2014 Women Reading Challenge


The fourth book in the Clockwork Century series (including the novellas).

Publication year: 2012
Format: print
Page count: 366
Publisher: Tor

Rector Sherman has just turned eighteen and the orphanage where he’s grown up will have to kick him out. He doesn’t really know what to do because he doesn’t have many useful skills. So far, he’s mainly conned people out of their money, sold drug called sap, and also used sap himself. He’s also haunted by a ghost of a kid he sent to die. However, that kid wasn’t using sap; Rector helped him get inside the walled city of Seattle. With nothing else to do, on the eve of his birthday, he collects his meager belongings, steals food from the orphanage, and heads to Seattle. He has some notion that he’ll be able to talk straight with the people who make the sap and take a bigger cut – if he survives the Blight gas and the walking rotters.

However, things aren’t that easy. The people of Seattle have divided strongly into groups which don’t really care for each other. The Chinese men, who don’t speak much English, the Doornails who oppose the Stationers. The Stationers are mostly the drug makers and more dangerous bandits. Also, Rector finds out that something else than the walking dead is stalking humans.

Rector isn’t a pleasant POV character and not just because he’s an addict. He’s also always looking to profit himself at the expense of others. He’s also lazy and the only ambition his has is his next fix. And yet, the moral choices he has to make are quite easy and it’s strangely easy for him to get rid of his addiction. There are a few mentions later on that he’s thinking about the next fix but that’s it.

I also didn’t really care for the Inexplicable and was more interested in the other storyline but Rector was more a sideliner in that. However, most of the rest of the cast return and I really enjoy them. It was also interesting to see them from another POV, especially with such a self-centered character and Rector.

Clearly my least favorite of the series but I’m looking forward to the next book.

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A Miss Marple mystery.

Publication year: 1952
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2011
Format: audio, 8 cds
Publisher of the Finnish translation: WSOY
Finnish translator: Anna-Liisa Laine
Narrated by Lars Swedberg

Mrs. Elspeth McGillicuddy takes a nap in train and when she wakes up, she witnesses a murder. On a train travelling to the same direction but next to McGillicuddy’s train, a tall, dark man strangles a blond woman. But nobody belives her when she tells about it. At least until she tells her friends, Miss Marple. Marple thinks that they will read about from papers and then the police will listen.

But no such body is found. Miss Marple realizes that she’s a bit old to do her own sleuthing, so she sends Lucy Eyelesbarrow to be her eyes and ears. Lucy is a young and highly sought after housekeeper who rarely stays long in one place. She’s also very intelligent and resourceful, looking for both the body and the murderer.

She goes to old Rutherford Hall which belongs to the highly dysfunctional Crackenthorpe family. The father is old and an invalid and his only surviving daugther looks after him. The father resents his three sons and they in turn resent him.

Lucy is the main POV character, along with detective Dermot Craddock. She’s a delightful narrator and I didn’t mind Craddock, either. The family is full of suspects and the characters are interesting. I throughly enjoyed the book even though the ending was less stellar than other Christie books I’ve read.

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.

Excellent diversion.

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.

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 stand-alone mystery book.

Publication year: 2002
Format: print
Page count: 390 + a reader’s guide and excerpt from her next book, the Seduction of Water
Publisher: Random House

Jane Hudson is a Latin teacher in the Heart Lake School for Girls, which is situated right next to an actual lake, the Heart Lake. She has recently divorced from her husband and lives a cottage near the school with her young daughter Olivia. In the lake itself are three big rocks which are said to remind of three sisters who killed themselves by drowning in the lake.

Jane was also a student in this school twenty years ago and her time ended with a tragedy: both of her roommates died; they killed themselves. Now, someone leaves pieces of Jane’s old diary to her which brings the memories back to her mind and it even seems as some of Jane’s students want to kill themselves.

Most of the book is told in flashbacks which are written in past tense. The current day events are written in present tense. The POV is from Jane’s first person narrative, so the reader gets a really intimate look into her and her life. She’s always been a lonely person and even though she tries to please her mother, she never succeeds. When she was a teenager, she took a Latin class and became friends with two of her classmates, Lucy and her brother Matthew. They became very tight. Jane and Lucy when together to Heart Lake and were roommates. The third girl in the same room was Deirdre, whom they didn’t know at all but who quickly becomes a part of their gang. She smokes pot and introduces the other girls to it, too. Lucy has a magnetic personality and Jane is completely fascinated by her. Unlike Lucy or the other girls in Heart Lake, Jane comes from a poor family.

The book has a great, spooky atmosphere. Most of the events take place during autumn and winter, and the freezing lake is described beautifully. Since the vast majority of characters are girls, there’s also wonderful description of friendships between girls. Some of the friendships are genuine and some less so, just like in real life. Things are going on which Jane doesn’t know about but readers can see or guess. Goodman also uses literary metaphors a lot and I enjoyed the descriptions of her Latin classes and the classic texts they were reading. The mix of classics and the eerie atmosphere was great.

However, the present day mystery was overshadowed by the events in the past and since there weren’t many suspects I was able to figure out the guilty party before the narrator (for once). Also, the romance came quite out of the blue and felt almost an afterthought. Jane’s daughter also felt more like a plot complication than a person. Of course, she’s only four.

Yes! A new October Daye book!

Publication year: 2014
Format: audio
Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal
Running Time: 11 hrs 58 mins
Publisher: Daw

With this story, Toby’s life turns again upside down and many of the things she knew about her past turn out not to be true. Unfortunately, it also drives a wedge between her and some of her friends. She also learns something new about her powers.

Toby’s life is, for once, going well when she’s summoned the Queen of the Mist’s Yule festival. Even though the new queen is Toby’s friend, she’s very reluctant to attend. In fact, Tybalt has to force her to. But it’s worth it: Toby is named a hero of the realm.

However, when she and her merry band return home and finally get to bed, Simon Torquill comes calling. Simon is, essentially, Toby’s nemesis: he turned her into a fish for 14 years and destroyed her life with her mortal family. Simon is also Toby’s liege lord’s twin brother and he kidnapped Sylvester’s wife and daughter, damaging them beyond repair. Toby is more than surprised to see him and when he tells her that he works for someone else. However, that someone has put a geas over Simon so he can’t reveal who that person is.

After an exchange of spells, Simon flees and Toby decides to warn her liege, whom Simon could be impersonating.

This is another emotional roller-coaster for Toby and for us readers. The final enemy is revealed and it came as a surprise to me, even though the clues were there all the time. Toby trusts her allies more willingly than before, which is great. The motivations of some the characters remained vague but I think it’s partly because Toby didn’t really listen to them. Maybe in the future we’ll get a better explanation for some of the things. Otherwise, I throughly enjoyed this book.

The familiar cast returns but Tybalt and Toby’s squire Quinten take the clear center stage. I’m not complaining; they’re my favorites! Along with the Luidaeg, who was awesome, too!

Excellent addition to the series.

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