Writer: Bill Willingham
Artists: Marc Buckingham, Steven Leialoha

After the events in the previous volume, Snow is taking a banished character to the Farm which was referred to earlier. Unfortunately for them both, the people at the Farm are tired of the situation and are planning a revolution. Fabletown is where human fables can live, among the mortals and part of the larger world, but in their own little part of New York city. The non-humans are sent to the Farm which is literally a farm on the countryside. They even have a small town for lilliputians. But there’s not much to do and so they’re amassing weapons so that they can retake their lands from the Adversary. Wayland Smith is the man in charge of the place but when Snow and her sidekick (so to say, saying who it was would spoil the first volume) get there, they can’t find him. Soon, Goldilocks, the three bears, the Three Little Pigs, and various others are in full-scale revolt and even turn Snow’s sidekick against her. Unfortunately, they’ll first have to ”convince” or kill the other fables of their aims. And they start by killing one of the pigs.

Meanwhile, Boy Blue is trying to hold down the fort in Fabletown.

I really enjoyed this volume, more than the first one. It’s full of various fairy tale characters, like Cock Robin and Raynard the Fox in addition to the pigs and the bears. The bears are horrifyingly comical. And oh yes, the Jungle book makes the first appearance in the person of Shere Khan.

This volume still has some scene setting: the Farm and some characters are introduced to the readers. So, now that we know them, the writer can really start to torture them. :)

Note: I’m a fan of the series. I love most of the characters and have hugely enjoyed the ride. I first began to read the series about five years ago and without knowing anything about it.

The first Modesty Blaise book based on the comic strip heroine.

Publication year: 1965
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1997
Format: print
Page count: 311
Publisher of the Finnish translation: Otava
Finnish translator: Seppo Harjulehto

I’m a fan of the comic strip. I started to read it when I was an impressionable teenager and I collected the strips from the local (Finnish) newspapers. Modesty is a female equivalent of James Bond and Simon Templar, so she’s not a realistic hero. Neither is her sidekick Willie Garvin who calls Modesty ”Princess”. They’re both superhuman and that’s why they’re so much fun to read about. Also, they’re both amazing fighters and have a lot of other skills, too. For example, Modesty has jeweler’s skills and Garvin builds new weapons.

Modesty grew up desperately poor and without a family. She had to fend for herself for as long as she can remember and that left her an independent and hardened woman. She ran a criminal organization called the Network until she and Willie were rich enough that they could retire before they turned 30. She also rescued Willie from a life a violent criminal and put him to work in her service. This gave Willie a purpose in his life for the first time and makes him unshaking loyal to her. However, when they retired, they were both quite addicted to danger and when Sir Gerald Tarrant from British Intelligence wanted them to work for him, they weren’t hard to convince. However, they’re not regular agents but choose their own jobs and often enough adventure finds them. They’re not lovers, in fact they each have their own lovers who often also get mixed up in the adventures.

Both Modesty and Willie are ethical criminals; they didn’t deal with prostitution or drugs and in fact sometimes punish others who abuse humans that way. I love them to bits!

That said, I have to admit that I like the comics better than this book.

In this book, Modesty and Willie meet Sir Gerald for the first time. Both have been in retirement for a year and both have been getting bored. In fact, Willie’s so bored that he got mixed up with a dangerous situation and is not sitting in jail, waiting to be executed. Sir Gerald gives this information to Modesty and in exchange Modesty and Willie agree to do a job for him. After rescuing Willie, the duo are ready for a far harder work.

Sheik Abu-Tahir has sold oil to Britain and was paid in diamonds. The ship carrying the diamonds worth 10 million leaves from Cape Town and sails to Beirut. Until then, Tarrant is responsible for them. According to intel his has received, a criminal mastermind is going to steal them and so he wants Modesty to guard them.

Modesty uses her old contacts and agrees with Tarrant that the man aiming for the diamonds is Gabriel, a cruel and very wealthy criminal whom Modesty avoided during her criminal career. However, now she has to outwit him.

The book moves at a good pace and Modesty has to use both her wits and combat skills. However, their success rests on their forward planning which isn’t shown to the reader but comes as a surprise, much like in the comics. But somehow it almost feels like a cheat in a book. The main POV of the book is Modesty herself with sometimes abrupt changes to other characters, such as Sir Gerald, Paul Hagan, and one of the criminals.

One of the things which I really enjoy about Modesty is her large circle of friends and allies. The sheik is one of them. He and his men practically worship Modesty and call her the Princess. She also uses her old contacts from the Network but some of them resent that and want to make sure that she isn’t returning and thinking control away from them. Another old friend is Paul Hagan, British Intelligence agent in France. Hagan is both a painter and a spy, and he’s crazy about Modesty. Unfortunately, this means that he has a huge problem with working under her. O’Donnell describes this as a male ego problem; he just wants her in bed and not to follow her orders, especially when actual danger is involved. Fortunately, Modesty realized this.

If you’re interested in reading Modesty Blaise, I’d recommend starting with the comics and not this book. And if you value your sanity, stay away from the movie.

Writer: Michael Uslan
Artists: Peter Snejbjerg

This is an Elseworlds story, an alternate universe where Bruce Wayne isn’t Batman. Instead he joins the Secret Society of Detectives.

Gotham City, 1929. Bruce’s parents are killed and he is the same determined boy who goes overseas to study so that he can fight criminals. However, when he comes back ten years later, he finds out that Alfred has changed; he’s now a medical doctor. When a shadowy group of men want Bruce to join their secret society, Bruce also finds out that Alfred is one of them, detective 25. The society has also manipulated some things during Bruce’s training and he’s angry about it. However, he joins them.

The Secret Society of Detectives was founded to combat the Knights of the Golden Circle, a villainous secret society whose goal is to destroy one of Northern USAs cities. The Knights were founded right after Civil War and they were responsible for killing Abraham Lincoln. Throughout the years, they have recruited a lot of members, especially doctors an biologists, and acquired a lot of newest scientific advancements. In response, Allan Pinkerton founded the Secret Society of Detectives.

The comic has two timelines: one starting in 1939 and starring Bruce, and one earlier starting with 1865 and depicting the adventures of Allan and William Pinkerton and Kate Warne when they try to defeat the Knights. The story has a surprising number of historical characters, such as Freud and Babe Ruth.

This is an exciting story and it rolls along smoothly even though the two storylines have separate casts. Even though we don’t see Batman, there are a lot of references to his old villains and there’s even a moment where Bruce is thinking that he needs a disguise to strike fear in the hearts of criminals – and then the doorbell rings, he gets up and goes to the door and he never sees the bat in the window. I also enjoyed how Bruce suspected Alfred a couple of times. After all, they have been apart for a long time.

I really enjoyed Snejbjerg’s art which is clean and moody, and fits the story well.

A Miss Marple mystery.

Publication year: 1953
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1982
Format: print
Page count: 263
Publisher of the Finnish translation: WSOY
Finnish translator: Eila Pennanen

It’s been quite a few years since I read a Christie novel but I have watched most of the Poirot movies. This book reminded me that I should start reading Christie again.

Rex Fortescue owns a veritable financial empire but now he’s dead, murdered in his own office. Strangely, rye is found from his pocket and nobody seems to know how it got there. Inspector Neele is assigned the case and he starts to investigate the Fortescue family. Then, more people are murdered.

It turns out that Mr. Fortescue wasn’t a well-loved man. In fact, in the recent year he has started to act so strangely that his firm is on the verge of bankruptcy so many people could benefit from his death. He has three children from his previous marriage: Percival, Lancelot, and Elaine. Elaine is in love with a man her father doesn’t approve of and Lancelot is the bad boy of the family who has angered his father so much that the son moved to Africa. Percival is the good boy who runs the firm together with his father but they have been arguing a lot lately. However, after Lancelot married, his father wrote to him and wanted to reconcile matters with him. Mr. Fortescue’s second wife is a lot younger than him and has a affair with another man. Percival’s wife seems also quite unhappy. And of course, the old, very religious Aunt Effie lives in the attic and doesn’t approve of what the rest of the family are doing. Mary Dove is the very efficient housekeeper who keeps her emotions in check and the house running smoothly. Some of the rest of the staff is also suspected.

The book is full of red herrings and strange twists. A very satisfying mystery. Inspector Neele is described as looking stupider than he is and he has a way of letting people talk. He’s also quite competent and intuitive. Still, he’s quite hopelessly lost before Miss Marple comes along, near the end of the book.

Today the topic of Top Ten Tuesdays is Top Ten Places Books Have Made Me Want to Visit.

1, Beta Colony and various other planets in the Vorkosigan series
Lois McMaster Bujold makes many of her places quite compelling.

2, Alexandria
Various historical texts and historical fiction books make Alexandria seem like a magical place. (and not in the T.A.H.I.T.I way :))

3,The Summer lands
Even though the Summer lands can be quite a cruel place to humans, Seanan McGuire makes it a very tempting place.

4, San Fransisco
I’ve never visited US but various books make Frisco seem like a very welcoming place.

5, Venice
Donna Leon’s books are just the latest to add to my Venice obsession. I’ve wanted to visit it for quite a long time now.

6, The Armstrong Dome
Even though this Moon Dome has been subject to too many bombings, it still sounds like a great place to visit. From Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Retrieval Artist series.

7, Amber
Roger Zelazny’s Amber actually has all alternate and imaginary worlds.

8, Cairo, Egypt
Amelia Peabody and her family spend a little time there between digs.

9, Sherwood forest
From books to comics to movies to TV-shows, Robin and his merry gang have a place in my heart.

10, The Dreaming
From the Sandman comics. I’d especially want to spent a few hundred years in Dream’s library.

The second book in the mystery series about Venetsian Comissario Brunetti.

Publication year: 1993
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1998
Format: print
Page count: 317
Publisher of the Finnish translation: Otava
Finnish translator: Titia Schuurman

Early in the morning a body of a young man is found from a canal. Comissario Brunetti is called to the scene and he finds some American coins from the body’s pockets. So everyone thinks that the brutally stabbed body is an American. Brunetti’s boss Patta is worried that the incident could affect tourism or even American-Italian relations and wants Brunetti to close the case as soon as possible.

The body turns out to be an American soldier, Foster, from the nearby American army post. Foster’s superior comes to identify him – and the fact that his boss is a woman is something the Italians find hard to swallow. Despite being an army captain and a doctor, Foster’s boss throws up after seeing him, so Brunetti suspects that something was going on between them. He also doesn’t believe that Foster was killed in a simple robbery but his boss wants him to just dig up a covenient scapegoat and close the case.

At the same time, Brunetti has another case: a wealthy Italian business man was robbed. He saw the two or three robbers but not well enough to identify them but he knows which three paintings they took. Brunetti suspects that he’s not telling the truth but Patta is again more interested in closing the case quickly – and in a way that the business man wants.

This second book in the series brings to clear focus the level of corruption rampart in Venice. Patta is the prime example – he just wants to further his career and cares nothing about anything else. Fortunately, Brunetti can ”handle” him rather easily. The book also deals with toxic chemical dumping and the characters discuss the corruption in their governments. The canals have so dirty water that Brunetti doesn’t want to touch it.

Brunetti teams up with a Carabineri major from the American base and they talk some about how Americans and their habits are different from Venetian people and their habits. Immigration is also touched on. The characters and the setting feels very much true to life.

The end is realistic and so it’s quite possible that it’s not satisfactory to pure mystery readers. But it’s very much in character with the world we live in.

A short story collection centered on modern crime.

Publication year: 2014
Format: audiobook
Running time: 8 hours, 11 minute
Narrated by: Jerimy Colbert, Jane Kennedy, Dan Boice
Publisher: WMG Publishing

The collection has 15 stories. Only a few of them have someone trying to solve a case but all of them have a prominent criminal element. Sometimes the characters are criminals or other people in whose lives crimes are somehow prominent.

The first story is ”Hitler’s Dogs” by Doug Allyn. Doc is a former member of Fat Jack’s gang and has returned for his former boss’ funeral. Someone drove over Fat Jack and Doc is determined to find out who.
”Wheel of Fortune” by Steve Hockensmith: The main character is a young girl moving around US with her mother and Biddle. The adults are conmen, doing insurance frauds and other stuff. For fun, the girl and Biddle do a trick with a raffle ticket.
”The Good Brother” by Brendan DuBois is a story about two brothers. One of them is a criminal on the run who turns to his brother, the lawyer, for help.
”FoL” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Nico is a rich young man cruising his way through law school. Then his room in his dorm is burned down and he’s framed for it. He’s left with a strange calling card: FoL. His father makes the charges go away and Nico turns his life around and graduates with honors. But when he tries to apply for an excellent job, strange letters smears his character. Once again, he encounters the strange letters FoL.
”These boots were made for murder” by Julie Hyzy is written in the first person POV. The young female narrator is sleeping with a middle-aged cop Brody because her mother has a deal with him. But a new neighbor, Mal, takes the young girl under her wing and teaches her actual skills. Unfortunately, neither Brody nor the girl’s mother like that.
”Because” by Melissa Yi is one of the shorter stories about motherhood.
”City of Light and Darkness” by Daemon Crowe is set in the year 1968. Kevin Cooper has been stranded penniless in Paris because he doesn’t want to fight in the Vietnam war. He asks help from acquaintance but it has price that Kevin has to decide to pay.
”No good deed” by Libby Fischer Hellman is set in the 1960s. Luther is a member of Klu Klux Klan and was sentenced to prison for lynching a black person. Then, a young black man sent to the same prison for raping a white woman.
”Rationing” by Karen Fonville is set in USA during WWII. The 13-year old narrator needs more money after an accident. She goes around the village looking for anyone who can trade food stamps for work, but she finds a body instead. The body is of Mrs Schmidt who has lived in the village for years with her husband. But now the government has taken her husband away and the villagers treat her with hostility.
”Neutrality” by Karen L. Abrahamson: The narrator, A. C. Turner, works as a family counselor in family court. She sees a lot of broken, angry families. She’s now assigned a case where she has to decide if a little girl is going to go to her drug using, prostitute mother or her drug using, entrepreneur father. Both have said that they’ve stopped using, but Turner has seen too much to believe them.
”Plan B” by Kate Wilhelm has a fun twist on a familiar plot. Jackson is looking for a companion to his elderly aunt. He meets Ruth Leary at a local old folks home and she seems a perfect fit to make the old aunt laugh every now and then. However, Ruth soon finds out that things aren’t what they look like.
”Gas, Tan, Video” by M. Elizabeth Castle is a mystery in Haiku form.
”Jackrabbit DMZ” by Annie Reed is a story about patrol deputy Jill Jordan. She patrols Highway 50 which is a long and lonely patch of road in Nevada desert. Lots of people think that the rules don’t apply to them, here. Also, in such small rural towns the good old boy networks even try to suppress crimes which are considered minor, but they can be life threatening.
”Eyes on my cards” by Dean Wesley Smith starring Doc Hill, a professional poker player, and narrated by the author. Doc and his team, Annie and Fleet, are called in when a friend suspects a cheater in his casino. Doc is a former detective. His friend knows who the cheater is but he isn’t able to figure out how it’s done.
”Jokers” by M. Elizabeth Castle is set in a mapping company where socially awkward and sexist Stanley works. As a joke, he sometimes adds non-existent roads into the maps. The new intern, Britney, isn’t quite as bad as usual, but she makes him nervous in a strange way.
”Photo World” by J.C. Andrijeski starts during the first day of the year 1990. Meg works as a printer in a photoshop. In fact, she’s the best printer in the shop and the local police station brings to her crime scene photos to print. To her shock, she realized that this time the dead woman is her former roommate and she sees a clue in the pictures.

I enjoyed all of the stories. The most memorable ones were ”The Good Brother”, ”These boots were made for murder”, ”Plan B”, and ”Photo World”. ”No good deed” is also quite memorable and was uncomfortable to read, but in a good way, I guess.

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