Black Plumes, by Margery Allingham

Well, I mean, let’s be real. After that whirlwind romance with The Night Circus (which I just very reluctantly took back to the library), no other suitor was going to compare at all. So it might be that. But I really did not like Black Plumes.

No, no, it’s not that I didn’t like it, it’s that I didn’t like it, and in fact really it’s that I was and am completely apathetic toward it. I read the book, I learned whodunnit, and I was like, “Oh. Okay. That’s cool, I guess.”

Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the other “Golden Age Girls”? Sayers, Christie, and Marsh (or really just all the authors of the period that I’ve read) have given me some crazy death or other that seems impossible or is really weird or has, like, twelve people who could have done it. The murder in this novel just sort of happens and then someone comes to investigate and then everyone suspects everyone else and then at the end it was some other guy who was never suspected, which, I guess I should have called that?

And there was this sub-plot-line with a pretend engagement that I actually didn’t like because it was just kind of annoying, and I didn’t care about either of the parties or any of the parties in the whole book and I couldn’t even tell you what the inspector’s name is or anything about him besides that he doesn’t say “just” or “joke” but rather “chust” and “choke” because apparently that’s what they say wherever he’s from and man that accent as done by this narrator was very distracting. So maybe it’s an audiobook problem?

I don’t know. I have really nothing else to say about this book, and that makes me kind of sad. Should I give Allingham another chance? Is this actually her worst book and I chust made a terrible decision? Please say it’s so!

Recommendation: I just… I don’t know.

Rating: 4/10
(RIP Challenge, Vintage Mystery Challenge)

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)

Dead Man’s Folly, by Agatha Christie

I am slowly working my way through Christie’s novels in a quite haphazard fashion… this one I had originally picked up because it was the only Christie audiobook at the library, but I ended up reading it in print from the beginning after the CDs were too damaged to play and the book took so long in getting to me that I had forgotten all the important bits! Dedicated, I am. Sort of.

I say this both to impress you and to impress upon you that I have read/listened to this book 1.5 times, and still when I got to the ending I was like… what. It is possible, I suppose, that a keen mind could have pieced together the clues that led to this ending, but mine was not that mind. Alas.

The story is delightful — Christie brings in her alter-ego, Ariadne Oliver, who is off at some rich person’s house concocting a murder mystery event. Things get weird, so Oliver contrives to enlist the help of our good friend Poirot, whose moustaches are fine indeed. Oliver tells Poirot that things are hinky and that she’s worried that her murder mystery puzzle will turn into a true murder mystery, but Poirot writes off her intuition. Until, of course, someone turns up dead. And someone else doesn’t turn up, missing. Sacre bleu!

There are a ton of characters in this novel, and therefore many suspects, and I felt things got a little busy trying to sort out how everyone was related and all of their backstories and whatnot. And a lot of the actual mystery solving takes place off-page, Holmes-style, which was a little disappointing. But regardless, Christie writes a fine mystery and even though I was a bit baffled by the solution, it still affected me as it should. And how can you argue with her wonderful descriptions? You can’t.

All in all a successful story. Which should I read next?

Recommendation: For anyone who likes a classic whodunnit.

Rating: 8/10
(A to Z Challenge, Vintage Mystery Challenge)

Five Red Herrings, by Dorothy Sayers

I found this book in Mac’s Backs when I was up in Cleveland for New Year’s, and since I’ve never seen any other Sayers novels there (and because I still have some store credit there), I snapped it up right quick! It even took precedence over my library book for in-flight reading material, because I liked Gaudy Night so much I wanted my Sayers fix pronto!

This was, for the most part, a very good idea, especially the plane part, because I might not have been able to focus on this book were it not for lack of anything else to do. The story is interesting, don’t get me wrong, but Sayers buries the whole thing in so much train timetable nonsense and sometimes indecipherable Scottish dialect that more than once I found myself a bit confused by something but too overwhelmed to go back and figure it out. So I may be missing any subtler parts of this mystery.

But basically, you’ve got a dude. A belligerent dude, who is not terribly well liked by most of his friends. And so then he dies, seemingly accidentally, and that’s all well and good until one Lord Peter Wimsey is like, “Oh, ho, but this one piece of evidence that would totally make this an accident is missing!” and Dorothy Sayers is all, “But I’m not gonna tell you what that evidence is because where’s the fun in that?” except she actually writes, “(Here Lord Peter Wimsey told the Sergeant what he was to look for and why, but as the intelligent reader will readily supply these details for himself, they are omitted from this page.)” Which is both sexist and unnecessary, because I sort of knew what she was talking about but it didn’t help me figure out whodunnit any faster, so whatever.

Ahem. Anyway, dude-face is dead, and it’s an artist what killed him, and in particular one of six potential artists who had the motive and means to do it. Interestingly, most of these artists have gone missing, so it takes rather longer than it probably should to round them all up, figure out their stories, and solve the case. And even then, the case takes a while to solve, because it gets all Clue up in Scotland. Or, I should probably say that Clue gets all Five Red Herrings up in Mr. Boddy’s mansion, but I saw Clue first and I’m sticking with it. What I mean to say is that several people offer theories of what might have happened, and then Wimsey is all, “Nuh-uh, you’re wrong and I’m right like Sherlock Holmes!” and then, and I am not kidding about this, Wimsey stages a real-time reenactment of the crime that is, again, totally unnecessary but which is in fact delightful.

So. Minus points for the incredibly dense writing, but super-awesome plus points for lines like, “‘You shut up,’ said Wimsey, ‘You’re dead, sir.'” and, “‘Now, corpse, it’s time I packed you into the car.'” Though I admit that if anyone had ever said, “To make a long story short,” I would have had to shout, “TOO LATE!”

Recommendation: For fans of classic-type mysteries who are not adverse to a little translation in their reading or a little math (for the timetables).

Rating: 8/10, mostly for the delightful ending
(A to Z Challenge, Vintage Mystery Challenge, What’s in a Name Challenge)

Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge

This here is an excellent challenge for me, as I have been greatly neglecting the vintage mysteries as of late, except that one time that my book club read Gaudy Night and it was awesome. Definitely absolutely have to read more of these!

Here are the important rules:

*All books must have been written before 1960 and be from the mystery category.

*Challenge runs from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011. Sign up any time between now and November 30, 2011.

*No matter what level you choose, please try at least two different vintage authors.

*The best part? A prize for everyone who completes their challenge. Once you declare your challenge level…you are locked in for that number of books. But you may change your list of books at any time. Let me know when you have met your challenge goal and I will send you a list of prizes (books) to choose from. Of course, the earlier you finish, the longer the list of books will be.

Challenge Levels:

In a Murderous Mood: 4-6 Books
Get a Clue: 7-9 Books
Hot on the Trail: 10-12 Books
Capture the Criminal: 13-15 Books
Take ‘Em to Trial: 16+ Books

OR

The Golden Age Girls*: Read 5-7 books from female authors from the vintage years
Cherchez Le Homme: Read 5-7 books from male authors from the vintage years

Oh my! Okay, so. I really need to read more vintage mysteries, but considering how many challenges I am planning on participating in (no, really, prepare to see many more of these posts in the soon-time) and how I failed two already this year and am about to fail a third, I am going to stick with the “Murderous Mood” level, and it will probably also be a “Golden Age Girls” challenge, as my plan is to bust out the Christie and Sayers, whom I adore.

I am really excited about this! Must hit up the local used books store!

1. Five Red Herrings, by Dorothy Sayers (Review)
2. Dead Man’s Folly, by Agatha Christie (Review)
3. Whose Body?, by Dorothy Sayers (Review)
4. Death of a Fool, by Ngaio Marsh (Review)
5. Overture to Death, by Ngaio Marsh (on audio) (Review)
6. Black Plumes, by Margery Allingham (Review)