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Archive for June, 2020

Mystery Monday Review – Independent Witness

Monday, June 29th, 2020

Independent Witness by Henry Cecil

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

The English judge Henry Cecil (1902 – 1976) wrote comic legal fiction. Think of John Mortimer’s Rumpole stories, though more gentle and less acerbic, just as clever, funny, and enjoyable. Cecil will call to mind P.G. Wodehouse in that Cecil uses stock characters like the dumb colonel, the obsessed widow, the silly young person, etc.

This novel from 1963 describes a hit and run case in which a member of Parliament is accused of not only hitting a motorcyclist but fleeing the scene. Cecil has a variety of comic characters take the stand. The dialogue-driven cross-examinations should be read slowly and savored. While this is not a typical whodunit, I still recommend it to mystery fans since there is a traditional surprise at the end.

Cecil’s humor is very English, wise, and humane and not as silly or zany as Wodehouse’s jesting is. Mercifully, to my mind, but different strokes. Cecil’s comedy is smart, with lucid prose, dazzling dialogue, and difficult legal points explained gracefully and comprehensibly. Cecil was a barrister and high court judge himself so his views on evidence, judges, juries, lawyers, and clients are worth listening to. The eager reader doesn’t mind his digressions on topics such as the thought processes of ordinary people who are would-be jurors or lawyers and judges who talk too much.

His legal fiction from the Fifties and Sixties is still in print, because his wit, style, intelligence, and deft plotting still provide much interest and sheer reading pleasure.

 

Happy National Leon Day!

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Joy L. (vintagejoy)

 

There are things we hear and see throughout our lives that just seem to stick in our memories. One thing that I remember is from a Christmas TV spot on the series ‘Home Improvement.’ (Tim the Toolman Taylor? Quite a few years ago) It’s about a Christmas program that the Taylor children were participating in. They were each to hold a letter of the alphabet to spell ‘NOEL.’ Well, they got mixed up about where they were supposed to stand and spelled it backward to reveal ‘LEON.’ This struck me as being very hilarious for some reason. Over the years – especially during the Christmas holidays I remember that show and ‘Leon.’

Now I would like to be the very first to wish you on June 25:

Very Happy National Leon Day!

It has finally been proclaimed!

Which brings up another thought; why on earth does everything have to be a national day of something or other?

I did some searching around and found the following days to be quite intriguing;

Jan 3 National Drinking Straw Day – Wait, what?

Jan 28 National Kazoo Day – O, please No!

Mar 25 National Waffle Day – Cue up IHOP & Waffle House!

Apr 15 National Tax Day – This is not amusing at all.

Apr 17 National ‘Nothing Like a Dame’ Day – Really??

May 9 National Lost Sock Memorial Day – Let’s just take a minute……

June 1 National Go Barefoot Day – it is a good thing this is not the same day as:

June 2 National Rocky Road Day – emergency room visits would be way up if it was
the same day.

Dec 5 National Bathtub Party Day – this will probably need to be canceled this year
as it would be impossible to maintain social distancing in a bathtub.

Let’s just have a National Anything Day and be done with it! 🙂

 

 

Mystery Monday Review – A Back Room in Somers Town

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

A Back Room in Somers Town by John Malcolm

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

This mystery – the first book in the Tim Simpson series – was published in 1984. Simpson starred in 15 books, with the last one being Rogues’ Gallery, in 2005, when the author apparently retired.

In this debut novel, Simpson is called in by an art dealer, Willie Morton, to look at paintings by Walter Richard Sickert and follower Mary Godwin. Amazed at such unusual finds, Tim and Tate art expert Sue are later attacked by an unknown assailant at the scene of Willie’s death by stabbing. The paintings have vanished. As the case goes cold for the cops, Simpson is sent to Sao Paulo, Brazil for some unfamiliar atmosphere, where 40 years ago (put on your making-allowances caps) women seemed to enjoy menfolk being grunting male chauvinist porkers.

The hero Tim Simpson himself is an ex-rugby player. Though not afraid of a tussle, he is diplomatic and tactful enough to work as a marketing and management consultant for a London merchant bank. He gets on well with his manager, the upper crust Jeremy White. They share an interest in arts and antiques. For the sake of building a rep for elegance and panache, Jeremy persuades Tim to turn his hobby into a work skill and become the full-time in-house art investment specialist. It tickles Jeremy to be catering to select clients because it will drive his fogey relatives, who run a bigger White’s bank, crazy. Jeremy is an appealing character: he’s a spoiled rich guy but fun-loving and generous, a welcome change to the stereotypical rich guys we often suffer in both fiction and the news.

The author, whose real name is John Andrews, is one of those Renaissance Englishman. An expatriate kid in South America, he learned Spanish and benefited by living in another culture. An expert on art, he wrote many books and articles and edited a magazine about antique collecting. He also worked as an engineer and business consultant. He brings this diverse knowledge and experience to his writing.

I recommend this one. Though short, the plotting is elaborate without being confusing and the settings of snowy London and tropical Sao Paulo provide a diverting contrast for us shut-ins. The writer then inserts seamlessly material about artists and their work, art collecting and collectors, banking, and business. The intelligent and smooth writing is about what we expect from a cultured English writer, comprehensible and unpretentious.

 

 

 

Fiction Review – Nine Perfect Strangers

Thursday, June 18th, 2020

Nine Perfect Strangers

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Review by: Mirah W (mwelday)

 

Liane Moriarty is one of my favorite contemporary authors. I have read all of her books and look forward to each new story she has to tell.  Her latest, Nine Perfect Strangers, was quite a read.

Nine people make their way to spa resort for a 10-day retreat that is supposed to change their lives.  Each person is coming to Tranquillum House for different reasons, including escape, grief, depression, marriage troubles.  Waiting for them at Tranquillum House is a secretive staff led by mysterious and charismatic Masha.

What begins as an interesting mystery and captivating read in the first half of the book goes off the rails in the second half and just can’t seem to get back on track.  In the first half, Moriarty slowly introduces the characters and why they made the decision to go to Tranquillum House. Like peeling back an onion, layers and layers of character development take place and then the plot seems to become far-fetched and it was difficult for me stay engaged.  I could see where the divergence from what was expected could appeal to some readers, but I thought it was too drastic of a shift.

I am conflicted about giving this book a rating.  It started out so great, full of interesting characters and I wanted to know more about them.  I felt like this was going to be another 5 star book by Moriarty.  And then I felt like the twist took things in a weird direction that didn’t really seem to fit with the first half of the book.  I would say if a reader enjoys off-the-wall plots, this might be one to read.  If a reader likes more streamlined plots, I would recommend Three Wishes (you can see my review here).