found themselves investigating the murders and the possible Beast. Of course, political pressure in the Museum came to bear on Pendergast, D’Agosta, Flock, and Margo, but they steadfastly continued their investigation. When the jerk FBI agent, Coffey, allowed the Superstition exhibit to open with fanfare, I just knew that the shit was going to hit the fan. It did.

I found myself engrossed in the book. Yes, there was a good deal of gory description, but the thrills and excitement of the investigation and the horror of the Beast, kept me turning the pages. I was barely a quarter of the way through the book before I requested the next in the series, Reliquary. The gore didn’t bother me as much because it was supernatural gore. This wasn’t the horror of a human serial killer; it was the horror of a Beast, the Beast who hides in the dark down the hall and the dark corners of all of our minds. The end was especially good. Preston and Child gave a twist that left me gasping in wonder. Relic is a great suspenseful thriller, and I highly recommend it.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Grey Beginning by Barbara Michaels

cover of The Grey Beginning by Barbara Michaels
The Grey Beginning by Babara Michaels is a good, old fashioned gothic mystery. Kathy Malone is devastated by the death of her young husband, Bart Morandini. After seeking help from psychiatrists, she finally decides that she should go to Italy to make contact with Bart’s grandmother, the Contessa Morandini. The Contessa hasn’t replied to Kathy’s letters, and Kathy wants closure. When Kathy finally makes it to Tuscany and gets to the Morandini estate, she finds herself getting sucked into life there. The Contessa misinterprets Kathy’s stomach emptying with morning sickness and assumes that Kathy is pregnant. Kathy discovers that a ten-year-old child, Pietro, or Pete, is living a strange existence there. Pete is locked in his room and kept under close supervision. Pete lost his father and mother in a plane crash and was recently ripped from his home in the US. Kathy is concerned about Pete, and she becomes even more concerned when she hears that Pete has been trying to harm himself. Is it hereditary mental illness as the Contessa insists, or is it something else? Throw in the mean, hulking caretaker, Alberto, his sneaking wife, Emilia, the professor looking for letters from Browning, and the lunatic assistant gardener, and Kathy is up to her elbows in a sinister, gothic environment. Can Kathy resolve her issues over her husband’s death? Can she figure out what is going on with Pete, and possibly rescue him?

By the end of the book, all the loose strings are wrapped up. Although this book was published in 1984 and has a contemporary setting, the book is a great example of a classic gothic. Lurking evil, a huge house, and a feeling af entrapment permeate the book. I found myself getting caught up in the story and rooting for Kathy to figure out what the heck was going on. Of course, this wouldn’t be a romantic suspense gothic without romance, and Kathy has two potential suitors: Pete’s psychiatrist and the academic professor, David Brown. I thought the book was great, and I enjoyed reading it. I wish that Michaels/Peters/Mertz wrote more books in the genre.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Fallen Angel by Daniel Silva

cover of The Fallen Angel by Daniel Silva
I have been a fan of Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon for years. Every summer, I look forward to the latest installment. I do admit that I was starting to get slightly tired of Allon being beaten to near death, so I was really looking forward to The Fallen Angel.

The Fallen Angel had Allon back in Rome, restoring a Caravaggio for the Vatican. Pope Paul VII and his right hand man, Monsignor Luigi Donati returned as main characters in the story. I liked the other book that involved the Vatican, Pope Paul VII, and Donati, The Messenger. Allon was asked to investigate the possible suicide of a young woman who worked in the Vatican unit that investigated the ownership of Vatican relics. Her job was to determine if other countries might have a claim to the relics. Allon determined that the suicide was really a murder, and it lead him on a long, twisted journey into stolen antiquities and plots against the Pope and the Jews. The Arab terrorist groups weren’t happy with the Pope supporting the Jewish people. Allon raced against time to keep the Pope and the state of Israel safe.

I really enjoyed The Fallen Angel. I liked that Allon wasn’t at death’s door or that Chiara, Allon’s wife, wasn’t being terrorized. The action was well paced, and I found myself engrossed in the story. Silva told a great story, and he put in all the news about the region, with references to the Arab Spring and Muslim Brotherhood. If you haven’t read a Daniel Silva, you can start with The Fallen Angel. Although the characters have a back story from the other books, Silva recounts enough of it so the reader can enjoy the current book without reading the others. I would strongly recommend The Fallen Angel to anyone who loves contemporary action thrillers.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Terminal Freeze by Lincoln Child

cover of Terminal Freeze by Lincoln Child
I read Terminal Freeze by Lincoln Child on my Kindle. So, I’ll give some feedback on that experience with this particular book. Terminal Freeze is very much a thriller on the order of Michael Crichton. The book is set in the Arctic Circle region of Alaska. A group of scientists are working from the military’s Fear Base to study global warming. There are only a few military personnel still on the base because it has been closed down. The scientists are alarmed at the rapid thawing of glaciers in the area, and they start to notice a really distinctive blood red aurora, around the time they find a prehistoric creature, believed to be a saber-toothed tiger, encased in ice within a cave in one of the glaciers. The local Indian tribe, Tunit, leader journeys to the base to warm the scientists to cease and desist. However, the cogs are the wheel are already in motion. The scientists are there thanks to a grant from a media corporation, who sends out a team of film production people to make a documentary. The producer, Emilio Conte, digs up the chunk of ice enclosing the creature and takes it to the base to thaw an expose on a live broadcast. However, as soon as the thawing process starts, the creature disappears. The production folks believe the creature was stolen, but the scientists start to believe that the creature was flash frozen alive, and that when the ice was thawed, the creature came to life. Well, it turns out he scientists are right, and the creature, much larger and deadlier than a saber-tooth starts to prey on the people at Fear. A blizzard keeps the people at Fear, and it becomes a race to see if the creature can be stopped.

I really enjoyed the thrills of the story. Some of the descriptions of the creatures ripping apart of the people it hunts down can be a bit gruesome, but it’s not so bad that I couldn’t finish reading the book. I didn’t feel that Lincoln Child had such a tight grip on the characters. i wasn’t sure if he planned on featuring Evan Marshall, one of the scientists originally at Fear, or Jeremy Logan, a historian/enigmalogist who is the main character in Third Gate, the new Lincoln Child book. Although the story is formulaic, I still enjoyed it.

My only problem was with the Kindle format. It seems that when the Kindle copy was created, from a print version. At least I assume that because some of the words have hyphens in the middle of sentences, as if the word was originally hyphenated at the end of a sentence. It was consistent throughout the Kindle version, and it really started to irritate me.

Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie

cover of Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie
This is the final book in the Poirot in the Orient collection. I hate the character of Mrs. Boynton, who eventually is murdered, and I admit that I look forward to her murder. In the book, Mrs. Boynton rules her step-children and own child with an iron fist, causing them all much mental anguish. Lennox, Raymond, Carole, and Ginevra (Mrs. Boynton’s biological daughter) all suffer mental torment at Mrs. Boynton’s hand. They are captives, unable to escape. The only person not affected by Mrs. Boynton is Lennox’s wife, Nadine, but Nadine is troubled because she loves Lennox and can’t get him to escape. Mrs. Boyton usually keeps the family at home, but she decides to take a trip to the Middle East. The trip gives her a chance to test and strengthen her hold on the family. However, revolt is in the air, and Hercule Poirot overhears Richard and Carole talk about how they must murder Mrs Boynton in order to escape. When Mrs. Boynton dies on a trip to Petra, the local authority, Colonel Carbury calls in Poirot to find out what really happened. Additional characters in the book are:
  • Sarah King, a young doctor who has fallen in love with Richard (and vice versa)
  • Dr. Gerald, a French psychologist who is fascinated by the relationships in the family and troubled by the anxiety he sees
  • Jefferson Cope, a family friend who is in love with Nadine
  • Lady Westholme, a member of Parliament, who just happens to be on the trip
  • Miss Pierce, an older woman who also just happens to be be on the trip
I have to admit that this is not the first time I read the book. I knew who the murderer was, but I have to admit that I remember from the first that I was truly surprised at whodunit. Christie knows how to present the psychology of the various characters. Mrs. Boynton oozes evil. You want someone to kill her and to make her suffer the way she made others suffer. But as Poirot says, murder is murder. The murderer should not be allowed to walk free just because the person deserves to die. Of course, Nadine Boynton brings up the case on the Orient Express, but Poirot dismisses that as an aberration in his usual technique. If you haven’t read it, you should. See if you can figure out the murderer. The clues are there, and Christie tries to get the reader to see it by calling out the significant points. All I know is that Appointment with Deathis an enjoyable and satisfying mystery.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

cover of Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
I’ve been reading Poirot in the Orient, which is a three novel collection that features Hercule Poirot on trips in the Middle East. The first was Murder in Mesopotamia. I just finished the second in the collection, Death on the Nile. I’ve read this one a few times, and, of course, I watched the movie with Peter Ustinov as Poirot. The movie is somewhat faithful to the book, with some minor changes in the amount of characters. In Death on the NIle, we have some buildup before the story moves to Egypt. Linnet Ridgeway is a young, wealthy girl. She always gets what she wants, and what she wants is her friend’s fiance. Jacqueline de Bellefort winds up losing Simon Doyle to Linnet, and that’s when the problems start. Jackie starts to follow Linnet and Simon their honeymoon, trying to make them feel miserable. The honeymoon winds up in Egypt, where the Doyles, Jackie, Poirot, and a cast of others start to sail down the Nile. The others include an American lawyer who is embezzling Linnet’s fortune, a jewel thief, a kleptomaniac, and a person with drinking problems. These people add a wealth of potential murderers, and it’s only because of Poirot that the murder is solved. Colonel Race also makes an appearance in the book, and he aids Poirot in the investigation.

Because I was so familiar with the story, I read it with an eye to see if the clues add up. One of the raps against Christie is that she makes up things at the end to tie all the clues together. However, on the close reading of Death on the Nile, all the clues were there, and in fact, they seemed quite obvious. Christie did a great job with the mystery in this book. It ranks, in my mind, in the top ten of her books. The book was originally published in 1937, which is right before the golden era of Christie. Most seem to think that the books published from the late 1930s to 1940s are the best of the bunch. If you have only seen the movie, you should definitely read the book. I believe that you will enjoy the book and appreciate the movie even more.

The last in the collection is Appointment with Death. I just started reading that one today.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie

Cover of Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie
Murder in Mesopotamia is one of the early Agatha Christie mysteries. It stars Hercule Poirot, and it’s part of the Poirot in the Orient set that I’m reading. The novel was published in the summer of 1936, and it’s perfect for summertime reading. The narrator of the story is Ann Leatheran, a nurse called in to help with a woman, Louisa Leidner, who seems to be having issues with fear. As Nurse Leatheran finds out, Mrs. Leidner is receiving threatening letters from her first husband, who was supposed to have died in a train wreck while trying to escape from execution for treason. When Mrs. Leidner found out about her husband’s treason, she turned him in to her father, who was in the US defense office. Every time Mrs. Leidner was close to a man, she would receive a threatening letter that would cause her to drop the man. She did not receive a threatening letter when she married Dr. Erich Leidner, an archaeologist. However, after the marriage the letters started up again. When Nurse Leatheran appears on the scene, the Leidners are in Iraq on an archaeological dig. Shortly after Nurse Leatheran starts on the job, Mrs. Leidner is murdered. Hercule Poirot happens to be passing through on his way from Baghdad, and the local police call him in to assist with the mystery.

I really loved the book. Although I read the book several times, I would have to admit that it’s not obvious who the murderer is and how the murder was committed, Even the second murder of Dr. Leidner’s assistant, Miss Anne Johnson, wasn’t an obvious one. Christie did a great job in telling the story through Nurse Leatheran’s eyes. She gives her opinion of Poirot, not impressed at first, but then seeing him as the skilled surgeon that she was assisting. Of course, at the end, Poirot gathers everyone together, and after explaining how everyone could have done the deed, he finally explains how it really happened. This is a great Christie story, and I would highly recommend it.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Wait for What Will Come by Barbara Michaels

cover of Wait for What Will Come by Barbara Michaels
Yep, I read another Barbara Michaels. I’m starting to narrow down the list with only a few left unread. This time I read Wait for What Would Come. The premise behind this book is that Carla Tregallas is the only known heir to a Cornish estate. Her many times great uncle Walter Tregallas died without children, and in his will, he left everything to any heir that carries the name of Tregallas. Carla is the only one left, and instead of selling the estate unseen, she decides to go to England. When she gets there, she finds a run-down estate and a mysterious threat. It seems that every two hundred years on Midsummer’s Eve, a young female Tregallas falls victim to a merman, who comes out of the sea to claim his bride. Carla is the intended victim, and she has the added burden of looking just like the last victim, Lady Caroline Tregallas. Carla falls in love with the house and wants to stay, even though everyone seems bound and determined to get rid of her. Mrs. Pendennis, the elderly housekeeper, seems the most bothered by the legend. Her grandson, Michael, doesn’t buy the legend, but he is worried about his grandmother. Others involved in the mystery are the doctor, Simon Tremuan, the lawyer, Alan Fairman, the lawyer’s sister, Elizabeth, and the parson, John. Will Carla be the next victim of the merman, or will she continue to live happily in Cornwall?

I enjoyed the story. There was just the right amount of suspense. I wondered if Carla would figure out who was behind the mysterious happenings that made it look like a merman was after her. There was a real build up of the tension, and the end was spooky. All the men appear to be after Carla, but are they really, or are they just trying to get something from Carla, like the estate? Wait for What Will Come had me on the edge of my seat.

Charles Geer illustrated the cover of the book, and it gives a great representation of the story. Geer does a great illustration, and it conveys the mood of the story.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Dark on the Other Side by Barbara Michaels

cover of The Dark on the Other Side by Barbara Michaels
Barbara Michaels’ The Dark on the Other Side is an interesting book. The story is told by two narrators. At times, we hear from Linda Randolph, wife of the charismatic Gordon Randolph, and at others, we hear for Michael Collins, who is to write a book about Gordon. Linda Randolph is troubled, alcoholic, and a potential danger to herself and her husband. Why? It seems that Linda is troubled by visions of a black dog, and that the visions are making her want to murder her husband. As Michael starts to research Gordon’s past, he finds that Gordon is a bit of an enigma. Gordon has had great success in writing (only one critically acclaimed book) and politics. Even though Michael’s father taught Gordon at college, Michael can’t remember his father showing great interest in Gordon. After traveling to the college where Gordon taught, and married Linda, Michael starts to notice that there seems to be a trail of people in Gordon’s wake who either committed suicide or fell into serious issues with drug abuse. Could Gordon have somehow influenced the people in a negative way? What is the meaning of the black dog that Linda sees? Is there some supernatural element at hand, or is it just the psychotic delusions of an alcoholic?

I have to admit that the switch in voices threw me at the beginning of the book. I was trying to figure out what was going on, and who was the main protagonist of the book. Well, there isn’t one protagonist; there are two. Michaels turns from ghosts to a different type of woo-woo: demonic powers. As I was reading, I started to agree with the protagonists that Gordon is a demonic force, but then the voice of reason, in Galen Rosenberg, made me wonder if it was just a collective hallucination brought on my psychosis. The end of the book is satisfying. Good triumphs over evil. The end was especially satisfying because I read it while a strong thunderstorm was providing suitable background music. The book isn’t the strongest of the Michaels’ books, but I enjoyed it.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Murder, She Wrote: The Queen's Jewels

Cover of Murder, She Wrote: The Queen's Jewels by Donald Bain
I was looking for something light to read on my Kindle while I wait for Harry Potter and Lincoln Child books to be available on my library’s Overdrive site.Murder, She Wrote seemed like a good choice, and the library had only one book available for Kindle. I’ve never read a Murder, She Wrote book, but I did like the series, so I thought I would give it a try. The book was Murder, She Wrote: the Queen’s Jewels, which is rather misleading. The story isn’t about the Queen’s jewels, but about diamond thefts that happen in London. One is a huge blue diamond called the Heart of India. The owner of the diamond was murdered during the robbery. Jessica Fletcher went to London and was planning to return to the US by crossing the Atlantic on the Queen Mary 2. The authorities thought that the Heart of Indian and the diamond from various jewelry thefts in London are onboard the ship. Joining Jessica onboard are Michael Haggerty (retired MI6 spy from the TV show) and Dennis Stanton (retired thief, working insurance fraud investigator from the TV show). Both used aliases to hide their identity. Of course, with the help of Jessica Fletcher, the theft and murder were solved.

The book was a quick read. it was very much like the show, although I found the mystery to be a bit of a disappointment. The murderer/thief was obvious from the beginning. In fact, I was disappointed with the solution of the mystery because it just seemed anticlimactic. I did have some tears at the end because of the death of one of the characters. I’m going to give some of the other books a try because it was like watching the TV series, but don’t expect anything more than a light, uncomplicated mystery.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Death Match by Lincoln Child

cover of Death Match by Lincoln Child
Death Match by Lincoln Child really grabbed my interest. The premise was super couples, matched by a dating/partner matching service called Eden, were committing suicide. Super couples have a 100 percent match in compatibility. The genius behind Eden is Richard Silver, a computing genius who created a system called Liza. Well, you could say that Liza is the genius behind the matches. Silver made Liza self-aware, and with Liza, Eden was able to quickly match up perfect couples. With Eden, you found your soul mate. Christopher Lash, former FBI profiler, was called in to help Eden solve the mystery of why the couples are committing suicide. Lash was troubled by the suicides because the couples were happy, and they definitely didn’t fit the profile of someone who would commit suicide. As Lash continued his probe, he became more sure that the the couples were murdered. The more he researched, the more his own life seemed to unravel. Was there a connection between his research and the problems?

Death Match was a great read. Of the three Lincoln Child books that I read recently, I enjoyed Death Match the most. I suspected who the murderer was midway through the book, but that didn’t ruin the story or the suspense for me. I was wondering how things would progress, and Child kept the suspense on the high burner. I wound up returning to work late because I became engrossed in the story over lunch. I am so glad that I found Child, and I cannot wait to read more!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Deep Storm by Lincoln Child

cover of Deep Storm by Lincoln Child
I now have two reading piles. One is of physical books; the other is on my Kindle. I just finished reading Deep Storm by Lincoln Child on the Kindle. As I mentioned earlier, I love Michael Crichton thrillers, and Lincoln Child writes his thrillers with a scientific bent, just as Crichton did. Deep Storm is about a US government search for something buried deep within the planet. During an oil drilling test, the workers noticed some unusual signals. Saying that they are looking for the Atlantis. However, there is something else, something buried, perhaps by an alien race. The US government sends down scientists and military to the deep ocean floor in a secured facility that is only accessible by mini sub once a day. Things get tricky when some of the folks in the facility start to show signs of illness. The problem is that the illnesses don’t have a common thread. To help them explain the problem, Dr. Peter Crane is called in to investigate. Crane quickly figures out that the Atlantis story isn’t right. Can Crane find out what is causing the illness, and can he answer troubling questions over the signals being received from the thing beneath the Earth’s crust?

One thing that I noticed right away is that the action in Deep Storm is very similar to The Third Gate. The hero is kept in the dark about what is going on, has to figure out a complex problem, and then finds himself in life-threatening situation. Oh, and not only is he in the life-threatening situation, all the others on the expedition are also in trouble. So many authors who write in a particular genre follow a formula or template. Child obviously does that, unless I just happened to read the two books that were eerily similar. Does that mean that I didn’t like Deep Storm? Nope! I loved the book. I found myself unable to put it down. I really didn’t figure out who the saboteur was, although in hindsight, I think I should have figured it out. A good thriller, and I recommend Child if you want an action filled page-turner.

Matilda by Roald Dahl

cover of Matilda by Roald Dahl
There are many childhood classics that I somehow missed reading during my childhood. It’s easy to understand because I didn’t have anyone to help guide and nurture my reading. Of course, I have no problem with reading children’s books as an adult, so I am always quick to remedy the situation. Matilda is one of those books that I haven’t read. Yes, I saw and LOVED the movie, but I never thought of the book. Well, I saw the movie again a few weeks ago. I got the book from the library and started to read. Roald Dahl’s story is very heartwarming. Matilda is a little girl who really doesn’t fit into her family. She is very smart. Matilda loves to read. Her family loves to watch mindless television. Matilda doesn’t like it when her father or mother do things to demean her, so Matilda gets back by pulling pranks, like putting hair bleach in her father’s hair tonic and hiding a talking parrot in the chimney so her parents think the house is haunted. When Matilda goes to school, she meets a kindred spirit in Miss Honey, but she also meets her arch-enemy, Miss Trunchbull. Miss Honey realizes that Matilda is something special,and she tries to get others to see Matilda’s worth. Instead, Miss Honey runs into roadblocks. Matilda’s biggest problem is the Trunchbull, who terrorizes all the children. When the Trunchbull starts to terrorize the kids in Matilda’s class, Matilda finds out that she has the power to make a glass of water tip over with energy from her eyes. She tells Miss Honey about her powers, and Miss Honey tells Matilda how her mother’s sister cheated Miss Honey out of her home and money, and possibly even murdered her father. Well, Matilda practices her powers, and when the Trunchbull shows up to terrorize the class, Matilda is ready for her. The story has a great ending with Matilda and MIss Honey living happily ever after. It is such a heart warming story!

I really loved reading the book, and I could see some of my childhood experiences in the book. My parents and brother did not read. They didn’t understand how I loved to read. The difference is that my parents took me to the library, and even though they didn’t understand it, they let me read. When I was six, my father gave me a dictionary so I could understand all the words inTom Sawyer. If you ever feel a bit down in the dumps, or needing some cheering up, I would strong recommend reading Matilda. Timeless, classic stories aren’t defined by the age of the reader; they are defined by the experience the reader gets from the story.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Third Gate by Lincoln Child

cover of The Third Gate by Lincoln Child
Since Michael Crichton died, I’ve been looking for an author that would give me a thriller with some science thrown in. I tried Lincoln Child, starting with his brand new book, The Third Gate, and I was not disappointed. The Third Gateonly has a hint of a science background. The protagonist in this story is Jeremy Logan. Logan investigates the paranormal or unusual claim. Logan has been to Loch Ness, and he’s investigated haunted houses. In this case, Porter Stone, a famous explorer and archaeologist, gets Logan to investigate abnormal happenings on one of his digs. Stone has gone to the swamps of the Sudd to search for Narmer’s tomb. Narmer is the pharaoh who united North and South Egypt into one. Stone believes that Flinders Petrie had discovered the location of Narmer’s tomb and the royal white and red unification crown, but that Petrie wasn’t able to get the funds to start the search before Petrie died. Weird sightings have been seen in the state of the art facility, and the people are starting to get jumpy. Logan travels to the area with Ethan Rush, a former ER doctor, who investigates NDE (near death events) since his wife, Jennifer, experienced her own NDE. Well, things get really crazy when Rush starts having Jennifer try to channel Narmer so the team can locate the tomb AND bypass the warnings and threats if someone tries to cross the three gates to Narmer’s tomb. They do locate the tomb, and they also locate evil that can sabotage the whole mission.

The Third Gate was a great thriller. I found myself engrossed in the story, and read it quickly over the past weekend. Child gave just the right blend of information with thrills. Of course, you do have to suspend some sense of reality with the possession aspect with NDE, but the story moved quickly. Yes, there was a woman archaeologist who at first was an antagonist, and later an aide in solving the mystery. All around, I was satisfied with the thriller aspect of the book, and I look forward to reading other of Lincoln Child stand-alone books. Child also writes with Douglas Preston, and Preston & Child have a whole slew of books with FBI Special Agent Pendergast. I haven’t read any of those books, so I have a lot of books to add to my to-be-read piles.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Witch by Barbara Michaels

cover of Witch by Barbara Michaels
I’m slowly making my way through Barbara Michaels’ books, and I just finished Witch. This is another of the earlier books that I think are far superior to the books from the 1990s and later. Witch has another one of those atypical Michaels heroines. Ellen March is divorced and in her later thirties. She has been taking care of her sister’s kids, three boys, after the sister’s death. Ellen and her daughter, Penny moved in with Jack and his sons, and although Ellen felt love for Jack, she kept the feelings to herself. As the boy all go over to college, and Penny, at the age of 16, is headed to a trip to Europe for the summer before heading to boarding prep school, Ellen decides to look for a house of her own. Jack, a career diplomat with foreign services, is headed to Europe, so it’s the best time for Ellen to look for her own house. After looking around, Ellen found the perfect house, off in the woods. Ed Salling, sales the house to Ellen, but warns her to keep away from the folks in the village. As Ellen learns more about the house, which used to belong to the local witch in the 1700s. The witch was the wife of a wealthy landowner, probably Spanish, who was also probably Roman Catholic. Ellen doesn’t learn much about the witch, other her love of animals and her death by hanging. Was is suicide or murder? Is the white cat that Ellen sees around her house, a ghost of the witch’s cat. What’s the shadow that haunts Ellen at night in her bedroom? Ellen becomes involved with her neighbor Norman and his nephew, Tim. Tim seems to be a troubled boy, and Ellen tries to get his uncle to help him. It also doesn’t help when the narrow-minded, extreme religious sect in the town starts to think Ellen is a witch.

The story really kept me on the edge of my seat. I found that I couldn’t put the book down, and I was eager to see what would happen with Ellen and Tim, and if Jack would ever realize that he and Ellen were the perfect couple. Everything works out in the end, but the book is one heck of a thrill ride. I would definitely recommend the book. There’s not that much woo-woo, but there is the haunted overtone. I wish Michaels would have written more books, or could still churn them out as she did in the 1960s through 1980s.