Bodies from the Library 1 (MbD’s Deal-me-in Challenge)

Rather than create a separate post for each short story, I’m appending them under the anthology title as I read them.  Older short stores will be behind the ‘read more’.

Bodies from the Library 1Bodies from the Library 1
by Tony Medawar (editor)
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780008289225
Publication Date: January 1, 2018
Pages: 324
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Collins Crime Club

The Elusive Bullet by John Rhode, ✭✭✭✭

In spite of 90% of the solution being screamingly obvious from the start, I enjoyed this story.  Dr. Priestly and his secretary are a very Holmes and Watson-esque duo, with Dr. Priestly relying, it seems, entirely on mathematics to solve his crimes.  It was well-written and flowed easily, with the action moving at a nice pace, allowing a quick read before bed.  An excellent way to be introduced to this anthology.

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)

Tales from Margaritaville

Tales from MargaritavilleTales from Margaritaville
by Jimmy Buffett
Rating: ★★★★★
Publication Date: June 11, 1989
Pages: 233
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

The singer/songwriter displays his gift for creating witty, laid-back Southern stories in a collection of bizarre tales and thoughtful essays


The cure for what ails a homesick Florida Cracker.  These stories age perfectly (especially since a lot of them take place in the 60’s anyway) and never seem to lose their charm.

My original review below, with any additional thoughts from this read in … green.


I bought a paperback copy of this book around the time it came out in the early 90’s. and I fell in love with the stories. I’ve been re-reading it over the years whenever I felt homesick or nostalgic, because truly these stories capture a flavour of the south, and Florida in particular, that is hard to find in the present day. Snake Bite Key (the setting for a lot of the stories, or the characters’ backgrounds) could just have easily been in South Florida in the 70’s as it is a fictional island in Alabama.  I’ll also add here that while the stories and the characters are fictional, the characters’ personalities exist in people all over the South, for good or ill.

I recently upgraded my poor old softcover copy to a lovely hardback I found when I was on vacation, and I just had to sit down and re-read it. Funny how certain things stick out once your perspective changes: I never paid much attention to Buffett’s references to Australia and Australian Aboriginal myths until I was living in Oz myself; suddenly these references have more relevance for me. But otherwise, the stories hold up – they aren’t all gems and I love some more than others.

My personal favourites – and they remain my favourites to this day:
Off to See the Lizard:  I hate American football, but you can’t grow up in the South without an intimate knowledge of just how much of a religion it is – especially high school and college football.  This story folds that fervour into an entertaining story about the ultimate David and Goliath match.
Boomerang Love – this is my all-time favourite of the stories in this book.:  This is still true, even though it’s a flat out romance.  But it’s not really the romance that pulls me in, but the main character’s return home in the face of a hurricane; take the romance out of the equation and there’s just so much in this story I identify with.  
The Swamp Creature Let One In:  Another one I shouldn’t care a fig about, because it’s about golf, but it’s just soooo good.  A snake-handling preacher turned swamp creature who curses the sixteenth hole.  It makes me smile all the way through, even though it’s ridiculous and outrageous.  It also reminds me of home (where we had our own swamp legends).

Good but not great:
Take Another Road:  Ok, this one gets better as I re-read it.  It’s still not my favourite, but there are parts that appeal to me more and more.  Tully’s luck as he travels from Montana down to Alabama is sadly unrealistic, but it’s nice to imagine that a string of good luck sometimes happens.
I Wish Lunch Could Last Forever:  This is actually a really good story, but it’s a melancholy story that has a perhaps realistic ending, but not a satisfying one.

Meh:
The Pascagoula Run:  Not as ‘meh’ or as tedious as I originally found it, but it’s definitely got a juvenile edge to it.  I remember days exactly like the one in this story, and how it felt to have to forge on the next day to face your commitments.  I remember thinking at the time it was all part of the wild ride of youth; now I just think about the mind numbing fatigue.

These are apparently semi-autobiographical:
You Can’t Take it With You: I wasn’t ever really sure there was much point to this one.  I still don’t.
Are You Ready for Freddy?: Tedious to the extreme. Freddy likes to hear his own voice.  Ok, this one didn’t strike me as tedious this time around.  Perhaps the difference this time is that since I read this last I’ve made the trip down the A1A/Overseas Highway to Key West, and a lot of the landmarks are still there, so I felt a more visceral connection to the trip Jimmy and Freddy make on their way to Key West.  Freddy’s stories still didn’t delight me, but I liked the rest better than I previously had.

Mostly auto-biographical:
Hooked in the Heart – this one couldn’t have been great – I can’t remember it!!  Now, this is wrong – I mean, I still can’t remember the story by looking at the title, but the story itself is memorable (an example, I think, of a bad title).  This is the story about Jimmy Buffett meeting the Cuban fisherman who inspired the ‘old man’ in Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea.  It’s a funny but touching story, and I thought Buffett wrote a compelling portrait of the man in just a few words.
Life in the Food Chain – Very good.  I’d probably downgrade this one to ‘good’.  It’s a laid back story about sailing – more an anecdote, really.
A Gift for the Buccaneer – I really liked this one.  I love this one – Savannah gets extra points for her reply; it elevates an interesting story into an entertaining one.
Sometimes I Feel Like a Rudderless Child – also thought this one was interesting, although it ended oddly.  I still think it ends a bit oddly, but this story – also a sailing one – is a notch above Life in the Food Chain.  It’s a complete story with drama and resolution, not merely an anecdote.

An oddball collection of stories, but most of them take me back home and leave me smiling when I’m finished; I’m not sure I can ask much more than that from Mr. Buffett.

MbD’s Deal Me In challenge master post

I have so many anthologies, I hardly know where to begin.

Ok, a perusal of my shelves gave me the following books that I haven’t even cracked open yet:

In the Shadow of Agatha Christie: Classic Crime Fiction by Forgotten Female Writers 1850-1917;

Bodies from the Library V. 1: Lost Tales of Mystery and Suspense by Agatha Christie and other Masters of the Golden Age;

Great Stories of Crime and Detection V. III: The Forties and the Fifties (Folio);

Great Stories of Crime and Detection V. IV: The Sixties to the Present (Folio);

I figure that gives me something resembling a time continuum of mysteries spanning a century or so.

So, here’s the table:

Suit:
Short story title: Date drawn/read:
In the Shadow of Agatha Christie: Classic Crime Fiction by Forgotten Female Writers 1850-1917
A ❤️ The Advocate’s Wedding Day By Catherine Crowe
2 ❤️ The Squires Story By Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
3 ❤️ Traces Of Crime By Mary Fortune
4 ❤️ Mr Furbush, by Harriet Prescott Spofford
5 ❤️ Mrs Todhetley’s Earrings By Ellen Wood 15 January (m/up for 1 January)
6 ❤️ Catching A Burglar By Elizabeth Corbett
7 ❤️ The Ghost Of Fountain Lane By C.L. Pirkis 15 January
8 ❤️ The Statement Of Gerard Johnson By Geraldine Bonner
9 ❤️ Point in Morals by Ellen Glasgow 22 January
10 ❤️ The Blood-Red Cross by L. T. Mead, and Robert Eustace
J ❤️ The Regent’s Park Murder by Baroness Orczy
Q ❤️ The Case Of The Registered Letter By Augusta Groner
K ❤️ The Winning Sequence By M.E. Braddon
Bodies from the Library V. 1: Lost Tales of Mystery and Suspense by Agatha Christie and other Masters of the Golden Age
A ♠️ Before Insulin by JJ Connington
2 ♠️ The Inverness Cape by Leo Bruce
3 ♠️ Dark Waters, by Freeman Wills Crofts
4 ♠️ Linckes’ Great Case by Georgette Heyer
5 ♠️ ‘Calling James Braithwaite’ by Nicholas Blake
6 ♠️ The Elusive Bullet by John Rhode 6 February
7 ♠️ The Euthanasia of Hillary’s Aunt by Cyril Hare
8 ♠️ The Girdle of Dreams by Vincent Cornier
9 ♠️ The Fool And The Perfect Murder by Arthur Upfield
10 ♠️ Bread Upon the Waters by AA Milne
J ♠️ The Man with the Twisted Thumb by Anthony Berkeley
Q ♠️ The Rum Punch by Christianna Brand
K ♠️ Blind Man’s Bluff by Ernest Bramah
Great Stories of Crime and Detection V. III: The Forties and the Fifties (Folio)
A ♦️ The Splinter by Mary Roberts Rinehart
2 ♦️ A Perfectly Ordinary Case of Blackmail by AA Milne
3 ♦️ Cops Gift by Rex Stout 8 January
4 ♦️ I Can Find My Way Out by Ngaio Marsh
5 ♦️ Inspector Maigret Pursues by Georges Simenon
6 ♦️ The Assassins Club by Nicholas Blake
7 ♦️ The Riddle of the Black Museum by Stuart Palmer
8 ♦️ The Gettysburg Bugle by Ellery Queen
9 ♦️ The Proverbial Murder by John Dickson Carr
10 ♦️ The Sands of Thyme by Michael Innes
J ♦️ No Motive by Daphne du Maurier
Q ♦️ The Arrow of God by Leslie Charteris
K ♦️ Witness for the Prosecution by Q. Patrick
Great Stories of Crime and Detection V. IV: The Sixties to the Present (Folio)
A ♣️ The Evidence I Shall Give by H.R.F. Keating
2 ♣️ Freeze Everybody by David Williams
3 ♣️ Coyote by Len Deighton
4 ♣️ Licensed Guide by Eric Wright
5 ♣️ Evans Tries an O-level by Colin Dexter
6 ♣️ The Man Who Rode for the Shore by Catherine Aird
7 ♣️ The Wink by Ruth Rendell
8 ♣️ Custom Killing by Howard Engle
9 ♣️ Have a Nice Death by Antonia Frazier
10 ♣️ Skeeks, by Donald E Westlake
J ♣️ The Last High Mountain, by Clark Howard 29 January
Q ♣️ Of Mice and Men, and Two Women by Julian Rathbone
K ♣️ Crowded Hour by Reginald Hill

Heroic Hearts

Heroic HeartsHeroic Hearts
by Anne Bishop, Charlaine Harris, Chloe Neill, Jim Butcher, Kerrie L. Hughes, Kevin Hearne, Patricia Briggs
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780593099186
Publication Date: May 3, 2022
Pages: 350
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Ace

In this short story collection of courage, adventure, and magic, heroes—ordinary people who do the right thing—bravely step forward.

In Jim Butcher’s “Little Things,” the pixie Toot-Toot discovers an invader unbeknownst to the wizard Harry Dresden . . . and in order to defeat it, he’ll have to team up with the dread cat Mister.

In Patricia Briggs’s “Dating Terrors,” the werewolf Asil finds an online date might just turn into something more—if she can escape the dark magic binding her.

In Charlaine Harris’s “The Return of the Mage,” the Britlingen mercenaries will discover more than they’ve bargained for when they answer the call of a distress beacon on a strange and remote world.

And in Kelley Armstrong’s “Comfort Zone,” the necromancer Chloe Saunders and the werewolf Derek Souza are just trying to get through college. But they can’t refuse a ghost pleading for help.

ALSO INCLUDES STORIES BY Annie Bellet * Anne Bishop * Jennifer Brozek * Kevin Hearne * Nancy Holder * Kerrie L. Hughes * Chloe Neill * R.R. Virdi


This sounds like a romance, but as the cover makes clear it’s an urban fantasy anthology, and the title refers to acts of heroism by characters that would normally be considered bit players or underdogs.

And it’s an excellent collection; with the exception of one (The Vampires Karamazov, which felt like a story fragment, or at least, a story with an incomplete ending), I enjoyed all of them; not something I can often say about anthologies.  Of course this collection’s deck is stacked, if you know what I mean, with authors like Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, Anne Bishop, Kevin Hearne, and Chloe Neil, each of them offering short stories that complement or extend their most popular series.

I’m not sure I can come up with a favourite.  As much as I enjoyed all my favourite authors’ entries, when I think back across all of them the two that immediately come to mind as stories that ‘stick’ are Jennifer Brozek’s The Necessity of Pragmatic Magic – perhaps because I might overly identify with Felicia, who only wants to be left alone, and Kerry L. Hughes’ Troll Life which somehow charmed me in ways I can’t quite pinpoint; maybe the sentient trains?

Patricia Briggs’ story features Asil, Dating Terrors, and while it’s always fun to read about Asil – he makes me laugh – and the story is good, I have to admit I think he plays to best advantage when he’s surrounded by Charles, Anna, Bran and the rest of the pack.  For those interested, this short story is not the same one as Asil and the not-date found in the Laurel K. Hamilton anthology Fantastic Hope; it’s related, I suspect, and I’m certain Dating Terrors takes place after Asil and the Not-Date.  It also appears to have long-reaching implications for Asil and his fans; I’m wondering if they’ll play out in the next Alpha and Omega book?

Lord Peter Whimsey: The Complete Short Stories

Lord Peter Wimsey: The Complete Short StoriesLord Peter Wimsey: The Complete Short Stories
by Dorothy L. Sayers
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9781473657632
Publication Date: February 13, 2018
Pages: 437
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Hodder Paperback

Presented in chronological order, these short stories see Lord Peter Wimsey bringing his trademark wit and unique detection skills to all manner of mysteries. From poisoned port to murder in fancy dress, Wimsey draws on his many skills - including his expertise in fine wine and appreciation of fine art - to solve cases far and wide, some even taking him to foreign countries and unexpected hiding places in pursuit of miscreants and murderers.

Containing 21 stories taken from Lord Peter Views the Body, Hangman's Holiday, In the Teeth of the Evidence and Striding Folly, now published together for the first time in one volume, this is the ultimate collection for fans of classic detective fiction and Dorothy L. Sayers.


 

My current distal discomfort being what it is, I thought a book of short stories would work for me, and I’ve been in the mood for some Whimsey.

Of this entire collection, I think the only one I’d read previously was The Necklace of Pearls.  A few I didn’t much care for – The Queen’s Square pops immediately to mind, but that could be simply chalked up to my current attention span and the story being a fair-play mystery with maps are at odds.  I liked the logic behind how Whimsey solved it, I just found the process tedious.

My favourites are far and away the easiest to identify:

The Fascinating Problem of Uncle Mileage’s Will:  I loved this story and I think it’s a great example of superior writing, in that it was short but still contained all the suspense and entertainment many long stories struggle to achieve, and it was a nice departure from a ‘murder’ mystery.

The Learned Adventure of the Dragon’s Head: Another ‘no-murder’ mystery; less suspense but still oodles of fun with old books, maps, and a treasure hunt.  Peter learning what happens when you poke a dragon in the eye was the cherry on top of this delightfully fun tale.

The Piscatorial Farce of the Stolen Stomach: Probably my least fave of the 4 I’m listing, but there was a whimsy about it I enjoyed, if the premise itself wasn’t totally disgusting.

Talboys:  This one was just funny.  Sweet too, but mostly just funny.  The ending is sublime.

All in all a solid set of short stories, with very few disappointments.

Alfred Hitchcock’s Haunted Houseful

Alfred Hitchcock's Haunted HousefulAlfred Hitchcock's Haunted Houseful
by Alfred Hitchcock (editor)
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 0394812247
Publication Date: January 1, 1961
Pages: 208
Genre: Children's Fiction
Publisher: Random House

Nine short stories featuring haunted houses, by such notable authors as Elizabeth Coatsworth, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mark Twain.


Yesterday was a bad day for my convalescence;  It was a 38 degree day outside, and inside my discomfort was such that I couldn’t settle, leaving me hot, cranky, frustrated and staring at my ceiling and my TBR shelves (they’re next to my bed).  My eyes landed on this book late afternoon;  we had it on our shelves growing up, and I’d bought a copy sometime back after finding out my mom had given away our original copy.  It felt like just the ticket for what ailed me.

It pretty much was.  Short stories for middle schoolers that were well written but untaxing.  The book’s description and foreward claim that each of the stories are about haunted houses and ghosts – they’re not.  One is Conan-Doyle’s The Adventure of the Red-headed League and that has nothing spooky in it except a sentence or two near the end.  There were only two stories that had actual ghosts; the rest were mysteries that involved spooky houses.  Still it was an effective method of distraction and entertained me as well as anything written for pre-teens possibly could.

Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories: How Peter Parley Laid a Ghost

The Valancourt Book of ​Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories: Volume OneThe Valancourt Book of ​Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories: Volume One
by Tara Moore (Editor)
Rating: ★★★
isbn: 9781943910564
Publication Date: January 1, 2016
Pages: 291
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Historical
Publisher: Valancourt Books

The first-ever collection of Victorian Christmas ghost stories, culled from rare 19th-century periodicals

During the Victorian era, it became traditional for publishers of newspapers and magazines to print ghost stories during the Christmas season for chilling winter reading by the fireside or candlelight. Now for the first time thirteen of these tales are collected here, including a wide range of stories from a diverse group of authors, some well-known, others anonymous or forgotten. Readers whose only previous experience with Victorian Christmas ghost stories has been Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” will be surprised and delighted at the astonishing variety of ghostly tales in this volume.


 

My first thought as I started reading this – a story aimed at Victorian children – was that the writing shines a sorry light on the state of today’s education.  I doubt many children today would be able to pass a reading comprehension quiz based on this story, purely based on the vocabulary.  I could be wrong, but the writing here is certainly more sophisticated than that of most of today’s books aimed at adults.

How Peter Parley Laid a Ghost by Anonymous was better than Conan Doyle’s Captain of the Pole-Star; more interesting, amusing, and frankly, better written.  But it’s still not a true ghost story; it’s a morality tale aimed at the folly of superstition.  In this context, it’s a brilliant story; in the context of a spooky ghost story … not so much.

Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories, Vol 1: The Captain of the “Pole-star”

The Valancourt Book of ​Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories: Volume OneThe Valancourt Book of ​Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories: Volume One
by Tara Moore (Editor)
Rating: ★★½
isbn: 9781943910564
Publication Date: January 1, 2016
Pages: 291
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Historical
Publisher: Valancourt Books

The first-ever collection of Victorian Christmas ghost stories, culled from rare 19th-century periodicals

During the Victorian era, it became traditional for publishers of newspapers and magazines to print ghost stories during the Christmas season for chilling winter reading by the fireside or candlelight. Now for the first time thirteen of these tales are collected here, including a wide range of stories from a diverse group of authors, some well-known, others anonymous or forgotten. Readers whose only previous experience with Victorian Christmas ghost stories has been Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” will be surprised and delighted at the astonishing variety of ghostly tales in this volume.


 

I love me some Conan Doyle, but not this one.  I’m not a fan of Arctic settings, nor of stories that take place at sea, so this was a double whammy against me liking it.  Add to that, it isn’t really a spooky ghost story, so much as a second hand account of ghost sightings and their results.

In my opinion, Conan Doyle’s The Haunted Grange of Grosthorpe is a far superior ghost story.

Small Magics

Small MagicsSmall Magics
by Illona Andrews
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9781596069619
Publication Date: December 1, 2019
Pages: 455
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Subterranean Press

An anthology of short stories in the Kate Daniels universe.


When I saw here on BookLikes that Sweep with Me was out, I went to Ilona Andrew’s website to find out more, and noticed the release of a new anthology, published by Subterranean Press.  Yes please!

This is a compilation of the short stories Ilona Andrews has written, all previously published elsewhere, and for the first time in print, all the Curren POV’s Gordon Andrews has written and posted on their website.  Interspersed are 3? full color illustrations.

It’s a nice book – not the most impressive I’ve seen put out by Subterranean, but a good solid book.  I’d read some of the stories before, but enough of them were new to me to make me appreciate having bought it.

My only gripe with the book is with the Curran POVs.  As a character, these stories don’t always flatter Curran, but that’s trivial.  What is really disappointing, though, is the poor copy-editing of the Curran stories.  On the website, they’re clear to state that the stories were written for fun, not edited, yada yada.  And that’s totally understandable.  But I’d have though when it comes to publishing a limited release, numbered, signed, illustrated edition, the publisher, if not the authors themselves, would have wanted to take the time and make the effort to correct, at the very least, the most glaring omissions and errors (lots of the, a, an articles missing, or misplaced).

Ah well, a good collection that might have been great, but still welcome on my shelves.