A stand-alone book based on Dracula.

Publication year: 2005
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2006
Format: print
Finnish translator: Arto Schroderus
Page count: 596
Finnish Publisher: WSOY

The Finnish translation is abridged. The original seems to be almost 1000 pages.

The book is narrated by a 16-year-old girl who remains nameless. However, most of the time she’s either listening her father tell her about his life or reading letters from various people. Her father, Paul, is a diplomat but he studied history and he tells is story from the time when he’s writing his dissertation about merchants in Holland. The story is also told in several time lines. The main story with the girl happens in 1972 but most of the book is set in the 1950s, and in the beginning some of the letters are from the 1930s. The book has several references to Bram Stoker’s Dracula and it’s pretty clear from the start that the mysterious enemies are vampires.

The narrator lives in Amsterdam. Her father is away a lot and the narrator lives with a housekeeper whom she doesn’t really like. The story starts when the narrator finds a mysterious book and a frightening letter from her father’s study. The book is very old but the only thing on its pages is a picture of a dragon. The narrator insists that her father tells her about the book. Reluctantly, Paul takes her daughter with him on one of his travels and during their stay in various cities, he tells her his story.

Paul was working on his Ph. D. in Oxford university when he found the book. He took it to his mentor, Professor Rossi. To Paul’s amazement Rossi has a similar book and he tells Paul about his research into the historical Vlad Tepes, who is also known as Dracula. On the same night, Rossi disappears.

Paul and a mysterious Hungarian woman Helen start to research Tepes/Dracula in order to find Rossi. They travel to several cities, from Istanbul to Budapest. All the time, they have the feeling that they might be too late to save Rossi and that Dracula’s minions are watching them.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I enjoyed it, especially the descriptions of various cities and the research the characters do. And yet, the book is so very long that I thought about giving up on it a couple of times. Many of the descriptions don’t advance the plot or character development, no matter how fascinating they are. I was also a bit disappointed with Dracula’s final motives and I probably would have been happier about the epilog.

Atmosphere isn’t modern horror by any means. It and the writing style are very much like Bram Stoker’s Dracula, eerie and otherworldly. Also, the Cold War figures into the atmosphere and the plot; it’s difficult to move from the Western European countries to the East. You can’t even send a letter from Britain to Hungary without it being opened and read by a government official at least once. Helen’s descriptions of what it was like to grow up in Soviet ruled Hungary and the tale of how her own mother escaped Romania are quite vivid.

The characters react to the possibility of vampires and more human threats like real people, they definitely aren’t Buffy like characters who laugh in the face of danger and are unaffected by it.

The second book in the mystery series.

Publication year: 2005
Format: Audio
Narrator: Louise Siversen
Running Time: 9 hrs

Corinna Chapman used to be an accountant but now she’s a baker and even though she has to wake up at four in the morning she still prefers running Earthly Delights. Her life is good: she has a gorgeous new lover, her new apprentice seems to be supernaturally talented at inventing new muffins, and her bakery is doing well.

However, when Corinna is given some excellent chocolates from the nearby chocolate chop, Heavenly Delights, she bites into chili sauce. Then breathless Juliette Lefebvre, the Belgian chocolatier, explains that someone has been sabotaging her chocolates. Apparently, someone has put in chili or soybean sauce in some of her chocolates which has angered her clients. Juliette hires Daniel to find out just who is behind it all and Corinne, of course, assists him. She finds out a lot about the chocolate trade and how the sweets are made, in addition to getting to know the people who work in the chocolate shop. It turns out that one of the workers is missing.

Also, Daniel had a run-in with a “prophet” who is called Darren the God-boy. Darren had kidnapped a girl and Daniel had been hired to get her back. Now, Darren is in prison but he says that he’s been possessed by evil spirits. Additionally, the house where Corinna and all of her neighbors live in, gets two new residents.

Heavenly Pleasures is a delightful and charming book. The mysteries aren’t the main draw, but the characters and also the humorous writing. Corinna is a warmhearted and confident and she has a great sense of humor. She’s also fat which is still quite a rarity in heroines.

Corinne’s young apprentice Jason is a former drug addict and Corinne is still worried that he will start using again. He loves baking and inventing new tastes. Daniel is a former soldier and now he’s private detective. He’s devoted to Corinne and they are a very cute couple. However, Daniel has a hero complex which causes some trouble for them. Her best friend Meroe is a witch. And then, of course, there are the many cats who all have their own personalities.

The first book in a mystery series.

Publication year: 1992
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1997
Format: print
Finnish translator: Titia Schuuman
Page count: 272
Finnish Publisher: Otava

The famous German conductor Wellauer is found poisoned in his room at the opera house La Fenice, in Venice. Apparently, someone put poison into his coffee which he drank during the break between the second and third acts of Verdi’s La Traviata. Police Commissioner Guido Brunetti is assigned to the case. Brunetti questions the singers and Wellauer’s significantly younger wife. It seems that while pretty much everyone respected him as a musical genius, they didn’t much care for him as a person. Soon, Brunetti starts to think that Wellauer’s past has something to do with his murder. The conductor was an old man and there were rumors that he had been a member of the Nazi party when he was much younger, during the war.

In fact, it seems that Brunetti is the only competent officer in Venice. His superior got his post because of family ties and it seems that he doesn’t know anything about police work. In this case, Brunetti has two underlings who seem to care more about sitting in cafes than doing their work. In contrast to many other mystery novels, Brunetti isn’t single or divorced. He’s happily married to his wife Paola and they have a son and a daughter. Paola’s parents are aristocrats and they know quite a lot about the people in their circles, which turns out to be pretty important in this case. We find out quite a lot about Brunetti’s and Paola’s life up to this point.

This is not a thriller nor does the book have any action scenes. It’s basic detective work where Brunetti questions people and sometimes finds out something which will point him to the correct direction. The pace is leisurely which fits the plot and the atmosphere.

I quite enjoyed the characters and the leisurely pace for a change. I also really enjoyed the descriptions of Venice.

The first book in a mystery series.

Publication year: 1997
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1998
Format: print
Finnish translator: Ilkka Rekiaho
Page count: 447
Finnish Publisher: Otava

Amelia Sachs is the daughter of a police officer and she’s a patrolling police officer, too, like her father. However, she suffers from arthritis even though she’s just over thirty years old. So, she has asked a transfer into public relations department. But on her last day, she finds serial killer’s victim who has been buried alive. To preserve the crime scene, Sachs stops trains and even traffic on a nearby avenue. However, her supervisor later tells her that she was wrong because she delayed important people from getting to their destinations.

Lincoln Rhyme was one of the best forensics experts in New York before he was paralyzed from the neck down. Now, he’s confined to bed and strongly thinking of killing himself. However, his former partner convinces him to consult on this case. Because Rhyme can’t inspect the scenes himself, he wants a partner who can, and he wants Sachs because she wasn’t afraid to protect the scene and because she’s new to forensics. Sachs agrees, but reluctantly.

Sachs is very beautiful but her arthritis stopped her from becoming a model, so instead she became a beat cop. But she’s not happy with that, either, because reality isn’t like in her father’s stories. She’s determined and headstrong. At first she loathes Rhyme but during the story she starts to respect him and even defend his methods. Unfortunately, the book takes about two days, that’s a very short time for such a change of opinion.

Rhyme was a rude man even before his accident and now he’s even more unlikable. At the start of the book, he has contacted a doctor who might help him to die but then Rhyme starts to get interested in the case. He doesn’t care about the victims, just about the evidence and piecing the puzzle together. In fact, he’s a lot like House or rather because the book was written before House M.D. aired, House is a lot like him.

In addition to these two characters, there is Ryhme’s long-suffering assistant Thom who stays with him even though Rhyme is very dismissive towards him. Ryhme’s ex-wife Blaine is mentioned a few times. Lon Sellitto is Rhyme’s former partner. He has an explosive temper but he’s careful around Rhyme. Unfortunately, the rest of the characters don’t have much of a personality. The best example are two detectives who look exactly the same and even finish each others sentences. They aren’t related.

The plot is very fast-paced and has a lot of twists. Unfortunately for me, the victims are also POV characters and we are shown how the killer tortures them beforehand. Some of the scenes are quite gruesome. I also think that the speed which everything happens is unrealistic. The serial killer/kidnapper seems to kidnap new victims very few hours and the laboratory test results also appear very fast.

The murderer was fascinated with New York’s history and we get to know a little bit of New York’s past. I liked that the most in this book. I also really liked the clues table which is included every couple of chapters. There the reader sees the clues which the detectives have. I’m somewhat surprised no other mystery author uses it.

18th book in the series

Publication year: 2010
Format: Audio
Narrator: Stephanie Daniel
Running Time: 9 hrs and 25 minutes

Phryne, her maid Dot, her adoptive daughters Jane and Ruth, and their dog Molly are on vacation on Queenscliff where Phryne has rented a house. The house’s owner says that Mr. and Mrs. Johnson are supposed to greet Phryne’s group and serve them during their stay. However, when they arrive, the Johnsons aren’t there and also all the food and even furniture are gone. However, there’s no sign of struggle or burglary. Phryne asks the neighbors but they don’t know anything, either. The Johnson’s seem to be decent folk and they have had a week’s holiday but they are supposed to be back already. The mystery deepens when Phryne finds the Johnson’s beloved dog Gaston starving and filthy. Also, a Phantom Snipper is haunting the village. He cuts off girl’s hair suddenly and nobody has been able to even identify him.

Fortunately for Phryne, Ruth wants to be a cook and she’s happy to try her hand in the kitchen, first stoking it from the start and then cooking for the whole party.

The characters are again delightful. In addition to the familiar cast, there’s Eddie, also called Tinker, a young boy who is considered lazy but whom Phryne quickly deduces only needs someone to trust him and treat him right, and he quickly becomes devoted to Phryne. One of the neighbors is a very disagreeable old woman but she might know something.

The mystery is pretty light this time, however.

The first book in the Corinna Chapman mystery series.

Publication year: 2007
Format: Audio
Narrator: Louise Siversen
Running Time: 10 hrs

Once, Corinna wanted to become an accountant. In order to finance her studies she became a baker and now she owns her own baker, Earthly Delights, in Melbourne. However, her bakery is not in the best of places and so she starts the book giving CPR to a junkie who has taken an overdose right in behind her door. When the EMTs save the addict, she turns out to be less than grateful. But the Soup Run’s tall, dark and handsome man Daniel turns out to be very grateful, and interested in Corinne, to boot.

Someone sends threatening letters to every woman in Corinna’s building calling them “scarlet women” and unsurprisingly, they want to find out who is behind it. Also, someone is poisoning the drugs which the addicts use and several addicts have already died. Daniel wants to find out the guilty party.

I really enjoyed the characters in this book. Jason is a young drug addict who comes to Corinna’s door wanting a job and she gives him one, sweeping the floors. She doesn’t pry into his life, enough though she wants to, and slowly they start to trust each other. Meroe is a witch and she runs her own business, the Sibyl’s Cave. She and Corinna a great friends. Even though Corinna is mostly self-employed, she has to young women who sell her break when she’s not in the shop. Kylie and Gossamer dream of being actresses and have to maintain a very low weight. They change their hair color almost daily and behave otherwise like teenagers. Then there’s Dionysius Monk. He’s one of Corinna’s neighbors, a former classics professor and still obsessed with classical history.

This is a great beginning for a new mystery series.

A Buffy the vampire slayer novel, although set in 1940, before the show started.

Publication year: 2001
Format: print
Page count: 353
Publisher: Pocket Books

Spike and Dru are vampires and lovers, and apparently quite popular characters. Spike is one of my favorite characters, ever, so I was quite exited to read this book.

In March 1940 Spike and Drusilla are in New York and Dru is bored. So, she wants a very special birthday present: the mythical Freya’s Strand, the necklace of the Brisings. Her birthday is, of course, the anniversary of the day when she was made a vampire. Spike, of course, will do anything for his lady love and they are looking for someone who knows where the demon Skrymir, the Strand’s owner, is. Spike gets the information and soon the duo is sailing to Norway. However, because the war has started, their journey is a bit rough; the Germans sink their ship and the vampires have to invade the German submarine to get to their destination. But the demon is quite powerful and he doesn’t want to just give the magical item away. Instead he proposes a bargain: if Spike and Dru kill off the prospective Slayers under the Watchers’ Council’s protection, he will give the necklace to them. Spike and Dru are just too happy to agree.

The current Slayer is Sophie Carstensen, a Danish girl, and her Watcher is Yanna who is a seer. Sophie is willful but very determined and capable. She also loves Yanna dearly and is worried that Yanna’s gift of sight will drive her insane at some point. When the book starts, they are on the trail of Gorm who used to be Denmark’s king a thousand years ago. Yanna’s visions warn her of the coming war but Sophie doesn’t want to leave her country before killing Gorm.

Sophie is very similar to Buffy, except that she doesn’t have a circle of friends and she’s an orphan, so the only person she worries about is Yanna. She’s even blond and beautiful. We’re introduced to several Slayers in waiting, as they are called, and they are somewhat different. All of them have been identified as potential Slayers and the Watchers are training them, as Kendra and Faith were trained in the series. I quite enjoyed the potentials but there wasn’t much time to get to know them.

The plot is quite fast-paced but has some repetitive elements: Spike and Dru go after a potential and kills her. For a Buffy book, this book has a lot of pretty gruesome violence and death. Of course, the main characters are Spike and Dru who were quite known for their evil and violent ways in the series. And the setting is during a war. Unfortunately, that also means that characters introduced in this book are killed of pretty quickly and there’s not much room for character development. Also, the book deviates from canon.

The books starts off focusing on Spike and Dru, with Spike as the POV character. However, fairly soon, Sophie becomes also a POV character and then Yanna and even Skrymir steal the spotlight from the vampires. Like I said, I’m a fan of Spike and so I rather enjoyed the book.

Carl at the Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting the eighth R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril, or R.I.P. VIII. I’ve joined in a couple of time and had great fun, so I’m joining this time, too.

Dark Fantasy.
Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above. That is what embodies the stories, written and visual, that we celebrate with the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event.

As time has wound on I’ve honed this event down to two simple rules:

1. Have fun reading (and watching).
2. Share that fun with others.

As I do each and every year, there are multiple levels of participation (Perils) that allow you to be a part of R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril without adding the burden of another commitment to your already busy lives. There is even a one book only option for those who feel that this sort of reading is not their cup of tea (or who have many other commitments) but want to participate all the same.

R.I.P. VIII officially runs from September 1st through October 31st. But lets go ahead and break the rules. Lets start today!!!

I will be joining

Peril the First:

Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (the very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be King or Conan Doyle, Penny or Poe, Chandler or Collins, Lovecraft or Leroux…or anyone in between.

Reading pool:
I have quite a few mystery books in my TBR:
I have a lot of Kerry Greenwood’s books.
I realized that I own three Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise books and I don’t remember anything about them, so it’s definitely a time for a reread.
I also have some new to me authors:
Laurie King, Carol Goodman, Paul Christopher, Jeffrey Deaver, and Donna Leon

1, Christopher Golden: Spike & Dru: Pretty Maids all in a row
2, Kerry Greenwood: Earthly Delights
3, Kerry Greenwood: Dead Man’s Chest
4, Jefferey Deaver: The Bone Collector
5, Donna Leon: Death at La Fenice
6, Kerry Greenwood: Heavenly Pleasures
7, Elizabeth Kostova: The Historian