TBR Thursday 294…

Episode 294

A big drop in the TBR this week – down 7 to 198! Partly this is due to reading, but I cannot tell a lie – mostly it’s down to culling. I’ve suddenly been inundated with unsolicited books from one of my friendly publishers and decided I have to stop feeling as if I must read every book I get sent. So I checked blurbs and reviews and removed the ones I felt pretty sure would end up on the abandoned pile. Can’t tell you how traumatic the whole experience was…

Anyway, here’s a few that I should be reading soon…

Vintage Crime Shorts 

Guilty Creatures edited by Martin Edwards

Courtesy of the British Library. It feels like a while since there was one of these vintage crime anthologies from the BL, so I’m feeling refreshed and raring to go! Hope nothing bad happens to any of the animals though. We’ll see!

The Blurb says: “Curiously enough,” said Dr. Manners, “I know a story in which the detection of a murder turned on the behaviour of a bird: in this instance a jackdaw.”

Since the dawn of the crime fiction genre, animals of all kinds have played a memorable part in countless mysteries, and in a variety of roles: the perpetrator, the key witness, the sleuth’s trusted companion. This collection of fourteen stories corrals plots centred around cats, dogs and insects alongside more exotic incidents involving gorillas, parakeets and serpents – complete with a customary shoal of red herrings. From the animal mysteries of Arthur Conan Doyle and F. Tennyson Jesse through to more modern masterpieces of the sub-genre from Christianna Brand and Penelope Wallace, this anthology celebrates one of the liveliest and most imaginative species of classic crime fiction.

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Fiction

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

Courtesy of Little, Brown Book Group via NetGalley. I haven’t read either of Whitehead’s Pulitzer winners or any of his other books, so this will be my introduction to him. The ridiculously overlong blurb suggests it’s a thriller, but it seems to be being categorised as fiction. We’ll see! I’m wondering if I still really need to read the book after reading the blurb…

The Blurb says: Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked… To his customers and neighbors on 125th street, Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably priced furniture, making a decent life for himself and his family. He and his wife Elizabeth are expecting their second child, and if her parents on Striver’s Row don’t approve of him or their cramped apartment across from the subway tracks, it’s still home.

Few people know he descends from a line of uptown hoods and crooks, and that his façade of normalcy has more than a few cracks in it. Cracks that are getting bigger all the time.

Cash is tight, especially with all those installment-plan sofas, so if his cousin Freddie occasionally drops off the odd ring or necklace, Ray doesn’t ask where it comes from. He knows a discreet jeweler downtown who doesn’t ask questions, either.

Then Freddie falls in with a crew who plan to rob the Hotel Theresa–the Waldorf of Harlem–and volunteers Ray’s services as the fence. The heist doesn’t go as planned; they rarely do. Now Ray has a new clientele, one made up of shady cops, vicious local gangsters, two-bit pornographers, and other assorted Harlem lowlifes.

Thus begins the internal tussle between Ray the striver and Ray the crook. As Ray navigates this double life, he begins to see who actually pulls the strings in Harlem. Can Ray avoid getting killed, save his cousin, and grab his share of the big score, all while maintaining his reputation as the go-to source for all your quality home furniture needs?

Harlem Shuffle‘s ingenious story plays out in a beautifully recreated New York City of the early 1960s. It’s a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, a social novel about race and power, and ultimately a love letter to Harlem.

But mostly, it’s a joy to read, another dazzling novel from the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning Colson Whitehead.

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Thriller

The Disappearing Act by Catherine Steadman

Courtesy of Simon and Schuster UK via NetGalley. Another in my attempt to read more new releases, I picked this because it sounds from the blurb like it may be a spin on The Lady Vanishes. It’s getting mixed reviews, but overall more positive than negative. We’ll see!

The Blurb says: A woman has gone missing. But did she ever really exist?

Mia Eliot has travelled from London to LA for pilot season. This is her big chance to make it as an actor in Hollywood, and she is ready to do whatever it takes. At an audition she meets Emily, and what starts as a simple favour takes a dark turn when Emily goes missing and Mia is the last person to see her.

Then a woman turns up, claiming to be Emily, but she is nothing like Mia remembers. Why would someone pretend to be Emily? Starting to question her own sanity, she goes on a desperate and dangerous search for answers, knowing something is very, very wrong.

In an industry where everything is about creating illusions, how do you know what is real? And how much would you risk to find out?

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Vintage Crime

The Widow of Bath by Margot Bennett

Courtesy of the British Library. I read another book of hers the BL reissued a while ago – The Man Who Didn’t Fly – and had a rather mixed reaction to it, feeling it was one of those ones where the puzzle element was stronger than the characterisation and general plotting. Not sure the blurb of this one greatly appeals either, but… we’ll see!

The Blurb says: Hugh Everton was intent on nothing more than quietly drinking in the second-rate hotel he found himself in on England’s south coast – and then in walked his old flame Lucy and her new husband and ex-Judge, Gregory Bath. Entreated by Lucy to join her party for an evening back at the Bath residence, Hugh is powerless to resist, but when the night ends with the judge’s inexplicable murder he is pitched back into a world of chaos and crime – a world he had tried to escape for good.

First published in 1952, The Widow of Bath offers intricate puzzles, international intrigue and a richly evoked portrait of post-war Britain, all delivered with Bennett’s signature brand of witty and elegant prose.

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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?

49 thoughts on “TBR Thursday 294…

    • It’s that feeling that you might just have culled the greatest book ever written by mistake… 😉 Yes, it’s the Harlem setting that appealed to me too, and the story does sound like it should be fun!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’ve done the same thing with books, FictionFan – had to find new homes for them. It’s not easy to do, but in the end, I think it’s a lot better than forcing oneself to read something that one’s not going to enjoy. No sense in that, in my opinion.

    As to your choices this time…. You can’t go far wrong with a collection curated by Martin Edwards. He’s fantastic. And I see you have The Widow of Bath! I very much want to read that (must confess I haven’t yet), so I’ll be interested to know what you think of it. Oh, and Harlem Shuffle has a lot of positive reviews, and it’s another I’d like to read.

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    • I don’t usually get so many that I can’t fit them in reasonably easily but for some reason I’ve been inundated the last couple of months – even the woman who delivers them has been laughing about how often she’s visited my house recently! And while some look interesting, some are very definitely not my cuppa, so as you say, no point forcing myself to read them. They’ll get better reviews from more suitable readers!

      I’m looking forward to Guilty Creatures – some good authors in it as usual, and some unknown-to-mes to explore. Hoping to read The Widow of Bath this weekend if I don’t fall behind again. And the Harlem setting of Harlem Shuffle really appeals… 😀

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  2. Definitely tempted by Guilty Creatures. The Disappearing Act is giving me Gone Girl vibes.
    Congrats on that drop in your TBR. So glad you decided you didn’t have to take what was thrown at you!

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    • Guilty Creatures looks like it should be fun – some well known authors and some new ones to explore! The Disappearing Act could go either way, but I’ll soon find out – should be starting it tonight. Ha, yes, I’d reached a point where I couldn’t see how I was ever going to get to any books I’d chosen for myself, so the culling had to happen even though it was hard to do!

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    • Yes, Harlem Shuffle seems to have been the popular choice out of this batch! I think the name alone is enough to draw readers in – it sounds like it should be lighter hearted than his other books, from the sound of it.

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  3. I bought The Harlem Shuffle and my expectations are very high after reading his last two stellar books. I’ve read almost all of his books and find him very appealing! I love that he writes so many different kinds of books. Fingers crossed that this is a winner for us both!

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    • It’s partly your love for Whitehead’s books that encouraged me to pick this one – it sounds a bit lighter than his recent ones, and the blurb really appeals to me, even if it does seem to tell the whole story! Fingers crossed! 😀

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  4. Guilty Creatures sounds the best to me, so I really look forward to your review! The Disappearing Act sounds interesting, as well… though I imagine it could be hit or miss.

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    • I’ve got a few mystery anthologies this year, and each of them looks like fun. Going to be juggling them with the horror anthologies though! I’m about a third of the way through The Disappearing Act now, and so far am loving it! Let’s hope it keeps up the way it’s started… 😀

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  5. I think I’d go with Colson Whitehead. I have several of his books that I’ve been intending to read, but then became smitten by verse novels because I’m such a slow reader…maybe I need to revisit the shelf where I house his books…..

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  6. Whew, safe for another week!! Congrats on the culling — I’d say you did an excellent job (and I love that meme, though the writer in me shudders at somebody actually tossing books around!!)

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  7. I really do understand the conflict associated with letting books go, especially when there is a sense of “should read” about them, and then the freedom once they’re gone! I’ve just finished reading Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and also read his The Nickel Boys. In both instances I become quite involved with the stories and injustices he was relating. I will read more of his work and will be interested in how you find Harlem Shuffle.

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    • I find it much harder to get rid of unread physical copies than Kindle books – clearly my subconscious only thinks paper books count! But I’d reached a point where I was spending so much time reading unsolicited review copies than books of my own choosing, and while some of them turn out to be great, many don’t! I’m glad to hear you’ve enjoyed Whitehead’s earlier books – I was tempted by both, but not tempted enough. This one sounds lighter, I think, so I’m hoping it’ll be a good introduction that might encourage me to delve into his back catalogue…

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    • I’m the same – this is the first blurb of his that has really appealed to me, and it’s the Harlem setting I’m looking forward to. Plus this one sounds a bit lighter in tone – I hope!

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    • I reached a point where I realised something drastic was needed or I’d be reading unsolicited crime novels for the rest of my life! I have high hopes for Harlem Shuffle – it sound like it should be fun! The BL covers never disappoint, so they? 😀

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    • Oh, I’m glad to hear you enjoyed Guilty Creatures! I usually love these anthologies – they’re variable, of course, but there are usually enough gems in them to make up for any duds. I’m hoping to get to The Widow of Bath in the next couple of days, so fingers crossed we both like it… 😀

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  8. Culling is traumatic and can be guilt-inducing so congratulations! I’ve read a few of Colson Whitehead’s earlier books and found them so very good. I love how he has written in a variety of styles and yet is always his unforgettable self. Had the same reaction to ‘The Man Who Didn’t Fly’ so I’ll be interested in what you think about this one.

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    • I do feel guilty about culling, especially when it’s books some publisher has kindly sent me. But there comes a point when I have to accept my limitations – I simply can’t read them all! This will be my first Whitehead – this blurb appealed because it sounds a bit lighter than his recent books. I should get to The Widow of Bath within the next couple of days, so fingers crossed – I did like the writing in her other book, just not so keen on the puzzle taking precedence over the plot…

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  9. Culling is hard, I totally agree. I’m excited about the Colson Whitehead, I read one of his last books and really enjoyed it, although it was a very dark read as well – he talks about difficult topics, racism, etc. Still, a wonderful writer, so it will be interesting to see how this next one stacks up…

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    • I don’t usually get so many books sent to me that I can’t fit them in, but recently it’s been like a tsunami! Yes, I’ve always been a bit put off Whitehead because his themes seem so heavyweight, but this one sounds lighter so I’m hoping it’ll ease me into his work… 🤞

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