Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Devil's Defender: My Odyssey Through American Criminal Justice from Ted Bundy to the Kandahar Massacre by John Henry Browne

The Devil's Defender: My Odyssey Through American Criminal Justice from Ted Bundy to the Kandahar Massacre by John Henry Browne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 256 pages
Published August 1st 2016 by Chicago Review Press
Source: received an egalley via edelweiss

A very compelling book that had me turning the pages quickly. I've never read a lawyer's book before except ones by the prosecutor of a big case such as Vincent Bugliosi's books. But the thought of reading about the defending lawyer of people he knows are guilty, some of them having committed heinous crimes intrigued me. Why do these people do what they do if they are not just scumbags, too? John Henry Browne got me to read his book because he defends guilty people who will be facing the death penalty. His job ... to stop the murderous cycle and get the perpetrators a life sentence instead. These aren't the only cases he takes but it's a big part of what he does. Myself, I am adamantly against capital punishment but am glad Browne does the job and not me. He retells his famous trials and his addictions to drug, alcohol and his ego. This is all very fascinating and he made me aware of a couple cases I didn't know so well. Browne writes well but he still obviously has an ego which makes him a little hard to take at times telling us how great he simply is. The Ted Bundy parts are the meat though and brought some new perspective to his case for me. Ultimately, though, the book made me think about my beliefs and consider the legal system and its corruptness.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Clariel by Garth Nix

Clariel by Garth Nix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 382 pages
Published October 14th 2014 by HarperCollins
Source: Received an egalley via edelweiss

Abhorsen (#4)

Really fantastic! I just wish I hadn't waited so long to read it. I'd forgotten the world of The Old Kingdom but as I read this I began to ache for all the other books. Clariel is a great character, an evil one in the future books, but this goes back to tell her beginning story and I fell in love with her. A victim of her circumstances who did the best she could while unknowingly being lead astray. The book ends way before she is introduced in the series in "Lirael", so Nix has left himself open to write further adventures for that time period. I like to read books in the order they are written not chronologically by time period but this does work well to read it first. It takes place in the past so it doesn't give away anything that hasn't happened yet. Just absolutely adored the book and will be reading the new book soon which goes back to the current timeline of the series.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine May 1977 (Vol. 40, No. 5) by Brett Halliday

Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine (Vol. 40, No. 5) by Brett Halliday
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Magazine, 128 pages
Published May 1977 by Renown Publications

Mike Shayne: May 1977

Digest-sized magazine printed on newsprint. The first story is always a Mike Shayne "short novel". As with the Shayne, the majority of the stories are what would be called crime; there is very little mystery involved. Throw in a couple of actual mysteries and a thriller "weird" tale and that's what you can expect from these magazines. I've never heard of any of these authors and suspect some may be pen names. But overall the book was a solid 3.5 stars

1. The Verdict Was Murder by Brett Halliday - Not a big fan of Mike Shayne but this one had him in all sorts of action. Drugs and stolen cars, a dirty cop and a widowed cop's wife having trouble with her eldest son going criminal. (3/5)

2. The Dark Side by Bill Pronzini - A silly little horror story. An academic man with few friends (or enemies) starts suddenly receiving parcels in the mail: the first a gun, next a butcher knife and so on until he figures out who is sending them. You can tell this was written in the '70s by the solution. (3/5)

3. The Crimes of Harry Waters by James McKimmey - This is a comedy. Harry is a poet and a poor one at that. Down on his luck, he decides the best thing for him is jail: a bed, 3 square meals, and the comfort to write all day. So he sets off trying to commit crimes but instead each time he does the "victim" a favour by robbing them, vandalising property etc. He ends up fairly wealthy and then he gets "his" in the end. It was predictable but fun to read. (4/5)

4. The Barn Dance by B.M. Hoffman - A husband has a business meeting with another man, so he and his wife travel to stay with them overnight. The partner's wife, Helen, turns out to be a vile, vindictive harridan who must have her own way. Carolyn spends a tourist day with her and ends up hating her.The wife takes the couples square dancing and during the evening all the punch drinkers get sick, with Helen dying. A little beyond believability but good story with a bleak ending that reads well and doesn't feel dated. (4/5)

5. Last Night I Heard Him Crying by Jeanne F. Carron - This is really good. A woman always has the same dream. Her husband, who majored in psych encourages her to explore the dream and come to terms with whatever is bothering her. After being hypnotised and a subsequent visit from her adoptive mother she knows the truth. All the psych talk and dream stuff are very out-moded seventies jargon, but it's still a good story. The only problem is it ends abruptly without really making sense. (4/5)

6. Hit and Run by Edward Van Der Rhoer - This is a good Private Eye case. Lots of wondering and not knowing who the culprit or even what exactly is the crime. A woman hires our PI to find out if her separated husband has written a new will leaving everything to his new girlfriend. There is way more than meets the eye. Good story, but the ending was disappointing as it was sexist even for the time it was written. (3/5)

7. Of Course, I Killed Him by Doris L. Goldberg - This is a good one, though dated. A husband becomes jealous when his homemaker wife starts selling stories and becomes quite well-known, (5/5)

8.Motive, Motive... by Art Crockett - Pretty good straight cop piece. A lady is found stabbed just inside her door. The bellhop finds her.The only other person on that floor noticed is a stooped-over 92-year-old man. Our detective figures it out. (4/5)

9. Kiss Her Goodbye by Herbert Harris - Just a quick little piece about a band player caught cheating by his high society girl. What got me on this was the guy's name is Ricky and he plays in a band at the "Tropicala" and the dame is a redhead. Remind you of anyone? (2/5)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published August 23rd 2016 by Pamela Dorman Books
Source: Received a print review copy from Penguin Random House Canada

Quite a rollercoaster ride and well-crafted for a first novel. The Conti's six-month-old daughter is kidnapped from her crib. The whole event starts while at the couple's next door for the evening and now that the police are investigating, the lead detective, Rasbach, can tell that everyone is either lying or not telling the whole truth. The time frame turns into almost a week. Suspicions land everywhere for the first half until the kidnapper is revealed. Now everyone's secrets are coming out and we don't know how it will ultimately end. At barely 300 pages, it is a short book and paced fast enough that I barely put it down until I'd finished. My only quibble is the author uses the phrase, "He/she almost felt sorry for him/her." over and over to the reader's distraction. The person wasn't likeable, deserved no sympathy and the people saying this? it didn't fit their personalities. Otherwise, a sharp little psychological thriller and I'd love to see where the author goes with her next book.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

By Gaslight by Steven Price

By Gaslight by Steven Price
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 752 pages
Published August 23rd 2016 by McClelland & Stewart
Source: print review copy from Penguin Random House Canada

This is a very long book and it took me a long time to read but I will say I enjoyed it. It is slow-paced and I didn't have a hard time putting it down but each time I picked it up I easily got lost in the world again. This is historical fiction set during the Victorian era featuring The Pinkertons, William mainly. It's not based on truth nor does it profess to be. It does give one insight into Victorian London, especially the criminal class, and surprisingly the other main theme is the American Civil War. I enjoyed the story and really enjoyed the characters and would read another book by the same author. However, it had a few problems that kept it from being reader friendly. Firstly, there are no quotation marks and while I've got used to that being acceptable in modern literature it does always slow down the reading. Secondly, the plot moves back and forth in space and time while having very long chapters.I like the device of switching back and forth from the past to present but the chapters were so long in this book that the switches were hard to adjust to. Ths doesn't interfere with understanding the plot but does slow down the reading making you feel more like plodding through the book than galloping along with it.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Ashes of Foreverland by Tony Bertauski

Ashes of Foreverland by Tony Bertauski
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Kindle Edition, 342 pages
Published March 21st 2015 by DeadPixel Publications
Source: Purchased Kindle edition

Foreverland (#3)

A thrilling end to this trilogy. Everything from the first two books unites together in "Ashes" and it's a chilling, exciting ride. Never knowing what is reality or the dreamworld kept me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. I also just loved the ending! Now I have the short prequel to read next, then I'm off to explore Bertauski's other worlds (I mean books) but I'm pretty sure I know which series I'll read next. Tony is a new favourite author! Yeah!

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Thing at the Foot of the Bed and Other Scary Tales by Maria Leach

The Thing at the Foot of the Bed and Other Scary Tales by Maria Leach
Illus. by Kurt Werth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Paperback, 128 pages
Published May 18th 2016 by Dover Publications
First published: 1959
Source: egalley via netgalley

I had this book as a kid and loved it. when I saw that Dover had republished it I just *had* to read it again. It is a collection of ghost stories from around the world, though mostly English, Canadian Maritime and African-American in origin. And not just stories (which are usually only a few paragraphs long) but there is poetry, games, songs and even a Newfoundland sea shanty. The tales are written in a story-tellers voice and meant to be told aloud, some even have instructions for the storyteller. A lot of the stories are humorous and this is reflected in Kurt Werth's wonderful comic illustrations. Maria Leach was born in the USA of Nova Scotian parents but then retired to Nova Scotia herself in the fifties when she began to write.

edition I owned as a kid

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

St. Louis Noir edited by Scott Phillips

St. Louis Noir edited by Scott Phillips
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Paperback, 240 pages
Published August 2nd 2016 by Akashic Books
Source: egalley via edelwiess

Akashic Noir Anthologies

This is the second book I've read in the Akashic Noir series . I enjoyed it far less than "New Orleans Noir 2". I think having some knowledge of the city these books feature (even if is only from reading or a keen interest) will have an effect on the reader's experience with the book. I knew nothing of St. Louis at all. As a Canadian, I didn't even know what state it was in. A lot of the stories here are about drugs, race relations, vigilantism and politics unique to the city. I'm not interested in these topics, nor am I familiar with them much but a great deal of the stories I wouldn't even call noir. The endings of most didn't use a twist or redemption; if the ending isn't dark I've lost the noir feeling. However, there were a couple of stellar stories combined with the okay stories that the major duds didn't drag down my rating. The book averaged out to a solid 3/5 altogether.

1. Abandoned Places by S.L. Coney - Ian's father takes off. Most assume he's dead. The locals think the professionals offed him. But Ian sometimes wonders if his step-mother of two years killed him. So Ian follows Vickie one night and learns it all. The ending could have been better. (3/5)

2. Deserted Cities of the Heart by Paul D. Marks - This is the tragedy and destruction of a man who meets his femme fatale. An IT guy meets a mousy haired hipster ad his happy but mundane life takes a nose-dive into obsession. Nicely depressing. (4/5)

3. Blues for the River City Colleen J. Mcelroy - There are three black teens and they narrowly escape trouble when sneaking into a whites-only movie theatre. It's the 1950s and mostly just talks about racism; not really a plot to be found anywhere. (0/5)

4. Fool's Luck by Lavelle Wilkins-Chinn - This is the first really good story. It starts off giving background on this African-American family and its quirky members. Then settles on Unk, mentally disabled in the war. Now in '68 the government has sent him a letter saying he'll receive a large settlement since his war work had been the cause of his illness. Now he hooks up with Carla, 20 years his junior, a money-grubbing skank. Nobody in the family likes her, but Unk loves her. She sleeps around etc. and in the end gets hers but not after causing unforgivable harm. (5/5)

5. Attrition by Calvin Wilson - Very short. An A&E reporter is a slacker but good at his job. When a business person is hired as the new editor to get people in line he finds he hates her in a way he's never disliked anyone before. He feels she's bad for the A&E section and we end up learning just what it is that makes him tick. A wicked character study more than plot oriented. (3/5)

6. Tracks by Jason Makansi - This one challenges our perceptions. It's not often we meet a violent female sexual predator in literature. Starting off from the predator's pov we see inside her head, the sick fantasies and then the attack. The end is seen from the victim's pov. Can't say I cared for the story too much but it was unique. (3/5)

7. Four St. Louis Poems by Michael Castro - I hardly ever like poetry even if it's maudlin. (0/5)

8. A Paler Shade of Death by Laura Benedict - This is the first author in this collection I've heard of though had not read her before. Also, this story is twice the length of any others so far. It's a pretty creepy story which never lets you know what has really happened. A woman is moving into a duplex, apparently, she's just gotten divorced, has a restraining order against her going near her old house once she gets her last things moved out today. Oh, her son died some time ago, That's when the marriage started to fail. Now there is a boy across the street who is the age her son would have been now. Is this boy real, a ghost, her imagination? Her son drowned; some people think she killed him. Her ex-husband turns up at her door. What follows is either real, imagined, or a nightmare. (4/5)

9. Have You Seen Me? by Jedidiah Ayres - A man who works clearing out buildings set for demolishment finds a wall of missing posters in a homeless tenement. He starts to recognise some of the kids and has urges to call the numbers on the posters to tell the parents, their kid is ok even if they are dead. When his boss calls him to help him out when he drunkenly kills his girlfriend in a car accident. The boss finds he picked the wrong person. This is pure noir, well-written and keeps you on your toes as it surprised me with where it went. The main character is left being ambiguous so we end up not knowing what he actually is/or may be. (5/5)

10. A St. Louis Christmas by Umar Lee - This is about drug dealers. A vigilante Muslim group whose objective is to rid the streets of drugs hear about a money exchange going down, We learn about Bubba the head of the meth operation and we learn about the backgrounds of the two vigilantes, one Muslim, one Jew. Things happen and the vigilantes, win, I think. I'm not up on all the drug talk or vigilante group names so this was pretty boring for me. Not very exciting, and an ending that made no sense to me. It read well though because of good writing. (2/5)

11. The Pillbox by Chris Barsanti - A naive teenager becomes a skinhead for the uniform and music. Moves to the city, makes a couple of friends, Then he gets involved in drug selling working for "Chicago". Everything is ok until he finds out these skinheads he works for are of the neo-nazi/white pride variety and expect him to join them. He tries to get out of the situation and has to resort to violence. This was ok but again, hard for me to relate to the drug and skinhead culture, having never experienced it. (3/5)

12. The Brick Wall by John Lutz - Now this is more like it. My favourite story at this point. This is the second author I've heard of but again hadn't read before. A good little thriller with a twist ending. The owner of a racetrack enters the current race which includes his friend's son. Someone is killed on the track and the owner is blamed, is sorry, but feels no guilt. A plot is set up to get him making for a tense story, but the twist ending is very good. (5/5)

13. Tell Them Your Name is Barbara by L.J. Smith - This one is about the drug world too but much more enjoyable for me as it involves a murder and the solving of the case. All the characters, good and bad, did drugs so their really isn't a hero here, but the case gets solved and at least one person has the possibility of changing their life for the better. Not a very thrilling ending. (3/5)

14. One Little God-Damn Thing by Scott Phillips - The final story is the editor's contribution and my favourite of the collection. A convict has served his full sentence of thirty years for murder during an armed robbery. He's out now and goes to visit his hometown (where he robbed the bank) not to let anyone see him but to check-up and make sure his sister is ok. He starts by following her husband, the man who was his accomplice and who actually did the murders. Our jailbird had taken full responsibility for the crime in exchange his b-i-l would take care of his sister. Looks like he didn't follow through. This is perfect noir and has a good ending. (5/5)

Monday, August 15, 2016

Blood Men by Paul Cleave

Blood Men by Paul Cleave
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kindle Edition, 338 pages
Published July 20th 2010 by Atria Books
Source: Purchased Kindle edition

Christchurch Murders (#4)

I love this series! This was a page-turning wild ride for me. This book features Schroder as the main investigator but what I like about this series is that all the books are set in the same "world" not always having the same lead characters but others always pop in for cameo appearances. The son of a serial killer gets caught in a bank robbery where his wife is killed. This starts Edward on a terrifying journey he has no control over. The plot is a little far-fetched for this one but that did nothing to stop my enjoyment. It was a whirlwind read from start to finish which I could hardly put down except to sleep briefly.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Buried Alive: The Terrifying History of Our Most Primal Fear by Jan Bondeson

Buried Alive: The Terrifying History of Our Most Primal Fear by Jan Bondeson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Paperback, 320 pages
Published March 17th 2002 by W. W. Norton & Company
First published 2001
Source: Bought print copy at retail

This book is not what I thought it would be but that ended up being ok. The subtitle does accurately tell the book's main topic: the history of "the fear" of premature burial. The book is labelled as "Science/Medicine" and is most definitely that. Written in a scholarly manner, dry at times, dense most of the time; it is not a book for light reading. I found the topic engrossing, though, unlike anything I'd read before. The book starts with ancient and medieval times, taking quotes from scholars and scientists of the times but quickly gets to the 1700s where the meat of the book follows. I don't read much history from this time period, nor do I know much of German history which this book mostly concerns. An odd fervour ran through the German medical profession for preventing premature burial. They had many names for this state of "apparent death" and started to work on establishing ground rules for the signs of death. This was also taken up by the French but their revolution interrupted the science giving France a hundred year time period of debate on the topic. England never took to this amusing and grotesque fascination of the Continent. The Germans actually built mausoleum type hospitals for the dead where corpses would be held until putrefaction set in. Up until the early 1800s and the invention of the stethoscope, putrefaction was the only accepted determination of death. Though most of the book takes place in the 1700s and early 1800s the next part deals with the history of establishing rules for the pronouncement of death. It's funny now to think that people were so concerned with whether a corpse was really dead or not, but so it was. My only problem with the book is the author's retelling of practically every myth and fictional story ever published claiming someone had been buried alive. He refutes these and yet fills each chapter with more and more of them. It is only when we get to the last two chapters that being "buried alive" actually becomes the topic. Historical pseudo-cases are refuted and yet the chance of such "accidents" happening is acknowledged. In modern times many cases of mispronounced death are recounted and while premature burial is hardly likely today it still must be taken to occasionally happen in countries where less stringent medical standards are upheld. The author only briefly touches upon 20th-century medical science and the modern acceptance of "brain death", human transplants and organ harvesting. While the author is in full acceptance and writes in favour of current standards, it only went to further strengthen my personal opinions on not agreeing with "brain death" as being a sign of "real" death. And while it is no longer necessary to wait for putrefaction to set in we must (IMO) wait until the person has stopped living without the aid of machines.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Night Bell by Inger Ash Wolfe

The Night Bell by Inger Ash Wolfe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 400 pages
Published August 9th 2016 by Pegasus Books
Source: egalley via edelweiss

Hazel Micallef Mystery (#4)

It has been so long (4 years) since the last book in this series came out that I had forgotten the detective and past events. Once started, though,I remembered how much I loved the previous three as this was an awesome book. Page-turning read that took me two evenings to read. Fantastic characters and the events of the past books are spoken of slowly throughout the book, so everything came back in place for me. A couple, perhaps three, cases going on here which are not really related but in a way they are. I hope that sounds cryptic. When Hazel was a young teenager a girl she barely knew, a few years older, disappeared. A new gated community is being built now complete with wave pool and two golf courses but it is stuck in production and a few murders occur and finally what brings coherence to the whole plot the fact that bones (burnt and hacked) of young boys have been found in the field where the second golf course is supposed to go, which is directly behind the now abandoned Dublin home for boys, an orphanage. Not a gruesome story but a creepy one that keeps you glued to the pages. I just hope the next book doesn't take 4 more years to publish!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Insidious by Catherine Coulter

Insidious by Catherine Coulter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 368 pages
Published August 9th 2016 by Gallery Books
Source: Received a print review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada

An FBI Thriller (#20)

I knew this book was part of a series when I chose it but I didn't realise it was book #20! That had me a little worried as I hadn't read the author before and starting a series at the end hardly ever works out. However, I was wrong to worry. For a mystery/thriller, this has a unique style, something more common to TV shows than books. The book contains two distinct and separate cases involving different Agents with only very minimal contact as the lower-ranked Agent occasionally checks in with her boss (who is working the other case). One of the cases is a serial killer thriller and the other is a cosy; someone trying to poison the matriarch of a rich corporate family. The cosy mystery takes place in Washington and was decent and moved along at a slow pace, but had plenty of drama and an ending that kept you guessing who the culprit was. But I really did hate it interrupting the serial killer case as that was much more my style and very fast-paced reading. Taking place in Los Angeles, this was about a killer who went after rising young starlets by quickly slitting their throats then stealing their cell phones and laptops. The solutions of both were a little over-the-top from reality but honestly, that didn't stop them being fun, though there did seem to be some floating threads missing from the conclusions. Overall, I'd like to visit this series again, only starting from the beginning!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, August 1975 by Brett Halliday

Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, August 1975 by Brett Halliday
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Published August 1975
Source: Thrift store

Mike Shayne (Vol. 37, No. 2)

I have three of these magazines and the other two have great covers. I'm going to hang them on the wall in shadow boxes when I've finished reading them. This is not a great magazine, most of the writers only ever wrote a few shorts but there are a couple of names here besides Halliday; Hoch and Holding. I only really liked one and that is the little thriller from Hoch. It's on a different level than the others which pretty much deal with police, criminals and street crime. Not my kind of mystery", but the stories average out for a solid three for the magazine as a whole.

1. Death Wears a Velvet Glove by Brett Halliday - The first story in each edition of this magazine is a Mike Shayne "short novel". I'm not a huge fan. This has Mike being called in to check up on whether a person is ok. He gets caught up in an adventure on a private island that has rich folks trying to get richer and rich kids being spoiled brats. Readable but corny. (3/5)

2. A Woman Seven Feet Tall by Robert W. Alexander - A fun variation on the locked room mystery. A wheelchair-bound woman calls in the police approx. ten minutes after her playboy husband has been murdered. The building she lives in is ultra-tight security. No one could have come or left her apartment unnoticed. And yet she says she witnessed the attack by a woman seven feet tall. A bit overdramatic but a clever mystery. (3/5)

3. Twine by Edward D. Hoch - This is a good little thriller. A journalist finds out about an elderly man who collects twine. He has about a 5-foot ball in his bedroom. The journalist gets a bizarre idea about the man and investigates. Funny thing is, I read the first two paragraphs and got the same bizarre idea before the ball had even been mentioned! There is a twist ending which makes it even creepier. (5/5)

4. Death of a Bookie by Herbert Harris - Straightforward bit where a young detective walks his Superintendent through a crime scene explaining why the locked-room incident was not suicide. The language dates it. (2/5)

5. A Rope Through His Ear by James Holding - A well-written story though hardly a mystery. I'd call this crime fiction. A rich collector goes to Peru and manages to find a valuable antiquity on the black market. His problem is not obtaining it but figuring a way to smuggle it through customs. A nice twist ending that gives the otherwise mundane story an entertaining conclusion. (4/5)

6. The Old Home Place by Robert Chesmore - In this story, the conman is presented as likeable. He's a gambler by trade, comes back home to visit his wealthy sister and finds her husband has a case full of ill-gotten money. He plans a heist with a former army buddy and things don't go the way he'd planned. The twist at the end makes us feel even more for the unlucky brother. (4/5)

7. The Bubble by Robert Alan Blair - A female sergeant is asked to work a plain clothes assignment to capture Heroin dealers. She gets found out pretty quick and uses her wits to bring the case off. Not exactly exciting but readable. (3/5)

8. Hang For a Sheep by Edward Wellen - An unethical radio journalist reports that a man with a hostage has killed a cop even after the radioman had been expressly forbidden to report it yet by the police. The hostage gets killed and the reporter gets his. (3/5)

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale

The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 378 pages
Published July 12th 2016 by Penguin Press
First published May 5th 2016
Source: egalley via edelweiss

Fantastic book! page-turner I read over a few days. First and foremost it is a social history of the periods 1895 to the early 1940s. This history follows the lifespan of an obscure but fascinating individual, Robert Coombes, 13, who murdered his mother. There is the story of the murder, the trial with quotes from the transcript and the aftermath of verdict and sentencing. During this period we learn so much of living in east London, the first applications of new child protection laws and Coombes childhood history. Later Coombes is sent to Broadmore and the fascinating portrayal of how far ahead of the times the psychiatrists there were. This was probably my favourite part as we learned about day to day life there for the troubled but either wealthy or educated men, as that is the ward where they placed the youngster. I was fascinated with how the prison asylum worked and this section contained many quotes from the employee's red handbook of rules on how to treat the patients. Then we see the inside workings of a Salvation Army community, one founded by William Booth himself. Halfway through the book, the setting is switched to Australia and I was amazed to find a recounting of WWI through the ANZAC point of view. The action goes from Gallipoli to Passenchadale. The epilogue is amazing but I won't say what it is about as it's fascinating. As to Robert and his crime, he never really gave sufficient explanation and the author goes through all the possible motives or reasons from the contemporary experts (reading Penny Dreadfuls, brain irritation, de-evolution, etc.) to speaking with a current doctor at Broadmore who puts it down as a psychotic episode brought on by his dysfunctional family life and surroundings. This is the second book I've read by this author and I will certainly read her others. Social history at its best!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Inspector Flytrap and The Big Deal Mysteries by Tom Angleberger

Inspector Flytrap and The Big Deal Mysteries by Tom Angleberger
Illustrated by Cece Bell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 112 pages
Published August 2nd 2016 by Amulet Books
Source: egalley via netgalley

Inspector Flytrap (#1)

A cute early chapter book for those ready to move up from easy readers. Very silly stories of a plant, a Venus Flytrap, who is an inspector taking on mysteries for the anthropomorphic neighbours. Flytrap gets around on a skateboard pushed by his assistant, Nina the goat. The mysteries are fun and silly but Flytrap doesn't take on every case he's presented he'll only solve the BIG DEAL mysteries. I liked Flytrap as a character and the art is adorable but the sidekick, Nina the goat was rather annoying. Decent first book for the series.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Duel by Giacomo Casanova

The Duel by Giacomo Casanova
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Paperback, 70 pages
Published August 16th 2011 by Melville House
First published 1789
Source: Purchased through book club subscription

The Art of the Novella

I had to force myself to read this as 1) I don't like 18th-century literature nor 2) am I fond of Italian literature. But I had the book and to read something by Casanova felt like a bit of an accomplishment. Surprisingly, the story is highly readable and even entertaining. A straightforward telling of a situation that a rogue and rascal gets himself into which ends in a duel, it also was highly philosophical and moralising which I found fascinating. Glad to say I've read it.

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett

The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Paperback, 192 pages
Published April 22nd 1993 by Corgi Childrens
First published November 15th 1971
Source: Purchased retail a loooong time ago

This is Pratchett's very first book published when he was 17 years old. It sold slowly but it did sell. Twenty years later when he had become famous there was a call for a reprinting and in 1992 he re-read the book and decided it needed some revision before being reprinted. In his author's note at the beginning, he describes the book as being co-authored by his young self and the older man he is now. I've wanted to read this for ages and enjoyed it though it is not exactly a page-turner. I had lots of giggles at Pratchett's signature humour and was entertained by the story even if it fell short. One can definitely see that this book was his spark for greater things in the Bromeliad Trilogy. It features the same kind of gnomish tiny people but here they live in the carpet. There is a whole Empire which is based on the Roman one with two other distinct societies, one which has a King over his small kingdom and the other a nomadic tribe. This is a book for young people and certainly worth reading by Pratchett's fans.