Reading Rainbow!

A little off topic perhaps but…

Anyone who can still hum the Reading Rainbow theme song, or who just loves books, might be interested in this. LeVar Burton (of Reading Rainbow and Star Trek The Next Generation fame) is spearheading a Kickstarter campaign to bring Reading Rainbow into as many classrooms as possible.

You can check it out here.

Reissued Classics – James Anderson’s Inspector Wilkins Series

Anyone who enjoys golden age mysteries or who appreciates stories told with Wodehousian flair (or both!) should give James Anderson’s three Inspector Wilkins mysteries a try.  The first novel in the series wasn’t published until 1975 but it’s a classic 1930’s style mystery chock-full of all the great golden age devices including the country manor house, locked rooms, secret heirs, imposters, elaborate resolutions and full cast drawing room reveals.  The titles of the novels themselves give a fair taste of what’s in store: The Affair of the Blood-Stained Egg Cosy, The Affair of the Mutilated Mink, and The Affair of the Thirty-Nine Cufflinks.  Fantastic!

Anderson pokes gentle fun at the genre without ever becoming snide or condescending – more cheeky homage than biting satire.

Various UK references categorize the novels as the Burford or Burford Family Mysteries – which in fact is more accurate as Inspector Wilkins is rarely the point of view character and is often not even present.  He is endearing however, and a great foil for the somewhat dim but well intentioned Earl of Burford, his headstrong daughter and all of the other colorful characters that turn up for these three disastrous house parties.

The Inspector does not like these upper class murders at all – they’re so complicated!  As he says to the Earl, who wants to sing his praises to the Chief Constable after he resolves the Mutilated Mink case,

“Oh, no, my lord, please don’t do that.  The more commendations of that sort I get, the more cases of this sort I’ll be assigned to.  And I really don’t like them.  I’d much sooner be handling nice simple burglaries and car thefts.”

If you’re in the mood for an enjoyable golden age escape crafted by a light, intelligent hand then give Inspector Wilkins and the Burfords a chance.

Check out the Allison & Busby site for plot descriptions for each book and to see their attractive art deco-esque paperback editions.

Louise Penny on CBC Radio’s The Sunday Edition

On the August 26th broadcast of CBC radio’s the Sunday Edition there was an interview with international bestselling crime author (and fellow Canadian) Louise Penny.  In it the author talks about her new Chief Inspector Gamache novel, The Beautiful Mystery.  I haven’t read it yet but I definitely will.  It’s set in an isolated monastery in which all of the monk inhabitants have taken a vow of silence (excluding Gregorian chanting of course) – quite a challenge for a murder investigation!

The interview was a part of the Sunday Edition’s ongoing beach reads series – books of all kinds by Canadian writers that are good bets for an enjoyable summer read.  At the end of the interview it was mentioned that Louise Penny’s first Chief Inspector Gamache novel, Still Life, is going to be made into a tv movie.  Check out the press release details here on Louise’s blog.  Here’s hoping that the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) does as fine a job with it as the BBC or ITV might.

Interesting Note:  The interviewer asked Louise Penny what she’s reading this summer.  She recommended non-fiction crime novel The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher.  The novel, by Kate Summerscale, is about one of the first great Scotland Yard detectives and the 1860 murder case that ruined his career.  ITV made a series based on the novel.  I’ve neither read the book nor seen the series but an endorsement from Ms. Penny is enough to encourage me to give both a try.

Interesting Note 2:  This evening I’m actually going to go hear Louise Penny give a reading from A Beautiful Mystery.

Interesting Note 3:  For more interviews, info, links, etc. featuring Canadian and international authors check out The Next Chapter – a CBC Radio program hosted by the very charming Shelagh Rogers.

Blackbringer by Laini Taylor

My posts are going to focus primarily on reviews, thoughts and info about crime novels and shows, but there will be exceptions.

One such exception is Laini Taylor’s novel Blackbringer.

While not fitting within my general crime/mystery framework I want to review Blackbringer because, one, since I’ve taken her idea of the snick and used it as inspiration it seems only right and two, I love it.  I love everything about it.  When I’m struggling with my own work and I want to remind myself that great writing and storytelling is possible this is one of a handful of books that I turn to.  In other words:  the snick of Blackbringer overwhelms me and I can’t help myself!

So.  Laini Taylor has written a number of excellent books and I’m very eagerly awaiting the November 6th release of Days of Blood and Starlight, the sequel to the wonderful Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

But Blackbringer has a special place in my heart.  It is one of those books that I came across by chance, just browsing in a bookstore.  I liked the cover art (done by her husband Jim Di Bartolo) and idly picked it up.

The first line is:  “The wolf tasted the babe’s face with the tip of his tongue and pronounced her sweet, and the fox licked the back of her head to see if it was so.”

Instant snick.  And it didn’t let up.  For me this is one of those rare books that satisfies from beginning to end and everywhere in between.  There weren’t just a few chapters or characters or bits of writing that I liked – I liked it all and I’m not even usually a faerie type of person.

As any novel writer knows it’s agonizing to write good book jacket style copy but here goes with a brief summary:

Magpie Windwitch, a small, fierce faerie, still young at only 100 years old, is trying to protect her fading world by capturing one devil at a time with her band of brothers – a motley collection of crows.  Great magic has all but disappeared.  Few faeries even know that a fine weave of magic is all that holds the world tenuously together, but Magpie finds herself at the centre of a race to stop that weave from unraveling.  She and her crows meet a cast of wonderful, curious and traitorous creatures as they fight to save their world.  This excellent, fast-moving tale is told in rich, deft prose that gives the reader time to enjoy each marvelous word without ever bogging down the story.


I’m not usually so effusive but, honestly, I really think it’s that good.  I know that some of you won’t agree with me.  We’ve all been in the position where we’ve recommended a book or a movie we love only to have the other person trying to find a polite way to tell us that they couldn’t get through the first 10 pages or minutes.  It is fantasy and the target audience is age 9 and up, not every adult reader’s cup of tea, but I highly recommend that you give it a try.

The wolf tasted the babe’s face with the tip of his tongue and pronounced her sweet, and the fox licked the back of her head to see if it was so.”

I mean, come on.


Interesting Aside:  Laini’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone has been optioned by Universal Pictures.

Interesting Aside 2:  Hodder, the UK publisher for Daughter of Smoke and Bone, is running a promotion for the book — you can enter to win a trip for two to Prague!