Monday, October 22, 2018

Go to My Grave by Catriona McPherson

First Line: This is the story of three days last September when eight old friends gathered in a beautiful house by the sea.

Donna Weaver and her mother purchased an old house on a remote beach in Scotland, named it The Breakers, restored it, and turned it into a luxury bed and breakfast. They've put everything they have into the place, and it just has to be a success.

Donna is on hand to cook gourmet meals and to pick up after the very first group of guests, but this argumentative group of cousins soon realize that they've been to the house before. Over two decades have passed, but the night of a sixteenth birthday party still haunts them all-- it's the night one young girl drowned in the sea. The cousins all made a vow of silence, but now someone has broken the pact. Before the weekend is over, at least one of them will also die.

I've enjoyed other standalone novels by Catriona McPherson because she is skilled at heightening suspense and in creating characters that grab my interest. She's got plenty of suspense here in Go to My Grave, and the character of Donna Weaver certainly grabbed my interest. So, too, did the element of running a bed and breakfast on a beach in Scotland because I've enjoyed stays in more than one place like that.

The story is compelling, told in two timelines. One, in 1991, in the voice of a teenage girl invited to that fateful birthday party, and the other in the voice of Donna, the co-owner of The Breakers, in the present day. Both voices are forceful, making readers want to keep turning the pages. Both voices make readers want to know what really happened at that birthday party and who is responsible for what is happening at The Breakers now.

Unfortunately, I deduced what was going on almost immediately, and I came close to skipping to the end to find out if I was right because this group of cousins is nothing more than a pack of entitled, self-indulgent pillocks who've never taken responsibility for their actions in their entire lives. At one point, I closed the book and thought-- very loudly-- "Would someone stick a knife in that man!" because one of them is obnoxious beyond belief.

But you know what? Donna's voice kept me reading until the very end, and although this isn't one of my finest reading experiences this year, I'm glad I finished it. I will admit that, if the next book I pick up has a similar cast of characters, I won't finish reading it!

Go to My Grave by Catriona McPherson
eISBN: 9781466879904
Minotaur Books © 2018
eBook, 304 pages

Thriller/Suspense, Standalone
Rating: C+
Source: Net Galley


Sunday, October 21, 2018

A Posse of My Favorite Fictional Sheriffs

Have you ever tried to answer a question, something along the lines of "Which ten authors-- living or dead-- would you invite to dinner?" I answered it a couple of times, but was never quite satisfied with my answers. Now that I've actually met and spoken with several authors, I think I could do a much better job, but something even better occurred to me.

I would love to have a get-together of my favorite fictional sheriffs. Can't you just picture it? After being out on the trail, we'd settle down in the evening to food cooked out in the open air, watching the sun go down, and shooting the breeze around the campfire. I thought you could! Now the only thing I have to do is share my guest list with you all. I don't know what you'll think of it, but I think I've got the makings of a mighty fine posse...

Sheriff Joanna Brady, Arizona
Brady is the only female on my posse, so she's definitely going to add something special to the mix of personalities, but I think she'll fit right in. Contrary to the rest of my posse members, she's married and has children. She's worked her way up from knowing very little about law enforcement to being highly respected. Being sheriff in a county that's larger than some states, she doesn't know all the people in her jurisdiction the way some of the other sheriffs do, but she's got a crack team working with her, and she's learned the value of networking with other sheriffs, so she's got some very valuable contacts if she needs special expertise. And like all my other choices, she's got a good sense of humor. (Author J.A. Jance)

Sheriff Virgil Dalton, "Southwest"
Author Frank Hayes is cagey about telling us just where Dalton enforces the law, but I've pieced a few clues together and wouldn't be at all surprised if it's somewhere in south central New Mexico. He's relatively close to Brady and another sheriff on my posse, so-- who knows-- they may be able to share some war stories. Dalton calls himself a half-breed and considers an old Mexican man who's foreman of his ranch to be his second father. He's sheriff of a town most people like to think of as sleepy-- with the old yellow dog sleeping in the middle of Main Street, but he knows differently. He's got one deputy, a young man named Jimmy who most people think is slow. Dalton knows differently about Jimmy, too. One of the most important things to know about Dalton is that he sees a lot, speaks little, and treats people with respect. and doesn't ignore those other people consider to be "throwaways." It'll be interesting to see how he fits in with my posse. (Author Frank Hayes)

Sheriff Bill Gastner, New Mexico
We get to see Bill Gastner as sheriff of fictional Posadas County, New Mexico when he's in his sixties and seventies. He's overweight, got a bum ticker, and loves his Mexican food. He also suffers from insomnia which means that he can get some extra thinking done while my younger posse members have to get their beauty sleep. I love watching him piece together clues. The only time this man gives up is when the job is done. Like all the other sheriffs I've chosen, I love to hear him spin a tale. (Author Steven F. Havill)

Sheriff Walt Longmire, Wyoming
All of you knew that Walt was going to be on my list. I should've left him off just to shock the stuffing out of you all. Like all of the others, you get a real sense of place watching Longmire solve crimes. I know I've certainly learned to respect Wyoming winters! He's got a crack team working with him-- and that includes his friends-- and along with the next sheriff in my posse, Longmire knows the value of a sense of humor. (Author Craig Johnson)

Sheriff Bo Tully, Idaho
Of all the members of my posse, Tully is the ladies man. Members of his family have been sheriffs of Blight County, Idaho for over a century, and Tully knows everyone in his county, which is always good when a crime occurs. Most of the time, all he has to do is drive over to the miscreant's house and knock on the door. Tully is sneaky and relentless, and when the crimes aren't solved simply, he can put a first-rate investigation together. He's not always a stickler for search warrants and the like, so I'm looking forward to seeing how he interacts with the rest of my posse members. (Author Patrick F. McManus)

Sheriff Ike Schwartz, Virginia
When most folks think about sheriffs, they tend to think about the western part of the United States, but there are sheriffs everywhere. Ike Schwartz is former CIA and a Jew policing a redneck county in Virginia. He can have slightly different cases than the other members of my posse-- like art theft. This man knows how to run an investigation, and I also enjoy his wit when dealing with sharp-tongued members of the public. (Author Frederick Ramsay)

Well... what do you think of my posse? Did I leave any of your favorites out? Which ones? Inquiring minds would love to know (and add to their reading lists)!

Friday, October 19, 2018

A Boating on Lake Kittling Weekly Link Round-Up

This round-up posts at midnight, and by 4 PM, I'll be undergoing the "sanding" of my second eyeball. Now that I know what it entails, I'm really looking forward to getting it over and done with so I can have the cataract surgeries. I want to see, darn it!  The prescription glasses I'm wearing are too weak, and although the healing "haze" is gone from the first superficial keratectomy, my vision in that eye feels slightly out of kilter-- probably because scraping all those bad cells off the cornea is akin to washing a window. My prescription is used to having dirty windows. (Did that make sense? Oh well, I'll leave it out there just in case it does.)

First, October brought Phoenix the remnants of hurricane/tropical storm Rosa. Then last weekend, it brought us the remnants of Sergio. We're only two weeks in and October has already become the wettest month in Phoenix's recorded history, and it's the fourth wettest month overall.

Several lanes of I-10 were flooded, causing traffic jams, and the Arizona State Fair closed down for the day on Saturday. I don't remember the fair ever closing down before, at least not due to weather-related issues.

As you can see in the photo to the left, I got to stay home and read. Well... when I wasn't watching it rain. The entire grounds of the Kittling estate were flooded, and the mail carrier undoubtedly wondered why I didn't have a raft and pole hitched to the gate so he could stay dry while delivering the mail.

I did begin to worry because the water level of the "lake" gradually grew flush with the top of the decking surrounding the pool. But somehow, some way, the rain didn't fall fast enough or hard enough to fill up the cement pond with mud and debris. You can't get much luckier than that.

Now that the water level has gone down, I'll mosey on out to the corral to see how the links are doing. Head 'em up! Mooooooooooove 'em out!

►Books & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄
  • Caludon Castle may be where Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" was first performed.
  • The Maya captured, traded and sacrificed jaguars and other large mammals. (And we certainly can't point fingers at the Maya and call them savages, can we?) 
  • Do these ruins prove the Biblical story of Exodus?
  • Ancient comics line this Roman-Era tomb in Jordan.
  • An ancient Egyptian "magic spell" has been deciphered.
  • This 3,500-year-old relic is the world's oldest bronze hand.

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
  • Chimps and toddlers use the same gestures to get attention.
  • A new study suggests young grassland songbirds postpone fledging in order to mooch off mom and dad as long as they can.
  • Scientists can predict when birds will migrate up to a week in advance.
  • A group of belugas may have adopted a young narwhal.
  • Why is the snowy owl disappearing? (Now snowy owls always make me think of Harry Potter.)
  • How DNA testing could bring down the ivory trade's biggest criminals. (Go, CSI, go!)

►Fascinating Folk◄
  • Freddie Oversteegen, a Dutch Resistance fighter who killed Nazis through seduction, is dead at the age of 92.
  • Jean Briggs Watters, who cracked German codes in World War II, died at the age of 92 and was buried in Omaha, Nebraska with full British military honors. 

►The Happy Wanderer◄
  • This enormous warehouse of used books in Arizona will be your new favorite destination (outside of The Poisoned Pen, that is).
  • You've never experienced anything like this quirky bookstore in small-town Quartzite, Arizona.

►I ♥ Lists◄

That's all for this week! Don't forget to stop by next Friday when I'll be sharing a freshly selected batch of links for your surfing pleasure.

Have a great weekend, and read something fabulous!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

A Pair of Shorts...Reviews, That Is

I recently read two short books that I wanted to share with you, but I didn't have enough to say about each one to merit a full-length review, so I thought I'd combine the two.

First Line: Where does an idea come from?

I love word play, so when I came across this compendium of collective nouns, I had to read it. After all, I wanted to add new ones to the ones I already know: murder of crows, den of thieves, etc.

Sacher's work is filled with illustrations, and he lists many of the origins of these collective nouns. Ranging from the very old to the very new, I found this a very enjoyable-- and even inspirational-- read.

A Compendium of Collective Nouns: From an Armory of Aardvarks to a Zeal of Zebras by Jason Sacher and Woop Studios
eISBN: 9781452129525
Chronicle Books © 2013
eBook, 236 pages

Rating: B+
Source: Purchased from Amazon.

First Line: "That van needs a new paint job."

This novella is a perfect introduction to one of my favorite mystery series, Vaseem Khan's Baby Ganesh Agency set in Mumbai, India. (How many private investigators do you know who have a baby elephant as a sidekick?)

The Premier No. 1 Garage has been burgled. A million-dollar classic race car owned by a gangster has been stolen right out from under their noses. No one can figure out how it was done, so retired police officer Ashwin Chopra is called in before the gangster finds out his car is gone and goes ballistic. 

Unfortunately, I solved the crime well in advance of Chopra, but that didn't keep me from enjoying this fast-paced story. Don't be surprised if you read this and find yourself looking for the other books in this series that just keeps getting better with each book. Khan's characters, stories, and settings are wonderful.

Inspector Chopra and the Million-Dollar Motor Car by Vaseem Khan
ISBN: 9781473650152
Hodder & Stoughton © 2018

Novella, Inspector Chopra series
Rating: B
Source: Purchased through Amazon.


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

On My Radar: Sophie Hénaff's Stick Together

This year, one of my surprise reading pleasures was The Awkward Squad, a mystery about a bunch of police misfits being rounded up to form a cold case squad in hopes that they'd fail miserably and their higher-ups would be able to get rid of them.

I was hoping that there would be another book in the series, so I was very happy to see that there will be-- Stick Together, which will be released in April 2019. Here's more information on the book...

Available April 2019!
Synopsis: "After their successful solving of three cold cases and exposing corruption at the very highest levels of the Paris police force, Officer Anne Capestan's team of oddballs and no-hopers should be in a celebratory mood. However, now despised by their colleagues at 36, quai des Orfevres and worried for their future, morale has never been lower among the members of the Awkward Squad.

Capestan is doing her best to motivate the team, but even she cannot maintain a cheerful facade when she has been assigned to investigate the murder of Officer Serge Rufus, the father of her ex-husband. Worse, it soon appears that his murder is linked to two other victims, both of whom were warned by the killer before they struck.

Can Capestan marshal the forces to solve another hopeless mystery, or will her team's previous success be proven just a fluke?"

Sounds like it's going to be a good one, doesn't it? I know I've already added it to my wishlist!

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Darkness by Ragnar Jónasson

First Line: "How did you find me?" the woman asked.

Over her long career, Hulda Hermannsdóttir has hit the glass ceiling so many times that she should be severely concussed, but she keeps on going. Bringing justice to victims and solving cases are what this detective inspector lives for. But a few months before her sixty-fifth birthday, she is told in the cruelest way possible that she's surplus to requirements and being retired early. Her young male replacement is already here, and her desk needs to be cleaned out so he can start work.

One of the reasons why Hulda has been so successful is that she is supremely obstinate, and-- somehow-- she manages to avoid being tossed out by insisting on solving a cold case before she goes.

Over a year ago, a young Russian woman was found dead on the beach. After a very desultory investigation, her death was deemed a suicide and the case was closed. After all, she was just an asylum seeker. This has never set well with Hulda, so she quietly begins to investigate. It doesn't take her long to discover that no one she interviews is telling her the complete truth-- and that another young Russian woman vanished at the same time. But her superior is anxious to get rid of her, the clock is ticking... is Hulda going to be able to solve this one last case?

Ragnar Jónasson has rapidly turned into my favorite Nordic crime fiction writer. Iceland comes to life under his pen. Give this man snow and the endless dark days of winter, and he's fully capable of giving readers a severe case of claustrophobia to go along with his well-paced and -plotted mysteries. This newest trilogy opens with a bang. The Darkness is a superb character study of Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdóttir.

The Darkness takes place at the end of May, when Iceland is getting warmer and brighter in advance of July when the sun never sets. These lengthening days are bringing things to light that have been buried in darkness for a long time. Yes, the book title is very symbolic and becomes even moreso the farther one reads.

One of the ways the darkness is dispelled in this novel is by alternating chapters told in different voices. One of the voices is easily identified as that of a young Russian woman, but it takes a few chapters before the reader realizes that Hulda's backstory is slowly unfolding. Be forewarned: this is not a happy book. Hulda has had many harsh things happen to her throughout her life, and as a result she's not Little Miss Mary Sunshine. Having had some of the same things happen to me, I identified with this woman very closely-- even while I was mentally trying to tell her not to do some of the things she did during her investigation.

By the time you come to the end of The Darkness, you will realize that this series does not start out in a conventional manner. Not only that, but the story itself does not advance in a linear fashion. However, I did not find it at all confusing. No, I found it brilliant. The Darkness is marvelous reading for those who find it easier to empathize with characters. Hulda Hermannsdóttir has gotten under my skin, and I can't wait to read the next book in this trilogy.

The Darkness by Ragnar Jónasson
eISBN: 9781250171047
Minotaur Books © 2018
eBook, 336 pages

Police Procedural, #1 Hidden Iceland mystery
Rating: A+
Source: Net Galley


Sunday, October 14, 2018

Under the Covers with Margery Allingham

Today's Under the Cover post is a reminder to myself to read the book whose covers I'll be examining. I can't remember which author event it was, but Barbara Peters told us that one of her all-time favorite mysteries was Margery Allingham's The Tiger in the Smoke, partly because the setting in itself is such a strong and memorable character. I've seen a couple of British television mysteries that deal a bit with those notorious London "pea soupers" of the post-World War II time period. (What's a pea souper? One definition is: "Pea soup, or a pea souper, also known as a black fog, killer fog or smog is a very thick and often yellowish, greenish, or blackish fog caused by air pollution that contains soot particulates and the poisonous gas sulphur dioxide.") This fog could quite literally kill you, and when a talented writer like Margery Allingham adds a murderer to the landscape, it should make for a chilling mystery. 

Let's take a look at some covers that have been given to this book over the years. I'm starting with the cover of the edition I have sitting on my to-be-read shelves. Not because I like it, but because it's so... bland.

1.  Felony & Mayhem, US. Blah!

2.  1975 Penguin edition. Why did they use a photo of an old rug?

3.  Agora Books, UK. Not enough pea soup to suit me.

4.  Australia. Meh.

5.  Avalon Publishing, US. Too generic.

6.  Carroll & Graf, US. Better. At least someone's creeping around in the fog.

7.  Dell, US. I like this one. It looks like all the maniacs have escaped Arkham Asylum. (Check out the price!)

8.  Macmillan Collector's Library, UK. Not bad. You can see the fog thickening, and that woman just standing there makes me nervous.

9.  Penguin, probably from the 1970s. My #2 favorite-- a knife flashing in a stylized thick fog. Yikes!

10.  Pretty, but I don't think it represents the tone of the book, Westerner that I am.

11.  US paperback. (Check out the price!) Probably from the 1960s because it reminds me of book covers I saw after movies like "Psycho" and "The Boston Strangler" were released.

12.  Penguin back when this cost 2 shillings sixpence. My #1 favorite. Thick fog. A dark figure creeping through the streets of London... and look at the shadow he projects!

Book covers can be very representative of their times, can't they-- Like #11 which screamed 1960s to me. You can tell by my captions that I thought #1 the worst and #9 and 12 were the best. What about you? Which cover(s) strike your fancy? Or... do none of them float your boat? Inquiring minds would love to know!

And a quick note before I leave: someone believes that this book was the inspiration for J.K. Rowling choosing the name Voldemort for her evil wizard. Interesting, eh?

Friday, October 12, 2018

An Arizona Sunset Weekly Link Round-Up

Another quiet week at Casa Kittling with only one humdinger of a thunderstorm that woke me from a sound sleep at 4 AM to liven things up. I've been reading and knitting up a storm, and adjusting my schedule now that I'm not spending afternoons in the pool. I think I'm quietly charging up my battery for the next three eye procedures because I know there's upcoming downtime when I won't be able to do so many things that I enjoy. But don't worry-- my priority is still having two properly functioning eyes, so I'm not complaining about the route I have to take.

Arizona Sunset, October 7, 2018  ©Denis Barlow

The one thing that I wanted to share with you this week (besides the links) is the photo Denis sent me Sunday evening. My timing was definitely off that day. While I was at home taking a shower, my husband was at work at Sky Harbor International Airport and able to take a photo of this breathtaking sunset. It is my not-so-humble opinion that Arizona has to be one of the best places in the world for jaw-dropping sunrises and sunsets. I wish you all could see the photo full size because your mind would really be blown. (Am I the only one who talks about minds being blown anymore?)

Time for me to mosey on out to the corral and see what the sunset looks like tonight. Head 'em up! Moooooooove 'em out!

►Books & Other Interesting Tidbits◄
  • In the 1950s, Walt Kelly’s comic strip about a cute opossum named Pogo was syndicated by over 450 newspapers. It was also frequently censored. (And I had no idea when I read this strip every day as a child.)
  • It's no mystery why fans and authors gathered for Bouchercon in St. Petersburg, Florida. 
  • The Wonky Donkey: a viral video of a grandmother makes this picture book a bestseller.
  • The voters who disappeared from the rolls.
  • Stories bad and good: Understanding Appalachia through reading.
  • The novelist who wrote about How to Murder Your Husband has been charged with murdering her husband. 
  • Why does the US change so many book titles?
  • A bookseller's lament: the books we're drowning in. 

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
  • 87 elephants were found dead near a sanctuary in Botswana. 
  • Toxic chemicals banned twenty years ago are finally disappearing from Arctic wildlife.
  • 92 military dogs are coming home from Afghanistan after a job well done.
  • Biologist Johnnie H. French works at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory, the world's only full-service forensics lab for wildlife crimes.
  • In the last decade, four birds went extinct and four more are likely gone.
  • A new species of translucent, gelatinous fish has been discovered in the deep sea. 
  • How this popular garden plant may spread parasites that harm Monarch butterflies.
  • India's giant, technicolor squirrels.

►The Happy Wanderer◄

►I ♥ Lists◄

That's all for this week! Don't forget to stop by next Friday when I'll be sharing a freshly selected batch of links for your surfing pleasure.

Have a great weekend, and read something fabulous!