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Murder's Best Friend Monday

What I've Finished Reading

I'm sorry to report that HARDMAN #6, Murder's Not an Odd Job left very little impression on me in the end. There's a guy some people are trying to kill and some women and HARDMAN worries about his weight and eventually he and HUMP DAVIS hole up in a shack in the mountains to shoot some people for reasons that weren't clear. HARDMAN has a girlfriend, but he also sleeps with other people, because 1) it's the shock-proof 70s!! and 2) he needs to reassure himself that his aging body is still desirable, poor guy.

I left it on the library's "adopt-a-book" shelf as I came in and when I left the library, it was gone. If no one had picked it up in the course of the afternoon, I meant to take it back and try to figure out some more things, like what actually happened in the plot, but fate decided otherwise. Good night, sweet HARDMAN. I hope your next reader appreciates you a little more.

I'd bought a beautiful first edition of Grave Mistake by Ngaio Marsh many months ago, in what I thought was good condition. The dust jacket is still fine, and the spine seemed all right when I bought it. But apparently it was only holding out long enough to entice someone to buy it, because as soon as I started reading it, all the glue crumbled away and all of the pages fell out into my lap, like it had just touched down on human roads after three thousand years in fairyland. I've taken a picture of the cover so you can see how nice it looked (it's a little deflated from losing the pages).

[A picture of a book]grave mistake

Grave Mistake itself is pretty good. I enjoyed the wry spinster playwright (not named Ngaio)'s relationships with her selfish, hypochondriac friend and the friend's much more sensible adult daughter. I guess she can't properly be called a "spinster" now that it's 1978(!) There's some good interrogation in this one, where everyone has a dark secret or two and can't see why it has to come out just because some silly woman got herself murdered. The murder motive was a bit hard to sell, but you can't let a little thing like that spoil your fun. Besides, good motives for murder are just depressing.

Dumb Witness didn't have as much of its title character as I would have liked, but if it were up to me, all books would just be pictures of dogs. That's not true all the time, but it's true now and then. This is a solid but not breathtaking Christie with a good cast and lots of Hastings being stupid but making up for it by being adorable and playing with the dog. And there's this charming slice of backstory:

"Remember a case that made rather a stir in the late nineties? Mrs. Varley? Supposed to have poisoned her husband with arsenic. Good-looking woman. Made a big to-do, that case. She was acquitted. Well, Thomas Arundell quite lost his head. Used to get all the papers and read about the case and cut out the photographs of Mrs. Varley. And would you believe it, when the trial was over, off he was to London an asked her to marry him?"

My heart goes out to you, Random Poisoner Marrying Guy, but where is your sense of self-preservation? Anyway, he doesn't get poisoned (not a spoiler), but his grown children certainly come in for a lot of suspicion when their great-aunt fetches up dead of maybe-poison. Eventually, [a spoiler]The twin specters of Evil Foreigners and Bad Blood are neatly sidestepped. There is a happy ending for the dog and that's all that really matters.

What I'm Reading Now

Every time I pick up Photo Finish, the part of my brain that is slow on the uptake expects it to be about horse racing. In fact it has nothing to do with horse racing and is about an opera singer who is plagued by a tabloid photographer before being murdered. Troy is invited to paint her portrait! in beautiful New Zealand! so we are treated to a double dose of New Zealand Scenery and Theatre People. The opera singer has just shelled out a tremendous amount of money to produce a new opera written by her young protege/lover, but the poor guy is so tormented by the knowledge that his opera is actually terrible that he comes on stage, following a perfectly adequate debut in which everyone was being polite and a few people even enjoyed themselves, to apologize for the opera and announce that he wished he'd had the strength of character to withdraw it as soon as he realized it was bad. Oh, opera guy, no. :( I'm afraid this is a terrible impulse I can relate to all too well, though I am sadly lacking in fabulously wealthy patrons with no taste.

The last book in my Mystery Bundle is called something like The First Rule of Hawkins or The Fourth Law of Harris; I have left it at home and am unable to check. It's about a very angry guy who drinks tequila and orange juice out of a jar in public and hates his ex-wife for 1) being obnoxiously saccharine and innocent, and 2) failing to save him with her innocence, which apparently he tried to apply to himself like some kind of dodgy Victorian poultice to soothe his Vietnam (or possibly Korean) war wounds. Does he realize that this was a bad reason to get married? It's not clear. PLEASE MARRY RESPONSIBLY. The guy also has some strong feelings about religion. So far it is all the angst with none of the detection, and it remains to be seen whether it will be good or "interesting" or bad. But it will be a neat trick if I end up sympathizing with this guy after all.

What I Plan to Read Next

Whatever's next in my stack! There's this historical thing called A Conspiracy of Paper that may or may not be good. And Light Thickens, of course. I hope Alleyn doesn't die in the last book. Closure is all very well, but I don't want any. :(


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 19th, 2016 09:35 pm (UTC)
Sep. 20th, 2016 08:17 am (UTC)
Aw, I'm sorry Grave Mistake fell apart! How disappointing for you. :-/

Every time I pick up Photo Finish, the part of my brain that is slow on the uptake expects it to be about horse racing.

I do that too. Is it not about horse racing yet? Surely one day it will be! (Is it an inevitable it must be Dick Francis thing? It sounds like one of his titles.)

And Light Thickens, of course. I hope Alleyn doesn't die in the last book. Closure is all very well, but I don't want any.

If Alleyn dies, it's so calmly and without fuss that I've entirely forgotten. (I'm not swearing to anything, though; I can't remember a thing about most of these last books and Alleyn might possibly pass away without me noticing. If any detective could manage that, it'd be him.)
Sep. 21st, 2016 06:30 pm (UTC)
It was such a nice book, except for its total lack of structural integrity! :(

It does sound like Dick Francis, even though I've never read Dick Francis (only shelved many of his books). Lots of horsey-sounding two-word titles and pictures of horses on the cover.

Aww, Alleyn. He'll die as he lived, unobtrusively and with excruciating politeness. <3
Sep. 20th, 2016 11:47 am (UTC)
Hardman was a hard disappointment? I'm hardily sorry...

There is a happy ending for the dog and that's all that really matters.


I could've sworn Photo Finish was the name of a Dick Francis novel and I'm legitimately disappointed it's not. (He did write Flying Finish which was actually about flying but ALSO - surprise! - horse racing.)
Sep. 21st, 2016 06:35 pm (UTC)
Hard times, indeed.

Hah. There were so many Dick Francis books at my bookstore a few weeks ago. I kept thinking, "Hey, Dick Francis. I should read one of these so I can talk about it with littlerhymes." But there were so many of them that I couldn't decide.
Sep. 22nd, 2016 11:42 am (UTC)
Ha, true, there's just so MANY. I started with Wild Horses and it's really a pretty good one. To The Hilt, For Kicks or Bonecrack might also be easy ones to start off with, if you happen to see them. The Edge does some playful things with the murder mystery genre. OK I'll stop. :)
Sep. 20th, 2016 02:28 pm (UTC)
Sorry to hear about your book's pages falling out:(

I'm sure Hardman was glad to find he's still desirable in the C21th!
Sep. 21st, 2016 06:38 pm (UTC)
It's one of the risks of buying used books, I guess! The plus side is, now I have a little more room on my bookshelves.

Poor little guy. :( It's nice to be wanted!
Sep. 20th, 2016 06:45 pm (UTC)
Light Thickens is the only Marsh book I've read, so I've been excitedly anticipating you reaching it. Although I hadn't realized it was the very last one! I mean, I knew it was late in the series, just not that it was The End.
Sep. 21st, 2016 06:41 pm (UTC)
I had to double-check to be sure, but yes, 1982, the very last! It's reassuring to me that you didn't know it was the last, because that probably means Alleyn won't die tragically (calmly) in the line of duty. I'm looking forward to it, but also feeling a little sad that it's over (not that I don't think there are enough Inspector Alleyn books).
Sep. 20th, 2016 10:24 pm (UTC)
What a gorgeous cover of Grave Mistake! SO SAD IT FELL APART. Although really I think these older Marsh's are often poorly constructed: I checked three out of the library and brought two of them back (once I'd read them!) and had the librarians check them directly up to mending (where I then mended them), because they were also falling apart, although not quite so dramatically.

OH NO OPERA GUY NO. This is going to become a cocktail party story about him, you just know it.

I like the sound of A Conspiracy of Paper. But I feel that every time I have liked the sound of a title on your blog recently the book has turned out to be terrible, as if all the creative energy went into the title.
Sep. 21st, 2016 07:01 pm (UTC)

Poor old Marshes. The library has some pretty nice early editions from the 30s that have held up better than this one despite being fifty years older and in a library. I hate to see these sad glue bindings that have become completely non-functional in a relatively short time. This book is barely older than I am, it shouldn't just crumble. :(

There must have been some good titles that were also good books! What about DIED!!! in the Wool? (I guess that wasn't recently).
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )


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