What I Read in August

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Murder At Melrose Court: A 1920s Country House Murder (Heathcliff Lenox #1)
Karen Menuhin


A classic English mystery that hits all the notes. Major Heathcliff Lennox discovers the body of a fat man on his doorstep just as he’s about to leave to join some friends at their country house for the holidays. He has no idea who the man is or why he’s appeared on his doorstep. After being delayed in his departure while the police investigate, he embarks on his trip.
This is the first of three bodies that Major Lennox will encounter. The second is the Countess Sophia, a Russian émigré who is now the fiancé of his host, the uncle of his best friend, Edgar. Since she was shot with Major Lennox’s pistol, he’s the primary suspect, although he swears he had nothing to do with it.
Heavy snows keep the police from completing their investigation, so Lennox decides to solve the crime on his own. He collects evidence and questions everyone in the house, and, of course, discovers whodunnit. The weather clears enough for the police to arrive and hear his explanation.
A well-written story that I mostly enjoyed. There was a brief section in the middle where it did seem to drag a bit, but once I was through that, I was eager to read to the end.
There’s a second book in this series, which I’ve place on my to-read list.

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Della Street, the Surprising Secretary

Sunday, August 25, 2019

A short while ago, I discovered that the first five seasons of the Perry Mason TV show, popular in the nineteen-fifties and sixties, were available on Amazon Prime. This was one of my favorite shows when I was young, and remains a favorite. Like most television series, each episode followed a set formula.
We’re usually introduced to the client in some relatively innocent context. There’s a scene where the person finds themself in some circumstance that leads them to consult Perry Mason on a legal matter, which Perry promises to take care of with no hint that the result can be anything but positive.
Not too long afterwards, this client becomes the primary suspect in a murder. (You’d think they’d learn not to consult Perry Mason, knowing that the next thing that would happen was they’d be encountering a dead body, but no one puts this together any more than they do the fact that a visit to Cabot Cover is generally lethal.) Naturally, they call Perry Mason, if he hasn’t already arrived at the crime scene.

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What I've Been Doing This Summer

Sunday, August 11, 2019
Each month I like to talk a little bit about what I’m doing other than writing books. That gets harder in the summer, because as I’ve often pointed out, summer in Arizona is like winter in the North: I mostly stay indoors because it’s too hot to do anything outside. This is especially true in July and August, when sudden monsoon thunderstorms can leave streets running like rivers. I remember one day back when I was working when I had to stop at a Starbucks for an hour on my way home to let the water recede enough for me to go the rest of the way.

One thing I continue to do is attend the Ladies’ Bible Study on Thursday mornings at my church. Even the name of the group sounds folksy and old-fashioned, so it wasn’t too threatening for this introvert to show up to for the first time. I originally started going as a way of meeting some women in my new church, but I’m finding the readings and discussions enlightening.

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Behind the Books of a New Series

Sunday, August 04, 2019
My alter ego is writing a different kind of mystery this summer. It’s different enough that I’m writing it under a pen name because I think the audience is slightly different from the one that reads cozy mysteries. Not that my current readers won’t enjoy it. I’m sure some of them will. But there won’t be any quirky characters, the sleuth will be a professional rather than an amateur, and I won’t have to keep worrying about whether to include a cat or not.

As I was writing my historical western romance novel in the spring, I enjoyed learning about life in the 1870s. I started thinking about writing this new series in an earlier time as well. Perhaps becoming a Downton Abbey fan led me in that direction. In some ways, life was simpler then. In others, it was more complicated.

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