My KYD Reads … or: Harry Potter, and What Else I read in March 2018

A big thank you to Moonlight Reader for yet another fun, inventive BookLikes game!  I had a wonderful time, while also advancing — though with decidedly fewer new reads than I’d origianlly been planning — my two main reading goals for this year (classic crime fiction and books written by women).

 

Harry Potter – The Complete Series

This was a long-overdue revisit and obviously, there isn’t anything I could possibly say about the books that hasn’t been said a million times before by others.  But I’ve gladly let the magic of Hogwarts and Harry’s world capture me all over again … to the point of giving in to book fandom far enough to treat myself to the gorgeous hardcover book set released in 2014 and, in addition, the even more gorgeous Gryffindor and Ravenclaw anniversary editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.


That said, particular kudos must also go to Stephen Fry for his magnificent audio narration of the books, which played a huge role in pulling me right back into to books, to the point that I’d carry my phone wherever I went while I was listening to them.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry

As for the rest of my KYD books … roughly in the order in which I read them:

Ngaio Marsh: Death at the Dolphin
(aka Killer Dolphin)

Killer Dolphin - Ngaio Marsh Death at the Dolphin - Ngaio Marsh

Also a revisit: One of my favorite installments in Marsh’s Roderick Alleyn series, not only because it is set in the world of the theatre — always one of Marsh’s particular fortes, as she herself was a veteran Shakespearean director and considered that her primary occupation, while writing mysteries to her was merely a sideline — but because this one, in fact, does deal with a(n alleged) Shakespearean relic and a play based on Shakespeare’s life, inspired by that relic.

The Hog's Back Mystery - Freeman Wills Crofts, Gordon GriffinFreeman Wills Crofts:
The Hog’s Back Mystery

Part of Crofts’s Inspector French series and my first book by Crofts, who was known for his painstaking attempts to “play fair” with the reader; which here, I’m afraid, hampered the development of the story a bit, in producing a fair bit of dialogue at the beginning that might have been better summed up from the third person narrator’s point of view in the interest of easing along the flow of the story, and in holding French back even at points where a reasonably alert reader would have developed suspicions calling for a particular turn of the investigation.  But I like French as a character, and as for all I’m hearing this is very likely not the series’s strongest installment, I’ll happily give another book a try later.

Unnatural Death: A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery - Dorothy L. Sayers, Ian CarmichaelDorothy L. Sayers:
Unnatural Death

Not my favorite Lord Peter Wimsey book by Sayers, but virtually the only one I haven’t revisited on audio recently — and as always, I greatly enjoyed the narration by Ian Carmichael.  That said, here again Sayers proves herself head and shoulders above her contemporaries, in devising a particularly fiendish, virtually untraceable method of murder (well, untraceable by the medical state of the art of her day at least), and perhaps even more so by hinting fairly obviously at two women’s living together in what would seem to be a lesbian relationship.

The Red Queen - Margaret DrabbleMargaret Drabble:
The Red Queen

Ummm … decidedly NOT my favorite read of the month.  ‘Nuff said: next!

 

 

A Red Death: An Easy Rawlins Mystery - Walter Mosley, Michael BoatmanWalter Mosley: A Red Death

I’d long been wanting to return to the world of Easy Rawlins’ mid-20th century Los Angeles, so what with Mosley’s fiction making for various entries in the KYD cards, including at least one book by him in my reading plans for the game seemed only fitting (… even if I ended up using this one for a “Dr. Watson” victim guess!). — This, the second installment of the series, deals with the political hysteria brought about by the McCarthy probes and also makes a number of pertinent points on racial discrimination and xenophobia, which make it decidedly uncomfortable reading in today’s political climate.

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe - Hugh Fraser, Agatha ChristieAgatha Christie:
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe

Another revisit, and in no small part courtesy of Hugh Fraser’s narration, I liked the book a good deal better than I had done originally.  This is one of several entries in the Poirot canon where we learn about Poirot’s phobia of dentist’s visits, which obviously makes for the high point of the book’s humour … and of course it doesn’t exactly help that it’s Poirot’s dentist, of all people, who turns out the murder victim. — The plot features several clever slights of hand, and you have to play a really long shot to get the solution right in its entirety (even if strictly speaking Christie does play fair).  Well, that’s what we have Monsieur Poirot’s little grey cells for, I suppose!

Imperium - Robert HarrisRobert Harris: Imperium

The first part of Harris’s Cicero trilogy, and both a truly fast-paced and a well-researched piece of historical writing; covering Cicero’s ascent from young Senator to Praetorian and, eventually (and against all the odds), Consul.

The first part of the book deals at length with one of Cicero’s most famous legal cases, the prosecution of the corrupt Sicilian governor Verres, and Harris shows how Cicero employed that case in order to advance his own political career.  Notably, Cicero quite ingeniously also ignored established Roman trial practice in favor of what would very much resemble modern common law practice, by making a (by the standards of the day) comparatively short opening statement — albeit a supremely argumentative one — and immediately thereafter examining his witnesses, instead of, as procedural custom would have dictated, engaging in a lengthy battle of speeches with defending counsel first.  As a result of this manoeuver, Verres was as good as convicted and fled from Rome in the space of the 9 days allotted to Cicero as prosecuting counsel to make his case.

The second part of the book examines Cicero’s unlikely but eventually victorious campaign for consulship, and his exposure of a conspiracy involving Catiline, generally believed to be the most likely victor of that year’s consular elections, who later came to be involved of conspiracies on an even greater scale, and whose condemnation in Cicero’s most famous speeches — collectively known as In Catilinam (On, or Against Catiline) — would go a great way towards securing both Cicero’s political success in his own lifetime and his lasting fame as a skilled orator.

Murder is Easy - Agatha ChristieAgatha Christie: Murder Is Easy

Another Christie revisit, and I regret to say for the most part I’m down to my less favorite books now.  This isn’t a bad book, and the ending in particular is quite dark … but the middle part, much as I’m sorry to have to say this, simply drags.

The Distant Echo - Val McDermid, Tom CotcherVal McDermid: The Distant Echo

Holy moly, how did I ever miss this book until now?!  Even more so since the Karen Pirie series is actually my favorite series by Val McDermid … OK, Pirie herself has little more than a walk-on role here; we’re talking absolute beginning of her career, and the focus is decidedly not on her but on her boss and  on a quartet of suspects involved in a 25-year-old murder case — in fact, the whole first half of the book is set 25 years in the past, too, describing the immediate aftermath of the murder and its consequences for the four main suspects, chiefly from their perspective.  But still!  Well, I sure am glad I finally caught up with it at last … definitely one of the best things McDermid ever wrote.

Unterleuten: Roman - Juli ZehJuli Zeh: Unterleuten

A scathing satire on village life, on post-Berlin Wall German society, on greed, on the commercialization of ideals … and most of all, on people’s inability to communicate: Everyone in this book essentially lives inside their own head, and in a world created only from the bits they themselves want to see — with predictably disastrous consequences.  The whole thing is brilliantly observed and deftly written; yet, the lack of characters that I found I could like or empathize with began to grate after a while … in a shorter book I might not have minded quite so much, but in a 600+ page brick I’d have needed a few more characters who actually spoke to me to get all the way through and still be raving with enthusiasm.  If you don’t mind watching a bunch of thoroughly dislikeable people self-destruct in slow motion, though, you’re bound to have a lot of fun with this book.

Von Köln zum Meer: Schifffahrt auf dem Niederrhein - Werner BöckingWerner Böcking: Von Köln zum Meer

Local history, a read inspired by conversations with a visiting friend on the history of shipping and travel by boat on the Rhine. — A richly illustrated book focusing chiefly on the 19th and 20th centuries, and the mid-19th-centuriy changes brought about by diesel engines and the resulting disappearance of sailing vessels (which, before the advent of engines, were pulled by horses when going up the river, against the current): undoubtedly the biggest change not only in land but also in river travel and transportation, with a profound effect on large sectors of the economy of the adjoining regions and communities.

And last but not least …

"A Brief Discourse of Rebellion and Rebels" by George North: A Newly Uncovered Manuscript Source for Shakespeare's Plays - Dennis McCarthy, June SchlueterDennis McCarthy & June Schlueter: “A Brief Discourse of Rebellion and Rebels” by George North — A Newly Uncovered Manuscript Source for Shakespeare’s Plays

The lastest in Shakespearean research, also a read inspired by conversations with the above-mentioned visiting friend, and a February 7, 2018 New York Times article on a possible new source text for passages contained in no less than 11 of Shakespeare’s plays.  The story of the discovery itself is fascinating; the research methods applied are in synch with modern Shakesperean scholarship … and yet, for all the astonishing textual concordance, unless and until someone proves that Shakespeare not only had the opportunity to see this document but actually did (at least: overwhelmingly likely) see it, I’m not going to cry “hooray” just yet.  According to the authors’ own timeline, Shakespeare would have been about 11 years old when this text was written, it was kept in a private collection even then, and there is no record that the Bard ever visited the manor housing that very collection — which collection in turn, if the authors are to be believed, the text very likely at least did not ever leave during Shakespeare’s lifetime (though it was undoubtedly moved at a later point in time).  And Shakespearean research, as we all know, has been prone to a boatload of dead-end streets and conspiracy theories pretty much ever since its inception …

 

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Kill Your Darlings – Team MbD / Lillelara / TA: Summary of the Team’s Additional Cards & Points Claimed

Lillelara:

* Severus Snape as a victim from the red game play. Book read: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. => 10 points
Green Dragon Pub as a crime scene from the yellow game play. Book read: Cocaine Blues. => 10 points

=> 20 extra points

 

Themis-Athena:

* Val McDermid: The Distant Echo => Suspect: Arthur Conan Doyle (genre: mystery) – Red Round => 10 points

* Agatha Christie: Murder Is Easy => Victim: Atticus Finch (book with a person of strong moral character; author’s last name begins with a letter in “FINCH”) – Yellow Round => 10 points

* J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix  => Victim: Katniss Everdene (genre: YA) – Red Round => 10 points

* J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince => Crime Scene: Pemberley (title contains all letters in “PRIDE”) – Red Round => 10 points

* J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows => Crime Scene: The Dark Tower (genre: fantasy) – Yellow Round => 10 points

* Juli Zeh: Unterleuten => Crime Scene: Watts, L.A. (one of the book’s POV characters wears a blue dress at the village assembly that sets in motion the book’s major course of events) – Yellow Round => 10 points

* Werner Böcking: Von Köln zum Meer => Crime Scene: Orient Express (a book that deals with people traveling) – Red Round => 10 points

* Dennis McCarthy & June Schlueter: “A Brief Discourse of Rebellion & Rebels” by George North => Cause of Death: shot with bow and arrow (title starts with a letter in “BOW” / “ARROW”) – Yellow Round => 10 points

=> 80 extra points

 

Murder by Death:

On the basis of MbD’s wrap-up post:

Mitch Silver: The Book Worm – Suspect: Stephen King – Yellow Round => 10 points
Alan Bennett: The Uncommon Reader – Victim: Lydia Bennet – Yellow Round => 10 points
Ed Yong: I Contain Multitudes – CS: Green Dragon Pub – Yellow Round => 10 points
Sofie Ryan: The Fast and the Furriest – CS: near a tor, Dartmoor – Green Round => 10 points
Andrea Penrose: Murder on Black Swan Lane – CoD: Run Over by a Carriage – Yellow Round => 10 points
Patricia Wentworth: Miss Silver Comes to Stay – CoD: Arsenical toothpaste – Red Round => 10 points
Janet Evanovitch: Hardcore Twenty-Four – CoD: revolver – Red Round => 10 points
Alan Lightman: Einstein’s Dreams – CS: The Hob, District 12 – Yellow or Green Round => 10 points
Agatha Christie: 4:50 From Paddington – CS: Orient Express – Red Round => 10 points
Maggie Pearson: The House of the Cats – Suspect: Arthur Conan Doyle – Red Round => 10 points
Jodi Taylor: A Symphony of Echos – Victim: Ariadne Oliver – Yellow Round => 10 points
Mark Twain: A Double Barrelled Detective Story – CS: The Dark Tower – Yellow or Red Round => 10 points
Edmund Crispin: The Moving Toyshop – Victim: Dr. John Watson – Green Round => 10 points
Patricia Briggs: Burn Bright – CS: Gryffindor Common Room – Green Round => 10 points
Peter Godfrey-Smith: Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness – CS: Watts, L.A. – Green Round => 10 points
Anne Bishop: Lake Silence – CS. Planet Camazotz – Green Round => 10 points

=> 160 extra points

Total extra points: 260

Divided by number of team members: 86,67 (= rounded: 87 points)

 

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KYD Green Round: Crime Scene Card Guess – Team MbD / Lillelara / TA

Imperium  - Robert Harris


 

Robert Harris’s Imperium has white lettering (and the lower part of the cover is black).  In addition, the holders of Ancient Rome’s public offices — including this book’s protagonist, Marcus Tullius Cicero — had to organize a variety of games to entertain the citizens, so the words “game” and “games” appear repeatedly throughout the text.

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KYD Green Round: Crime Scene Card Guess – Team MbD / Lillelara / TA

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry


 

Maycomb County Courthouse: the crime scene that would fit most obviously with our game’s murderer (and unlike her own characters as victims, it’s not off limits to her per se).

 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is genre YA and features two characters who are fathers — Mr. Weasley and Mr. Diggory (plus an honorary third one, Sirius Black).  In addition, Hermione embarks on a campaign of “justice for house elves.”

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KYD Green Round: Crime Scene Card Guess – Team MbD / Lillelara / TA

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry


 

Maycomb County Courthouse: the crime scene that fits most obviously with our game’s murderer (and unlike her own characters as victims, it’s not off limits to her per se).

 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is genre YA and features two characters who are fathers — Mr. Weasley and Mr. Diggory (plus an honorary third one, Sirius Black).  In addition, Hermione embarks on a campaign of “justice for house elves.”

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KYD Green Round: Victim Card Guess – Team MbD / Lillelara / TA

A Red Death: An Easy Rawlins Mystery - Walter Mosley, Michael Boatman

 

Well, we still have one victim to guess and since it’s the victim of the very first murder it can’t be Katniss Everdene (the only other theoretically remaining option), since she was expressly excluded in the game’s first round.

 

Walter Mosley’s Red Death, which I finished a few days ago, is genre crime fiction; in addition, its author’s first name begins with one of the letters in WATSON.

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KYD Green Round: Victim Card Guess – Team MbD / Lillelara / TA

The Red Queen - Margaret Drabble


 

Lydia Bennet can’t possibly die too many literary deaths, so I kind of hope she’s a victim in our round as well.  (Mean streak — me?)

 

Margaret Drabble’s The Red Queen contains an extremely annoying POV character in its second part — who also happens to do more than her fair share of stupid things — in addition to which, the author’s last name begins with one of the letters in “Lydia”.

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KYD Green Round: Victim Card Guess – Team MbD / Lillelara / TA

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe: Complete & Unabridged - Agatha Christie


 

Since Agatha Christie has recently been observed visiting Scotland Yard (and we know she’s not the suspect), I think it just might be possible she’s been asked to identify one of the victims as Mrs. Oliver.  Of course, the identification might have come out as a negative, but then again … it might not. 

 

So I’m going with this as a victim guess, with Ms. Christie own One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, which I just finished listening to, and which happily fulfills all three tasks of this particular card.

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