Leonard R. Gribble: The Arsenal Stadium Mystery

40861729Title: The Arsenal Stadium Mystery
Author: Leonard R. Gribble

Murder mystery enters the world of English football in this 1939 classic.

In a high stakes final between a team of amateurs and the Arsenal side of 1939, a player drops dead on the pitch shortly after halftime. It’s up to Detective Inspector Slade to unravel the multiplicity of motives and suspects behind this case of the foulest play possible.

Rating: A rather dull 0:0 draw

When Jack Doyce collapses during a football match and dies not much later it doesn’t take long to discover that he was murdered. And a suspect appears just as quickly: Phillip Morring was Doyce’s business partner. His death means Morring receives a large sum of money from the life insurance. They were on the football team together, so Morring had the opportunity to poison him and when Slade discovers that Morring’s fiancée was having an affair with Doyce it seems that everything fits together perfectly.  But Slade isn’t fully convinced, especially after he finds out that Doyce was implicated in a tragedy that happened a few years back. Is someone taking revenge? But the evidence against Morring is piling up as well, so is perhaps the most obvious solution the right one after all?

The mystery itself is solid and keeps you guessing. It does require some suspension of disbelief (among other things, the plot only works because a girl told nobody whom she was getting engaged to, not even her own father) but not more than in the average golden age mystery.

In a solid mystery, I can usually excuse bland detectives and Slade is very bland. (How bland? you ask. Well, on Goodreads his name was mistakenly given as MacDonald and I had not noticed that and happily called him as MacDonald in this review until I looked up a quote in the book and saw that he was in fact called Slade). And with the exception of Pat Laruce – Morring’s fiancée – so are most side-characters. They are in fact, for a mystery novel, surprisingly sensible. Morring, for example, immediately tells the police about the fact that he gains a lot of money from Doyce’s death. He is slightly less forthcoming about his fiancée but once he realizes that the police know, he comes clean immediately – and so do most other characters in similar situations. Only Pat, the already mentioned exception, is as unhelpful as possible and has her own agenda. As such she’s more like a character one is used to from mysteries but next to all the others, she appears more like a comical caricature.

Then there’s the football connection which felt forced. The victim is a football player who died during a match. But he could just as easily have been killed during a weekend country house party.  Neither the football nor the cameos by Arsenal players and the manager added anything to the story. Perhaps you have to be a real football-fan for that and care a lot about Arsenal (and its 1939 team) to get anything out of that and with my casual ‘I pay some attention to the German league table and am happy when certain teams are in the upper half’ attitude it didn’t really work.

And then there’s…

“Well, Inspector?” asked the Arsenal manager. “I’m afraid Dr Meadows doesn’t think it was an accident,” said the Yard detective.

Epithets. So many of them. Any character who appears more than one will have an epithet that gets used frequently. I have spent too much of my teenage years reading bad Harry Potter fanfiction full of the dark-haired boy, the blonde man, the Gryffindor star-pupil and the boy who could talk to snakes* and now I am very allergic to epithets of all kinds.

All in all, I think this book might be interesting for people who are very interested in football history. The rest can easily miss it.

 

*I am not suggesting that only one fandom has this problem. Or even only fanfiction, as this book proves. But that’s where I got my overdose of this particular bad style-advice

 

ARC provided by NetGaööey

Mini Reviews: October 2018

36896898Naomi Novik: Spinning Silver
(Fantasy)

7/7 magical golden coins

This book was beautiful. I love fairy tales and fairy tale retellings but the latter can come over a bit creepy when the author copies things from the original too closely (complete a quest, get the girl even though you never talked to each other before). But Spinning Silver isn’t just a Rumpelstilsken retelling. Of course, it takes a lot of inspiration from it – as well as from Cinderella and many other tales but it turns it into something completely new and different.

Gif: belle from Beauty and the Beast saying "I just finished the most wonderful story"


41724928Aliette de Bodard: In the Vanisher’s Palace
Sci-fi f/f romance

(Sadly) not my cup of world-ending tea

Talking about books inspired by fairy tales: In the Vanisher’s Palace is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast and that is certainly a story that can come over not too great if you don’t pay attention. But the author did pay attention and clearly put a lot of thought into the whole ‘You have to live in my palace now and if you don’t want to that’s your problem’-bit. And I really enjoyed the way it was treated in the book. I liked the characters. There were dragons. But I’m just not really into post-apocalyptic stories and this book is ‘hard’ post-apocalyptic. As in: you can’t just ignore it for most of the story. Which is great if you like it because authors just paying lip-service to a genre when the story could just as easily have taken place anywhere else is usually disappointing. But in my case, it just reminded me over and over again that I don’t care much for that genre.

Gif: Eyeore saying "It's OK, I'll learn to live without it"


42242896Anthology: Teacher’s Pet Volume 2
Romance-anthology

Not my cup of healthy green tea

In short: I started this with the exception there would be rather diverse settings in the stories (contemporary, fantasy, historical) but got three fantasy stories and the rest contemporaries, which isn’t my thing at all. And even the fantasy stories didn’t overwhelm me that much. A more comprehensive review is over at Love in Panels.

Gif: Damien Lewis on HIGNFY looking unimpressed

Richard Hull: The Murder of My Aunt

39884612Title: The Murder of My Aunt
Author: Richard Hull

Edward Powell lives with his Aunt Mildred in the Welsh town of Llwll. 
His aunt thinks Llwll an idyllic place to live, but Edward loathes the countryside – and thinks the company even worse. In fact, Edward has decided to murder his aunt. 

Rating: E

There are two types of crime-novels that are written from the POV of the murderer: In one he is an evil genius, a psychopath who comes up with ingenious (and often gory) ways to kill. The question is obviously not “Who did it?” but “How will he get caught?”, where’s the mistake that will trip him up?  I never cared about those (I want to be able to like the person in whose head I’m stuck while reading).

In the second, the killer is extremely likeable and the victim(s) aren’t. Often rapists, domestic abusers and other killers who were never caught. I’ve read and enjoyed a couple of those but there’s always a danger of exaggerating the evilness of the victims too much. They turn into moustache-twirling villains who kick puppies in their spare time and end up feeling not really human anymore (because that would mean the reader had to struggle with pesky morals).

The Murder Of My Aunt in a way is a bit of both. The aunt is horrible, but I also hated Edward – the narrator who plans the murder – after about two pages. He complains that he’s stuck in a small village (due to the in mystery-novels so popular inconvenient terms of a will that make him dependant on his aunt). It’s horrible and boring, it doesn’t even have a cinema (the horror) and worst of all: it’s in Wales and has a silly Welsh name. Because Welsh is a silly language, you see. No vowels and ridiculously many Ls. Isn’t that stupid? English is, of course, the superior language. It makes sense and the spelling is totally reasona…

Gif from Tatort: Wilhelmine Klemm laughing. Caption: HAHAHAHA

Yes, I get it. This was written in 1934. Back then such views were probably considered genuinely amusing…or at least only slightly obnoxious instead of a sign of an absolute jerk. But since it’s not the thirties anymore even though current politics…no let’s not go there, I do feel strongly about people mocking languages, and we are treated to Edward’s diatribe about Welsh at the very beginning of the book, I hated him immediately.

But at the same time, his aunt is also horrible. Not in the way patriarchs and matriarchs in mystery novels usually are: They are convinced that they are always right and that their children have to obey them. They might be aware that the child would be miserable but to them, it’s just an insignificant side-effect. The important thing is that everybody obeys them.

Edward’s aunt just wants to make him miserable. For example, she knows that Edward hates walking and so she decides to force him to walk to fetch a package from the post office. For that, she has to tell the postman that he should keep the package instead of delivering it (giving as reason that the label was torn), throw away the petrol of her own car so that Edward can’t use it, tell the owner of the local garage that he should refuse if Edward calls him and ask if he can deliver petrol and hide the phone-book so that he won’t find a different garage. That’s a lot of work for an idiotic prank. Because that’s all it is. She didn’t need him out of the house for any reason, she only wants him to walk because she knows he hates it.

At that point, I was willing to temporarily forget his comments on the Welsh and cheered for his plan to work because that would mean one less horrible character. And after all, his mistakes when setting up his murderous trap where so glaringly obvious that I was sure he would be arrested soon after the murder and my suffering would also soon be over. But alas, things don’t go as expected – for Edward and the poor, suffering reader – and in a different book I might have enjoyed the way things turned but here I just had to read more horrible people being horrible to each other and hated every page of it.

ARC provided by NetGalley

Mini Reviews – September 2018

Cover: Lia Cooper - Death Days Lia Cooper – Death Days
(Urban Fantasy, m/m romance)

DNF

I made it 30% into this book and I feel that at this point I should have a vague idea where the plot is going. But I had none. Things just happened. At first, Nick, our hero, tries to summon a demon but fails. He gives some lectures at university and it seems like he doesn’t exactly enjoy it (or care much about his student) which makes him incredibly likeable. His sister turns up and is horrid, there is some stuff with a magical council who want him to join but he doesn’t want to (why? For all I could tell because he is a contrarian jerk), he gets hunted by…something but escapes, his TA is hot, Nick is supposed to help the TA with his paper but he keeps being a horrible teacher. Then some vampire witches appear and threaten/warn him about…something. And that’s when I stopped. I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t care about the hero. Or the fact that the only female characters that had appeared so far were horrible. And the weird forth and back between flowery, almost purple prose in some chapters and dull, functional in others didn’t help either.

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3413543David Dickinson – Death on the Nevskii Prospekt
(Historical Crime)

DNF

Lord Powerscourt is simply an a-ma-zing investigator but sadly his horrible wife has forced him at gunpoint (or at least while he was recuperating from one of the near-fatal wounds he got while being an a-ma-zing investigator) to promise her to give up investigating. Her very unpatriotic reasoning for that is that she would love for her children to not grow up fatherless. Now another mysterious crime has occurred that threatens the world (or at even worse – the British Empire) and only Powerscourt can help. There isn’t a single other capable person in Her Majesty’s service. So the whole first chapter is just a number of more and more important people throwing themselves in front of Powerscourt, begging him to take the case and telling his wife how unpatriotic her silly feelings are.

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OK, I’m not smiling. I’m just furious.


41722254Devan Johnson: Any Other Name
(Historical f/f Romance)

Fly, you fools

A badly formatted and unedited mess. The plot and I’m using that term quite wrongly is incoherent and reads more like multiple one-shots that were glued together. No character has any depth whatsoever. The side-characters are there to tell the main characters how great they are and the main characters seem to love each other because the sex is just so great. The plot-holes have the size of the grand canyon.

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39345944KJ Charles: Band Sinister
(Historical m/m romance)

Not my cup of Regency Tea

I’ve always loved Georgette Heyer and KJ Charles, but this book made me realize that I enjoyed both for very different reasons. The couples in Charles’ books usually both have experience. Perhaps not always on the romantic front but certainly on the sexual one. The romantic troubles they face are rooted in more than their lack of communication and they usually have bigger problems anyway (killers/demons out to get them, getting framed for murder etc.)
Heyer, on the other hand, is light-hearted, humorous, and the reasons that the couple can’t get together often involve miscommunication and/or horrible relatives. Now, Heyer usually manages to portray even the dreaded miscommunication in a way that doesn’t annoy me. The reasons the couple can’t (or won’t) talk to each other make sense and she usually writes with a twinkling eye that says “Yeah, they are a bit stupid but aren’t we all sometimes?”
KJ Charles manages to imitate all that perfectly. Some of the problems the couple face, are quite ridiculous – at least if you look at them from the outside – but it’s believable that for them it is a big deal. But at the same time, I kept thinking “Other KJ Charles-characters would be so much more reasonable about all of this.” Which is unfair of me. After all, it still works. I just don’t like it
I had also known from the blurb that this novel would feature a virgin hero. And just like the misunderstandings, the issue isn’t drawn out. There’s no panicked yelling of “But I’m not gay!” Guy soon admits that he always had certain urges, but he suppressed them. So, he quickly loses all objections to some sexy-times. And unlike many other virgin hero(ines), he doesn’t just lean back and lets the experienced partner take charge. He learns quickly (very quickly but which romance-character doesn’t?) and soon experiments and figures out his own wishes. And all of that is great, except that it made me realise I don’t care much for the Virgin!hero(ine) trope. So all in all this book isn’t bad, it just didn’t really work for me.

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Richard Hull: Excellent Intentions

40409285Title: Excellent Intension
Author: Richard Hull

Great Barwick’s least popular man is murdered on a train. Twelve jurors sit in court. Four suspects are identified – but which of them is on trial? 

This novel has all the makings of a classic murder mystery, but with a twist: as Attorney-General Anstruther Blayton leads the court through prosecution and defence, Inspector Fenby carries out his investigation. All this occurs while the identity of the figure in the dock is kept tantalisingly out of reach. 

Rating: B-

“If you ask my quite unofficial opinion, plenty of people richly deserve to be murdered nowadays and far too few of them actually get bumped off.”

The book is advertised as a crime novel that’s not (quite) like the other crime novels and at first, it is very unlike others. The book starts with the trial and we learn a few things about the judge, the prosecutor and the lawyer. But nothing about the person who’s on trial. They’re only referred to as ‘the accused’ or ‘the defendant’. Then the trial opens, and the first witness gets called: the man who saw the victim taking some snuff and then collapsing. First, he is questioned by a prosecutor who likes long words and run-on sentences, then by the defence who desperately tries to confuse the witness enough to make him doubt his memory – because if the things didn’t happen the way he described it would be advantageous for the defendant.
But then the novel takes a turn. The rest of the investigation isn’t told through the trial. The story jumps back, and we see the investigation unfold in a quite traditional manner: The inspector questions the suspects and reconstructs they day of the murder to figure out when the poison could have been put in the snuff-box. This investigation takes up most of the book and doesn’t read much different than any other ‘typical’ crime novel. The only difference is that there’s no big reveal of the culprit in the library. Instead, it jumps back to the trial and that’s where we learn who was the only person who could have poisoned the snuff and how the inspector figured it out.

It’s not that I’m complaining about that. With the prosecutor and his love for wordiness (I got traumatic flashbacks to reading The Moonstone from just the few pages) the whole story would have been near-unreadable if it was all told via the trial. But the blurb (and Martin Edward’s introduction) advertised quite aggressively how different the story is told in this book when, in reality, it is told quite normally and mostly just plays around with the chronology.

Will I read more by the author? Definitely. The story itself has a fair share of wit and humour. I wouldn’t go so far as saying that it’s a parody, but it doesn’t take itself completely seriously. There’s the victim who was horrible and hated everyone so much that he even wanted his money to go to a place where it did ‘the least amount of good’ and therefore decides to leave it to the state. The remaining characters aren’t quite as exaggerated but there’s still a bumbling vicar, a hyper-competent assistant, an ominous butler and a stupid gardener.

ARC provided by NetGalley

Mini Reviews – August 2018

I don’t always get round to write long reviews for everything so:

Cover: The House of Shattered WingsAliette de Bodard – The House of Shattered Wings (Dominion of the Fallen #1)

It’s not me it’s you

It’s not a bad book. In fact, the prose is beautiful and I definitely want to check out more by the author.
But it has a very strong post-apocalyptic feel to it. True, it’s fantasy with angels and magic but there are regular references to the Big Event That Changed Everything. Society has pretty much collapsed and it’s survival of the strongest (or survival of those who are protected by the strongest).
I just can’t get into post-apocalyptic stuff at all. And this book won’t change it.

 

35068705

R.F. Kuang – The Poppy War

Same.

This book just combined several of my pet peeves: it starts off very YA-ish with a special child who goes to a magical school, makes a friend but also an arch-nemesis and so on. But at the same time, it also likes reminding us how Dark And Gritty everything is (LOOK! He killed the child because he didn’t want to pay for the rest of his life for injuring it!) Now I don’t mind grittiness in general. Or special children. But I guess the combination is getting on my nerves? Or the audiobook was a bad idea because if I just could skim-read the boarding school parts it might have been better? I have been assured that after about a third the book gets away from the school but I couldn’t even get that far.

 

Melissa Scott & Lisa A. Barnett – Point of Dreams (Astreiant #3)

I’m getting addicted to this series.

I am not a big fan of mysteries where stubborn higher-ups want to stop the detective from investigating a murder because of reason/politics/whatever and they get into more and more trouble because they, of course, investigate anyway. And Point of Dreams started with exactly such a situation which is why I had a hard time getting into it at first. But Rathe got quickly distracted by other murders (lots of them) he was actually supposed to investigate and the first murder was pushed into the background.

The plot about the theatre murders was then really intriguing (and of course since this is a mystery…are perhaps all murders connected? I couldn’t possibly say). I also enjoyed how it got deeper into the magic of Astreiant and showed more of it since so far I had very little sense of how it works.

I also read Salt Magic, Skin Magic and reviewed it over at Love in Panels. (Short version: go and read it)

Maggie Robinson: Nobody’s Sweetheart Now

39970739Title: Nobody’s Sweetheart Now
Author: Maggie Robinson
Series: Lady Adelaide Mysteries #1

Lady Adelaide Compton has recently (and satisfactorily) interred her husband, Major Rupert Charles Cressleigh Compton, hero of the Somme, in the family vault in the village churchyard.

Rupert died by smashing his Hispano-Suiza on a Cotswold country road while carrying a French mademoiselle in the passenger seat. With the house now Addie’s, needed improvements in hand, and a weekend house party underway, how inconvenient of Rupert to turn up! Not in the flesh, but in – actually, as a – spirit. Rupert has to perform a few good deeds before becoming welcomed to heaven – or, more likely, thinks Addie, to hell.

Before Addie can convince herself she’s not completely lost her mind, a murder disrupts her careful seating arrangement. Which of her twelve houseguests is a killer? Her mother, the formidable Dowager Marchioness of Broughton? Her sister Cecilia, the born-again vegetarian? Her childhood friend and potential lover, Lord Lucas Waring? Rupert has a solid alibi as a ghost and an urge to detect.

Enter Inspector Devenand Hunter from the Yard, an Anglo-Indian who is not going to let some barmy society beauty witnessed talking to herself derail his investigation. Something very peculiar is afoot at Compton Court and he’s going to get to the bottom of it – or go as mad as its mistress trying.

Rating: B

This was delightful. I loved every single character; they are quirky but don’t turn into annoying caricatures. This made me especially happy because many of the more light-hearted mysteries overdo the quirkiness. Especially the main character’s family members are often more exhausting than amusing. Here Addies’s mother (and to an extent also Devenand’s parents) are meddling – in the time-honoured tradition of parents in cozy mysteries – but it never goes so far that I wanted to yell at them for interfering so much.

Rupert’s ghost was a fun addition to the story in the sense that I enjoyed his interactions with Addie and how his past serial cheating was dealt with. He now regrets it and explains it with the fact that after fighting in the war he couldn’t cope with the quietness of a peaceful life and was looking for new excitement. The book treads a fine line between explaining his actions without completely excusing his behaviour. However, for most of the book, his presence had very little influence on the plot. He does help with finding one clue but it wouldn’t have taken them that long to find that out without him*. Then, at the end of the book, it seems as if the author remembered that she should perhaps do something more with that ghost and he finally gets to do something – after everybody acted quite idiotic so that a situation could be created in which he had to act heroically.

The victim is a woman who is also a serial cheater and while at first, it seems as if nobody liked her and that she was an unlikeable character all-around, she also gets more depth over the course of the investigation. Similarly to Rupert, her actions aren’t excused but we are shown that there were people who cared about her.

I am very curious about how this series will continue. Will Rupert return or will Addie meet a new ghost?

 

*Well and he helps Addie to hide her dildo. No, really. Did I mention that I enjoyed this book a lot?