PaperBackSwap Blog


Historical Fiction Review – Colonel Brandon’s Diary

February 10th, 2016

 

Colonel Brandon’s Diary by Amanda Grange

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

I love Jane Austen’s novels.  I have read each one more than once and I wish there were more.  I am forced to go to Austen retellings and continuations by other authors.  Amanda Grange has a series of novels that provide retellings from the heroes’ points of view.   I recently picked up Colonel Brandon’s Diary from one of my (too many?) ‘To Read’ bookshelves.

What I enjoyed about this book is I think it made Colonel Brandon more relatable.  In Sense and Sensibility he seems so serious and hard to get to know at times. This novel sheds some light on his possible thoughts and reasons for his actions.  Grange presents a Brandon with a gentle, caring spirit, which I think we see in Austen’s novel but not to this extent.

Robbed of happiness in love at a young age, Brandon thinks he is destined to be alone until his path crosses with that of Marianne Dashwood.  Brandon continues to try to right the wrongs of the past and make up for things he think went wrong because of his decisions (or indecision).

While I don’t think Grange’s novel possesses the depth of Austen’s novels, I think Grange does pay good homage to the characters and the spirit of Austen’s novels.  I think this novel series of heroes’ diaries is a fun way to revisit some favorite Austen characters.  I have also read Captain Wentworth’s Diary and Mr. Knightley’s Diary from Grange’s diary series and I liked Colonel Brandon’s Diary the best of the three.  If you’re a fellow Austenite, you may want to give this series a try.

Mystery Monday – Murder on Safari

February 8th, 2016

Murder on Safari by Hillary Waugh

Review by Matt B. (buffalosavage)

 

Waugh was the author of Last Seen Wearing (1952), the first of the police procedural genre.

Members of a safari to Kenya are divided into two groups: bird watching senior citizens and employees of a large privately held company. The mean racist owner-president is poisoned, then his son and daughter-in-law are dispatched in gruesome fashion.

The story is told from the point of view of a member who is also a journalist on the story of vacationing in game parks. He teams up with a burnt-out PI named Col. Dagger. This unfortunately brought to my wayward mind, “Col. Mustard in the library with the candlestick.”

As an example of the classic whodunit model published as late as the late 1980s, this was just okay. The characters are even more wispy than in usual genre novels. The unfolding of events and climax are unrealistic. As spiteful racists and cheats get knocked off, we feel no fear that a killer on a loose but callously relieved that the world is shut of thems that needed killin’

 

Mystery Monday – The Unquiet Sleep

January 25th, 2016

The Unquiet Sleep by William Haggard

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

Informal research and anecdotal evidence indicate Meron, a new tranquilizer, may be addictive. But a criminal gang of Cypriots in England wants it to be declared a dangerous drug so that they can provide it to its target market. It seems that busy business executive like the drug’s attraction: one tranquilly sleeps for an hour, then feels bright eyed and bushy tailed enough to go out for a night on the town. For middle-aged execs, the chance to take their wives out in the evening and escape charges of neglect is too tempting to pass up.

The government persuades the pharmaceutical company to withdraw the drug from the market so that research on its adverse effects, if any, can be determined. Col. Charles Russell and his underling Rachel Borrodaile check the availability of Meron on the black market.  Then, the scientist heading the research project is found dead in suspicious circumstances.

Colonel Russell heads the Security Executive. Its mission is simply to investigate matters that may cause the country hazard or risk, matters that don’t fall under the purview of other government watchdogs. The plot often hinges on new devices with a military application or in this case new products such as medications. Banks, research firms, and sophisticated criminal syndicates all put their hand in the situation. The human element plays a big part in plot development: marriages are shaky, health scares abound, middle-age offers the usual hazards.

At less than 200 pages the novels with Col. Russell always feature sharp, literate excitement. The political intrigue and existential angst of the middle-aged male professionals are both utterly plausible. Haggard’s female characters challenge me. On one hand,  Haggard’s portrayals seems wildly sexist in that Rachel Borrodaile wants to be seen for her womanly qualities instead of as just a “good soldier” or “good scout.” But Haggard also assumes that of course a woman like Rachel can be just as quick-thinking, logical, and quick on the trigger as any man. After all, like an Alan Furst teenager-hero, Rachel is a former French Resistance fighter who lost her right foot in circumstances she won’t discuss. It’s hard to pigeon-hole old-timey conservatives.

 

I always get rid of mysteries when I finish them, but I keep Haggard’s novels for re-reading. I cannot think of higher praise than this.

 

 

 

 

 

Author Interview and Book Give-Away with Lucinda Brant

January 20th, 2016

Deadly peril brant

Author Interview with Lucinda Brant by Jerelyn H. (I-F-Letty)

lucinda

Award winning author Lucinda Brant

A great deal has happened to Lucinda Brant since our last conversation 3 years ago. When we first talked, her books were only available in e-book, but now she’s hit the mainstream and for those of you who haven’t read her books you are in for a real treat. I describe her as an author of romantic historical fiction. For several reasons, the first being she really knows her time period, and it shows in her research. She is a self-described Georgian junkie. While the love story is central, the characters are flawed, and the journeys they undertake are often those of self-discovery. As they say—how can you love someone if you can’t love yourself? The next reason is her characters, they are people of the 18th century, so you don’t see glaring political correctness. You are presented with the social classes as one would see in the 18th century. The good, the bad, and the ugliness of classism and racism that never seem to go away. Yet Lucinda seems to deal with this as elegantly and effortlessly as her stories flow.

I want to thank Lucinda Brant for taking the time to be with us today. I would like to talk about all the books since this is Ms. Brant’s first time on PBS. But we will be focusing on her newest release Deadly Peril.

 

But first, what was your career before you became a writer and how, or should I ask why did you become a writer?

I’ve always been compelled to write, since an early age. So I think I’ve always been a writer. But making a living from writing, well that took much longer to achieve! As I always say “It takes 20 years to become an overnight success”. Which is another way of expressing Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 hours rule”—that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field.

Before becoming a full time writer I worked in university administration, and was also a teacher. I taught History and Geography at a girls’ boarding school.

Who are your literary idols?

Three come to mind. I read these authors in my teens, and I just loved their ability to create worlds into which I could escape from the everyday. Leo Tolstoy, Jane Austen, and Anthony Trollope.

When not reading for research, what do you read and do you have any favorite authors?

I rarely have time these days for recreational reading. And I actually prefer reading for research! But when I do take a break, I read far from my genre. My favorite author for pure escapism is Andrea Camilleri who writes the Inspector Montalbano series. Montalbano is a Sicilian detective, and Camilleri’s writing is spare, and he peppers his stories with the social issues facing Italy today. He is also very witty, and I often find myself laughing out loud.

 

What books did you love as a child and would recommend that children read today?

For much of my childhood we didn’t have TV, and we didn’t have the money for holidays or going to the cinema (the closest cinema was a thirty minute train ride away), so we had to amuse ourselves. But we did have a great town library, and my parents always found the money for books. So I read—a lot! J

My favorite early childhood book was The Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs. Gibbs had a terrific imagination, and was also an accomplished artist. She essentially wrote fairy stories that take place in the Australian bush.

Children should read whatever interests them. With the explosion of ebooks and availability of so many books geared to children and young adults, there’s never been a better time for reading. My daughter’s favorites were the Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket, and Deltora Quest books when she was younger, and then later she read Libba Bray, Richelle Mead, Scott Westerfeld, John Green, and classics such as the Brontes, Jane Austen, and Edgar Allan Poe—to name just a few.

 

When did your self-described Georgian Junkie emerge?

Very young! When I was about eleven years old and read Alfred Cobban’s A History of Modern France 1715-1789. Yes, I was a strange child to say the least!

 

What is it about this time period that intrigues you so?

Everything! From the fashions to exploration, and the beginnings of mass production and consumption. It was the Age of Enlightenment and refinement and manners, and yet it was also a time of revolution, poverty, slavery, and health risks such as childbirth being the number one killer of women. People were beginning to question everything about their existence, and many were striving to make the world a better place.

 

I love your vivid descriptions of the houses and clothing, of London and Paris.  If you could choose one of those cities to live in, in the 18th century which would it be and why?

London. As Samuel Johnson said at the time “If you are tired of London, you are tired of life”. London was the center of the world in the 1700s.

I treated myself just after Christmas to Eternally Yours (the Roxton Letters). I loved it. Was this a little gift for your fans?

Yes, I wrote the letters for my dear readers ! (So says the dedication)  I’m so glad you enjoyed them.  I so wanted to give my fans further insight into the lives of my Roxton family. I’ll will be writing the second volume once the sixth book is written.

I love your Pinterest boards for all the books. Did you have physical inspiration boards when you started out?

Isn’t Pinterest fabulous?! I love it! My boards allow me to show my readers behind-the-scenes of each of my books, and to showcase the 18th Century, and what I love about it.

I’d never had any physical inspiration boards before, just what I collected as postcards on my travels, or pictures in my research books. So Pinterest is just perfect, for my research, and as I said above, to give my readers further insight into my stories and my characters (and to show that I do, do my research!)

I love all your books, but Alec Halsey is just hands down my favorite.  What made you want to write a mystery series?

Thank you! I always loved reading mysteries, and from a young age. Who can forget “Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators” series? And then I moved on to the Jemima Shore mysteries by Antonia Fraser, Margery Allingham’s Albert Campion mysteries, and my all time favorites are the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy L. Sayers.

Mysteries are quite complex to plot and write, and I love the idea of the amateur aristocratic sleuth solving the crime. And the Georgian era just lends itself to murder and mayhem in aristocratic places!

You “made up” a country to set Deadly Peril in, why?  (By the way I think it works.)

Yes, I did!   But the geographical area in which the country is located isn’t made up. J It is very real, and I did a great deal of research into the geography, the weather of the area, and the geo-politics of the time. I chose East Frisia as the setting for my fictitious country of Midanich because of the stark terrain, the relentless winter weather, and because it is politically squeezed between the Netherlands and Denmark and bordered by German principalities, one of which is Hanover. The ruling dynasty of English kings are of Hanoverian descent, and in the 1760s still ruled Hanover from afar. Thus George the Third had a vested interested in that little corner of Europe and anything that might affect his Hanoverian Kingdom.

The Margravate of Midanich shares a border with Hanover. It has just been through the Seven Years’ War, and was occupied first by the French and the English, and now it is at civil war. Such a state of affairs would be of concern to the King and to his government. War could spill over into Hanover. Not only that, but the English government relies on troops from Midanich to bolster its forces overseas. So any disruption to the country means disruption to the supply of troops, which are required to help defend English territorial possessions in the American Colonies and of course, in Hanover.

I needed a country that fit the above criteria, and to be ruled by an unstable Margrave who is at war with his brother. Thus I borrowed the politics from several German principalities and made them my own in Midanich.

Many of your characters have come forward to tell their own stories, do they tell when they are ready or do you pick them?

They tell when they are ready. :)

I brought this up before because of your travels to Williamsburg, Virginia.  Will you be setting any of your books in the American Colonies? Charles and Sarah-Jane’s story maybe?  Please!

I’ve now visited Colonial Williamsburg three times, and just love the place! It is living history, and I learned so much just by observing and talking to the re-enactors, walking the streets, taking carriage rides, attending musical recitals and dancing lessons, and staying in 18th Century accommodations.

I may yet write Charles and Sarah-Jane’s story—or at the very least visit them. However, I first need to tell Mary’s story, and for the American Revolutionary War to end so that Charles and his family can finally make their home in the new country that is the United States of America.

 

I am very excited for Proud Mary. Can you share anything about this next novel?

I’ve felt compelled to give Mary a voice since Midnight Marriage when she was married to the pompous Sir Gerald Cavendish. Mary and her two brothers had an unhappy childhood, and this has shaped who they are. We met her brother Charles in Autumn Duchess, and know him for a supporter of the Patriot cause in the American Revolutionary War. Considered a traitor by the English, but a hero to those fighting for independence. And we discover a great deal about Mary’s elder brother Alisdair “Dair” in Dair Devil. But what about Mary, who is now a penniless widow? Is she merely a mouse with no opinions of her own? How does she feel about being the object of pity—the poor relation—of her wealthy cousins the Roxtons? As with Dair, there are hidden depths to Mary, and in her story we learn the answers to these questions, and much more.

And of course there are the continuing story threads: Antonia’s pregnancy; Jonathon’s return from Scotland; newlyweds Dair and Rory; and the hunt for the traitorous spy walking amongst them. And there are a few surprises along the way, too! J

I can’t talk to Ms. Brant without bringing up the audio versions.  She has had two very talented actors performing her books. Marian Hussey who performs Salt Bride and Salt Redux is wonderful.  Also the immensely talented Alex Wyndham who has taken on not only the Deadly series but the Roxton series as well. Many of your readers who also listen to audio books have fallen in love with Alex Wyndham’s talents.

 

Can you talk a bit about how you found these fine actors?

I found Marian when I was looking for the voice of Jane Despard. Marian has a wonderful talent for characters, particularly Jane!

I then went in search of the voice of Alec Halsey for my historical mystery series. I listened to I don’t know how many voice actors—maybe close to 50? Anyway, as soon as I heard Alex, I knew immediately he was THE ONE to be the voice, not only of Alec Halsey, but of the many characters in the series. He is a gifted actor and voice talent. I then asked him if he’d be interested in performing my historical romance series the Roxton Family Saga. He’d not done historical romance before, so I thought it a big ask. But he was more than up to the challenge, and in fact he has done a brilliant job with both series. I couldn’t be happier.

 

What is the process of taking a book from the page to audio?

It’s quite a process, because as well as the author and the narrator, there is the producer who brings everything together. BeeAudio have been wonderful in coordinating the various projects, and their sound engineers and editors have done a superb job in ensuring the sound quality and continuity are perfect.

I send the script (manuscript of the story) to the producer, along with production notes on the characters, and the narrator then reads through both, and if necessary gets in touch with any questions that require answering. The first 15 minutes are then recorded and I listen to that, and if all is well I approve this segment, the narrator then records the rest of the book. This will take several weeks, because the recording then goes to the producer, who makes certain there are no sound irregularities and that the script has been adhered to by the narrator. I’ve been told that for every hour of narration, it takes three hours of post production to ensure the quality of the recording.

When the producer is happy with the final product, it is sent to me to listen to and approve. I listen to the entire recording through my earphones, and while reading the script. Sometimes the narrator might deviate from the script, and often this is fine with me because Alex has managed to say a sentence, or put different emphasis on a particular word which can make the story that little bit better. In such cases, I will then change the script to suit. Which, though a process, is, in the age of ebooks, easy to do. I then republish the updated version of the book. In this way the reader and listener get the best possible version of my story.

 

Do the actors ever discuss the characters with you?

Yes. Alex and I have a collaborative partnership with each book, and I value Alex’s input in developing my characters for audio. This is particularly important for a series where the books span decades, such as the Roxton Family Saga, and characters grow from children into adults and then age. Taking a character on such a life journey requires skill and careful consideration on the part of the narrator.

As a professional actor Alex puts a great deal of time and effort into each character, getting the nuisances of their personality, motivation, and voice just right. He not only performs the book, Alex inhabits each character, so that they stand as individuals, and this is very clear in his audio performances.

Alex Wyndham is a very talented actor. A graduate of Oxford University (History honors) and of RADA (the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) he stuck in my mind when I first saw him in HBO’s Rome where he played Augustus Ceasar’s good friend and advisor Gaius Maecenas.  Most recently he played Captain Miles Hesketh-Thorne in PBS/BBC1’sWWI drama The Crimson Field.  I had listened to most of the audio books before I realized that I knew his film work.

He does such an amazing job in these audio books! He inhabits these characters, and as an avid audio book listener I realized his voice acting is as magical as the writing. I’ve often wondered how one person can bring so many characters flawlessly to life. So with that in mind I asked the social network group of Lucinda Brant fans (of which I am a member) Lucinda’s Gorgeous Georgian Gals if they had any questions they would like to ask Alex. Lucinda then sent Alex our questions, which he graciously agreed to answer.

So I would like to express my thanks to Alex for taking the time to indulge us, and thank the participation of Lucinda’s Gorgeous Georgian Gals.alex

Alex seems to have great fun voicing all your characters I’d be interested to know if he has favorites.

Definitely! Antonia Duchess of Roxton became a favorite—she has a lovely frank lightness to her. And sometimes performing with some accents makes things easier and more fun, as you have a musicality which you don’t have so much in English. I also loved Vallentine. Reading a whole series and going through so many experiences with the characters makes them feel very real.

1.     I’d like to ask Alex how he builds the characters and makes them so three-dimensional. For me Lucinda’s characters are as real as going to the movies, that if they walked into the room I’d know their every nuance. PS: If Lucinda’s books are made into movies, I can’t go see them unless Alex is in them!

How kind of you to say. I guess a lot of it is relying on your instincts. Everyone can read a book out loud and do the voices—and I think one’s imagination and subconscious can produce a lot of wonderful things if you learn to get out of its way (which is the tricky bit). Also you do have to put a fair bit of graft speaking in their voices to get them bedded in.

2.     Does Alex find a sense of freedom performing a book more so than when he acts in front of a camera or on stage?

Without a doubt. You are bound by so many other factors when on camera. With stage there is more freedom, but ultimately if it’s just you and the microphone and twenty plus characters you can really let loose. And you also end up playing characters you would never elsewhere—women, children, old men.

3.     How often does Alex need to take a break while recording, and does his throat suffer from changing voices so often?

Well vocal tension is important to manage—and is one if the areas you need to learn to manage if you’re going to play a wide range of voices for a sustained period of time. I usually break every hour unless I’m really in the zone.

4.     Does Alex perform and record each character separately and then digital processing puts everything in its place? How is it all done?

Wow I wish. But nope—it’s old fashioned stand in front of the mic and read the darn thing out loud cover to cover. Talking to yourself as several different people is definitely odd—but it’s actually not as hard as you think (give it a whirl!).

5.     Does Alex find it strange acting out a love scene where he plays both parts?

Ha! Only if it’s badly written (no problems there with Lucinda). If it’s well done you can just really get into the flow of it and its pretty fun. The biggest challenge is trying to ensure it doesn’t sound creepy or overblown. But I think investing in it 100% is crucial for that—if you don’t that’s where things come off the rails.

6.     Would Alex like to have lived as a Georgian gentleman?

I’d say yes, because the idea of ‘gentle’ behavior is a rather fine one I think, not to mention having a country estate to retreat to—but then if it actually happened I think I’d go mad from a life of endless leisure. Maybe I’d have to be a gentleman explorer or soldier…

7.     If this book [Deadly Peril] was made into a movie and he was offered the role of Alec, would Alex accept?

Absolutely!

8.     Besides the audio books for Lucinda—which I love Alex’s performances—is he going to do another movie or perform on stage anytime in the near future? His talent should not be limited to doing audio books—but he must continue recording Lucinda’s!

Well thank you very much. I have literally just finished a tiny cameo in BBC films’ ‘Mindhorn’ (Julian Barratt, Steve Coogan) which was a lot of fun. See if you can spot it. And I think this year should bring more stage and screen. But as an actor a lot of what happens to you is in the lap of the gods and you just have to roll with whatever comes up. Exhilarating and terrifying.

9.     Does Alex read the story first and make his decision on how to bring the characters to life through his voice, before actually recording of the book?

Always. Lots of wandering around muttering to myself trying to figure out a voice and get it settled. Also the cast needs to work well together and sound appreciably different, and characters are unpicked and revealed gradually through a book. So you need to have a comprehensive grasp of it all before you jump in. Otherwise you could end up in tricky situations where characters sound too similar or a crucial lisp is revealed after you’ve recorded half a book. Thank-you again Lucinda and Alex.

 

You can read much more about Alex Wyndham on these web sites:

Alex’s Imdb link. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2171441/

Alex’s audio book performances.
http://www.audible.com/search/ref=a_hp_tseft?advsearchKeywords=alex+wyndham&filterby=field-keywords&x=0&y=0

You can find much more about Lucinda Brant on these web sites:

Pinterest boards https://www.pinterest.com/lucindabrant/

Author site http://lucindabrant.com/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/LucindaBrantBooks/?fref=ts

Twitter https://twitter.com/LucindaBrant?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

Amazon
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0987243071?SubscriptionId=0QCHRJVSKG6F3BRGBNG2&tag=pbs_00016-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=2025&creative=165953&creativeASIN=0987243071

 

Ms. Brant is offering two copies of Deadly Peril, and three audio codes good for an audio book download of Deadly Peril,  please leave a comment in order to be eligible for the drawing. A winner will be chosen at random from PaperBackSwap Members who leave a comment here on the Blog.  Good Luck to everyone!

 

 

 

Winner of Lucinda Brant’s New Book Deadly Peril

January 19th, 2016


The Winner of a brand-new copy of Lucinda Brant’s New Book

Deadly Peril is:

Liz N. (lizn)

Congratulations, Liz! Your book will be to you soon.

And stay tuned to the Blog, tomorrow, Jerlyn (I-F-Letty) interviews Author Lucinda Brant. With more chances to win copies of this great new book!

 

To read Jerlyn’s Review of Deadly Peril, Click Here

 

 

 

Non-Fiction Review – Between a Rock and a Hard Place

January 13th, 2016


Between A Rock And A Hard Place by Aron Ralston

Review by Vicky T. (VickyJo)

 

It’s 3:05 p.m. on Sunday, April 27, 2003.  This marks my twenty-four-hour mark of being stuck in Blue John Canyon.  My name is Aron Ralston.  My parents are Donna and Larry Ralston, of Englewood, Colorado.  Whoever finds this, please make an attempt to get this to them. Be sure of it.  I would appreciate it.”

That was Aron’s first video-recorded message after becoming trapped in Blue John Canyon in Utah while on a hiking trip.  You may have heard about his ordeal; he’s the young man who had to eventually, after six days, cut off his own arm to save his life.  His book, “Between a rock and a hard place” tells his story.

Aron was 27 years old the morning he set out alone to hike in a secluded area of Utah’s canyons.  He was climbing down a narrow slot canyon when a large boulder dislodged, pinning his arm between the boulder and the canyon wall.  He was stuck, with little more than two burritos, a partial bottle of water, and his video camera.  The book’s narrative takes us back and forth between Aron’s past and his present predicament.   We learn about his childhood growing up in Colorado and how he loved and explored the outdoors; how he became skilled in hiking, mountain climbing, skiing and rescue work; and finally, what brought him to his present horrifying situation.

It soon becomes evident to Aron that no one is going to find him; there is no rescue party searching for him.  He hadn’t told anyone where he would be hiking which was a BIG mistake.  The only way for him to survive is if he amputates his arm to free himself from the boulder.  So, on the morning of the sixth day, Aron plans to amputate his arm with a very dull knife on his multi-tool, hike the eight miles back to his truck and then hopefully drive himself to a hospital. That’s the plan.

I will admit that I first picked up this book out of morbid curiosity.  The thought of someone cutting off his or her own arm was gruesomely fascinating to me. How do you prepare for something like that?  The courage and fortitude an act like that requires is just amazing.  And too, the more I thought about it, the more I wondered if that option would even OCCUR to me!   Plus, I am not a risk-taker, but I have a curiosity about people who ARE risk-takers…people who climb mountains or jump out of perfectly good airplanes…on purpose…I just don’t get it, frankly.  Aron tries to explain this phenomenon; he talks about how taking risks makes him feel alive.  They say the adrenaline rush is addictive; once they start, they must keep searching for another adventure, another rush. But adrenaline rushes make me feel as though my heart is going to stop, a feeling I dislike very much.  After reading the book, I understand his viewpoint, but I just can’t relate to it.  I guess I’ll just be a happy non-risk-taker who only reads about taking risks!

I will say that this book was very useful in one way.  Whenever I’m gearing up to do something I really don’t want to do; something I dread, like speaking in front of a large group of people…if I start to get all nervous or anxious, I stop and think, “Well, at least I don’t have to cut off my arm today.”  It really helps put everything into perspective.

 

 

 

 

 

Mystery Monday – The Case of the Half-Wakened Wife

January 11th, 2016

The Case of the Half-Wakened Wife by  Erle Stanley Gardner

Review by Matt B. (buffalosavage)

 

This Perry Mason novel from 1945, the 27th outing featuring this hero, is a tad longer than usual. The reason is that Gardner provides more exposition on the background of the inevitable murder. He also characterizes at length Ellen Bedson Cushing as the attractive, shrewd businesswoman that knows her way around, the kind of professional female that Gardner respected.

The characterization and description of the real estate chiseling and scheming, while interesting, somewhat delay the appearance of crack lawyer Perry Mason, his trusty confidential assistant Della Street, and his put-upon PI Paul Drake. Gardner also includes a funny scene in which Detective Tragg speeds through LA at a breakneck pace with Perry and Paul being shaken about in the back of the police car. Paul, in contrast to his usual imperturbable and suave self, acts like a nervous wreck when he’s not driving.

One upside is that Perry really bungles the case when dealing with his worthy adversary Tragg, such that Tragg ironically calls him “Sherlock.” As a downside, Gardner skips whodunit conventions by not really playing fair with information. The reveal seems complicated beyond what an intelligent reader would be expected to comprehend.