Saturday, October 14, 2017

Bramton Wick by Elizabeth Fair

Bramton Wick
Elizabeth Fair
4/5 stars

This novel follows the inhabitants of Bramton Wick over the course of a few months, as they go about daily business interacting with each other in various ways.  It is witty and snarky, yet gentle at the same time.  Fair is able to make most of her characters three-dimensional, despite the number.  The vignettes tie together and give an interesting and amusing picture of village life in post-war England.

I would especially recommend Fair to fans of Angela Thirkell.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama

The Marriage Bureau for Rich People
Farahad Zama
5/5 stars

In the town of Vizag, India, Mr Ali (tired of being retired) sets up a marriage bureau in his home.  Business does so well that he hires an assistant, Aruna, a modest and competent girl whose proud family needs extra income.  They can't afford to make a match for Aruna, but love appears in a very unexpected source.  Meanwhile, Mr. Ali must deal with an adult son that is prominent in a widely-reported protest, firmly against Mr. Ali's wishes.

This is a charming book.  It moves slowly, letting the reader get to know the characters in a way reminiscent of an Austen novel.  The marriages arranged through Mr. Ali's help are mentioned, but the main focus is the family relationships of the Ali family, and of Aruna's family.  A picture of culture and family life in India is painted, perhaps more idealistically than is true, but in fascinating detail.  Reading about the practices of both a Hindu wedding and a Muslim wedding was wonderful.  This gentle book was a delight to read, even the second time.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

September Wrap Up

Books Read
Night and Day by Virginia Woolf   3/5 stars (my discussion here)

The Black Goatee by the Little sisters 4/5 stars  (my review here)

Audio Books Completed
The Rise of the Automated Aristocrats by Mark Hodder   4/5 stars    (my review here)

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan 5/5 stars (my review here)

A Pattern of Lies by Charles Todd 4/5 stars
Bess becomes involved with a family being persecuted by gossip and slander, and helps to find who is responsible.  Not the most mysterious of plots, as it was easy to figure out, but still well written and engaging.  I enjoy Todd's style, and am fond of the characters.

The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall 5/5 stars  (my review here)

Latter End by Patricia Wentworth  4/5 stars
The new mistress of Latter End has everyone turned against her.  When she is found poisoned, the suspects are numerous. Wentworth sets up the mystery excellently by giving the reader a solid introduction to the family.  Once the murder happens, Miss Silver enters and unravels the clues, giving a most satisfying solution.

The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing by Tarquin Hall 4/5 stars (my review here)

Time to Murder and Create by Lawrence Block 4/5 stars  (my review here)

Friday, September 29, 2017

Time to Murder and Create by Lawrence Block

Time to Murder and Create
Lawrence Block
4/5 stars

A blackmailer, Spinner, asks Scudder to keep his files and find his killer if he gets bumped off.  When Spinner is murdered, Scudder investigates the three people being blackmailed to find which one was responsible.

Scudder is a hard-boiled character, an alcoholic ex-cop who does detective work "as a favor for friends" instead of as a licensed P.I.  This second in the series moves quickly, follows up red herrings, and is, in general, an interesting read. It's hard not to like Scudder, despite his near anti-hero characteristics.  While the novel isn't intellectual or deep, it's an engaging mystery up until the very end.

The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing by Tarquin Hall

The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing
Tarquin Hall
4/5 stars

A prominent rationalist, Dr. Jha, is murdered before his friends when a goddess rises from the ground and stabs him to death.  Vish Puri knows that it is an illusion, and must unveil both the mystery of the occurrence and the guilty party behind it.  

In the meantime, Mummy and Puri's wife Rumpy, are robbed during a kitty party.  Mummy enlists Rumpy's aid and they set out to find which of their friends could be responsible for such an act.

This novel takes the reader into the fascinating world of India's magicians and religious cults as Puri investigates the most obvious suspect, the Maharaj Swami.  The social aspect of Mummy's investigation is also interesting.  Both mysteries are engrossing, the characters engaging, and Hall's writing solid.  This second volume lacks some of the charm of the first (see here), but is still well worth a read both for the puzzle and the atmosphere.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Black Goatee by the Little Sisters

The Black Goatee
Constance and Gwenyth Little
4/5 stars

During the post-war (WWII) housing shortage, Aloysius Graham installs himself and a few others in the unused left wing of his cousins' house--unbeknownst to said cousins.  When he finds a corpse one night, it starts an investigation that includes missing bodies, insurance fraud, disappearing money, and one black goatee.

This is a typical Little sisters screwball comedy with a serious mystery at the heart.  The Little sisters had a great ability to seamlessly change character point-of-view that makes the story flow well.  The mystery was a surprisingly complex one which kept me guessing until the reveal.  The comedy, as always, was laugh-out-loud fun.  As is generally the case when I read one of their novels, I closed the book with a satisfied smile.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Night and Day by Virginia Woolf (Classic's Club)

(about the Classics Club)

Night and Day
Virginia Woolf
3/5 stars

Katherine Hilbury, well-to-do daughter of an intellectual and artistic family, becomes engaged to William Rodney, a budding poet/dramatist.  A young lawyer, Ralph Denham, is introduced to the family through Mr. Hilbury, falls in love with Katherine, and they begin an unusual courtship.

On the surface, this 1927 novel is a simple and straight-forward story of Katherine and her two very different suitors.  Underneath, however, it is a discussion of love, marriage, independence, and even the rights of women.  It's, unfortunately, not a gripping drama, and at times it is hard to remain interested in the plot.

This is Woolf's second novel, and she hasn't yet developed her stream-of-consciousness style that I like so much.  She does, however, have her characters do nearly as much thinking as acting.  Despite not being enthralling, the story generally flows well, and there were many passages worth noting.

The downside was it's length.  Woolf, herself, called it "interminable" and said "I can't believe any human being can get through Night and Day."  At nearly 450 pages of dense content, I agree that it is quite the task, and frankly, had it been another author, I would have quit well before the half-way point.

Bottom line is that it's a good novel, but not a great one, and I'd only recommend it to Woolf fans trying to read all that she wrote.