Great Stories of Crime and Detection (MbD’s Deal Me In challenge)

Great Stories of Crime and DetectionGreat Stories of Crime and Detection
by H.R.F. Keating, Various Authors
Rating: ★★★★
Publication Date: January 1, 2002
Pages: 1784
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Folio Society

As I’ve done for the other anthologies I’m using in this challenge, I’m creating one post per anthology – or in this case the boxed set of 4 volumes.  I’ll share some quick(ish) thoughts about each story as iI read them and append them to the top of post.  Previous thoughts will be under the ‘read more’.  Since this is a multi-volume collection, it will cause a bit of a mess, but I’ll try to keep it neat.

Volume IV: The Sixties to the Present (2000)

The Last High Mountain by Clark Howard: ✭✭½  Not my jam.  I really liked the setting of the Shoshone Indian Reservation, but the rest was all too … testosterone for my tastes.  There’s no mystery here at all; it’s the story of a just-released-from-jail-early Native American, who, in exchange for the early release (which was engineered by another shady Native American), agrees to knock off the payroll for the nearby Air Force base.  It’s a story of ironic timing, lots of errors and no happy ending.  For anybody.

Continue reading Great Stories of Crime and Detection (MbD’s Deal Me In challenge)

In the Shadow of Agatha Christie (MbD’s Deal-me-in Challenge)

In the Shadow of Agatha ChristieIn the Shadow of Agatha Christie
by Leslie S. Klinger (editor)
isbn: 9781681776309
Publication Date: January 1, 2018
Pages: 328
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Pegasus Crime

Before Agatha Christie became the world's Queen of Crime, she stood on the talented shoulders of the female crime authors who came before her. This splendid new anthology by Leslie S. Klinger brings these exceptional writers out of her shadow and back into the spotlight they deserve. Agatha Christie is undoubtedly the world's best-selling mystery author, hailed as the "Queen of Crime", with worldwide sales in the billions. Christie burst onto the literary scene in 1920, with The Mysterious Affair at Styles; her last novel was published in 1976, a career longer than even Conan Doyle's forty-year span. The truth is that it was due to the success of writers like Anna Katherine Green in America; L. T. Meade, C. L. Pirkis, the Baroness Orczy and Elizabeth Corbett in England; and Mary Fortune in Australia that the doors were finally opened for women crime-writers. Authors who followed them, such as Patricia Wentworth, Dorothy Sayers and, of course, Agatha Christie would not have thrived without the bold, fearless work of their predecessors and the genre would be much poorer for their absence.

So while Agatha Christie may still reign supreme, it is important to remember that she did not ascend that throne except on the shoulders of the women who came before her and inspired her and who are now removed from her shadow once and for all by this superb new anthology by Leslie S. Klinger.

I’m reading these stories as part of my 2023 short story challenge.  I am also going to append all my short story/individual reviews for this specific anthology to this post (in the order they’re read) so that upon completion it will serve as a review of the whole of the book.

January 22, 2023

Point in Morals by Ellen Glasgow ✭✭✭✭:  This wasn’t a mystery at all, but, as the title suggests, a question of morality.  Do we hold all human life to be sacred to the point that humanity in general suffers for it?

The story is set on a yacht, apropos of nothing, but I suppose the story must be set somewhere.  It gets off to a rocky start as the author is writing what would be the perfectly natural sort of conversation a group of people relaxing and enjoying themselves would have: the chaotic kind.  You know, the kind where everyone interrupts everyone else?  This is immediately how the story begins, and it takes a bit of concentration to keep track of not only the introduction of the characters but who is interrupting whom.  This goes on for a page or so before the story settles on the recollection of the mesmerist’s (also, none of the characters have names, just categories).  Once the mesmerist starts his tale everything settles down and becomes straightforward.

What follows is the mesmerist’s story of his encounter with a corrupted man and the results of that encounter.  He leaves it to his fellow sailors: did he do the moral thing under the circumstances?

Ellen Glasgow won a Pulitzer Prize for her 1942 novel In This Our Life, and the skill that won her that prize is evident here.  Initial confusion aside, the story is engrossing and leaves the reader with no answers, just food for thought.

As an aside, at the start of the story – which was written in 1899 – the sailors are all talking about the degeneration of society; it’s amusing in a disheartening way to read their complaints and realise that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Previously posted comments about other stories are behind the break.

Continue reading In the Shadow of Agatha Christie (MbD’s Deal-me-in Challenge)

The Kennel Murder Case

The Kennel Murder CaseThe Kennel Murder Case
by S. S. Van Dine
Rating: ★★★½
Publication Date: December 1, 1946
Pages: 243
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Bantam Press

Archer Coe, a collector of Chinese ceramics, is found dead in his bedroom, the only door to which is securely bolted on the inside. District Attorney John F.-X. Markham and Sergeant Heath of the Homicide Bureau--and even the Medical Examiner--regard Coe's death as suicide. But Philo Vance soon proves that it is a sinister and subtly concocted murder. The circumstances surrounding it are so mysterious and contradictory that, for a while, no solution seems possible. But in the end Philo Vance, through his knowledge of Chinese ceramics and Scottish terriers, brings the case to a conclusion as satisfactory as it is startling.

The story moves swiftly, one mystery crowding another. For sheer action and suspense, and for interesting
characterization, it is one of the very best of Van Dine's incomparable Philo Vance novels.

A well-written, fast paced locked room mystery that tried entirely too hard to be too clever.  Van Dine seemed determined to write a mystery that the reader couldn’t solve, and in the process went entirely over the top.

Originally written in 1933, the writing suffers from the casual racism of the age (specifically against Chinese), with the sergeant assigned to the case coming across as the most ignorant – even interrogating all the suspects like he was in a bad noir detective novel.  Vance was entirely too suave and expert at positively everything; the author’s attempt to have him appear at times humble and stumped a complete failure, as he refuses to speculate wit the detectives or share the ‘clues’ he’s ferreted out.

Still and all, it was entertaining to read and it didn’t drag.  I could have done without the animal cruelty and death, but both instances happened so fast and were over, but still, had I known about them, I’d have likely skipped reading this altogether, even if the rest of it entertained.

I read this for the Vintage Mystery square in Halloween Bingo 2022.

The Fleur de Sel Murders (Brittany Mystery, #3)

The Fleur de Sel MurdersThe Fleur de Sel Murders
by Jean-Luc Bannalec
Rating: ★★★½
isbn: 9781250308375
Series: Brittany Mystery #3
Publication Date: March 26, 2019
Pages: 321
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur Books

The old salt farmers have always said that the violet scent of the Fleur de Sel at harvest time on the salt marshes of the Guérande Peninsula has been known to cause hallucinations. Commissaire Dupin also starts to believe this when he’s attacked out of the blue in the salt works.

He had actually been looking forward to escaping his endless paperwork and taking a trip to the “white country” between the raging Atlantic Ocean and idyllic rivers. But when he starts snooping around mysterious barrels on behalf of Lilou Breval, a journalist friend, he finds himself unexpectedly under attack. The offender remains a mystery, and a short time later, Breval disappears without a trace. It is thanks to his secretary Nolwenn and the ambition of the prefect that Dupin is assigned to the case. But he won’t be working alone because Sylvaine Rose is the investigator responsible for the department—and she lives up to her name….

What’s going on in the salt works? Dupin and Rose search feverishly for clues and stumble upon false alibis, massive conflicts of interest, personal feuds—and ancient Breton legends.

If Bannalec hadn’t been able to hack it as a mystery author, he’d have had a great career in tourism; he sells me on Brittany every time I read one of his books.  Brittany springs to life off the page.

This can also be a hinderance; too much of it bogs the story down and there are spots of too much in this book.  The start, where he’s setting the scene in the salt gardens, almost killed the story’s momentum before it could ever get started.  I mean, yeah, it was beautiful and descriptive, but it dragged.  I deducted 1/2 star for the moments like this that happened throughout the book.

Once the story got going though, and the bodies started dropping, the pace picked up dramatically, so that by the end it was as edge-of-your-seat as traditional mysteries get.  I like Dupin, too, although he comes across a bit off-foot in this one, as I think he’s meant to, as he has to work with a female detective that’s as take charge as he is.

There are at least 5 more books in this series to look forward to, and it’s a series I think I’d eventually like to own.  They’re not the binging kind, but quite enjoyable once or twice a year – especially if you’re in the mood for a mental holiday-on-the-page.

I read this for Halloween Bingo 2022’s Death in Translation square.  Originally written in German and translated into English.  It could also work for Terror in a Small Town, and, of course, Genre: Mystery.

The Sherlockian

The SherlockianThe Sherlockian
by Graham Moore
Rating: ★★★
isbn: 9780446572583
Publication Date: January 1, 2010
Pages: 351
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Twelve Books (Hachette)

In December 1893, Sherlock Holmes-adoring Londoners eagerly opened their Strand magazines, anticipating the detective's next adventure, only to find the unthinkable: his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, had killed their hero off. London spiraled into mourning-crowds sported black armbands in grief-and railed against Conan Doyle as his assassin.

Then in 1901, just as abruptly as Conan Doyle had "murdered" Holmes in "The Final Problem," he resurrected him. Though the writer kept detailed diaries of his days and work, Conan Doyle never explained this sudden change of heart. After his death, one of his journals from the interim period was discovered to be missing, and in the decades since, has never been found.... Or has it?

When literary researcher Harold White is inducted into the preeminent Sherlock Holmes enthusiast society, The Baker Street Irregulars, he never imagines he's about to be thrust onto the hunt for the holy grail of Holmes-ophiles: the missing diary. But when the world's leading Doylean scholar is found murdered in his hotel room, it is Harold-using wisdom and methods gleaned from countless detective stories-who takes up the search, both for the diary and for the killer.

This book and I had problems.  Well, half this book and I had problems.  The other half was amusing if completely unrealistic.

The Sherlockian is a story told in two timelines: one that begins in 1893, when Conan Doyle makes the fateful decision to kill off Sherlock Holmes, and covers the events that happen though 1901; the other timeline takes place in the ‘present’, which is 2010, in this case.

The Holy Grail of Sherlockians has always been what happened to a cache of Conan Doyle’s papers that were missing after his death, including one of his journals, so the present day timeline is the search for that journal and the answers to who killed the Sherlockian who claimed to have found it, while the Conan Doyle timeline follows events that would have been recorded in the missing journal.

As I mentioned above, I found the present day timeline amusing in a mad-cap caper kind of way – the kind that requires a complete suspension of disbelief, as well as operating on the pretence that law enforcement, for all intents and purposes, no longer exist.  This story line is entirely about the thrill of the puzzle, the hunt, the process.

But here’s my beef, and it’s about the other timeline; the historical one.  This is a work of historical fiction, and the author is quick to point out at the end that all the events are fabricated.  Fine.  I read that type of historical fiction frequently – real people in fictional settings.  But usually the author has a greater respect for the real-life people he uses in his fictional story lines.  There’s an expectation that the author adhere to a character’s basic … character.

That categorically did not happen here.  Moore obviously did not care a whit for maintaining Conan Doyle’s integrity, because most of the historical timeline had him doing things so completely out of character as to drive me to yelling at the book.

If I knew nothing about Conan Doyle, I’d have found him and Bram Stoker dressing up as women and crashing a suffragette meeting mildly amusing, but I do know something about Conan Doyle.  Enough to know that it beggars belief to think of him doing anything of the sort.  If an author is going to write a fictional story using real historical people doing fictional things, those historical persons should do those fictional things the same way they’d do the factual things – otherwise, it’s not the same person and the author (and reader) would have been better served using a fictional character instead of maligning the real one.  (“Malign” does not refer to Conan Doyle dressing as a woman, but to a different event that to share would be a massive spoiler.)

So.  Half the book was amusing.  The other half … ok, the other half might have been amusing for someone who doesn’t know, or hold in such high regard, the real life people used for fictional purposes, against their basic characters.  If you know nothing about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and are in the mood for a bit of madcap mystery, go for it.  If you do know and admire ACD, you’ve been warned.

The Jewels of Paradise

The Jewels of ParadiseThe Jewels of Paradise
by Donna Leon
Rating: ★★★½
isbn: 9780802120649
Publication Date: October 1, 2012
Pages: 244
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Atlantic Books

Donna Leon has won heaps of critical praise and legions of fans for her best-selling mystery series featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti. With The Jewels of Paradise, Leon takes readers beyond the world of the Venetian Questura in her first standalone novel.

Caterina Pellegrini is a native Venetian, and like so many of them, she s had to leave home to pursue her career. With a doctorate in baroque opera from Vienna, she lands in Manchester, England. Manchester, however, is no Venice. When Caterina gets word of a position back home, she jumps at the opportunity.

The job is an unusual one. After nearly three centuries, two locked trunks, believed to contain the papers of a baroque composer have been discovered. Deeply-connected in religious and political circles, the composer died childless; now two Venetians, descendants of his cousins, each claim inheritance. Caterina s job is to examine any enclosed papers to discover the testamentary disposition of the composer. But when her research takes her in unexpected directions she begins to wonder just what secrets these trunks may hold.

A compelling, yet weird, no-body mystery that reminds me in many ways of Josephine Tey’s Daughter of Time.  Set in modern Venice, Italy with our MC researching the recently discovered papers of Baroque composer and bishop Agostino Steffani, in an attempt to settle a centuries old dispute over who inherited.

So much of this book is research, which was sometimes interesting but never what you’d call fast-paced, and while I love classical music, I dislike opera (no singing please, just the music), so at the beginning I worried for my attention span.  It soon becomes clear that the letters have very little to do with his ‘side’ career as composer and more to do with his diplomatic mission for the Vatican.  Even that sounds more exciting that what you get, but it is interesting.

The writing is good but the structure is wobbly and the characters all fail to set and feel half-formed or as though Leon couldn’t commit.  Leon obviously has issues about her own faith that bleed out through the pages.  The book remains an academic exercise until just past the mid-way point, when suddenly Leon throws connections to Opus Dei in, but never explains them, nor develops them.  Morretti’s motivations are never explained; we’re supposed to believe he’s a ‘bad guy’ but with no tangible reason or proof.  But she also seems unable to commit to whether this was going to be a suspenseful mystery, or an academic one.  A scene of menace is jarring and effective for its psychological impact, but nothing ever becomes of it and its eventual explanation is ineffective, at best.

I loved the ending though – such a perfect twist on importance between the secular and the religious.  The ending was almost perfect.

It was a good read, though as a standalone, it left too many threads dangling, and the author was too transparent about her own feelings about faith in my opinion; I thought it was good, but had it been better balanced and better executed it could have been amazing.

Behold Here’s Poison

Behold, Here's PoisonBehold, Here's Poison
by Georgette Heyer
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 0434328448
Publication Date: January 1, 1972
Pages: 320
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Publisher: Heinemann

This is a book I should have enjoyed more than I did.  The dialog between characters is scathing, often hilarious in a ‘I can’t believe he/she said that out loud’ kind of way, and the murder was clever and the karma both just and tragic.  It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, so much as I think I might have been better off choosing something else at that moment, with the result that I was impatient with the reading of it.  It’s a weird place to be when you’re reading thinking this is good and are we done yet? at the same time.

Heyer’s strong point in writing wasn’t her detectives; Hannasyde is flat and Hemingway needs to switch to decaf, but the rest of the cast of characters are all vividly written, and as I said, the dialog scorching.  Mrs. Lupton came on the scene with a speech that had me laughing and wanting to stand and applaud and the rest of the case all have a shot at each other at least once or twice.

The romance, arguably Heyer’s raison d’être, just … failed.  To put those two together with so little development or subtlety makes me wonder if Heyer hated these characters and wanted them so suffer.  I mean, there’s playful verbal sparring, and there’s what these two were doing.  Me? I don’t find anything romantic about being called a little idiot.

A Difficult Problem: The Staircase at the Heart’s Delight & Other Stories

A Difficult Problem, The Staircase at the Heart's Delight and Other ProblemsA Difficult Problem, The Staircase at the Heart's Delight and Other Problems
by Anna Katherine Green
Rating: ★★★★½
Publication Date: January 1, 1900
Pages: 344
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: F.M. Lupton

This is a compilation of half a dozen stories, first collected in this form in 1900 by F. M. Lupton. The stories were originally published between 1894 and 1900.

It was time for some Anna Katherine Green.  I discovered her writing several years ago, and enjoy it so much I have made it my long-term goal to acquire and read everything she published.  She’s sometimes called the “mother of the detective novel”, but she also writes ripping good suspense, gothic, and with The Circular Staircase, originally published in 1900, arguably some amazing early science fiction.

This is my second collection of her short stories; the first one, a collection of the Violet Strange mysteries, failed to thrill me; my first exposure to Violet Strange as a Holmesian private investigator gave me high hopes, but this collection of stories just failed to meet them.  Hence, A Difficult Problem: The Staircase at the Heart’s Delight & Other Stories sat on my TBR for a long time.

This collection, however, turned out to be a delightful mish-mash of varying types, and even the weakest one was good enough to keep me turning the page.

In order of appearance:

A Difficult Problem (4.5 stars):  A mystery, first published in 1900, and Green turns the gender tables, crafting a murder plot that hinges on the deranged need to inflict suffering and revenge at any cost, even to the murderer.  The unveiling of the killer in itself is diabolically clever.  The story is amongst the shortest in the collection, so the psychological impact is necessarily blunted by the truncated length, but short though it may be, it’s also sharply written.

The Grey Madam (4.5 3.5 stars): I rated this one high mostly because it starts out as a ghost story that the narrator is determined to debunk.  It’s not a complicated plot by any stretch, and really no suspense involved once the investigation begins. Actually, the ending is anti-climatic, and a bit of a letdown, really.  So, while I’m remembering it fondly, I’m not sure why I gave it 4.5 stars.  Still, a very well written snippet.

The Bronze Hand (4.5 stars): This one fascinated me.  It’s a well-written tale of secret societies and the whole time I was reading it, I was thinking Green must have read The Valley of Fear.  No, she hadn’t, as it turns out, because she published this in 1897, and the Valley of Fear was published in 1915.  So now I have to wonder, did ACD read The Bronze Hand?  There’s a heavy thread of romance through this story, but otherwise the similarity between the two stories was unmistakable.

Midnight on Beauchamp Row (4.5 stars): Another short, sharp story, but this one was a tad melodramatic with the female acting more “female” according to the stereotype of the day, and Green plays on racial stereotypes too, but the ending made it an entirely different kind of story for me, and that ending bumped the rating up considerably.  I wish I could ask her if she intended her ending to be ironical; I like to think that is was.

The Staircase at the Heart’s Delight (3 stars): This one left me conflicted on a superficial level.  It was a well plotted, and used a fiendishly clever method of murder, but on a deeper, moral level it really disappointed me because of the anti-semitism inherent in the construction of the story.  I just could not enjoy this one, even though academically it’s well-written enough.

The Hermit of –– Street (4 stars): First, let me say, the convention of em dashes instead of names in early stories is really REALLY irritating.  Now that I’ve got that off my chest, this one is pure romantic drivel, but it’s gripping romantic-suspense drivel.  Completely implausible, with a main character that is only saved from being too stilly and frivolous to live by the fact that the writing takes place after the fact, with the narrator looking back and calling out her own naiveté and stupidity.  But still, the plot was, in its way, riveting.  There’s a tiny touch of Brontë here, and I have to wonder if later authors like Whitney, Holt, etc. read Green’s work and were inspired by it.  The ending was complete twaddle though.

As a whole, the book delighted more than the individual stories did.  If I’m being completely objective, some of this might have to do with my edition being published in 1900 – if I bought this collection in a modern binding, as a reprint, I’m not sure I’d have viewed it and its stories as favourably.  There’s something about reading old stories from an old book that softens the critical lens – perhaps the old pages and bindings offer a silent context, reminding the reader sub-consciously that standards and expectations of the day were different, making it easier to judge the author’s efforts from a simpler point of view.  I don’t know, but overall, it’s a solid collection of short stories from an amazing and undervalued writer.

The trouble with anthologies … and Charles Dickens

Great Stories of Crime and DetectionGreat Stories of Crime and Detection
by H.R.F. Keating, Various Authors
Rating: ★★★★½
Publication Date: January 1, 2002
Pages: 1784
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Folio Society

I’ve accumulated a solid collection of thick crime anthologies over the years and I’ve really enjoyed all of them – I get the chance to find new authors, experience a wide variety of writing styles and have access to mysteries and authors I might not otherwise be able to find.

But the one problem I’ve had again and again is that I pick up one of the large anthologies and often can’t remember which stories I’ve read and which I haven’t.  While I appreciate the anthologies as a chance to expand my mystery horizons, I know I also tend to gravitate to the same types of stories – so when I see one that looks good I find myself double guessing myself: did I think that the last time and have I already read this?.  I know I could look up reviews, but that takes way too much time no matter how organised my online ‘bookkeeping’ is.

A few weeks ago, it occurred to me that the simplest solution was the best: I had MT pick up a pack of index cards, and I started slipping on in the front of each anthology.  Now when I read a story, I jot in down on the index card, along with the date read and a quick rating.

This has been very handy, and I figure, if someday  my books travel beyond my library, maybe someone will get a kick out of finding my ‘ephemera’ and comparing notes with me.

All of which brings me to my mini-review of the first story I’ve read in Great Stories of Crime and Detection, V. I.  Volume I covers “The Beginning” up until 1920, and starts with the obvious, Murders in the Rue Morgue, which I’ve already read, so I chose the second story To Be Taken With a Grain of Salt by Charles Dickens.  Don’t ask me why, because, with the exception of A Christmas Carol I can’t tolerate Dickens’ paid-by-the-word writing style.  Maybe I felt the need to torture myself with mind-numbing prose?

If I did, I failed, because this story was delightful!  Written with an economy of style I can hardly credit to Dickens, but fully fleshed out and wonderfully creepy.  At 10 pages long it’s a compact ghost story about a man who sits on the jury of a murder trial, and how the victim sees to it that justice is done.  It’s an unconventional follow-up to the conventional starter, and it makes me eager to find out what’s to follow.  I doubt I’ll follow them in strict order, but I have high hopes that they’ll all be wroth reading, and I look forward to filling up my index card.

It has left me feeling completely flummoxed by Charles Dickens though.

Murder on Brittany Shores (Inspector Dupin, #2)

Murder on Brittany ShoresMurder on Brittany Shores
by Jean-Luc Bannalec
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9781250112439
Series: Brittany Mystery #2
Publication Date: November 28, 2017
Pages: 380
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur Books

Ten miles off the coast of Brittany lie the fabled Glénan Islands. Boasting sparkling white sands and crystal-clear waters, they seem perfectly idyllic, until one day in May, three bodies wash up on shore. At first glance the deaths appear accidental, but as the identities of the victims come to light, Commissaire Dupin is pulled back into action for a case of what seems to be cold-blooded murder.

Ever viewed as an outsider in a region full of myths and traditions, Dupin finds himself drawn deep into the history of the land. To get to the bottom of the case, he must tangle with treasure hunters, militant marine biologists, and dangerous divers. The investigation leads him further into the perilous, beautiful world of Glénan, as he discovers that there's more to the picturesque islands than meets the eye.

Another solidly told story and an excellently plotted mystery.  I’m especially loving the plots, and where the first book’s mystery shined in clever suspense, this one shines in sheer complexity and tragedy.

Murder on Brittany Shores takes place on an archipelago off the coast, on the Glénan Islands.  Very remote, and at one point, very And Then There Were None vibes.  Bannalec either has his tongue firmly in cheek, or he is a born-again convert to all things Breton, as he uses every opportunity to gush about the superiority of all things Breton, repeatedly using phrases like the best in the world, and comparing the Glénan Islands to the Caribbean, having them come out at least as equals in some respects and, of course, Glénan superior in the most important bits.  This is sometimes too obvious and over-bearing, but it’s probably only wasting about 5% of the story overall, so can be forgiven, mostly.  There was one spot I rolled my eyes and skimmed.

I like Dupin – he’s the opposite of his namesake; abrupt, concise and not prone to long speeches, or even medium sized sentences.  Terse.  Sometimes crabby, and I particularly enjoy the way he’s constantly avoiding phone calls with his superiors, like a sneaky kid trying to avoid hearing the call to come inside and bathe.

I thoroughly enjoyed both the books I’ve read so far, but I don’t feel like I need to rush out to read the next one – it will likely be on the a future library list sooner rather than later, when I feel the need to be reminded about how great Brittany is.  😉