Reviews & Rants - Blogging about books, authors, and generally 


Clouds of Witness - Dorothy L. Sayers

I need a great book to make up for my last reading experience. I also feel like re-reading the Wimsey stories in order, this time including the short stories, which I've so far neglected or rather saved up for special circumstances. I guess, a pandemic should qualify as "special circumstances".


In any case, a visit to Duke's Denver is on the cards.

Reading progress update: I've read 85%.

In a Dark, Dark Wood - Ruth Ware




‘How do you know,’ she says quietly, ‘that I haven’t already done that?’

Oh my God. I feel weak with horror.

I take a long gulp of tea, my teeth chattering at the edge of the mug, and I try to think, try to gather the strands of all this together. This is not true.


(show spoiler)

is screwing with my head. No sane person would be sitting here drinking tea with a woman who

murdered her fiancé and tried to drive their car off the road

(show spoiler)



And yet, and yet... Seriously, WTF?!

Reading progress update: I've read 83%.

In a Dark, Dark Wood - Ruth Ware

Bwahahaha... The way this is going, my predictions may - for the first time ever - be spot on!


This story is ridiculous, and for being a crime writer, our MC is seriously lacking in powers of observation, but I have to say that this has been a vary entertaining read.  

The 2020 Mount TBR Project - End of May Update

Well, I can't believe this is the end of May already. This month seemed to fly by.


In book-related updates, I managed to read a lot. And I do mean A LOT. One of the reasons for this is the ongoing lockdown, of course, but I also found that I have found a way to enjoy audiobooks during my work hours.


I still have not swapped any books for "book jokers" (see explanation at the end of the post), so my current 2020 Mt. TBR shelves look like this - There is a visible change from last month and I am thrilled by that: 


End of May Mt. TBR:

End of April Mt. TBR:

End of March Mt. TBR:

End of February Mt. TBR:


End of January Mt. TBR:


Start of the Year Mt. TBR:


The Stats:


Books read this month: 23 (May)

Mt. TBR Books read this month: 7 

DNFs this month: 3


Women / Men / Team*: 50% / 45% / 5%

% of original Mt. TBR read: 34% 


Available swaps (not made yet): 16 (+4 from previous month)


(* - of all books read since 01 January 2020)


Link to the original Mt. TBR (2020) post.


Rules - same as previously - are that I picked a stack of physical books off my shelves at home which I would try to read over the course of the year. If I pick another (yet unread) physical book off my shelves, I get to take one off the Mt. TBR shelves and put it on the regular shelf - as a substitute. In a change from previous years, new purchases (physical books only) will not be added to the Mt. TBR shelves - I will track these separately.

Reading progress update: I've read 63%.

In a Dark, Dark Wood - Ruth Ware

‘James is … was …’ I swirled the drink in my glass, the ice cubes chinking as I tried to think how to phrase it. ‘My ex,’ I said at last.

It was true – but so far from the whole truth that it felt almost like a lie.

‘We were together at school.’

‘At school?’ Tom raised both eyebrows this time. ‘Good lord. Dark ages. Childhood sweethearts?’

‘Yes, I guess so.’

‘But you’re friends now?’

What could I say? No, I haven’t seen him since the day he texted me. No, I’ve never forgiven him for what he said, what he did. No. ‘I … not exactly. We sort of lost touch.’





Ok, prediction time:


So, far into the story - thanks to the telling in flashbacks, while our MC is recovering from amnesia in hospital (not really a spoiler, we know this from the first few pages) - I think there are some obvious red herrings in this one, and I think one of them is

the obviously unhinged "friend". The other is the MC

(show spoiler)


I also get a whiff of a particular Christie plot

(Towards Zero)

(show spoiler)

from this story, so I am inclined to suspect that the person most likely to be connected with the victim is

his wife to be, the character who's been a bit of a bully to the others at school and who seems to be a calculating, controlling character with some sort of grudge. Why else would she invite the MC (that she had not spoken to in 10 years) to her hen weekend and deliberately withhold that the groom to be is the MC's old high school boyfriend?

(show spoiler)

Who else would have a motive as none of the other characters seem to know about James and the MC? I think all of the other characters met Clare at uni, i.e. after James and Nora broke up.


Yes, I am still reading this. It's a ridiculous book, and I want to know if the solution to this is equally ridiculous.


Reading progress update: I've read 26%.

In a Dark, Dark Wood - Ruth Ware

Yup. This has taken a turn into the ridiculous. 


Reading progress update: I've read 23%.

In a Dark, Dark Wood - Ruth Ware

I sank back on the sofa and shut my eyes, feeling the tequila, champagne and coke mixing in my veins. All evening I had been trying to connect the boy I’d known with the Clare of today, and this only brought into sharp focus the strangeness of it all. Had he really changed that much? Did they sit in their London flat, snorting up, side by side, and did he think of what he’d said when he was sixteen and reflect on the irony of it, the irony that he was now one of those tossers he’d laughed at all those years ago?

(show spoiler)

Ok. Never mind. We're back into the same territory as The Hunting Party and the people at the party have turned into idiots.

They all seem to be hung up on something, and what is worse is that even tho they don't really know each other, none of the characters seem to have the common sense to not rise to the others' jibes. 


And wtf is the mc still doing at the party?

Reading progress update: I've read 14%.

In a Dark, Dark Wood - Ruth Ware

‘Um, OK,’ Nina said. But I knew what she was thinking. What had been alarming about Flo wasn’t her reserve about what happened after uni – that was the least odd part of the whole thing. It was everything else that had been unnerving.

Oh, this is promising. This is really promising. 


I have so many questions, but they are all signs of being hooked by the story such as - what do all of these people at the hen weekend have in common when some of them are not even sure they are talking about the same person when talking about the bride? Where actually is the bride? Shouldn't she be there already?


I also keep comparing this book with Lucy Foley's The Hunting Party. I can already see how Ware's writing is so, so much better than Foley's. For a start, she can write believable characters and even better I don't want to push all of them off a cliff. (Yet.)


The Terror & White Face

The Terror (The Detective Club) - Martin Edwards, Edgar Wallace

Ah, this was such a nice surprise...there are two stories in this book The Terror and White Face

I seriously should maybe think about reading book descriptions rather than just be seduced by the pretty covers of books.


Anyway, The Terror was your typical Edgar Wallace thriller focused on madness, crime, and darkest London. To me Wallace didn't write noir as much as a special kind of Gothic crime, including damsels in distress, castles, secret passages, ... oh, and a mad monk.


Yes, the plot is silly, the characters are two-dimensional, and many of the other aspect are utterly ridiculous, but this is just the sort of crime caper one sometimes needs. So, what if it made me laugh out loud that one of the characters suffers from insanity for only exactly 2 hours every day? (Or was it 2 hours of sanity? Does it matter?)


I really liked this one. It reminded me a lot of the German screen adaptations of Wallace's work - they are hilariously, charmingly.....dated but they are great guilty pleasures.


White Face took a different approach to the "typical" Wallace story. Yes, this story is also based on organised crime at it's heart, but this one here seemed to be a lot close some of the stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle. There is a great twist, but there are also elements that seems to portray some of the crimes as the characters only choice, so almost ask for sympathy from the reader. 


It was an interesting change from other works by Wallace that I am familiar with and I love that the story was included in this book (edited by Martin Edwards) but the story was also quite long and drawn out, which didn't work well for me.


(Scene from the German screen adaptation of The Terror. Unfortunately, there are not many similarities between the film and the book.)

Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 304 pages.

The Terror (The Detective Club) - Martin Edwards, Edgar Wallace

Such is the plight of the mood reader that I've been wondering for the last hour or so which book to pick for tonight. 


I really want to start Timm's Halbschatten but I need something light and easy to switch off from work. I really also want to start A Scream in Soho, but I don't think I want to read that one as a "quick fix". 

So, I found The Terror in the vaults of my audible library, which should be an adequately entertaining story.


Oh, and incidentally, this like the disappointing Murder by Matchlight is also set in black-out London. Maybe the book gods wanted to make up for something?

Library find...

The Secrets We Kept - Lara Prescott

I came across this one as an audiobook on my library's BorrowBox and am intrigued enough to give it a go. 

It will probably be my "work from home companion" next week.

Reading progress update: I've read 33 out of 174 pages.

Tell It to a Stranger - Elizabeth Berridge

I've been doing rather well with my Mt. TBR challenge this month, but I still hadn't touched any of the lovely Persephone books on my shelf. 

This lunchtime I picked up Tell It to a Stranger, a collection of short stories, and found it very hard to put the book down once my lunch break was over. 


I can already tell that I like Berridge's writing. It is even-handed and consistent, and although the stories I have read can hardly be described as cheerful, there is some quiet optimism in them.

What I have enjoyed most so far, however, have been Berridges observations. 


"The old lady shook her head. That's the way it goes, from generation to generation, she was thinking. The young one setting up new values which are as old as the sun, kicking away from the parents as a child kicks from the womb." (The Bare Tree)

Reading progress update: I've read 34%.

Murder by Matchlight (British Library Crime Classics) - E.C.R. Lorac, Martin Edwards

Reeves threw his cigarette away and a few seconds later lighted another match. As he bent over the flame his face was brilliantly lighted, and then he lifted his head and waved the match in the air. Instantly, like some fantastic illusion, another face appeared, some twelve inches above Reeves’, and Mallaig suddenly shouted, as though his strung-up nerves impelled him to give voice. “There’s the third chap… look,” but even as he spoke the match went out and there was a dull thud and a heavy fall. Mallaig jumped up, dropped his torch, fumbled for it and at last turned it on. In the beam of light a man could be seen astride the bridge rail and another lay on the ground. Mallaig sprang forward, but Macdonald’s voice came out of the darkness:

“Steady on, laddie. It’s only a reconstruction you know.”

Mallaig halted with a rather uncertain laugh.

“That was pretty grim, you know. It was exactly what happened last night—except the faces were different. The third chap—he was the same in a way—dark coat and cap—but his face wasn’t like the one I saw last night. What’s so amazing was the way you could see just in the light of one match.”


Yup. This is my last E.C.R. Lorac. 

This story focuses on repetitive plodding police work (not my favourite kind of mystery) and inane conversations between characters who lack individuality and ... character.




Reading progress update: I've read 16%.

Murder by Matchlight (British Library Crime Classics) - E.C.R. Lorac, Martin Edwards

“Pop in!” she adjured him.

“Landing blackout’s N.B.G. I do like a bit of light. This dark business is enough to give a girl the creeps. Come right in. That’s better, isn’t it?”

“Much better,” replied Macdonald cheerfully, blinking a little in the strong light. His first impression was of a prevailing pinkness: pink walls, pink curtains, pink cushions: artificial pink roses stood in ornate vases, artificial cherry blossoms trailed over mirrors and peeped coyly round elaborately framed photographs. Macdonald disliked pink as a colour, and this room seemed to him to resemble pink blanc-mange. He turned in some relief to study the owner of all this roseate effect—a neat little black-coated figure, she stood and returned his stare sedately.

This is my second attempt at E.C.R. Lorac's works. I didn't enjoy my first attempt - Bats in the Belfry - much, and it took me 4 attempts so far to get into this story without drifting off.


It's not looking good for E.C.R. Lorac's books to make any further appearances on my TBR. 

One for the Agathytes...and other fans of The Detection Club

I hope this plays outside of the UK, but BBC Radio has put a production of Simon Brett's play "Eric the Skull" about the Detection Club online.


(The link is in the header of the post.)


Die Pendragon-Legende (The Legend of Pendragon)

Die Pendragon Legende - Antal Szerb

Whatever I had expected of this book, they did not come true at all because this book turned out to be the most unpredictable read of 2020 so far. 


In a way, this book was a bit like going for a walk in the hills and suddenly being slapped across the head by a fish falling from the skies. And in a way, that also describes 2020 so far. So, it's been a timely read.


In all seriousness, Antal Szerb was having fun here in this collage of all the genres that I can only describe as a satire of all of the popular fiction that had been written up to the book's date of publication...and somehow preempting Scooby Doo, Indiana Jones, The Da Vinci Code, and I am sure some "rad" 70s fiction that I am glad I have not discovered, yet.


We get a scholarly MC, who ends up banding with a motley crew on the way to a Welsh castle, which may or may not be haunted, to visit an aristocrat, who may or may not also be an evil practitioner of the occult ... or a version of Dr. Frankenstein ... one can't be too sure.

We also have weird prophets, superstitious priests, potential human sacrifice, a whole lot of atmospheric fog that appears just at the most thrilling moments. We have Englishmen with upper lips so stiff that it takes a whole lot of questionable femininity to make them wobble, and we have an Earl's daughter, who spoils the usual script of a murder mystery  that ends in falling for the crime-solving hero

, and basically runs off with an Austenite character whom we've never heard off until the last page

(show spoiler)


This was a romp. It was fun, but for crying out loud, don't ask me what I've just read.

"I was back in my historic bed (Queen Anne, I believe). With time, this room had come to seem like home. A not entirely restful home. Somewhere above my head the giant axolotls swam. A few yards from my window stood the balcony Maloney had fallen from. And there was the vivid memory of the night rider circling the house with his flaming torch. It was home to me, as a trench would be to a soldier. I pulled my head down under the blanket."

Currently reading

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott
The Complete English Poems by John Donne
Progress: 158/569pages
The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) by William Shakespeare, John Jowett, Gary Taylor
Progress: 605/1344pages
Halbschatten by Uwe Timm
Progress: 16/272pages
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein
Progress: 258/558pages