RIP IX


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.

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A short story collection.

Publication year: 2014
Format: audiobook
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.

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.

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.

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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