FF: Classic Mystery, Twisted History

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For those of you who are new to this feature, the FF feature lists of what I’ve read over the past week. They are not meant to be a recommendation list. If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive list, look at my website (which is still undergoing transformation)

What Are You Reading?

What Are You Reading?

under “Neat Stuff” for a not at all inclusive list.

Once again, this is not a book review column. It’s just a list with, maybe, a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

Heroes of History by Will Durant. Audiobook. I’ve listened to this one before, but the compact survey is very enjoyable. Goes from possibly mythical China through the beginnings of the Age of Reason. Although the focus is on “heroes,” the definition is very broad and includes some women. Moreover, Durant never slides into the “great man” theory of history, just uses specific people as organizational elements. An added bonus is that, at this late point in his career, Durant feels free to slip in some lovely humor.

Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones. Don’t let the title deceive you. Diana Wynne Jones never does anything the way you’d expect. I’d read this once years and years ago and found myself delighted all over again.

In Progress:

A Fashion for Shrouds by Margery Allingham. Audiobook. A classic mystery in her Albert Campion series.

A Holiday for Murder by Agatha Christie. I discovered this one when I was still babysitting – back more years ago than I care to admit. First time I’ve re-read it in a long time.


I’m doing a lot of scattered research reading.  Doesn’t make for an impressive list, but it does take time!

8 Responses to “FF: Classic Mystery, Twisted History”

  1. Rick Walter Says:

    RE: Margery Allingham’s FASHION IN SHROUDS. in the 1930s Margery wrote several whodunits that could be labeled “industrials” — SHROUDS targets the realm of High Fashion … DEATH OF A GHOST commercial publishing, DANCERS IN MOURNING musical theater. In fact, the last is my favorite Allingham, being exceptionally witty and boasting a marvelous surprise killer; it’s on my list of 10 best detective novels.

  2. Peter Says:

    Been on a bit of a mythic/fantasy China kick in honour of the new year (and taking some vacation time to visit the Forbidden City, hike a bit of the Great Wall, and otherwise soak up some local culture and history), including the Breaking the Wall series, Hughart’s stories of Master Li and Number Ten Ox, and Kylie Chan’s Wutang trilogy.

    High point was probably seeing some paintings in the Long Hallway in the Summer Palace in Beijing illustrating the folk tale that inspired “Bridge of Birds” (and shocking my tour guide when I pointed to the panel in question and identifying the story being told).

    • janelindskold Says:

      Wonderful! Let’s hear it for Fantasy Fiction as cultural education.

      How wonderful that you’re actually celebrating the Year of the Sheep//Ram/Goat (depending on translation) in China!

      • Peter Says:

        This is my second New Year in China, and it’s quite the party! Travel during the Spring Festival is an event in itself – the airports and, especially, train stations are packed to a degree that makes JFK at Thanksgiving look like a ghost town.

        And indeed, Fantasy fiction and gaming have been a tremendous doorway into other cultures for me – without them I wouldn’t know a chi’lin from a lung, or Sun Wukong from the Vermillion Bird.

      • janelindskold Says:

        And really, just the fact that you know that it’s a Vermillion Bird, not a Phoenix shows a great deal.

        Or who that great migrating character Sun Wukong is!

  3. JM6 Says:

    A note and a question.
    The note: it wasn’t until reading the comments here that I realized why my flight over here to Beijing was so expensive and so completely full – I was travelling at the tail end of the New Year festival. No choice, really. I’m teaching here this semester and that’s just when the semester is about to begin.
    The question: how important is it to read the Campion stories in chronological order? I made the “mistake” of reading a later tale and then getting confused when I read an earlier one and certain characters were not present yet. Nero Wolfe stories were, I’ve heard, written so the main characters never really age or change, but it seems as though Campion gets older and has a life which progresses.

    • janelindskold Says:

      Although I didn’t originally read the Campion stories in order (I picked up TIGER IN THE SMOKE because of the great title) I have since done so.

      Unlike the Nero Wolfe stories, in which prior events influence subsequent ones only a little, the Campion ones do progress — and some of the personal relationships change drastically.

      So, while they can be read out of order, my preference is for in order… but if your choice is out of order or skipping entirely, for goodness sake, give them a try!

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