da heat, da power…

Update on the weather, etc.

Thursday it was 94° at 5pm when the power company shut down our A/C as a “power conservation measure”. The air came back on at 8pm, starting to cool the house back down, then at 8:55 all the power went out. It was out all night and came on at just after 11am this morning, less than half an hour ago.

Miserable hot night and we hope not to have lost food and meds in refrigerator. No cause for overnight outage given, so far. It’s 91° now, predicted to be 100° today (Friday).

– steps off weather whiner box.

Posted in Books & Reading | 9 Comments

short stories – Long Story Short

Long Story Short: A Short Story Collection (Chronicles of St. Mary’s) by Jodi Taylor, Headline June 2021 trade paper, science fiction

I like Taylor’s Chronicles of St. Mary’s books a lot, though I’m the first to admit I’m way behind on the 10-book series. But short stories about the place? Sign me up. Not every story is about St. Mary’s history detectives, but any Taylor is good.

This collection brings together seven short stories from the internationally bestselling Chronicles of St Mary’s series, and one special guest tale from somewhere completely different and includes brand-new St Mary’s short story When Did You Last See Your Father? and original introductions from the author.

From riotous misbehaviour in Victorian London to ingenious feats of scientific invention (powdered water – just add water!), and from a chaotic Nativity play starring a vengeful Angel Gabriel to an illegal expedition to Mars, Jodi Taylor knows how to spin a good yarn.

Contents:

Christmas Past The Farrells are together at last for their first St Mary’s Christmas, a time of riotous misbehaviour and the traditional illegal Christmas jump – this time to Victorian London.

Battersea Barricades A glimpse into the past of some of your St Mary’s favourites characters in the throes of Civil Uprisings.

The Steam-Pump Jump St Mary’s Max is injured and tied to Sick Bay but obviously a good historian would never let that get in her way. Step forward, Mr Markham…

And Now For Something Completely DifferentWho would the St Mary’s team be to turn down a little Christmas expedition to Mars? An illegal Christmas jump is traditional, after all.

When Did You Last See Your Father? Have you ever wondered how things would go if Max’s husband met Max’s father? This is the story of what can happen if St Mary’s doesn’t like someone…

Desiccated WaterProfessor Rapson breaks astonishing new ground with his latest feat of scientific invention.

Markham and the Anal Probing When Markham disappears in the middle of nowhere, Max jumps to the logical conclusion – alien abduction.

Little DonkeyA chaotic Nativity play like no other, starring a donkey intent on eating the baby Jesus and a vengeful Angel Gabriel.

Posted in Books & Reading | 8 Comments

currently…

It’s hot. Again. We are so sick of this heat, and it’s going to be in the 90s the rest of the week and probably beyond. We’re just hoping for no triple digits, but August is usually the hottest month here, so it’s unlikely to cool off any time soon.

Starting Friday night and over the weekend, we spent a lot of time sitting in front of the TV watching the Olympics. We thought the opening ceremonies were awfully bland. If there is any logic in what NBC and it’s affiliate stations present to us, I’ve yet to figure it out, so we sort of take what we get, and sometimes that’s boring stuff.

I like watching the swimming, and there has been a good deal of that, but soccer, softball, volleyball, skateboarding…no. I’m cutting the Olympics-watching way back starting today. Back to reading.

The library has flooded us with things, so many that I sent one back unread, which is rare. I have one I’ll finish one today, probably, and two more sitting here, Barbara has one half read and four sitting here, and we both have one on the way (“in transit”). Plus I decided to buy the rest of the birder murder series by Steve Burrows, so there is LOTS to read, not to mention many short story anthologies and collections.

I’ll try to post on some of the books as I finish them, but this heat is innervating and I have little energy.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books, Short Stories | 17 Comments

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.

Posted in Books & Reading | 11 Comments

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.

Posted in Books & Reading | 10 Comments

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!

Posted in Books & Reading | 6 Comments

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.

Posted in Books & Reading | 16 Comments

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)

Posted in Books & Reading | 8 Comments

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