Book log 1) Mary Stewart — Wildfire at Midnight

1956 contemporary romantic suspense set on the Isle of Skye. Fashion model Gianetta Drury needs some peace and quiet, She’s never fully recovered from her divorce to the husband she still loves, and London during the build-up to the Coronation is more excitement and fuss than she wants. A holiday on the Isle of Skye seems ideal, until she discovers that her ex-husband Nicholas has signed into the same hotel on the same day. And if that wasn’t enough, it turns out that there has been a recent murder, and the other residents of the hotel are suspects. Nicholas isn’t exempt, because he was staying in the hotel on a previous trip. And then there is another murder…

While I picked out the correct candidate for murderer readily enough at the first clear clue/herring, the story’s well enough written that it doesn’t matter. There’s still plenty of suspense in whether the characters will recognise the right pattern in time. The book has some engaging lead characters in a strongly drawn setting, and some genuinely chilling scenes. A particular highlight for me was the chase in the fog towards the end of the book. One with re-read potential even after you know the solution.

December 2011 book log

Typing hurts at the moment, so limited comments on the books.

112) John Barrowman — I am what I am
Second volume of Barrowman’s memoirs, written with his sister Carole Barrowman. While the first volume was a largely chronological memoir of his life so far, this volume is a selection of stories arranged more by theme than by time, and including a lot of material in direct response to questions he was asked after the first volume was published. As with any good actor biography, part of the appeal of this book is a more general look at the side of showbusiness that the public don’t see for themselves, including the amount of work needed to put a show on, whether on stage or tv. Well written, and very entertaining if this sort of book is your sort of thing.

113) Alan Hunter — Gently go Man
Ninth of the Inspector Gently books. I mostly haven’t been commenting on these, but have been enjoying them and intend to read more of them.

114) Diane Purkiss — Fairies and Fairy Stories: A History
New edition of a book previously published as “Troublesome Things: A History of Fairies and Fairy Stories”, and under at least one other title. I really need to write a proper review of this book, but right now I’m down with a viral infection and not up to the necessary thinking.

115) Ruth Rendell — Murder being Once Done
Seventh Inspector Wexford book.

116) Mary Stewart — Madam, will you talk?
Stewart’s first novel, published in 1955, and the first one I’ve read. Contemporary (for the time it was written) suspense with a strong romantic element. Enjoyed this a lot.

117) Carola Dunn — Death at Wentworth Court
First of the Daisy Dalrymple series of 1920s country house cosies. I read this after reading several of the later books, so enjoyed seeing where it started. Great fun, and one for the re-read shelf.

2011 book log: 102) Edward Gorey — The Lost Lions

I feel rather guilty about taking so long to write my review of this one, partly because Pomegranate were clearly hoping for timely reviews to drive sales for Christmas gifts, and partly because so many of my friends would doubtless have been very happy to help with the “Christmas gift” sales figures…

102) Edward Gorey — The Lost Lions

Note: I received a review copy of this through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme.

Pomegranate provides a treat for Gorey fans with this new edition of a title from 1973 which has been long out of print as a standalone book, although it was available in omnibus format. Hamish, a beautiful young man who likes being outdoors, opens the wrong envelope one day, and finds himself on a path to fame and fortune in films. He finds this to be less appealing than one might imagine, and prefers to raise lions… The story is told in a bare 14 pen-and-ink illustrations with one sentence per illustration, and can be skimmed in a few minutes, but Gorey does a great deal with those 14 illustrations. It’s not as blatantly macabre as some of Gorey’s work, but still has that eerie, off-kilter humour that was his trademark. And the book might take only a few minutes to read the first time, but you could lose yourself for hours looking at the detail in the drawings and thinking about the things implied therein.

There are other books which are more accessible to new readers and I’m not sure this one would be ideal as someone’s first introduction to Gorey, but you don’t need much familiarity with his body of work to appreciate the faintly sinister whimsy of The Lost Lions.

At US$13, this edition isn’t cheap, but you do get what you pay for. Pomegranate have a done a superb job on the physical production side. The book is a small hardback with high quality paper in sewn signatures, and crisp reproduction of the pen-and-ink illustrations. It’s laid out with one sentence and illustration facing each other per page spread, on a 6 inch square page size that makes it easy to take in the whole illustration at once while still being large enough to see the fine detail. The cover illustration is in colour, but the interior illustrations are in the original black and white. If all you want is access to the story, there are other options, but Pomegranate’s new edition is a gorgeous presentation that’s a joy to handle. This is a perfect “indulgent treat” for anyone who loves both beautiful books and Edward Gorey.

My review copy came packed with two Pomegranate catalogues, and one of their Edward Gorey bookmarks, which was a nice item in its own right, and I think well worth the $2 catalogue price if you like nice bookmarks. It’s crisply printed on heavy stock, and comes in a heavy plastic protective sleeve, from which it can be easily removed if you prefer to use it without the sleeve.

Hardcover smyth-sewn casebound book, with jacket. 32 pages, 6½ x 6 inches.

ISBN 9780764959578

Edward Gorey — The Lost Lions at the publisher’s website.

Librarything entry, with more reviews.