Books Read in July

Murder on the Blackboard, a Hildegard Withers story,  I like these, but I think mainly it’s because they are set in another time, a time I do not altogether miss (the cops sometimes rough up a suspect, and Hildegard encourages that).  Hildegard Withers is a strict spinster schoolmarm.   The historical touches amuse me.

Sharpe’s Fortress: Richard Sharpe and the Siege of Gawilghur, December 1803

Author: Bernard Cornwell; This is the second of his books I’ve read, the first was an Arthurian tale, so set a few hundred years earlier.  I liked this one better.  One of the earlier chapters had some pretty bawdy elements that I would have preferred not to read, but it is a war story set in the early 1800s.  However, once that bit of verisimilitude had been added, he didn’t continue the theme. It was a very interesting story, and the characters feel like real people.  It’s perhaps a G.A. Henty sort of tale for adults with discriminating taste, or maybe Horatio HOrnblower.  It’s not that Sharpe is quite larger than life, but in order to squeeze so much first hand history into the story of one man rising through the ranks it is necessary to add a fair amount of improbabilities, but Cornwell does it very well. 
Murder in the Paperback Parlor (The Book Retreat Mysteries 2)-
Ellery Adams.  I am very ambivilant about these. They should be fun cozies, light, effortless, and they are. But there are a couple underlying themes I find disturbing.  One is that there is a secret library which exists for the purpose of keeping dangerous books with dangerous ideas out of the public’s hands and this is a good thing. I find that notion abhorrent.  And the other is a common failing of many modern books- we periodically interrupt this story to bring you some shoe horned feminism which is probably irrelevant to the story, often wrong headed and dumb (‘I don’t need a man to protect me’ spoken by a woman who actually would need help from a stronger, bulkier type in the situations she gets herself into if this was real life),  and the occasional intervention of other irrelevant to the story political opinions.  They are often so forced that it forcibly ejects you from the story. It’s exactly as pleasant as if there were lunchmeat or ketchup advertisements incorporated into the story every 10 pages or so.
Susan Elia Macneal, love the WW2 setting, see the problems with interjecting feminist claptrap into the story whether or not it fits.  Sometimes it is done more deftly and then I mind less. It’s when something that comes right out of a modern gender studies university program drops out of the air into the 1940s setting that I want to tear out the page and throw it away, difficult since I am reading on Kindle.

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary: A Maggie Hope Mystery, see above.

Author: Susan Elia Macneal
Jacqueline Winspear, this was fabulous. It is not a mystery, it’s delicate and lovely novel of relationships between various every day people, including the center, a young married couple.  Bring your hankie.

No Shred of Evidence: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery Author: Charles Todd  Set in the north coast of Cornwall not terribly long after the war, amongst a community devastated by the War- heirs have died, brothers have come back maimed and unable to function forever, and four upper class girls who have all suffered loss are involved in a boating accident where a young man who didn’t risk his life in the War dies.  Accused of killing him, can they prove their innocence? Are they actually innocent after all?  I thought it was well done, but rather on the sad side given the nature of the story. Todd isn’t another Innes by a long shot, but I would put him on a list of authors to look for when I’m all out of Innes, Allingham, Marsh, and Edmund Crispin

The Pot Thief Who Studied Georgia O’Keeffe (The Pot Thief Mysteries Book 7) The pot thief steals pots, ancient artifacts, and finds them good homes.  I found these quirky and interesting and mostly delightful.  This author, too, does a bit too much (at least in this book) inserting his political or social opinions and the problem isn’t the views, it’s that they aren’t really seamlessly.  They don’t feel like part of the story, they feel like an abruptly inserted message.  however, it wasn’t nearly as egregious in this as it is in the Maggie Hope books.  There was a tad bit more sex than I like in my bookss, but I like zero, and on a scale of 1-10 this was probably only a 3 and the book wasn’t saturated in it.

Leading with Cultural Intelligence, David Livermore- Quick, short, very basic and introductory.  This is more for the person who isn’t completely convinced that ‘cultural intelligence’ is necessary, but is willing to learn why it might help his or her business.

Little Tiny Teeth, by Aaron Elkins, I think what I like about Elkins is the slight air of cerebral mystery.  Innes does this better, but Elkins is good.  I am reminded also slightly of the Lockridges.  This one is set in the Amazon and the description of the humidity is something I saved to use when describing the Philippines sometimes. It was spot on.

The Creators: A History of Heroes of the

Civilization: The West and the REst by Niall Ferguson.  I only read 20 percent. It’s an interesting read, but I don’t really agree with his central premise about what made the west successful and what made the east kind of plateau and I ran out of time with my Overdrive loan.

An Alan Bradley three book bundle:

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie; The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag; A Red Herring Without Mustard

As Chimney sweepers Come to Dust– Alan Bradley- I love these macabre, improbable, impossible murder mysteries where the lead detective is a prepubescent, sarcastic, chemistry savant from a highly dysfunctional and strange but on rare occasions and in a strangely twisted way, somewhat affectionate family.

Start with Sweetness.  There is a major plot twist overall in the book just before Chimney Sweepers, so you don’t want to read that one out of order.

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