Halloween Bingo Update, October 5: BLACKOUT

After my brief break from bingo reading, I finished The Ex Hex for my Read by Candlelight or Flashlight, and 2 short stories from my Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries omnibus for my Locked Room square.

That means:  CARD BLACKOUT!  I’m done!

I didn’t – really didn’t – think I’d black out my card this year, because I’ve been in a year+ long slump.  But I made one significant change this year:  I didn’t plan a single read, other than holding off on books I wanted to read until bingo started.  As much as I love the idea of book lists, and I love the activity of digging through my books to create these lists, it turns out I really hate being held to them, and it was killing my game enthusiasm.

It also helped, it’s true, that I’ve been on a rather long UF reading streak.  🙂

Now it’s just about waiting on the calls for the bingos to start rolling in.

Squares on my card that have been called: (this list is getting long so I’m putting it in a spoiler tag)
View Spoiler »

Accumulative reading table with links to reviews below the card.

The spreadsheet:

Bingo Square Date Called Book Title Date Read
Row #1
X Mad Scientists and Evil Geniuses Sep. 7 Naked Brunch Aug. 30
X Stone Cold Horror/Creepy Carnival Sep. 29 Wild Ride Sep. 1
X Vintage Mystery Sep. 23 The Filigree Ball Sep. 16
X Dem Bones Oct. 2 Independent Bones Sep. 14
Read by Candlelight/Flashlight The Ex Hex Oct. 4
Row #2
Murder Most Foul Charleston Green Sep. 18
Lethal Games No Nest for the Wicket Sep. 1
Spellbound The Once and Future Witches Aug. 31
X Black Cat Sep. 15 Thornyhold Sep. 13
Relics and Curiosities On the Edge Sep. 8
Row #3
Shifters Naked Brunch Aug. 30
Terror in a Small Town Agnes and the Hitman Sep. 3
X FREE SPACE Like a Charm Sep. 7
Psych / Highway to Hell Archive of the Forgotten Sep. 3
X Truly Terrifying Oct. 1 The Cannonball Tree Mystery Sep. 5
Row #4
X Noir Sep. 24 The Big Over Easy Sep. 22
X Genre: Mystery Oct. 5 The Alchemist’s Illusion Sep. 2
Country House Mystery Murder Most Fair Sep. 16
X Tropical Terror Sep. 4 The Mimosa Tree Mystery Sep. 4
X Locked Room Mystery Sep. 28 Black Lizard’s Big Book of Locked Room Mysteries Oct. 5
Row #5
Splatter Carpe Jugulum Sep. 9
Cryptozoologist Bayou Moon Sep. 11
X Plague and Disease Scourged Sep. 3
In the Dark, Dark Woods Paper & Blood Sep. 12
X Gallows Humor Sep. 25 Murder Most Fowl Sep. 10
  Wild Card Spell
  Amplification Spell
  Bingo Flip Spell
  Cell Conversion Spell
  Transfiguration Spell
  Double Trouble Spell

Locked Room Mysteries Omnibus

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.


 

My last square on my bingo card this year that needed to be read for was Locked Room Mystery.  I had several books that qualified, but none that appealed, so it was time to pull out my trusty omnibus, Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries edited by Otto Penzler.  I chose two previously unread stories: one I was sure to like, featuring The Saint, and one completely unknown to me but considered to be a locked room classic up there with The Hollow Man.


The Man Who Liked Toys by Leslie Charteris: four-stars

I liked this one about as much as I expected to – maybe a little less.  And I probably should have given it 3.5 stars instead of 4 because at its core it’s more a snapshot of a story than an actual story.  But the method of murder is ingenious.  I have to say though, The Saint isn’t nearly as dashing on paper as he is when he looks like Val Kilmer.


The Two Bottles of Relish by Lord Dunsany: five-stars

Well, I can see why this is one of the most re-printed locked room stories.  It has a Poe-esque quality to it, as it starts out a very normal, even vanilla, narration by someone who considers himself a Watson, and rapidly escalates towards the end into a mini-horror story.  I saw where it was going but now quite, and the ending … ends perfectly.  Any more would have diluted the effect completely, even with the superbly done writing.

 

I read these for 2021 Halloween Bingo, specifically for the Locked Room Mystery square.

The Ex Hex

The Ex HexThe Ex Hex
by Erin Sterling
Rating: ★★★½
isbn: 9780063027473
Publication Date: September 28, 2021
Pages: 320
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Romance
Publisher: HarperCollins

 

A departure for me, as this book is all about the romance, not a mystery plot that masks a little romance on the side.  But Whiskey in the Jar’s review made it sound cute and a lot of fun, so I grabbed it from my library.

It was fun, and it was cute.  I liked the N. Georgia setting and the brand of witchiness the story relied upon (think more Bewitched, less later-seasons-Charmed).  It was a nice change to read about a romantic hero that was Welsh instead of the tried and true Scottish or Irish male.

I mostly liked the relationships; the dynamic between Vivienne and her aunt and cousin, and especially the relationship between Rhys and his brothers.  The dynamic between Rhys and Simon, the father, felt forced and, the way it’s written here, kind of useless, as it really goes nowhere.

The narrative banter was the most enjoyable part of the book for me (that and the fact that the cat got a voice).  The banter kept me reading, even though I skimmed the romance and the angst, but that’s not the book, that’s just me.

Overall exactly what I was hoping for.

 

I read this for Halloween Bingo 2021, and I read it at night, with my little book light for ambiance, making it work for Read by Candlelight or Flashlight; I was all ready to do the candle light, but I remember Easter-cats first confrontation with a candle flame, and her singed whiskers.  Pikachu has insanely long whiskers and an insatiable curiosity that didn’t bode well for the candlelit reading.

Halloween Bingo Update, October 1

Since my last update, I’ve read: bupkis.  Well, that’s not true, I have been on a re-reading binge of the urban fantasy series The Others, but none of those count for Halloween Bingo.  I do have a book lined up for Read by Candlelight or Flashlight, but I have to stay awake long enough to read it, and that’s been a problem lately.

Squares on my card that have been called:
Black Cat;
Tropical Terror;
Mad Scientists and Evil Geniuses;
Plagues and Diseases
Vintage Mystery
Noir
Gallows Humor
Locked Room Mystery
Creepy Carnivals
Truly Terrifying

Accumulative reading table with links to reviews below the card.

The spreadsheet:

Bingo Square Date Called Book Title Date Read
Row #1
X Mad Scientists and Evil Geniuses Sep. 7 Naked Brunch Aug. 30
X Stone Cold Horror/Creepy Carnival Sep. 29 Wild Ride Sep. 1
X Vintage Mystery Sep. 23 The Filigree Ball Sep. 16
Dem Bones Independent Bones Sep. 14
Read by Candlelight/Flashlight
Row #2
Murder Most Foul Charleston Green Sep. 18
Lethal Games No Nest for the Wicket Sep. 1
Spellbound The Once and Future Witches Aug. 31
X Black Cat Sep. 15 Thornyhold Sep. 13
Relics and Curiosities On the Edge Sep. 8
Row #3
Shifters Naked Brunch Aug. 30
Terror in a Small Town Agnes and the Hitman Sep. 3
X FREE SPACE Like a Charm Sep. 7
Psych / Highway to Hell Archive of the Forgotten Sep. 3
X Truly Terrifying Oct. 1 The Cannonball Tree Mystery Sep. 5
Row #4
X Noir Sep. 24 The Big Over Easy Sep. 22
Genre: Mystery The Alchemist’s Illusion Sep. 2
Country House Mystery Murder Most Fair Sep. 16
X Tropical Terror Sep. 4 The Mimosa Tree Mystery Sep. 4
Locked Room Mystery Sep. 28
Row #5
Splatter Carpe Jugulum Sep. 9
Cryptozoologist Bayou Moon Sep. 11
X Plague and Disease Scourged Sep. 3
In the Dark, Dark Woods Paper & Blood Sep. 12
X Gallows Humor Sep. 25 Murder Most Fowl Sep. 10
  Wild Card Spell
  Amplification Spell
  Bingo Flip Spell
  Cell Conversion Spell
  Transfiguration Spell
  Double Trouble Spell

Halloween Bingo Update, September 24

Since my last update, I’ve read:
Anna Lee Huber’s Murder Most Fair for Country House Mystery;
The Filigree Ball by Anna Katherine Green and it was excellent – best book I’ve read all year.  I’m using it for Vintage Mystery;
Charleston Green by Stephanie Alexander for my Murder Most Foul Square;
A re-read of The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde for my Noir square;

Squares on my card that have been called:
Black Cat;
Tropical Terror;
Mad Scientists and Evil Geniuses;
Plagues and Diseases
Vintage Mystery
Noir

Accumulative reading table with links to reviews below the card.

The spreadsheet:

Bingo Square Date Called Book Title Date Read
Row #1
X Mad Scientists and Evil Geniuses Sep. 7 Naked Brunch Aug. 30
Stone Cold Horror/Creepy Carnival Wild Ride Sep. 1
X Vintage Mystery Sep. 23 The Filigree Ball Sep. 16
Dem Bones Independent Bones Sep. 14
Read by Candlelight/Flashlight
Row #2
Murder Most Foul Charleston Green Sep. 18
Lethal Games No Nest for the Wicket Sep. 1
Spellbound The Once and Future Witches Aug. 31
X Black Cat Sep. 15 Thornyhold Sep. 13
Relics and Curiosities On the Edge Sep. 8
Row #3
Shifters Naked Brunch Aug. 30
Terror in a Small Town Agnes and the Hitman Sep. 3
X FREE SPACE Like a Charm Sep. 7
Psych / Highway to Hell Archive of the Forgotten Sep. 3
Truly Terrifying The Cannonball Tree Mystery Sep. 5
Row #4
X Noir Sep. 24 The Big Over Easy Sep. 22
Genre: Mystery The Alchemist’s Illusion Sep. 2
Country House Mystery Murder Most Fair Sep. 16
X Tropical Terror Sep. 4 The Mimosa Tree Mystery Sep. 4
Locked Room Mystery
Row #5
Splatter Carpe Jugulum Sep. 9
Cryptozoologist Bayou Moon Sep. 11
X Plague and Disease Scourged Sep. 3
In the Dark, Dark Woods Paper & Blood Sep. 12
Gallows Humor Murder Most Fowl Sep. 10
  Wild Card Spell
  Amplification Spell
  Bingo Flip Spell
  Cell Conversion Spell
  Transfiguration Spell
  Double Trouble Spell

The Big Over Easy Re-read (Nursery Crimes, #1)

The Big Over EasyThe Big Over Easy
by Jasper Fforde
Rating: ★★★★★
Series: Nursery Crimes #1
Publication Date: January 1, 2005
Pages: 398
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

 

My original review pretty much sums up my general feelings about this book.  I still think it’s the most highly quotable book I’ve read, I still think the satire is spot-on, both of the media and murder mysteries and I still think Prometheus adds just that little something of surprise depth to the narrative, if only briefly.

Re-reading it, it’s held up perfectly.  Fforde’s amazing at writing these intricate plots and clever dialog, but it’s all the small details that continue to leave me gobsmacked.  The excepts at the opening of each chapter, the small jokes and wordplays scattered in the text, and the “ads” at the back of the book all are unnecessary to the plot, but make the book all the richer for their inclusion.

Though I gave it, and stand by doing so, 5 stars, the heinous plot revealed in the mystery is gross in that way that British humor excels at.  Gross and sublimely silly.  Which makes the story better, in spite of the “UGH, yuck!” moments towards the end.

 

I read this for Halloween Bingo 2021’s Noir square.  It’s not a traditional fit, but there’s a clear argument that along with satirising mysteries and the press, there’s a very noir-satire vibe in the story,

Charleston Green (Tipsy Collins, #1)

Charleston GreenCharleston Green
by Stephanie Alexander
Rating: ★★★½
isbn: 9781647040505
Series: Tipy Collins #1
Publication Date: April 14, 2020
Pages: 352
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Bublish

 

I BookLikes friend read and rated this highly recently, and I’m always onboard for a ghost story-mystery set in Charleston.  Her standards are far more exacting than mine, so I felt confident buying it and its sequel the other day

Unfortunately, I can’t say I loved it.  I’m conflicted about even saying I liked it, although it was a good, well-written story, with the exception of a few formatting errors and at least a couple of grammatical ones, though still fewer of both than I normally find in most traditionally published books.

At first I thought the problem for me was the third person present POV.  In my opinion it’s the least forgiving POV available to authors and as such very hard to get right.  Done wrong, characters are flat and lifeless.

But the characters weren’t flat and lifeless.  Except for the main one, Tipsy herself, and ultimately this was what held me back from completely enjoying this book.  She was a dishrag, and not just because she’d just gone through a difficult divorce, but because she’d been something of a dishrag her whole life.  Not a victim, not even a doormat, but just a non-entity.  A time or two she caught fire and those moments were ones I enjoyed thoroughly, but they happened way too rarely to make up for all the rest of the book, where she just drifted through.

On the plus side, the ghosts were great, and I enjoyed the parts where Tipsy painted, likely because they were the only times she wasn’t passive.  But I truly enjoyed the story behind the ghosts and the mystery of how they died.

I was prepared to jump directly into the second book, Haint Blue, but I flipped through it this morning, and caught a passage that’s completely turned me off.  It’s obvious that the author’s need to write as true to life as possible means taking the reader on the same emotional roller coaster of relationships that most people would give a kidney to avoid experiencing in real life, but are bound to go through anyway.  Bound to or not in real life, I’m not obligated to experience it again in my books, and the passage that caught my eye has Tipsy acting like a melodramatic teen.  No, thank you.  Maybe someday, but for now I’m stopping with Charleston Green and calling it good.

 

I read this because it looked good, but I’m also using it for Halloween Bingo 2021 on my Murder Most Foul square.

The Filigree Ball

The Filigree BallThe Filigree Ball
by Anna Katherine Green
Rating: ★★★★★
Publication Date: January 1, 1903
Pages: 418
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

 

I just finished this book and I have to forgo sleep to get this review down so I don’t forget any details overnight.

5 star read.  My first this year, I think.  Absolutely amazing story from start to finish, but oh man!  The finish!

I’ve been enjoying Anna Katherine Green’s books since first discovering her The Mayor’s Wife; I was entranced by how such an old story could rivet me, the reader, with what would have had to have been the birth of many tropes we get jaded about it today’s mysteries.

I admit to buying this one with some hesitancy though.   I assumed, by the title, that the mystery would involve a grand ball, someone being killed during a waltz, or over dinner, or perhaps just after an illicit assignation in the garden behind the ballroom.

HA!  I could not have been more wrong!  From start to finish, I had a creepy house with a history of death in the library, always by the same mysterious means; a house considered haunted by its history if not its actual ghosts.  Dark, abandoned mid-wedding, when the last body was found, right down to leaving the food on the tables and the cake on the floor where it was dropped during the stampede to escape the house’s curse.  It’s all very gothic.

Then there’s the bride, dead by seemingly her own hand, just a fortnight after her marriage, but surrounded by inconsistencies that make murder a possibility. Her heartbroken husband and her distraught sister, both of whom have shaky alibis and strange reactions to the events as they unfold, making them look more suspicious than bereaved.

Then there’s the narrator, who at times I swear foreshadows the Noir genre, with his quiet investigations on the side, to try to prove his theory that more was going on than met the eye.  His dedication to doing so to save the woman, who is, throughout the book, put upon a pedestal of all that is perfect in woman: beautiful, proud, self-sacrificing, suffering with utmost dignity.   Alas, we were missing just a bottle of whiskey and possibly the use of “Dame” in the narrative and we could have credited AKG with the first noir mystery.

The puzzle pieces come together, disjointedly, as our nameless narrator plod through, putting clues together, ferreting out further information and even chasing one witness to Tampa, Florida.

And the ending, omg the ending was so good.  So well crafted, and such a sucker punch.

The books perfection might have been heightened, in my opinion, by the exclusion of the final chapter, chapter 27.  It’s truly extraneous to the book in all ways except for those readers who want their loose ends tied up in a HEA bow.  I did not mind it, I would not have missed its absence either.

Truly, one of the best mysteries I’ve read in ages, vintage or otherwise.  I’d happily recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good vintage mystery (with the caveat to expect a few offhand and cheerful references to the casual racism that was part of the times in which this book was written.)

 

I read this because I’ve been meaning to for the last few weeks anyway, but also because the new Halloween Bingo 2021 square Vintage Mysteries is one of the re-vamped squares that has lifted its restrictions on what constitutes a qualifying mystery.  As AKG predates the Golden Age, it wouldn’t have necessarily qualified before.  I’ll be using it for Vintage Mysteries but if anyone else is interested, it would also qualify for Gothic, and I think, given the questions concerning all the murders that take place in the book, it would also work for Locked Room