THE WINDFALL By Diksha Basu


I’m fascinated by life in India. Diksha Basu’s witty novel about a family confronting sudden wealth explores the decisions they make. Mr. Jha sells his web site for $20 million. Overnight, he has wealth beyond his dreams. Mr. Jha and his wife move from their cramped housing complex in East Delhi to the wealthy part of town. Meanwhile, the Jha’s son, Rupak, is struggling in Ithaca, New York in an MBA program. Rupak knows his parents expect him to graduate and go into investment banking, but he is more interested in photography and film-making. When Rupak’s parents visit him in America, many of the stresses of their situation explode.

The Windfall (2017) shows how money changes everything. GRADE: B+

The Nearest Thing to Life (The Mandel Lectures in the Humanities) By James Wood

james wood
Some people think James Wood, Professor of the Practice of Literary Criticism at Harvard University, is our best living literary critic. I’m on the bubble with that issue, but I do admire Wood’s love of literature. In these very accessible lectures, James Wood discusses Chekhov, Fitzgerald, W. G. Sebald, Kafka, D. H. Lawrence, Thomas Mann, Cervantes, and a dozen other writers. If you’re in the mood for some intelligent writing about great writers, I recommend The Nearest Thing to Life. GRADE: A-
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Why?
Serious Noticing
Using Everything
Secular Homelessness
Acknowledgments
Notes

ADMIRAL and FREE SPACE By Sean Danker


Sean Danker has written two exciting novels featuring a mysterious character called “Admiral.” We first meet the Admiral as he wakes up from a “sleeper” on a deserted starship. The Admiral and three other “sleepers”–young military trainees–discover their starship is powerless (just emergency power) and survival looks dim. The Admiral and his three charges cleverly figure out how to survive crisis after crisis. Danker does a good job giving the Admiral (and the reader) hope, then dashing those hopes with yet another terrifying peril. Yes, Admiral is a survival novel, but the unraveling of mysteries and the solving of the problems will keep you on the edge of your seat as you quickly turn the pages of Admiral (2016).

Free Space (2017) is the sequel to Admiral. The Admiral and his date are kidnapped and separated. The clever twist in this SF novel is that the Admiral’s date (and a friend) have to rescue the Admiral from a baffling predicament. This is easy, breezy Summer Reading at its best! GRADE: B (FOR BOTH BOOKS)

FORGOTTEN BOOKS #435: THE STORY OF CLASSIC CRIME IN 100 BOOKS By Martin Edwards


Martin Edwards’s The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books is NOT a list of the “Best” crime novels of the 20th Century. In fact, Martin Edwards’s choices span 1901 to 1950 (so there’s hope for a sequel!). Edwards explores the development of the crime novel in the first half of the 20th Century both Chronologically and Thematically. And, as you cast your eyes over the TABLE OF CONTENTS you’ll see plenty of titles and authors you may not have ever heard of (I’d say 50% of Edwards’s choices are new to me). The goal of this book is to show how the crime novel developed (chiefly in England) and what innovations changed the genre.

If you’re a fan of crime novels and mysteries, you’ll find a lot to discover in The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books. And, a lot to like. I also reviewed Martin Edwards’s excellent The Golden Age of Murder here. GRADE: A

TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Introduction 1
CHAPTER ONE: A NEW ERA DAWNS 7
The Hound of the Baskervilles–Arthur Conan Doyle 11
The Four Just Men–Edgar Wallace 13
The Case of Miss Elliott– Baroness Orczy 15
Tracks in the Snow–Godfrey R. Benson 17
Israel Rank–Roy Horniman 19
The Blotting Book–E. F. Benson 21
The Innocence of Father Brown–G. K. Chesterton 23
At the Villa Rose–A.E.W. Mason 26
The Eye of Osiris–R. Austin Freeman 28
The Lodger–Marie Belloc Lowndes 30
Max Carrados–Ernest Bramah 32
CHAPTER TWO: THE BIRTH OF THE GOLDEN AGE 34
Trent’s Last Case–E. C. Bentley 36
In the Night–Lord Gorell 39
The Middle Temple Murder–J. S. Fletcher 41
The Skeleton Key–Bernard Capes 43
The Cask–Freeman Wills Crofts 45
The Red House Mystery–A. A. Milne 47
CHAPTER THREE: THE GREAT DETECTIVES 49
The Mysterious Affair at Styles–Agatha Christie 53
Clouds of Witness–Dorothy L. Sayers 55
The Rasp–Philip MacDonald 58
Mr. Fortune, Please–H. C. Bailey 61
The Poisoned Chocolates Case–Anthony Berkeley 64
The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop–Gladys Mitchell 67
The Murder at the Vicarage–Agatha Christie 69
The Case of the Late Pig–Margery Allingham 71
Send for Paul Temple–Francis Durbridge & John Thewes 73
CHAPTER FOUR: ‘PLAY UP! PLAY UP! AND PLAY THE GAME! 75
The Floating Admiral–The Detection Club 80
The Body in the Silo–Ronald Knox 83
She Had to Have Gas–Rupert Penny 85
CHAPTER FIVE: MIRACULOUS MURDERS 88
The Medbury Fort Murder–George Limnelius 92
Murder of a Lady–Anthony Wynne
The Hollow Man–John Dickson Carr 96
CHAPTER SIX: SERPENTS IN EDEN 99
The Secret of High Eldersham–Miles Burton 104
Death Under Sail–C. P. Snow 106
The Sussex Downs Murder–John Bude 108
Sinister Crag–Newton Gayle 110
CHAPTER SEVEN: MURDER AT THE MANOR 112
The Crime at Diana’s Pool–Victor L. Whitechurch 116
Some Must Watch–Ethel Lina White 118
Death By Request–Romilly & Katherine John 120
Birthday Party–C. H. B. Kitchin 122
CHAPTER EIGHT: CAPITAL CRIMES 124
Death at Broadcasting House–Val Gielgud & Holt Marvell 129
Bats in the Belfry–E. C. R. Lorac 132
What Beckoning Ghost?–Douglas G. Browne 134
CHAPTER NINE: RESORTING TO MURDER 137
The Red Redmaynes–Eden Phillpotts 141
Mystery at Lynden Sands–J. J. Connington 143
Murder in Black and White–Evelyn Elder 145
CHAPTER TEN: MAKING FUN OF MURDER 147
Quick Curtain–Alan Melville 152
Case for Three Detectives–Leo Bruce 154
The Moving Toyshop–Edmund Crispin 157
CHAPTER ELEVEN: EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION 159
Murder at School–Glen Trevor 164
Murder at Cambridge–Q. Patrick 166
Death at the President’s Lodging–Michael Innes 168
CHAPTER TWELVE: PLAYING POLITICS 170
Vantage Striker–Helen Simpson 174
Silence of a Purple Shirt–R. C. Woodthrope 177
The Nursing Home Murder–Ngaio Marsh & Henry Jellett 179
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: SCIENTIFIC ENQUIRES 182
The Documents in the Case–Dorothy L. Sayers & Robert Eustace 186
The Young Vanish–Francis Everton 188
Death of an Airman–Christopher St. John Sprigg 190
A.B.C. Solves Five–C. E. Bechhofer Roberts 192
CHAPTER FOURTEEN: THE LONG ARM OF THE LAW 195
The Grell Mystery–Frank Foest 199
the Duke of York’s Steps–Henry Wade
Hendon’s First Case–John Rhode 204
Green for Danger–Christianna Brand 206
CHAPTER FIFTEEN: THE JUSTICE GAME 208
Trial and Error–Anthony Berkeley 212
Verdict of Twelve–Raymond Postgate 214
Tragedy at Law–Cyril Hare 216
Smallbone Deceased–Michael Gilbert 218
CHAPTER SIXTEEN: MULTIPLYING MURDERS 220
The Perfect Murder Case–Christopher Bush 223
Death Walks in Eastrepps–Francis Beeding 225
X v. Rex–Martin Porlock 227
The Z Murders–J. Jefferson Farjeon 229
The ABC Murders–Agatha Christie 231
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: THE PSYCHOLOGY OF CRIME 233
The House by the River–A. P. Herbert 238
Payment Deferred–C. S. Forester 240
No Walls of Jasper–Joanna Cannan 242
Nightmare–Lynn Brock 244
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: INVERTED MYSTERIES 246
End of an Ancient Mariner–G.D.H. & M. Cole 250
Portrait of a Murderer–Anne Meredith 252
The Department of Dead Ends–Roy Vickers 254
CHAPTER NINETEEN: THE IRONISTS 256
Malice Aforethought–Francis Iles 259
Family Matters–Anthony Rolls 261
Middle Class Murder–Bruce Hamilton 263
My Own Murderer–Richard Hull 265
CHAPTER TWENTY: FICTION FROM FACT 267
Death to the Rescue–Milward Kennedy 271
A Pin to see the Peepshow–F. Tennyson Jesse 273
Earth to Ashes–Alan Brock 275
The Franchise Affair–Josephine Tey 277
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE: SINGLETONS 279
Darkness at Pemberly–T.H. White 284
The Division Bell Mystery–Ellen Wilkinson 286
Death on the Down Beat–Sebastian Farr 288
CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO: ACROSS THE ATLANTIC 291
The Dain Curse–Dashiell Hammett 297
The Curious Mr. Tarrant–C. Daly King 299
Calamity Town–Ellery Queen 302
The Red Right Hand–Joel Townsley Rogers 304
Strangers on a Train–Patricia Highsmith 306
CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE: COSMOPOLITAN CRIMES 308
Six Dead Men–Stanislas-Andre Steeman 313
Pietr the Latvian–Georges Simenon 315
Six Problems for Don Isidro Parodi–H. Bustos Domecq 317
CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR: THE WAY AHEAD 319
The Beast Must Die–Nicholas Blake 323
Background for Murder–Shelley Smith 325
The Killer and the Slain–Hugh Walpole 328
The 31st of February–Julian Symons 330
Select Bibiliography 332
Acknowledgements 336
Index of Titles 337
Index of Authors 347

GOLDEN HILL: A NOVEL OF OLD NEW YORK By Francis Spufford


Back in 1746, New York City had a population of 7000 residents. A great many of them were slaves. A “Mr. Smith” arrives in New York after a six-week journey on a ship from London (population, 700,000). Mr. Smith immediately runs into trouble. He encounters problems converting his British note into ready cash. The cash Mr. Smith does manage to convert is promptly stolen.

Mr. Smith’s secrets slowly become revealed but what is plain from the first few chapters is that Smith falls in love with the snarky Tabitha Lovell, daughter of his banker. Tabitha’s acid-tongue makes her unpopular in polite society, but Smith tries his best to court the difficult woman. If you’re in the mood for a historical novel with a little romance, I recommend Golden Hill. I read the book after hearing the National Public Radio interview with the author. It’s worth a listen HERE. GRADE: B

THE GHOUL KING: A TALE OF THE DREAMING CITIES By Guy Haley


The Ghoul King (2016) is the second book in Guy Haley’s “Dreaming Cities” series. The first book in the series, The Emperor’s Railroad, was published by TOR Books in 2015. You can read my review of The Emperor’s Railroad here. In this dystopian future, civilization has been shattered. Quinn, a knight armed with a sword and a pistol, is on a quest that brings him into contact with a rebel group. Quinn agrees to help the group in return for the location of his horse which was stolen from him. The rebel group’s objective involves retrieving forbidden technology from an underground facility. However, the facility is swarming with ghouls. And, as you might have guess, Quinn has to take on the Ghoul King in order to accomplish the mission.

If you’re in the mood for quick, exciting reads I recommend both The Emperor’s Railroad and The Ghoul King. There are still plenty of secrets for Guy Haley to reveal. GRADE: B (for both books)

STIR OF ECHOES [DVD]



In the 1950s, two topics held the fascination of the public: amnesia and hypnosis. Dozens of novels and movies used these two elements (I’m sure you can think of several). Richard Matheson’s A Stir of Echoes (1958) centers around Tom Wallace, a guy who is hypnotized at a party and suddenly senses a ghost in his house. In the movie version with Keven Bacon, Tom’s five-year-old son also has the ability to talk to ghosts. The movie takes a turn into Stephen King country as Keven Bacon (aka, “Tom”) becomes obsessed with the case of a missing teenage girl. I was astonished when Bacon starts digging up his back yard searching for the body of the missing girl.

If you’re in the mood for a relentless movie filled with suspense, I recommend Stir of Echoes. Matheson’s novel, A Stir of Echoes is worth reading, too. GRADE: B+ (for both)

THE DELIRIUM BRIEF By Charles Stross


Things are looking very dicey for Bob Howard (aka, The Eater of Souls) and the super-secret British agency The Laundry which fights occult threats. A televangelist is now the pawn of a Lovecraftean Elder God called The Sleeper. But The Sleeper is waking up and all hell is breaking loose in the U.S. and now England. Part of the problem is The Laundry is being “replaced” by a private security firm run by The Sleeper’s minions. After all the bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo, Charles Stross delivers 100-page epic battle. If you’re fan of spy fiction and the occult, this mashup will satisfy you. GRADE: B+

THE LAUNDRY SERIES:
The Atrocity Archives (2004, ISBN 1-930846-25-8) Also contains the extra story “The Concrete Jungle,” Best Novella winner, 2005 Hugo Awards
The Jennifer Morgue (2006, ISBN 1-930846-45-2 – set around three years after “The Concrete Jungle”) Also contains the extra story “Pimpf”
“Down on the Farm” (2008 novelette – set about two years after “Pimpf”) available online
The Fuller Memorandum (2010, ISBN 1-84149-770-3 – set about eight years after The Atrocity Archives)
“Overtime” (2009 novelette – set about five months after The Fuller Memorandum) available online
The Apocalypse Codex (2012 – set about nine months after The Fuller Memorandum)
“Equoid” (2013 novelette – Takes place after the events of Down on the Farm, before the events of The Fuller Memorandum) available online
The Rhesus Chart, (2014, ISBN 978-0-425-25686-2)
The Annihilation Score (2015, ISBN 978-0-356-50531-2)
The Nightmare Stacks (2016, ISBN 978-0-425-28119-2)
The Delirium Brief (2017, ISBN 978-0765394668)
The Labyrinth Index (probably 2019?)

ATOMIC BLONDE


If the violent fight scenes in Atomic Blonde look a bit familiar, the director of Atomic Blonde, David Leitch, was the stunt coorderinator of the John Wick movies. Charlize Theron plays a beautiful (but deadly) MI6 operative. The McGuffin in this movie is a “list” of agents hidden in a wrist watch which the KGB, MI6, and the CIA all lust after. James McAvoy is the hyper MI6 section chief in 1989 Berlin. Sofia Boutelia–who starred in the ill-fated The Mummy–is a French agent. Toby Jones and John Goodman mostly glower. The plot is murky. The positive aspect of this movie is that Charlize Theron is on the screen a lot. But she takes a lot of punishment. This is another comic adaptation, based on The Coldest City, a 180-page graphic novel written by Antony Johnston, drawn by Sam Hart, and published in 2012 by Oni Press; a prequel, Dead of Winter, came out last year with art by Steven Perkins. GRADE: B

TRACK LIST:
1. Cat People (Putting Out the Fire) – David Bowie
2. Major Tom (Völlig Losgelöst) – Peter Schilling
3. Blue Monday – Health
4. C*Cks*Cker – Tyler Bates
5. 99 Luftballons – Nena
6. Father Figure – George Michael
7. Der Commissar – After the Fire
8. Cities in Dust – Siouxsie and the Banshees
9. The Politics of Dancing – Re-Flex
10. Stigmata – Marilyn Manson & Tyler Bates
11. Demonstration – Tyler Bates
12. I Ran (So Far Away) – A Flock of Seagulls
13. 99 Luftballons – Kaleida
14. Voices Carry – Til Tuesday
15. London Calling – The Clash
16. Finding the Uhf Device – Tyler Bates
ADDITIONAL MUSIC IN THE MOVIE NOT INCLUDED ON THE SOUNDTRACK:
1. Blue Monday ’88 – New Order
2. Fight The Power – Public Enemy
3. Kack Zukunft – Ausschlag
4. Der Kommissar – After The Fire
5. As Time Goes By – Michael Parnell
6. Behind the Wheel – Depeche Mode
7. Tetris Theme
8. Drinking Song – Alfred Gluten
9. MTV News Theme – Thomas A.C. Weiser and Perry Geyer
10. Fastidious Horses – Vladimir Vysotsky
11. Under Pressure – Queen and David Bowie