Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review #45 – Where Death Delights by Bernard Knight

The author of this book (and the others in the series) is a Welsh forensic pathologist, like his main character, Richard Pryor. Right now there are three books, I’ve read them all, and I giggled every time I thought of the American version doing and saying what the book version did. I’m easily amused.

So, it’s the early 1950s in England and Wales. Dr. Pryor was a medic and pathologist in the war, and worked in the Far East as a pathologist and professor. He returns to Wales after inheriting some property, and goes into the freelance pathology business with a woman biologist he met at a conference. They move into the house and set up shop with Sian, a local girl who does chemical testing.

The interesting thing about these books is that while (at least so far) the pathology folks help solve the crimes, the book also follows the cops and the investigation, and the cops do all the sleuthing for the most part. No one is ever in peril, which made for a nice change in books like this. They’re typical cozy mysteries, in Post-War Great Britain. Of course there are baddies, and murders, and good detailed explanations of the whole pathology thing. And a terrible attempt at banter – but that’s no surprise either, considering the age of the author.

In this one, the group helps determine whether a woman drowned by accident or was murdered. The story isn’t a barn-burner, but it was interesting enough to keep me going, and to bring me to the next two books. If you like basic cozies, you could do worse than this series.

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Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review # 44 – The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

I do love my Agatha Christie novels. I kind of feel like I need to go back and re-watch the Dr. Who episode with her in it, even though the whole premise was pretty silly.

Anyway, this one’s a Miss Marple (which makes me want to go back and re-watch “Murder by Death,” with Miss Marbles and her nurse) from 1942. The story begins with the discovery of a BODY IN THE LIBRARY – a young lady who is a total stranger to everyone in the house. The library also belongs to Colonel and Dolly Bantry, good friends of Miss Jane Marple. The young lady is done up like a tart, which eventually leads to some not so nice rumours about the Colonel (not true, of course). There’s a new guy in town who works in film, who dates a blonde tart, so he’s of course a suspect. But his blonde tart is alive and well. This girl may turn out to be Ruby Keene, a dancer at a hotel (back when people touched when they danced, and not in the grindy twerky way). She’s identified by her cousin, who seems more angry than sad about this.

Ruby had just been taken under the wing of a wealthy widower, who is staying at the hotel with his son-in-law (widower as well) and daughter-in-law (widow) – they’re the only family he has left, because his wife, son and daughter were killed in the same accident that crippled him. The widower took a shine to Ruby, because she was a nice naive girl. Turns out he might have been planning to leave her a bunch of money. Meanwhile the in-laws aren’t exactly solvent, and are totally dependent on dad.

Then another young girl turns up missing, and then dead in a burned out car. Miss Marple of course figures out the connection, and the whole thing, while visiting her friends at the fancy hotel and just generally drinking tea and being Marple-y. The twist wasn’t too difficult to figure out, but the story did keep me guessing for most of the time. I always recommend these books, they’re just fun light reads.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review #43 – Austenland by Shannon Hale

Ok, so I’m a little embarrassed about reading this book. But in my defense, it was an airport purchase, and kept me entertained from Tampa to New York. The flight is less than three hours, and I was just about done when we landed. It’s pretty short, but it’s also a breezy read, which makes sense. This isn’t deep stuff, folks; but it is fairly cute-ish. Plus, I adore Keri Russell and Bret Mackenzie, so I’ll likely be seeing the movie when it comes to pay-per-view. Not in the theater, though.

Anyway, Jane Hayes is your typical New York neurotic artsy type underemployed at a magazine of some sort, and obsessed with Mr. Darcy of Pride & Prejudice. Not just Mr. Darcy, but Colin Firth’s Darcy from the BBC miniseries (yes, of course I own a copy on DVD). So her relationships with men aren’t satisfying. She has an elderly aunt who finds out about this, dies, and leaves Jane a trip to an estate in England catering to Austen fanatics. The estate provides a total Austen immersion, apparently at different pricing levels for different sorts of experiences. Jane has the budget trip, of course.

The female visitors to the estate are the paying customers, and it looks like most of the people who interact with the visitors are actors. The question is: is everyone else there aside from Jane and the two other ladies an actor, or are there real people working there too? Jane meets a couple of different men, meets cute (of course), and hijinks ensue. There are also asides between chapters, describing Jane’s love life up to the point where she enters Austenland. I haven’t decided if I liked that part or not, I’m leaning toward thinking it was annoying. Also annoying was a lot of the language – a bit too colloquial and diary-like for my tastes.

But, overall, it’s a fun and quick read, brainless and entertaining. Perfect for an airplane. I’m guessing the movie will be much the same.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review #42 – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I was late to the whole Gone Girl thing. It was one of those books that everyone was reading, which makes me not want to read a book ever. I caved on this one, because everyone was raving about it, and I was curious.

I’m still not sure about whether I liked this book or not. It was certainly a page-turner, very compelling, interesting, and not like anything else I’ve ever read. The problem was (and I’ve heard this about Flynn’s other books as well) that every single person in the book is a total dick. Most people read to get away from shitty people (at least the shitty people we deal with on a daily basis), and the last thing we want to encounter in our leisure hours is a psychopath and her narcissist husband.

Anyway, if you haven’t read this book, stop now & go get it. Also, there may be some spoilers ahead. So – Amy and Nick Dunne. The book is told from both of their points of view – although both narrators are full of themselves, and full of shit. Nick leaves stuff out because he’s non-confrontational and wants everyone to like him. Amy just makes stuff up – I mean, literally. The entire first third of the book is a phenomenal set up – but who’s being set up? Nick? The reader? Everyone? Amy has disappeared on her 5th wedding anniversary, after being dragged from New York to the midwest. Nick thinks Amy has been isolated, and hates everyone and everything. Meanwhile, Amy has been cultivating a different image, outside of Nick’s knowledge. Not that Nick has been paying attention.

There is too much to deal with in this book (definite spoilers ahead – danger to all who have not read this book) – like I said, the first third is a set up. We hear what’s happening to Nick in real time, and hear from Amy in retrospect through her “diary.” So she disappears under mysterious circumstances. Initially people sympathize with Nick, but as we all know – the husband is always the first suspect. It doesn’t help that circumstances conspire to make Nick look as awful as possible. As the investigation progresses, Nick looks worse and worse.

Then we hit the middle third of the book – where we find out what’s really going on. Nick’s still pretty much a douche, but now we meet the real Amy. And hoo boy, is she a piece of work. She hasn’t been murdered, clearly, because now she’s with us. Not only is she alive, but she has orchestrated the whole freaking thing, because Nick has disappointed her. We learn that she has a nasty habit of destroying people who have disappointed her. Amy is awful. She’s evil. She has lied to everyone about everything. One can only hope that what we’re hearing from Amy here is the truth. Not that we want her to be that way, but we do need a reason. The big question is “why is she that way?” Did her parents make her like this – because of the series of “Amazing Amy” books? Or was she just born awful?

The end of the middle, and the final third of the book is full of manipulation. Is Nick manipulating Amy, or vice versa? Or both? The two of them end up playing each other to the point where I had no clue who had the upper hand. The end of the book has caused a lot of consternation, and for good reason. But the buildup to the end makes me think that while Amy has the last word in the book, I don’t believe she had the last word for real. I have partially written the epilogue – at least the epilogue that suits me. The one where the good guys win. Or at least the less bad guys.

One thing that weirded me out is that after all the darkness and borderline evil of the book, the author’s notes and dedications part reads like a high school yearbook. It was odd and strange, and didn’t feel like it meshed with the rest of the book. I still have to recommend this book, because it’s incredibly well-written and because it’s well outside the norm. You may not like anyone involved, but the story is compelling enough to make up for its characters’ flaws.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review #41 – Pride & Prejudice & Zombies – Dreadfully Ever After by Steve Hockensmith

I’m not sure if P&P&Z was intended to be a trilogy, or if there are any more books forthcoming, but I certainly wouldn’t protest if there were more in the pipeline. The further adventures of Lizzy and Darcy, along with the rest of the Bennett gang and the nasty Lady Catherine de Bourgh are always entertaining, at least when a plague of the undead is involved.

Here, we pick up four years or so after the events of P&P&Z, with Lizzie and Darcy having some marital issues. Lizzie hasn’t been able to work as a zombie slaying warrior woman since they were married, because that’s not what respectable married ladies do. Jane & Bingley keep having kids, whilst the Darcys haven’t been able to – although given Lizzie’s thoughts on the subject, maybe she’s just been able to shut the whole thing down. Darcy gets bitten by a zombie kid, and is infected with the dreadful disease. Lizzie has nowhere to turn for help, except to the one person she doesn’t want to turn to: Lady Catherine. But she loves Darcy too much to just behead him and have done with it, so she makes a deal with the devil and off Darcy goes to Rosings Park.

Lady Catherine has a mission for Lizzie, as well as Mr. Bennett and Kitty, in London. Mary gets wind of it, and heads there on her own. The doctor who runs Bedlam Hospital may have a cure for the dreadful zed disease, and Lizzie is supposed to get it for Darcy. London has been divided into sectors, some of which are reasonably safe, and some of which are hells on earth. Lizzie and family are undercover as nouveau riche, and fall in with an interesting crowd.

The usual story happens from there, with the wit and subversion that one expects from the Quirk Classics. Anyway, at the end, most of the bad people are dead in some way, and Lizzie and Darcy are back together again, and killing all the zombies they can manage. Kitty finally gets some respect, and even Mary gets kind of what she wants.

Every time I read one of these books, I end up kicking myself for not thinking of it first. The idea was brilliant, and the execution of the series lived up to the promise of the premise. Guess it’s on to Sense & Sensibility and Sea Monsters after this.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review #40 – The Grim Grotto by Lemony Snicket

Almost there. . . . Book 11 of 13 finds the Baudelaires in peril once again. Of course. They literally bump into a home-made submarine, driven by Captain Widdershins. I had to look that one up, because the term sounded familiar. I was right – it means to go counterclockwise, or against the sun. In olden times it was a bad thing to walk widdershins around a church or in other places. To do so could land one in faerie, or even worse. Foreshadowing, or just goofing around? Good question. The Captain is kind of a jerk, who says “aye” all too often and whose motto is “he (or she) who hesitates is lost.”

Also aboard is a guy the kids knew at the lumbermill they worked at in one of the earlier books. He’s the ship’s cook. The Captain’s stepdaughter Fiona is there too, and she and Klaus take a shine to one another. The sub (the Queequeg – named after the Moby Dick harpoon guy) is looking for a sugar bowl that is an object of much desire and pursuit, by the good and the bad guys. They end up following the currents to an underground cave, to Gorgonion Grotto – named after the Gorgons of Greek mythology. Why? Well, there are some mushrooms growing there that are very Medusa-like in appearance and deadliness.

The kids hit the grotto to try to find the sugar bowl, encounter the ‘shrooms, and bad things happen. As ever. This isn’t the series of fortunate events. Anyway, the usual baddies make their appearance, and some unknown family ties are revealed. The book is exactly the same as all the others, with slight variations on the peril. It’s still an entertaining read, but I need to take a break before I tackle the last two.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review #39 – Pride & Prejudice & Zombies – Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith

I really enjoyed P&P&Z, and was pleased to find that there were more (yes, I’m way behind on this stuff, but I’m trying to catch up, give an old lady a break). Dawn of the Dreadfuls is the prequel, telling us all about how the Bennett girls became the fierce warriors that they are in between the lines in Austen’s novel. We learn a bit about what went before, and how Mr. Bennett was involved in the initial zombie wars.

There has been a period of peace and rest, and England has returned to normal. They’ve even stopped beheading all of the dead – which was a bad move. No one knows how the strange plague has returned, but it has. Lizzie and the gang first experience this at the funeral of a local man, who sits up in the middle of the ceremony. His wife thinks that he was declared dead prematurely, but Mr. Bennett knows what’s up. He deals with this one, and realizes that soon enough the rest of the dead will be rising. He sends word to everyone who needs to know, including his old master as well as the army.

The army sends a rag-tag group of novices, led by an armless, legless Captain Cannon. He lost his limbs to zombie injuries in the war, and somehow lost his heart to Prudence (who became Mrs. Bennett). Master Liu sends Geoffrey Hawksworth to train the Bennett girls. Geoff takes a fancy to Lizzie, and vice versa. He’s a great teacher, but his battle skills haven’t been tested.

The smashing finale is at a ball at Netherfield, its owner prior to Mr. Bingley still in residence. Lord Lumpley has earned his name, and then some. He also earned his end, so to speak. All the townspeople are holed up in the big house, which is surrounded by zombies. No big spoilers to say that the Bennett family lives through it, otherwise there wouldn’t be any more books.

Like P&P&Z, Dawn of the Dreadfuls is a fun read. Maybe Austen purists are bothered by it, but as a huge Austenite, I really enjoy the off-shoots. At least the well-written ones.