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Archive for February, 2022

Mystery Monday – Or Be He Dead

Monday, February 28th, 2022

Or Be He Dead by James Byrom

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


A best-selling writer in the true crime genre, Raymond Kennington is telling his story in the 1950s about his adventures in the 1930s when he wrote about a famous trial in the 1890s.

In a London made tense by the coming of WWII, Kennington alleges in his new book that Claude Neville Millington-Forsett was probably guilty of a killing that he was acquitted of in a famous trial of 1894. Millington-Forsett was a nasty throwback to the ethics-free Regency bucks and blades.

Kennington’s publishers are nervous about suits since Millington-Forsett won punishing damages for libel in the past. They send Kennington to Paris with his secretary, comely Josephine Canning, to confirm that Millington-Forsett has in fact shucked off this mortal coil and gone to his eternal deserts, which, the reader hopes, involve slow roasting. Once in Paris Kennington and Josephine kick over numerous rocks and generally get in the face of bad actors whose attention is dangerous to draw.

The premise is original, the adventures are engaging, and the romance tolerable though it provides fantasy fodder for middle-aged male readers who hold fast the delusion that women half their age will be attracted to them. The far-fetched plot twists that the reader is supposed to buy are balanced by the highly literate writing, which is clearly the product of an author who is well-read and a professional writer. The Paris settings feel more sordid and decadent than we usually find in a classic whodunit, but count this as another point that makes this mystery unique. Put this writer in the ranks with Nicholas Blake, Andrew Garve, Cyril Hare, and Michael Innes.

How do the English write the entertaining mystery so well and make it look so easy?





Fantasy Friday – The Witness for the Dead

Friday, February 25th, 2022

The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)


THE WITNESS FOR THE DEAD is a fantasy mystery, set in the world Addison created for THE GOBLIN EMPEROR. You don’t need to have read that first, although it does explain the society and introduces the concept of the Witness for the Dead. The main character here is a minor one in that book. But no matter, if you haven’t read it, you’ll catch up fast. Witness for the Dead is a job description, a religious calling, and those who answer it have the ability to sense a recently dead person’s last thoughts and experiences.  This is a society of goblins and elves, who intermix and intermarry although some prejudice does occur.

Thera Celahar is a Witness, but he’s had some setbacks. He’s not the most self-confident goblin in the world due to a mistake in his past, but if he’s given his word to help he will do so, and he never gives up. He doesn’t lie for political expediency and he will find a way to (softly) speak truth to power. And so, he’s run afoul of higher-ups in several different areas and has been sent away from the emperor’s court to the city of Amalo. He’s content here.

An elvish woman has been found, presumably drowned, with no identification. Celahar is called to see if he can find out who she is, so she can be decently buried with the appropriate rituals. But all he can tell from her last memories is that she was murdered. Now it’s his job to investigate who she was and what happened to her.  Along the way he’ll get into the midst of a family quarrel about a forged will, have to subdue a powerful ghoul, find a serial wife murderer, comfort the dying after an airship explosion, and undergo an ordeal.

This is a wonderfully rich imagined world with excellent characters and great imagery. Slightly steampunky – there are airships, but don’t seem to be any other motorized vehicles. Great details, right down to the stray cats. Celahar himself is very interesting – dedicated, honest, and compassionate but also astonishingly self-effacing and lonely. Why that is will slowly and quietly come to light, in fact if you read too fast you might miss it.

The mystery of who killed the elvish woman is excellent as well – we get to watch Celehar slowly and painstakingly track down clues, question those who knew her, and build up a picture of who she was and why she was killed.

My only complaint is the one I had about the previous novel – the language. I sure wish I’d remembered the glossary in my copy of the previous book. All the names are multi-syllabic with a lot of Cs, Vs, Zs, and Hs. I had trouble even mentally pronouncing them and eventually my eye started to slide past, which obviously then gave me difficulty distinguishing between characters. Plus there’s a lot of dialect  for daily items like food and so forth, which also slowed me down. But in the end, it’s minor.

Lovely book. Highly recommended for those who like fantasy, and if you like mysteries as well you’re in for a treat.