The Mailbox

the-mailbox

I picked up The Mailbox, by Audrey Shafer, at the used bookstore—based entirely on the cover art. It looked interesting, and I had store credit, so it wasn’t really a gamble.

The Mailbox is probably a middle-grade read; about junior high level, or maybe late elementary school. It’s a story about a boy who’s been in the foster system for years, is finally adopted by a loving (albeit grumpy) old uncle, who suddenly falls down dead one day at home. When twelve-year-old Gabe finds his uncle’s body, he is obviously grief-stricken—but he also decides not to tell anyone, because he doesn’t want to go back into foster care.

Then Gabe starts getting mysterious notes in the mailbox, notes addressed specifically to him. Notes that give him clues about his Uncle Vernon’s life. Notes telling him how to care for the big black dog who just showed up in his house. And he decides not to tell anyone about the notes, either.

If I have any complaints about The Mailbox, they’re about the dialog. Every now and then, someone says something out loud, and I just think, “Really? Who would say that?” The conversations are sometimes a little forced or awkwardly worded. Having said that, it’s still a great book.This book explores death, grief, war, PTSD, and does all of in an age-appropriate manner, with a brilliant plot line that keeps you interested. I would highly recommend it. ♦

 

The Moonstone

the moonstone

I picked up The Moonstone around Halloween time, because I remembered loving The Woman in White (also by Wilkie Collins.) It took me forever to get around to reading it, but once I started it, it went pretty fast.

The Moonstone is a fairly classic detective-type story, about the disappearance of a rare diamond. This particular detective story has a bit more mystique to it, though; the diamond has religious significance in India, and a band of followers who will kill to get it back. And, of course, the plot has more red herrings than a British bed and breakfast.

It’s a long book – but if you like a good cozy mystery, it’s a cut above the rest. If you want a little more horror mixed in with your mystery, I recommend The Woman in White, as well. ♦

Nancy Drew: The Mystery at Lilac Inn

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I felt like reading a good Halloween book, so I made my way down to Pioneer Book and started perusing for good ghost stories.

The trouble is, I’m picky. Like, super picky. I don’t want gore. Or graphic violence. Or graphic sex. Or graphic language. I’m looking for a good, old-fashioned ghost story. Not a slasher. Just ghosts. Kind of a gothic horror-type. Just a good mystery, and some good haunting, but nothing that’s actually going to make me scared to look in the mirror.

So I eventually gave up and picked up a Nancy Drew book, just for old times’ sake. (Okay, I also picked up a few other books, but I read this one first.)

When I was about 8 years old, I remember going to the school library and checking out the same Nancy Drew book several weeks in a row – it was the one with the creepiest illustration on the front. Also, it was the one I never seemed to finish. I don’t remember whether I was too scared, or whether I was just reading slowly.

Anyways, I was excited to relive the excitement with The Mystery at Lilac Inn. (This one had the best illustration on the front cover. Some things never change.) Within the first chapter, however, I remembered something: this is cheesy.

Like, super cheesy. Like, on a scale from Brie to Sharp Cheddar, this thing is the Cheesasaurus Rex. And then I remembered that “Carolyn Keene” was actually just the pseudonym for about a dozen ghost-writers, so they couldn’t have much personal voice in their writing, or people would catch on that the series was being mass-produced.

And, you know, it still took me down Memory Lane. I had a blast, remembering how much I loved these books when I was a little girl. But I’m not exactly planning on buying the whole series anytime soon.

I would not recommend this book (or its series) to any adult who’s never read them. I would recommend them, however, to someone who wants to reread some old favorites.

I would also recommend this to just about any girl under 10, or any boy under 10 who’s willing to put up with the descriptions of the girls’ pretty dresses. There’s still an action-mystery element that would be attractive to anyone looking for a tame mystery. No death, murder, adultery, etc. – just catching the bad guys, one clue at a time. So if you’re not quite old enough to handle Agatha Christie, this is for you. ♦

The A.B.C. Murders

The A.B.C. Murders

Agatha Christie is a classic. She is one of the best-known mystery authors out there, and even though few have read all (or anywhere near all) of her works, most readers have dabbled in a Christie novel or two.

The A.B.C. Murders is a mystery novel featuring Hercule Poirot (her popular mustachioed Belgian sleuth) as he takes on a disturbing serial killer who seems intent on working his or her way through the alphabet, with seemingly no other connection between victims. The book is well-connected, although predictable enough. Christie has a knack for leaving a few red herrings, following them up until the very end, and then throwing you for a loop right in the last few pages. If it’s your first Agatha Christie, you’ll be surprised. If not, you’ll just be predicting which “clues” are completely irrelevant.

It’s not fine literature, by any means. But it’s a great, cozy read. If you’re looking for an entertaining escape read, any Agatha Christie is great, and The A.B.C. Murders is no exception. ♦

The Hound of the Baskervilles

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I was doing some family history the other day, and I stumbled across a few English ancestors from the 16th and 17th century with the last name of “Baskerville.”

Naturally, this led to about 140 pages of mystery reading.

Last Christmas was our first as a couple. And, as newlyweds and college students, we decided it was probably best not to spend a ridiculous amount of money on gifts. Read: any money. We pretty much decided not to spend anything. Fortunately, at the last minute, we found some extra money in the budget, and I remembered that I had about $40 worth of credit at a used paperback store in Bountiful, and we went on a book spree. Between the paperback shop and a trip to Barnes and Noble, we decided to just take each other shopping, pick out the books we wanted, put them under the tree, and then spend Christmas break reading.

This is how I ended up with the 2-volume, hardbound, complete stories of Sherlock Holmes. Oh, happy day.

So, back to my original story, this is how I immediately set my genealogy hobby aside for a few hundred pages to indulge my reading hobby. I’ve read the book before – but it’s been about 10 years or so, which meant that most of the time, I was just as confused as the first time I’d read it. I kept turning pages thinking, “Well, that’s weird… I thought… maybe not…” Boots were stolen, romances foiled, and servants caught sneaking around in the night to light candles in deserted rooms. It’s a pretty good mystery.

And, of course, there’s a hell-hound. Can’t forget that. A big, black, shiny, rabid, murderous hell-hound.

Interestingly, I noticed that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle set The Hound of the Baskervilles in October, nearing the end of the month. I don’t know whether he just wanted a good, autumnal feel to it, or whether it was his Halloween present to his readers, but I think it added a good sense of spook to the whole thing. (A few years ago, Ethan dressed up in furry attire and a mask and ran around the apartment complex on Halloween, growling and acting beastly. Shortly thereafter, his roommates came snooping around dressed as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, asking if anyone had seen the Hound of the Baskervilles.) Whether Sir Arthur meant the book to be a Halloween horror flick or simply a complicated mystery, I highly recommend it, and just in time for Halloween reading, too. ♦

Black Coffee

Black Coffee

The baby inside me has stolen all of my energy. As a result, I have become a reading machine (when awake). This book review is of Black Coffee, supposedly by Agatha Christie. That is, she wrote the stage-play, and an actor named Charles Osborne adapted the script into novel form. It seems to follow her style fairly well, although there are times it’s clear that the action was all designed to take place in one room, for one audience.

I chose this book after finishing The Maze Runner because my mind was blown, and I needed something with a plot that required very little thought or attention. I needed junk-food reading, in short. And Black Coffee was exactly what I was looking for.

I would describe Black Coffee as a “silly mystery” – an old-fashioned whodunit, set in the 1930’s, complete with poisoning, blackmail, nearly-fainting-women, and ridiculous mustaches. For most of the novel (and play, I presume), all fingers point to the Italian, because apparently poisoning someone is a very “Italian” thing to do. A Belgian sleuth discusses the ways of the English. An old spinster is horrified by jazz music. A safe is broken into. A knitting needle goes missing for the entirety of the story.

That pretty much sums it up. And while I would probably consider the story a comedy by today’s standards, the play was quite successful at the time, and the whole story follows Christie’s style to a tee. So if you’re looking for a silly mystery, pick up a copy. ♦

And Then There Were None

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Okay, before I start raving, let me get this out of the way: Agatha Christie is dated. This is an English author, writing during the 1930’s and 40’s. I usually have to take a moment to shut down the “political correctness” part of my brain to some extent when reading Christie, simply because she writes like a White Anglophile at the start of the 20th century. All the main characters are White, and usually English. All foreigners are “quaint.”

Alright, I got that off my chest. I can continue.

This book is fantastic! Agatha Christie writes good mystery any day, but I remember reading And Then There Were None for the first time when I was in elementary or junior high school, and I still remember the crazy plot twists. I still remember whodunnit. And even now, the second time through the book, I was up late into the night reading, because it was gripping. This is quite possibly the best murder mystery I’ve ever encountered.

The book is set up just like a murder-mystery party – except every few hours, there’s a new victim. Ten people come to Indian Island for various reasons, only to discover that their host does not exist, and someone is determined to pick them off, one by one, in theatrical fashion. And despite their best efforts to find the murderer, their number is still dwindling quickly…

Oh, it’s good. Go get a copy and read it. ♦