The Daily Bongo

April 2013

Monday, April 29, 2013 -- Afternoon

Cover of Trojan Gold by Elizabeth Peters
Trojan Gold by Elizabeth Peters
There aren't many books in the Vicky Bliss series, and I finally got around to number four: Trojan Gold by Elizabeth Peters. At the end of the previous book in the series, Silhouette in Scarlet, Sir John Smythe was presumed dead. At the beginning of Trojan Gold, Sir John was still among the missing, and Vicky was wondering if she would ever see him again. When a mysterious photo of a woman wearing the missing golden jewelry from Troy came in the mail for Vicky, she immediately suspected Sir John. However, Vicky noticed that the woman in the photo was Sophia Schliemann. Instead it was the wife of an innkeeper that Vicky had met the previous year. Vicky went in search of Herr Hoffman and found out that Hoffman and his wife were both dead. It was obviously that something was wrong. When Sir John finally appeared, Vicky was sure that some how he was involved in the missing Trojan gold. The others who has vacationed with Vicky also started showing up, making the hunt for the Trojan gold even more pressing. Of course, Schmidt (Vicky's boss), Vicky, and Sir John got deeply involved in the hunt for the gold, and it became urgent for them to find it ASAP as dead bodies started to pile up.

I really enjoyed Trojan Gold. The story was fast paced, and I loved the return of Sir John and the growing romance between him and Vicky. The criminal was definitely not the person I thought it would be. My only problem with the book was that the loose ends weren't all tied up in the end. I won't give away the details, but there are still some unanswered questions. I love Elizabeth Peters' heroines. Vicky is a strong, smart female. Unfortunately, she is quick to rush into danger because she doesn't think everything through. Trojan Gold was a fun read, and I am already requesting the next in the series Night Train to Memphis from the local library.

Monday, April 15, 2013 -- Afternoon

Lord of the Far Island by Victoria Holt
Cover of Lord of the Far Island by Victoria Holt I love a good gothic romantic suspense book, and Lord of the Far Island by Victoria Holt was a good one! Lord of the Far Island was written in 1975, and Holt was obviously doing a great job of honing the tools of her craft. Ellen Kellaway was the typical Holt heroine: strong-willed, rambunctious, not easily contained by social protocol. Unfortunately for Ellen, she was the Poor Relation in the family. Her mother had run away from her husband when Ellen was three, and then had the nerve to die when Ellen was five. That left Ellen at the mercy of Cousin Agatha. Well, with Ellen's personality, Cousin Agatha was at Ellen's mercy. Agatha never let Ellen forget that Ellen was a Poor Relation. All the attention was to go to Agatha's daughter, Esmeralda. Esmeralda was a submissive girl, and she quickly formed a bond of friendship with Ellen. Ellen would get the pair into trouble, for which Ellen would have to do lines or tapestry as punishment. Imagine the horror that Agatha felt when the younger son of the wealthy and powerful Carrington family, Phillip, asked Ellen to marry him instead of Esmeralda. It was an escape from the threat of being governess to a miserable woman, but Ellen started to have doubts about her love for Phillip as the wedding drew near. Especially troubling was the mysterious stranger who shows up in the house that Ellen and Phillip are planning to buy. Less than a week before the wedding, Phillip was dead, supposedly a suicide. Everyone looked at Ellen for an answer, but she had none, other than the suspicion that Phillip would not kill himself. Ellen then had a near miss with a fall off the Dead Man's Leap when a railing gave way. What was going on? Since the wedding was off, Agatha tried to send Ellen off as a governess, but a letter from Ellen's father's family gave Ellen a welcome release. She was off to the Far Island to meet her guardian, Jago Kellaway, who turned out to be the mysterious stranger! Ellen was in danger, but she didn't know from which direction. She was falling in love with Jago, and he seemed to love her, or did her really just want the Far Island, to which she was the heiress? Or was there someone else who was out to end Ellen's life?

Sometimes readers say that Holt could tend to spend too much time on the back story of the heroine, and that it would ultimately lead nowhere. However, I thought Lord of the Far Island was nicely paced. The story quickly moved along, and there was just the right amount of tension through the book to keep me engrossed in the story. It didn't take me a long time to read because I didn't want to put the book down. Ellen had tons of gumption, which got her into trouble, but in the end, there is happineess and love for Ellen. It was a very enjoyable and satisfying read. Lord of the Far Island would be a good start to introduce someone to the worlds that Victoria Holt created. I would say the book is definitely at the top of my list of the best of her books.

Saturday, April 13, 2013 -- Afternoon

Strangled Prose by Joan Hess
Cover of Strangled Prose by Joan Hess I do like mysteries, and one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Peters had commented once that she enjoyed the mysteries of Joan Hess. Why? Because they have the touch of humor that Peters herself puts into her books. I had only read one of the Hess books that was set in Egypt, but I thought I would give the Claire Malloy series a try. What better place to start than the beginning of a series? That means that I got Strangled Prose on my Kindle, and gave it a go. I was not disappointed. Claire Malloy, book store owner, with teenaged daughter, Caron, was introduced in the story. Claire was coerced into giving a book signing party for her friend, Mildred Twiller, who wrote smutty romance books under the pseudonym Azalea Twilight. When the contents of the book were revealed at the signing, and a few faculty, including Claire's deceased husband, were revealed as offensive characters in the book, Claire was understandably angered. Claire didn't think anyone knew that her husband was involved in a tragic car accident while on his way to a motel with one of his students. When Mildred was strangled after the party, Claire was one of the key suspects. Will Lieutenant Pete Rosen arrest Claire, or will they work together to discover the murderer and the mystery behind the book?

I really did enjoy the book. There were several laugh out loud moments in the book, and the mystery was nicely plotted and revealed. i did guess that whodunit, but I didn't get the whole story behind why before it was revealed. The characters were interesting, and I found myself rooting for Claire and her daughter, Caron. Also, since I did read one of the more recent books in the series, I did know that Pete Rosen would play a huge part in Claire's life. The book was a winner, and I'm excited to know there are 17 more in the series. Plus Joan Hess wrote the Maggody series, and I'll have to give those a try too.

I do have some additional comments about the book in Kindle format. I would imagine that the original digital content may have been lost, if it ever existed. The book was published in 1986, so the publisher may have scanned print content. Because of that, there were several instances of misspelled words throughout the book. Granted, it was easy to figure out the correct word from the context, but it just showed a sloppy disregard for the transfer of the book into digital format. I expect much better from current publishers.

Monday, April 8, 2013 -- Afternoon

Death in Zanzibar by M.M. Kaye
Cover of Death in Zanzibar by M.M. Kaye M.M. Kaye was probably best known for her epic novel, The Far Pavilions set in British ruled India. What Kaye wasn't as well-known for were her mystery books. She wrote six of them in the last 1950s that were later published as The Death in... series. I just finished Death in Zanzibar, which was originally published as The House of Shade in 1959. The story was a combination of mystery and thriller. Dany Ashton was to go to visit her mother and step-father in Zanzibar. While she was in London, the step-father, Tyson Frost, asked her to stop at the family lawyer's house to pick up a letter. Dany rescheduled the meeting with the lawyer, got the letter, and later, was shocked to discover that the lawyer had been brutally murdered. The finger of suspicion pointed at Dany. Her room was searched, her passport stolen, and the murder weapon was found in her room. Fortunately, while the room was searched, Dany was locked outside of it in the hallway where she met Lash Holden, son of Frost's best friend. Lash came up with his scheme to get Dany to her the Frost estate in Zanzibar by having her pretend to be his secretary, who had come down with the mumps. More deaths followed, and the letter was a treasure map leading to $3 million dollars! Will Dany figure out who was looking for the letter and committing the murders?

Kaye did a great job describing the scenery in Zanzibar and the atmosphere of tension that surrounded the characters in the story. The mystery was decent. I enjoyed reading the story, and I found myself engrossed in it. I'm going to try some more of the The Death in... series, and I hope they are as enjoyable as Death in Zanzibar.

Thursday, April 4, 2013 -- Afternoon

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
Cover of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie If you are a mystery fan, you have heard of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie. The book has generated a good deal of interest and critique over the years since it was published in 1926. The story was narrated by Dr. James Sheppard, who played a key role in the story. The book opens with the death of a Mrs. Ferrars. Her husband had died a year before, and her death was a suicide. Her friend, that many thought she would marry, Roger Ackroyd, asked to talk with Dr. Sheppard about the death. Dr. Sheppard went to dinner at Ackroyd's estate with Ackroyd's sister-in-law, niece (Flora), friend (Major Blunt), and secretary, Geoffrey Raymond. Other key suspects in the story are the housekeeper, Mrs. Russell, Ackroyd's stepson, Ralph Patton (who was recently engaged to Flora), the butler, Parker, and the parlor maid, Ursula Bourne. Ackroyd was found murdered in his study later that night when Dr. Sheppard got a suspicious call that Ackroyd was dead. The finger of suspicion pointed to each of the characters in turn, and it was up to the newly retired Hercule Poirot to figure it out. Poor Poirot! He retired to grow vegetable marrows and wound up getting pulled in to a murder investigation.

Christie caused a ton of controversy with the book because of the plot twist she employed. I won't say what it is here, but some people thought it was a cheat. Since I read the book before, and I knew whodunit, I was looking for all the clues that point to the murderer. They are indeed there! Christie's mantra throughout all of her books was that you can't believe what people tell you. You should only believe the things that you know that you can absolutely verify that isn't based on X told me. Even as a kid, I was one of the "show me" types. I don't know if I ever took it to the level of Christie's detectives, but I do appreciate the philosophy. I found The Murder of Roger Ackroyd to be extremely well-written and highly entertaining. Christie knew how to weave a pleasing and entertaining puzzle, and I highly recommend The Murder of Roger Ackroyd to anyone who loves a good book!