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Murder and Rumors of Murder Monday

What I've Finished Reading

The rest of Poirot Investigates was much the same as the beginning - short stories with tricky twists and plenty of Poirotisms. I got a little defensive of Poirot during the Egyptian Curse story (ripped from the headlines!) because the story went out of its way to make him comically uncomfortable -- first the sea, then walking on sand, then the final indignity of riding a camel! There's nothing wrong with not wanting to ride a camel; it's a perfectly reasonable reaction to a camel.

I finally finished A Conspiracy of Paper. It was all right! I found the interview with the author about his writing process and intentions was a little more fun to read than the book itself. He talks about his research into the history of finance and the Jewish community in London, and about trying to find a balance between eighteenth-century first-person writing styles and what a contemporary reader would find readable/entertaining. It's a tricky thing to do, so I can't complain too much that it didn't come out exactly the way I wanted. The plot picks up quite a lot of steam toward the very end, but getting there was a little slow.

Gladys Mitchell's Watson's Choice wasn't bad. Mrs. Lestrange Bradley, Mitchell's wonderfully off-putting, morally ambiguous psychologist-sleuth, is a little less of a presence here than in Speedy Death, but on the plus side, she doesn't [SERIOUS SPOILER for Speedy Death]literally murder anyone, either. A lot of the investigation is undertaken by her likable personal assistant, Laura Menzies. It's very light-hearted and snappy, and like a lot of clever themed mysteries, it wears itself out a little with cleverness. One of the main characters is an eccentric Sherlock Holmes fanatic, who puts together tyrannically elaborate Holmes-themed parties that no one else enjoys very much, and the rest of the plot is a rope bridge of Holmes references. There are some conversations about whether Mexicans or Spaniards are more constitutionally vengeance-prone, and other vintage infelicities. I enjoyed it without loving it: Gladys Mitchell is still on my "acquire at leisure, when and if you remember" list.

What I'm Reading Now

Maisie Dobbs is a contemporary historical mystery by Jacqueline Winspear. The year is 1929! The city is London! Miss Dobbs is an eager new private investigator with her own trim and tidy office in Bloomsbury! Unfortunately, she appears to have no idea what being a private investigator actually entails. She is disappointed in her first client and his boring infidelity suspicions - in fact, "Maisie's stomach churned. Oh, Lord, after all her training, her education, her successes with Maurice Blanche, had it come to this? A love triangle?"

MAISIE. I don't know what you were expecting. Did you think your first client was going to present you with a jeweled scarab containing the key to a secret passageway from the time of Bonnie Prince Charlie? Is your stomach going to churn every time someone comes to you with something mundane and sordid because I HAVE BAD NEWS FOR YOU, MAISIE. One page later, she lectures her potential client about the importance of respecting other people's privacy! Oh, Maisie! Then she high-handedly agrees to take the case, but only if the client and his wife agree to marriage counseling - with Maisie! MAISIE. I love this book already. Astonishingly, the client does not shrug his shoulders and hasten to the telephone directory in search of a real PI, but agrees to Maisie's conditions, because the plot requires it she was recommended by his solicitor.

What I Plan to Read Next

After Maisie, another round of Agatha Christie, starting with The Secret of Chimneys.

Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
liadtbunny
Oct. 24th, 2016 03:46 pm (UTC)
Save Poirot! I hope he gets do something he likes in the next story.

I think I would groan and fall asleep at the appearance of the Holmes fanatic and refs. However, I like the sound of Maisie:)
evelyn_b
Oct. 24th, 2016 06:18 pm (UTC)
Me, too! I hope he gets at least sixty pages of peaceful tisane drinking before anyone makes him walk on a muddy path or get dust on his clothes. At least. That's the problem with short stories, there's no time to relax.

Heh. I have a tendency to like in-book fans and references even when they're really, really labored (here they are just medium labored) but I can see your point.

Maisie is an interesting mix of things! She hasn't quite lived up to the magnificent promise of MAISIE'S FIRST CLIENT, but I'm still enjoying the book so far.
liadtbunny
Oct. 25th, 2016 03:41 pm (UTC)
I feel like I'm being attacked by too many Holmes refs recently. A change would be nice.

osprey_archer
Oct. 24th, 2016 05:14 pm (UTC)
AHAHAHAH Maisie Dobbs sounds delightful and terrifying. I guess PI school never covered the fact that most of her cases would be boring! Does she have any experience with marriage counseling or does she just feel like trying her hand at it?

Your spoiler for Speedy Death kind of makes me want to read it, just to see how that comes about. I'm also interested generally in the idea of a morally ambiguous Golden Age lady detective.
evelyn_b
Oct. 24th, 2016 06:13 pm (UTC)
Definitely do read Speedy Death, if you're intrigued! I was a little too shocked to love it as much as maybe I ought. I mean, I have tremendously mixed feelings. But Mrs. Bradley is a magnificent menace, and a jab in the ribs of detection convention, and Speedy Death is interesting on a lot of levels.

Maisie is the Abbe Faria of slightly anachronistic pop psychology. Her education was meant to be extrapolated from to competence of any and every kind, because it is a radical education of THE SOUL. Or something. It's not entirely clear! She certainly believes she's qualified to set up as a marriage counselor, and every other kind of counselor. I think the PI gig is just a sneaky way of getting her fingers into a bunch of vulnerable people's minds.
lost_spook
Oct. 24th, 2016 05:50 pm (UTC)
Your descriptions have reminded me why I didn't get anywhere with Maisie Dobbs when I picked the first book up once. It sounded fun, but... aargh... could she try and be a bit realistic about her job and the period she's in? At least she's not called Brittney, there is that. :-/ (I'm glad you're enjoying it, though! My friend I used to live with loves the series, but my attempt to read it was put off by those reasons.)

She should meet Frank Marker, although she probably wouldn't even notice him, he'd be too boring for words. (Frank Marker is a 1960s TV Private Investigator who only ever takes on mundane, realistic cases and who doesn't even like to call himself a private detective (it raises people's expectations and then he'll disappoint them! he's always disappointing someone), he's an Enquiry Agent. Like Maisie, however, he will start off by telling the client not to hire him, but in his case, because they'll probably regret it. If he gets a criminal case, he hands it over to the police, because it's a bit rich for his tastes. He doesn't believe in miracles, Sherlock Holmes type investigators, rainbows, unicorns or the goodness of human nature, except strangely he spends his entire life trying to help ordinary people for about tuppence a day and getting hated on by everyone. He has set new, awkward standards for PIs in fiction for me. Awkward, because all the rest are Poirots and Sherlocks and Maisies who always end up solving improbable murders, and even getting thanked afterwards, sometimes even paid. So I am probably extra unfair to them all now.)

id you think your first client was going to present you with a jeweled scarab containing the key to a secret passageway from the time of Bonnie Prince Charlie?

On the other hand, I would definitely read that!
evelyn_b
Oct. 24th, 2016 06:07 pm (UTC)
Frank Marker is a 1960s TV Private Investigator who only ever takes on mundane, realistic cases and who doesn't even like to call himself a private detective (it raises people's expectations and then he'll disappoint them! he's always disappointing someone

Oh my goodness. I love him already. Why is there so much TV? Why can't everything be as easy to acquire as books? (my issues with TV acquisition and free time are not your fault, obviously).

Unfortunately, if he wandered into the world of Maisie Dobbs, he would immediately fall under her spell; she would tilt her head sympathetically to one side and he would feel compelled to tell her all about his sad childhood and thank her for it, because that is a natural law in Maisiebury, apparently. What would happen if Maisie made a field trip to the world of Frank Marker is less certain.

Maisie is a little bit of a Holodeck Heroine, armed with all the popular wisdom and breezy self-confidence of an egalitarian future. I don't have anything against this kind of writing in principle, but in practice. . . well, it's hard to say yet, we'll see where it goes. I'm enjoying it with one part of my head and casting skeptical glances on it with another.

(my contradictory heart has room for Poirots and Sherlocks and Maisies and cheap shamuses all together).
lost_spook
Oct. 24th, 2016 09:01 pm (UTC)
my contradictory heart has room for Poirots and Sherlocks and Maisies and cheap shamuses all together

This is as it should be! ♥ I don't mind Poirots and Sherlocks, even if I prefer some of the others (like Miss Marple). I was probably tired and ill and extra unfair to Maisie, too.

And, ha, I should not talk about Frank Marker and Public Eye. What usually happens is that I write 10,000 words about how it is the best television series I have ever watched, except that you shouldn't watch it because you wouldn't like it.

So, to save myself and my flist, I made a vid. And also here is a short clip of Frank being Frank (from one of the final eps). (His utilities have been cut off yet again because he's skint, as ever.)

But it is a thing that is hard to describe, sometimes hard to watch for a lot of different reasons, hard to justify why any of that is so, and absolutely not cosy (except on rare occasions when it is). It is up on YouTube if you ever get curious (someone else has the 70s eps up; I have the surviving 60s eps up unlisted), but I'm well aware that it's not an easy thing to recommend. And I have recced you many things I suspect you would like more! (But I can't help talking about Public Eye... You've got to love a show where people's lives get tragically ruined because of buying a fridge, overordering carbon paper, or selling photocopiers.)

ETA: I forgot, the vid has nothing graphic in (old telly, chance'd be a fine thing, lol) but I should warn for implied suicide attempts.

Edited at 2016-10-24 09:09 pm (UTC)
evelyn_b
Oct. 24th, 2016 09:49 pm (UTC)
So, to save myself and my flist, I made a vid. And also here is a short clip of Frank being Frank

Damn it, lost_spook, what am I supposed to do with these GIANT HEARTS I have instead of eyes??

looks like I'm going to have to watch this miserable thing and SEE FOR MYSELF why I wouldn't like it >:((((

♥ ♥ ♥
lost_spook
Oct. 26th, 2016 09:00 am (UTC)
I'm so sorry! I completely forgot to warn you about the dangers of Alfred Burke's face! (He had to grow a beard for the sake of humanity; it's official.)

But don't worry, heart-shaped eyes are normal in fandom and will soon be cured the next time someone is Wrong On The Internet, or you have trouble with a book you're reading, so it will be all right.

♥ ♥ ♥
a_phoenixdragon
Oct. 24th, 2016 10:48 pm (UTC)
OMG, Maisie sounds like a riot!!Methinks she is in the wrong business, tho'.

Poor Poirot! They are always putting him in the mist UNDIGNIFIED circumstances!

*HUGS*
evelyn_b
Nov. 1st, 2016 09:08 am (UTC)
Maisie is never in the wrong business! It's just that people keep wanting the wrong things. :(
wordsofastory
Oct. 25th, 2016 01:07 am (UTC)
I also ended up being a bit disappointed by A Conspiracy of Paper. I mean, it wasn't awful! It just reminded me heavily of Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle (they're both stories about the beginnings of the stock market colliding with the criminal underworld), and I liked Stephenson's version much better. I'd recommend it, but it's a trilogy where each book is easily 1000+ pages long, so that may be more of a commitment than you want to make!
evelyn_b
Nov. 1st, 2016 09:05 am (UTC)
That does sound daunting! Maybe after I finish with Proust.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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