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17 January 2011

Book Review: The Light Thickens

Light ThickensLight Thickens by Ngaio Marsh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This Marsh cozy made me want to read Macbeth.  Then read the cozy again.  If nothing else, that makes this a mystery worth reading.

Marsh's last mystery.  Brings back some characters from Killer Dolphin (Death at the Dolphin in the UK).  The murder itself doesn't happen until the final 50 or so pages.  But, as I say again and again, who the hell cares?  Excellent writing, intriguing characterization and, bonus, makes one feel more literate about that Scottish play.

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Book Review: Killer Dolphin

Killer Dolphin (A Roderick Alleyn Mystery)Killer Dolphin by Ngaio Marsh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are two books that feature the fictional Dolphin Theater; this is the first one.  I read them in the wrong order so some of the plot points were already old hat to me.

Not one of Marsh's strongest mysteries but still a wonderful beach read.  Or sick bed read.  Her characterizations of professional actors are always a hoot and the prim attitude of Alleyn always makes me half-smile.

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Book Review: Black As He's Painted

Black as He's PaintedBlack as He's Painted by Ngaio Marsh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My least favorite Marsh book so far.  Very dated and rather offensive to modern sensibilities.  That said, please don't rewrite it and remove all allusions to the negro race as Marsh describes them; that would be silly.  The exploration of prejudice itself is very instructive, even if the mystery wanders over into sensationalism in a very un-Marsh-like way.

As a secondary note, I read the Jove paperback, published in the 70s.  Very, very obvious what was selling then;  the back cover blurb talks about a murder that might start World War Three when there's not even a hint of something of that within the text of the book.  Marsh's name is written in a font that my son said looked "bloody and full of terror."  Marketed as a slasher novel.  Yet still a cozy;  a cozy set outside the typical confines of most books of this nature but still featuring the type of persnickety-yet-likeable main character more often found in St. Mary Meade.

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Book Review: George's Secret Key to the Universe

George's Secret Key to the UniverseGeorge's Secret Key to the Universe by Lucy Hawking
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The adventures of George as he explores the universe with an unlikely computer named Cosmos;  science lessons included.

I'm on the fence about this book.  Plainly, it is meant to clothe the miracle of physics into language that children can understand but the laws of physics themselves are blown off at almost every plot point.

Then there's the part where a person gets sucked into a black hole but the super-computer speeds up time and sucks him back out again, putting him back together, particle by particle, messing up only his eyeglasses.

I am not a physicist so I cannot speak to the accuracy of the science contained herein.  There were a few typos but I read a first edition and assume those mistakes were corrected in subsequent releases.

The story is engaging.  The hero brave.  The villain evil.   The enormity of space well-described (and, thusly, the ridiculousness of just about everything I'll ever do in my little life reiterated which made the book, in a sense, a little too scary for an adult to read ;)

I'll add to this review when my kid has read it.  We'll see what he thinks.

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Book Review: The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. FiggThe Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Surprised by the darkness of this book with the flippant title and the happy-go-lucky cover illustration.  People in Homer's world are mean.  If they are not mean, they are nice but with ulterior motives.  Then Homer gets to the war and, among other things, describes the sound a saw makes when it cuts a man's leg off.

Putting this one on the shelf for a while.  My kid might be ready for it when he's 11 or 12.

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