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[personal profile] cyphomandra
Books read, May.

Sherry Thomas, A Study in Scarlet Women
Agatha Christie, They do it with mirrors
Heidi Cullinan, Dance with me
KJ Charles, An Unseen Attraction
Agatha Christie, The Body in the Library
Agatha Christie, A Pocketful of Rye
Agatha Christie, 4.50 from Paddington
Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None
Agatha Christie, The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side
Ada Palmer, Seven Surrenders
Kameron Hurley, The Stars are Legion
Agatha Christie, A Caribbean Mystery
Cat Sebastian, The Lawrence Brown Affair

Sherry Thomas, A Study in Scarlet Women. This is a female Sherlock Holmes (Charlotte, using a nom-de-plume) and Watson (who is fabulous, an older widowed woman who to a very real degree rescues Charlotte), and it's just great. I like Sherry Thomas' books for pretty much everything except the romance, and there's very little of that here - what there is is treated with the resolute practicality as Charlotte brings to her cases. And the cases are eminently satisfying. I am waiting impatiently for A Conspiracy in Belgravia, which is due out next month.

Heidi Cullinan, Dance with Me. Semi-pro footballer has career-ending neck injury, hooks up with amazing ballet dancer who is hiding from competition after bad experience. The footballer is already a good dancer, the dancer does ballet but really wants to compete in ballroom, there's a heinous foursome with one of their uncle's and his partner in a hot tub, and nope, this is not really working for me.

KJ Charles, An Unseen Attraction. First in the Sins of the Cities series, Victorian England. Lodging house keeper Clem (noble father, Indian servant mother, illegitimate) fails to maintain his quiet existence when the drunken unpleasant tenant his step-brother has insisted he house is murdered and Rowley, a taxidermist becomes involved with him. Nice setting - Victorian London - and a suitably Dickensian plot, but a bit slow and the characters are likeable but not outstanding.

Cat Sebastian, The Lawrence Browne Affair. Autistic and inventive Earl thinks he's mad; is redeemed by conman pretending to be his new secretary. This is apparently the second in a series. It's sweet and it's obvious, and I kept getting Man from U.N.C.L.E. flashbacks whenever I looked at the title, which were unhelpful. The secondary characters were particularly strong in this (the servants,the young child, and the female scientist; I have forgotten everyone's name and they don't show up in the handful of reviews I've just skimmed) I'd read another by the author.

Ada Palmer, Seven Surrenders. I read this with a grim sense of obligation that was unhelped by getting through most of it while stuck at an airport waiting for an increasingly delayed plane. More of what annoyed me in the first book; much, much more, and less of what I'd liked, plus as things play out they tended to become more irritating rather than less (the sabotage of the automatic cars, for example). I know much of Palmer's future and writing style are satire on our present, but I can't read a passage like the following and be anything other than offended:

"That's what happened when we suddenly silenced gender. The broad, vague, cultural concepts of masculine and feminine had served a lot of social functions beyond oppression. Back when half the race identified as feminine it meant that half the race was devoted in some way to nurturing, peace, and charity, and we never developed a substitute for that. Since masculine was the empowered gender, the rushed transition encouraged everyone to act masculine, and all at once humanity went from a race of half peacemakers to a race where those with instincts towards the feminine felt ashamed of the label, or ended up sheltering in its only acceptable modern form."

This speech is being delivered by a nun, whose outfit is instantly recognisable and shocking to this selfsame society that has suppressed all mention of religion and gender. Once again there appear to be about thirty people in the future, all brilliant polymaths who are constantly analysing every tiny detail of each other's appearance and statements, and once again there is more Mycroft, who I deeply dislike and whose apparent exculpation ("yes, he's a serial killer, but he did it for Reasons") does not work at all for me. Bridger, who has the sole plotline that now interests me at all, is very much muted. Grump grump grump. I want to like Palmer's work, but none of the the big revelations convince or interest me, and I think it's largely because of my lack of positive attachment to any of her characters.

Kameron Hurley, The Stars are Legion. This is the most optimistic book Hurley's published so far, although having said that it's still a confronting and gruesome read, with a ridiculously high body count. It's an all female stand-alone space opera set in a fleet of worldships that are dying, with rival families battling for crucial technology to save them, and it has a fabulously awful set piece involving Zan, the main protagonist, falling down inside a world's organic recycler, surviving, and climbing slowly back to the surface through an assortment of organic weirdness that reminded me quite a bit (in a good way) of Clive Barker's Imajica. The other pov, Jayd, is less convincing, but there's a lot of good stuff going on here. I am a bit ambivalent about returning to the Worldbreaker saga (I've read the first) because I think Hurley overdoes the death count and it can distance me from her work - killing someone isn't actually always the worst thing to do to your characters (a conversation I have actually had with her! :D) . Here it gives me some logistic issues, but I can buy it for a once-off, and as mentioned above the overall mood of the book is redemptive.

Agatha Christie, They Do It With Mirrors, The Body in the Library, A Pocketful of Rye, 4.50 from Paddington, The Mirror Cracked, A Caribbean Mystery. More Marple, leaving me with two to go - the last one written, and the last one set (written in the 1940s and kept in a locked deposit box until after Christies's death, which she also did for the last Poirot; a admirable solution to the problem of potential authorial decline). Anyway. The Body in the Library is a perfectly fair mystery that I completely failed to solve, and has a ruthlessly efficient approach to establishing alibis. I worked out how and who in Mirrors, although I wasn't quite sure why; the backdrop is a house for the rehabilitation of delinquent boys, there is an exceedingly useful diagram, and the ending is a bit of a let down. Rye is rather cruel and is in the Taggart model of identifying the murderer by them being (almost) the sole suspect left alive. 4.50 has an interesting pov character, Lucy Eyelesbarrow, a woman of great intelligence and talent who has worked out that the most vital thing to keep this sort of society functioning is expert housekeeping, and makes a living accordingly. I like her a lot. Miss Marple also shows a flair for the dramatic in establishing the solution (which I missed again). The Mirror Crack'd I got, but for this one I had relevant specialist knowledge (also, apparently, based on a true story) and we're getting into the "how society has changed" theme in a big way. I did like that Christie does appear to examine some assumptions of the time rather than just accepting them (in her treatment of adopted children). Carribean has a grotesque but accurate cover (the Fontana one) and while the mystery itself is not that novel (although I still missed a significant chunk of it, I liked this one the best because Miss Marple makes a friend in it, and he's the only person who sees her whole self, not just the detective or just the fluttering elderly lady. But it's bittersweet, because of their respective situations (I am avoiding spoilers), both personal and the constraints of the times they live in, and it's understated, and I really liked it.

Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None. One of the first Christies I ever bought - in a boxed set of five that were the first new books I bought ever, and I'm always going to love its clockwork brilliance. I watched the recent adaptation before re-reading this, and it's pretty good; the characters worked for me even though the changes didn't usually (the worst is where the gun is concealed - it's a nice visual but it implies the searching characters are completely thick if they can't find it sticking out of the mouth of the taxidermied bear, as opposed to in the book where it is in the bottom of an opened and resealed food tin in a large stack in the cellar. This is both an examination of character and a meditation on capital punishment, the distinction between legal and illegal murder, and really, I just love it as a book even while it is deeply uncomforting. I don't know if I'd feel that way reading it now for the first time.
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