Halloween Bingo 2020: October 24th update

I’ve sort of fallen off the Bingo bandwagon the last couple of weeks; pushed off the back, really, as life has gotten exciting in that dryly ironic kind of way.  Drastic improvements in Covid infection rates has meant a lifting of restrictions (Yay!) and a return to working on-site for me (Boo!) and it’s been exhaustingly busy.  Then earlier this week, MT got stung by a bee and it was The Bee; the one that pushed his immune system too far and he went into anaphylactic shock, requiring an ambulance, a hospital stay, and a new constant companion in his life, the epipen.  After all that, we woke up to find our beloved Eggy – the last of our first chickens – had died overnight.  At that point I opted out of coping for a day or two.

Luckily none of this has put me in a reading slump; I’ve been churning through both new books and re-reads.  Unfortunately, none of them are useful to my remaining Bingo squares.  I have one more Wild Card I can use (Patricia Briggs) so I’ll likely use that on one of the remaining squares I’m struggling to find a read for.

I’ve also, in my own absence, managed a few bingos (6, I think?), as previously read squares got called.  So here’s how things stand right now:

Calls made so far that are on my card:

*Note: I’ve removed Psych in favour of Romantic Suspense, as it’s the square I flipped, and American Horror Story has been transfigured into Spellbound

How it works:

If I read a square that hasn’t been called yet, a ghost of stickers-yet-to-come will appear; once the square has been called, the sticker will become fully corporeal.  (Alas, this only works in regular browsers, but I’m in too deep to try to do something different now.)  As the squares get ticked off, a fully formed image will appear.  Previously, I posted the finished image, but this year I’m going to leave it a mystery.

Below is the table that will summarise the books I’ve read for each square, and note if I took advantage of one of the Spell Pack cards, and which one.  Book Titles link to my review of the book here.

Bingo Square Date Called Book Title Date Read
Row #1
X Gothic Sept. 23 The Red Lamp Oct. 12
Genre: Suspense
X Ghost Stories Oct. 17 The Sun Down Motel Sept. 13
X Dark Academia Sept. 24 Murder 101 Sept. 2
Southern Gothic Sept. 15
Row #2
X Darkest London Oct. 11 Capital Crimes: London Mysteries Oct. 6
X Black Cat Oct. 20 Murders and Metaphors Oct. 8
X Cozy Mystery Oct. 9 The Falcon Always Wings Twice Oct. 3
X Genre: Mystery Sept. 3 Quick Study Sept. 5
X International Women of Mystery Sept. 7 The Betel Nut Tree Mystery Sept. 10
Row #3
X Grave or Graveyard Sept. 14 Grave Witch Oct. 16
X Deadlands Sept. 29 Staked Sept. 29
X FREE SPACE n/a The Leper of St. Giles Oct. 9
X In the Dark, Dark Woods Sept. 13 Imaginary Numbers Sept. 12
X Psych / Romantic Suspense Sept. 6 Turquoise Mask Oct. 2
Row #4
X American Horror Story/Spellbound Oct. 13 Ink & Sigil Sept. 17
X A Grimm Tale Oct. 7 Burn Bright Sept. 27
It was a Dark and Stormy Night Murder by Death Oct. 6
X Monsters Sept. 18 Half-off Ragnorok Sept. 25
Trick or Treat Sept. 16
Row #5
X Country House Mystery Oct. 5 Murder at the Manor Oct. 8
X 13 Sept. 1 The Thirteen Problems Sept. 6
X Locked Room Mystery Oct. 6 Big Book of Locked Room Mysteries Oct. 4
X Halloween Oct. 15 Sympathy for the Devil Oct. 4
X Murder Most Foul Sept. 5 Extracurricular Activities Sept. 3

The Spell Pack cards are below – I’ve used a border in the same color as the card to mark the squares where I’ve used one.

Cards used:
Bingo Flip:  Lillelara has agreed to trade my Psych square for her Romantic Suspense square.

Transfiguration Spell: Used to transform American Horror Story into Spellbound

Grave Witch

Grave WitchGrave Witch
by Kalayna Price
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780451463807
Series: Alex Craft #1
Publication Date: October 5, 2010
Pages: 325
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: ROC Fantasy

As a private investigator and consultant for the police, Alex Craft has seen a lot of dark magic. But even though she's on good terms with Death himself, nothing has prepared her for her latest case. When she's raising a "shade" involved in a high profile murder, it attacks her, and then someone makes an attempt on her life.

Someone really doesn't want her to know what the dead have to say, and she'll have to work with mysterious homicide detective Falin Andrews to figure out why....


A re-read for me, as I needed a Grave/Graveyard book for Halloween bingo and I just wasn’t in the mood for the Ray Bradbury I had lined up.

Overall, the book holds up well, though the love triangle is a definite drag on what would have otherwise been a fantastic series.  Price writes great characters and does an excellent job with world building and plotting; truly it’s the two men – both excellent specimens in their own right – vying for Alex that’s the only drawback.  Not that I’m letting that stop me from re-reading the rest of the series in anticipation of the latest book coming out next month.

The Red Lamp

The Red LampThe Red Lamp
by Mary Roberts Rinehart
Rating: ★★★★½
Publication Date: June 18, 2019
Pages: 289
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Penzler Publishing

William Porter has just inherited Twin Hollows, an isolated lakeside estate shrouded in mystery and doom. But William and his wife aren't easily swayed by ghost stories and whispered rumors. Until a shadowy apparition beckons to them from the undying glow of a red lamp. Is a stranger with a deadly purpose trying to frighten them away? Or are they being haunted by a chilling warning from the grave?


I knew this was a ghost story, of sorts, so I started it bright and early yesterday morning, and became so engrossed in the story that I almost, almost, finished it last night. leaving nothing but 3 of the last 4 conclusion chapters for me to read today.

Mary Roberts Rinehart was an excellent writer; that her genius has been so far forgotten today is a tragedy.  The Red Lamp was originally written in 1925, and putting aside the lack of technology and the beautifully elegant writing that today might be considered a tad verbose, the story holds up perfectly; it would take very little to make this story ‘modern’.

The Red Lamp is complex to the point of labyrinthine though.  Like the main character, I stumbled through the story in ignorance.  Some of this was by design, as the mc is meant to be a spectator not an active participant in solving the crimes, but some of it was because there was just so much going on and that beautifully elegant writing of Rinehart’s made for easy camouflage of any clues.

The book is, with the exception of the introductory and final 4 chapters, purely epistemological, with no chapters, just journal entries.  This style doesn’t always lend itself to a submersive experience for the reader, but these journal entries are detailed enough that it makes almost no difference from a first person narrative.

The ghostly part of the story, in spite of the enormous potential for scarring the spit out of me, were subdued enough that they never raised so much as a hair.  This was a wee bit disappointing, I admit, but it didn’t adversely affect the story; they were never the point of the book, it was always about the mysterious killings and there was never doubt that those killings were done by a very corporeal being.

All in all, this was an excellent mystery.  I’d recommend this to anyone curious about Golden Age Mysteries who might be hesitant fearing dry or dated story-telling.  While not perfect, The Red Lamp is most assuredly neither dry nor dated.

I read this for the Gothic square on my Halloween Bingo 2020 card.

Halloween Bingo 2020: October 10th update

I have bingos threatening to break out all over the place, but so far I remain in suspense.  I’ve finished books for Black Cat, Cozy Mystery, Free Square, Country House, and Darkest London this week and today I’m going to start on my Gothic square with Mary Roberts Rinehart’s The Red Lamp.  

Calls made so far that are on my card:

*Note: I’ve removed Psych in favour of Romantic Suspense, as it’s the square I flipped, and American Horror Story has been transfigured into Spellbound

How it works:

If I read a square that hasn’t been called yet, a ghost of stickers-yet-to-come will appear; once the square has been called, the sticker will become fully corporeal.  (Alas, this only works in regular browsers, but I’m in too deep to try to do something different now.)  As the squares get ticked off, a fully formed image will appear.  Previously, I posted the finished image, but this year I’m going to leave it a mystery.

Below is the table that will summarise the books I’ve read for each square, and note if I took advantage of one of the Spell Pack cards, and which one.  Book Titles link to my review of the book here.

Bingo Square Date Called Book Title Date Read
Row #1
Gothic Sept. 23
Genre: Suspense
Ghost Stories The Sun Down Motel Sept. 13
X Dark Academia Sept. 24 Murder 101 Sept. 2
Southern Gothic Sept. 15
Row #2
Darkest London Capital Crimes: London Mysteries Oct. 6
Black Cat Murders and Metaphors Oct. 8
X Cozy Mystery Oct. 9 The Falcon Always Wings Twice Oct. 3
X Genre: Mystery Sept. 3 Quick Study Sept. 5
X International Women of Mystery Sept. 7 The Betel Nut Tree Mystery Sept. 10
Row #3
Grave or Graveyard Sept. 14
X Deadlands Sept. 29 Staked Sept. 29
X FREE SPACE n/a The Leper of St. Giles Oct. 9
X In the Dark, Dark Woods Sept. 13 Imaginary Numbers Sept. 12
X Psych / Romantic Suspense Sept. 6 Turquoise Mask Oct. 2
Row #4
American Horror Story/Spellbound Ink & Sigil Sept. 17
X A Grimm Tale Oct. 7 Burn Bright Sept. 27
It was a Dark and Stormy Night Murder by Death Oct. 6
X Monsters Sept. 18 Half-off Ragnorok Sept. 25
Trick or Treat Sept. 16
Row #5
X Country House Mystery Oct. 5 Murder at the Manor Oct. 8
X 13 Sept. 1 The Thirteen Problems Sept. 6
X Locked Room Mystery Oct. 6 Big Book of Locked Room Mysteries Oct. 4
Halloween Sympathy for the Devil Oct. 4
X Murder Most Foul Sept. 5 Extracurricular Activities Sept. 3

The Spell Pack cards are below – I’ve used a border in the same color as the card to mark the squares where I’ve used one.

Cards used:
Bingo Flip:  Lillelara has agreed to trade my Psych square for her Romantic Suspense square.

Transfiguration Spell: Used to transform American Horror Story into Spellbound

The Leper of St. Giles (Brother Cadfael Mystery, #5)

The Leper of St. GilesThe Leper of St. Giles
by Ellis Peters
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780333319857
Series: Chronicles of Brother Cadfael #5
Publication Date: August 27, 1981
Pages: 224
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Publisher: Macmillan

Brother Cadfael has had no time to think about the grand wedding which is to take place in the church at Shrewsbury Abbey and is causing such excitement in the city. The groom is an aging nobleman; the bride a very young woman coerced into the marriage by her greedy guardians. But it soon becomes apparent that the groom, Huon de Domville, is a cold, harsh man -- in stark contrast to his beautiful bride-to-be. Before the wedding can take place, a savage killing occurs, setting Brother Cadfael the task of determining the truth, which turns out to be strange indeed.


For slower paced, traditional mysteries that are very skilfully written, you can’t go wrong with Brother Cadfael.  When Peters created a crusader turned monk, she gave herself a large canvas on which to paint a variety of clever, interesting crimes.

The Leper of St. Giles takes place largely in and around St. Giles, the hospice for lepers that lies just outside Shrewsbury, but it’s largely about the wedding of an 18 year old girl, sold off by her guardians for a large portion of her own inheritance, to a cold, unfeeling 60-something land baron who only bought her lands and is taking her on sufferance.  Of course she’s fragile and innocent and lovely and of course his squire is around the bend in love with her and incandescent over the injustice of her treatment.  And of course the baron ends up murdered.

There’s a plot twist in this book; a rather major one, but it’s telegraphed early on, so that I knew long before it was revealed.  It’s a good one, but if Peters hadn’t split the difference, the early guess would have ruined the story.  As it is, Peters seems to have covered her bets and kept that reveal from being absolutely pivotal to the plot, making the ultimate solution a surprise, and a tragic one at that.

A few of the series characters readers enjoy aren’t here in this book, but there are other characters that endear themselves to the reader.  There’s a bit of humor here and there too, making this a much more enjoyable read than the last, St. Peters’ Fair, which was a good story but dragged.  I’d be best pleased if we saw Bran and Joscelin again, though I’m not counting on it.

This is one of the better of the 5 I’ve read so far, and I read it for the center square – Poe’s Raven – on my Halloween Bingo Card for 2020

Murder at the Manor: Country House Mysteries

Murder at the ManorMurder at the Manor
Rating: ★★★
isbn: 9780712309936
Publication Date: February 1, 2016
Pages: 384
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: The British Library

I read two stories from this anthology:  Gentleman and Players and The White Pillars Murder.  Both, it seems, stories I’ve already read elsewhere.  Luckily I only remembered enough to recognise I’d read them before, not enough to remember how they end.

Gentleman and Players is a Raffles short story deeply embedded in a country house cricket competition and is less a mystery than an adventure sort of story.  Mildly entertaining.

The White Pillars Murder is a G.K. Chesterton short mystery and it’s definitely a mystery, but the ending is beyond bizarre, and feels a bit like Chesterton is burning a bridge of sorts.  A bit preachy too. Not a fan.

I read these for the Country House Mystery square on my Halloween Bingo 2020 card.  Hopefully next time I pick up this book, I’ll remember I’ve already read these two stories.

Murder by Death: The book that was based on the movie that inspired the blog name

Murder by DeathMurder by Death
by H.R.F. Keating, Neil Simon
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 0352397276
Publication Date: January 1, 1976
Pages: 176
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Star Books

Novelization of the screen play by Neil Simon. Various "famous sleuths" (or their somewhat thinly disguised copies) are invited by a mysterious millionaire to stay at his house and solve a who-dun-it, with the winner getting millions.


 

I re-read this almost perfectly brilliant book, based on the absolutely brilliant movie, for Halloween bingo’s Dark and Stormy Night square.

If you haven’t seen the movie, written by Neil Simon and released in the 1970’s, and you’re a fan of classic mysteries and oddball humor, you’re missing out on a classic.  It’s brilliantly written and brilliantly casted.  It’s an homage and a spoof, so if spoof’s aren’t your thing, skip it, you’ll be disappointed.  It’s the original Clue! only the characters are based on Nick and Nora, Miss Marple, Sam Spade, Hercule Poirot, and Charlie Chan.

The book was written to be a faithful reproduction of the movie, though H.R.F. Keating uses the opportunity of the written word to name drop additional authors like Conan Doyle and Sayers.  And it is an exact, faithful reproduction of the movie – until the last 5 short paragraphs where Keating, apparently, couldn’t help himself and changed the ending.  It’s a small thing, but it sets my teeth on edge because it’s a sop.

Still, I cherish this book as I do the movie.  I just need to stop at the fifth to last paragraph.

Capital Crimes: London Mysteries

Capital Crimes: London MysteriesCapital Crimes: London Mysteries
by Martin Edwards
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780712357494
Publication Date: March 12, 2015
Pages: 319
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: The British Library

Capital Crimes is an eclectic collection of London-based crime stories, blending the familiar with the unexpected in a way that reflects the personality of the city. Alongside classics by Margery Allingham, Anthony Berkeley and Thomas Burke are excellent and unusual stories by authors who are far less well known.

The stories give a flavour of how writers have tackled crime in London over the span of more than half a century. Their contributions range from an early serial-killer thriller set on the London Underground and horrific vignettes to cerebral whodunits. What they have in common is an atmospheric London setting, and enduring value as entertainment. Each story is introduced by the editor, Martin Edwards, who sheds light on the authors' lives and the background to their writing.


 

I’ve had this anthology on my shelves for a few years, always waiting.  Well, this year I needed to read a mystery set in London for 2020 Halloween Bingo and I finally remembered I had this wonderful stash of stories all in one spot.

For this year’s bingo, I chose – of course – Conan Doyle’s The Case of Lady Sannox.  This is not a Sherlock Holmes story, in spite of the title, and it’s closer to horror than mystery.  It’s also classic Conan Doyle style.  As such, I guessed the twist at one point, when I read a specific sentence that reminded me of Holmes:

View Spoiler »

Don’t ask me why, but with that sentence I knew how the story would end.  And I was right, and it was horrifying.  Darkest London, indeed.

2 more short stories from The Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries

The Locked-Room MysteriesThe Locked-Room Mysteries
by Otto Penzler
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9780307743961
Publication Date: October 28, 2014
Pages: 941
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Vintage Crime / Black Lizard

In this definitive collection, Edgar Award-winning editor Otto Penzler selects a multifarious mix from across the entire history of the locked room story, which should form the cornerstone of any crime reader's library.

Virtually all of the great writers of detective fiction have produced masterpieces in this genre, including Agatha Christie, Edgar Allan Poe, Dorothy L. Sayers, Arthur Conan Doyle, Raymond Chandler, G.K. Chesterton, John Dickson Carr, Dashiell Hammett, Ngaio Marsh and Stephen King.

The purest kind of detective story involves a crime solved by observation and deduction, rather than luck, coincidence or confession. The supreme form of detection involves the explanation of an impossible crime, whether the sort of vanishing act that would make Houdini proud, a murder that leaves no visible trace, or the most unlikely villain imaginable.


 

The Black Lizard Big book of Locked-Room Mysteries claims, on its cover, to be “The most complete collection of impossible-crime stories ever assembled.”  Whether this is true or not, clocking in at 939 pages of small, two-column print, it’s definitely a monster and one I’ve been chipping away at slowly for years.  For this year’s Halloween Bingo, I needed Locked Room mysteries, so I turned to my Big Book and chose two from the same author: The Wrong Problem by John Dickson Carr, and Blind Man’s Hood by the same author writing as Carter Dickson.  I’ve read two of this author’s full length novels so far, one as Dickson Carr (The Mad Hatter Mystery) and one as Carter Dickson (The Skeleton in the Clock), both of which I enjoyed.  The short stories though, were a mixed bag:

The first, The Wrong Problem, was frankly, weird.  I gave it 4 stars for the sheer ingeniousness of the murder method but the rest seemed pointless.  To mention anything about the story, I think, would be to spoil it.  It honestly doesn’t deserve 4 stars but that murder method was diabolical.

The second, Blind Man’s Hood, made up for the first in spades.  This one turned out to be a perfect – absolutely perfect – short story for Halloween.  Yes, it takes place at Christmas, but ignore that, it’s irrelevant.  So. damn. creepy.  I read it before I went to bed last night and when I realised what I was reading, I knew two things:  no way I was going to stop, and that I’d have to stay away long enough to read something else before going to sleep.  The locked room solution isn’t particularly clever or even surprising, but the rest of the story, for me, was.  5 stars.

As I mentioned at the start, I read these for the Locked Room Mystery square on my 2020 Halloween Bingo card.

Halloween Bingo 2020: October 4th update

I did some more switching around.  For some reason I had it in my head that the Halloween square had been called, and as you can see on my card, it’s all I needed for a Bingo.  But I didn’t feel like re-reading Revenge of the Cootie Girls just now, so I grabbed Sympathy for the Devil by Jerrilyn Farmer, one of my favorite old cozy mysteries.  Well, as my fellow Bingo players know, Halloween hasn’t been called yet, but now I’ve got it done, with a bingo all set to go.

I also finished my reads for Romantic Suspense and Cozy Mystery this weekend, with two new reads: The Turquoise Mask by Phyllis A. Whitney, and The Falcon Always Wings Twice by Donna Andrews, respectively.

Not at all sure what’s next.  I’ve gotten a lot of new books this week I’m itching to read and none of them work for my remaining squares, leaving me in the touch position of requiring self-discipline and focus.   Pffftt.  Maybe my locked room mystery…

Calls made so far that are on my card:

    

*Note: I’ve removed Psych in favour of Romantic Suspense, as it’s the square I flipped, and American Horror Story has been transfigured into Spellbound

How it works:

If I read a square that hasn’t been called yet, a ghost of stickers-yet-to-come will appear; once the square has been called, the sticker will become fully corporeal.  (Alas, this only works in regular browsers, but I’m in too deep to try to do something different now.)  As the squares get ticked off, a fully formed image will appear.  Previously, I posted the finished image, but this year I’m going to leave it a mystery.

Below is the table that will summarise the books I’ve read for each square, and note if I took advantage of one of the Spell Pack cards, and which one.  Book Titles link to my review of the book here.

Bingo Square Date Called Book Title Date Read
Row #1
Gothic
Genre: Suspense
Ghost Stories The Sun Down Motel Sept. 13
Dark Academia Murder 101 Sept. 2
Southern Gothic Sept. 15
Row #2
Darkest London
Black Cat
Cozy Mystery The Falcon Always Wings Twice Oct. 3
X Genre: Mystery Sept. 3 Quick Study Sept. 5
X International Women of Mystery Sept. 7 The Betel Nut Tree Mystery Sept. 10
Row #3
Grave or Graveyard Sept. 14
X Deadlands Sept. 29 Staked Sept. 29
FREE SPACE n/a
X In the Dark, Dark Woods Sept. 13 Imaginary Numbers Sept. 12
X Psych / Romantic Suspense Sept. 6 Turquoise Mask Oct. 2
Row #4
American Horror Story/Spellbound Ink & Sigil Sept. 17
A Grimm Tale Burn Bright Sept. 27
It was a Dark and Stormy Night
X Monsters Sept. 18 Half-off Ragnorok Sept. 25
Trick or Treat Sept. 16
Row #5
Country House Mystery
X 13 Sept. 1 The Thirteen Problems Sept. 6
Locked Room Mystery
Halloween Sympathy for the Devil Oct. 4
X Murder Most Foul Sept. 5 Extracurricular Activities Sept. 3

The Spell Pack cards are below – I’ve used a border in the same color as the card to mark the squares where I’ve used one.

Cards used:
Bingo Flip:  Lillelara has agreed to trade my Psych square for her Romantic Suspense square.

Transfiguration Spell: Used to transform American Horror Story into Spellbound