October 29, 2014
A Miss Marple Mystery
Publication year: 1942
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2011
Format: audio, 6 cds
Publisher of the Finnish translation: WSOY
Finnish translator: Ragne Rossi
Narrated by Lars Swedberg
Colonel and mrs Bantry get a horrible shock one morning: there’s a body of a young woman in their perfectly respectable library. She has been strangled and is sprawled in the library rug in a cocktail dress. Nobody knows who she is and mrs Bantry is at first thrilled to be part of an actual murder investigation. She calls her friend miss Marple to solve the case.
Meanwhile, two police officers take charge of the investigation: colonel Melchett and inspector Slack. Soon enough, they find out that the girl, Ruby, had been a dancer in Majestic hotel which is in the neighboring county. There, a rich and eccentric old man had taking a liking to her, but his relatives had not liked that.
To make matters even worse, soon rumors are flying around in the small village of St. Mary Mead that the poor old colonel has strangled his mistress in his library. This, of course, affects his standing in the village.
This story has a lot of suspects. The most eccentric of them is Conway Jefferson who was crippled in a plane crash but his adult children died. He has had difficult time with it; he doesn’t allow himself to stop and grieve but pushes his body and mind. He also keeps his daughter-in-law and son-in-law close to himself and they’ve both started to resent that. Then there’s Ruby’s dancing partner and her cousin who invited her into the hotel in the first place. I didn’t guess the culprit. The book has quite fun moments, too, because of the characters.
Most of the investigation is done by the police officers who are actually pretty bland compared to the other characters. Much like in the previous Christie book I read, miss Marple doesn’t appear much.
October 28, 2014
Collects issues 11-18.
Writer: Bill Willingham
Artists: Marc Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Lan Medina, Bryan Talbot, Linda Medley, Craig Hamilton
This collection starts with a stand-alone tale of Jack. He’s the hero of several fairy tales, such as Jack the Giant-killer and he also had the magic beans. Issue 11 is set during the American civil war and Jack fought on the Confederate side. When the war starts to go badly for his side, he leaves. During his travel, he encounters a strange old man and plays cards with him. It turns out that the old man is none other than the devil himself and soon Jack is playing for his soul.
Next up is a two issue story where our stalwart fables unite against one human man in order to keep their existence a secret from humans. Tommy Sharp is a good investigative journalist and he’s dug deep into Fabletown’s history. He makes the mistake of calling on Bigby before exposing Fabletown. Now, Bigby, Jack, Sleeping Beauty, Prince Charming, Boy Blue, Flycatcher, and Bluebeard have to protect their secret.
Next up is the Storybook Love storyline. At the end of the previous volume, Snow White was shot and she barely survived. She’s now well enough to move around slowly with a cane. Meanwhile, the villains from the previous volumes have teamed up and have hatched a plan to kill Snow and Bigby but out of town. Since they won’t leave voluntarily, the villains make a spell which forces them to go camping together in a place far away from everyone else. They have just one tent and the consequences of that are seen at the end of the volume.
Goldilocks is after Bigby and Snow with a rifle. After they survive their car crashing down a mountain side, they trek through the woods together and we get to know a bit more about Bigby. Back in Fabletown, Prince Charming has somehow ordered the mouse police, Liliputians riding intelligent, talking rats, to spy on Bluebeard.
The final issue is again a stand-alone. This time, Bigby tells Flycatcher about how the Liliputians came to the Farm and how they got brides.
Overall, this a good collection where characters face consequences from their previous actions and a significant plotline is started. I really enjoyed the way that the fables dealt with the reporter, which was quite funny at first. The final issue is also quite charming.
At his best, Willingham does a great job of balancing humor and horror, and the horror isn’t always violence and splatter. He’s not yet at his best in this collection but pretty good. The characters are starting to grow to their personalities, especially Bigby and Snow. Snow’s actually not a very exciting person; instead she’s a very good byrocrat: methodical and organized but without much humor or imagination. Bigby is very much like Wolverine: experienced warrior and killer who has a compassionate side and is struggling with his enhanced senses all the time.
October 25, 2014
A short story collection.
Publication year: 2014
Running time: 7 hours, 50 minute
Narrated by: Jerimy Colbert, Jane Kennedy, Barton Cover Howe, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Dean Wesley Smith
Publisher: WMG Publishing
This isn’t an ordinary urban fantasy collection because most of the main characters aren’t Buffy-like. Instead it has more variety.
Once again, I enjoyed all of the stories in this Fiction River collection. I really enjoyed the thee stories which deal with various arts, two with music and one with theater. I don’t play any instrument nor can I sing but I’ve always associated music with magic but I haven’t seen it used much in fantasy. I also really liked ”the Fox and the Hound”.
“King of The Kingless” by Jay Lake is story about middle-aged wizard who has cancer. In this world, wizards are mostly homeless because their power deals with marginal places and destruction. They’re also warring against witches who steal the wizards’ magic.
In “Speechless in Seattle” by Lisa Sliverthorne a young wizard just coming to his powers makes a terrible mistake. In order to make things right, he has to go to the Seattle Library of Hidden Arts and get help from the youngest magical librarian.
In “Thy Neighbor” by Nancy Holder a young witch is babysitting a child she and the other sitters call 333. However, she’s taken the job for a completely different reason than money.
In “Somebody Else’s Problem” by Annie Bellet Verity Lee’s a police officer who specializes in magical detection and in order to do that she has been bonded to a rat who can smell illegal magic. They make a great team. One day Verity hears screaming from her neighbor’s apartment and investigates.
In “A Thing Immortal As Itself” by Lee Allred vampires are predators. They have a secret society but some politicians know about it, and want somethings.
“Geriatric Magic” by Stephanie Writt is a charming story about an old man who gets an unexpected gift.
“Red As Snow” by Seanan McGuire is part of the InCryptic series. Istas and her boyfriend Ryan are kidnapped… by Istas’ brothers and father.
In “Music’s Price” by Anthea Sharp a young Irish musician has seen fairies from young age, when he plays his cello. Jeremy was scared at first but then his grandmother gives him a charm and the fairies seem to go away. But then his grandmother dies and Jeremy has to play again.
“The Sound of My Own Voice” by Dayle A. Dermatis: the MC is the half-sister of a popular teen singer but her parents have always said that she herself shouldn’t sing because her voice is so bad. But after her boyfriend leaves her, she ends up in a bar, drunk, and singing karaoke. Then she finds out the real reason why she shouldn’t sing.
“The 13th Floor Problem” by Dean Wesley Smith is a Poker Boy story. This time Lady Luck informs Poker Boy and his superhero collages that in two days every 13th floor in Las Vegas is going to disappear. They have to prevent it.
In “Dead Men Walking” by Annie Reed lawyer Dalton Garvin seems to be plagued by a group of undead. But reanimating the dead is a crime so Dalton has to quickly prove that he doesn’t have anything to do with it.
“One Good Deed” by Jeanne C. Stein is a ghost story set in her Anna Strong series. Anna and her new husband are in a hotel, trying to banish a ghost. Apparently, the ghost is a young woman and now she’s strangling men who stay in her room.
“Fox and Hound” by Leah Cutter is set in Beijing, where Gao rides an illegal bicycle rickshaw. He’s desperate to get money and takes on a Japanese customer who turns out to be stranger than Gao thought.
“The Scottish Play” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Porchia is one of three sisters and three witches. Their family tree of witches can be traced back to several centuries, only their methods have changed. Her job is to get rid of curses and other magic in theaters. Because acting, and writing, can produce magic, they can also produce curses so she and her two sisters are in high demand. However, something goes terribly wrong in the Lancaster theater where their mother is working on a curse and is killed.
October 22, 2014
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.
October 19, 2014
The first Modesty Blaise book based on the comic strip heroine.
Publication year: 1965
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1997
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.
October 16, 2014
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.
October 15, 2014
A Miss Marple mystery.
Publication year: 1953
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1982
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.
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