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Readingomnivore Reviews

Discussion in 'Book Reviews' started by readingomnivore, Mar 25, 2014.

  1. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    UNDER THE HARVEST MOON is Sophia Lynbrook's recent variation on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was released in digital format in 2018.

    Mr. Bennet is excited at the news that Charles Bingley will be installed at Netherfield before Michaelmas. This year's annual harvest dance is scheduled for Longbourn the first full moon following Michaelmas, but Mr. Bennet has high hopes of persuading Bingley to host it instead. Time is short but, with Mrs. Bennet's enthusiastic help and his instant infatuation with Jane Bennet, Bingley is up to the task. Things, however, go awry. Darcy and Bingley's sisters arrive ahead of schedule, all critical of such a democratic social occasion; Lady Catherine picks up gossip that Darcy is engaged to Caroline Bingley and descends to forbid the marriage, accompanied by Anne and by Collins; a militia regiment establishes camp in Meryton for the winter; and Anne manages her own romance.

    UNDER THE HARVEST MOON is one of the better written fan fiction variants of 2018. Lynbrook compresses the action into a few weeks, making for a swift flow and allowing for little angst. Much of the harvest dance is a comedy of errors as various characters seek to find or to avoid confrontations. Humor abounds. I appreciate the irony of Lady Catherine and the special license, though it's not plausible.

    Characters are faithful to Austen's creations, though Elizabeth and Darcy are both more flexible in their thinking, willing to reassess their conclusions and acknowledge their feelings easily. Collins is more bumptious, and Anne reveals elements of character previously concealed.

    Editing is good. A few anachronistic words are not offensive. The biggest problem is the appearance in the sky with the harvest moon, of the Great Comet, generally referring to Halley's Comet. The nineteenth-century appearance of Halley's Comet was not until 1835. Otherwise, a solid read. (A-)
     
  2. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    LEGEND OF THE DEAD is the first book in Micah S. Hackler's police procedural series featuring Sheriff Cliff Lansing of San Phillipe County, New Mexico. It was published in digital format in 1995.

    I give up on LEGEND OF THE DEAD halfway through. What's wrong? The plot has been often used--a land swap between the Bureau of Land Management and the Zuni Nation that imperils a major unreported Anasazi city, pot-hunting Native American sites, crooked businessmen and politicians, and estranged daughter-father relations.

    Sense of place is not much developed. A map would be helpful. Writing is almost exclusively subject-verb-object simple declarative sentences. Frequent cuts between characters make for choppy reading.

    Lack of characterization bothers me most. Hackler gives few details about Lansing, and only three Sheriff's Department personnel are named. Senator Carter Williston is first depicted as a typical sleazy politician, but halfway through, he's morphing into a good guy. No explanation for the change is given. Characters remain mere names.

    No grade because not finished.
     
  3. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    "A Little Whimsical in His Civilities" is J. Maria Croft's short story variant of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Croft opens its action at the Meryton assembly one year after Darcy and Bingley attend the original. Darcy is its first person narrator. The story was published in digital format in 2015.

    I do not like the Darcy Croft develops. When the action opens, Darcy's attitude seems unchanged: "This is precisely what comes from presenting a convivial countenance. Now I am obliged to swallow my pride and make the supreme sacrifice of stooping, I mean stopping to chat with a merchant. Not that it matters he is but a low-born tradesman. I am, after all, above such prejudice since becoming on good terms with Mr. Gardiner." His willingness to judge himself superior and to disparage his perceived competition for Elizabeth with Shakespearean insults casts doubt on his sincere change, especially when he morphs from boorish and tongue-tied to happy and articulate instantly when Elizabeth encourages him.

    "A Little Whimsical in His Civilities" offers little new. (C)
     
  4. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    HEARTSHOT is the first book in Steven F. Havill's long-running Posadas County police procedural series featuring Undersheriff Bill Gastner. It was originally published in 1991, then reissued in digital format in 2012.

    HEARTSHOT opens with change under way in the Posadas County, New Mexico, Sheriff's Department. Marty Holman, the newly elected sheriff, is a former used car salesman with no experience in law enforcement, and Undersheriff Gsstner, after twenty years in the r'Air Force and twenty more in the department, is uncertain about his future. When five teenagers are killed in a horrific automobile accident while fleeing a non-pursuing police car, Gastner is surprised to find a kilo of cocaine in the car. To whom did it belong, and whence did it come? Following the drugs leads to more deaths and a larger problem than envisioned.

    The Posadas County is one of my favorites, so I was pleased when I discovered several early titles I'd overlooked. Gastner as first person narrater is key to the sense of Posadas County as a real place with with details of local history as well as physical feature. "Posadas needed all the color it could get, since it wasn't more than a scruffy wide spot, a watering hole for tourists hurrying to get somewhere else. July Fourth was a big shindig, with the parade officially opening the holiday arts and crafts fair in the small town square. For two days the law turned its back on alcoholic beverages in public places and the aroma of Indian fry bread became so thick it blanked out even the red dust."

    Gastner is also the linchpin of the Sheriff's Department, overseeing the daily workings of its personnel. Havill creates a community of believable individuals, all of whom (including the sheriff) Gastner mentors. He's been around forever, seen most everything and dealt with it, and still is a compassionate man with a dry, self-deprecating sense of humor.

    If you haven't read this series, HEARTSHOT is a great beginning.
     
  5. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    THE BELL is Mary Lydon Simonsen's novella-length variation on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2019. I am definitely old-school, believing that a variant should somehow offer some new understanding of character or action to justify the time required both to write and to read it. I was disappointed in THE BELL.

    One of the two essential changes to the story line involves Darcy's continuation in a case of mistaken identity when his steward Flitter is mistaken for himself while inspecting Netherfield for Charles Bingley. The second involves Mrs. Darlington, anxious to have Bingley sign the lease on Netherfield, who plans a select card party to introduce the young man to the neighborhood and devises a novel means of insuring that each young lady spends time in his company. Naturally, nothing goes to plan. Elements of humor offer some relief, but there's little to offer suspense or drama.

    The lead characters are dramatically changed. Georgiana has set Darcy straight on his perceived behavior and attitude, so he's amiable, jokes, and immediately pursues Elizabeth Bennet. No angst over her connections, family, or lack of dowry, so no hurt feelings for Elizabeth. She thinks the mistaken identity a good joke, so she and Darcy have come to an understanding before the end of the Netherfield ball.

    My complaint is the lack of new insight. (C)
     
  6. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    LEFTY LOOSEY is the latest to date in Ben Rehder's mystery series set in Blanco County, Texas. It was published in digital format in 2018. Game Warden John Marlin and Sheriff Bobby Garza are mentioned, but its protagonists are good ole' boys (semi, sometimes) Red O'Brien and Billy Don Craddock.

    It would be easy to punch logical holes in the action and behaviors in LEFTY LOOSEY, but Rehder makes it easy to suspend disbelief and just enjoy the ride. When a competitor of six-times Spicewood Demolition Derby champion Deke Gilbert sabotages his car and Deke is killed in the ensuing crash, Billy Don insists that he and Red take in Deke's seventeen-year-old daughter Christie, who has nowhere to go except the foster system. So Billy Don and Red become unofficial foster parents. They promise to find out who killed her father. As so often for Red and Billy Don, things get complicated quickly. The mystery element is if and how the killer will be caught.Humor and irony abound. Sense of place is good.

    Characterization is strong in Rehder's series, and LEFTY LOOSEY is no exception. One of the interesting aspects of the series has been the evolution of Red and Billy Don from petty criminal, ignorant red-necks into individuals with some hidden talents, back stories that help explain their personalities, and sometimes decent instincts and behaviors. I recommend reading the series in order if possible, to appreciate Rehder's skill in making them complex individuals.

    LEFTY LOOSEY (a reference to the tighten-loosen rhyme about lug nuts) is well worth the time. (B+)
     
  7. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    TO CONQUER PRIDE is Jennifer Altman's novel-length variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    Altman makes significant changes to both original story and characters in TO CONQUER PRIDE. It opens in November, seven months after Darcy's rejected proposal to Elizabeth at Hunsford and extends for at least ten more months. She sets up a classic compromise situation with Darcy and Elizabeth traveling together unchaperoned, injured in carriage accident, and stranded alone overnight in a deserted cottage. But they escape detection, both recover (though suffering from PTSD), meeting again months later only by accident in London when Georgiana and Elizabeth become acquainted. Massive complications ensue as Lydia become embroiled in a hasty marriage with a militia officer, Elizabeth overhears Darcy's refusal to marry her in case the accident becomes public knowledge, and she and the Gardiners visit Pemberley, where Georgiana becomes dangerously ill. It's definitely a Days of Our Lives version of Austen.

    The book carries on far too long, combining the detail of slice of life with highly dramatic events that are tangential to the main story line. Georgina's illness sets up as a chance for Darcy to be jealous of a handsome young doctor rather than essential to the Elizabeth-Darcy relationship. The narrative is angst-ridden, the same regrets over and over. Judicious editing is needed.

    The problem is that the angst is self-imposed by Darcy and Elizabeth. Both are Olympic athletes in making assumptions and jumping to conclusions, neither very perceptive about the other's motivation and behavior, each too proud to communicate openly. I know the Regency observed different patterns of male-female communication, but by any standards, both Elizabeth and Darcy are muddle-headed, fooling themselves as well as each other.

    There are definite positives. The material is well-edited, while the changed story lines have real possibilities. Bingley's character is pleasantly strengthened, with Wickham dismissed early and permanently to America. Georgiana's illness and its effect on Darcy and Elizabeth's relationship deserves more attention. (B)
     
  8. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    MALCOLM SAGE, DETECTIVE, is Herbert George Jenkins's post-WWI book featuring Malcolm Sage, late of HMS Department Z (Secret Service), who's set up by former superiors and mentors as a private detective. It was reissued in digital format in 2012.

    Malcolm Sage bears a distinct resemblance to Sherlock Holmes, though Jenkins uses a third-person omniscient narrator. Sage is distinctive in appearance, concentrates on forensic evidence and deduction from observation of the scene. Like Holmes, in dealing with presumptuous "superiors" he shows little deference and follows the case wherever the evidence leads. He works with and praises Scotland Yard, though he thinks it is not up to date. Much of MALCOLM SAGE, DETECTIVE, is taken up with establishing the personnel of his agency: secretary Gladys Norman, personal assistant James Thompson, office boy William Johnson, and chauffeur Arthur (Jim?) Tims. They are mostly stereotypes.

    Action in MALCOLM SAGE, DETECTIVE, is a recounting of several of the first cases presented to the agency: the locked-room murder of Geoffrey Challoner, animal mutilations in Surrey, theft of vital plans from the home of First Lord of the Admiralty Sir Lyston Grayne, theft of Lady Glandale's jewels, the strange death of Sir James McMurray, anonymous letters in the "Gylston Scandal," and Charley Burns's disappearance the day before his bout for the heavyweight boxing championship of the world. Several of the stories, all of which could be published as stand-alone short stories, echo Holmes tales, while Dr. McMurray recalls Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. An experienced reader should have little trouble discerning the offender and the motive well in advance of Sage.

    Editing is good. MALCOLM SAGE, DETECTIVE, is a cozy read very much a reflection of its era, including allusions and epithets most now consider offensive. (C)
     
  9. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    HENRY is Christie Capps's novella-length adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, opening the morning after the Meryton assembly. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    Henry is Darcy's Border collie puppy whose chance encounter with Elizabeth on her early morning walk leads to other meetings in which each's perception of the other is changed. Henry's reaction to George Wickham greatly influences Elizabeth's beliefs about both men. Henry literally throws Darcy into Elizabeth's arms.

    It's a cute story, a quick read, little angst. Characters are faithful to the originals, with few new insights. Editing is good. My complaint is the long excerpts from the novel Elizabeth is reading, The Thorn and the Rose, in which she sees parallels between the relationship of its protagonists and herself with Darcy. (A-)
     
  10. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    TWICE BURIED is the third book in Steven F. Havill's long-running Posadas County series. It was published in print and digital formats in 1994.

    The week before Christmas, Undersheriff Bill Gastner and the Posadas County Sheriff's Department deals with minor problems. Gastner's most concerned with the upcoming christening of his godson Francis Carlos Guzman, offspring of his protege Estelle Reyes-Guzman. Deputy Robert Torrez works to clear a series of burglaries that's gone on since summer. Elderly Anna Hocking, lonely for human contact, reports strange noises for investigation. But when Gastner answers her latest call, he finds her dead at the bottom of her cellar stairs under mysterious circumstances. Then Estelle's ninety-year-old great-uncle Reuben Fuentez is reported carrying a weapon; his dogs have been poisoned, and he believes real-estate developer Stuart Torkelson, with whom he'd had an altercation the previous week over trespass, responsible. When Torkelson's body is found in the disputed pasture, Reuben is the obvious suspect. Or is more going on?

    The Posadas County books are one of the strongest and most long-running modern series, for several reasons. One is Bill Gastner as the first person narrator, a strong story-telling voice, and an attractive protagonist. Already retirement age, he's a consummately professional lawman with a self-deprecating sense of humor. Havill surrounds Gastner with a believable law enforcement community, definitely one in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. TWICE BURIED is admirably restrained in restricting characters to those essential to this plot--few tangentials. Because it is so character driven, it's good to read the series in order, if possible.

    TWICE BURIED's plot follows a familiar pattern: Gastner and the department work a series of apparently unrelated, often minor crimes, to discover unexpected ramifications and connections. Havill is scrupulously fair about disclosing evidence as it emerges and foreshadowing, which is satisfying.

    I enjoy the skill with which Havill establishes Posadas County as an authentic place, using both physical landscape and local history to lend verisimilitude. TWICE BURIED is first-rate. (flat A)
     
  11. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    SMOKY DREAMS is Jaeza Rayleigh's recent novel-length variation on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    Opening some three weeks after the Bingley party's abrupt departure from Netherfield, Fitzwilliam Darcy experiences a dream that contrasts the pollution of London and the values of the Ton with the cleaner atmosphere and friendlier people of Hertfordshire and Derbyshire. He feels guilt over his part in separating Charles Bingley and Jane Bennet, over not having dealt effectively with George Wickham, and over in his handling of sister Georgiana after Ramsgate. Determined to make amends, he and Bingley return to Meryton, where Darcy learns from the local magistrate Mr. Archer exactly how reprehensible its inhabitants think them. Each is eager to redeem his reputation and to court his chosen Bennet sister.

    The action is slice of life, daily activities as the men strive to reestablish themselves in Hertfordshire. SMOKY DREAMS is told from Darcy's point of view. He is reasonably faithful to Austen, though his reformation is triggered by his dream, not by her condemnation. Bingley is stronger than his original, dealing decisively with Caroline when he discovers her full perfidy. Rayleigh add satisfying traits to both Mrs. Bennet and Lydia.

    The problem is, the plot line is diffused. The first half of SMOKY DREAMS recounts Darcy's interaction with Elizabeth, the Bennets, and the neighborhood, to New Year's Eve when Elizabeth accepts his courtship. Then all the autumn's actions are recounted by Darcy to Colonel Fitzwilliam in a long letter in which he conceals identities with names and allusions from Greek and Roman mythology. When he arrives in Meryton, the colonel summarizes the action to prove he understands what's happened to Darcy. Once is quite enough, thank you.

    In the second half, the plot wanders into Colonel Fitzwilliam's finding a wife, Anne's freeing herself and Rosings from Lady Catherine's domination, both Anne and Georgiana's benefiting from interaction with the Bennets, and Mrs. Bennet's elaborate wedding preparations. Again, action is almost day by day in detail, ending with the triple wedding on February 12. The epilogue some ten years later covers every major character, plus his or her descendants. Rayeigh includes interesting developments, but the second half loses focus.

    Still, SMOKY DREAMS is one of the better-written Austen variants. (A-)
     
  12. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    Myles Dungan's THE STEALING OF THE IRISH CROWN JEWELS was originally published in 2003 and was reissued in digital format in 2013.

    THE STEALING OF THE IRISH CROWN JEWELS is an account of the theft discovered 6 July 1907 of the insignia of the Grand Master of the Order of St Patrick, unofficially known as the "crown jewels of Ireland" from the safe of the Office of Arms in Bedford Tower, Dublin Castle. The official valuation of the stolen items was £31,050; a more realistic figure was £50,000, with a current value greater than £1,000,000. The jewels were never recovered, and no arrests were ever made. Mungan discusses the background of the Office and its personnel, the discovery and subsequent investigation of the theft, government inquiries and publicity involving the case, and concludes with a brief discussion of theories of the unsolved crime.

    The jewels were under the guardianship of Sir Arthur Vicars, Ulster King of Arms, head of the official heraldry office for Ireland. Operating in the most securely guarded area of Dublin, he had a hand-picked cadre of subordinates but was, from all evidence, less than an effective administrator. In 1903, a strongroom to contain the regalia, other artifacts, and rare books and manuscripts was specially constructed, intended to include the actual safe in which the regalia would be housed. However, the safe would not fit through the door and, instead of replacing the safe or widening the strongroom door, the safe remained in the Office of Arms library that also served as its reception room. At least four keys to the safe and seven latchkeys to the front door of Bedford Tower were in circulation. Security was lax to nonexistent, and warnings of unauthorized entries made by the cleaner Mrs. Mary Farrell before discovery of the theft were ignored. The exact date of the theft is unknown. The regalia was discovered missing 6 July, but the last time the jewels were seen intact in the safe was 11 June 1907.

    With a complex timeline, an abundant cast of characters, and intricacies of Irish and English politics in 1907, it's impossible to summarize THE STEALING OF THE IRISH CROWN JEWELS in any meaningful way. Evidence pointed to inside aid in the theft. Investigation soon uncovered evidence of widespread homosexual activities involving Dublin Herald Francis Shackleton (brother of explorer Ernest Shackleton) and his close friend Captain Richard Gorges; Athlone Pursuivant Francis Bennet Goldney, mayor of Canterbury, England; Lord Haddo, son and heir of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland Lord Aberdeen; Lord Ronald Gower, youngest son of the Duke of Sutherland, and Frank Hird, whom Gower legally adopted as an already-adult son; and the Duke of Argyll, brother-in-law of King Edward VII, among others. Prevention of scandal became at least as important as discovering the thieves and recovering the jewels.

    I became interested when I viewed a recent episode of Legend Hunter, Pat Spain's "unsolved mystery" series on the Travel Channel. Spain concluded that Frank Shackleton was most probably behind the theft, despite the lack of physical evidence. Mungan discusses briefly eight theories of the crime, including involvement of Irish Nationalists or Irish Unionists, but also concludes on Shackleton as the organizer and Gorges as the thief, based largely on the accusations of Vicars and his half-brother Pierce O'Mahony.

    Two complaints only about THE STEALING OF THE IRISH CROWN JEWELS. One is the lack of graphics. I would like to see photographs of those involved, and a diagram of the Bedford Tower and Office of Arms would be helpful. The other is that formatting changes do not differentiate quotations from reports, newspapers, and correspondence from Mungan's text. Mungan includes a cast of Dramatis Personae, a thorough time line, and notes on sources. His writing style is accessible. His conclusions seem reasonable. (A)
     
  13. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    DARCY'S ANGEL is Jennifer Kay's novel-length varian on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    Kay's major change is to begin the story in 1806, three days after the death of George Darcy, when Fitzwilliam Darcy is 23 years old and Georgiana eleven. After losing their mother some five years earlier, both are devastated by their father's death, Georgiana repeatedly hysterical that she may lose her brother as well. They remove to London for Darcy to tend to business and to provide activities for Georgiana. In the meantime, Thomas Bennet sends sixteen-year-old Elizabeth and thirteen-year-old Kitty to stay in London for an indefinite period with Lady Amelia Lee, Dowager Countess of Lichfield. His wife and remaining other daughters are gravely ill at Longbourn. Even after Mrs. Bennet's death and the eventual recovery of his daughters, he does not permit Elizabeth and Kitty to return, wanting them to remain in London where Lady Lichfield will prepare them for a wider society than Hertfordshire. Hurt by her father's refusal to allow her to come home, Elizabeth meets the Darcys in Hyde Park and develops a mutually beneficial friendship with Georgiana, eventually winning Darcy's heart.

    Making the protagonists younger offers a different set of reasons for their confused behavior and attitudes, but much of the story echoes situations in the original. For example, with the aid of Georgiana's companion Mrs. Younge, Wickham kidnaps Elizabeth for revenge and ransom instead of going after Georgiana. This earlier dating, however, makes Charles Bingley eighteen years old, already controlling the famiiy business and falling in love with every pretty woman he meets; he's not yet of age when he meets and marries Jane Bennet. Elizabeth is married at seventeen.

    Several problems bother me. One is the illness at Longbourn that moves Elizabeth and Kitty to London. It's neither named nor described, only indicated as highly contagious. Details of the childhood friendship between Thomas Bennet and Lady Lichfield are vague, as are the circumstances of his marriage to Fanny Gardiner, while the epilogue raises questions about the ages of Thomas Bennet and Lady Lichfield. Even by the socially strict Lady Lichfield, observance of Regency rules of propriety between unmarried men and women is inconsistent; several potentially compromising situations are ignored, as are the conventions for social activities for schoolroom girls. Overhearing others' private conversations underlies many of Elizabeth and Darcy's actions and attitudes. Written in slice-of-life, almost daily detail, DARCY'S ANGEL includes episodes that make the book longer than the effective story. (B-/C+)
     
  14. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    THE AFFACOMBE AFFAIR is the second book in Elizabeth Lemarchand's police procedural series featuring Chief Detective Inspector Tom Pollard and Detective Sergeant Toye of New Scotland Yard. Originally published in 1985, it was reissued in digital format in 2018.

    Roy Garnish, owner of Countryside Properties as well as a Mayfair estate agency, has an enviable setup in the small village of Affacombe. He purchased and renovated Affacombe Priory, where he retains the West Wing as a weekend retreat while leasing the remainder of the property to John Ainsworth to house the prosperous Priory School. Garnish and his wife Pamela take almost no part in local society but become involved when Sister Joan Roach, nurse at the school, goes missing and then is found dead at the foot of Monk's Leap. As a friend of the Ainsworths and a keen observer, Olivia Strode becomes involved in the case. Evidence emerges that Sister Roach had been a longtime active blackmailer, one of whose victims had been Barbara Winship, whose daughter Julian Wrey is engaged to Olivia's son David. For what was Barbara being blackmailed? Scotland Yard sends Pollard and Toye to find out.

    As in many police procedurals, the blackmail case takes on unusual ramifications--mysterious cars and truant schoolboys in the night, affairs, long-buried secrets, impersonation, other criminal activities. It's standard format in which the killer is fairly clear with most of the suspense coming from motive and opportunity.

    Setting is not much developed. Characterization is lopsided with emphasis on Olivia Strode, admittedly important but developed far beyond most other major characters, including Pollard and Toye. THE AFFACOMBE AFFAIR is a bland generic. (C)
     
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    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    In 1955 following her death in 1953, James Pope-Hennessy was named official biographer of Queen Mary (of Teck), widow of King George V, mother of Kings Edward VIII (the Duke of Windsor) and George VI, grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II. His research and interviews covered three years; extracts from Queen Mary were serialized in the summer of 1959, and the book was published in October. Pope-Hennessy left a significant archive of interview notes that give information, often personal, not included in the published text. Hugo Vickers, himself a writer and authority on the Royal Family, has edited this archive and published it in digital format in 2018 as THE QUEST FOR QUEEN MARY.

    I expected a revised version of the original biography that incorporated this previously unpublished material. Instead, it is more a set of endnotes meant to be read as a companion to Queen Mary. In Part 1, "The Commission," Vickers sketches the life and work of James Pope-Hennessy, giving a cursory chronology of Queen Mary's life and a family tree (largely illegible on Kindle). Part II consists of the interview notes kept by Pope-Hennessy as annotated by Vickers. Arranged in chronological order, then by name of the source, there is no general index. Reference to individuals by title rather than name is confusing. Vickers does include notes on sources and a bibliography. Pope-Hennessy was thorough in talking with people associated with Queen Mary, though much of the material he elicited is vague gossip.

    One of the most interesting records is the account of his interviews 2-3 November 1957 with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. His opinion of the Duchess was not high: "I should say she was on the whole a stupid woman, with a small petty brain, immense goodwill (une femme de bonne volonté)* and a stern power of concentration. Like her house, she is tremendously American, and specifically Southern--it was like being back in Montgomery, Alabama, without the tree moss." He comments on her unique physical appearance are not kind. Pope-Hennessy is less critical of the Duke, who provided access to his and Queen Mary's correspondence during 1936 (though the Duke denied that he had ever spoken directly with his mother regarding the Abdication crisis) and made surprisingly frank comments on the strained relationships between his parents and within the Royal Family.

    THE QUEST FOR QUEEN MARY is not a unified whole, simply a conglomeration of largely inaccessible information. It does not tempt me to read the original Queen Mary. (F)


    * "a woman of good will"
     
  16. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    HE UNREFORMED MR. DARCY is Lin Mei Wei's novel-length variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    Elizabeth Bennet, on her visit to Charlotte Collins at Hunsford, is deeply worried about Jane. After Charles Bingley's departure from Hertfordshire, James Caruthers, a wealthy but boorish businessman, bad-mannered and a drinker, leased Netherfield and, aided by pressure from Mrs. Bennet, is courting Jane. Jane feels it her duty to accept Caruthers despite her aversion to him, to sacrifice herself for her family's security. Desperate to save Jane, when Darcy proposes marriage, Elizabeth accepts him, though she has grave misgivings based on his derogatory comments on her family and his behavior in Meryton. She has no idea that his profession of love is genuine. Things do not go smoothly as they move toward and into their marriage.

    Characters are reasonably faithful to Austen's originals, though Darcy is unrepentantly arrogant and oblivious to Elizabeth's feelings for much of the story. Elizabeth is more confused, obstinately clinging to her initial assessment of Darcy's character even as she sees behavior indicating her error. They suffer a profound failure to communicate.

    >>>SPOILERS<<<

    Much of the stress in THE UNREFORMED MR. DARCY comes from the actions of Lydia Bennet who, three times, does her best to embroil the Bennet family in scandal. When Darcy and Elizabeth foil her attempt to elope with Wickham, she uses Lizzy's pro/con list about marrying Darcy in an attempt to prevent or to spoil their marriage. Bored when this apparently fails, she sets Jane up to be kidnapped by George Wickham and James Caruthers, to be held for ransom by Darcy and to force Janne's marriage to Caruthers. What infuriates me most is that Lydia is not punished in any significant way for any of her actions. There's only a reference to her possibly being sent to finishing school the next year. Grr!

    Minor problems include whether Mr. Gardiner is present at Darcy's first visit to Elizabeth at Gracechurch Street and whether Darcy rides a mare or a male horse. Jane's crisis following the fire is reminiscent of Marianne Dashwood's illness in Sense and Sensibility. The story is prolonged by three tangential flashbacks, as Darcy recalls his conversation with Caroline Bingley over the inferiority of everything and everyone associated with Hertfordshire and his talk to Charles Bingley that Jane Bennet does not love him but would accept his proposal because pressured by her mother; Bingley tells how he and Darcy met. THE UNREFORMED MR. DARCY would benefit from a thorough edit to focus the story. (B-)
     
  17. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    COMPROMISED COMPROMISE is Timothy Underwood's latest variant to date of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    >>>SPOILERS<<<

    When Elizabeth Bennet trips on a rug while in the library at the Netherfield ball arguing with Fitzwilliam Darcy, he prevents her falling, and they engage in a passionate kiss. Unfortunately, Mrs. Bennet, Charles Bingley, and Sir William Lucas discover them, and Mrs. Bennet immediately announces their upcoming nuptials. Though they are powerfully attracted, Darcy is convinced that Elizabeth and her mother have deliberately staged a compromise to force marriage. He tells Elizabeth so, but insists that his honor demands that he marry her, despite her entrapment, her family's low connections, and their improper behavior. To wed when the bans have been called, the month passes slowly as the couple's feelings for each other increase, though Darcy maintains his ire at being forced into an unequal match. Confessing their love on the eve of their joint wedding with Bingley and Jane, Darcy tells Elizabeth that, despite being in love, he'd never have chosen to marry her. Elizabeth runs away.

    I don't much like Underwood's Darcy, who acts more like a spoiled brat than a grown man. He's paranoid on the subject of fortune hunters; he's incredibly arrogant about his superiority to all things Bennet, including Elizabeth; he shows no consideration for Elizabeth's feelings, presenting himself as the victim of a nefarious plot. He never allows her to forget his great condescension toward an unworthy object. Worst of all, this attitude is hypocritical because he spends all the engagement lusting after Elizabeth and longing for their marriage bed.

    I also dislike Elizabeth's solution to the impasse, to run away and leave no indication of her whereabouts, much reminiscent of Jane Eyre. Her meeting with Georgiana Darcy as she flees is improbable, as is Georgiana's concealing Elizabeth's presence at Pemberley some three weeks or more before Darcy finally returns home in despair.

    Don't get me wrong. A COMPROMISED COMPROMISE is well written; it has interesting changes in story line; the list of characters is restrained. I just don't like Underwood's development of Darcy, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and Mr. Bennet. (B)
     
  18. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    FOOL ERRANT is the first book in Patricia Wentworth's mystery series featuring Benbow Collingwood Horatio Smith. She is best known for her Miss Maud Silver series. Originally published in 1929, FOOL ERRANT was reissued in digital format in 2016.

    Benbow Smith combines characteristics of both Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes with a bit of Lord Peter Wimsey. Independently wealthy, he travels, collects prints, and writes monographs. Some fifteen years before World War I, he wrote an amazingly accurate book forecasting it. During the war, he worked on the Continent presumably in military intelligence. Since, he's maintained some vague connection with the Foreign Office, involved as shown in FOOL ERRANT in counterespionage. His most humanizing characteristic is his affection for a grey and rose parrot named Ananias.

    Much of FOOL ERRANT adheres strictly to the conventions of the crime novel of its time. Hugo Ross, its protagonist, is a down-on-his-luck young man of good birth, desperately in need of a job but with few skill. Told that Ambrose Minstrel, the celebrated eccentric inventor designing a radically superior airplane, needs a secretary, he manages to be the first applicant interviewed and secures the job. He's warned, however, by young Loveday Leigh to avoid Minstrel and Meade House. Within a week, Ross suspects both Minstrel and his assistant James Harker and contacts Benbw Smith to unravel what's going on.

    Ross is the typical Everyman, pitchforked into a situation he doesn't understand that puts him in danger. His distinguishing qualities are his youthful appearance, his tendency to stammer when stressed, and his flute-playing. Naturally, he and Loveday immediately fall in love. She is typical damsel in distress, running away from a cousin who's pressuring her to marry an unappealing man. She is impulsive and naive to the point of stupidity. There's a mysterious stranger with a Bolshevik accent, a femme fatale to lead Ross astray, and assorted criminal minions. All are standard characters.

    Atmosphere is well developed, though the setting is a bit vague. It opens in December, followed with a reference to January, followed by repeated references to how warm the air is. There's much slithering around in the night, many incidents of Loveday and Ross overhearing villains' conversation used for exposition, and an abundance of coincidences in relationships, meetings, and decisions. It's not fair to judge FOOL ERRANT by modern conventions of the crime novel, but it is generic even for 1929. (C)
     
  19. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    THE MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE WORLD is J. L. Ashton and Justine Rivard's variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2019.

    THE MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE WORLD is different from most Austen fan fiction because it uses limited third person point of view, showing the canonical events of the original story completely through Charles Bingley's eyes. Major events are unchanged, though the plot is episodic because Bingley is not always present. He, for instance, knows only that Darcy is depressed and more unsociable than ever following his return to London from Rosings, not why. Added scenes are mostly private conversations between Darcy and Bingley, sometimes with Hurst and Colonel Fitzwilliam present, as they ingest copious amounts of brandy. No important characters are added. Jane, Elizabeth, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are referred to but do not appear as active participants.

    I find Charles Bingley in THE MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE WORLD unappealing. His age is not given, though his hero-worshipping attitude toward Darcy makes him seem a young teenager: "Anyone could see that Darcy was all a gentleman should be... Darcy had a fine mind, in fact a brilliant mind as far as Bingley could tell, honed by the finest education money could buy. He was the best master to his dependents, the best brother, the most loyal friend, the most accomplished sportsman, and was furthermore the owner of the broadest shoulders and the best seat Bingley had ever seen. And he had that which Bingley coveted most for himself--a cleft chin." Some bits of characterization sound homoerotic: "...Darcy had superb judgment in all thing. He must have been right in his assessment that Miss Bennet had not truly been engaged. Anyway, Bingley was not really mad about the end of the affair. Things were likely better this way. It was back to being Darcy and Bingley again as it always had been, and as always would be no matter what feminine distractions came their way."

    Bingley's immaturity is reflected in his humor; for example. calling his sisters "the Gorgonzolas" and telling Darcy about meeting "Mr. Beignet" of Longbourn. Bingley's "punishment" of his betraying sisters is typical: "[Bingley] shook with silent fury imagining how he might confront them about their despicable actions. Why, he would gently chide them for up to a minute! Next to their plates at breakfast, he would leave sharply worded, unsigned notes, asking that they kindly not commit the same offenses again. And he would not to bother to disguise his handwriting this time. It was doubtless all Caroline's vile idea. He could creep into her rooms at teatime and punch her favourite flowery pink pillow over and over again, and then plump it back up so she would not notice he had even been there! That would show her." Darcy he forgives. Though on his wedding day, Bingley considers himself now his own man, eagerly looking forward to his happily married life, I have grave doubts about his maturity.

    THE MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE WORLD is well edited. I noted two anachronistic references. One calls Darcy "the great and all-knowing," a paraphrase from The Wizard of Oz. The other has Darcy in the lake at Pemberley during the Gardiners' party visit, an allusion to the wet shirt scene from the 1995 miniseries. Still, THE MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE WORLD offers a unique perspective on the canon, worth reading. (A-)
     
  20. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    MURDER OF RAVENS is the opening book in Paty Jager's police procedural series featuring State Trooper/Fish and Wildlife Officer Gabriel Hawke of Walalowa County, Oregon. He's 55 years old, a full-blood Nez Perce, a master tracker dedicated to protecting both the land and its wildlife. MURDER OF RAVENS was published in digital format in 2019.

    Hawke is patrolling for poachers and hunters violating the elk bow-hunting season in the Wallowa Whitman National Forest when he comes on wolf-researcher Marlene Zetter standing over the body of a man strangled with a wolf tracking collar. The dead man is Ernest Cusacbb k, owner of the Twilight Restaurant in Alder, a man with many enemies, including his wife and his lovers with vengeful husbands. Tracking the footprints of Cusack's female companioon found near the body, Hawke Feels himself obligated to discover the killer.

    Hawke is an appealing protagonist, carrying believable baggage from growing up on the reservation with an abusive stepfather and being divorced when he arrested his wife's brother for drug trafficking. He's determined on no romantic relationships. A loner, he's much with his animals (Dog, a rescue; Horse, his pack mule; Jack, his saddle horse; Boy, a young gelding he's training), always aware of people's interest in both his cases and his personal life. Sense of place is good, often used to produce insight into Hawke's personality. Other major characters are well developed, with Jager creating a believable law enforcement community.

    The plot requires a bit of suspension of disbelief since the circumstances of Cusack's death seem improbable, though Jager effectively weaves the elements into a logical whole. Foreshadowing is adequate, and Jager plays fair in giving Hawke's thoughts and theories as he finds evidence and motives. I will follow up on the series. (B+)
     

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