The Dead Writers Society

A blog about books and reading

Sparkling Cyanide by Agatha Christie

Sparkling Cyanide by Agatha ChristieSparkling Cyanide by Agatha Christie
Published by Harper Collins on 1944
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 288
Format: Audiobook
Source: Scribd
Six people reunite to remember beautiful Rosemary Barton, who died nearly a year before. The loving sister, the long-suffering husband, the devoted secretary, the lovers, the betrayed wife - none of them can forget Rosemary.

But did one of them murder her?

I listened to this one on audiobook – rather out of order, as it turns out, since this is the last of the Colonel Race books. I’ve not read Colonel Race 1 through 4, so, obviously, I didn’t read them in the right order.

But, that’s all right. Because Agatha wrote in the decades before the cliff hanger, and she didn’t really do multi-book narrative arcs. So, it’s all good.

My husband and I drove down to Eugene, Oregon today for the spring scrimmage. It was a gorgeous day, sunny, warm-ish, and Autzen stadium was full of Duck fans. It was really a great time. For our drive, I recapped him on what had happened so far in the book, and we queued it up. We didn’t quite finish it before we got home, so we muted the golf and finished it up in the comfort of our family room.

I honestly had paid little attention to the fact that Christie wrote more than Poirot/Marple books. I organized up a Christie reread project on my primary blog yesterday, and was stunned to learn that she had written a few more Inspector Battle books (I loved The Secret of Chimneys, after all), a short series with a pair of sleuths name Tommy and Tuppence (I’ve never read any of these), the Colonel Race books, as well as a few straight up stand-alones, and a whole bunch of short story collections.

Nary a Poirot or Marple to be found in Sparkling Cyanide.

I wouldn’t call this one of her best, but we both really enjoyed it. It was fun to listen with someone, because we were able to bounce solutions – the crazier the better – off of each other. The solution was clever (aren’t they always) but firmly guessable. I figured it out before the end, although not a lot before the end. There is both a mechanical puzzle to solve (how did the cyanide get into the champagne glass) and an identification puzzle (the whodunnit).

There’s even a bit of a romance thrown in, just for fun. It’s a Christie romance – not particularly developed, little focus, although it is important to the solution.

Nowhere near as brilliant as Murder on the Orient Express, not as charming as The Secret of Chimneys, and not as confounding as The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. But still a lot of fun.

The Audio-files: A Christie Re-Read Is Undertaken

The Audio-files: A Christie Re-Read Is Undertaken by Agatha Christie

Several months ago, I joined scribd. This was around the time that they added audiobooks to their catalog. I’ve been a fan of Agatha Christie since my youth – my parents owned a number of her detective stories and I read them all. There are so many of them that it is, truly, impossible for me to remember which ones I’ve read, and which ones I have not. About a decade ago, I was in Barnes & Noble, and they had a display set up of her most enduring and popular works, reissued in hardcover. I fell in love with these books, and spent many months collecting them. The covers were deliciously matchy-matchy:

Christie collage

I’m not sure how many I ended up with, as since that time, my daughter also fell in love with the classic detective story, and has absconded with some of them to college. I do want them back, but they provide her with a delightful escape from the rigors of chem and bio, so she has them with my blessing. I am now unable to find this series, so I’ve begun filling in my collection with the Harper Collins trade paperback editions, which aren’t as pretty, but they have nice covers, and they also match nicely.

I have a thing with matching books. It’s an illness, actually.

In any event, back to scribd. When I was browsing their audiobooks, I noticed that Dame Agatha was smashingly well-represented. There were dozens of audiobooks available.

Audio   Agatha Christie   Scribd

See what I mean. That’s just a few of the audiobooks I dragged into my personal Audio: Agatha Christie folder.

I don’t drive a lot, so I haven’t really spent a lot of time listening to audiobooks. However, recently, I’ve been listening while I clean, and in the dribs and drabs of time I spend alone in the car. My daughter is about 2 hours away at college, so driving down to pick her up is prime listening time. I’ve also been trying to get back into crafting, especially cross-stitch, and listening to an audiobook while I stitch or knit is a great way to double my pleasure. So, I’ve been listening to Christie’s brilliant detective stories.

The fact that many of them are rereads by no means reduces the pleasure. Christie was an amazing plotter – one of the best ever, in my estimation. Rereading her books enables me to catch many of the clues that she plants that lead to the ultimate resolution, which are easily missed the first (and even second) time through. In addition, listening to a book is an entirely different experience than reading it. My consumption is forcibly slowed, so I’m not able to race to the finish. And the books are a great length for listening – between six and nine hours long. Long enough to be immersive, but short enough that they don’t take me weeks to finish. So far, I’ve listened to: The Murder on the Orient Express, The Secret of Chimneys, and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. I’ve just started Sparkling Cyanide, which I am quite certain is new to me.

Do the Dew(ey) – 24 hour readathon Hour 3 update

Dewey leaf

Well, it is hour 3 for most participants, but it is hour one for me. Being on the West Coast, I just can’t drag my bones out of bed at 5:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning. So, here I am, around 30 minutes into my #readathon!

Opening meme:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

I am in Oregon City, Oregon, which best known for being the end of the Oregon trail! Also, we possess a municipal elevator that hovers like a space ship over downtown.

OC municipal

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

I’ve themed my read a bit, with fairy and other fantastical tales. I think I am most looking forward to Bitter Greens by Kate Forsythe. I’ve heard such amazing things about it!

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

Chocolate caramel pretzels!

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I have to interrupt my reading fun this evening, because my rock-loving, guitar-playing fifteen year old son has a concert!

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

This isn’t precisely my first, but my first coincided with the Kathleen Hale debacle, so it wasn’t very successful. I’m looking forward to fun, community, and reading.

Classics Spin Spun


And gave me The Law and the Lady by Wilkie Collins! I really liked both The Moonstone and The Woman in White, so odds are good for me on this one.

Classics Spin!

I love the classics spins! I select 20 books, number them one through 20, and then next Monday my friends at the Classics Club will pick a book for me. My list:

They are in reverse order! Hover over each book cover to see the assigned number.

Reading Political Satire Aloud to a Teen: George Orwell’s Animal Farm

Reading Political Satire Aloud to a Teen: George Orwell’s Animal FarmAnimal Farm by George Orwell
on 1945
Genres: Classics - Twentieth Century
Pages: 152
Format: Paperback
Source: Borrowed: print book
Tired of their servitude to man, a group of farm animals revolt and establish their own society, only to be betrayed into worse servitude by their leaders, the pigs, whose slogan becomes: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." This 1945 satire addresses the socialist/ communist philosophy of Stalin in the Soviet Union.

Guitar Hero, my 14 year old son, is not an abstract thinker. In the first place, he is 14, and a boy. As well, he was diagnosed with autism when he was 3, which manifests itself in several ways, one of which is that he doesn’t really do well with abstraction.

So, when he was assigned Animal Farm as part of his social studies unit on the Russian/Chinese revolutions, it made sense that we would read and discuss it together. This turned out to be an awesome way to gain a deeper understanding of Orwell’s classic satire-masquerading-as-a-fable-about-anthropormorphisized-animals. For both of us.

Because even though my son doesn’t really do abstraction, he had several flashes of insight in this book that were amazing to observe. And the opportunity to talk through things like abuse of power, and corruption, and hypocrisy, and propaganda with him was a lot of fun for both of us (more for me, though, probably. Lol).

This is the part where I point out that Orwell was really brilliant in his ability to reduce totalitarianism to a few pen strokes, a pig in a dress, poor Boxer the draft horse who gave his soul, and ultimately his life, to an ideal that was never going to be anything other than corrupted, and some ever changing rules about equality and animalism.

I wondered if he would get that breathtaking moment, at the end, when the “commandments” have been reduced to simply one:

All Animals Are Equal.
Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others

And he did. He totally, totally did. Which was amazing.

Faro’s Daughter: I’ve Found My Perfect Heyer

Faro’s Daughter: I’ve Found My Perfect HeyerFaro's Daughter by Georgette Heyer
Published by Sourcebooks on 1941
Genres: Romance
Pages: 285
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased: ebook
An insult not to be borne
When Max Ravenscar offers her a fortune to refuse the marriage proposal from his young nephew, the beautiful Deborah Grantham is outraged.
A passionate reprisal
She may be the mistress of her aunt’s elegant gambling house, but Miss Grantham will show the insufferable Mr. Ravenscar that she can’t be bribed, even if she has to marry his puppyish nephew to prove it

This will be the one that ends up as my go to recommendation for people who are starting out with Heyer. It used to be The Grand Sophy, but there is that unpleasant anti-semitic streak that runs through it which has led me to be increasingly uncomfortable with recommending that as a first experience with Heyer.

Faro’s Daughter, for me, is as close to a perfect Heyer as I think probably exists. It is as sparkling and effervescent as Sprig Muslin, Deb is as strong-willed and honorable as Sophy, Phoebe is as adorable as Arabella, although not so headstrong. The romance between Ravenscar and Deb is as satisfying as Sir Tristram and Sarah Thane in The Talisman Ring.

Like Sprig Muslin & Talisman Ring, Faro’s Daughter is a double ring romance, with a pair of younger characters and a pair of older characters. And, like both of those books, I absolutely loved the romance between the more mature characters.

Deborah Grantham is the titular faro’s daughter, a moderately impoverished woman of four and twenty, which makes her a bit older than the heroine of the average Regency romance. She and her aunt have opened up a card room in an effort to stave off bankruptcy, which is really not going very well because her aunt sort of sucks at money management, and Deb’s brother is – as is so often the case in these Heyer romances – a drain on the family finances.

Adrian is the young Lord Mablethorpe, who fancies himself in love with the delectable Deb. There’s also a lecherous older character, Lord Ormskirk, who has bought up all of Deb’s aunt’s bills in an effort to force Deborah into becoming his mistress. She is having none of that, of course, but she rather likes Adrian and doesn’t want to hurt him.

The book begins when Lord Ravenscar decides that it is incumbent upon him to save the callow youth from the clutches of the fortune hunter. He badly underestimates Deb’s integrity and kindness, and jumps to all kinds of conclusions. He is a huge conclusion jumper, which is the cause of the misunderstanding that leads to a delightful confusion at the end. Deb has no intention of marrying Adrian, she is much too honorable of a person and she isn’t a bit in love with him, so when Ravenscar offers her twenty-thousand pounds to leave Adrian alone, she loses her shit.

“The palm of Miss Grantham’s hand itched again to hit him, and it was with an immense effort of will that she forced herself to refrain. She replied with scarcely a tremor to betray her indignation. ‘But even you must realise, sir, that Lord Ormskirk’s obliging offer is not to be thought of beside your cousin’s proposal. I declare, I have a great fancy to become Lady Mablethorpe.”

Ravenscar has met his match with the indomitable Deb, but he has no idea. He is accustomed to getting his own way, and is just as pissed as Deb when she turns him down flat, leaving him with the distinct impression that she intends to marry Adrian as soon as Adrian reaches majority, in a bare 60 days. The pitched battle of wills and arms occurs, with Ravenscar buying the bills off Ormskirk, and Deb actually at one point kidnapping Ravenscar and locking him in her basement with the rats.

“‘You have had Ravenscar murdered, and hidden his body in my cellar!’ uttered her ladyship, sinking into a chair. ‘We shall all be ruined! I knew it!’

‘My dear ma’am, it is no such thing!’ Deborah said, amused. ‘He is not dead, I assure you!’

Lady Bellingham’s eyes seemed to be in imminent danger of starting from their sockets. ‘Deb!’ she said, in a strangled voice. ‘You don’t mean that you really have Ravenscar in my cellar?’

‘Yes, dearest, but indeed he is alive!’

‘We are ruined!’ said her ladyship, with a calm born of despair. ‘The best we can hope for is that they will put you in Bedlam.”

These are the only two people in London who could handle each other without asbestos gloves and a welding hood.

The second romance involves Adrian and Phoebe Laxton, who is rescued – by Deb and Adrian – from Vauxhall, where her mercenary family is trying to sell her like a lamb to slaughter to a way, way, way too old creepy aristocrat because in that family, as well, the men are useless, profligate gambles and women are commodities. Phoebe is adorable and sweet, and Deb figures out within about twenty seconds that she is just the girl for Adrian. While Ravenscar is accusing her of being the worst kind of gold-digger, she is neatly solving his problem for him, finding a suitable match, and watching Adrian grow up just in time to take care of the fraught Phoebe.

And so, we come to the end, after Adrian has married Phoebe, he returns to town, runs into Ravenscar, and tells him to wish him happy because he has gone and gotten married. Ravenscar again jumps to the conclusion that Deb has married Adrian just to spite him. He shows up at her house to get into a big fight, and tell her that had she not been in such a hurry, she would have gained a much bigger prize – him.

She tosses him out, furious, saying, in Lizzie Bennett fashion, that he is the last man in the world that she could be prevailed upon to marry.

Ah, young love. If only they’d had some electronics to toss around, a DVD player would clearly have gone out the window. It does, of course, all get worked out in the end, and I am convinced that Ravenscar and Deborah are perfect for one another – honorable, fierce, passionate, and slightly nuts. Their marriage will never be boring, and regency London would have been a better place with them in it.

Top Ten Tuesday: Historical Fiction


This weeks prompt is: The Top Ten Books I Want to Read From X Genre. As always individual bloggers are encouraged to put their own spin on it – so, in my case, I am going to do The Top Ten Historical Fiction Books I Want to Read in 2014. The titles link to the Goodreads bookpage, so if you think they look interesting, check them out!

Top Ten Tuesday is the brainchild of The Broke and the Bookish!

The World Wars:

1. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This book has been everywhere since it was published on May 6, 2014, and I cannot believe I haven’t read it.

2. The Cartographer of No Man’s Land by P.S. Duffey. I actually bought this one back in August for my WWI project, and I never read it. But it looks amazing!

3. After the War is Over by Jennifer Robson. I read Jennifer Robson’s debut novel, Somewhere In France (you can find my review here), and really loved it. This one is really appealing as well.

Historical Wives:

4. The Traitor’s Wife by Allison Pataki is the fictionalized story of Peggy Shippen Arnold, the wife of Benedict Arnold.

5. The Paris Wife by Paula McClain is a fictionalized account of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Hemingway.

6. A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick. Set in rural Wisconsin in 1909, this novel has been on my TBR since 2009.


7. The Bones of Paris by Laurie King. I love Laurie King’s Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series, and I enjoyed the one Kate Martinelli that I read, so I couldn’t resist this one.

8. A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable. This one could be great, or it could be awful.

9. The Ambassador’s Daughter by Pam Jenoff. Set in Paris, 1919, this could also have fit in the World Wars category as well.

One Giant Sweeping Epic

10. The Century Trilogy (Fall of Giants, Winter of the World, Edge of Eternity) by Ken Follett. If you want to be picky about it, this is actually 3 books, and is nearly 3,000 pages of sweeping and epic historical fiction from 1911 through the 1980’s.

Recapping January

I read 17 books, for a total of 5,900 pages.

Three series starts: Cinder, Midnight Riot and The Last Dragonslayer. Of the three, I definitely intend to go on with Cinder and The Last Dragonslayer. Midnight Riot was a bit of a disappointment, actually.

Two classics: North and South and The Scarlet Letter. There will be posts on both of these books at some point. I loved North and South enough that I plan to read more Gaskell. The Scarlet Letter wasn’t as awful as I expected it to be, but it definitely will never be one of my favorite classics.

The Grisha trilogy was a reread, and it was a lot of fun! I enjoyed Leigh Bardugo’s imperial Russia inspired world, and, in spite of the fact that a lot of people hated the ending, I thought it was well-done.

Thunder Bay was my only Scribd book this month, which means that I definitely didn’t get my money’s worth from the subscription. It was also the last book in the Cork O’Connor series that I’ve read. I do intend to finish the series, but needed some time away.

I launched into my L’Engle project with the first book in the Time Quintet, A Wrinkle In Time, which was a reread from my childhood. I am looking forward to reading on in the series, which showed up under the Christmas tree in a lovely box set edition.

I also reread most of the Lady Julia series by Deanna Raybourn – I had forgotten how much I enjoyed Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane and it was nice to get reacquainted. I’ve run out of time in January before finishing The Dark Enquiry, which means it will be put off until March, because my plan for February is to work on the print book TBR, which means I won’t be reading kindle books, I’ll be reading:


A selection of my overwhelmingly huge library of unread print books.

Happy February!

Deal Me In: January Wrap-Up

by Dana Cameron, Delia Sherman, Holly Black, Patricia Briggs
Genres: Short Stories
Source: Purchased: ebook

playing cards

My plan is to select my short story on Sundays, read it sometime during the week, and then write a wrap up post each month. As is the norm, January went great!

I drew stories from:

6 of Hearts: Weird Detectives, Swing Shift

This was a story by Dana Cameron, a writer with whom I am not familiar. One of the things that I am hoping from this project is an introduction to some new writers, so that was great.

Unfortunately, this was probably my least favorite of the four stories I read. There was nothing really wrong with it, but there wasn’t anything that really stood out about it, either. It was written in the style of a hardboiled detective novel, with werewolves.

The story blurb: The Case: An FBI agent, with troubles of his own, needs help uncovering a treasonous leak of secrets to the Nazis. He calls on an old friend for assistance . . . and gets far more than he bargained for.

It seems to be set in her “Fangborn” world. The writing was fine, and fans of shifters might want to check out Ms. Cameron. You can find her Goodreads page here. Her Emma Fielding series actually looks more interesting than her shifter series to me – it is about an archeologist.

Ace of Spades: Rag and Bones, Millcara

This is a retelling of the LeFanu’s Carmilla by Holly Black, set in a modern world. I really liked it, which makes sense to me, since I tend to like Holly Black’s books. In fact, her most recent book, The Darkest Part of the Forest is one of my most anticipated reads for 2015.

Here is what the author said about it writing it:

I can’t remember how old I was when I first read Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Gothic novella, Carmilla. I couldn’t have been older than thirteen, because that was the year I obsessively researched vampires for the footnote-filled paper that would allow me to graduate from middle school and enter high school. In my memory, Carmilla is just always there, a defining piece of my inner vampire mythos. In rereading it recently, I was struck by how much it read like a dark, hothouse fairy tale. I absolutely adore the language—all the hot lips and languid, gloating eyes—that made me fall in love with vampires in the first place. I always wondered what the story would have been like from Carmilla’s point of view, though, so in this story, I decided to try to puzzle it out.

I thought this one was really well done and convincing.

6 of Diamonds: Weird Detectives, Star of David

Star of David was written by Patricia Briggs, and since Patricia Briggs can pretty much do no wrong as far as I am concerned, it isn’t a surprise that I liked this story a lot. Weird Detectives provides a cool little blurb for each story – so here’s the “Case File” for Star of David:

The Case: Sixteen-year-old Devonte allegedly wrecks his foster parents’ home. The damage is far more than one lone human boy could inflict. The kid’s not talking, but Stella Christiansen, whose agency placed Devonte, senses he is in danger.

The Investigator: David Christiansen, a werewolf and mercenary, as well as Stella’s estranged father.

4 of Clubs: Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells, Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells

This was the last of the stories that I read in January. I also really liked this entry by Delia Sherman. I am also unfamiliar with Ms. Sherman, and checking her out on Goodreads – here – she seems to be mostly a short story writer, who has contributed to a lot of anthologies.

This one was a fun little story about an AU England where the nobility receives lessons in magic, and the main character of the story – a Yankee with a talent for thaumaturgy – gets the chance to delve into Queen Victoria’s school girl notebook of spells.

“It’s a real plum. Reggie has told me so, numerous times. “There are wizards all over England,” he says, “with bloodlines going back generations, dying to get their hands on Victoria’s spell book. You should be grateful.”

And I might be. If I were a Victorianist. If the project were actually mine.”

I am a huge fan of steampunk, and Victoriana, and fairy tales, so it is no surprise that I liked this story. I am especially looking forward to reading more from this anthology.

Thus ends January in my Deal Me In 2015 project.

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