TBR Thursday 221…

Episode 221

Considering my inability to ignore all the political chaos on both sides of the Atlantic – as a spectator sport, it’s all fun so long as you can suspend your disbelief – it’s amazing that my TBR has actually gone down, by 1 to 214! And I’m proud to announce that I survived East of Eden – not unscathed, but ultimately unbowed…

A bumper batch this week, since this will be the last TBR Thursday of the year. Next week I’ll be starting the annual FictionFan Book of the Year posts – get your ballgown ready for the awards ceremony! Meantime, some shorter, lighter reads, mostly vintage crime, to accompany my Dickens book over the festive season… 

Crime

The Mugger by Ed McBain

The second in the long-running 87th Precinct series. I enjoyed many of these back in the day and more recently was impressed by a re-read of the first in the series, Cop Hater

The Blurb says: This mugger is special.

He preys on women, waiting in the darkness…then comes from behind, attacks them, and snatches their purses. He tells them not to scream and as they’re on the ground, reeling with pain and fear, he bows and nonchalantly says, “Clifford thanks you, madam.” But when he puts one victim in the hospital and the next in the morgue, the detectives of the 87th Precinct are not amused and will stop at nothing to bring him to justice.

Dashing young patrolman Bert Kling is always there to help a friend. And when a friend’s sister-in-law is the mugger’s murder victim, Bert’s personal reasons to find the maniacal killer soon become a burning obsession…and it could easily get him killed.

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Vintage Crime

It Walks by Night by John Dickson Carr

Courtesy of the British Library. I have a feeling I read a few John Dickson Carr novels in my teens, but I fear I don’t remember them. More recently, I’ve come across a few of his short stories in various anthologies and have enjoyed them, so fingers crossed. As I’m sure you’ll agree, nothing says Christmas quite like a beheaded corpse…

The Blurb says: We are thrilled to welcome John Dickson Carr into the Crime Classics series with his first novel, a brooding locked room mystery in the gathering dusk of the French capital.

In the smoke-wreathed gloom of a Parisian salon, Inspector Bencolin has summoned his allies to discuss a peculiar case. A would-be murderer, imprisoned for his attempt to kill his wife, has escaped and is known to have visited a plastic surgeon. His whereabouts remain a mystery, though with his former wife poised to marry another, Bencolin predicts his return.

Sure enough, the Inspector’s worst suspicions are realised when the beheaded body of the new suitor is discovered in a locked room of the salon, with no apparent exit. Bencolin sets off into the Parisian night to unravel the dumbfounding mystery and track down the sadistic killer.

* * * * *

More Vintage Crime

Death in Fancy Dress by Anthony Gilbert

Courtesy of the British Library again. Apparently Anthony Gilbert was one of the pen names of Lucy Beatrice Malleson, who also wrote as Anne Meredith. So since I enjoyed Anne Meredith’s Portrait of a Murderer, I have high hopes for this one…

The Blurb says: The British Secret Service, working to uncover a large-scale blackmail ring and catch its mysterious mastermind ‘The Spider’, find themselves at the country residence Feltham Abbey, where a fancy dress ball is in full swing.

In the tumult of the revelry, Sir Ralph Feltham is found dead. Not the atmosphere bewildered young lawyer Tony was expecting, he sets out to make sense of the night’s activities and the motives of the other guests. Among them is Hilary, an independently-minded socialite still in her costume of vivid silk pyjamas and accompanying teddy bear…

This classic country house mystery, first published in 1933, contrasts the splendours and frivolities of the English upper classes with the sombre over-hang of the First World War and the irresistible complications of deadly familial relationships – with just the right amount of international intrigue thrown in.

* * * * *

Crime

The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau by Graeme Macrae Burnet

I loved the second book about Georges Gorski, The Accident on the A35, actually even more than Burnet’s Booker-nominated His Bloody Project, and have had this first one lingering on the TBR for far too long. (Yes, I know it would have made more sense to read them the other way round… 😉 )

The Blurb says: Manfred Baumann is a loner. Socially awkward and perpetually ill at ease, he spends his evenings quietly drinking and surreptitiously observing Adèle Bedeau, the sullen but alluring waitress at a drab bistro in the unremarkable small French town of Saint-Louis. But one day, she simply vanishes into thin air. When Georges Gorski, a detective haunted by his failure to solve one of his first murder cases, is called in to investigate the girl’s disappearance, Manfred’s repressed world is shaken to its core and he is forced to confront the dark secrets of his past. The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau is a literary mystery novel that is, at heart, an engrossing psychological portrayal of an outsider pushed to the limit by his own feverish imagination.

* * * * *

Vintage Science Fiction

Courtesy of the British Library again! Another of their fab anthologies, this time on the vexed subject of time travel. As Captain Janeway of the USS Voyager said – or maybe that should be, will say – “Time travel. Since my first day on the job as a Starfleet captain I swore I’d never let myself get caught in one of these godforsaken paradoxes – the future is the past, the past is the future, it all gives me a headache.” Sometimes headaches can be fun…

The Blurb says: The threads of time run forward, backward, round in circles and side by side in this new anthology of stories from the Golden Age of science fiction. How can you comprehend a newspaper whose current events cover the distant future? How do you escape from a day at the office which cycles, cruelly, endlessly? How do you prevent monks from the future smuggling your revolutionary miracle food into the past?

Charting the chronology of the time travel narrative from the 1880s to the late 1950s, classic tales of trips to the past and their consequences run alongside rare experimental and mind-bending pieces, with paradoxes, philosophical dilemmas and every perplexing strand of time travel unravelled in between.

* * * * *

Even More Vintage Crime

And yet again, courtesy of the British Library! (Clearly we have found the culprit behind my groaning TBR problems…) ECR Lorac is one of my favourite of all the authors the BL has introduced to me, so I’m looking forward to this one hugely…

The Blurb says: First published in 1944 Fell Murder sees E.C.R. Lorac at the height of her considerable powers as a purveyor of well-made, traditional and emphatic detective fiction. The book presents a fascinating ‘return of the prodigal’ mystery set in the later stages of the Second World War amidst the close-knit farmerfolk community of Lancashire s lovely Lune valley.

The Garths had farmed their fertile acres for generations and fine land it was with the towering hills of the Lake Country on the far horizon. Garthmere Hall itself was old before Flodden Field, and here hot-tempered Robert Garth, still hale and hearty at eighty-two, ruled his household with a rod of iron. The peaceful dales and fells of the north country provide the setting for this grim story of a murder, a setting in fact which is one of the attractive features of an unusual and distinctive tale of evil passions and murderous hate in a small rural community.

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NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.

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So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

38 thoughts on “TBR Thursday 221…

  1. I really should read Graeme Macrae Burnet, but I do sometimes have a strange reluctance to read books written by non-French people set in France… Although I quite like some of them in the end, when I do get around to reading them. Talk about unconscious bias!

    • Ha! I know what you mean, since I have an aversion to reading books set in Scotland written by non-Scots! I think you might enjoy Burnet though – he’s clearly been very influenced by Maigret so the books have that same kind of light noir feel…

  2. I’m also having trouble staying away from the poitical car crashes, both here and in the States, despite resolving to do so. Surely there’s a crime novel to be written about one or both of them!

  3. Oh, you do have some good ‘uns there, FictionFan! That Burnet, which I hope you’ll love, and of course the McBain. And I’ll be interested in what you think of the Gilbert. Some of his stuff is, I think, excellent. And may I say, too, that I admire your ability to continue to work through the TBR despite the ‘noise’ from the political goings-on…

    • The Burnet has been lingering on my list for way too long given how much I enjoyed his other books. It seems a long time since he produced a new one now I think about it! That’s good to hear about the Gilbert. I’m glad they’ve started bringing forward “new” authors again – for a while there they seemed to be concentrating on the same few whereas for me half the fun of the series is finding people I haven’t read before. Haha – my reading seems to have stalled completely this week, so I can only hope the postman goes on strike… 😉

  4. Yay! Love vintage crime! And you have vintage sci-fi, which also sounds good!
    This is a good time to read books. I’m beyond done with politics, so bring on the books!
    Congrats on the drop in your TBR!

    • The BL is doing a brilliant job with all this vintage genre stuff – I seem to be reading more of that than anything else these days! Haha – I wish I could stay away from the politics but I’m addicted. I keep hoping for a happy ending… 😉

  5. I take it East of Eaden was the expected barrel of laughs then? I look forward to your review of it. I have Burnet’s His Bloody Project on my TBR, and if I enjoy it, I will most likely add his other ones too. I look forward to your FF Awards soon also.

    • Oh dear, that man! I swear they should include a free pack of anti-depressants with every book! There was one day when I only read for half an hour and in that time one person was beaten up, another committed suicide and a father went off after his son with a shotgun! 😂 I loved a lot about His Bloody Project but had one or two small reservations. I had no reservations at all about The Accident on the A35, though – I thought it was stunningly good. Haha – I have absolutely no idea what’s going to win yet… exciting! 😉

  6. I may have to add Beyond Time to the anthologies I’ve already gotten. I’ve grown to enjoy time travel stories more and more.

    You know, I think the vintage crime covers are almost as nice as the ones for science fiction.

    • It’s going to be ages before I get to Beyond Time, I think, though I’ll probably not be able to resist dipping into it soon! I love the vintage crime covers – in fact, the BL has cornered the market for all things vintage for me. Between the crime, SF and horror I feel as if I’ve become a professional BL reviewer… 😉

  7. All of these sound pretty good to me, FF, but then you know my craving for good crime stories! I’m surprised your TBR dropped, considering how many interesting reads are calling you. Your plans for the end of the year sound delightful — I really must invest in a new ballgown for the occasion!

    • I seem to have developed a backlog of the BL books and the idea of Christmas spent with Dickens and vintage crime sounds just about perfect! Haha – I don’t know how my TBR dropped either. I feel as if I’ve hardly read anything for weeks! The FF Awards will be a big surprise this year – to me, that is, since I still have no idea what’s going to win… 😉

  8. I read It Walks By Night a few weeks ago and although I had one or two problems with it (and I didn’t like the detective), it has made me want to read more of John Dickson Carr’s books so was obviously a success. I love the sound of Death in Fancy Dress!

    • I love the cover of Death in Fancy Dress so much I’m predisposed to love the book! Shallow? Me? 😉 Hmm… I’m never keen on unlikeable detectives, and locked rooms are seldom my favourite kind of plot. But then there’s the beheaded corpse – that sounds like fun… 😂

    • Hahaha – yes, it’s the news that’s driving me to a constant diet of crime fiction… wishful thinking, I think! 😉 Gotta make way for Awards season though… it’s exciting, since I still have no idea what will win! 😉

  9. I am not tempted by crime, but I am curious about your final assessment of Steinbeck. My son just finished his essay on Of Mice and Men, justifying George killing Lennie. Took me back to high school, LOL. I’ll be driving through Steinbeck country in two weeks to a writing workshop in Big Sur. So much hasn’t changed in the Salinas area.

    • Oh dear, Steinbeck and I just don’t get along, I fear! Review tomorrow! Well, more of a rant really… 😂 I sobbed my heart out over Of Mice and Men in my youth – I must have been considerably less cynical back in those far-off days… 😉

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