Sunday, April 22, 2018

THE FOLIO BOOK OF HISTORICAL MYSTERIES.

























This is a collection of historical 'whodunnits', many involve murder.

These essays ask questions of many things ,events and people through our history.

What Happened on the Mary Celeste?
Why Did Rome Fall?
Where is Atlantis?
What Happened on Easter Island?

There are twenty essays and most are written by scholars in the field or those who could be considered experts.

There is not too much 'tinfoil' hat wearing, although like all history lots of the writing is subjective but this is quality writing and points are supported by data where it can be.

This collection makes for a perfect bath book with each essay running approximately 17 pages.

A very interesting read.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

UNCLE FRED IN THE SPRINGTIME - P G Wodehouse

























When a mad Duke plans to kidnap the Empress of Blandings, Lord Emsworth calls in the ingenious Uncle Fred to pull the fat pig out of the fire.

Vintage Wodehouse,with an incredibly convoluted plot involving lots of personages from Blandings and The Drones and as always with Wodehouse, a delight.

This from Evelyn Waugh:

Mr Wodehouse's idyllic world can never stale.  He will continue to release future generations from captivity that may be more irksome than our own.  He has made a world for us to live in and delight in.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

MAN OF TWO TRIBES - Arthur Upfield

























Set on the Nullarbor Plain and in the caves beneath it, this has been described as one of the strongest of Upfield's novels. Bony discovers a group of people imprisoned in the extensive limestone caves beneath the plain and has to lead them through the wilderness and back to white civilization, pursued by various enemies.  The task requires its hero to draw on both his Aboriginal and European heritages.

There is a murder involved but this is more a travelogue across the Nullarbor and it is a very good read. 

The bad guys are easily identified but as stated its the information that is inserted when Bony is travelling alone for two weeks that makes this very interesting & makes for one of the better 'Bony's I've read.

A great series of mysteries.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

TOBACCO ROAD - Erskine Caldwell

























Set during the depression in the depleted farmlands surrounding Augusta, Georgia, "Tobacco Road" was first published in 1932.  It is the story of the Lesters, a family of white sharecroppers so destitute that most of their creditors have given up on them.  Debased by poverty to an elemental state of ignorance and selfishness, the Lesters are preoccupied by their hunger, sexual longings, and fear that they will some day descend to a lower rung on the social ladder than the black families that live near them.

This is very powerful writing, extremely funny in places, but exceptional writing; funny because Jeeter Lester and his family are so ignorant they have fallen off the scale that most would consider human and are perpetually childlike - and children can be very funny, although the cause 's of the humourous  utterances and behaviours are seldom funny in themselves .  This is a world where twelve year old daughters are married off, grandparents are starved and in one case run over and left to die in the front yard .

From the rear cover:

An original, mature approach to people who ignore the civilization that contains them as completely as it ignores them - The Nation.

The really scary part is that this isn't a satire, it is a snap shot of how many lived and probably do today but with television.

This is an outstanding book.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

THE FALSE INSPECTOR DEW - Peter Lovesey

























The year is 1921.  A passionate affair between a romantic young woman and her dentist leads them to plot his wife's murder.  They are inspired by the recent real life case of Dr. Crippen so, when the wife decides to sail on the Mauretania, the dentist books his passage in the name of the policeman who brought Crippen to justice, Inspector Dew, and then a murder takes place.

This was published in 1982 and is part murder mystery, part satire of a 'golden age' mystery. It is laugh out loud funny in parts but the mystery is entertaining and brings some tension to the story . There is a strong cast of characters on the ship who may be involved in the killing.

Good fun.

Monday, March 19, 2018

THE SECRET ADVERSARY - Agatha Christie

























Tommy and Tuppence, two young people flat broke and out of work, are restless for excitement.  They embark on a daring business scheme - Young Adventurers Ltd - 'willing to do anything, go anywhere'

Their first assignment, for the sinister Mr Whittington, draws them into a diabolical political conspiracy, and they find themselves into more danger than they ever imagine...

This is the second book Christie had published. It was first published in 1922 and it is a light hearted 'Richard Hannay' type adventure and not a typical Christie mystery, it is also great fun. It is too long  needing an edit to tighten it up but as she was still learning her craft its a good effort.

The plot is solid, one that later became hackneyed - the super spy out to turn England into an outcrop of a foreign power- but at the time this was written it had only been used a few times.

A different Christie and an enjoyable one.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

CANDIDE or Optimism - Voltaire

























With 'Candide", Voltaire bumptiously skewered the fashionable misinterpretation of the Doctrine of Philosophical Optimism, unerringly offending Kings, scientists, fanatical's, publishers, journalists and even Priests; composed in a mere three days, "Candide" capacity to amuse, disgust and surprise endures today, roughly ninety thousand days later.

Its been a long time since I have read a book that has made me laugh out loud, not once but several times in a reading.  This is the book I have been waiting for my entire life.

I read it twice on Sunday, the first time as a straight read, and laughed, the second time I read it to look a bit deeper into who and what Voltaire is sticking it to and I laughed just as hard the second time.

From the Introduction by Michael Wood.

The word optimism, first used in print in 1737, represents a philosophical position, a claim that in spite of errors and appearances God's creation is as good as it could be, and Voltaire's subtitle glances at just this doctrine.  But the young Candide looks on the bright side when he can, and not one of his many moments of discouragement can prevent his innate cheerfulness from returning.

Included in the many disasters that befall Candide, his true love and companions as they travel the world, there is murder, body cavity searches, cannibalism, bestiality, many raping's, many beatings , battles and dismemberment's, all the while being hilarious.

As the rear cover states about the book " The satirical scourge of 1759" and reading it its no wonder it has has many trying to ban it seize it and ignore it.

As for one upmanship, here two of the female characters engage in some banter over who had suffered the most.

" Alas my good woman... unless you have bee raped by two Bulgars, been stabbed twice in the stomach, had two castles demolished, had the throats of two mothers and two fathers slit before your eyes, and watched two lovers being flogged in an auto-da-fe, I really cannot see that you have the advantage over me."

As it turns out the above example was simply not even close to what the old lady endured. The old woman's tale of suffering is told in the most brilliantly understated way and very very funny.

Love this and it will be read many times more, its only 94 pages and can be dipped into  for a laugh and a look at humanity with its vanities. " Lets eat Jesuit, lets eat Jesuit."