Posts Tagged ‘1920s’

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The Deep Lake Mystery

March 26, 2018

Today is the 66th anniversary of Carolyn Wells’ death. Coincidentally, I’ve been reading a lot of Wells’ books lately. And taking notes.

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Carolyn Wells’ mystery novels are best appreciated when you set your standards low. Expect uncomfortable family relationships, people falling in love at first sight, and a solution to the mystery that makes you feel like Wells might be cheating. That way you can appreciate Wells’ moments of charm, and good-naturedly roll your eyes through the rest of the book, instead of throwing it at a wall. The Deep Lake Mystery has all those expected elements, and enough charm to resign me to the more than averagely crazy ending. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Ann and her Mother

March 2, 2018

You know who’s really, really good? Anna Buchan. Even at her worst, which I expect is what Ann and her Mother is.

It’s a structural thing, mostly: Ann Douglas and her mother have recently moved into a new house, built to Ann’s specifications on some land left to her by an uncle. They’re a little isolated, and there’s not a lot to do, so Ann decides to write her mother’s biography. The book consists of their conversations as they unsystematically recall family history. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Some E. Phillips Oppenheim Stories

December 4, 2017

I’ve made the extremely belated discovery that E. Phillips Oppenheim’s short story collections are more fun than his novels. (With a few exceptions; you can pry The Great Impersonation from my cold, dead hands.) So, that’s mostly what I’ve been reading. Here’s a roundup of some of them. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Tom Slade at Black Lake

September 21, 2017

I think you can see Percy Keese Fitzhugh growing as a writer over the course of the Tom Slade series, especially in the wartime sequence of books. Tom Slade at Black Lake comes after the war, but it’s more part of that sequence than the next one, not just because it deals with the consequences of the war, but because Tom is still kind of there in his head.

It seems weird to have a juvenile series where the hero goes off to war and then comes home and picks up where he left off. In another author’s hands it probably would be. But Fitzhugh knows exactly how much he’s put Tom through, and that things won’t be the same even if he does plunk Tom down in exactly the same place, and he takes Tom’s mental health as seriously as the lingering weakness in his wounded arm.  Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Rest Hollow Mystery

May 9, 2017

When reading a certain kind of novel, it can be helpful to know that there aren’t going to be that many people in it, and that some of the characters who have been referenced are either identical with each other, or will turn out to be related. A dark-haired young man is introduced, but not named. Then someone tells the story of a dark-haired young man who’s estranged from his family. You slot them into one pigeonhole in your head, and that reduces the chaos to the point where you can maintain a tenuous grip on what’s going on.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, The Rest Hollow Mystery is 100% the kind of book that calls for that technique. But there’s too much going on, and too many people involved, for it to work. The first batch of chapters left me completely disoriented, and the next batch introduced more characters than I had pigeonholes for. And then Rebecca Newman Porter threw in a truly excellent twist. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Jane Journeys On

April 7, 2017

I bookmarked Ruth Comfort Mitchell’s Jane Journeys On after reading Play the Game!, but the further away I got from reading Play the Game!, the worse I remembered it being, so my bookmark probably would have remained unread forever if Franziska hadn’t left me a comment telling me it’s full of things I like. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Penny Plain

March 21, 2017

More Anna Buchan: Penny Plain, which is pretty great, although it gave me fewer “I only care about Anna Buchan now” feelings than The Proper Place. Jean Jardine, a 23-year-old Scottish girl, is the main character, but not by a lot. She lives in the town of Priorsford with her three brothers–technically two, but Jean doesn’t like it when people imply that the Mhor isn’t really part of the family–a dog, and a middle-aged maid. The Jardines are poor and literary and happy, and Jean’s chief worry is that their landlord will someday come from London and evict them from their cottage.

Their landlord does come, incognito, but he’s so impressed by Jean’s selfless kindness and the Jardines’ attachment to the cottage that he goes away again. Anyway, his arrival in town is overshadowed by that of Pamela Reston, a 40-year-old society beauty looking for some peace and quiet. She and Jean become good friends, and her newness is a good excuse for Buchan to introduce us to all of the local characters.

I’m not sure Penny Plain knows what it wants to be. Pamela and Jean each get a romance, and there’s some moderately dramatic business about an inheritance, but those feel like afterthoughts, things that Buchan put in because a book is supposed to have them, or something like them. The heart of the book is the small domestic incidents, and the casual conversations with neighbors, and the little bits of family histories, and people being nice to each other. Not that any of the plottier bits are bad–I was definitely invested while they were happening–but in retrospect I would rather have had more of the Macdonalds and Mrs. Hope and the Mhor. And I think this is going to be a great one to reread, because it will be better with no element of suspense.