Archive for January, 2009


The Galloping Ghost

January 31, 2009

The Galloping Ghost is the second book I’ve read by Roy Judson Snell. The first was The Blue Envelope, which was an adventure for girls set in Alaska. I thought it was okay, but I questioned Snell’s choice of title: the blue envelope is largely irrelevant.

Can I say he’s got a problem with irrelevant titles after only two books? Because the ghost of the title is just a deus ex machina that occasionally drops by to give the detectives a clue to the mystery, and he’s not even as helpful as the detectives’ boy assistant Johnny, who basically provides the solution to the mystery by accidentally stumbling on clues near the local florist at every opportunity. His luck is so good that the book would only be half as long as it is now if he didn’t keep withholding information for no apparent reason. Read the rest of this entry ?


Piranesi’s Carceri:Kindle screensavers

January 13, 2009

I’ve made myself a Kindle screensaver out of Piranesi’s Carceri d’Invenzione — etchings of imaginary prisons — and I thought I might as well share them. I think they’re pretty awesome, myself.

ETA: I am told these work equally well for the nook.


The Red Thumb Mark/The Eye of Osiris

January 11, 2009

Apparently a guy named Julian Symons once described reading R. Austin Freeman’s Dr. Thorndyke books as being “very much like chewing dry straw.” I have now read two Dr. Thorndyke mysteries, and I kind of want to  smack Mr. Symons, because Dr. Thorndyke is awesome, and Freeman’s style, while dry, is also very witty. I could take or leave the formulaic romances that feature so prominently in the books, but I can also see that they’re necessary to the flow of the stories. And while I do find it difficult to believe that even in the 1910s people were not able to tell two-year-old bones from two thousand-year-old ones, I’m no expert on that sort of thing. Otherwise, I found no major faults in The Red Thumb Mark and The Eye of Osiris. And the minor ones generally added to my enjoyment. Read the rest of this entry ?


The First Sir Percy

January 9, 2009

I’m not exactly sure why I chose to read The First Sir Percy, the book following The Laughing Cavalier, but I suspect it had something to do with The First Sir Percy being only abut half as long as its predecessor. Anyway, I’m glad I did.

Diogenes, Frans Hals’ Laughing Cavalier, is back. He has, since the last book, discovered that his real name is Percy Blakeney, and he also, for no reason except that Baroness Orczy seemed to feel it was necessary, has been knighted. He acts much more like his eponymous descendent now. He pretends to be stupid and cowardly —  as well as blind and drunk — and even starts using some of the same exclamations as Sir Percy. He’s not really Sir Percy, but he reminds one of him, which is a big help. Read the rest of this entry ?


The Benson Murder

January 8, 2009

S.S. Van Dine, AKA Willard Huntington Wright, has the largest vocabulary of any mystery writer I have ever come across. Or perhaps he just likes to show off more than the others. He is also obsessed with detail, which I suppose is a good thing in a mystery writer, except that what Van Dine really wants to give us details about is Philo Vance.

I’ve just been reading The Benson Murder, the first Philo Vance book, and I suppose, since it’s the first book, the author has an excuse to describe his detective in detail. But not this much detail. If you want, I can tell you the measurements of Philo Vance’s skull. No, seriously. His facial angle is 85 degrees. Read the rest of this entry ?


Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offences

January 7, 2009

Everyone loves well-written reviews of bad movies, right? Few things are funnier. And a review of practically anything will do, so long as someone is being witty at its expense. The best one I’d read recently was actually about a phone — David Pogue’s review of the Blackberry Storm in the New York Times (he finished by calling it dark, sodden, and unpredictable) — but yesterday it was displaced by this Mark Twain essay on the literary defects of James Fenimore Cooper. Read the rest of this entry ?