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Archive for March, 2015

Mystery Monday – Best Max Carrados Detective Stories

Monday, March 30th, 2015

Best Max Carrados Detective Stories by Ernest Bramah


Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


It is a tribute to his imagination and writing ability that Englishman Ernest Bramah (1868 – 1942) remains fairly well-known as the author of the Kai Lung stories, artistically licensed as narrated by a Chinese teller of tales.

Bramah’s Max Carrados books are also well-regarded. The books are collections of short stories starring a wealthy blind man, Max Carrados, one of whose hobbies, besides collecting ancient Greek coins, was criminal investigation. This Dover reprint kicks off with the story that introduces Carrados and his pompous sidekick the professional PI Louis Carlyle “The Coin of Dionysius.

But a better story is the second one “The Mystery of the Vanished Petition Crown.” A coin collector himself, Bramah uses his own experience with coin dealers and coin auctions to write this persuasive story. After finding the missing coin with supernatural insight, Carrados tells us mortals how to do his method, as if Zeus were instructing us dudes on how to become swans to attract the ladies:

[T]here is no form of villainy that I haven’t gone through in all its phases. Theoretically, of course, but so far as working out the details is concerned and preparing for emergencies, efficiently and with craftsman-like pride. Whenever I fail to get to sleep at night-rather frequently, I’m sorry to say–I commit a murder, forgery, a robbery or what not with all its ramifications … the criminal mind is rarely original, and I find that in nine cases out of ten that sort of crime is committed exactly as I have already done it.

 “The Holloway Flat Tragedy” is a departure from the usual “inexplicable crime” story in that it involves a murder, but its psychological insight is convincing and the twist is quite satisfying. Other stories involves puzzling cases Louis Carlyle has brought to involve nutty but all too human behavior such as “The Ghost at Massingham Mansions” or “The Mystery of the Poisoned Dish of Mushrooms,” or the unique “ The Disappearance of Marie Severe,” which includes tough smacks at Christian Science and its obnoxious American proponents.

The appeal of the stories is that an attention to detail and robust characters contribute to an air of verisimilitude. Also attractive are the Edwardian interjections “egad” and “pshaw” not to mention turns of phrase like “But, for all that, I feel devilishly bad.” This kind of Dickensy turn, a reader likes or doesn’t like, I suppose:

Mr Carlyle had no difficulty in discovering the centre of interest in the basement. Sir Benjamin was expansive and reserved, bewildered and decisive, long-winded and short-tempered, each in turn and more or less all at once. He had already demanded the attention of the manager, Professor Bulge, Draycott and two underlings to his case and they were now involved in a babel of inutile reiteration. The inquiry agent was at once drawn into a circle of interrogation that he did his best to satisfy impressively while himself learning the new facts.

 “A babel of inutile reiteration.” It’s been a long time since I felt that rush of a thirteen-year-old reader, that buzz a reading kid gets from seeing new words deployed in new ways, usually in Sherlock Holmes stories. Plus, “a babel of inutile reiteration” perfectly describes too many meetings that, because I am a sinner, I am compelled to attend….

I don’t think the more far-fetched stories are any more far-fetched than a Sherlock Holmes story such as “Speckled Band.” Some points test skepticism. Max Carrados has supernaturally sensitive finger-tips, so he can read the headlines and even some of the 12-point in an ordinary newspaper. Ink is raised on the rough paper of a newspaper, don’t you know? Carrados’ super-sharp sense of temperature changes, hearing, taste and smell also allow him to gather clues out of the ken of us seeing folk. His disability is no barrier to excellence.

I unearthed this book on the recommendation of George Orwell. In the essay “Good Bad Books” he cites Ernest Bramah by name as the writer of “[a] type of book which we hardly seem to produce in these days, but which flowered with great richness in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, is what Chesterton called the “good bad book”: that is, the kind of book that has no literary pretensions but which remains readable when more serious productions have perished.” The Max Carrados stories have remained in print for about a century by now and at present are available in various electronic formats (and free at Project Gutenberg). What better proof that they have stood the test of time?

Free Book Friday Let’s Get Cooking Winner!

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

FBF banner 2015 spring winner


The Winner of the Let’s Get Cooking 3 Book Prize Package is:


 Toni B. (finetacodog)


Congratulations, your books will be on the way to you soon!


Thank you to everyone who commented on the Blog!

Free Book Friday! Let’s Get Cooking!

Friday, March 27th, 2015

FBF banner 2015 spring


This week’s Free Book Friday Prize is a 3 book package that includes a copy of each of these books:


Julia Child: A Life by Laura Shapiro

The delicious life of one of the most beloved figures in twentiethcentury American culture. With a swooping voice, an irrepressible sense of humor, and a passion for good food, Julia Child ushered in the nation’s culinary renaissance. In Julia Child, award-winning food writer Laura Shapiro tells the story of Child’s unlikely career path, from California party girl to coolheaded chief clerk in a World War II spy station to bewildered amateur cook and finally to the Cordon Bleu in Paris, the school that inspired her calling. A food lover who was quintessentially American, right down to her little-known recipe for classic tuna fish casserole, Shapiro’s Julia Child personifies her own most famous lesson: that learning how to cook means learning how to live.
ISBN 9780143116448, Paperback


Tamales 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Making Traditional Tamales

by Alice Guadalupe Tapp

Tamales 101 A Beginner’s Guide to Making Traditional Tamales by Alice Guadalupe Tapp Corn-husked bundles of fresh masa plump with wonderful combinations of sauces, meats, and vegetables—tamales are a simple and delicious staple of Mexican and Southwestern cuisine. Alice Guadalupe Tapp has perfected the art of tamale making, and in TAMALES 101 imparts her knowledge and passion for this comforting treat. TAMALES 101 will show beginners how to make masa dough as well as fold and steam tamales to perfection. Then, once you’ve mastered the basics, you’ll be whipping up batches of Chicken Tomatillo, Chorizo Potato, Vegetable Curry, and Greek tamales in no time. With recipes for nearly 100 traditional, vegetarian, vegan, and specialty tamales and sauces, TAMALES 101 will send you on a culinary adventure that’s sure to delight and impress your guests.
ISBN 9781580084284, Paperback
There are currently 15 Members wishing for this book


The Hot Sauce Cookbook by Robb Walsh

From veteran cookbook author Robb Walsh, this definitive guide to the world’s most beloved condiment is a must-have for fans of dishes that can never be too spicy. — Robb Walsh, founder of the annual Austin Hot Sauce Festival and a recognized authority on all things piquant, created this combination cookbook/project manual/food history to appeal to the legions of hot sauce fans around the world. With chapters on the history of hot sauce, tips and recipes for making your own brand-inspired sauces at home, and more than 50 recipes using hot sauce- ranging from Nuclear Wings to Carolina Sloppy Joes to Spicy Bloody Marys to Pickapeppa Pot Roast – The Hot Sauce Cookbook is the be-all, end-all cookbook for pepper sauce aficionados.
ISBN 9781607744269, Hardcover
There are currently 7 Members wishing for this book


To enter to win this 3 book prize package, simply leave a comment on this Blog post. You must be a PaperBackSwap member to win.


We will choose 1 winner at random from comments we receive here on the Blog from PBS members.

You have until Sunday, March 29, 2015 at 12 noon EDT, to leave a comment.


Good Luck to everyone!



Note: All the books given away on Free Book Friday are available in the PBS Market. We have thousands of new and new overstock titles available right now, with more added hourly. Some of the prices are amazing – and you can use a PBS credit to make the deal even better!



Romance Review – Unexpected Pleasures

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015


Unexpected Pleasures by Mary Wine


Review by Kelsey O.


First Line:

“The Viscount Gregory Biddeford was considered to be a handsome man, but Justina saw only his ambition, which made him hideous in her way of thinking.”


Lady Justina Wincott has been under the thumb of her guardian, Viscount Biddeford, since she became a widow. She has played his games for way to long and is yearning for her freedom. Unfortunately she has her son to think of and Biddeford has threatened to bring him to court is he doesn’t obey.

During a very tumultuous time (King Henry is on his deathbed) greed has become prominent in many men. Justina’s wealth has many men campaigning for her hand. The dashing Synclair only wants Justina, not her wealth. Justina’s guardian wants more land and money and will only let her go to the highest bidder, who at the moment is the conniving de Canis.

Unexpected Pleasures is a standard historical romance. Fast read and filled with the alpha man trying to protect the meek woman but the evil foe stands in the way. I honestly felt that Synclair, who is supposed to be this dashing prince coming to save Justina, could have been in the same league as the brutal guardian Biddeford. He forced Justina to do a lot of things too and wouldn’t take no for an answer (because, obviously, a woman really doesn’t know what she wants.) This was not my cup of tea in the aspect that I just need more from my characters. I didn’t enjoy how they interacted with each other and I couldn’t fully connect with any of them.



2 Butterflies

Mystery Monday – You Die Today

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

you die today

You Die Today by Baynard Kendrick


Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


In this mystery from 1952, Captain (US Army) Duncan Maclain, blinded in WWI, comes to the aid of Ted Yates, blinded in combat in Korea. The police think Yates ran amuck with a pistol. Maclain has become a PI. He is aided by his seeing eye dog Schnuke and his bodyguard dog Driest. His assistant is Spud Savage (now there’s a name for the pulps) and his driver Cappo.

The plot and action are too varied to get into in a short review. A lawyer and business executive before he was a full-time writer, Kendrick was sighted but he worked with blind vets in real life. So, he has insight into the challenges of the blind having to adjust. The blindness is decidedly not only a feature to set Maclain off from other whodunit sleuths. Maclain has sharpened not only his four remaining senses, he also does jigsaw puzzles to help him focus his concentration on the problem at hand. I will say that readers who dislike contraptions a la Rube Goldberg may want to steer clear, though Intricate Engines of Death are a Golden Age Mystery standby.

I liked the story because of the unique characters and clear prose. Not being a mechanical kind of guy, I was less captivated with the reveal.



Free Book Friday – Gillian Flynn – Winner!

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

FBF banner 2015 spring winner

Gone Girl

Dark Places


The winner of the Gillian Flynn Books is:




Congratulations, your books will be on the way to you soon!


Thank you to everyone who commented on the Blog!

Free Book Friday – Gillian Flynn!!

Friday, March 20th, 2015

FBF banner 2015 spring

Today’s Free Book Friday prize is:


Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media — as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents — the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter — but is he really a killer?

There are currently 73 Wishers for this book.

ISBN 9780307588371, Trade Size Paperback



Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

“I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ.” — Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” As her family lay dying, little Libby fled their tiny farmhouse into the freezing January snow. She lost some fingers and toes, but she survived–and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, Ben sits in prison, and troubled Libby lives off the dregs of a trust created by well-wishers who’ve long forgotten her.

The Kill Club is a macabre secret society obsessed with notorious crimes. When they locate Libby and pump her for details –proof they hope may free Ben– Libby hatches a plan to profit off her tragic history. For a fee, she’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club . . . and maybe she’ll admit her testimony wasn’t so solid after all.

As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the narrative flashes back to January 2, 1985. The events of that day are relayed through the eyes of Libby’s doomed family members–including Ben, a loner whose rage over his shiftless father and their failing farm have driven him into a disturbing friendship with the new girl in town. Piece by piece, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started–on the run from a killer.

There are currently 438 Wishers for this book.

ISBN 9780307341570, Trade Size Paperback

To enter to win both books, simply leave a comment on this Blog post. You must be a PaperBackSwap member to win.

We will choose 1 winner at random from comments we receive here on the Blog from PBS members.


You have until Sunday, March 22, 2015 at 12 noon EDT, to leave a comment.

 Please note: These books have some shelf wear on the bottoms of both of the books, some crumpled pages due to some rough handling in the warehouse. Both books are ‘as is’.

Good Luck to everyone!


Note: All the books given away on Free Book Friday are available in the PBS Market. We have thousands of new and new overstock titles available right now, with more added hourly. Some of the prices are amazing – and you can use a PBS credit to make the deal even better!