Death of a Fool, by Ngaio Marsh

What? A new “Golden Age Girl” for my Vintage Mystery Challenge? Delightful!

I had never heard of Ngaio (pronounced “Nye-oh”) Marsh, but my friend Jessica has been pushing me to read her, and in my “I have nothing to read doo doo doo” searching of OverDrive for an audiobook, I found two that fit my reading challenge. Perfection! I couldn’t decide between the two, so I asked Wikipedia to tell me what they were about. It then just outright spoiled one of the books, so the other it was!

And I’m quite happy with the one I read. It’s from near the middle of Marsh’s bibliography, so it’s got a nice established detective who does not long to be Holmes and also it is obvious that Marsh still likes her detective (I don’t know if she ever doesn’t; I am basing this statement on my experiences with other writers).

AND it’s a locked room mystery, and I love me a good padlocked door.

Well, except that there’s not actually a door. Or a lock. Which kind of makes it awesomer. What happens here is that there’s one of those pagan plays, with the dancing and the running around chasing girls and all, and this same family has been doing the play forever, and they’re doing it again, except this time there’s some German lady who drove out for two days to see the play but the fact that she’s annoying the crap out of everyone means no one wants her to go see the play, and also there’s some infighting amongst the family people who are all kind of sick of each other, and there’s a sort of prodigal granddaughter returning to her homeland and also being in love with someone in the play, and whatever and the play goes on and then suddenly the family Patriarch is supposed to have a line or something except he doesn’t say it because he has been BEHEADED. In front of everyone, because where else would he be, except no one saw it.

And that, my friends, is intriguing. All those things from before the play come into importance when Inspector Alleyn shows up and is all omg everyone seems to have wanted this guy dead, but no one could have done it, and also the way he seems to have died is just not right and what the heck actually happened?

So it’s good, is what I’m saying. I liked that there were a bunch of clues that I could figure out, and I solved what is sort of the first mystery before it was revealed, but even with just a few minutes left to go on audio I wasn’t sure what the answer to the whole mystery was. And when I heard the answer, I wasn’t like, what. I was like, “Ohhhhhhh, iiiiiiinteresting.” Also, there is a re-enactment, and although no one has to shut up and be a corpse, it’s still a fun time. I will definitely be reading more Marsh in the future.

Recommendation: Do you like classic mystery novels? Then read this.

Rating: 8.5/10
(Global Reading Challenge: Australasia, Vintage Mystery Challenge)

Death Note Vol. 7, by Tsugumi Ohba

Hey there, Death Note! How have you beeeeeen for the last seven months? Good? Good!

So when last we left off… um… stuff was happening. There was this notebook, and you could write people’s names in it and they would totally die, and that was kind of interesting, and then this kid with God-aspirations was like, “I’m’a totally kill all the bad guys in the world” and that was pretty awesome except that there are, like, laws and stuff and so the police decided to go after God-kid, who happens to be the son of the police chief guy, which is all complicated, and then God-kid started having to kill some good guys, which is terrible, and then God-kid made with the crazy-ass LOGIC and PSYCHOLOGY and managed to escape the police largely by forgetting that he ever had this mysterious notebook in the first place.

Yes. That. That’s totally what happened.

And I don’t recommend forgetting all of that yourself before reading this seventh volume, because right from the start the writers are like, lets have some weird stuff happen that makes no sense but we’ll explain it later! Which is good, except when I don’t realize that I shouldn’t already know what’s going on and sit there with a confused look on my face instead of reading the five pages I need to get to the part with the explaining. Not that the explaining is very explainful. I’m still confused.

‘Cause basically, in this one, God-kid, aka Light, remembers that he had the Death Note thing, and it turns out that he totally planned to remember this and that he’s got some crazy logic/psychology plan to get his Death Note back without getting caught as the killer, and also to kill anyone who might ruin said plan. And it’s brain-hurty but also awesome, and it mostly works, except that the killing-people part only encourages NEW people to come out of the woodwork to track Light down, like I didn’t already have enough characters to keep straight. Which I did.

Luckily, I have the next two book in my possession now, so I might actually get around to reading them in a timely manner!

Recommendation: Oh, you should totally read this series (if you don’t mind things that make your brain explode), but you should probably start back at the beginning. πŸ™‚

Rating: 8/10
(A to Z Challenge, Global Reading Challenge: Asia)

A Red Herring Without Mustard, by Alan Bradley

I don’t know what is going on in Bishop’s Lacey. You can’t seem to throw a stone in this place without hitting a conspiracy and a dead body. Luckily for everyone, 11-year-old Flavia de Luce is on the case. Well, she’s interested in the case. And intrusive in the case. And totally holding back evidence until such time as she is forced to hand it over. Maybe it’s not such a lucky thing.

After the interminable opening of The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, I am glad to say that the mystery here gets started within the first sixth of the book, and that the preceding pages are full of Bradley’s wonderful writing so it goes by quite quickly. In this go, Flavia sets fire to a gypsy’s tent, then attempts to atone by offering the gypsy shelter at her family’s estate, then finds an intruder in the house, then finds the gypsy beat over the head and nearly dead. Flavia, delighted by the new mystery, sets off to find the connections between gypsies, thieves, and odd religious sects.

There is also a bit more information about Flavia’s dead mum and the slow ruin of her family’s estate, and I think quite a bit more insight into the characters of Flavia’s sisters and father. I liked this, and I liked the intriguing complexities of this set of mysteries, if not the selective genius of Flavia. It is a lot harder to believe in her 11-year-old-ness in this book and things get awfully convenient for her. But the story is amazingly engrossing and I tore through it in a few hours β€” though I was able to take a break and have some sleep before getting back to it the next day.

I’m hoping that things calm down around Bishop’s Lacey, but if people just want to keep scheming and dying and whatnot, I’m very interested in hearing about it.

Recommendation: For fans of the Flavia and of precocious science-minded child mystery solvers in general. Are there others? I should go find out.

Rating: 8/10
(Global Reading Challenge: North America)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson

Hey, look at me, catching up to pop culture circa two years ago! Three? Regardless! I am SO AWESOME.

Or something.

So ba-hasically, I avoided this book and its friends like the plague when they were all popular and stuff originally, but then they made a movie and now they’re making another movie and while I probably won’t watch either of them I sort of feel like I need to actually be able to converse in Stieg Larsson. See also: that time I read Twilight and then made my friend summarize the rest of the series for me.

Hey, anyone want to summarize the rest of this series for me?

In case you are like me from a week ago, here’s the gist of this first book: There’s a dude, and he’s a journalist, and he does a bad-journalist thing and publishes some libel, and then he gets a big fine and a jail sentence. Then, a very rich dude decides to pay the journalist dude a zillion dollars ostensibly to write the rich dude’s biography slash family history but actually to solve the murder of the rich dude’s… crap, let me go check the convenient family tree provided by Larsson… the rich dude’s grandniece, whose body disappeared under mysterious circumstances like forty years ago. Oh, to be a rich dude.

Meanwhile, there’s a chick, and she’s a sort of background checker slash private investigator slash hacker who is very very good at digging up dirt on people. She gets hired by the rich dude to investigate the journalist dude, and she does a good job, and then we find out that holy heck does she have some issues and HOLY HECK can she take care of herself regardless of said issues, holy heck, and then she ends up working with the journalist dude to solve the murder mystery and then another mystery besides.

That’s the basic plot, anyway. The HOLY HECK parts another big point of the story, and since Larsson throws in a lot of statistics and information on sexual assault of women, I think you can figure out what those parts might look like. This book is not for the squeamish. It can in fact be quite uncomfortable.

I’m not really sure what Larsson was going for with this novel. I mean, it’s pretty obvious that he was trying to make a Statement about violence against women, but this Statement is very uneven, what with the squicky parts and then the rest of the novel that basically pretends the squicky parts didn’t happen. And then of course there’s another point in there about Rich People and their propensity to be Horrible People too, and the awfulness of closed communities, and also how corporate espionage is bad stuff. So… yay? I learned things?

But Larsson did know what he was doing in the engaging writing department; even though I wasn’t totally onboard with this book I stayed up past midnight (shut up that’s WAY past my bedtime) glued to the pages as the mystery unraveled. And even when I got to the ending and was like, “Well, yeah, I saw that coming,” I was still also like, “But man, he did a good job bringing it here.” I can see how this ended up on many a beach in its prime.

Recommendation: It’s a brain-candy thriller, except for the unpleasantness. I’ll let you do your own math on it.

Rating: 6/10
(Global Reading Challenge)

2011 Global Reading Challenge



I’ve done the Orbis Terrarum Challenge for the past two years, but I always end up using English-speaking countries to fill it up, and I can never convince myself to do otherwise. But! I saw this similar challenge making the rounds, and it looks like the best chance I’ll have of breaking out of my Anglophone rut. But, because I know that I am lame, I am going to stick to the “easy” version of the challenge, and just hope I do better. πŸ™‚

The rules!

Read one novel from each of these continents in the course of 2011:

Africa

Asia

Australasia

Europe

North America

South America (please include Central America where it is most convenient for you)

The Seventh Continent (here you can either choose Antarctica or your own Β΄seventhΒ΄ setting, eg the sea, the space, a supernatural/paranormal world, history, the future – you name it).

From your own continent: try to find a country, state or author that is new to you.

I’m hoping I can handle that — if you have any good suggestions, let me have them! I’m putting, oh look, my entire pool of books from the last Orbis Terrarum back on this list, because I never read what I think I’m going to.

Africa:

Asia: Death Note Vol. 7, by Tsugumi Ohba (Review) Japan

Australasia: Death of a Fool, by Ngaio Marsh (Review) New Zealand

Europe: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson (Review) Sweden

North America: A Red Herring Without Mustard, by Alan Bradley (Review) Canada

South America:

Seventh Continent: