booklog 2015 – 4) Pati Nagle – Dead Man’s Hand

Five murdered poker players from different eras are brought back from the dead for one last tournament. The prize is life itself.

The book opens with Wild Bill Hickok finding himself pulled from the grave, his bones clothing themselves with flesh and the flesh with clothes. The reader follows along with Bill as he tries to work out what’s going on and why he feels an urge to go to Atlantic City, although the reader has an advantage over him in being able to recognise the present day and just how much time has passed. Another four men from different time periods have the same experience, although one is so recently dead that he is able to convince friends and family that he’d been kidnapped and held incommunicado for several years. As they gradually assemble, they discover that they have been revived for the greatest poker tournament in history – between the greatest players, no matter when they lived.

The result is an atmospheric blend of ghost story and mystery, with some superb world-building going into the strange casino that has revived the men. The characters are well developed, and it’s a joy to watch their interaction, and their different reactions to the present day. Those reactions are driven in part by their different reasons for wanting the prize; not just a new life in a recreated body, but what they want to do with that life. A chance at love, a chance at revenge, fascination with this new world they find themselves in… Even for the four losers, their short time walking the earth again allows them to do at least a little of what was left undone.

A lovely short ghost novel for Halloween, with the emphasis on the human soul rather than on horror.

direct from Book View Cafe, with excerpts available
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon Australia

booklog 2015 – 3) anthology — Christmas in the Duke’s Arms

Regency romance anthology with linked novelettes by four authors, set in a small village one Christmas. The Duke’s Arms of the title is the village pub, but there is a real duke as well, plus an earl or two. I’ve left it too late to write a proper review of this one, alas, but Azteclady’s written a good review. I don’t agree with her ratings on each story, but that’s a reflection of the variety in the stories – if you like historical romances, there’s a good chance at least one of these novelettes will work for you.

Amazon UK
Amazon UK
Amazon Canada
Kobo

booklog 2015 – 2) Gemma Halliday – Spying in High Heels

Chicklit mystery set in Los Angeles. Maddie Springer is a young fashion designer who tries to track down her lawyer boyfriend when he goes missing, and finds herself in the middle of embezzlement and murder. I nearly stopped reading on the first page, wherein Maddie describes her behaviour on the freeway when she’s late for a meeting with her boyfriend. Almost causing an accident by cutting into lanes and doing her make-up in the mirror at high speed was presumably supposed to make her look adorably ditzy, but I simply found it loathsome. I did keep reading, but it coloured my view of the character for the rest of the book.

It’s an odd one for me. The mystery plot was enjoyable if predictable, and there were things I liked a lot, with some good supporting characters; but it was hard work getting to the end and if it had been a paper edition I would have probably been high-speed skim-reading. No more than a two star for me and I’m not inclined to try anything else by this author, even if I can see why other people were bowled over by it.

Kobo
Amazon UK
Amazon US
ARe

book log June 2013

Onward with the book log… Again pretty skimpy, but check out (30) because it’s good and it’s in the BVC 50% off sale until 6th Jan.

26) Ian Rankin — The Flood
Picked this one up, and put it down again within a few pages — not because I thought it was poorly written, but because I discovered that I really wasn’t in the mood to read this style of story. I’ll probably give it another go at some point.

27) Agatha Christie — A Pocket Full of Rye
Re-read of Miss Marple novel, previously reviewed here: http://www.librarything.com/work/29788/reviews/71474847

28) James Blish – Jack of Eagles
“Oh, look, SFGateway is republishing books I haven’t read in years!” It has some issues seen through 21st century eyes, but is still a worthwhile exploration of psi powers.
http://www.librarything.com/work/199007
http://www.sfgateway.com/books/j/jack-of-eagles/

29) Francis Durbridge — Tim Fraser Again (audiobook)
Another case for engineer turned secret agent Tim Frazer, definitely of its time but a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours. Unabridged on 2 CDs and read by Anthony Head. There are some good detailed reviews on Amazon UK. It’s available on Amazon US, but might actually be cheaper to order from the UK at the moment.

30) Chris Dolley — Reggiecide

(Note: I received a free review copy of this through LibraryThing Early Reviewers.) An entertaining steampunk pastiche of Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster stories. It’s one of a series of shortish stories about gentleman private detective and silly ass Reggie Worcester, his automaton valet Reeves, and his fiancee Emmeline, In this one, the chaps have to investigate the disappearance of Guy Fawkes, who has been revived as a Promethean by one of his descendants. Alas, Fawkes has but one thought left in his head… I found that it worked well even though I hadn’t read the earlier stories. Good fun if you like speculative fiction and Wodehouse.

It’s also in the BVC sale – 50% off until 6 January… http://bookviewcafe.com/bookstore/book/reggiecide/

31) Margery Allingham — Police at the funeral (audiobook)
Re-listen of an Albert Campion abridged audiobook.

32) Nisi Shawl (Editor) — Bloodchildren: Stories by the Octavia E. Butler Scholars
Limited edition fundraiser anthology from Book View Cafe, which is superb and deserves a proper review when I’ve re-read it. No longer available, alas.

book log May 2013

20) Alexander McCall — In the Company of Cheerful Ladies
Sixth in the series about the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. The usual collection of small and large puzzles for the ladies to solve, and two new characters for the series. Mma Ramotswe knocks a gentleman off his bike, and thereby gains a new staff member for the joint premises of the detective agency and the garage. Mma Makutsi joins a dance class and thus acquires a new friend. As ever with this series, gentle humour and believable domestic mysteries make this a pleasure to read.
http://www.librarything.com/work/20047

21) Sayers — The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (audiobook)
Superb BBC full cast dramatisation, with Ian Carmichael as Lord Peter. If you’re a Sayers fan, this radio dramatisation is well worth getting.
http://www.librarything.com/work/10709447
at Amazon UK
at Amazon US

22) Georgette Heyer — Venetia
One of Heyer’s Regencies. There are several excellent reviews on LibraryThing, so I will merely say that I adored it.
http://www.librarything.com/work/16552/

23) Gladys Mitchell — The Twenty-third man
Another outing for the inestimable Mrs Bradley, this time on holiday to the Canary Islands, and a cave with a somewhat erratic number of mummies of ancient Kings. As usual for this series, enjoyable murder mystery with a fair bit of macabre humour.
http://www.librarything.com/work/1246526

24) Mark Coker — Secrets to ebook publishing
The head of self-publishing company SmashWords offers some useful advice on self-publishing via ebooks. While it’s slanted to using SmashWords, it’s wider-ranging than that. It’s free to download, and the contents are useful and well-written. Available from SmashWords, obviously, but also on Amazon and presumably other platforms.
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/145431

25) Edward Marston — The Merry Devils
Second in Marston’s mystery series set in an Elizabethan theatre troupe. Enjoyable read.
http://www.librarything.com/work/425601

book log: 81) Gladys Mitchell — The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop (The Mrs Bradley Mysteries)

81) Gladys Mitchell — The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop (The Mrs Bradley Mysteries)

Second of the long-running Mrs Bradley mystery series, and the first I’ve read. I bought a set of nine of the novels recently re-published by Vintage (Random House) because I adored the BBC adaptation starring Diana Rigg and Neil Dudgeon. Unsurprisingly, the books differ significantly from the tv series, but are equally enjoyable. And I think the tv adaptation is faithful to the tone of the novels; even if Diana Rigg is far too elegant and glamorous to be the physical Mrs Bradley of the books, she’s got the personality right.

Mrs Bradley is elderly, wealthy, eccentric, and a talented and experienced psychologist who uses her skills to solve crimes. As other reviewers have noted, there’s a distinct resemblance to what you’d get if you turned Miss Marple into a wealthy woman who has married and divorced three times, and divorced at least one of those husbands for being boring. The ones I’ve read so far are enormous fun.

The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop is fairly gruesome, in that the body of one Rupert Sethleigh is found neatly butchered and laid out as cuts of meat in the local butcher’s shop. Sethleigh will not be missed by Wandle Parva, and there is a large and varied selection of people with motives to do away with him. Adding to the fun and games, many of those people have reason to protect each other, and their attempts to do so only confuse the issues. General silliness ensues as Mrs Bradley disentangles methods, motives and opportunity, frequently by deliberately poking the suspects to see what they will do.

LibraryThing entry