Saturday, October 17, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling - October 17, mostly mysteries

Time for another round of Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which was created by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness and is currently hosted by Katrina at Pining for the West.   The idea is to share one of your neglected bookshelves or perhaps a new pile of books.

This shelf holds many of my paperback mysteries, although, surprisingly, starts on the left with the history of Jordan Marsh, the former New England department store chain.  My first real job was in its executive training program and I was interviewed for the book by local historian Anthony Sammarco.  Anyone interested in Boston history should follow him on Facebook's Lost Boston.

Next are several charming books by Mary Scott (1888–1979), who was a noted New Zealand novelist writing humorously about her life on a remote sheep station.  Her style is reminiscent of Betty McDonald (The Egg and I and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle).  I learned about Scott from a delightful correspondent in Australia, Jenny Genat, who used to sell me books. 

Here are two nice trade paperback editions of several Michael Connellys; my sister started me on his books and I am a big fan.  I always thought I would like Steven Saylor’s historical mystery series set in Ancient Rome but have not actually read A Murder on the Appian Way yet. Thanks to a Janet Maslin review, I did read Markus Sakey’s The Blade Itself, which was very good but grittier than my usual.

Next is New Zealand’s Queen of Crime, Ngaio Marsh (1895-1982), part of the Golden Age of British crime fiction of the 1920s and 1930s with others below.  I really enjoy her books, particularly the ones with a theatre setting, which are clearly influenced by her experience as an actress and director.  Most are set in England but four take place in her native New Zealand.  There is also one I don’t own but have thought of frequently during the pandemic as I have written so many condolence notes – I think it is Hand in Glove – that I need to reread.  Surprisingly next to Marsh is The Millionaires by Brad Meltzer, a very outgoing author I met while at Avon/Morrow.  My favorite book by Meltzer is The Tenth Justice, a thriller set at the Supreme Court, which put him on the map (I recall the publisher at Avon, where I worked at the time, was extremely jealous of the success of this book by a rival imprint).  There is also an old Andrew Garve stuck into this shelf.  The title sounds familiar, Murder Through the Looking Glass, so I am guessing I read it a long time ago, perhaps borrowed from my parents and never returned.

The next three authors, Josephine Tey (1896-1952), Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957), and Agatha Christie (1890-1976) are classic mystery authors and suffer from the fact that my collection includes hardcovers as well as paperbacks, so they are not shelved together.  A pity that Tey was less prolific than her peers, as her books are so memorable.  I own Three by Tey and Four, Five, and Six by Tey in hardcover (after checking them out of the library for years) so these are duplicates except for The Privateer, a historical novel about privateer Henry Morgan.  I remember being excited when I found it but must admit it is the only Tey I have not read and reread many times.  My favorite is Brat Farrar which I practically know by heart but like many history buffs, I was very influenced by The Daughter of Time (1951), in which Tey makes an argument for Richard III’s innocence in the death of his nephews.  Anyone who has ever thought about it (I admit a vast part of the population may be indifferent) has to choose a side on this issue!

Somerville College, Oxford

Sayers does not need much introduction, plus I am running out of time and need to write an essay about leadership.  I like Lord Peter Whimsey, Sayers’ detective, and Harriet Vane, his love interest, and was so excited on my first visit to Oxford to wander around Balliol and Somerville College thinking about them.  I will admit I don’t seem to reread the books before Vane appears in Strong Poison.  Regarding Agatha Christie, I enjoy Miss Marple and Tommy and Tuppence, and some of the standalone titles are my favorites, The Man in the Brown Suit and They Came to Baghdad.  However, I have concluded recently that I just don’t like Hercule Poirot as much as Christie’s other detectives.  Maybe that will help me discard some of these books or at least the bulky hardcovers?   I have certainly read them all once and could get any of them from the library if necessary.  At the far end of the shelf is The Agatha Christie Companion.  I need a stool to reach this shelft!

My copy is missing
but is not this exotic


Dewena said...

I agree with you about Miss Marple and Tommy and Tuppence! My first love was Lord Peter. I'm tempted to join the Boston FB group because I have a whole shelf of Boston books and am fascinated by the history of it. But as I've recently stopped spending much time on FB I'd better pass it up. I think I told you though that I'm a big fan of Charlotte MacLeod's mysteries, many that were set in Boston.

Cath said...

I'm a fan of They Came to Baghdad too. It always intrigues me to compare her fictional books set in that area with her non-fiction book, Come, Tell Me How You Live, all about her arcghaeological digs with her husband, also in Iraq, Syria, etc.

I've read two Steven Saylor books, the first two in his Gordianus the Finder series. I thought they were excellent. I also loved A Daughter of Time (she convinced me with her argument) but have yet to read Brat Farrar. It's my last Tey and I'm stupidly reluctant to have read them all and have no more to read.

Katrina said...

Great minds think alike - my bookshelf this week features Sayers and Tey too. My favourite by Tey is A Daughter of Time and she convinced me too at the time, now I'm not so sure. I like the sound of the New Zealand books. Thanks for the Boston link, I have a friend who loves the place and used to live there so I'll pass it on to her. It's so sad and shocking that you've had to write condolence notes.

TracyK said...

So many interesting books here. My favorite book by Tey is The Franchise Affair. I like the Inspector Grant series a lot. I have read all of the Peter Wimsey books by Sayers, but on rereading, I have found that there are only a few I like the second time around.

I used to find Hercule Poirot irritating, but the more of those books that I have read, the better I like him. And I have been watching the Poirot series, which is icing on the cake. I am currently reading Dumb Witness, #16 in the series, but the copy I am reading is titled Poirot Loses a Client. I especially like this one because Hasting's is narrating it.

CLM said...

Dewena, Charlotte MacLeod is a blast from the past! I have certainly read some of her books but so long ago I don't remember any of them; interesting to see some are now available as ebooks.

Cath, I knew Christie's second marriage was to an archeologist and knew it must have informed some of her work but I hadn't realized she wrote any nonfiction. I will take a look for it. The Seven Dials Mystery is another good standalone, especially for someone like me who can sleep past an alarm clock quite easily. It is partly because of staying up too late reading! I always swear I won't do it again. Ha!

All Tey is well worth reading, Katrina and Tracy, but I think A Shilling for Candles is my least favorite. Have you read any of the Nicola Upson continuations? I think I just read one and found it convincing but unnerving. I thought she got the language/style right but intellectually I knew it wasn't Tey and felt unhappy. I did pick up at least one more, however.