Margery Allingham: Death of a Ghost


Unlike my reading experience with Allingham’s fellow Golden Age Queens of Crime Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh, that with Margery Allingham’s Albert Campion series is a rather checkered one, where instances of true mystery reader’s delight repeatedly follow hot on the heels of groan-inducing forays into clichéd, implausible plots populated by cardboard characters, and vice versa.  That said, even upon my first read I considered Death of a Ghost one of the series’s absolutely standout entries, and that impression has only been confirmed and reinforced by revisiting the book.  Set in the art world and populated by a cast of fully drawn, quirky characters (some likeable, some decidedly less so), the book lives off Allingham’s acerbic wit, which is brought out to great advantage here; and although Campion tumbles to the probable identity of the murderer when we’re barely halfway into the book, Allingham easily maintains the reader’s interest by keeping the “how” a puzzle, and by tying in a further puzzle whose solution will eventually provide the motive for the murder.  If there is any letdown in the book at all, it’s in the murderer’s ultimate fate, but by and large, this is a superlative effort.

As a side note, I’ve also concluded that the audio versions of Allingham’s novels work decidedly better for me if read by Francis Matthews rather than David Thorpe.  I have no problem with Thorpe as a narrator of other books, but he takes a rather literal approach to Allingham’s description of Campion’s voice, making it come across almost as a falsetto, which in combination with his overly expressive narration as a whole tends to drive me clean up the wall.  Matthews’s delivery, by contrast, while hinting at Campion’s vocal patterns, is a bit more matter of fact overall (even though it still leaves plenty of room for characterization, both of people and of plot elements) — an impression that was swiftly confirmed when a search for further Allingham titles recorded by Matthews threw up a non-Campion mystery of hers, Black Plumes, which in turn also confirmed my impression that some of Allingham’s best writing is contained in books other than her Campion mysteries.

Ngaio Marsh: Light Thickens


“Duncan is in his grave;
After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well;
Treason has done his worst: nor steel, nor poison,
Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing,
Can touch him further.
[…]
Ere the bat hath flown
His cloister’d flight, ere to black Hecate’s summons
The shard-borne beetle with his drowsy hums
Hath rung night’s yawning peal, there shall be done
A deed of dreadful note.
[…]
Come, seeling night,
Scarf up the tender eye of pitiful day;
And with thy bloody and invisible hand
Cancel and tear to pieces that great bond
Which keeps me pale! Light thickens; and the crow
Makes wing to the rooky wood:
Good things of day begin to droop and drowse;
While night’s black agents to their preys do rouse.”
William Shakespeare: Macbeth (Act III, Scene 2)


The final book of the Roderick Alleyn series and perhaps not everybody’s cup of tea, set, as it is, in Marsh’s “main” professional domain — the world of the theatre — and featuring a plot in which the murder only occurs at the halfway point, almost as an afterthought: And yet, upon revisiting the book, I instantly realized all over again why this (the first mystery by Marsh I’d ever read) was the one book that irresistibly drew me into the series and made me an instant fan.  This isn’t so much a mystery as a Shakespearean stage director’s love letter to the Bard, and to his “Scottish play” in all of its permutations; as well as to the Shakespearean theatre, and more generally, the world of the stage as such.  Roderick Alleyn (rather far advanced in his career and definitely not having aged in real time) eventually shows up to solve the inevitable murder, faithful sidekick Inspector (“Br’er”) Fox in tow and quoting Shakespeare with the best of them, but the stars of the show remain the actors themselves, the play’s director (whom those who read the series in order will, at this point, already have encountered in a prior installment), and ultimately, Shakespeare himself.  This may not be everybody’s cup of tea in a mystery … to me, it proved irresistible, the first time around as much as upon revisiting the book now.

Agatha Christie / Matthew Pritchard (ed.): The Grand Tour

Letters and Photographs from the British Empire Expedition 1922

Agatha Christie’s letters, photos and postcards from the expedition to South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, and Canada in which her first husband, Archibald, and she were invited to participate out of the blue shortly after the birth of their daughter Rosamund.  Lovingly edited by her grandson Matthew Pritchard, and amplified by the corresponding excerpts from her autobiography, the letters in particular shed an interesting sidelight onto the thinking and life experience of the budding future Queen of Crime (her second novel was published while the tour was under way), and to fans, the book is worth the purchase for her photos alone (she had rather a good eye for visual composition, too) … and for her surfing adventures, reproduced here in their full glory, and in both words and images.

John Bercow: Unspeakable


An impromptu buddy read with BrokenTune; delivered in Bercow’s trademark style and doubtlessly offering as much fodder to those determined to hate him as to those who regret his stepping down as Speaker:

I, on the other hand, found myself glued to my phone — this is a riveting narrative (even the bits about his early parliamentary career; and definitely his take on the role of Speaker: to be an advocate for Parliament and enable it to hold Government to account — as well as the chapter the reforms he introduced, particularly those behind the scenes). And, of course, a large part of the pleasure was due to having Mr. Bercow read the book to me himself; he really does a stellar job.  Listening to him, even more so than as a result of his performance in the Speaker’s chair (spontaneous quips and all), it was easy to imagine how he was capable of holding an audience captive from early on in his career — if he hadn’t chosen a path in politics, he’d easily also have done well in any other job requiring an ease at public performance (e.g., broadcast journalism or the stage).

There’s less of an explicit analysis of his shift in view from the Thatcherism of his younger days to his decidedly more left-leaning present stance — it comes across as a gradual progression in views, influenced in part (but apparently not exclusively) by his wife, a long-time member of the Labour Party.  However, while he stands by his earlier views and the manner in which he chose to express them at the time (his attitude seems to be “it was what it was and it’s part of my history — simple as that”), he doesn’t shy away from characterizing his early political performance as “shrill” and in other similarly unflattering terms.

Mostly, though, I loved his incisive (and insightful) analysis of the various governments, PMs, ministers, party whips, and other politicians he has witnessed in office over the course of the past 2+ decades, all the way to David Cameron

(“I am reminded of the verdict of the man he worked for and considered a friend, Norman Lamont: ‘Cameron was clever, but not profound.’  That is true.  In the pantheon of great leaders, the name of David Cameron will never feature.  In a list of opportunist lightweights, it will be at the top“)

and Theresa May

(who “is not a bad person — she wants the best for her country, without a clear sense of what that is: rudderless, without imagination and with few real friends at the highest level she stumbled on day to day, lacking clarity, vision, and the capacity to forge a better Britain.  In a contest as to who has been the worst Prime Minister since 1945, it is hard to choose between Anthony Eden and Theresa May“).

Bojo and his cronies also collect their fair share of authorial broadsides, beginning with the takedown of Geoffrey Cox, Boris Johnson himself and the prorogation disaster in the book’s “Prorogue” (talk about an appropriately-titled opener).  That said, and perhaps unsurprisingly, Bercow sings the praises of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown — as well as of the likes of Dominic Grieve, Oliver Letwin, Ken Clark, Anna Soubry, Yvette Cooper, Caroline Lucas and, interestingly, also Jacob Rees-Mogg and Bill Cash (though he has little sympathy for their politics and none for their ERG / right-wing Tory cronies, particularly not for Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom).  Similarly unsurprisingly, the entire clique of moneyed, entitled, public school / establishment figures within the Tory party are getting their much-deserved and well-argued kicks in the shins both individually and collectively … Bercow really has come a long way from his early days in the party.  Yet, he insists that he has always felt he was in a better place remaining a Tory and holding the party to account from inside, than by changing his political affiliation — which, given how much those now calling the shots in the party have come to hate him, can’t be an easy stance to take.  (No wonder they tried several times, though always unsuccessfully, to get rid of him as Speaker.)

The final part of the book contains much that Bercow had already said repeatedly while still in office, be it in interviews or from the Speaker’s chair; yet, while he doesn’t hold back with criticism of those whose stance he considers irresponsible, he is also scrupulously fair to all those who, he genuinely believes, are working hard to realize the political aims they consider in the best interests of their constituents.  In fact, the chapter about what, in Bercow’s opinion, makes a “good” politician, is possibly the most surprising inclusion in the book (and the book worth a read for that chapter alone), heaping praise (and in some instances, scorn) on a wide array of politicians of all parties, regardless whether Bercow shares their views or not. —  Even if no longer from inside the Houses of Parliament, I hope and trust Bercow’s voice will remain relevant and weighty in the months and years to come.

 

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/2051880/reading-progress-update-i-ve-read-72

David Ashton / BBC: McLevy, The Collected Editions, Series 1 & 2

A substantial part of my reading in January was an exercise in Mt. TBR reduction: By far the best (audio)book of this bunch was the first installment of the BBC’s McLevy series, which is based on the real life diaries of Victorian Edinburgh police inspector named, you guessed it, James McLevy.  It features a great cast (with Brian Cox starring in the title role), great atmosphere, and several intelligently-plotted episode-length cases, and I can already see myself coming back for more again and again.

Dorothy Dunnett: The Game of Kings


Clearly last month’s reading highlight was the buddy read with Moonlight Reader, BrokenTune and Lillelara of the first volume of Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles, The Game of Kings; a tour de force piece of historical fiction set in the mid-16th century, during the reign of England’s boy king Edward VI (the son of Henry VIII) — or rather, his guardian Edward Seymour, the Duke of Somerset, who goverend England in his stead — and Marie de Guise, the widow of Scottish king James V, who ruled Scotland in lieu of her infant daughter Mary (Stuart).

Francis Crawford of Lymond, ostensibly the book’s (and the series’s) central character, is essentially Rob Roy and Robin Hood rolled into one, with a bit of Edmond Dantes thrown in for good measure, as well as just about every other hero of historical fiction seeking to recapture the position and estate taken from him by the connivance of his enemies. For the longest time, he wasn’t even my favorite character in the book — those honors clearly went to virtually every major female character, all of whom are fully rounded, three-dimensional and very much their own women; strong, intelligent, and more than capable of holding their own in a society dominated by men.  Yet, I have to say that Lymond considerably grew on me in the final episode of the novel.

In terms of pacing, although the book took its sweet time establishing the characters and their place in the era and events of the history of Scotland during which it is set (while assuming its readers to either be familiar with that period in history or treating them as adult enough to read up on it themselves, without having to be taught by the author in setting up the novel), once it took off … it really took off, and I whizzed through the last big chunk in almost a single sitting (pausing once more only before the final episode), all of which literally left me breathless by the time I was done.  I can absolutely see myself continuing the series, though as a first read, these aren’t the kinds of books I can seamlessly tie together one right after the other; so it may be a while before I’ll start the next book.

2019 Reading in Review — Nonstandard Edition, Part 1: The “Book Titles” Self-Interview

A few years ago, Olga Godim came up with a fun “reading year in review” version in the form of a self-interview, where the only answers permitted were book titles.  I instantly decided to copy it and add a few more categories of my own.  While I didn’t have time to do this again in the more recent past, as my last “2019 in review” posts, I decided to undust it — with yet more additions of my own –, along with another, similar questionnaire, the Bookish Academy Awards (to be posted separately).

(Note: For the more seriously-minded, my “real” “best new(-to-me) books of 2019” post — with links to my reviews — is HERE.)

 

In 2019, what was / were your …
Most Memorably Good Encounters?

Hard to beat — every single year anew.

 

Most Horrific Encounters?

 

Nicest Relations Met?

 

Most Awful Relations Met?

The husband from hell.

 

Worst Person Met (overall)?

Hard to think of anybody worse than a serial killer (both in real life and in fiction).

 

Best Vacation Spots?

Seriously, the locations were the best things about all of these books.  Though the mystery in Death in Kashmir was at least decent as well (and I’d advise you to give the audio version the widest berth you’re capable of).

 

Most Exciting Adventures?

Well, duh. 🙂

 

Best Guided Tours?

 

Favorite Place to Visit?

 

Least Favorite Place?

I know I’m breaking the rules here because the answer isn’t in the book names as such, but honestly, can you think of a worse place to be trapped in than a theocratic autocracy?

 

Most Embarrassing Memory?

Tie between the chance encounter of an alcoholic psychopath and his future victim on the one hand and the discovery of a murder victim inside his own locked deed box at his lawyer’s office on the other hand …

 

Most Heartbreaking Memory?

This book will slay you — hide and hair.

 

Best Weather?

 

Worst Weather?

Tie between two extremes — the rain-, snow- and-wind-chased Shetlands and tropical, hot and humid Colombia.

 

Scariest Event?

 

Funniest Moment?

Pure slapstick.

 

Saddest Moment?

 

Best Food?

Chocolate, Butter in a Lordly Dish, and two helpings of Christmas Pudding?  I’ll take it …

 

Worst Food?

 

Overstatement of the Year?

Hey, it’s the apocalypse … we’ll be having So. Much. Fun!!!

 

Understatement of the Year?

 

Best Animal Encounters?

 

Scariest Animal Encounters?

 

Most Precious Acquisitions?

 

Favorite Garments?

 

Prettiest Flowers?

 

Favorite Visual Arts?

 

Favorite Music?

 

Best Parties?

If I had reread Gaudy Night this year, it of course would have been included, too.  As it is …

 

Poshest Homes Visited?

 

Coziest Homes Visited?

 

Worst Homes Visited?

 

Most Puzzling Questions?

 

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/2027801/2019-reading-in-review-nonstandard-edition-part-1-the-book-titles-self-interview

2019 Reading in Review — the Nonstandard Edition, Part 2: The Bookish Academy Awards

The Bookish Academy Awards / Book Oscars is a questionnaire I found a couple of years ago on the Blogger blog of Ashley / Read all the things and decided to steal it for my then-recent and all-time favorites.  Most of my “all-time” answers are still true; however, here’s an edition specifically for my 2019 reading (wherein “nonfiction” will not be limited to the specific “Best Documentary” equivalent category — so expect, for example, my favorite / most respected “real life” people to show up amongst the “best protagonist” listings).

(Note: For the more seriously-minded, my “best new(-to-me) books of 2019” post — with links to my reviews — is HERE.)

 

Best Director(s)
(This Year’s Favorite Writers):

The Memory of Love - Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Aminatta Forna Beloved - Toni Morrison Hag-Seed - Margaret Atwood, R. H. Thomson
Three-way tie between Aminatta Forna, Toni Morrison, and Margaret Atwood.

 

Best Actress
(Best Female Protagonist):

The Raven Tower - Ann Leckie A Woman in Arabia: The Writings of the Queen of the Desert - Gertrude Bell, Georgina Howell, Sian Thomas, Adjoa Andoh Becoming - Michelle Obama Excellent Women - Barbara Pym, Gerry Halligan, Jonathan Keeble, Alexander McCall Smith The Experiences of Loveday Brooke, Lady Detective - Catherine Louisa Pirkis
Wyrd Sisters - Terry Pratchett, Celia Imrie A Caribbean Mystery - Agatha Christie, Emilia Fox Eternity Ring - Patricia Wentworth, Diana Bishop Anna, Where Are You? - Patricia Wentworth, Diana Bishop The Ivory Dagger - Diana Bishop, Patricia Wentworth

Favorite New Encounters:
The (unnamed) goddess / narrator of Ann Leckie’s The Raven Tower
Gertrude Bell (Writings: A Woman in Arabia)
Michelle Obama (Becoming)
Mildred Lathbury (Barbary Pym: Excellent Women)
Loveday Brooke (Catherine Louisa Pirkis: The Experiences of Loveday Brooke, Lady Detective)

Favorite Repeat Encounters:
Granny Weatherwax (and Nanny Ogg & Magrat Garlick) (Terry Pratchett: Wyrd Sisters)
Miss Marple (Agatha Christie)
Miss Silver (Patricia Wentworth)

Honorary Mention:
Harriet Vane (Dorothy L. Sayers: Strong Poison / Have His Caracase / Gaudy Night / Busman’s Honeymoon)
Can’t officially include her because I didn’t reread any of the Wimsey books featuring her in 2019, but hey, there is just no way she cannot be part of this list.

 

Best Actor
(Best Male Protagonist):

Tombland - C.J. Sansom, Steven Crossley


 


New Encounters with Long-Time Favorites:
Kofi Annan (Interventions: : A Life in War and Peace)
Matthew Shardlake (C.J. Sansom: Tombland)

Favorite Repeat Encounters:
Hogfather (aka DEATH) (Terry Pratchett: Hogfather)
Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle)
Lord Peter Wimsey (Dorothy L. Sayers)
Hercule Poirot (Agatha Chistie)
Roderick Alleyn (Ngaio Marsh)
Brother Cadfael (Ellis Peters)

 

Best Supporting Actress
(Best Female Sidekick or Supporting Character):

Three-way tie between Ariadne Oliver (Agatha Christie: Hercule Poirot series), Josephine Leonides (the self-appointed kid sleuth in Agatha Christie’s Crooked House) and the wife of Ngaio Marsh’s Inspector Alleyn, painter Agatha Troy.  (All repeat encounters.)

 

Best Supporting Actor
(Best Male Sidekick or Supporting Character):



 
Tombland - C.J. Sansom, Steven Crossley

Favorite New Encounter:
You Bastard, the mathematical genius in camel clothes (Terry Pratchett: Pyramids)

Favorite Repeat Encounters:

Dr. John Watson (Arthur Conan Doyle: Sherlock Holmes series)
Captain Arthur Hastings (Agatha Christie: Hercule Poirot series)
(=> The two original / quintessential sidekicks)
Mervyn Bunter (Dorothy L. Sayers: Lord Peter Wimsey series)
Jack Barak (C.J. Sansom: Matthew Shardlake series)
From the Unseen University of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld: Hex and the Librarian

 

Best Ensemble Cast:

I know this isn’t actually an Academy Awards category (only Golden Globes), but I’ve long felt it should be one — and there are some books to which the same thought applies as well.

Three-way tie between Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, and Terry Pratchett / Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens.

 

Best Original Screenplay
(Most Unique Plot or World Building):

The Raven Tower - Ann Leckie
Wyrd Sisters - Terry Pratchett, Celia Imrie

Two-way tie between Ann Leckie’s The Raven Tower — far and away the most innovative world-building I’ve come across in a long time — and, of course … Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

In the original version of this questionnaire, “Best Adapted Screenplay” translates into “Best Book-to-Movie Adaptation”.  However, I think in the book world (especially that of recent years) there is another translation which fits the purpose just as well; namely, “Best Pastiche / Series Continuation.”  So I decided to go with both of them:

1 – Best Book-to-Movie Adaptation:

 

(Note: To correspond with all the other categories, this only takes into account the cases where I read the book AND also revisited the movie in 2019.  Which, as it turns out, boils down to not a whole lot more than my yearly Christmas favorites …)

Non-Christmas story:
Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None (2015 BBC adaptation)

Christmas stories:
Agatha Christie: Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (1995, ITV David Suchet Poirot series)
Agatha Christie: The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding (aka The Theft of the Royal Ruby) (1994, ITV David Suchet Poirot series)
Arthur Conan Doyle: The Blue Carbuncle (1987, Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series)
Dorothy L. Sayers: The Nine Tailors (1974, BBC Ian Carmichael Lord Peter Wimsey series)
Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol (1999 TNT adaptation starring Patrick Stewart)
Frances Hodgson Burnett: Little Lord Fauntleroy (1980 adaptation starring Ricky Schroder and Alec Guinness) (note: no specific Christmas connotations in the book)

2 – Best Pastiche:

Ben Schott: Jeeves and the King of Clubs
Perfect pitch — no contest.

 

Best Cinematography
(Best Plot Twist):

 

Dame Agatha still taks the cake when it comes to original plot twists (even upon the umpteenth reread), but I think Joy Ellis has recently given her a fair run for her money — even if the final twists in none of her books that I read in 2019 caught me quite as “from left field” as did my first ever Ellis book, Their Lost Daughters, which I read in late 2018.

 

Best Makeup
(Best Book Cover):

The Raven Tower - Ann Leckie Wyrd Sisters - Terry Pratchett, Celia Imrie

Book’s Contents Lives up to the Cover’s Promise:
Ann Leckie: The Raven Tower
Diarmaid MacCulloch: Thomas Cromwell: A Life

Cover Promises More Than the Contents Delivers:
Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Gods of Jade and Shadow
Elif Shafak: Three Daughters of Eve
Lorna Nicholl Morgan: Another Little Murder

Best Series Covers:

Discworld “black background” hardback and audiobook covers
Brltish Library Crime Classics series

 

Best Costume Design
(Best Historical or Contemporary Setting):

Beloved - Toni Morrison
Tombland - C.J. Sansom, Steven Crossley

Contemporary:
Ann Cleeves: Raven Black and White Nights (Shetland series)
Peter May: The Lewis Man
Ian Rankin: In a House of Lies
(What can I say … I just love Scotland — and books set there!)
Xinran: The Good Women of China

Historical:
Toni Morrison: Beloved
Delia Owens: Where the Crawdads Sing
Diarmaid MacCulloch: Thomas Cromwell
Tom Reiss: The Black Count
C.j. Sansom: Tombland
Ellis Peters. Brother Cadfael series

 

Best Animated Feature
(A book that would work well in animated format):


Wyrd Sisters - Terry Pratchett, Celia Imrie

Two-way tie between Ladyhawke (Joan D. Vinge’s novelization of the movie starring Rutger Hauer, Matthew Broderick and Michelle Pfeiffer) and, you guessed it … Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.

 

Best Visual Effects
(Best Action in a Book):

Hyeongseo Lee: The Girl With the Seven Names
Seriously, with a real life story like this, who even needs thrillers anymore?

 

Best Original Score

Originally, “Best Original Score” translated only into “Best Book-to-Movie Adaptation”.  But I think this is another case where an Oscar category is capable of two equally valid different interpretations in the book world, and again I decided to go with both of them:

1 – Best Book / Series Incorporating Music as an Important Element:

Peter Grainger: An Accidental Death

2 – Best Audio Version:

The Memory of Love - Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Aminatta Forna

Aminatta Forna: The Memory of Love
Kobna Holdbrook-Smith’s narration: Major goosebumps material.

 

Best Short Film
(Best Novella or Short Story):

Arthur Conan Doyle: Danger!

 

Best Documentary
(Best Non-Fiction):

Becoming - Michelle Obama

Four-way tie between Diarmaid MacCulloch’s Thomas Cromwell, Xinran’s The Good Women of China, Tom Reiss’s The Black Count, and Michelle Obama’s Becoming.  Four outstanding books that are as engaging as they are informative.

 

Honorary / Lifetime Achievement Award
(Overall Favorite Body of Work):

My Lady Ludlow - Elizabeth Gaskell, Susannah York The Casual Vacancy - Tom Hollander, J.K. Rowling Tombland - C.J. Sansom, Steven Crossley

Danger! - Arthur Conan Doyle
 
 

Eternity Ring - Patricia Wentworth, Diana Bishop Anna, Where Are You? - Patricia Wentworth, Diana Bishop The Ivory Dagger - Diana Bishop, Patricia Wentworth

Wyrd Sisters - Terry Pratchett, Celia Imrie

New Encounters with Long-Time Favorites:
Elizabeth Gaskell: My Lady Ludlow
J.K. Rowling: The Casual Vacancy
Ian Rankin: In a House of Lies
C.J. Sansom: Tombland

Favorite Repeat Encounters:
Jane Austen: Sense and Sensibility
Josephine Tey: The Daughter of Time
Arthur Conan Doyle: Sherlock Holmes series, stand-alone story Danger!
Dorothy L. Sayers: Whose Body?, Five Red Herrings, The Nine Tailors
Agatha Christie: Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Tommy & Tuppence, and Quin & Satterthwaite series, And Then There Were None, Crooked House, Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?, and various short stories
Ngaio Marsh: Roderick Alleyn series
Patricia Wentworth: Miss Silver series
Ellis Peters: Brother Cadfael series
Terry Pratchett: Discworld series and Good Omens (co-written with Neil Gaiman)

 

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/2027816/2019-reading-in-review-the-nonstandard-edition-part-2-the-bookish-academy-awards

Bloody Stupid Johnson


“‘It’s a bathroom,’ said Ridcully.  ‘You are all acting as if it’s some kind of a torture chamber.’

‘A bathroom,’ said the Dean, ‘designed by Bloody Stupid Johnson.  Archchancellor Weatherwax only used it once and then had it sealed up!  Mustrum, I beg you to reconsider!  It’s a Johnson!’

There was something of a pause, because even Ridcully had to adjust his mind around this.

The late (or at least severely delayed) Bergholt Stuttley Johnson was generally recognized as the worst inventor in the world, yet in a very specialized sense.  Merely bad inventors made things that failed to operate.  He wasn’t among these small fry.  Any fool could make something that did absolutely nothing when you pressed the button.  He scorned such fumble-fingered amateurs.  Everything he built worked.  It just didn’t do what it said on the box.  If you wanted a small ground-to-air missile, you asked Johnson to design an ornamental fountain.  It amounted to pretty much the same thing.  But this never discouraged him, or the morbid curiosity of his clients.  Music, landscape, gardening, architecture — there was no start to his talents.

Nevertheless, it was a little bit  surprising to find that Bloody Stupid had turned to bathroom design.  But, as Ridcully said, it was known that he had designed and built several large musical organs and, when you got right down to it, it was all just plumbing, wasn’t it?”

Somehow, this read slightly differently this year.  I mean, I know it’s supposed to be punning Leonardo da Vinci, but please … B.S. Johnson?!

 

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/2019793/bloody-stupid-johnson

Joy Ellis: Jackman and Evans & Matt Ballard Series

 The Murderer's Son - Richard Armitage, Joy Ellis Their Lost Daughters - Joy Ellis, Richard Armitage The Fourth Friend - Joy Ellis, Richard Armitage The Guilty Ones: A Jackman and Evans Thriller - Joy Ellis, Richard Armitage The Stolen Boys - Joy Ellis, Richard Armitage
Beware the Past - Joy Ellis, Antony Ferguson Five Bloody Hearts - Joy Ellis, Matthew Lloyd Davies

As a new discovery, this is a carry-over from 2018, when Ellis’s Their Lost Daughters completely knocked me sideways during Halloween Bingo.  I’ve since read her entire Jackman & Evans series — my favorite entries still being Their Lost Daughters as well as, coming very close, book 4 of the series, The Guilty Ones — and I have continued my adventures in Ellis’s Fenlands world of detection with an encounter with DCI Matt Ballard in Beware the Past, the conclusion of which managed to knock me sideways yet again (though warning: this is definitely not a tale for the faint of heart).  And the good news is that the second book of the Matt Ballard series (Five Bloody Hearts) is already available as well, so I’m not done with the Fenlands by a long shot …