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Reading Slothfully

I was told in elementary school that I only could read at half the speed for success in college. Oh well, one benefit of slow reading is you get to live with the characters a longer period of time. I read in a vain attempt to better understand people. At my other homes, I'm known as a spouse, pop, guy in the choir, physical chemist, computer/web dilettante and child-care provider. In theory, I'm a published author, if you consider stuff like Quenching Cross Sections for Electronic Energy Transfer Reactions Between Metastable Argon Atoms and Noble Gases and Small Molecules to count as publications. I've strewn dozens of such fascinating things to the winds.

Currently reading

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
Jules Verne
The Spirit of the Border
Zane Grey
Ramona the Brave (Ramona, #3)
Beverly Cleary
The Underground Man (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)
Ross Macdonald
Delilah of the Snows
Harold Bindloss
Mrs. Miniver
Jan Struther
Betsy-Tacy Treasury (P.S.)
Maud Hart Lovelace
A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens
The Way Some People Die
Ross Macdonald
Envy of Angels
Matt Wallace

Red Bones

Red Bones  - Ann Cleeves This is the third of Anne Cleeves' tales of mystery in the Shetland Islands. The primary action occurrs on the Island of Whalsay which is to the east of "Shetland Mainland", which is itself an island as well. Inspector Jimmy Perez' somewhat inept sidekick, Sandy Wilson, grew up on Whalsay and has oodles of relatives there. One such relative is his grandmother, Mima (actually Jemima). On a visit to Whalsay, Sandy drops in to see Mima for a wee dram on his way to his parents' place. But he finds Mima prone on the ground apparently killed by a shotgun discharge.

Sandy's cousin Ronald admits to have been "rabbiting" that night, and assumes an errant shot hit Mima, who was not normally out at such a late hour. He appears to be contrite, expresses guilt, and assumes he'll be punished in some way.

But, one does have to investigate things. Inspector Perez comes up to Whalsay to have a look around. Superficially, Mima's death does appear to be an accident, but Perez isn't totally convinced and wants to dig a bit more. With luck Sandy can ask seemingly innocuous questions of his relatives and get a better handle.

There's an archeological dig on Mima's property. It's a Ph.D. project for Hattie James. She's being helped by Sophie something-or-other. Hattie is convinced the site was once the house of a merchant back in Hanseatic League days, i.e. 14th or 15th century.

Not a lot of progress is made, but then Hattie calls Perez. She seems to be very upset and wants to talk to him. But by the time Perez gets back to Whalsay, Hattie has been found in one of her trenches (again by Sandy), an apparent suicide.

Perez isn't convinced about either the "accident" or the "suicide" hypotheses, so keeps digging. Eventually, it all comes out. A pretty fun read. I now have a hankering to visit the Shetland Islands.

Greenmantle

Greenmantle - John Buchan Well, this is one of those old thrillers from the British Empire that is also set during World War I, and is a kind of propaganda piece about the greatness of the British, and the fallibility of the Boche (a pejorative term for German soldiers).

John Buchan wrote a series of adventures featuring Richard Hannay. Hannay was a mining engineer who made a pile in South Africa and finds living in idleness in England rather a bore. So, fortunately for him, he has adventures. This is the second of the Hannay adventures.

The time is 1916 and the British are fighting back the Boche in Europe. Hannay is looking forward to going back into the fray, but is induced instead into helping with a spy mission. The spy agencies are certain that the Germans have plans to take over the Middle East, a place where the British have some interests, e.g. Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia (Iraq).

So, Hannay is to be sent off to Constantinople to straighten things out. He's given a small team to help: an American, John S. Blenkiron, Ludovick Arbuthnot, who is known as Sandy, and another bloke, whose name I've forgotten (Peter?), but who knows how to get around in tight places. He can singlehandedly defeat hoards of marauding Bantus...or something. Sandy's expertise is in the Middle East. He can easily pass as a Turk, or Arab, or whatever is needed.

So, by various, improbably methods, sometimes pretending to be turncoats who are trying to join up with the Germans, they make their improbable journeys, each in his own separate way, to Constantinople to meet up. They find that the Turks, who are nominally German allies, can be manipulated by a "holy man", known as Greenmantle. It appears that Greenmantle is on his death bed, so that raises problems as well.

Well, I'll stop. What we have is lots of British posturing about their being a superior "race", superior even to the Germanic "race", lots of improbable, last-minute escapes from disaster, and so forth. Naturally, in the end it all comes out well for the good guys. Great literature, this is not. But for idling away a few hours with an amusing yarn, this isn't half bad.

The Cattle-Baron's Daughter

The Cattle-Baron's Daughter - Harold Bindloss Well, this was kind of fun. We're in the early days out on the prairie. Although Bindloss is best known for books taking place in Canada, this one is most decidedly American. Lots of talk about American virtues and so forth. I'm thinking perhaps up in Montana, near Alberta, because late in the book there's talk about some characters fleeing to Canada. That wouldn't have come up had we been in southwestern Kansas or Colorado.

Anyway, we're all about the cattle barons. These guys leased land from the government and raised cattle and got rich as all get out. So, they begin to think the land is actually theirs and they get a bit pissy when the government opens up the land to homesteaders, people who will plow the prairies to grow crops and people who will put up fences. But, I'm getting a bit ahead.

We begin, actually, with a cattle Baron's daughter, Hetty Torrance. She's on a train platform in England. A young man comes up, Larry Grant. Grant is an old friend from the prairie. He and Hetty grew up together and are great friends. But Hetty, for some weird reason, isn't sure she "loves" him. Anyway, they have a nice chat and Larry goes his way.

Next up on the train platform is Capt. Jackson (Jake) Cheyne. He's in the U.S. Calvary, so I've no idea what he's doing in England. Whatever, he shows up and proposes to Hetty. She demurs, perhaps because having just seen Larry, she might be beginning to realize there's some "chemistry" with Larry (In those days, 100+ years ago, I'm not sure "chemistry" was a thing between young men and young women. Likely it had a different name.).

Well, off she goes with her friend, Flora Schuyler, with whom she's staying. Flora is perceptive and can tell there's something about Larry to which Hetty can't admit, but it's there just the same.

After a bit, Hetty and Flora head off to the prairie and settle in at Cedar Ridge, Hetty's father's spread. Well, there's all kinds of hooha going on. It seems that homesteaders are moving in. The cattle barons, for the most part, won't have it. So, they begin trying to take the law into their own hands so as to drive the homesteaders out.

Here's where the trouble starts. Larry, who is a rancher himself, realizes that the homesteaders have the better legal claim, and he works to help them get settled, and tries mightily to get the cattle barons to see the legal, and also "just" course of action.

Well, next thing you know, there are "agitators" shipped in from Chicago or some such place to try to create chaos, while pretending to side with the homesteaders. Larry tries to keep them in check. Then, one of the cattle people, somewhat of a bounder named Clavering (either Reginald or Richard, both used), tries to stir up some acts of sabotage himself, but done in such a way that the homesteaders will be blamed. Clavering also develops a thing for Hetty and even gets Torrance's blessing on his attempt to secure his daughter.

Well, Hetty is conflicted, as time goes on, she realizes that Larry is on the more just side, but she can't seem to cross her father. Fortunately, she has the good sense to keep Clavering at arm's length.

So, anyway, y'all will have to read the book yourselves to find out who wins out in the end, and whether or not Hetty and Larry finally get together. It was a pretty fun book all in all. While I rated this as ***, it's really ***+.

The Real Cool Killers (Harlem Cycle, #3)

The Real Cool Killers (Harlem Cycle, #3) - Chester Himes This was a bit silly, and very rough. I don’t know if it portrays life in Harlem in the 1950s realistically or not. If so, we comfortably-well-off white folks should all be ashamed.

A few years back, some of the characters in an Easy Rawlins novel I was reading argued over who was the best author (meaning African American author, I presume), and they concluded it was Chester Himes. So, of course, I had to read me some Chester Himes. I think this might be my third or fourth such endeavor.

Chester Himes wrote some cops-and-robbers-in-Harlem kinds of books in the 1950s featuring Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson. This is one of them. Cotton Comes to Harlem is likely the most famous of the series. I dunno, they seem a bit rough for my tastes, lots of police brutality, not always white on black, Grave Digger and Coffin Ed can mete it out as well. But, perhaps I don’t much know Harlem in the 1950s.

Anyway, we begin with a couple of black guys in a bar threatening a while guy. One starts wielding a knife at the white guy. To calm things down, so to speak, the bar tender chops off the knife wielding arm. The white guy leaves, followed by another black guy wielding a gun. A few blocks away, the white guy is shot. A crowd gathers, including a teenage gang dressed up as Arabs, long robes, long beards, shades, and so forth: "The Real Cool Moslems".

Well, Grave Digger and Coffin Ed are johnny on the spot and arrest the black guy from the bar with the gun. But then, somehow there’s an altercation and the Real Cool Moslems make off with the alleged killer, Coffin Ed shoots one of the “Moslems” and is suspended from the force. Grave Digger is left with a mess to clean up.

And quite a mess it is. First, he has to find the guy he'd arrested. That meant finding the Real Cool Moslems. Then, they discover that the gun they confiscated from the alleged killer only shot blanks, so someone else must have shot the white guy. An additional complication is that Coffin Ed's daughter appears to be involved with the Real Cool Moslems in some way. They call her Sweet Tits!

Well, eventually, Grave Digger gets it all straightened out, but not, of course, before lots of people are beat up, shot, and so forth.

A Little Yellow Dog

A Little Yellow Dog - Walter Mosley This book is the one in the Easy Rawlins’ series that precedes Bad Boy Brawley Brown, the Moseley book I read first on vacation. It wasn’t available to me until half way through my second week beside the lake in Maine. Interestingly, it was written six years before its “sequel”. It’s unfortunate that I didn’t get to read it first, it explains things we're already supposed to understand by the time we begin the sequel: stuff about Easy’s having taken a straight job as the head janitor at a school, his taking up with Bonnie Shay, and Mouse's being dead (or not?).

Anyway, Easy heads into work early at the Sojurner Truth Junion High School. One of the teachers is already in. Not only that, but she has a little yellow dog, Pharoh, with her. No dogs allowed. Even worse, the little yellow dog takes an instant dislike to Easy. But the teacher convinces Easy that she's rescued Pharoh from her husband, who was going to kill Pharoh. So, helped along no doubt by a little hanky panky on a student desk, Easy agrees to shield the dog.

Later, Easy learns that the teacher had lied to him. Also, however, a man looking much like the teacher's husband, ends up dead on school grounds, in a garden. Then, when Easy goes to the teacher's house to return the little yellow dog, he finds the teacher's husband dead in an easy chair. Apparently, it was the guy's brother who expired in the school garden.

So, Easy takes Pharoh home. His young daughter, Feather, and Pharoh immediately become best friends. Feather renames Pharoh, Frenchie.

Naturally, the cops think Easy is likely implicated in the murders. Furthermore, they think he's implicated in some embezzlement going on at the various schools.

So, Easy, helped by his friend, Raymond Alexander, a.k.a. Mouse, eventually figure things out. But along the way, Mouse is shot. At the end of the book, he's in the ICU.

Oh, one other thing happens. Easy strikes up a friendship with one Bonny Shay. She's an airline stewardess who was at one time best buds with the sketchy teacher who got Easy into the mess with the little yellow dog.

Well, I'm afraid my recounting is rather incoherent. Perhaps I don't concentrate so well on vacation as I thought. I blame the loons on the lake and the chipmunk that runs back and forth in front of my seat along the shores of Parker Pond.

Anyway, like the other books in the Easy Rawlins series, this is worth one's time, a GoodRead indeed.

Bad Boy Brawly Brown

Bad Boy Brawly Brown - Walter Mosley I read Walter Moseley to help me better understand issues related to race. His prime character, Easy Rawlins, has lots to say about race, and how he must go about doing things to avoid “race issues”, especially when it comes to dealing with the cops.

I first came upon Easy Rawlins quite a number of years ago on vacation. So, I’ve continued to read him on vacation, when I have more time to concentrate, ruminate, and finish a book. This latter issue is important to me because I was told back in the day that I read at only half the speed required for success in college. Despite that handicap, I did manage to get me some degrees over the years.

Anyway, I got started in the middle of the series, and worked my way to what was, a few years ago, the end. So, a year or two ago, I decided to begin at the beginning and work until I found the first one I’d read. Easy begins his adventures in the 1950s, just after World War II. In this book, we’re in 1964, when civil rights issues are coming to a head.

Easy, has a checkered past, but is trying to go straight, so to speak, so as to be a good father to his two children, Jesus or Juice (17 or so), and Feather (7 or 8). So, he’s working as the head janitor at the Sojourner Truth Junior High School in Los Angeles. But sometimes, his old past comes back to him. He used to “do favors” for people. Generally the favors involve extracting them from something sketchy.

An old friend, John, who used to be a bar tender, wants some help. It seems that John’s wife, Alva, has a son about whom she is worried. Her son, Brawley Brown, has disappeared and also appears to have become involved with people who are bound to get him into serious trouble. So, could Easy find Brawley and send him back to Mama?

On the surface, Brawley has become involved with a sort of civil rights group (probably a Black Panther stand in). Superficially, they want to set up better schools for children and see they have safer environments. But there are worries that some of the folks in the group are also interested in some kinds of violent interventions, and perhaps also some sketchier things.

So, anyway, Easy eventually works things out, fingers some of the sketchier folks and gets Brawley returned to his mother. Something like that.

Oh yeah, a recurring theme through the book, something on which Easy broods a lot, is that he thinks his friend, Raymond Alexander, a.k.a. Mouse, is dead. No one knows for sure. Mouse was in intensive care, then was snatched away from the ICU by his girlfriend (spouse?), Ettamae. No one has ever seen Mouse's body, and Ettamae seems also to have disappeared. Anyway, Easy is bothered by this, in part because he is responsible for the injury that got Mouse into the ICU, and broods incessantly about this through out this book. In some ways, it's his channeling Mouse that helps him solve the Brawley Brown problem.

Ramona and Her Mother (Ramona, #5)

Ramona and Her Mother (Ramona, #5) - Beverly Cleary Ramona, now 7 1/2, worries that her mother doesn’t much love her. It seems that her older sister, Beezus, is “her mother’s daughter”, or at least so Ramona hears some folks tell her mother. Her parents have secretive discussions at night, and so forth, and Ramona figures it revolves around what to do about her.

But, it as is the case in earlier books, we find that small children don’t always understand the nuances of adult speech patterns, nor of life in general, quite clearly. Ramona wants to be her mother’s little rabbit, so she twitches her nose a lot. People think she has medical issues.

But, some good things happen. Beezus wants to have a haircut like Dorothy Hammill's (Dorothy isn't named, but those of us around in the late 70s know exactly who is being tagged as "that skater"). She saves up her allowance to pay for one. But it comes out all teased and poofy, more like Dolly Parton, totally inappropriate for a 7th grader. Ramona gets a “pixie” cut and is told by one an all how “adorable” she is. She loves being "adorable". Who wouldn't?

Whatever, it was fun. My Ramona is only 3 1/2-months old, but adorable. My Anderson is 7 1/2, and appears to be much like Ramona in the book in many ways, creative, fanciful, but not always getting the adult approaches to things. Some of us think he's adorable as well.

Ramona and Her Father (Ramona, #4)

Ramona and Her Father (Ramona, #4) - Beverly Cleary, Alan Tiegreen Well, we're now at the fourth Ramona book. Ramona is in second grade. Her father loses his job, so her mother upgrades her part-time job into a full-time one. Thus, the person who is home to receive Ramona after school is her father. That could be nice, getting more "pop" time. But her father is crabby because he's out of work and isn't having much luck finding a new job. Then too, her mother is stressed about money, older sister, Beezus is in 7th grade and beginning to have "adolescent girl" problems, and the family cat, Picky-picky is in a twit because he's been forced to do with cheap cat food.

So, Ramona tries to make things more cheery, but isn't always successful. One "improvement" is to get her father to give up smoking—so he won't have his lungs turn black and die on them—but that only makes him all the more crabby. Well, life goes on and things work out and we have an adorable scene of one of those old fashioned Christmas Pageants that were popular in olden times when people went to church and celebrated such things as the birth of a savior in a stable.

I have a feeling I'll be done with the Ramona books long before my Ramona, my 2½-month-old granddaughter grows up enough to begin resembling Ramona in the book. Fortunately, I have a 7-year old grandson, Anderson, who like Ramona (in the book), can be a handful at times, albeit a creative one.

Amelia Bedelia Chapter Book #1: Amelia Bedelia Means Business

Amelia Bedelia Chapter Book #1: Amelia Bedelia Means Business - Herman Parish, Lynne Avril So, we just hired ourselves a brand new pastor for our church. Her name is Emelia. Naturally, the thing that popped into my mind was Amelia Bedelia, which sounds similar, although spelled slightly differently. anyway, I just had to read an Amelia Bedelia book. I hope our new pastor will forgive me.

So, this book is full of plays on words. Young children, it seems, tend not to understand figures of speech, so take things literally. In this book, Amelia Belelia wants a new bike, but her parents tell her she needs to get a job to make half the money. So, she gets a job as a waitress in training. But, when a customer in a hurry asks for cherry pie, and emphasizes his request by appending "and step on it" to the end of his request, Amelia Belelia does exactly what he asks: she brings the pie to his place, then literally steps on it, squirting cherry pie filling all over the place.

Then, she sets up a lemon aid stand in front of a busy block where there's a prominent car dealer. She makes a huge sign that says, "Lots of Lemons", and places it next to the car dealer's sign. Naturally, that causes rather a lot of trouble.

Well, you get the idea. A short, amusing book with oodles of plays on words. It's not literature, but not a bad way to do some reading.

The Fly on the Wall (Audio)

The Fly on the Wall (Audio) - Tony Hillerman, Erik Bergmann I've never "read" an audio book before. I was going to a handbell festival several hours away, and figured I could "read" this book while I was driving there and back. Unfortunately, I only got about 2/3rds through by the time I got back. So, I had to finish up by lying idly on the deck with ear buds in my ears.

One problem, I've discovered with audio books is you miss stuff, and can't really go back to check. So there were things that made no sense, probably because I'd missed something earlier in the lead up.

For example, I don't really know where this book took place. Something in the beginning said something about a gritty midwestern city of 400,000 or so people. But much of the activity took place in the capitol building, which I inferred to be located in the capital city of the state in question. Well, the word Santa Fe showed up early, and that's the capital of New Mexico, but Santa Fe isn't even 100,000 people in size. Neither is New Mexico midwestern by my reckoning. For a while I thought Albuquerque, which is the proper size, but which is not the capital. So, perhaps we're in Arizona, where the capital is Phoenix? But Phoenix is certainly not midwestern. Also, it's population in 1971, when this book came out was close to 600,000. So, I've no idea. Then too, if I remember correctly, the main character flew from whatever city was involved to Santa Fe, but somehow went through O'Hare, which is the airport associated with Chicago. How does that make sense? A final confusion is that the person who wrote the book blurb on GoodReads said the action took place at the nation's capitol building, which is in Washington, D.C., a city that is neither midwestern, nor does it have a mere population of 400,000. The U.S. Capitol really makes no sense because the whole plot is about state politics, but what state? where?

So, I might have missed something, or perhaps Hillerman was intentionally confusing things...to protect the suspects...or something. Adding to the confusion, of course, is that Hillerman is best known for his works about the Navajo policemen, Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. The Navajo reservation is primarily in the four-corners region of Arizona, although bits of it extend into Utah and New Mexico. Anyway, I got confused quickly.

Ok, on to the story, which was sort of interesting. We have John Cotton, a journalist who covers state politics. He's working at night when another journalist, Merrill McDaniels, wanders into the press room totally blotto. But Mac does tell Cotton that he has rather a large scoop to publish which will set the state political machine on their butt. Some time after McDaniels leaves the press room, Cotton hears a loud noise and upon investigation discovers that McDaniels is lying 5 floors below him, splattered on the floor of the capitol rotunda. Just an accident?

Well, another journalist borrows Cotton's car and is run off a bridge and into a river. Just an accident, or was someone gunning for Cotton? In the interim, Cotton had garnered McDaniels' note book and was starting to check some leads. So, he was beginning to unravel a story of corruption in the highway department and several other branches of the state government.

Then, Cotton gets a death threat and decides to flee. He goes fishing in the mountains above Santa Fe, but discovers someone with a high-power rifle hunting for him.

Well, things go on. Eventually Cotton gets it all figured out, and there is a big shake up in state government, and Cotton may or may not find a way to snuggle up to Janie Janovsky, on whom he's been sweet since high school (I think that's the case, but as I said, one can't check things out in an audio book).

Well, sorry to write such an incoherent review, but I think that might be the norm with audio books. They sort of pass through, and whether or not one actually understands all that much appears to be a feature rather than a bug. But, all said, it's an ok way to while away the time on a long drive to and from Hartford.

The Distant Echo

The Distant Echo - Val McDermid For some reason, this book is listed as the first of the "Karen Pirie" series. I'd read one further along the line (#5, I think it was) and figured to try to begin at the beginning. Karen Pirie has only a couple of cameo appearances in this book. Weird.

So, we begin in 1978. Four extremely inebriated youth are staggering home after a late night of partying and one of them falls across the body of a young bar maid, Rosie Duff. She's been stabbed. The police, not really knowing what to do, figure one of the boys is a chief suspect, and the tabloids certainly like them as perps. But, all attempts to find incriminating evidence on any of the boys is not to be found.

Then we fast forward twenty-five years. The police decide to open up a cold case, using the tools of modern forensics that were unavailable at the time of Rosie Duff's original killing. In addition, it appears that Rosie Duff had had a child at one time—immediately adopted off and well hushed— and he has decided that the boys must pay for having murdered his mother. He becomes quite obsessive about it. But, for some reason, most of the forensic evidence from 25 years previously has mysteriously disappeared.

Next thing you know, first one, then a second of the boys, now of course men with various careers, is killed off in suspicious circumstances. So what is going on?

Basically, the police don't seem to be doing much of anything, and it's some of the original four who begin doing a bit of sleuthing on their own to come up with a surprising solution.

This was a pretty interesting and engaging book, but as I said, attributing it to a "Karen Pirie series" is a bit of a stretch.

The Red Pony

The Red Pony - John Steinbeck My spouse heard a piece of music on the radio by Aaron Copeland that had apparently been composed for a movie version of Steinbeck's novella. Well, I'd never heard of this book, so naturally, when I discovered my library had a copy I could snag, I downloaded it.

Basically, this is a series of four short stories with a common set of characters. The main character is a 10-year old boy, Jody Tiflin, who lives on a ranch in the Salinas Valley in California, with his father, a rather stern disciplinarian named Carl, his mother, and a ranch hand, Billy Buck, a grizzled old character with a knack for dealing with horses.

The first story involves a red pony for which Jody is supposed to learn to care. On the second story, Jody interacts with a drifter. The third story has another pony in it, or rather a pregnant mare. I've already forgotten the fourth. I dunno, this book didn't do much for me (maybe 2½ *s?).

Murder in Exile (Frank Cole Mysteries)

Murder in Exile (Frank Cole Mysteries) - Vincent O'Neil My brother-in-law, Richard, apparently knows that I'm one cheap bastard, and don't much like paying for books. So, he recommended this one, which was available for free on Amazon. He'd met the author recently at a conference and he'd rather liked him. So, I figured, what the hell, why not give it a go?

So, it seems that Frank Cole had run a reasonably successful software company for a while. Then things went sour and he went bankrupt. One of the things that came out from his bankruptcy trial was that he would have to begin paying back the money he owed if he were to earn more than a certain amount, essentially more than the bare minimum for survival. So Frank's lawyer told him to go live in a poor part of Florida, the panhandle area, and take only a few short-term gigs, as the need arose. Thus, Frank works piecemeal as a "fact checker". He has good computer-based investigative skills and will check out facts for insurance companies and the like. Mostly, he searches on-line computer data bases to do background checks on various people. Much of the checking is done on computers at the local library, and Frank has become BFFs with the reference librarian, who like most librarians (imho), is awesome. Frank claims that he most certainly won't do private investigation, where he might have to be dealing with people.

A young man, Eddie Gonzalez is a hit-and-run victim while out on an evening jog. The police figured he'd been hit by a teenager who was out joyriding in a stolen car. But, it seems that Gonzalez had only a few weeks previously taken out a life insurance policy that made his fiancée the beneficiary. So, the insurance company figures it was an intentional suicide, and hires Frank to do some fact checking so as to establish that Gonzalez was sufficiently sketchy as to do such a thing. [To me this doesn't make any sense at all, but what do I know? I suppose if one is living in despair and plans suicide anyway, doing so in such a way as to benefit someone else makes sense. I should remember that the next time I think about committing suicide. How can I contrive my suicide so as to benefit my spouse and children?]

Anyway, Frank does some investigating. It seems that Eddie was a pretty good guy. Also, it seems that a jogger who dresses similarly to Eddie and who takes a similar course is a very rich guy, and there might be benefits to bumping off the rich guy. He was about to sell off the family shipping business to people outside the country.

So, perhaps Eddie's death was a case of mistaken identity. Then too, the type of vehicle used in the accident/murder seems to have been meticulously chosen, as was the location where the hit-and-run occurred, and the disposition of the vehicle after the hit-ant-run. So, "just an accident" makes no sense.

Well, anyway, Frank gets drawn in and does more investigating than he'd like. Eventually, the perp is fingered and so forth.

This book is written in a style similar to hard-boiled detective fiction such as works of Raymond Chandler, or Ross Macdonald. It's not quite so hard-boiled, perhaps just soft-boiled. But it's very engaging and overall a GoodRead. It seems my brother-in-law knows a thing or two after all.

Pilotage

Pilotage - Nevil Shute This is the second of the two novellas that Shute wrote early on in his career, but which he decided against publishing. His family, figuring to make some extra cash, did publish them. The two novellas are related, in that they have some common characters. But, if truth be told, they're not nearly up to the quality one would expect from Nevil Shute. Still, neither are exactly bad reads, perhaps just so-so or meh! reads.

Anyway, it seems that Peter Dennison is somewhat smitten by Sheila Wallace. He tells her that he has a job in Honk Kong that will allow him to afford to marry her. She turns him down because she knows he'd be unhappy in Hong Kong, but unfortunately, implies to him that she would be the unhappy one.

So, Dennison goes off into a funk. He takes his sail boat out into the English Channel for a few days, but has a run-in with a much larger ship and is injured. The ship is owned by Sir David Fisher, who is working with Stephen Morris and Capt. Rawden (prominent in the first novella) on a scheme to launch an airplane (well aeroplane, I suppose) from a ship so as to reduce the amount of time important documents can be sent between Europe and the U.S. It seems that airplanes in those days—shortly after the end of World War I—didn't have the ability to fly more than about 1000 miles. So, the idea was to sail the airplane for the first 2000 miles across the Atlantic, and then launch the plane for the rest of the trip. That way they could cut down the transit time from something like 7 days to something like 4 or 5 days.

Dennison, of course doesn't know any of this. But, Sir David seems to remember some sailing history and finds that Dennison was quite a sensation as a sailor and as a navigator in his teen years. They check him out and hire him to be Morris' navigator when they do the test run. Oh, and also, Dennison can pilot Sir David's sporting yacht in the various races in which rich people indulge themselves.

Well, that gives a bit of the story. It's better than the first novella in the series, Stephen Morris, but still a bit rough in spots, as would be expected by something Shute himself didn't deem to be publishable.

When I was in about 4th grade, my father had a gig working on a project that was to launch jet planes from platforms. I think the idea was to have the planes on flat-bed train cars, or perhaps behind huge trucks, that would get the planes to strategic locations, where they could be launched as needed. The work was at an airfield in California, so that year, we got to have our family vacation in California, first a couple of weeks at a motel (with an actual swimming pool!), while my dad did his work, and then a travel around the fun parts of California. I wonder what my dad would have thought about this book. He was an airplane guy.

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust - Alan Bradley I don't remember all that many details from the preceding book in this series, which is a pity, in that it would have helped me better understand this one. Whatever, Flavia is sent into exile in Canada. Sent to Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy in Toronto to be exact. She is a member of a mysterious "cult"/"spy ring"/something known as the Nide. But no one can let on that they're members of this group, other than hinting at something about pheasant sandwiches. It's all oblique.

Anyway, the day she arrives at Miss Bodycote's Female Academy, a body falls out of her chimney. Who is it? Could it be one of the former students who disappeared mysteriously? Suffice to say, Flavia wanders around a lot, thinks about chemistry a lot, and even does some experiments. Eventually she figures it all out, but for some reason, is deemed not Miss Bodycote material, and is shipped home, where, we presume, she'll have another adventure with her chemical laboratory and sisters.

I gave this 4*, but it should only be 3*+.

Interestingly, two days after I finished this book, my spouse and I were watching a video of Dorothy Sayers' Strong Poison. Towards the end, they set up a chemical apparatus to do arsenic analysis, almost exactly as described by Flavia's analysis in this book. Pretty fun to read about it, and then see it performed in "real life".

Another weirdness is that all the rooms at Miss Bodycote's Female Academy are named after famous women. Flavia lives in Edith Cavell. Edith Cavell was a nurse in WWI who saved people no matter what side they'd taken. She was executed. The very next book I read had a reference to Edith Cavell in it, something about Edith Cavell in drag.

Carmilla

Carmilla - Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
So, when I read Gerald Durrell's My Family and Other Animals, he made friends with a guy named Theo who was a naturalist, among other things. Gerry would visit Theo and talk about critters. Also, it seems, Theo had a wonderful library, one that included oodles of books about wild life, but also mysterious books by authors such as Conan Doyle and Le Fanu. Huh? I thought. Who is Le Fanu? So, of course, I had to look him up. It seems Le Fanu was a Victorian writer who wrote oodles of stories about ghosts and other super natural kinds of things.

It seems that some quarter of a century before Bram Stoker, Le Fanu wrote about vampires. These particular vampires appeared to have a rather lesbian sensibility. Whoa, why not read that? And, so I did.

Well, it's an ok story, I guess, but not really all that much my cup of tea. But, it was rather short, more like a novella. It's all about people in some mountainous, wooded place in Eastern Europe, with moldering "schlosses" and such like. Beautiful young women who have weird dreams and begin to "decline". Other beautiful young women who appear and disappear at strange times, and are generally not up and about much before mid day. If your taste goes to vampirey things, this isn't half bad. If you prefer a bit more reality in your reading, you could do better. Actually, as far as I remember, I rather liked Bram Stoker's Dracula. This, was ok, but perhaps my tastes have developed in the seven and a half years since I read Dracula. Or, perhaps Stoker's portrayal is more realistic.

Were I able to give half stars, I'd downgrade my rating to a ***-, or else a **+.