Lots of very short mysteries from the library this time around, but other things mixed in. All fiction.
Margery Allingham, Dancers in Mourning, Death of a Ghost, Flowers for the Judge, and The China Governess. Last month I asked whether the Allingham I'd picked up then was representative, and heard that it was not. So I got an omnibus from the library with the first three of these titles in it, and the fourth just for good measure. They were the right thing for that set of moods, but I think I'm done with that set of moods at the moment; I will probably go back and read more of her stuff at some other point, but I'm not hooked enough to want to plow through all of them as soon as the library can get them here.
Mike Carey, The Devil You Know. The second half of this book was one of those "why are you bothering me can't you see I'm reading go away so I can READ" sorts of books. I'm sure Mr. Carey is heartily sick of people saying, "If you like Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden novels, you'll love this!" But, well. There we are. Felix Castor is a great deal less initially obnoxious than Harry Dresden, and the writing is better than in the early Harry Dresden books. Carey is clearly a great deal more visual than I am, but who isn't?
Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep, The High Window, and half of Pulp Stories. I started in with his short fiction because it was first in the omnibus I had on hand. But it was feeling much of a muchness, so I went on to read The Big Sleep on the theory that 200 pages of the same characters is much more palatable if they're actually the same characters and not merely the same kinds of characters. Came upon a passage that was more or less completely lifted from one of the short stories. Hmm. So I think the moral of the story here is: go with the novels. See if you like them. They're not verg long. If you're feeling like a Chandler completist, go back to the short stories.
I'm not feeling like a Chandler completist. I'm not sure I'll even get the rest of the novels unless there's a recommendation for a specific one. I was mostly reading this to get in the right headspace for writing the Aesir noir novel. I did like The High Window better than The Big Sleep, I think because of the sense that somebody in it could possibly tolerate somebody else in it. I get weary of books where nobody likes anybody else rather quickly.
Alexandre Dumas, The Women's War. Not going to take the D'Artagnan books' place in my heart any time soon. Entertaining in the way that Dumas is. There was something else I wanted to say here, but I've completely forgotten it.
Rumer Godden, In This House of Brede. Loved this. Oh, loved it. An extremely quiet and centered book. The worldbuilding was very fine. The nuns were not even slightly idealized. Such a book. Time gets a little mixed in some passages, but that seems more appropriate than otherwise.
One thing the vertigo gave me, I guess, is that if I was feeling well, I would have taken myself to the library. Instead, I had my mom take me, and when she saw this book on my pile, she gave it a fond look and said, "How did you come to this?" If my cryptic notes on my library list from quite some months ago are deciphered correctly, I put it on the list because yhlee liked it when papersky recommended it to her. It turns out it was also a favorite of my mother's when she was a teenager, one she'd read out of Gran's stash. And so along with the joy of reading it, I had an overlay of identification with my mother as a teenager, curled into the corner of Gran's couch or off in the sun porch with her feet propped on the green ottoman. I smelled Gran's house in my mind the whole time I read it, Gran's house in summer, the way the net curtains smelled when the sunlight came in them, and lilacs and Emeraude and AquaNet, a tiny bit of oregano and old iron locks on the doors.
We are not ones to hold off book recommendations deliberately in this family, which is in general a very good thing, but it means that I had most of this kind of experience when I was too young to appreciate it the same way that I do now. And it was a good set of decisions, not holding things back; I'll do it myself. I'm already thinking of how I'll be able to tell whether Amber is ready for Swallows and Amazons and whether I'll be able to find her the nice green hardbounds then, whether I should do it in advance just in case. I'm already watching Robin for signs that he's ready to read The Pushcart War or a Tripods book. But I'm glad that at least one thing Mom really loved slipped through the cracks until now, because it was here for me to discover now.
Alan Gordon, Thirteenth Night. This features the characters from Twelfth Night some years after, and a Fools' Guild that is a secret society in Europe. If I had known this, I wouldn't have picked it up in the first place; the fact that I kept reading after finding out in the first few pages should indicate that it's fairly well-done, and also that I had some faith in the recommender. In the end...I saw the murderer coming a mile off, and I'm still not mostly keen on secret societies on the Continent, nor on Shakespearean characters in fiction. It's a quirk I have, I guess. I suspect that if you share neither of those lacks of keenness, this would be a pretty good series for you.
Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man. More brain-prep for the Aesir noir novel. I liked the latter better than the former: again, there were people who genuinely liked each other, which improved the experience substantially for me. Also, if you think people drink a lot in Tim Powers novels, uff da, Powers looks like Carrie Freakin' Nation next to Hammett.
C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian. Less astronomy than I remembered, but I can see how I ended up with a totally mistaken idea of what wine would taste like from this book. I still think that Peter and Susan being old enough to do without Narnia and magic is utter nonsense.
Ruth Rendell, Talking to Strange Men. This was well-done and extremely creepy to me. Rendell managed to take teenagers seriously on their own terms very successfully and yet maintain the adult reader's awareness of protectiveness towards the young: that they were young did not make them innocent, but that they were clever, interesting people did not make them experienced. Very much the opposite of a comfort read for me, but not in a bad way at all.
Josephine Tey, Brat Farrar, Miss Pym Disposes, and The Franchise Affair. I loved these. They were exactly the right thing, but I think I would have loved them at any other moment, too. I wish I could recommend them unreservedly, but I have to note that while it isn't integral to any plot, there are a few totally gratuitous racist comments that will be jarring to most of us. I feel convinced that one of the teachers in Miss Pym, for example, would indeed have said that a student "worked like a black" to mean that she worked very hard; it's an accurate depiction of the idiom of the time. But it's of course offensive, and that sort of thing can be extremely unpleasant when it catches you unawares; when pameladean and I were talking about it, she said that Tey has a very intimate voice, and that's just it: she's very good at pulling you in, or at least at pulling me in.
These are not mysteries whose main appeal -- to me, at least -- is that one doesn't know whodunnit. Because of that I think they will bear rereading very well.
I wanted more of Jane and Ruth at the end of Brat Farrar. And in the middle of it, honestly. Also, I'm afraid I was reading it as set in papersky's Farthing universe because that's why I'd heard someone talking of it most recently, and nothing in the book actively corroborates that, but nothing contradicts it, either.