A Siege of Bitterns by Steve Burrows

A Siege of Bitterns by Steve Burrows, (c) 2016, my copy Point Blank Books 2018 trade paper, mystery fiction, 344 pages – 2015 Arthur Ellis Award — Winner, Best First Novel 

The Blurb:
Detective Chief Inspector Domenic Jejeune’s success has made him a poster boy for the U.K. police service. The problem is Jejeune doesn’t really want to be a detective at all; he much prefers watching birds.

Recently reassigned to the small Norfolk town of Saltmarsh, located in the heart of Britain’s premier birding country, Jejeune’s two worlds collide when he investigates the grisly murder of a prominent ecological activist. His ambitious police superintendent foresees a blaze of welcome publicity, but she begins to have her doubts when Jejeune’s most promising theory involves a feud over birdwatching lists. A second murder only complicates matters.

To unravel this mystery, Jejeune must deal with unwelcome public acclaim, the mistrust of colleagues, and his own insecurities. In the case of the Saltmarsh birder murders, the victims may not be the only casualties.

My take:
I found this a little slow at first, but as it went on I became caught up in the quest for who did murder, and how could that person be caught? The new copper in a new environment was interesting. Note that there’s no need to be a birder in order to enjoy the book. I liked it a lot and have the next in the series, A Pitying of Doves, on hold at the library.

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short stories – Golden Age Detective Stories

Golden Age Detective Stories edited by Otto Penzler, Penzler Publishers June 2021 trade paper, mystery short story anthology, a volume of Otto Penzler Presents American Mystery Classics

I’ve been reading mystery fiction in both long and short form for many decades, and sometimes it seems a toss-up which I like better, the novel in which the author can develop a character-filled cast and detailed setting, or the short story where we are led straight into things and a conclusion, hopefully satisfying, is soon reached.

This anthology of 14 short stories is packed with classic stories from the top writers of the period.

Contents:

  1. The Enemy by Charlotte Armstrong. (1951) Mike Russell
  2. The Stripper by Anthony Boucher. (1947) Sister Ursula.
  3. Postiche by Mignon C. Eberhart (1935) Susan Dare
  4. The Case of the Crimson Kiss by Erle Stanley Gardner (1948) Perry Mason
  5. The Enchanted Garden by H.F. Heard (1949) Mr. Mycroft
  6. 5-4=murderer by Baynard Kendrick (1953) Captain Duncan Maclain
  7. There’s Death for Remembrance by Francis & Richard Lockridge (1955) Pamela & Jerry North.
  8. The Monkey Murder by Stuart Palmer (1947) Hildegarde Withers
  9. The Adventure of the African Traveler by Ellery Queen (1934) Ellery Queen
  10. Puzzle for Poppy by Patrick Quentin (1946) Peter and Iris Duluth
  11. From Another World by Clayton Rawson (1948) The Great Merlini
  12. Goodbye. Goodbye! By Craig Rice (1946) John J. Malone
  13. Locked Doors by Mary Roberts Rinehart (1925) Hilda Adams
  14. Mystery in Room 913 : The Suicide Room by Cornell Woolrich (1938) Striker

A good selection of Golden Age mysteries, and with each story there comes a short author biography. It’s available in both hardcover and paperback, I bought the latter. This is the short story anthology I’m about to start, to read between novels that have been coming in from the library.

It’s still hotter than I like, the mid-to-high 80s, and it’s very dry. We’ve had wind, and there are wildfires burning all over the Pacific Northwest.

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ffb: Tether’s End by Margery Allingham

(re-post from Broken Bullhorn)

Tether’s End by Margery Allingham, Carroll & Graf 1997 paperback, first published in 1934, featuring Albert Campion, amateur Sleuth

“The arrival of the bus was timed to perfection. Nobody of the slightest importance saw it at all.”

Tether's EndUnlike the larger-than-life master criminal of Mystery Mile or the politically motivated villain in Traitor’s Purse, the subject of the police pursuit, aided by Confidential Investigator Albert Campion, in this book is of a type often found in current mystery fiction: a man of no morals seeking personal gain.

Inspector Luke has a theory that a recent crime may be tied to an old one, farfetched as that may first seem. Campion becomes the sounding board for Luke’s hunch and is dragged into an intriguing case. Though the crimes occurred in the same general location, there doesn’t seem to be any common motive. It is left up to events to reveal the facts.

Annabelle Tassie has come up from the country to stay with a relation at Tether’s End, and her childhood companion Richard Waterfield who works in London has come to meet her. She’s no longer the little girl he remembers and he is struck by her beauty to the extent that he falls in love. When he sees a man coming from the house in which she will be staying, he follows to try and ascertain who he is and what his business might be. Thus begins a day which will end in terror for both Richard and Annabelle while Campion and Scotland Yard begin solving a puzzle with more pieces than expected.

This is an excellent example of Allingham’s mature writing and characterization. Campion isn’t in the least silly in this one, though he does look at events in a different way from his friends at The Yard. It’s a good thing for Annabelle that he does!

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July short stories

It’s still hot, not sizzling, but hot. I’m dealing with reading ennui, maybe it’s the weather, but I read just a few stories this last week.

Vintage Books 1966 pb

From The Vintage Anthology of Science Fantasy edited by Christopher Cerf, Vintage 1966 mass market paperback:

“An Egg A Month from All Over” by Idris Seabright (very unusual in every way)

“There will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury (when the world ends…)

”And Now the News” by Theodore Sturgeon (an especially dark story)

”No-Sided Professor” by Martin Gardner (math-oriented)

”Random Quest” by John Wyndham (Wyndham strikes again)

Not a lot of stories, but I did finish two novels, A Solitude of Wolverines and The Killing Hills. I’ll continue to peck away at this anthology, as I dabble with novels both on hand and those starting to come in from the library.

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Ten Second Staircase by Christopher Fowler

Ten Second Staircase by Christopher Fowler, Bantam 2008 trade paper, mystery, 4th in Bryant & May Peculiar Crimes Unit series.

I’m continuing to read the series of mysteries featuring Braynt & May, written by Christopher Fowler. This is the 4th.

The Blurb (from Goodreads):
The odd couple of detection — the brilliant but cranky detectives of London’s Peculiar Crimes Unit — return to investigate 
a crime tailor-made for them, a controversial artist is murdered and displayed as part of her own outrageous installation. No suspects, no motive, no evidence–it’s business as usual for the Unit’s cantankerous Arthur Bryant and John May.

But this time they have an eyewitness. According to twelve-year-old Luke Tripp, the killer was a cape-clad highwayman atop a black stallion.

As implausible as the boy’s story sounds, Bryant and May take it seriously when “The Highwayman” is spotted again, striking a dramatic pose at the scene of his next outlandish murder. Whatever the killer’s real identity, he seems intent on killing off a string of minor celebrities while becoming one himself.

As the tabloids look to make a quick bundle on “Highwayman Fever,” Bryant and May, along with the newest member of the Unit, May’s agoraphobic granddaughter, April, find themselves sorting out a case involving an unlikely combination of artistic rivalries, sleazy sex affairs, the Knights Templars, and street gang feuds. To do it, they’re going to have to use every orthodox–and unorthodox–means at their disposal, including myth, witchcraft, and the psychogeographic history of the city’s “monsters,” past and present.

And if one unsolvable crime weren’t enough, this case has disturbing links to a decades-old killing spree that nearly destroyed the partnership of Bryant and May once before…and may again. The Peculiar Crimes Unit is one murder away from being closed down for good–and that murder could be their own.”

My take: I really liked this one a lot. It’s the characters who keep me turning the pages, but this time the crimes are just as compelling. I love this series!

The Bryant & May series:
Full Dark House  (2003)
The Water Room (2004)
Seventy-Seven Clocks  (2005)
Ten Second Staircase  (2006)
White Corridor  (2007)
The Victoria Vanishes  (2008)
Bryant & May on the Loose  (2009)
Off the Rails  (2010)
The Memory of Blood  (2011)
The Invisible Code  (2012)
The Bleeding Heart  (2014)
The Secret Santa  (2015)
The Burning Man  (2015)
London’s Glory (ss) (2015)
Strange Tide  (2016)
Wild Chamber  (2017)
Hall of Mirrors  (2018)
England’s Finest (ss) (2019)
The Lonely Hour ( 2019)
Oranges and Lemons (2020)
London Bridge is Falling Down (coming Dec. 2021)

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When the Death-Bat Flies: the Detective Stories of Norvell Page

When the Death-Bat Flies: the Detective Stories of Novel Page edited by Matthew Moring, introduction by Will Murray, Altus Press 2010 hardcover, first edition, 775 pages, hard-boiled detective stories

When the Death-Bat Flies front cvrPage, whose middle name was Wordsworth, broke into print during the depression while working for the New York Herald-Tribune as a crime reporter. He wrote pulp stories in several genres, including westerns, but primarily wrote for the mystery and crime titles, first for Dell’s Scotland Yard, then for Ten Detective Aces, Strange Detective Stories and a host of others before breaking into Black Mask and writing for The Spider magazine. He was prolific.

This collection focuses primarily on Page’s contributions to Detective Tales and Strange Detective Mysteries. Detective Tales followed the pulp formula editors called “detective-action” while Strange Detective Stories was more “murder-mystery” themed.

When the Death-Bat Flies back cvrThis collection of 33 stories offers an unparalleled look at the detective and mystery writing of one of the best and brightest of the crime pulp writers. The book contains the following stories:

  • “Murder Undercover”
  • “Law—Without a Badge!”
  • “Forsaking All Else!”
  • “Like Father—”
  • “Once a Cop—”
  • “The Love That Kills”
  • “When Guns Turn Traitor”
  • “The Death Game”
  • “Death For His Fee!”
  • “Manhattan Nocturne”
  • “Double Cross—with Honor”
  • “Between Two Loves”
  • “Comeback of the Damned”
  • “Copper’s Cross”
  • “Alias the Corpse Maker”
  • “Women Take the Rap”
  • “Murder Rides the Flood”
  • “The Man Who Wouldn’t Stay Dead”
  • “Murder Edits the News”
  • “When the Death-Bat Flies”
  • “Crime’s Capital City”
  • “The Devil’s Clinic”
  • “Corpse Fever Is Catching”
  • “Murder Follows the Headlines”
  • “Satan’s Penthouse Carnival”
  • “Crime’s Christmas Carol”
  • “Skulls Always Grin!”
  • “The Glamour of Sin!”
  • “Blood of the Dragon’s Horn”
  • “Tough Little Girl”
  • “Fingers of Fear”
  • “A Corpse for Company”
  • “Dead Hands Can’t Kill!”
Posted in Books & Reading | 11 Comments

Arrrgh! Too Hot! – UPDATE

Its hotter than predicted as shown in the previous post. It was over 90 at 10:30 this morning. Current forecast is for 111 degrees by 5pm. All time records are being set.

Thank heavens for air conditioning!!

they say it’ll be hotter tomorrow and stay in 90s the rest of the week.

I’m not a fan of hot weather, I’m finding it’s even interfering with my ability to read. We’re concerned about losing plants, so we water and our water bill will be…high, though we try to conserve as best we can.

I know, it’s hot everywhere, but we’re already at Moderate Drought level, and it’s likely to be windy as well as hot. Pray there are no fires!

Posted in At Home in Portland | 12 Comments

Arrrgh! Too Hot!

I’m not a fan of hot weather, it’s one of the reasons we moved from Southern California to Portland, Oregon more than a decade ago. But it gets hot here too, in the Summer, and it’s hot here now, and getting hotter.

The 7 Day Forecast:
Wed: 83   Thur: 86   Fri: 95   Sat: 103   Sun: 105   Mon: 102   Tue: 93

We were okay today (Wednesday), but when it gets over 85 I’m unhappy, and this next six days I’m miserable. Thank goodness we have air conditioning, but the power folks are warning of shutoffs on Friday through Monday. Our service includes a system where the HVAC can be turned off 4 hours a day by the power company, and it’s already happened once, last week. We expect it. So we cool down, button up and have cold drinks.

I know, it’s hot everywhere, but we’re already at Moderate Drought level, and it’s likely to be windy as well as hot. Pray there’s no fires.

Arrrgh! Don’t like it this hot.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books, Short Stories | 13 Comments

The Readers’ Room by Antoine Laurain

The Readers’ Room by Antoine Laurain, translated by Jane Aitken/ Emily Boyce, Gallic Books 2020 hardcover, mystery fiction, 172 pages

Readers' RoomI first became aware of this author when in 2017 I read The Red Notebook [© 2014], about which at the time I said: “An enjoyable little book about the finding of a red notebook and the finder’s efforts to locate it’s owner. I liked it when I read it, and liked it more as I considered it later.”

This novel is even better.

from B&N website:

When the manuscript of a debut crime novel arrives at a Parisian publishing house, everyone in the readers’ room is convinced it’s something special. And the committee for France’s highest literary honour, the Prix Goncourt, agrees.

But when the shortlist is announced, there’s a problem for editor Violaine Lepage: she has no idea of the author’s identity. As the police begin to investigate a series of murders strangely reminiscent of those recounted in the book, Violaine is not the only one looking for answers. And, suffering memory blanks following an aeroplane accident, she’s beginning to wonder what role she might play in the story …

Antoine Laurain, bestselling author of The Red Notebook, combines intrigue and charm in this dazzling novel of mystery, love and the power of books.

from Publisher’s Weekly:

“A profound love of books and authors underpins this sprightly mystery from Laurain (The President’s Hat). Violaine Lepage, the director of the manuscript readers’ room for a Parisian publisher, is certain that Sugar Flowers, a debut crime novel, will be a big seller, and so it proves when, a year later, the book is shortlisted for the Prix Goncourt. Then the problems start. First, the author, Camille Désencres, has only communicated with her publishers by email, and refuses to participate in person for interviews. Then Det. Insp. Sophie Tanche of the Rouen regional crime squad informs Violaine that a double murder described in the novel closely resembles an actual case. When a third man is found dead, the detective observes, “I don’t know how, but everything stems from one bizarre place: a thirty-square-meter room in which people are paid to read books that don’t yet exist… the readers’ room.” The tendency of characters to wax philosophical (“All books are works of black magic”) adds to the charm of this witty and perceptive novel.”

The author’s writing style is simple and straightforward, the character building the same, yet the book caught and held me through it’s length — I finished it in a day, unusual for me. Recommended.

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short stories – Hayden’s World

Hayden’s World Volume 1 by S. D. Falchetti, 2018 trade paper, science fiction

I’m not sure how I came across this self-published hard science fiction collection, probably saw it on Amazon. The cover is certainly eye-catching, don’t you think?

James Hayden is a scientist, businessman, explorer, adventurer, promoter, space pilot. He and the other characters in these seven stories survive the skies of Saturn, Uranus and other parts of the outer Solar Syatem, desperate struggles at the solar system’s edge, and takes near-lightspeed interstellar expeditions.

The stories are tied together, much like chapters in a novel. I liked that.

Contents:

“43 Seconds”
“Silver-Side Up”
“Erebus” (novelette)
“Signal Loss” (novelette)
“Last Stand”
“Aero One”
“Titan’s Shadow”

See the image of the back of the book for a brief plot description. →

The writing style here is straightforward, clean. early Larry Niven in style. The stories are interesting, the characters involving and the hard science fiction well done.

When I finished reading this, I wanted more, and fortunately there is Hayden’s World Volume 2 which I have and plan to read soon.

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