July 2020

This is the second new Hercule Poirot novel, not written by Christie.

Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2016
Format: print
Page count: 321
Finnish publisher: WSOY
Finnish translator: Terhi Vartia

I can’t really say if Hannah’s style is close to Christie; I read this in translation and I’ve read most Christie books in translation, too. However, Closed Casket has been written in first person, which is very different from Christie’s book. I think this is a deliberate style choice.

The narrator of the book is Inspector Edward Catchpool from Scotland Yard. Apparently, he was involved in the previous case, too, and talks about it a few times. He, Poirot, and a group of other eccentric people have gathered to the estate of Lady Playford, in Ireland. Catch pool and Poirot don’t know the lady and she refuses to tell them why she had invited them.

Gathered to her home are her two children and their eccentric spouses, a couple of lawyers and the lady’s secretary and his nurse. They’re all strange to some degree. Of course, one of them is murdered right in front of Poirot and Catchpool.

This was an enjoyable enough mystery and the characters were interesting. It’s not as good as Christie’s best, though.

A reprint of the Modesty Blaise comic strips 45, 46, and 47.

Publisher: Titan
Original publication years: 1980-1981
Titan publication year: 2009

The first story, “Dossier on Pluto”, is set in the Caribbeans. Modesty is meeting with her old friend Steve Taylor who is a former CIA agent. But now that he’s left the agency, he’s become a dolphin trainer. He has five dolphins who are all named after Greek gods, Pluto is one of them. However, shady people are also interested in how much they can make money with the dolphins. They decide to break to Taylor’s place and take his info. Meanwhile, Willie is vacationing with a new girl and Sir Gerard Tarrant. They’re fishing at sea, not too far from the Caribbeans.

This one has pretty straightforward plot, except for the dolphins. Modesty really cares for them and doing any violence on them angers her. Still the story has some comedic elements, as usual. Interestingly enough, the Finnish translation calls the dolphins with the human pronoun rather than “it”.

“The Lady Killers” starts as a lighthearted romp but an unexpected twist turns it darker. Modesty and Willie are vacationing in Tangiers, where she ran her criminal Network. In fact, the story starts with a brief glimpse of Modesty ten years previously when she was a nightclub owner and ran the Network. A Danish ship captain saved her life and they’ve been friends ever since. Now, the sea captain’s girlfriend, who runs a nightclub of her own, is in trouble. A hardened criminal Da Silva wrings protection money of her and she can barely pay him any longer. Modesty finds Da Silva distasteful and agrees to simply kidnap him and send him a way for six months; during that time his organization should collapse. The scheme works, but then Modesty and Willie find out that Da Silva had been mixed up with something which could cost an innocent life. And they feel obliged to help.

This was a good, fun adventure. Although, it has some sexism. When Willie is pitted against female terrorists, he finds it hard to hurt them. And the women terrorists are more a joke than a serious threat. For some reason Colvin draws them quite a lot less attractive than Modesty or Maude in the next strip.

I liked the last story best. “Garvin’s Travels” starts with Willie and Maude Tiller starting a vacation in a luxurious big house which is owned by one of Modesty’s millionaire friends. However, they can’t even get to bed before men attack them. Whey they fend off the attack, they’re still kidnapped.
Meanwhile, CIA has contacted Tarrant who needs to pull Maude back to duty. But Modesty is determined to let the two lovebirds have nice time and she takes the mission herself. She goes undercover to a “health university” for wealthy people.”

This was a more lighthearted adventure than the previous one. Maude is a one of the spies in British Intelligence and I quite like her. She has appeared in previous stories. She’s a capable agent, loyal, and eager to learn. She’s not as good a fighter as Willie or Modesty but she’s learning. This story has quite a few comedic elements and there aren’t any civilians in danger.

This are Neville Colvin’s first MB strips. Some readers don’t think that he as good an artist as Romero or Holdaway but I think he’s good enough.

I didn’t remember that the last two stories have a couple of scenes with bare-breasted women. While the women are drawn in very sexy positions and often with cleavages, I’m a bit surprised that the sensors at the time allowed these scenes. Both scenes are relevant to the plot although of course O’Donnell could’ve written them differently.

Otherwise, these are pretty good MB adventures. I quite enjoyed this collection, too.

The fifth book in the Expanse science fiction series.

Publication year: 2015
Format: print
Page count: 532
Publisher: Orbit

Nemesis Games is quite different from the previous four books. For once, all four point-of-view characters are familiar to us. In fact, they’re the Rocinante crew. Yes, this is the book which shows us their past and reveals their secrets. I’ve guessed some of them, but the book had a few surprises.

Holden is the most familiar POV character, after all, he’s been one of the POV character in every book. But this time Amos, Alex, and Naomi also get their own POVs.

The book starts some months after the end of Cibola Burn. The Rocinante took quite a beating and is now under repairs at Tycho Station. So, the crew takes some time off.

Amos gets a message that his oldest friend has died on Earth so he heads there. He meets up with some of his old buddies, who are criminals.

Naomi also gets a message but she just leaves, without saying where. Turns out that her ex sent a message that their son is in trouble. Yes, this is the book where we see what really drove Naomi to the Canterbury.

Alex wants a resolution with his ex-wife and goes to Mars. However, the ex has her own life now and doesn’t want Alex in it. But he meets with the former gunnery sergeant Bobbie Draper who isn’t settling well in civilian life. She’s investigating Martian military ships which have disappeared and Alex agrees the help her.

Meanwhile, Ben Johnson talks with Holden about ships which go missing when they go through the Ring. Holden agrees to investigate.

Finally seeing the POVs of the rest of the Rocinante crew was good. However, it’s also depressing because Amos and Naomi have troubled backgrounds and Alex’s isn’t much better. I also found difficulty believing that Naomi would just abandon her son.

About halfway though, the Expanse status quo is changed in a radical way. It already had a lot of conflict because some of the Belters think that the rest of the humanity are going to just abandon them, when they go through the Ring and settled the alien planets. Also, the Martians are leaving Mars and the terraforming effort. But now things escalated to a different direction.

The end wrapped up the immediate problems the characters had but nothing is resolved.

I mostly enjoyed the book but it was, again, different than what I wanted it to be. Instead of exploring the bigger galaxy, Expanse is about humans being shitty to each other. The last chapter teases about the aliens returning.

I’ve been reading SFF for many years but I’ve also been writing.

I’m delighted to tell you that I’ve published my first short story on Amazon:
How Robin Hood Became the Mortal Enemy of the Earl of Huntingdon.

It has 16,000 words so it’s a novelette really. I’ve loved Robin Hood stories most of my life and I loved writing this one. It’s a light-hearted read and I hope that you’ll enjoy it.

I’m working on the next Robin Hood story which will have mischievous fairies, too.

The first book in the Templar Chronicle urban fantasy series.

Publication year: 2005
Format: ebook
Page count on GoodReads: 306
Publisher: Harbringer Books

Cade Williams in the Knight Commander of his own elite team of Knight Templar. The Echo team has a reputation for getting things done, but Cade himself is called the Heretic and many of the deeply religious knights fear him and think he’s damned.

One of those knights is Knight Lieutenant Sean Duncan. He’s the head of the protetive detail for one of the leaders of the order. One of the knights’ stronghold is attacked bytsupernatural forces and every knight is killed and the graveyard is desecrated. Duncan’s superior calls in the Echo Team. The team is missing one member and Cade chooses Duncan to replace the dead man. Reluctantly, Duncan agrees but he’s very suspicions of Cade from the start.

Cade has suspicions on just what has attacked the stronghold and he starts an investigation which unearths a plot against the whole order.

There are a lot of legends around the Poor Knight of Christ of the Temple of Solomon or Knight Templar or Templars. In this story, they are the good guys, protecting humanity from supernatural dangers. The bad guys are sorcerers who are bringing demons and undead spirits to the world.

It has two major point-of-view characters, Cade and Duncan. While they have quite a few similarities, they have differences, too. Both were inspired to join the order because their wives where murderd. They both have magic powers which they’re keeping a secret from everyone. Cade has the Sight with which he can see to a world beyond ours and also past events of object he touches. He can also travel to the Beyond through mirrors. Duncan can heal with his touch.

However, Duncan is devoutly religious while Cade lost his faith when his wife was murdered before his eyes. Duncan is also very faithful to his superior while Cade pretty much does as he pleases. Cade is hunting for the Adversary who ordered his wife killed.

This was an exciting read with lots of fight scenes and a fast-paced plot. It didn’t end in a cliffhanger but it left major plot poins open at the end.

A reprint of the Modesty Blaise comic strips 36, 37, and 38.

Publisher: Titan
Original publication years: 1976-1978
Titan publication year: 2007

“The Vanishing Dollybirds” starts in London when a sheikh whom Modesty and Willie helped in the “Willie the Djinn” has come to a visit. A woman Willie knows, Dolores, throws a soda can at the sheikh’s car startling everyone inside. It turns out that Dolores’ sister supposedly got a job in the Middle-East and vanished. Dolores is convinced that the poor girl has ended up as a slave in a harem. Dolores works as a knife-thrower’s assistant in the circus where Willie is one of the two owners. Dolores is convinced that a wealthy couple is behind her sister’s disappearance. They supposedly organize jobs in the Middle-East for poor and “troubled” girls but have a reputation as good citizens and Dolores doesn’t have any evidence. Modesty and Willie sympathize but don’t want to get involved, so Dolores investigates by herself. Of course, the couple are the villains and send goons after Dolores.

This is a very intense comic and has one of the more unhappy endings. But it also has lots of fun scenes. The circus’ knife-thrower arm was broken, so Willie must put on a wig and perform. When Dolores goes missing, Modesty takes her place as the living target. The villains aren’t very original but have a twist. Without the circus scenes this would have been a very dark comic.

“The Junk Men” is set in the wilds of Turkey. Willie is a stunt-man in a small budget scifi film where everything seems to be going wrong. Willie and Modesty know the film’s director, Eddie Grant. When Modesty arrives, Eddie complains that the film has been haunted with strange accidents. But Willie says that the people of the local village seem to be afraid of the gang of men whom the film’s producers insist on working on the film. At the same time, three powerful drug lords meet. They need to get back a huge shipment of heroin which went down in a plane in the wilds of Turkey.

This was another fun adventure but it’s drugs related so it’s one of the darker strips. The drug lords and their minions are ruthless. It doesn’t have nearly as many funny scenes as the previous comic.

“Death Trap” is a revenge story. Sir Tarrant has captured three agents from a small Eastern-European nation. One of the country’s leaders, Brosni, wants to discredit Tarrant in return. As an added bonus, Brosni gets revenge on Modesty who has beaten him in the past. Brosni and his cronies come up with a brutal plan so that Modesty would storm to the country in a rage and Brosni’s men can capture her. They target her new boyfriend.

Modesty is vacationing in Spain with Professor Roberto Abril who is a gentle biologist. When Modesty and Roberto are climbing up a very difficult mountain side, Brosni’s hired killer appears and whips Roberto to death right in front of Modesty. She’s shaken but can’t reach the killer who escapes. However, she knows who the killer is.

The local police keep Modesty in Spain for two weeks. During that time, she has time to think and decides that she won’t go after the killer, because Roberto wouldn’t approve. However, Brosni and his cronies don’t give up. They send a request for Modesty to come and identify the killer whom they’ve “arrested”. Of course, Modesty, Tarrant, and Willie know that it’s most likely a trap. However, because there is a slight chance that the killer has been arrested and would face real justice, Modesty goes. Of course, she’s prepared.

This is also a very dark story, the beginning is especially brutal. It doesn’t have much humor in it, either, to balance the darkness, like “the Vanishing Dollybirds” has. It showcases Modesty’s ethics and smarts, especially near the end.

These three are quite dark stories, especially the last two which lack the light-hearteness that most Modesty stories usually have. I still enjoyed them a lot.

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Today, the topic is Top authors I’ve read the most books by.

Goodreads doesn’t seem to have the features anymore where you could just see which authors you’ve read the most so I took these from my blog.

1, Kristine Kathryn Rusch: 28
Rusch writes in pretty much every genre and has several pen names. I’m most eager to read her SF, both the Diving universe books and the Retrieval artist books as well as stand-alones. I also enjoy her historical mysteries series under the name Kris Nelscott. She also has lots of short stories. She’s also written Star Trek and Star Wars novels and some other franchise books, as well.

2, Lois McMaster Bujold: 26
I adore Bujold’s Vorkosigan series and I’ve enjoyed her fantasy, too. The newest Penric novellas are delightfully light reading. But if you want complex world-building and mature characters, her Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls are just what you need.

3, Elizabeth Bear: 24
She writes both fantasy and SF. I’ve enjoyed almost all of her books and most of her short stories, too. She writes trilogies and stand-alone books rather than long series.

4, Kerry Greenwood: 24
Phryne Fisher got her own TV-show a couple of years ago and now has a movie coming out. The books are similar and I must confess that I like the books more. I also enjoy her Corinna Chapman mysteries.

5, Elizabeth Peters: 23
I’ve through enjoyed her historical detective stories in the Amelia Peabody series and I’m saving the last few until I’m ready. I’ve also enjoyed her Jacqueline Kirby and Vicky Bliss series which have a similar blend of detective stories and humor

6, Steven Brust: 18
I adore Brust’s Dragaera series, the world and the characters. I’m eagerly waiting for the next one.

7, Seanan McGuire: 16
She writes fantasy and horror and comics. I love the world and the characters in her Toby Daye series about fairies in the modern world.

8, C. J. Cherryh: 16
I’ve mostly read science fiction from Cherryh.

9, Terry Pratchett: 14
I’ve reviewed only fourteen of his books but I’ve probably read more over the years.

10, Edger Rice Burroughs: 12
I’ve only reviewed the Barsoom series and one Venus book from him, but when I was much younger, I read a lot of Tarzan.

This was a fun topic and it reminded me that I’m behind on reading some of my favorite authors.

Of course, a top 10 comics authors would look quite different.