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Everything posted by Jo498

  1. In the last month or so I read the last Morse novel I had not yet read (The Jewel that was ours) which was among the better ones but overall the series seems a mixed bag. It is very well written, plots are often ingenious but sometimes too convoluted and implausible, Morse becomes more and more a cynical caricature of himself and the sexism (for lack of a better term, I usually have hardly any problems with sexism in older (say up to the 1940s) literature) exhibits a particularly creepy and voyeurist vibe that I grew really tired of in the later novels. Then a little known non-Wolfe book by Rex Stout (The Mountain Cat murders) which was o.k. and both quite different from a typical 1930s whodunnit and from the Nero Wolfe stories but not close to the latter in overall quality. (I had just read the posthumous edition of three Wolfe/Archie stories. These might not be as original as that mystery in Wyoming but Wolfe/Archie and especially the latters narration does make them special. I feel similarly about Jeeves/Wooster vs. almost any other Wodehouse.) Then even further back to Charlie Chan in the 1920s. I had read the first two in German years ago and now I am at the third ("Behind the curtain", but I skipped the "Chinese Parrot" and read "The Black Camel" before) and they are quite cozy. Not that exciting but reasonably surprising, well written in a rather light-hearted mildly ironic manner, and with interesting aspects of Honolulu/Hawaii in the 1920s at the beginning of becoming a tourist destination. Entertaining and relaxing with a particular atmosphere 90+ years later but maybe not for everyone today. They are free for kindle from australian? sources as Biggers died in 1933 at only 48.
  2. The very first Rebus "Knots and crosses" contains a fat title clue the protagonist and colleagues miss for a long time and I have seen a cover that basically resolves it! I totally missed it because as a non-native speaker I wasn't familiar with the name of the game and I am horrible with clues/puns based on (near) homophones because I read/write far more English than I speak and listen to (OTOH there was an anagram clue in "The falls" I saw before the investigators) and I had an omnibus edition with a more neutral cover.
  3. As I read five in English and only one in German, the translation can hardly be the main problem. I liked the atmosphere of the first three books and there is some in "Black and Blue" with the extraordinary places like an oil platform. But I clearly have the impression that Rankin got worse (and also far more "ordinary" and less special/scottish?). The popsong sillyness only popped up later and while drinking as a pastime and vice had a role since the beginning the utterly boring gory details about the precise drinks and snacks of every bloody lunchbreak, or literally every line of trivial banter among the colleagues was not in the early books (or at least not to such an annoying extent). Not every details creates atmosphere or characterises a character, there is a point when it feels like routinely filling up pages. Next recommendations I received are books by John Harvey, Reginald Hill, Tana French and William Brodrick? Any comments on these?
  4. I liked the first three with Rebus, so I do not want to condemn the whole series, but as I wrote, I was disappointed by all of the later ones I read. The character changed towards a far less interesting type and Siobhan who apparently is to become a major side character is utterly boring in "The falls" where she has already an important rôle. I think he only started the pop song references later. I find them cringeworthy and also that (despite me being usually far from the current woke sensibility in these matters), like Rowling's Cormoran he is shown as a fairly unattractive man both in appearance and manners, Rebus is also workoholic and borderline alcoholic, but has no problems getting laid, although not with supermodel girls like Strike, they are intelligent and attractive women who can hardly be that desperate.
  5. I read two more of the Rebus series and unfortunately, I still find the first three the best of the now six books I read. Black and Blue is a bit too long and way too ambitious with too many cases and persons intricately combined and really stressing plausibility at times. But such are faults easy to overlook as overall it still moved along nicely for the most part. But The Falls (which I read in German translation because I can get these for free from a library) was really bad. The mediocre translation didn't help but this was overlong, convoluted, boring, somewhat predictable, not really exciting at all. I understand that Rankin loves Scotland and Edinburgh but half page or longer infodumps on local stuff are getting tedious (and I can't even know if real or made up, he did make up a historical figure but one cannot tell from the infodumps if they are about a real or made up historical killer, case or doctor). So are the excruciating details about what everyone is eating, drinking and I also came to dislike the "trademark" mentionings of pop songs (I usually don't know being in the wrong age bracket and generally not much interested in popular music). I'll try two more because I already borrowed them ("Resurrection Men" and "A question of blood")
  6. The ridiculous thing is that the German passport did have both spellings even back then. The one with "ö" was in the main body of the personal information, the other with "oe" in some different section at the bottom. But the person at the office that was responsible for giving out state ID cards in Seattle could not be convinced to use "oe" instead of "o". I tried several minutes but when you realize that you are not gaining ground and are beginning to annoy clerk whose service you need you better give up. Fortunately, I don't recall that it ever caused any major trouble later on although it is annoying to have different spellings on ID documents, bank or credit cards etc.
  7. I am surprised as well. As a German with an umlaut in the last name this was a major pain when I studied for one year in the US in the mid-1990s. In effect, my name was spelled in three different ways on different ID documents (German passport, Student ID, WA state ID, I don't remember if the debit card had a name one it and which spelling...) because some people in the US didn't understand that the next best to "ö" was "oe" and insisted on "o" on the ID document.
  8. If one is disturbed by gore, violence and connections between sexual nonconformity and crime, I'd rather warn against Ahronovitch's Peter Grant. There is probably much worse but I found some things sufficiently repulsive (The 3 or 4 books I've read were also flawed in several other ways).
  9. Do you mean a "real supernatural" element or only the suspicion like the Hound of the Baskervilles, the Sussex Vampire or some other Holmes stories? (Fred Vargas does frequently have the suspicion of something supernatural (curse, werewolf, vampires, wild hunt...) but it is (almost?) always resolved naturalistically.)
  10. If the books are old enough, both queerness and explicit sexual assault (and gore as well) were mostly taboo, so you should be comparably safe with "classics". Obviously they are not safe from obvious heterosexual traditional rôles etc. I have only read about two of hers, but Ngaio Marsh is very similar to Agatha Christie and from the same time period and not in the "bizarre surprising puzzle, no matter how implausible" vein as Dickson Carr or Ellery Queen. I love the Nero Wolfe series but it does have a good share of mid-20th century casual verbal sexism (Archie can hardly look at a woman without "rating" her some way) although never even close to anything explicit and nevertheless some strong female (side) characters including a female private detective in two books or so and Stout also wrote one book outside of this series with a female detective as the lead ("The hand in the glove" 1937).
  11. I now finished the 4th Rebus novel (Strip Jack) and to me it actually seems weaker than the first three. It might be more "fluent" and less raw and involve less straining of probability but both in the character of Rebus and others and in atmosphere it seems to be far more average. The Rebus of the first books oscillates between "possessed" and really tired of everything, the Rebus of this one is very much domesticated (and again I want to cry out to all mystery writers to keep out these lame relationship troubles of their protagonists). The mystery is rather obscure in motive and a bit open-ended, maybe more realistic but also kind of lame.
  12. Thanks for the comment; I wanted to start at the beginning. do you have any particular favs among the Rebus series, as there apparently are about 20? or so altogether.
  13. My sister gets all the Cormoran Strikes, so I will read them eventually, None of them was really good, but not a complete waste of time either. They were all way too long and the last one? (Lethal white) the worst in many respects; the forced romance is only one of these aspects. I think I found the core "secret" of the last one also fairly anticlimactic when it was revealed. I read another of Fred Vargas I had missed so far (I think it is the second one of the Adamsberg series, L'homme à l'envers) which was quite good. I probably shouldn't judge the Bruno series after the first book, but Vargas is really a completely different quality (and she is French, not sounding like a beguiled tourist or marketing writer for regional tourism). Sure, she is also quirky (sometimes apparently for quirkiness sake) and in some of the later books it get very artificial. I stopped reading them for a year or so after Sous les vents de Neptune (Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand) because this was so absurdly and implausibly over the top but it was worth returning to them, despite the later ones Temps glaciaires (Climate of Fear) also being absurdly over the top. Nevertheless, I'd recommend the three without Adamsberg and the first three with Adamsberg almost without qualification. I also started Rankin's Rebus series with the first three books. That's not quite on such an exalted level but also readable and the glimpse into 80s/90s Scotland/Britain sometimes interesting independently of the mystery.
  14. I got the first of Walker's "Bruno, Chief of Police" series from the library and I have to say that this is probably the worst book I read through in a long time. I found it so bad that I returned the second book of the series unread. The whodunnit is trivial (and the only twist quite predictable), there is lots of infodump on French history and also a strange endorsement of French nationalism, including Anti-EU polemic in a book by a Brit. I am as anti-EU (in its current form, I'd have nothing against the early 80s common market) as it gets but I don't find it funny that the locals in the book call EU inspectors who want to fine them for selling home-slaughtered meat or whatever kind of cheeses and spirits they are not allowed to sell because of EU rules "Gestapo" (and Bruno is of course helping them evading such controls). It's about one third about cooking and fine dining, one third fluff (with a cheesy, creepy romance thrown in), one third mediocre crime mystery. Then I started the famous Inspector Morse series because I had watched the "Endeavour" prequel series and quite liked them. Now both the 80s/90s Morse TV series and the books are rather different from each other and the prequel, , not the least in the character of Morse, but all seem pretty good (I have since watched a handful of the 80s Morse TV episodes). Of the 13 novels (1975-99) I have now read 1,2,6,7,13. I found them highly entertaining and well worth the time although some are definitely bit implausible or far flung in some details. The Morse of the books is a fairly unpleasant character, proud of himself, curt or condescending to co-workers or anyone else, a creepy/dirty middle aged (later old) man, (at least borderline) alcoholic. Brilliant, but frequently brilliantly wrong, in fact it seems a standard "gag" of the books that Morse is several times during the narrative completely convinced of a rather far flung solution that turns out to be completely wrong. The TV Morse can still be curt but he is purged of most of his negative habits. I think the TV Lewis (assistant) has been made more interesting, younger, certainly a more interesting contrast to Morse (in the books they are fairly close in age although very different in habits and personality). The prequel Endeavour is by far the nicest guy who sometimes comes across as impolite because of his slightly aspergy focus on a case.
  15. But this is only with all the HoME etc., maybe beginning with the appendices as background. For the first time LotR reader who has only read the Hobbit, there is nothing especially puzzling about Tom Bombadil. He might stick out a little, but not that much more than the barrow wight (or the fact that the younger hobbits apparently channel the slain in the tomb suddenly speaking of the ambush they perished in) or lots of other things). It's only after reading LotR many times + some of what was published posthumously and demanding or wishing everything could be seamlessly integrated into a almost realistic History of ME, or even wanting RPG style rules for character classes, monsters and magic, one sees that some things are very difficult to integrate. But looking only at LotR this seems a rather unfair demand.
  16. Maybe that's why there is no Diomedeia but an Odyssee.... I think the latter is suffering too many losses and near-defeats to count as Gary Stu.
  17. I'd say that it depends on the story and on the particular element. In a classic crime/detection story most readers would often feel "cheated" if some things were unexplained but highly relevant to the solution of the whodunnit. More generally, unmotivated actions out of character seem to be considered bad writing. Similarly in SciFi, it's supposed to be scientific after all, so a pretty plausible consistency and explanations are usually desired. In a fairy stories there should be more freedom but again it obviously depends on the story. I don't think anyone reading The Hobbit in a naive and unbiased way would feel a need for an explanation for huge spiders in a (northern temperate) forest or a shapeshifting vegetarian were-bear or a a dragon. It's like these old medieval romances with a knight riding through a forest and behind the first corner there is a giant behind the next a wizard's tower or a robber's den or whatever. Nobody asks why the Round table knights have not pacified that forests already long ago if they do nothing but riding around the forest and killing giants, witches etc. Obviously, LotR shows more seriousness and realism and Tom seems to be mostly an accident that survived "cleaning up and streamlining into the overall history of ME". But for a first time reader, Tom is not much harder to swallow than the wight or "old man willow"
  18. That Tom and even the barrow wights are "underexplained" is IMO an impression after 60 years of Tolkien fandom and the mostly posthumous publication of ME lore. Without reading the appendices and HoME etc. or generally for a first time reader, a lot is unexplained. Tom might be the most extreme case, but roughly the same goes for the barrow wights, for the Army of the Dead, the Wizards, the Balrog, the Watcher in the water, Shelob, even the orcs. (And the shapeshifter Beorn, the mischievous woodelves, talking spiders and trolls from the Hobbit don't really fit very well either.) The only things that are explained (not always in much detail) are the Ring, the Nazgul and the general history of the struggle between men, elves and Sauron. But only from the main text of LotR one hardly understands the lofty status and incredible age of Elrond and Galadriel or the tense relation between dwarves and elves etc. So I'd say Tom and Goldberry actually fit decently well into a sequel of The hobbit. They only get their strange unexplained status when LotR is put in the long history of ME since the First Age.
  19. I don't know the Bruno series (I think I have seen it positively mentioned before but admittedly as with of Donna Leon and Philip Kerr I am wary of Anglo/american authors using European regional atmospheres). But Frankophiles need of course Maigret (despite written by the Belgian Simenon), maybe Malet's Nestor Burma (hardboiled in the seedier parts of 1940s-50s Paris) and if you like overambitious weirdness and very quirky characters Fred Vargas. The latter (a woman) has two "series", the main one with Comissaire Adamsberg and an earlier one with three jobless young academics: The "three evangelists", three books only, there is an earlier independent of either but this apparently has not been translated into English (Ceux qui vont mourir te saluent, it takes place among French students in Rome). The latter are shorter and more accessible. The first few Adamsberg are also very good but most of them share a quasi-supernatural aspect (think of the Hound of the Baskervilles only more subtle, often connected to real French/local history and far more complicated) and some of them are really straining probability and plausibility to a huge extent. They can also get long and rambling. I stopped after the 4th or so but later continued and they are all worthwhile if one likes that kind of stuff.
  20. The first few Brunetti's are o.k., I guess but I lost interest pretty soon because they seem all re-use similar tropes and topics. Certainly worth a try, though, as many people seem to love them. For "historical", I still think Van Gulik's Judge Dee is supreme and highly recommended. For a rather different, somewhat 1970s take (so "historical" in another sense, but not everybody's cup of tea) Van Wetering's: De Gier, Grijpstra and Commisaris Series.
  21. I re-read about 7 or 8 of Van Gulik's Judge Dee mysteries and I still love them and highly recommend them. Sure, they are not all on the same level, some have fairly contrived plots and a few plot elements repeat regularly. But they are very well done and medieval China was an absolutely fascinating civilization (with both amazing and admirable as well as rather horrifying elements). My only recommendation is to skip the one that Van Gulik translated from Chinese (and only slightly streamlined) and leave it for later. Start with either the chronologically first one (Chinese Gold mystery) or the first one published (Chinese Maze).
  22. Actually, the example in the spoiler is not very good for the point that class privileges are helping Wimsey, because it rather shows a disadvantage for Wimsey because is cover is blown. It is a point for him being annoyingly brilliant at everything he touches, though.
  23. I believe that Sayers thought she gave Wimsey some flaws. He is suffering the post traumatic stress (shell shock), he is actually not well liked by several members of his noble family, he is supposedly not "serious" enough about life (one model was Wodehouse's Bertie Wooster). And he is aware of his privilege at least to some extent and his relationship to his good friend (the lower middle class police inspector who later marries Wimsey's sister, IIRC) suffers from this class tensions and Wimsey is aware that there is only so much he can do about it. Anyway, I think the Wimsey series is worth it and deserved regarded as a classic despite some flaws.
  24. He is a bit of Gary Stu, no doubt about it. I think there are two main reasons for this. One was jokingly granted by Sayers that when she was too poor to afford bus fare she gave Wimsey a 12 cylinder luxury car etc.. The other are probably characters like Sherlock Holmes, Raffles (gentleman cricketeer and master burglar) and other figures of late Victorian/Edwardian mystery fiction or pulp. Conan, Tarzan and John Carter of Mars are also Gary Stues. Sure, one could argue that the overall context of Sayers' novels is too realistic and they are to literary and ambitious for pulp so Wimsey certainly does stick out more than Conan.
  25. It's been more than 10 years (I think I that I read most of Sayers in 2007) so I do not recall details but the first one definitely is not one of the best. As far as I remember already the second one (Unpleasantness at Bellona Club) is considerably better and also more interestingly connected to the time period and Lord Peters "backstory". Overall I think the series is worth the perseverance although I do find some of the later ones overambitious (Sayers is very erudite and intelligent, prepare for some Latin quotes as well as gory details of code breaking and permutation bell ringing) and/or simply too long they all also give a very interesting picture of 1920s-30s Britain and one should also read them in order. A few weeks ago I re-read 4 or 5 of Sjöwall/Wahlöö's 60s/70s Martin Beck series. As someone wrote elsewhere, "The laughing policeman" is probably the best of the lot. They are not bad (otherwise I'd have stopped earlier) but rather dated and I am not sure they are really good enough to count as "classics". They were quite novel in their time, focussing on the drudgery of the police work and also agressively (sometimes annoyingly) putting societal/social problems in the center of some cases.
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