Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Review: The Slippery Staircase by E.C.R Lorac

When Caird's housekeeper showed his visitor to the door a few moments later, the old actor stood and listened as Flemming's footsteps died away beyond the closed door. He had turned to the right, towards the staircase which led to the upper part of the house, not to the left, towards the descending flight.

Caird shrugged his shoulders in the manner of one who acts, even when he is alone.

"Foolish fellow, foolish fellow! At least I warned him."

And outside the rain fell steadily.

Martia Vannery's parties are the talk of the town. Daughter of the renowned painter (and devil incarnate) Gabriel Vannery, Martia has returned from Paris after the death of her father. Inheriting the house where she had spent a miserable childhood, she promptly converts it into flats, keeping the lower portion for herself and hosting lavish parties in her father's studio.

One person who is dying to be invited to these parties is the snoop, Elroy Flemming. Always looking for cheap news meant to titillate, Flemming wants an entry into the Regency style building which houses so many interesting individuals. The first floor is owned by Waller Caird, a retired stage actor; the second by a bit-player actress Thelma Romney whose husband had died in mysterious circumstances (drug overdose???); the top floor by  the Byrands, Valetta and Anton, whose book Gangways, is a huge bestseller.

Somehow caging an invitation, Flemming becomes a fly on the wall, listening to the gossip flowing freely round him. He also strikes up an acquaintance with an enigmatic girl, Juliet Romney, who volunteers to take him to the top floor and introduce him to the Byrands. Flemming cannot believe his luck but as he starts ascending the massive staircase that joins all the floors of the house, he has his first misgiving:

Flemming looked up at her, and into his cautious trivial mind came a feeling of unease. There was something dramatic in her poise, in the slender, tense figure, and the rebellious discontented face. Those vivid blue eyes under their dark pencilled brows, the line of close-shut, obstinate lips, the gesture of long, red-nailed fingers, it was an actresses' pose and expression, but Flemming preferred drama on the other side of the footlights, or at least in the company of his fellows. He suddenly wondered why he had left the crowded studio to go on what he suspected was a wild-goose chase with Juliet Romney.

He should have remained in the party because at the top of the stairs he not only finds the corpse of an old lady but he is also accused of killing her by a hysterical Juliet Romney! So much for his scoop...

But was the old lady, who turns out to be Fanny Seely and who had been living in the attic at the top, really murdered? Or did she just lose her balance and slip down the slippery staircase? Had she been pushed from above, there would have been footprints on the stairs, right? But wait a minute, wasn't there another old lady who had slipped down the stairs and died and wasn't she the sister of the deceased? The CID, led by Chief Inspector MacDonald, is called in but first it has to be determined whether it was accident or murder.

I discovered E.C.R. Lorac last year after reading Bev's review of one of her books. Subsequently, I read Murder of a Martinet by her. This is the second book of hers that I have read and it is fun going through these rather old-fashioned police investigations, not so much forensics as digging painstakingly into the archives.

And, as somebody interested in history, I also look for references to the empire in the literature of the colonial age. In this book, it is Waller Caird who 'won a packet in the Calcutta Sweep and left the stage'.

The rest of the post contains spoilers so don't read any further unless you have read the book. Do scroll down though and leave a comment. Love to hear what you have to say.


Were you able to guess the identity of the killer? Well, I knew that the top floor must have been sub-let for a reason. So, the question was which of the two young men? And I was like....please neither because (damn it) who wants a charming, handsome youngster to be a killer! And Martia's love did seem something out of the blue, didn't it?


First Line: "By the way old chap, are you going to Martia Vannery's party next week, by any chance?"

Title: The Slippery Staircase

Author: E.C.R Lorac

Publication Details: London: Collins (The Crime Club), 1938.

First Published: 1938.

Series: Chief Inspector MacDonald

Other books read by the same author: Murder of a Martinet


Book(s) with similar theme(s):


The book might be found in libraries. I borrowed it from a local library too.


Submitted for the following challenges:

A-Z (Titles), AZRC, Borrowed Book, British Books, Criminal Plots II, Find the Cover, Merely Mystery, Mystery and Suspense, Support Your Local Library, Vintage Mystery

Monday, January 30, 2012

Twelve Best: Agatha Christie.

This year I have decided to post (at least) one list per month citing some of my favourites. Inspired by Rishi @ Classic Mystery Hunt, who posted a list of his favourite Agatha Christie Reads, I am posting (in alphabetical order) my 12 favourite books written by her.


Ten people on an island, dying one by one by one...

What can I say about this classic that hasn't been said except that only Agatha Christie could have written this and only Agatha Christie could have ruined this by turning it into that awful play with a most insipid ending.


Mr. Shaitana (love the name) was a man everybody was a little afraid of. But to be murdered at his own party, in full view of everybody else! It's good Poirot is one of the guests...

This was one of the first Agatha Christies that I read. I also learnt something about Bridge.


Linnet Ridgeway lacked nothing, so why did she have to steal her best friend Jackie's boyfriend Simon Doyle and marry him? Now, Jackie cannot forgive either of them and follows them on their honeymoon cruise. Poor Poirot, eager to relax and travelling on the same ship, finds himself involved in the menage a trois.

The story was first narrated to me by my sister, Nitu didi. Later on we watched the movie too and absolutely enjoyed I.S. Johar's performance as the manager of the ship.


 Arlena Stuart's body is washed ashore. The actresses' body bears marks of strangulation. It's good that Poirot, taking a well deserved break at Smuggler's island, pays attention to even off-hand remarks.

To me, one of the most ingenious murder plots ever.


It is Christmas time. The Lee family is having a reunion. Only somebody's desire for revenge is far greater than the goodwill and cheer. Hercule Poirot (Poor fellow!), spending the holiday season in the same village, is called for investigation and finds a dysfunctional family.

One of the most under-rated of Christie's books.


Invited by Lady Angkatell to her estate, The Hollow, Hercule Poirot is disgusted by the tableau that greets him on his arrival. A handsome man is playing corpse (complete with red paint and all) while a stocky middle-aged woman stands over him waving a gun. As the other statues round these two come to life, Poirot realises, that it is murder which he is witnessing...

A personal favourite. I adore Dr. John Christow.


A Guest House. A Snowstorm. Trapped people with secrets. A Police Inspector who arrives with the news of a murderer on the prowl.

The longest-running play ever. Need I say more?


 Roger Ackroyd is a man with a mission. He is determined to find the blackmailer who forced his beloved to commit suicide. Only before he can read the name of the blackguard, he too is put to death. Hercule Poirot investigates.

When Hercule Poirot announces the name of the murderer, one cannot believe one is reading the line correctly. It just cannot be...


Twelve stories with just that touch of the supernatural.

Loved the story of the singer and her friend, and the music that can kill.


Espionage, treachery, deceit...it is all there in a boarding house during World War II.

The first Agatha Christie that I ever read was The Secret Adversary featuring Tommy and Tuppence. They are not so young in this but remain irrepressible as ever.


Captain Treveylan is declared dead during a seance session. Concerned, his friend Major Burnaby decides to go and check upon him. To his horror, he discovers that his friend is indeed dead. Other worldly visitor or a human hand?

Love the atmosphere during the seance with the thought processes and reactions of the people in that dimly lit, eerie room.


Leonord Vole is put on trial for murdering an elderly widow for her money. And nobody is more eager to put him on the death row than his own wife, Romaine, who appears as a witness for the prosecution.

The short-story is thrilling but the play is absolutely enthralling.


It was hard to select only twelve. There were quite a few I had to leave out. What about you? Do you agree with this selection or did these leave you underwhelmed?  Do share your favourite Christies too.


The image at the top is courtesy Sura Nualpradid @freedigitalphotos.net

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Reading Challenge # 29

I have always loved reading books in translation. So, I am signing up for the Books in Translation Reading Challenge hosted by The Introverted Reader. Aiming for the Conversationalist level which means I'll be reading 4 - 6 translated books.

Reading Challenges # 27 & 28: Books from Libraries

I am all for borrowing books from the library and am perturbed by the fact that libraries all over the world are dying a slow death. So I am signing up for two challenges that involve (you guessed it!) reading books borrowed from libraries.

In the Support Your Local Library Challenge (hosted by The Eclectic Bookshelf), I'll be reading 12 books borrowed from the libraries I frequent.

Details and Sign Up, here.

1. The Slippery Staircase by E.C.R Lorac
2. The Story of Ivy by Belloc Lowndes
3. The Crime at Black Dudley by Margery Allingham
4. He Who Whispers by John Dickson Carr
5. The Beast Must Die by Nicholas Blake
6. The Eight of Swords by John Dickson Carr

In the second, Borrowed Book Challenge, a mini-challenge, hosted by La Toya, I am going for the Bookie level, that means, I'll be reading between 5-10 books in three months.

Details and Sign-up, here.

1. The Slippery Staircase by E.C.R Lorac
2. The Story of Ivy by Belloc Lowndes (Romance)
3. The Crime at Black Dudley by Margery Allingham
4. He Who Whispers by John Dickson Carr
5. The Beast Must Die by Nicholas Blake
6. The Eight of Swords by John Dickson Carr

Reading Challenge # 26: Color-Coded

One of the challenges that I regretted missing out on last year was the Color-Coded Challenge hosted by Bev@My Reader's Block. Thankfully, Bev is hosting it this year too. The challenge is to read nine books with various colours in their titles. It is an interesting challenge and you too can join the fun, here. You can also have a look at Bev's other challenges: Vintage Mystery, and Mount TBR.


1. The Story of Ivy by Belloc Lowndes
2. The Crime at Black Dudley by Margery Allingham

Reading Challenge # 25: Chunkster

Since I am reading the mammoth 700 pages long Drood, I thought I'll sign up for the Chunkster Challenge hosted by Wendy and Vasilly . I am signing for the Chubby Chunkster level which means I'll be reading at least four 450+ pages adult novels.

Details and Sign-up, here


1. Drood by Dan Simmons (777)

Reading Challenge # 24: Dusty Bookshelf

There was a time when I collected a lot of material on Greek Literature, hoping to read all the extant ancient Greek plays and epics.....The books continue to gather dust on my shelves, so I thought I'll enter the Dusty Bookshelf challenge, hosted by Booksatruestory.com to get  them out of the way. Some of the books are:

Greek Literature for the Modern Reader by H.C. Baldry

Towards Greek Tragedy by Brian Vickers

A Guide to Ancient Greek Drama by Ian C. Storey and Arlene Allan

A Companion to Greek Tragedy (ed.) by Justina Gregory

The first of these books has been on my shelf since 1999. The rest are from the early 2000s.

I am aiming for the Cobwebs level, i.e., I need to clear 10 -15 books from my shelves.

Interested in joining? Do so here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dark Desires: Dickens' Edwin Drood

'Edwin, Edwin, Edwin,' she repeats, trailing off into a drowsy repetition of the word; and then asks suddenly: Is the short of that name Eddy?'
'It is sometimes called so,'he replies, with the colour starting to his face.
'Don't sweethearts call it so?' she asks, pondering.
How should I know!'
Haven't you a sweetheart, upon your soul?'
She is moving away, with another 'Bless ye, and thank'ee. deary!' when he adds: You were to tell me something; you may as well do so.'
'So I was, so I was. Well then. Whisper. You be thankful that your name ain't Ned.'
He looks at her, quite steadily, as he asks: 'Why?'
'Because it is a bad name to have just now.'
'How a bad name?'
'A threatened name. A dangerous name.'

Charles Dickens' last novel is an unresolved mystery. At its heart, is the enigmatic figure of John Jasper. A respected personage in the town of Cloisterham, where he is associated with the church as a choir master; Jasper leads a double life, of a drug addict who frequents sleazy opium dens in London (the first chapter, in fact, opens in an opium den, and it's one of the most brilliant openings ever). He also harbours a secret desire for the (oh so childlike and frail) Rosebud. Only trouble is, Rosa is betroth to his nephew, the young and easy-going, Edwin Drood. The girl, who learns music from Jasper is aware of his insidious intentions but cannot confide in Edwin as he is fond of his uncle who also loves him deeply. Moreover, the young couple though on the threshold of matrimony are not really sure of their feelings for each other or whether they would like to spend their years together.

Meanwhile enter two siblings Neville and Helena Landless into the plot. Neville, promptly and without any reason whatsoever (except that she is oh so frail and childlike, in a nutshell en-chan-ting) falls in love with Rosa at the first glance. Like any other devotee, he thinks that Edwin doesn't care or show enough regard for his goddess.(Damn it all! He calls her Pussy!!)  Result is that Edwin and he get into a violent quarrel which Jasper, of course, tells to all and sundry. However as the wedding day approaches, efforts are made to reconcile the two young man, notably and surprisingly by Jasper, who invites them both to his house. After a pretty amiable dinner, Edwin and Neville take a walk...

The next day a distraught Jasper is seen running round the town searching for his nephew who hasn't returned home after the post-dinner stroll and Neville is caught with bloodstains on his clothes and with a heavy stick in his hand while he is on a walking tour (running away?)

Did Edwin really die? If yes, was he murdered by Neville? What devious plot did Jasper conjure? These questions will remain unanswered as Dickens died before completing his book. But it is not so much the crime that is so fascinating about the novel. It is the figure of John Jasper. How does he reconcile his two selves? The repressed desires for Rosa, how do they come in the way of his love for his nephew? Did he hatch and carry out the diabolical plan of getting Edwin out of his way:

'It was a journey, a difficult and dangerous journey. That was the subject in my mind. A hazardous and perilous journey, over abysses where a slip would be destruction. Look down, look down! You see what lies at the bottom there?'....' Well; I have told you. i did it, here, hundreds of thousands of times. What do I say? I did it millions and billions of times. i did it so often, and through such vast expanses of time, that when it was really done, it seemed not worth the doing, it was done so soon.'

For whom does he utter these enigmatic lines? Edwin or his own divided self:

'To think,'he cries,'how often fellow-traveller, and yet not know it! To think how many times he went the journey, and never saw the road!'

For a look into the inner recesses of the heart, read the novel.


First Line: An ancient cathedral town?

Title: The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Author: Charles Dickens

Publication Details: Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1983

First Published: 1870.

Pages: 302


Other Books read by the same author: A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two CitiesGreat Expectations, Hard Times, Oliver Twist


Book(s) with similar theme(s)


The book is easily available in book shops, and libraries; and can also be downloaded from the net for free. Long on my wishlist, I borrowed it from the University library [0111, 3M12, ME L4].



Submitted for the following challenges: A Classics Challenge, A-Z (Titles), AZRC, Back to the Classics, British Books, Death by Gaslight, Find the Cover, Mystery and Suspense, Smooth Criminals, Vintage Mystery, Wishlist.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Edwin Drood: Did he or Didn't he?

What do you do with a book with an unresolved mystery? The Mystery of Edwin Drood teases you with its suggestions, insinuations, cryptic conversations. I have my own ideas about the mystery [and would be doing a detailed review soon] but right now I am off to read an off-shoot of it: The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl.

A Winter's Respite Read-a-thon has begun...

A Winter's Respite Read-a-Thon hosted by Michelle at The True Book Addict has begun. For this whole week, I'll be devouring books. I am already reading Charles Dickens' The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

The books in the queue include:

The Last Dickens.


The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

However, this list is subject to change.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Charles Dickens Month: Edwin, Rosa, and Jasper

This month, I am participating in the Charles Dickens bicentennial celebrations hosted by Amanda at Fig and Thistle. The book that I am reading right now is one that has long been on my wishlist: The Mystery of Edwin Drood. So far, the mystery has been fairly gripping. There are two young people, Edwin and Rosa whose parents (before their demise) had (kind of) wished them to get married. Now the two young people are not really keen on the union but do not want to betray the wishes and memories of their parents. Adding to this problem is Edwin's young uncle, John Jasper, who is addicted to opium, and Rosa. Rosa is aware of it but is unable to reveal anything to Edwin as he is very fond of his uncle. Further developments include a quarrel between Edwin and Neville Landless, a violent young man who has fallen (you guessed it right) in love with Rosa. I fear the worst for young Edwin, whom I rather like, and the mystery to me is how can people be so enamoured of the simpering Rosa. Victorian Men!

Reading Challenge # 23: Criminal Plots II

Just when I thought, I had signed-up for all the interesting mystery challenges out there, here comes another one. Jen @ Jensbookthoughts.com is hosting her Criminal Plots reading Challenge for the year 2012. Here is what she writes:

This year's Rules of the Road:

You'll be reading six books between January 1, 2012, and December 31, 2012. One book should be read that fits into each of the following categories:

1. Novel with a weapon in the title (examples: A Night of Long KnivesA Nail Through the HeartSharp ObjectsThe RopeLay Down my Sword and Shield)

2. Book published at least 10 years ago - this should be an easy one, time to pull out those backlists (examples: Goodnight Irene,The Black EchoIndemnity Only)

3. Book written by an author from the state/provinence/etc. where you live. (I live in Ohio, so examples for me would be Carla Buckley, Les Roberts, Craig McDonald)

4. Book written by an author using a pen name (i.e., Spencer Quinn, Ross Macdonald, Ariana Franklin, Noah Boyd, Juliett Blackwell, Lisa Black)

5. Crime novel whose protagonist is the opposite gender of the author (i.e., Demolition AngelBury Your DeadCalumet City)

6. A stand-alone novel written by an author who writes at least one series (i.e., El Gavilan (Craig McDonald), Long Gone (Alafair Burke), The Lock Artist (Steve Hamilt
ton), Envy the Night (Michael Koryta), The Most Dangerous Thing (Laura Lippman))
Other Important Details:

  • You can read the books in any format you choose: print, audio, e-book, etc.
    • You can read books from any sub-genre of crime fiction: hardboiled, P.I., police procedural, cozy, thriller, etc.
    • You do not need to have a blog to participate.
    • You can use the books for other challenges but one book cannot count for more than one category in THIS challenge.
    • Books do not need to be pre-determined. You can choose them at any time throughout the year. And you can read them in whatever order you choose.
    • At the conclusion, each participant that completes the challenge will be entered for a chance at one of three prize packs.
  • Want to participate, go here:
  • http://criminalplots.blogspot.com/2011/12/announcing-criminal-plots-ii-2012.html

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Readathon: A Winter's Respite

Through CMash loves to Read, I've come to know of a Readathon in January being hosted by the true book addict. The week long event has mini-challenges, giveaways, and a lot of reading. Since I had great fun in the readathons I participated in last year, I am signing up for this too.

For details and sign-up, go here:

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Paean to the Sun

The Sun has started on his northward journey. The time is considered auspicious. Gungun and I go to the temple, next door, along with Alka, Ajay Jijaji, and Kala Aunty. We partake the delicious parshaad of Khichdi, Aalu ki Sabzi, Papad, and Achaar. Return home, have a til ka laddu and wash it all down with a cup of garma garam adrak ki chai. Settle down, not with Edwin Drood but Lorac's The Slippery Staircase. The Sun, beaming upon us, keeps the chill at bay. Life is bliss.

Here's to Surya. He who symbolises Light and Wisdom.

1 HIS bright rays bear him up aloft, the God who knoweth all that lives,
Sūrya, that all may look on him.
2 The constellations pass away, like thieves, together with their beams,
Before the all-beholding Sun.
3 His herald rays are seen afar refulgent o’er the world of men,
Like flames of fire that burn and blaze.
4 Swift and all beautiful art thou, O Sūrya, maker of the light,
Illuming all the radiant realm.
5 Thou goest to the hosts of Gods, thou comest hither to mankind,
Hither all light to be beheld.
6 With that same eye of thine wherewith thou lookest brilliant Varuṇa,
Upon the busy race of men,
7 Traversing sky and wide mid-air, thou metest with thy beams our days,
Sun, seeing all things that have birth.
8 Seven Bay Steeds harnessed to thy car bear thee, O thou farseeing One,
God, Sūrya, with the radiant hair.
9 Sūrya hath yoked the pure bright Seven, the daughters of the car; with these,
His own dear team, he goeth forth.
10 Looking upon the loftier light above the darkness we have come
To Sūrya, God among the Gods, the light that is most excellent.
11 Rising this day, O rich in friends, ascending to the loftier heaven,
Sūrya remove my heart's disease, take from me this my yellow hue.
12 To parrots and to starlings let us give away my yellowness,
Or this my yellowness let us transfer to Haritāla trees.
13 With all his conquering vigour this Āditya hath gone up on high,
Giving my foe into mine hand: let me not be my foeman's prey.

Prosperity, Wealth And Happiness...

May darkness be dispelled. May there be light all around. Happy 2012.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Happy Lohri

Twinkle Twinkle Yaraan di Car
Khadke Glassi in the Bar
Punjabi Bhangra te Makhan Malai
Twanu Lohri di Lakh Lakh Vadhai

Wishing Everybody a very very Happy Lohri. May you have a bountiful year.

Light the Bonfire. Make the offerings of Til, Rewari, Phulle, Chawal, Moongfali. Eat Gajjak and Kheer. And Dance to the Dhol. Enjoy.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Reading Challenge # 22: E Book

Participating in the E-book Challenge hosted by Sarah at Workadays Reads.

Here are her guidelines:

  1. This challenge will run from Jan 1, 2012 - Dec 31, 2012.
  2. Anyone can join, you don't need to be a blogger. If you don't have a blog, feel free to sign-up in the comments. You can post reviews to any book site (i.e. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Goodreads, etc).
  3. Any genre or length of book counts, as long as it is in ebook format.
  4. You can list your books in advance or just put them in a wrap-up post. If you list them, feel free to change them as the mood takes you.
  5. When you sign up in the linky, put the direct link to your post about joining the E-Book Reading Challenge.
  6. You can move up levels, but no moving down.
  7. Sign-ups will be open until Dec 15, 2012, so feel free to join at any time throughout the year.

  1. Floppy disk - 5 ebooks
  2. CD - 10 ebooks
  3. DVD - 25 ebooks
  4. Memory stick - 50 ebooks
  5. Hard drive - 75 ebooks
  6. Server - 100 ebooks
  7. Human brain - 150 ebooks
Signing-up for the Floppy disk level, though I might end up with a higher level as the year progresses.

Details and sign-up:

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Writing Challenge: 500 words

After signing-up for all those reading challenges, I thought it will be fun to sign-up for a writing challenge as well. So I have signed-up for inkygirl's 500-words- a- day writing challenge.

If you too feel like challenging yourself to write everyday, you can sign-up over here:

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Chasing a Crooked Shadow: Eric Ambler's Dimitrios

Colonel Haki was slowly turning the pages inside the folder, and on his way was a look that Latimer had not seen there before. It was the look of the expert attending to the business he understands perfectly. There was a sort of watchful repose in his face that reminded Latimer of a very old and experienced cat contemplating a very young and inexperienced mouse.

What a way to start the New Year! Right with a BANG!!

I had heard about Eric Ambler's A Coffin for Dimitrios. It'd crop up on many of those 100 top crime/ mystery/ suspense lists of all time. These lists are not always trustworthy. I have had quite a few disappointments, but in this case, yes the praise is well-deserved.

Combining elements of the thriller with the academic mystery, Ambler writes a gripping narrative of a man's obsession. Charles Latimer, erstwhile lecturer in political economy, and a professional writer of mysteries ("one of the shamefaced few who could make money at the sport"), is enjoying a short break from his writing engagements at Istanbul, Turkey, when he first hears of a man called Dimitrios. A man who might be in the Turkish Secret Police tells him that a body which had been fished out of the river Bosphorus
might be of a notorious criminal Dimitrios Makropoulos whose litany of criminal activities ranges from Murder, espionage, drugs... to assassination.

Latimer shows an interest in having a look at the corpse. From then on, he embarks on a journey which will take him to the various haunts of Europe: Smyrna, Sofia, Geneva, Paris as he tries to reconstruct Dimitrios' life of crime. Relying on state records, police reports, court proceedings, newspaper articles, interviews, Latimer tries to add flesh and bone to this rather shadowy figure who always remains elusive.

But for a little dragging towards the end, the book is a fast-paced read though it is handy to bookmark the note that Latimer (so obligingly) prepares in chapter 4. As must be clear, I enjoyed the book tremendously. As a reader I too got involved with Latimer in reconstructing Dimitrios' life. And the recreation of the third decade of the twentieth century is marvellous. Europe is both old- having experienced a war - and young -  revolutions, regime changes, shifting population. One meets Greek refugees as well as Mensheviks. Reading about people like Kemal Ataturk not as some half-forgotten historical figures but as coevals added an extra thrill to the reading of the book.


First Line: A Frenchman named Chamfort, who should have known better, once said that chance was 
                a nickname for Providence.

Title: A Coffin for Dimitrios

Original Title: The Mask of Dimitrios

Author: Eric Ambler

Publication Details: New York: Vintage Books, 2001

First Published: 1939

Pages: 304


Any other book read by the same author: None


Book(s) with similar theme(s):

Dark brown book cover saying "The HISTORIAN"; then "A Novel" in a shiny gold stripe, then "ELIZABETH KOSTOVA". A few thin reddish streaks stretch from the top almost to the bottom.


Copies of the book are available on the Net. I was lucky enough to receive this from Bev Hankins @ My Reader's Block after successfully completing the Vintage Mystery Challenge last year. If you want, you can participate in the challenge this year @


Submitted for the following challenges: AZRC, British Book, European Reading, Find the Cover, Free Reads, Merely Mystery, Mount TBR, Mystery and Suspense, New Author, Unread Book, Vintage Mystery

Reading Challenge # 21: Find the Cover

Hosted by Martina Bookaholic, Find the Cover is a Fun Challenge that looks at cover images rather than the titles. The challenge is to find images on the books read that start with the letters that spell out the year: Two Thousand Twelve. No cover can be used more than once.

T: Teeth of Charlie Schulz @ Charlie Brown and Charlie Schulz
W: Woods @ The Mystery of Edwin Drood

T: Trees @ Black and Blue
H: Hand @ The Geographer's Library
U: Uniform of Prince Karl @ The Double Traitor
S: Steps behind the shadowy figure @ The Last Dickens
N:  News paper in the hands of a man @ A Coffin for Dimitrios
D: Dagger @ The Crime at Black Dudley
W: White hair of the dead lady @ The Slippery Staircase
E: Eiffel Tower @ The Paris Enigma
L: Lamp post behind the shadowy figure @ Drood


Friday, January 6, 2012

Charles Dickens Month: The Man Who Liked Dickens

"We will not have any Dickens today ... but tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that...."

As part of Charles Dickens  bicentennial celebration, Amanda @ fig and thistle, is holding a Charles Dickens Month, this January. So read, review, and write about Dickens as part of the celebration.

A lot is already known about Dickens, that Eminent Victorian, so instead I am going to talk about a story that deals with obsession: [Arthur] Evelyn Waugh's terror-inducing: The Man Who Liked Dickens.
The Complete Stories of Evelyn Waugh

After being told by his wife that she loves another man, Henty, a genial Englishman, joins an ill-fated expedition to Brazil. The last survivor of his group, his life is saved by one James McMaster who lives and lords over the Shiriana Indians. As Henty recovers his health, McMaster tells him about his love for the works of Dickens.

“You are fond of Dickens?”

“Why, yes, of course. More than fond, far more. You see, they are the only books I have ever heard. My father used to read them and then later the black man ... and now you. I have heard them all several times by now but I never get tired; there is always more to be learned and noticed, so many characters, so many changes of scene, so many words ... I have all Dickens’s books except those that the ants devoured. It takes a long time to read them all—more than two years.”

“Well,” said Henty lightly, “they will well last out my visit.”

“Oh, I hope not. It is delightful to start again. Each time I think I find more to enjoy and admire.”

A grateful Henty starts reading Dickens to McMaster. Days pass into weeks, weeks into months... Henty starts getting restless, he is eager to get back to London...only McMaster doesn't seem so inclined. Then a stranger arrives at the village but before he makes his way out, Henty is able to slip a note in his hand telling about his predicament. From then on it becomes a waiting game, surely somebody will come to his rescue...

If you haven't read the story, read it to see how Waugh slowly builds up an atmosphere of menace and foreboding. The last paragraphs shuttling between hope and despair are some of the most moving. How easy it is to dream and yet how fragile are those dreams.

If you'd like to participate in the event, please go here:


Reading Challenges # 18, 19, & 20: The Classics

Have signed up for a fair number of mystery challenges, it is time to move on to the Classics. I am signing-up for three.

Sarah at Sarah Reads Too Much is hosting the Back to the Classics challenge for the year 2012. You have to read works in the following 9 categories:

  • Any 19th Century Classic
  • Any 20th Century Classic
  • Reread a classic of your choice
  • A Classic Play
  • Classic Mystery/Horror/Crime Fiction
  • Classic Romance
  • Read a Classic that has been translated from its original language to your language   - To clarify, if your native language is NOT English, you may read any classic originally written in English that has been translated into your native language.  
  • Classic Award Winner  - To clarify, the book should be a classic which has won any established literary award.  
  • Read a Classic set in a Country that you (realistically speaking) will not visit during your lifetime  - To Clarify, this does not have to be a country that you hope to visit either.  Countries that no longer exist or have never existed count.
There is a grand prize at the completion of the challenge.

Further details and sign-up:


The Second, 2012 A Classic Challenge, is hosted by November's Autumn. One has to read 7 Classics (three of which can be a re-read). Here is what the host has written:
Instead of writing a review as you finish each book (of course, you can do that too), visit November's Autumn on the 4th of each month from January 2012 - December 2012.

You will find a prompt, it will be general enough that no matter which Classic you're reading or how far into it, you will be able to answer. There will be a form for everyone to link to their post. I encourage everyone to read what other participants have posted.

Details and Sign-Up:


1. The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens (1870)

The Third Challenge, the Classic Double Challenge, hosted by One Librarian's Book Reviews, will "encourage you to read one older book (classic) and a newer book that relates to the older one in some way.  (BTW, can be any reading level from MG to Adult)."

There are different levels of participation. I am aiming for small, i.e, I read one set of related books.

Details and Sign-Up: