Stephanie McCarthy

Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Mystery Geeks

In Book Reviews, Uncategorized on February 13, 2013 at 10:51 pm

Reference Books to Make You Even Geek-ier

Bloody Murder: From the Detective Story to the Crime Novel: A History by Julian Symons. Good for a Golden Age synopsis and full of author opinions.

A Reader’s Guide to the Classic British Mystery by Susan Oleksiw. Excerpt from Amazon- From 19th century classics to as recent as 1985, this complete source book of British Mystery covers more than 1440 titles by 121 authors. Each is fully annotated without giving the ending away.

Snobbery With Violence: Crime Stories and Their Audience by Colin Watson. Analysis of British crime fiction, including the Golden Age, and its sociological underpinnings by a master of detective stories.

Twentieth Century Crime and Mystery Writers. Critical overviews and complete bibliographies for mystery writers from the beginnings of the genre to 1980.

The Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Writing by Rosemary Herbert, Catherine Aird, John M. Reilly and Susan Oleksiw Excerpt from Amazon: From the penny dreadful, which challenges seekers of sensation to discover the truth in a pattern of gory details; to the twentieth-century detective novel, which offers an intricate puzzle solved through the application of the intellect; to the crime novel, which probes the psyches of the characters, the crime and mystery genre offers readers an intellectual excitement unsurpassed by other forms of fiction. Provides scholars and fans of this genre with an authoritative yet playful compendium of knowledge about a literature known for its highly entertaining treatment of deadly serious puzzles.

Talking about Detective Fiction by P.D. James From Publishers Weekly: One of the most widely read and respected writers of detective fiction, James (The Private Patient) explores the genre’s origins (focusing primarily on Britain) and its lasting appeal. James cites Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone, published in 1868, as the first detective novel and its hero, Sergeant Cuff, as one of the first literary examples of the professional detective (modeled after a real-life Scotland Yard inspector). As for Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, James argues that their staying power has as much to do with the gloomy London atmosphere, the enveloping miasma of mystery and terror, as with the iconic sleuth. Devoting much of her time to writers in the Golden Age of British detective fiction (essentially between the two world wars), James dissects the work of four heavyweights: Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh. Though she’s more appreciative of Marsh and Allingham (declaring them novelists, not merely fabricators of ingenious puzzles), James acknowledges not only the undeniable boost these women gave to the genre but their continuing appeal. For crime fiction fans, this master class from one of the leading practitioners of the art will be a real treat.


Felicity & Barbara Pym

In Book Reviews on December 30, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Just finished this tribute to Pym by Harriet Solow and was very impressed by the research that went into post-war 1950’s England.  It was very informative and obviously this author knows her stuff. I actually could’ve used more Pym in it and less history, but then, I’m a Pym freak 🙂  I highly recommend it to anyone who makes a study of Pym or enjoys reading about this era.


In Book Reviews on December 26, 2012 at 10:16 pm

I’m addicted to the television show, Psych, and had absolutely no idea they’d done a mystery series!!!  So, I’m reading the The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Read, and although I think the show is better, the mystery is actually very entertaining.  I love the chemistry b/w Shawn and Gus and the banter is irreverant and witty, just like the show.  BTW- if you want a laugh some rainy afternoon look up best quotes from Psych, they’re awesome. I’m looking forward to reading/watching more.

The Herring-Seller’s Apprentice

In Book Reviews on December 22, 2012 at 1:47 pm

L.C. Tyler is HYSTERICAL!!! I’m always suspicious when back quotes say “it will delight Christie and Sayers fans” (b/c I think we’re fairly picky) but in this case it was true.  I was delighted.  It’s a fun, funny, witty, charming book and I can’t wait to read more.  (The back cover also says “Who’s Likely to Like This?  Fans of truly intelligent cozies)  A bit pretentious but also affirming that I read truly intelligent books 🙂

Notes From a Small Island

In Book Reviews on December 20, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Just finished Bill Bryson’s book and as a dedicated Anglophile I thought it was hilarious.  The next best thing to actually going to England.  I’m putting his earlier book, A Walk in the Woods, in my library bag.

BTW, being able to order library books online and then go pick them up is absolutely WONDERFUL (and dangerous, there are books everywhere, I’m currently reading four).  I’ve noticed some limitations, though.  I’ve tried to order some books from smaller presses and the library is unable to get them for me.  SO, I have to BUY them, which is good for indie press but bad for my bank account.

A Murder Hatched

In Book Reviews on December 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Just finishing up A Murder Hatched by Donna Andrews and really enjoyed it.  It’s a fast read and fun.  I liked the three weddings angle and it ensured there was constant action in the community.  It conveyed the impression of a town where the progressive dinner party never ends, which I liked (kinda like. it’s always five o’ clock here).  The protagonist was a bit of a push-over w/ regard to her family, but then, aren’t we all ? 🙂


How about you, ready any books lately with a compelling sense of community?

The Daughter of Time

In Book Reviews on December 7, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Um, yeah.  Josephine Tey is simply awesome.  I’m re-reading the Daughter of Time, which is essentially Inspector Grant laying in a hospital bed reading history books.  Zzzzzz, you might say?  No, WAIT, this book is incredible!  Sure, he’s in a hospital bed, but his mind is racing through the past, exploring the mystery of what really happened to the Princes in the Tower and was Richard III a villain… or one of the most maligned characters in English history?  She’s not telling so far, but the tone definitely leans towards the latter (b/c if people are as they seem what’s the mystery?)  I love trying to figure out not where she’s going, but why she’s going there.


Are there any books that sounded boring on their face and ended up blowing your mind???

Let Her Eat Cake

In Book Reviews on December 1, 2012 at 6:05 pm

I know, this blog is about murder mysteries.  But occasionally I branch out into that black hole of other genres and find something stunning I just have to chat about.  I just finished I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley and I’ve got to say it was HILARIOUS!!!  The essays are mainly about her humiliations and tribulations in life but they are told so matter-of-factly there’s never any self-pity.  Some of it was a little too edgy for my taste, but it deserves a read and is especially good escape from holiday togetherness (or aloneness, whichever plagues you).

The Sirens Sang of Murder

In Book Reviews on November 26, 2012 at 7:34 pm

Have I mentioned my author-crush on Sarah Caudwell???  It intensifies everytime I re-visit her work which has been happening a lot lately. (I go through cycles on books, I think maybe it’s some variation of seasonal affective disorder).  Anyway, back to Caudwell, just finished TSSOM again and am impressed by her wit and humour.  She’s such an inspiration and over the holidays it’s good to have a laugh 🙂


Are there any books you read to get you in the Christmas spirit??? Or to maintain your sanity at such a hectic time of year???

Gaudy Night

In Book Reviews on November 18, 2012 at 4:43 pm

I just read a rapturous review of Gaudy Night on a blogsite and felt compelled to join in the exaltation.


Gaudy Night is one of my favorite books on the planet.


It’s witty, subtle, sweet, acid, interesting, and romantic.  Sir Peter Wimsey is one of the most interesting protagonists in literature and Harriet Vane only slightly less so.  The representations of Oxford in the 30’s are so vivid I can almost smell the crisp air, feel the crunch of the leaves and see the punts. It reminds me of college and bonfires, the exciting possibilities of academia… the world laid open in front of you like candy in a shop.

Gaudy is everything I want all my books to be but sooooo few are.  It’s ruined me in a way since the standards Sayers sets are almost impossible for any writer to attain.  Believe me, I’ve read A LOT of mysteries.  Tons, like all readers I’m always looking for that one book… you know the one.  The one that sets the tone for all of your Amazon searches and library visits.  As a reader and a writer, I believe I have an obligation to make recommendations based on experience and can urge every person reading this (hi, mom), to go out and get a copy of Gaudy Night, posthaste (LOVE saying posthaste; can’t say it at home, get the you-crazy look).