Book log: November 2011

November 2011 book log behind the cut. I abandoned trying to review most of the mystery series books, but there are some books with comments in there.

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.

103) Alexander McCall Smith – Morality For Beautiful Girls

Third in the “No.1 Ladies Detective Agency” series. Mma Ramotswe makes the decision to share offices with her fiance Mr J.B.L. Matekoni at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors. This is for prudent financial reasons to do with the Agency’s low income, but turns out to be a useful thing for Speedy Motors as well, when Mr Matekoni is unwell and Mma Makutsi takes over the management of the garage. Another enjoyable tale of life in Botswana.

104)Alexander McCall Smith – The Kalahari Typing School For Men

Fourth in the “No.1 Ladies Detective Agency” series. Mr J.B.L. Matekoni has recovered and returned to Speedy Motors, and so Acting Manager Mma Makutsi has the time and the incentive to look for another business opportunity. Her solution is to set up the titular Kalahari Typing School For Men, which runs alongside her work for Mma Precious Ramotswe’s detective agency. But the two ladies have a rival, in the form of newly arrived Sephas Buthelezi and his Satisfaction Guaranteed Detective Agency.

One of the joys of this series is that each book works as a standalone novel, but that as you read the series you see the slow buildup of a long term story for the continuing characters, and the developments in their lives. There’s no feeling of lack of closure at the end of any particular book, but the story does move on in the next.


105) Leslie Charteris — The Saint closes the case

Full length Saint novel, first published in 1930, in which the Saint deals with the tricky problem of a mad scientist with an invention that will give a large advantage in warfare to the nation that has sole control of it. The Saint may be an adventurer himself, and happy to put his own life on the line, but he is not inclined to approve of men dying in a war that has been created to line the pockets of industrialists selling to the war machine, and the stockbrokers trading in shares of those industries. It seems to him right and proper that the invention should be suppressed…

It’s an entertaining story that under the froth makes some sharp points about the manipulation of war for profit, although it’s marred at one point by a slight hint that the manipulators have names one would associate with Jewish financiers. Well worth reading.

106) Ruth Rendell — The Best Man to Die

Fourth Inspector Wexford book.

107) Ruth Rendell — A Guilty Thing Surprised

Fifth Inspector Wexford book.

108) Ruth Rendell — No More Dying Then

Sixth Inspector Wexford book.

109) Alan Hunter — Gently to the summit

The eighth Inspector George Gently book.

110) Alan Hunter — Gently with the painters

The seventh Inspector George Gently book.

111) Lucia’s Progress [audiobook]

Abridged audiobook of the fifth Mapp and Lucia book, superbly read by Miriam Margoyles.


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