Have His Carcase (Lord Peter Wimsey #8) ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Have His Carcase
Series: Lord Peter Wimsey #8
Author: Dorothy Sayers
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 374
Words: 139K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

During a hiking holiday on the South West coast of England, the detective novelist Harriet Vane discovers the body of a man lying on an isolated rock on the shore, not far from the resort of Wilvercombe; his throat has been cut. Harriet takes photographs and notes that death must have been very recent as the man’s blood is still liquid. There are no footprints in the sand other than hers and those of the victim. Unfortunately, the corpse is washed away by the rising tide before she can summon help.

Alerted to the discovery by a friend, Lord Peter Wimsey arrives, and he and Harriet start their investigations. The victim is identified as Paul Alexis, a young man of Russian extraction, employed by a Wilvercombe hotel as a professional dancing partner. The police tend to the view that Alexis’s death was suicide and that he had cut his own throat.

Wimsey and Harriet discover that in the period leading up to his death Alexis, an avid reader of Ruritanian romances, had believed himself to be a descendant of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. A series of cipher letters received from an unknown source convinced him that he was being called to return to Russia to take his place as the new rightful Tsar.

Alexis had been engaged to a rich widow in her fifties, Mrs Weldon. Her son, Henry Weldon, ten years older than his mother’s lover and by all appearances a simple and brutish man, is appalled at the prospect of his mother’s remarriage to a gigolo, and at his potential loss of inheritance. He travels to Wilvercombe to monitor the investigation while ostensibly comforting his mother after her loss. Weldon appears to be a likely murder suspect, but he has an unshakeable alibi for the time of Alexis’s death – as do a large number of other possible suspects.

Alexis’s death, staged to look like suicide, is gradually revealed to be the result of an ingenious murder plot that played upon Alexis’s fantasies. He had been lured to the rock by his anonymous correspondent who urged him to be ready to meet a ‘Rider from the Sea’, a rider who it was said would be carrying instructions for his onward journey to Warsaw. Once at the rock, Alexis met his death at the hand of the murderer who had ridden his horse along the beach through the incoming tide to avoid leaving tracks.

Wimsey and Harriet ultimately realise that Weldon is not the simple character he has been presenting, but a criminal who has been living under two different identities. Weldon was himself the rider, and had been provided with his alibi by two co-conspirators, a friend and his wife. Although his alibi was secure for the believed time of death, the investigators discover that Alexis had died far earlier than had been thought. The still-liquid and unclotted blood noted by Harriet when she found the body had been the result of Alexis’s haemophilia. Weldon and his co-conspirators are undone by their unsuccessful attempts to reshuffle their alibis to match the new information about the time of death.

Even as Wimsey and Harriet solve the case, Mrs Weldon has already moved on to another gigolo at the hotel, a sympathetic French dancer named Antoine.

My Thoughts:

I had taken a break from Lord Peter Wimsey after the last book dealt with train schedules in excruciating detail. I do mean excruciating. I read that last August and I figured 5’ish months was probably a good enough of a break, so I dived into this book with fresh vim and vigor.

Only to have all that vim and vigor squashed like so much many sta-puff marshmallows as Lord Peter Wimsey and his beloved Harriet discuss every single way that 2-3 people could get to a specific rock on the coast in time to cut someone’s throat at 2pm, using a combination of horses, walking, and possibly bicycles and automobiles. After I skipped pages and pages and had just come up for air, thinking that maybe I had survived it just fine, then the author takes me down a path of code breaking. Once again, in excruciating detail.

OH. MY. GOODNESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have come to the following conclusions, based on my own keen deductive skills.

  • Mystery readers are not a homogeneous group
  • Some mystery readers just want to piggyback on the overall story
  • Some mystery readers want to solve the mystery themselves
  • Some mystery readers want to solve the mystery BEFORE the detective in the story does
  • Some mystery readers are dolts who the author panders too, thus making every other mystery reader suffer agonies, probably excruciating agonies

While I have zero issues with the overall plots and characters (I rather like them in fact), I simply can’t stand the level of detail that is given. I don’t want to solve the mystery. I suspect that Sayers is writing her stories for the Other Kind of mystery readers. I’m going to read one more Wimsey novel and see how it pans out. Should the exacting details continue, I’ll be done with her.

One funny thing that happened while reading this was that I had misread the title as Have His Carcass, which made total sense as Harriet finds a dead body. Then partway through I realized it was Carcase and was waiting for an automobile to get involved. When it didn’t show up, I went and did a little Grammar Investigating. Turns out “carcase” is an alternate form of “carcass”. I didn’t do any more digging so I’m not sure if its an American English vs Kings English thing, or an Old vs New spelling thing. Do you know?

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Project X – T

For all the bionic details about what led to the Creation of Project X, please visit the Intro Post. It’s totally worth six million bionic dollars.

LIKE
Tnankfulness

Being thankful is good to see in one’s own life, but I always like it when I see it in other people. Especially when they are thankful to ME for some wonderful thing that I just did for them. Like entering a quiz. Such a little thing but if it brings joy and happiness to someone and it helps them to be thankful to me, I am all for it. And if someone is so thankful to me that they want to buy me a years supply of energy drinks, I won’t decline. Just sayin’…..

DISLIKE
Tabasco sauce

Despite my post where I praised Tabasco Man to the skies, the reality is that I don’t actually like tabasco sauce. I am not a spicy person. Never have been but as the decades have rolled on, I get less spicy with every year. I figure in another 20 years I should be down to eating nothing but oatmeal with raisins. And I’ll be happy with that. As long as no one tries to sneak tabasco sauce into my oatmeal anyway. Someone is going to DIE if that happens (most likely me as my stomach ruptures from the unaccustomed spiciness!)


And that is it for this week. Stay tuned for our next episode, where only the Uncanny shall be shown! * ghost noises *

The Twits ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Twits
Authors: Roald Dahl
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Childrens Fiction
Pages: 69
Words: 9K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

A hideous, vindictive, spiteful couple known as the Twits live together in a brick house without windows. They continuously play nasty practical jokes on each other out of hatred for one another.

They also keep a family of pet monkeys, the Muggle-Wumps. The Twits, who are retired circus trainers, are trying to create the first upside-down monkey circus, they will always leave the monkeys to stand on their heads for hours on end.

Mr. Twit has this glue call Hugtight in hopes of catching birds for Mrs. Twit to make into a bird pie. The monkeys try to warn the birds before they land on the tree, but the English-speaking birds do not understand the monkeys’ African language.

Once a week the Roly-Poly bird flies to visit the monkeys, to secretly save the birds by acting as an interpreter of languages. On a Tuesday night a group of four boys see the ladder next to this tree and they decided to walk up into it, not thinking or knowing that glue was on it. On the Wednesday morning Mr Twit sees that the boys have scared them away. Out of rage Mr Twit charged at them but they got away. Mr Twit tries several times to catch the birds, and tired of not getting anywhere Mr. Twit decides to go buy guns with his wife to kill them.

The Muggle-Wumps come up with an idea to use Mr. Twit’s glue to attach the Twits’ furniture to their ceiling. The birds came up with an idea to smear glue on the Twits’ heads. Shocked, the Twits rush into their home and see the mess. Mr. Twit suggests that they stand on their heads so that they are ‘the right way up’ The Roly-Poly bird then offers to fly the Muggle-Wumps all the way back to Africa and the Muggle-Wumps escape.

Hours later both Mr and Mrs. Twit are putting all their weight down on the heads and they catch the ‘Dreaded Shrinks’- their bodies compressing ‘downwards.’ Their feet shrink into their legs, their legs shrink into their stomach, their stomach shrink into their heads, and their head shrink into nothing but two pairs of shoes and old clothes. Mr and Mrs Twit are nowhere to be seen.

My Thoughts:

Ahhh, now this was some good stuff! Dahl can write the most horrible characters but unlike modern authors who revel in that disgustingness, he gives those revolting characters just what they deserve! The Twits are B-A-D people and they get everything coming to them.

At only 70’ish pages (and it would be quite a bit shorter without Quentin Blake’s absolutely wonderful illustrations), this is something that an adult can polish off in one sitting. It would also be a good starter book to introduce Dahl to younger readers who aren’t quite ready to sit down for a full hour or two.

Simply put, I like Dahl’s writing. He is funny and quirky and has the ability to write bad characters that are almost caricatures but don’t quite cross that line. He also infuses his childrens books with a child’s sense of justice and fairplay which I love.

Everything I wrote back in 2012 (when I first reviewed this) still stands.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Price of the Stars ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Price of the Stars
Series: Mageworlds #1
Authors: Debra Doyle & James Macdonald
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 406
Words: 143.5K



Synopsis:

From Fritzfreiheit.com/wiki/Mageworlds_(series)

Freebooter at heart, spacer by trade, Beka Rosselin-Metadi doesn’t want to hear about how her father whose rugged general ship held back the Mageworlds — or her highborn mother whose leadership has held the galaxy together since. Beka pilots spacecraft — as far from her famous family as possible.

Then Beka’s mother is assassinated on the Senate floor, and her father offers her the title to Warhammer, prize ship from his own freebooting youth — if she agrees to deliver the assassins to him “off the books.”

Looking for assassins has a tendency to make assassins look for you. In doing so, Beka’s arranged her own very public death and adopted a new identity; now all she has to do is leave a trail of kidnappings and corpses across five star systems, and blow the roof off the strongest private fortress in the galaxy.

My Thoughts:

This book, the first of seven, was published in 1992. Timothy Zahn had published his seminal Heir to the Empire in 1991 which ignited the much beloved and much maligned Star Wars Extended Universe. This obviously was trying to catch some of that popularity. While it may not have taken off like the EU, where it was FAR more successful was in how it passed the torch to the next generation.

What killed the the EU (besides Lucas simply killing it off because he’s a jackass, just like Disney, but Disney is a jackass whore) was the fact that none of the writers used ever created any characters who could hold a torch to the Big 3 (Luke, Leia and Han). Even one of the final books, Crucible, was ALL about those 3 characters while ignoring sub-characters who were supposed to be the next generation of heroes.

Doyle & Macdonald don’t make the mistake of passing the torch. That’s already done. And what’s more, one of the big 3 is killed right at the beginning, thus propelling the whole adventure. It was handled masterfully. When I started the Galaxy’s Edge series I was overpowered by the Star Wars vibe. It was Stormtroopers as the goodguys and it was fantastic. This series had the Star Wars vibe, but it was much more of the rogue’ish trader and mystic than the military. It was a different aspect but it was just as fun.

My only complaint was that the timeline didn’t feel like it was told as. I believe this book was supposed to have taken about 2 years but honestly, it felt like 2 months. That’s a nitpicky thing, I know.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Dune: Part 1 (2021 Movie)

Oh man. What a movie! When this was being produced and talked about, I had my reservations. The gender change for Dr Kynes smacked of pure woke bullshit. The “Part I” let us all know it wasn’t a complete movie and that was worrisome as well. As an avid fan of the Novel by Frank Herbert (having reviewed it 3 times since 2011), I do consider myself a bit of a snob when it comes to Dune.

Thankfully, I follow a couple of people who reviewed Dune Part 1 when it hit the cinemas back in October. Those reviews relieved all my fears and actually got me excited to watch it. I pre-ordered the blu-ray as soon as it was possible and it was released January 11. Because I’m a member of prime, I got it that day. Since then, I’ve watched it 3 times plus all the “extras”.

Let’s deal with the “problems”. Kynes being changed to a woman didn’t matter because they completely neutered the character’s impact on the story. In the novel Liet Kynes is not only the Royal Ecologist for the Emperor, but is also the de facto leader of the fremen, leading their secret ecological fight to transform Dune into a watery paradise. In the movie, Kynes helps Paul and Jessica escape and then is killed by Sardakar almost by accident. It was laughable, in a pathetic way. I “almost” felt bad for the woman playing Kynes but not that much and she was just such a non-entity that the change didn’t bother me like I thought it would. The other issue of this being Part One has already been resolved as this was such a success that Part Two is a green lit.

This follows the first half of the book and ends where Paul and Jessica head out into fremen society. As such, this was a real setup movie with lots of introductions to the universe. I thought they did a good job and kept it interesting with the whole Harkonnen / Atreides feud. I also liked just about every casting choice except for Lady Jessica. As minor as it may seem, her hair wasn’t red enough for me. I know my mental picture has been influenced, greatly, by the SyFy (that’s syphilis to the uninitiated) Channel’s miniseries in the early 2000’s. That is a very minor complaint though, so I’m not sure I can even really call it a complaint.

Saskia Reeves was a wonderful Lady Jessica from the tv mini-series

One thing I did miss was the dinner scene soon after the Atreides take control of Dune. It is very memorable and informs the reader/viewer about a lot of the political scenes going on. I didn’t miss it on the first watch but on the second and third I realized it was missing and did feel it rather keenly.

The musical score was absolutely top notch. I felt like Hans Zimmer watched the finished movie and then wrote this weird, throat singing, chanting, atonal sound track that fit the barbarity of the desert of Dune and political fighting and betrayals that occur. I thought the music fit the movie perfectly. However, as a musical score on its own, it’s an abysmal failure. I listened to it on youtube and it was shudderingly jarring and I gave up before I got to the halfway mark. I will NOT be buying the cd of this sound track. Here’s the youtube embed so you can listen for yourself.

Since I got the bluray I also watched the extras. What few there were. While there were many in number, a lot of them simply repeated the same things or the same scenes over in a different way. There was no commentary track (something I tend to like) nor were there very many of the technical “making of” parts. There were a few bits and bobs of that stuff, but not anything close what I have come to expect from extras. There were no interviews with the cast, another thing I tend to enjoy.

Looking at this, it comes across as a check list of issues I had with the movie. The problem with that is that I really did enjoy the movie but it can be harder to write about what I enjoyed than what I didn’t. For instance, I thought Timothy Chalot was a great Paul. He was small and wiry and looked like a young adult and not just a small old person. The Bene Gesserit “Voice” was done wonderfully too. I liked how the ornithopters were portrayed. I’ve always imagined them as mechanical sparrows but the change to make them more like dragonflies than birds worked aesthetically. The little bit we see of the sandworms and how the sand acts around them fit perfectly too. There were enough “little” touches that I wouldn’t mind getting a directors cut some day 😀

My issues in watching this (and hence why I’ve watched it 3 times so far) is because it is VERY easy to mix up what I’m watching with the previous Dune screen incarnations. The 1984 David Lynch version was such an odd duck that you almost have to like it just for its weirdness but trying to keep track of what was from that movie and what was from the book gets intermingled in my mind. Then throw in the aforementioned SyFy mini-series and it’s sequel series, Children of Dune and suddenly, well, there is a TON of information to keep track of. What was original to this movie, or what came from the 1984 film or the Mini-series OR the book itself? I think it is a testament to Frank Herbert that Dune has inspired so many incarnations and that us fans continue to lap them up and give them a chance.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and am very glad I bought the bluray. It is making me look forward to the sequel that much more. If you are tired of Super Hero movies but still need that bigger than this world feeling, Dune Part 1 might just fit the bill. If you liked the book, I think you’ll like this too. It IS an adaptation but one that I am quite glad has been realized. A solid thumbs up.

I realize this is a bit longer than my usual posts, so thanks for sticking it out to the end. Cheers!

The White Tree (Cycle of Arawn #1) ★★✬☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The White Tree
Series: Cycle of Arawn #1
Author: Edward Robertson
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 432
Words: 190K



Synopsis:

From Cycle-of-arawn.fandom.com

Dante Galand is a teenager living in the nation of Mallon, not far from the capital of Bressel. One day, while exploring the woods around the village where he grew up, he stumbles upon a ruined temple of Arawn, god of death and the power of the nether, summarily banned in Mallon on religious grounds. In the temple he finds a copy of the Cycle of Arawn, the holy book of Arawn’s followers. The temple is guarded. Dante kills the guard, takes the book, and heads to Bressel to research.

In Bressel, he hires Blays Buckler, an armsman of the same age as Dante, to watch his back while he studies, fearful of the other Arawnites who continue to hunt him and the Cycle. During a fight with the pursuing Arawnites in an alley, Dante subconsciously summons a shadowsphere, a basic trick of the nether. He and Blays flee Bressel and spend the next couple weeks camped by a pond in the woods outside Bressel before the Arawnites catch up and they move on. They make their way to the small city of Whetton, where they face down and kill another pair of Arawnite hunters, one of them a nethermancer. The next day, Blays is arrested by the guards of Whetton for the killings. Dante escapes by chance, having not been in their room at the time.

Unwilling to leave Blays to the gallows, Dante holes up in a mausoleum in the local graveyard where he meets an old man named Cally, who tells him about the Arawnites’ scheme to use the Cycle as bait for new nethermancers and begins to teach Dante how to use the nether, starting with the use of your own blood to amplify the nether’s power. Dante spends a good deal of the week reading the Cycle- particularly the story of Jack Hand- and contemplating ducks. On the day Blays is due to be hanged, Dante attacks the guards, causing a very large mess and saving Blays. As they ride away on stolen horses, Dante passes out after exhausting his control of the nether.

He wakes up in a temple Cally has been living in, and spends several days recovering and reading the Cycle- the part of it written in Mallish, at least. Cally eventually tells Dante, Blays, and the other two men rescued from Whetton that they’ll have to leave soon. He recommends heading north, to the Dead City, Narashtovik. It’s where Dante will be able to find teachers and knowledge about both the nether and the final third of the Cycle, which is written in Gaskan. It’s also the source of a string of recent attacks and general unrest centered in Bressel and Collen. Cally suggests that if Blays and Dante are able to work their way into the city and kill Samarand, the current High Priestess of Arawn and ruler of Narashtovik, they will be able to avert a religious war directed at Mallon in the name of Arawn, who they plan to release from his godly prison.

Dante and Blays leave Cally’s temple with Robert Hobble, one of the other men from Whetton. They’re attacked on the road by half a dozen Arawnites led by Will Palomar. They drive their attackers off, but Robert is badly injured. Dante heals Robert as best he can, and they continue on. They stop in the town of Shay, where they meet Gabe, a norren monk of Mennok and an old friend of Cally’s. While at Gabe’s monastery, the town is caught up in the Unlocking, wherein all of the undercover Arawnites hidden in the Mallish temples of other gods revealed themselves and attacked the others. After a fight for the temple, Gabe sends the three of them on their way. They cross the Norren Territories without incident and make it the rest of the way to Narashtovik unmolested. Robert leaves them just outside the city and they continue alone.

After a few days of research and resupplying in Narashtovik, Dante presents himself at the Cathedral of Ivars with a copy of the Cycle. It’s not the one he found in Mallon, the true original copy, but one of passably similar age found in a ruined building in Narashtovik itself. He and Blays walk right into the cathedral and all but throw the book at the first priest they find, which happens to be Nak Randal. Dante demands a place in the Arawnite order and a teacher. Larrimore, Samarand’s Hand, is summoned to deal with them. They are eventually granted a place inside the walls of the Sealed Citadel. Dante spends his time learning Gaskan with Nak and Blays spends his time training with the Citadel’s soldiers. After a brief stint in the dungeons over the issue of the non-original Cycle, a fact since discovered by the priests, Dante gets a minor promotion and Larrimore begins to send him and Blays on errands in the city like rounding up petty criminals with minor nethereal talents.

In time, Dante is set to creating reservoirs of nether by infusing old bones with the power and writing on them in blood. It also comes to light that Samarand was once a priest on the Council of Narashtovik under Cally. She spearheaded the effort to have him removed as the High Priest on the basis of advancing age. When Cally was finally forced out fifteen years before the start of the book, she took over the position. A week before the Council is set to leave to free Arawn, an assassin nearly kills Dante in the middle of the night, sent by Cally on suspicion that Dante had given up on the plan to kill Samarand. He and Blays hide the body in a haystack outside, and within a week they’re riding out of the city with Samarand, Larrimore, half the Council, and a large escort of soldiers and priests for Barden, the White Tree. They’re attacked by local rebels, displeased with Samarand’s war, partway to Barden and defeat them.

Under Barden, Samarand and the six Council priests set to a massive, draining ritual to unleash Arawn. Dante and Blays wait, biding their time until they can strike. The ritual is nearly complete when the priests realize something isn’t right. Dante steps forward with the true original Cycle and all hell breaks loose. Cally reveals himself, having been disguised as Jackson, one of the Council priests, for some time. He immediately goes into battle with Samarand while Dante and Blays turn on the rest of the priests and soldiers. One of the other Council priests, Baxter, turns on the rest of the Council, though he’s quickly killed by Larrimore, who arrives from the bottom of the hill and demands answers. During the fighting, Dante knocks a limb free from the great bone tree. It’s conveniently sword-shaped, and he takes it. In the end, the battle comes down Cally against Samarand and Dante against Larrimore. When Samarand and Larrimore both lie dead, along with the rest of the Council priests present, Cally speaks to the gathered soldiers and assumes command. On their return to Narashtovik, he tells the remnants of the Council what happened under Barden. Olivander, next in line for the seat of High Priest, nearly came to blows with Cally over his hand in Samarand’s death, but in the end let it go in the name of rebuilding the decimated Council. Dante demanded a seat, and Cally supported it, making Dante by far the youngest Councilman at sixteen.

After a couple months of learning the city and his place in it and of generally relaxing, Dante talks with Blays. Spring is coming and Blays is restless, and means to leave. Dante decides to go with him. He gets nominal approval from Cally to make the two of them official delegates to Bressel, though they intend to do whatever they wish and Cally knows it. Cally tells Dante to consider how Narashtovik might help the cause of norren independence- he had apparently promised Gabe that he would fight for it, in exchange for help reclaiming his seat at the head of the Council. Dante and Blays leave Narashtovik and head south. They stop in Whetton and visit Robert Hobble before continuing on to Bressel.

My Thoughts:

If you’ve ever read Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles, or are even a bit familiar with Welsh mythology, the name Arawn should be familiar to you. He is a death god and as such is considered to be a pretty bad guy. Robertson either digs deeper into Welsh Lore than I care to, or just does whatever the feth he feels like and makes Arawn the great god who helped humankind and was locked away because of it. Not going to get any sympathy from me. Death is evil and at some point will be destroyed, thank God.

Do you really want to free this guy?

Anyway, this had potential. But that was it. It was overlong, over written, confusing at times and odd word choices that removed me from the flow of the narrative were used. The most egregrious was the word “smited”. I can’t find that word in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. I have a feeling the writer used the rules of the english language and created that word based on that instead of looking up the proper form, which would been “smitten”. If any of you can find the word “smited”, please let me know.

The story contained should have been no more than 250 pages. Lots of extraneous detail (probably put in for “world building (heaven save us from that filthy thing)), little side journeys or happenings that didn’t advance the plot but fluffed the page count, it all just added up to one big Bloviated book.

Then you have the character of Dante. He’s this 16 year old who saw some guy heal a dog way back when and so decided to become a disciple of Arawn (or at least read the religious book of Arawn) to become what is in essence a wizard. How does he do that? He reads the book and his innate ability allows him to. There were a couple of times where he uses what is a huge burst of magic to push people back and I had to wonder why he didn’t use a much smaller amount to twirl a sword through the air and kill people. Nothing says “cool magic” like a flying sword. While the magic system wasn’t layed out for us the reader, that didn’t bother me. What bothered me was that Dante didn’t try to figure them out for himself. Or if he did, it was lost in all the wordiness and lost.

Finally, why did Dante interrupt the ritual near the end to prevent the return of Arawn? If he’s such an upstanding god who just wants to be buddy buddy’s with humanity, and whose religious book can empower people, why? The reason given is that then the acolytes of Arawn would go off to war. But don’t you think Arawn himself might have something to say about that? If they bring him back, he’s not going just be a puppet for them to use.

By the end of this book I was ready for it to be done and I had zero interest in the rest of the trilogy. Robertson isn’t a good enough author to cut down his own work, so I’m not going to waste my time on any more of his books.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Asterix and the Banquet (Asterix #5) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Asterix and the Banquet
Series: Asterix #5
Authors: Goscinny & Uderzo
Translators: Bell & Hockridge
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Comics
Pages: 51
Words: 3K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

Inspector General Overanxius arrives in the fortified Roman camp of Compendium on a mission from Julius Caesar to lead the local garrison against the village of indomitable Gauls. Centurion Lotuseatus warns him the Gauls are dangerous, but the attack goes ahead, only to be soundly repelled. Undeterred, Overanxius erects a stockade around the village to prevent the inhabitants from spreading their rebellious ideas through Gaul.

Asterix bets that he and Obelix will escape the village and go on a tour of Gaul, collecting regional culinary specialties for a banquet upon their return. Overanxius promises to raise the stockade if they succeed. Asterix maps out a route, while Obelix fetches a large bag to hold their shopping. The two break through the stockade, while the other villagers create a diversion by attacking the barricade on another front. Overanxius has a rider despatched to alert the entire occupation army to be on the lookout for the pair.

Rotomagus (Rouen): Asterix and Obelix make their way to the Normandy region, where a Roman patrol recognizes them. They flee and escape via a wealthy Roman couple’s yacht up the Seine, while the patrol is stymied by the unhelpfully vague responses of local residents.

Lutetia (Paris): Upon arrival, Asterix and Obelix negotiate the traffic jams and buy a ham from a pork butcher shop, where from this point on, Dogmatix (unnamed until the next adventure) follows the duo through Gaul. Fearing detection by a Roman patrol, they purchase a gleaming used chariot and handsome horse from a dishonest salesman to make their escape. They soon discover the horse is slow and was only painted black, while the chariot loses its lustre and a wheel. The duo gets back on track by knocking out the driver of a Roman breakdown chariot and stealing his vehicle.

Camaracum (Cambrai): The Gauls stop in a humbug shop to buy boiled sweets, but are spotted by a Roman patrol, which they beat up, trashing the shop in the process. Unfazed by the damage, the shopkeeper says Gauls are aware of the bet and then demonstrates his solidarity by knocking out the patrol leader. Back on the road, Asterix and Obelix get past another patrol by posing as breakdown men, towing a legionary, Spongefingus, in his damaged chariot, only to then cast him aside on the road.

Rheims (Reims): Asterix and Obelix abandon the breakdown chariot and buy some wines. They are found by Spongefingus, who has recovered from his “accident,” but Asterix knocks him down by using a cork exploding from an amphora.

Divodurum (Metz): Leaving Rheims, the pair detours into a forest, where the scent of roast boar leads them to the house of Unpatriotix, who feeds and then betrays them. Roman soldiers come to the house but capture only Asterix, as Obelix is out hunting boar. When Obelix discovers the ruse, he knocks out a legionary to get imprisoned too and rescues Asterix. After beating up the Romans at the prison, Asterix declares it is too late to buy any of Divodurum’s specialties and decides to buy some in Lugdunum. As they leave, the Gauls commandeer a Roman postal cart.

Lugdunum (Lyon): The two Gauls abandon the postal cart and, after crashing through a Roman blockade, meet Jellibabix, head of the resistance movement. He pretends to betray the Gauls to Prefect Poisonous Fungus, but lures the Romans into a maze of back alleys, where the legionaries become hopelessly lost (the prefect’s plan to leave behind a trail of pebbles to find his way out backfires when a legionary picks up the pebbles). Jellibabix gives the duo a parcel of sausages and meatballs, and arranges a chariot for them.

Nicae (Nice): En route to Nicae, Asterix and Obelix become stuck in holiday traffic bound for the Gaulish Riviera and stop at an inn for lunch. In Nicae, they buy salad and are once again spotted by a Roman patrol. They escape by sea and commandeer a vacationing Lutetian’s rowboat.

Massilia (Marseille): The Gauls stop at Cesar Drinklikafix’s inn where, aside from having goat’s milk and boar, they buy fish stew. Again, the pair makes a premature departure when a boy warns of approaching Romans, but Drinklikafix and his friends stall the soldiers by blocking the road with a game of pétanque.

Tolosa (Toulouse): En route to Tolosa, Asterix and Obelix stop for the night, unaware they are in a Roman camp. Next morning, they beat up the Romans, but then surrender after learning the centurion intended to take them to Tolosa by cart. The Gauls are chained up, but repeatedly break their chains, much to the blacksmith’s dismay. Out on the road, the centurion rides on ahead to bring over the prefect, but in his absence, Asterix and Obelix beat up the Romans again, make off with the cart, and buy sausages in Tolosa.

Aginum (Agen): The Romans announce a 50,000 sestertii reward for information leading to the arrest of Asterix and Obelix. An unscrupulous innkeeper, Uptotrix, invites the two Gauls to his inn, where he gives them a bag of prunes and serves them drugged boar. Suspecting betrayal, Asterix orders Uptotrix to taste the boar, which causes him to fall unconscious, although Obelix is unaffected despite eating the rest of the boar. The pair leaves the cart in Aginum and takes the horses, one of which collapses under the combined weight of Obelix and the shopping bag.

Burdigala (Bordeaux): En route, the Gauls rest for the night by a roadside, where their bag is stolen by two Roman highwaymen, Villanus and Unscrupulus. The next morning, Asterix and Obelix pursue the thieves, who are caught by a Roman patrol and mistaken them for the Gauls. In the town square of Burdigala, General Motus shows the “Gaulish outlaws” to the public, only to realize he has the wrong men when Asterix and Obelix arrive to reclaim their bag. The public attacks General Motus and his men while the heroes regain their bag and buy oysters and white wine.

Gesocribatum (Le Conquet): Before leaving Burdigala, Asterix and Obelix spy a ship offloading menhirs and meet Captain Seniorservix, who is honored to let them aboard as Obelix helps unload the menhirs before the ship’s departure. At sea, the ship runs into the recurring pirates, whose own ship is sunk by the Gauls. On arrival in Gesocribatum, Seniorservix smuggles the Gauls ashore in sacks. Asterix and Obelix get out when a Roman patrol is passing by, but they beat up the Romans and escape.

Eventually, Asterix and Obelix reach the stockade outside their village and, after beating up the Romans yet again, give them a message to tell Overanxius they have won their side of the bet. That night, Asterix shows the food and wine to Overanxius and Lotuseatus, before demonstrating the village’s specialty, ‘the uppercut’, which knocks out Overanxius. Moments before the punch, Dogmatix barks for the first time, making Obelix notice him. Dogmatix is given a bone and the villagers enjoy their banquet.

My Thoughts:

I think I have settled into the rhythm of this comic. Considering that each comic tells one story, that’s a good thing. I’m not looking for anything deeper now, just brawling Gauls having fun 🙂

That is all that there is to this. I think that is the secret to its staying power too. It’s not complicated, it isn’t based on any politics or ideas of the day (which age books and stories extremely fast), it is just Asterix having light hearted adventures with his best friend Obelix. In one of the earlier reviews I mentioned the formula for these books. As long as I don’t pay attention, that formula works perfectly.

What that does mean though is that pretty soon, my “reviews” are going to consist of the synopsis and me saying something like “Yep, I liked it” and that’s it. I’m not looking forward to that time I have to admit. I like to be able to write something about each book I read, to make it stand apart from the thousands of others I’ve read but some times that desire meets the cold cruel wall of reality head on.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

For the Emperor (WH40K: Ciaphas Cain #1) ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: For the Emperor
Series: WH40K: Ciaphas Cain #1
Authors: Sandy Mitchell
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 281
Words: 91K



Synopsis:

From Wh40k.lexicanum.com/wiki

Part One

Ciaphas Cain has a problem; since leaving the Schola Progenium as an Imperial commissar, all he’s ever wanted is a nice, safe posting, far away from any action, where he can keep his head down and count the years until his retirement. Unfortunately, his unwanted reputation for heroism follows him wherever he goes, together with the risk of imminent death. Even a lofty posting to a brigade headquarters isn’t safe, since most general officers tend to see him as the perfect man to lead the most daring (i.e., suicidal) missions they can imagine. His only safe option, he reasons, is to request a transfer back to a serving line regiment.

He is saddled with the fractious Valhallan 296th/301st , the amalgamation of two Valhallan Ice Warriors regiments torn to pieces by Tyranids on Corania, while it is en route to Gravalax. The fact that the unit’s new and surprisingly young C.O., Colonel Regina Kasteen, is genuinely glad to see him (a Commissar) and Jurgen when they step off the transport, gives him an idea how bad things are.

The 296th was a rear-echelon all-female regiment, while the 301st was a battle-hardened all-male one. The remnants of the two units openly detest each other, and the male troopers understandably resent Kasteen’s promotion (by virtue of simple seniority) over their more combat-experienced senior officer, Ruput Broklaw.

Less than a week after Cain’s arrival, a riot breaks out in the troop ship’s mess hall that leaves several troopers and naval provosts dead. Cain manages to stare down the rioters, preventing an all-out bloodbath from engulfing the rest of the ship.

In conference with the regiment’s senior officers, Cain declares that the regiment will never be an effective fighting force unless its troopers learn to work together, so he orders them integrated together at squad level, and, in order to preserve their pride, re-designates the regiment as the Valhallan 597th (296 + 301); the two former regiments, he explains, are not being abolished, only reborn and redefined. Kasteen and her subordinates are skeptical, but he lightly reminds them that another Commissar would have happily ordered wholesale executions to restore discipline, and that the Departmento Munitorum would be equally pleased to re-designate the regiment as a Penal Legion.

Gradually, the troopers begin to adapt to the change, and morale recovers. But it threatens to dive again when the captain of the ship demands that the worst of the rioters be tried for murder and shot. Cain has no authority to overrule the Navy, so he works out a clever compromise: the five troopers found to have committed murder are tried and convicted, but instead of execution, he orders them held until they can be transferred to a Penal Legion, or, failing that, “volunteer” for a particularly dangerous mission.

By the time the ship has reached Gravalax, the 597th is united in regarding Cain as one of their own.

Part Two

The regiment’s official mission is to police Gravalax and discourage the local populace from defecting to the Tau Empire, which seems set on annexing the planet. Right away, Cain notices the conspicuous lack of the respect, or fear, he is used to seeing among Imperial populations whenever a Guard unit makes planetfall. He also gravely notes the enthusiasm with which the people have adopted Tau styles of dress and architecture.

Soon after the regiment establishes its base, Cain is surprised to be hailed by an old friend, Toren Divas from the Valhallan 12th Field Artillery, also deployed to Gravalax. The two men spend a night out on the town, and Divas, half-drunk, mentions rumors that the situation is serious enough that an Inquisitor is poking around. While staggering home, they run into a gang of pro-Tau locals, and are nearly beaten to death, before a Kroot warrior, Gorok, appears and tells them to go home.

Cain and Kasteen are invited to a reception at the Governor’s palace, where they are introduced to the vapid (and, Cain suspects, inbred) Governor Grice, the local Imperial envoy Erasmus Donali, and a Rogue Trader named Orelius. Cain has heard enough gossip to suspect Orelius of being the rumoured Inquisitor, but he is most captivated by the young lounge singer providing entertainment for the party, Amberley Vail. They share a few minutes of conversation, and a dance around the room, before the footman announces the arrival of the Tau ambassador.

Moments after the Ambassador pays his respects to the governor, a bolter is fired, and the Ambassador falls dead. No one saw where the shot came from, but some in the Ambassador’s entourage accuse the Imperials of killing him. Cain steps in and narrowly prevents a firefight, pointing out reasonably that whoever killed the Ambassador is trying to provoke war between the two factions.

Unfortunately, news of the crime has already spread, and word comes in that there is rioting in the streets between pro-Tau and anti-xenos extremists. Kasteen voxes the regimental headquarters, ordering them to support the PDF in restoring order, but not to engage the Tau for any reason. When another hidden agent destroys the Tau’s transport skimmer with a rocket, Cain and his Guard escort reluctantly agree to escort the Ambassador’s party back to their compound. Doing so forces them to shoot an over-zealous PDF lieutenant and his squad that mistakes them for Tau sympathizers, but returning the Tau safely helps prevent open war, although the rioting that engulfs the city for the rest of the night is savage.

Part Three

Cain’s actions have brought him to the attention of Lord General Zyvan himself, who frankly is reluctant to draw the Imperial Guard into a protracted conflict with the Tau over a “mudball” like Gravalax. Instead, the Guard regiments are detailed to box in and neutralize the rebellious PDF elements who are still fighting, while Donali makes it known that Cain is heading the investigation into finding the Ambassador’s killer.

As Kasteen and the 597th are preparing to advance against a rebel stronghold, Cain invents a task that will let him absent himself – putting the fear of the Emperor into a loyalist PDF unit that is maintaining a somewhat slack perimeter around another rebel garrison.

Accompanied by Lieutenant Sulla’s platoon, including Sergeant Lustig’s squad (who escorted him and Kasteen from the Governor’s Palace), Cain visits the PDF, only to find that they are desperately holding their own against a much larger rebel force, having been instructed by “the inquisitor” to keep guard while the inquisitor was investigating something in the undercity. Cain acts quickly, igniting a promethium stockpile that starts to collapse the rebels’ fort on them, before receiving an urgent call for extraction from the Inquisitor’s party over the vox. Given the choice between charging into a burning building and taking the blame for an Inquisitor’s death, Cain chooses the former without much thought. With a borrowed Chimera, he and Jurgen extract the Inquisitor’s party under heavy fire from the rebels… only to be stupefied when the Inquisitor introduces herself – Amberley Vail.

Meanwhile, Sulla manages to break the back of the rebel position with a reckless, albeit effective, charge, led by herself and her Command Squad.

Part Four

No longer hiding her real identity, Inquisitor Vail meets in private with Cain and Zyvan, and fills them in on the strategic situation: by itself, Gravalax is not worth fighting a protracted, bloody war with the Tau, especially when the Imperium’s military resources may be needed elsewhere, with ominous signs of a new Tyranid Hive Fleet on the horizon and Necrons awakening all over the galaxy. On the other hand, simply letting the Tau annex the planet would invite them to do the same to other Imperial worlds.

Vail concludes that the cleanest way to resolve the situation is to find and destroy the third party hoping to provoke war between the two sides. That will mean leading another team down to the undercity, which she was investigating when they were attacked. Since her original team was killed or injured, she needs Cain to supply her with another. With a sinking feeling, Cain realizes that she is “inviting” him along.

To Cain’s further dismay, the escorts she selects to accompany them are the five condemned troopers from the Righteous Wrath, promising a pardon to any who come back alive – and the terrible, patient vengeance of the Inquisition on any of them who get treacherous ideas. The one bright spot is that Jurgen volunteers to come along and watch Cain’s back.

But just as they are descending into the undercity, they receive word that the PDF has rebelled, attacking Guard and Tau alike. The Governor has panicked and ordered the Guard to mobilize, and the Tau are doing the same. War has broken out across Gravalax, and the Guard and Tau forces are only a hairsbreadth from opening fire on each other.

Under the city, they come upon a Tau scouting party on the same errand, which fortunately includes Gorok (the Kroot Cain encountered earlier). The two parties are able to broker a temporary alliance, and continue on together. Coming upon the bodies of some humans killed by their mysterious enemy, Gorok samples their flesh, and declares it “tainted” – which gives them the first idea of their true enemy: Genestealers, infiltrating the population and trying to throw it into anarchy and make the planet easy pickings for an incoming Hive Fleet.

Aboveground, General Zyvan orders the 597th to place the Governor under arrest, seeing it as the best way to pacify the Tau. However, when they reach the governor’s palace, they are opposed by a force larger, better-armed, and more vicious than any of them expected.

Stumbling onto a genestealer, nest, Cain and Vail’s party is all but wiped out, and the two of them are separated from Jurgen when a wall collapses on him, apparently killing him. Cain and Vail have to find their way back to the surface, relying on Cain’s innate sense of direction in an underground environment. For a moment they argue over whether he really knows where he’s going, putting him in mind of “a couple of juvies on a disappointing date” – an image so incongruous with their situation that both of them burst into hysterical laughter.

After this release of tension, they are able to focus on finding their way back to the surface – and neither of them can muster much surprise when a route from the genestealers’ nest takes them to a secret cellar beneath the Governor’s palace. Just then they are rushed by a brood of purestrains, and have to fight their way through. To Cain’s surprise and delight, Jurgen appears in the tunnel behind them, along with the last remaining trooper from their party. Then the trooper goes down, shot in the head by the Genestealer Patriarch: Governor Grice. Seeing the third arm extending from Grice’s chest, Cain swiftly realizes where the shot that killed the Tau ambassador came from.

Outside the Palace, the Valhallans are alarmed when the Tau appear in force – Hammerheads, Battlesuits, the works – and almost equally surprised when the xenos open fire on the traitor forces. Though it goes against the grain, the Guard forms up behind the Tau to fight their common enemy together.

Inside the palace, Grice drops Jurgen with a bolt pistol round to the head, though it ricochets off his helmet and the wound is not fatal. Amberley is narrowly saved from taking his next shot by her displacer field. While Cain tries to aim Jurgen’s dropped hellgun at the Governor, Amberley drops him with a poisoned dart from a digital needler concealed in her ring. The Governor dies after a few seconds of agony which go a long way towards relieving Cain’s feelings.

Cain, Vail, and the wounded Jurgen are escorted out of the Palace by the recently-arrived Valhallans, and it seems war has been averted. Further good news comes when two of the troopers from their party appear at the tunnel entrance, miraculously alive. Suspicious, Cain questions them about what happened, and they say they don’t remember clearly. Without further explanation, Cain draws his laspistol and shoots them both in the head. Kasteen and Broklaw are outraged, until Cain points to an identical wound in each of their sides, revealing that they were both infected by the genestealers. Understanding swiftly, Kasteen orders the bodies incinerated.

At the same time, two Pathfinders from the Tau party likewise miraculously appear, and are reunited with their own people. Cain is alarmed, but Amberley quells him with a look, and a secret smirk – if the Pathfinders are similarly infected, she has no intention of warning the Tau.

With Grice’s death, the war comes to an end, though the genestealer infestation remains a carefully guarded secret.

Epilogue

Cain and Vail dine at an exclusive restaurant, where she asks after Jurgen and is pleased to hear that he is recovering steadily.

As for the Tau, to general surprise, they are abandoning Gravalax. As Donali explains, they concluded that, if the Imperium was so determined to fight a protracted, bloody war to hold on to the planet, it would not “advance the Greater Good” for the Tau to give them the opportunity.

Vail has some surprising news for Cain: she has been observing Jurgen closely, including her psyker, Rakel’s violent reaction to him when Cain first rescued their party from the undercity. Jurgen, she explains, is a Blank — a staggeringly rare attribute that nullifies psychic or daemonic forces in his proximity. Cain is afraid that Vail will recruit him, but she confesses that the Inquisition is much more divided and factionalized than it appears on the outside, and most inquisitors learn to guard their resources jealously. She decides it is safest to leave Jurgen where he is, adding that she’ll know where to find them if she needs them. Cain is inwardly terrified at the idea of being recruited to any more Inquisitorial errands, but joins her in toasting “the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

My Thoughts:

Having found that I got along tolerably well with Ibram Gaunt and the Commisariat, I asked around it turns out that Ciaphas Cain was another Commisar and as such was worth a look-see. From this first book, that would appear to be the case.

Gaunt and the Ghosts were of the Sabbat Crusade, on the bleeding edge fighting the forces of Chaos directly. Cain on the other hand seems to attach himself where ever he thinks the least danger is and in this book only deals with xenos and genestealers, neither of which are direct forces of Chaos (as far as I can tell). It shined a different light on the Imperium of Man, deliberately so and it made me wonder just how humanity had survived in space so long.

While Gaunt is serious and driven by duty, Cain is just trying to survive, cherry picking what he thinks are the easy jobs and doing what he thinks is the always the safest and easiest route. This is a semi-comical series in that no matter what he does Cain comes across looking like a Hero of the Imperium. It is fun to read about to be honest.

The main issue I had with this book was in its organization. It is from Cain’s journals, but they are being processed through the Inquisitor Vail and there are footnotes and addendums. It is a deliberately layered narrative that is relying on the unreliableness of both narrators to give the readers the clues they need to pick out the truth. That’s a lot of work for a franchise fiction book :-/ On the other hand, it adds to the overall amusement of reading these so I’m only mildly complaining instead of ranting.

There are 8 or 9 novels in this series and 4 or 5 short stories. I’ll be going through them all in the order they’re listed under, so the next couple of entries in the Ciaphus Cain series will be short stories. I don’t expect the reviews for those to be very long at all.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Black Orchids (Nero Wolfe #9) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Black Orchids
Series: Nero Wolfe #9
Author: Rex Stout
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 158
Words: 57.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Black Orchids:

Millionaire orchid fancier Lewis Hewitt has hybridized three black orchid plants in his Long Island greenhouse. Nero Wolfe is wild to have one, so he and Archie Goodwin visit New York’s annual flower show, where Hewitt’s orchids are on exhibit. One of the other exhibits features a daily performance by a young couple miming a summer picnic. The woman, Anne Tracy, attracts the attentions of Archie, Hewitt, and a young exhibitor named Fred Updegraff.

During Wolfe’s visit to the show, Anne’s picnic partner Harry Gould is killed, shot in the head by a gun concealed in the foliage. The gun’s trigger is attached to a long string that reaches to a hallway well behind the exhibit.

After a little inquiry, Wolfe shows Hewitt how his walking stick was used to pull the string and fire the shot that killed Gould. Hewitt is horrified by the prospect of the publicity that would ensue should his part in the shooting, however indirect and unwitting, become known. Wolfe offers Hewitt this arrangement: in exchange for all three black orchid plants, the only ones in existence, Wolfe will solve the murder and deliver the criminal to the police, without publicly disclosing Hewitt’s connection to the crime. Hewitt terms it blackmail, but submits.

Earlier, Archie had noticed a woman waiting in the hallway behind the exhibit, at around the time that the murderer would have been deploying the string. He now finds her in the crowd that’s gawking at the murder scene. Archie steals her handbag, removes it to the men’s room, searches it for identification, and learns her name (Rose Lasher) and address. He returns the handbag to her – all without Rose or anyone else noticing.

The police want to know more about her and, finishing their questions, they let her go — but surreptitiously follow her. The police lose her trail but Archie knows her home address, where she has been living with Harry Gould. He arrives at Rose’s apartment just as she is about to flee the city, and takes her to Wolfe’s house. There Archie searches her suitcase and finds some printed matter that Rose cannot or will not explain: a clipping of an article by Hewitt on Kurume yellows,[a] a plant disease that is fatal to broadleaf evergreens; a postcard to Rose from Harry, postmarked Salamanca, New York (in the western part of the state); and a work order from a garage, also in Salamanca.

Wolfe gets Rose to discuss some of Gould’s unsavory qualities. Wolfe learns that although Gould was employed as a gardener, he suddenly acquired a bank account containing several thousand dollars[b] and what Miss Lasher terms “a big roll of bills.” From his general awareness of horticultural events, Wolfe knows that an attack of Kurume yellows devastated a plantation of a new hybrid of broadleaf evergreens, about eighty miles west of Salamanca and owned by Updegraff Nurseries. The same disease has affected the exhibit in which Anne and Gould were featured; W. G. Dill, one owner of the company sponsoring it, had asked Wolfe to investigate the source.

Weighing all this information, Wolfe assembles the principals in the fumigation chamber of his plant rooms. He accuses Hewitt of conspiring with Gould to infect the plantations of rival growers, and of killing Gould after the latter began to blackmail him. When a telephone call comes in for Hewitt, Wolfe sends Dill to answer it instead, closes the chamber door, and informs the rest of the group that Dill, not Hewitt, is the murderer. Dill is later found dead in the plant rooms, having turned on the flow of fumigation gas with the intent to kill everyone inside the chamber; however, Wolfe had anticipated this action and diverted the gas to fill the plant rooms instead.

Wolfe tells Cramer that Anne had previously confirmed his suspicions of Gould’s and Dill’s activities. He keeps the black orchids, but Cramer is unimpressed by their appearance, saying that he prefers geraniums. The orchids have a cameo role in the second novella in this collection, “Cordially Invited to Meet Death.”

Cordially Invited to Meet Death:

Bess Huddleston arranges parties for New York society. She has been in contact with Wolfe once before, when she wanted him to play the detective at a party that would feature a mock murder; Wolfe declined to participate. Now, she comes with one anonymous letter in hand and a report of another. They were not sent to her, nor do they threaten her directly: rather, one was sent to a client and the other to a member of the circle in which her clients move. The letters imply strongly that Miss Huddleston has been gossiping about her clients’ private lives.

She wants Wolfe to put an end to the smear campaign – if it continues, her monied clients will no longer trust her and will not hire her to arrange their parties. Miss Huddleston has two employees, an assistant party arranger named Janet Nichols and a secretary named Maryella Timms. Both have access to a box of stationery of the same kind used for the letters. The letters are typewritten, and appear to Miss Huddleston’s eye to have been typed on one of her typewriters. Wolfe tells Miss Huddleston to have Miss Nichols and Miss Timms come to his office.

They do so, and arrive at a moment when Wolfe and Fritz are discussing another attempt at cooking corned beef. This has long been a problem in the brownstone’s kitchen, one never satisfactorily resolved. Miss Timms hears about the dilemma and barges into the kitchen to help. Wolfe is so impressed by Miss Timms’ expertise that he later allows her to link arms with him, and writes to a professor at Harvard concerning chitlins and corned beef.

Apart from the culinary, though, Wolfe obtains no useful information from Nichols and Timms, and sends Archie to Miss Huddleston’s house and place of business to investigate further. There, Archie is bedeviled by a playful chimpanzee, two pet bears and an alligator. He also meets Miss Huddleston’s brother Daniel, her nephew Larry, and Alan Brady, an MD who has been spending time with Janet Nichols. Archie does not get much further at the house than Wolfe did in his office, but he has cocktails on the terrace with the various players. As the butler is bringing more drinks, the chimpanzee startles him and a tray of glasses crashes to the ground. Most of the broken glass is cleaned up, but Miss Huddleston’s foot is cut by a shard and, because of the presence of the animals, Dr. Brady treats the cut with iodine.

Less than one week later, Miss Huddleston is dead, having undergone an excruciatingly painful and drawn out death from tetanus. That, as far as Wolfe is concerned, ends his involvement, but Daniel Huddleston makes a nuisance of himself with the police: he believes his sister was murdered. Daniel is insistent enough that Inspector Cramer comes to Wolfe looking for information. Wolfe has none for him, but after Cramer leaves he drops Archie an exiguous hint: he thinks there is one thing that Cramer should have done during his investigation, and wonders if it has rained during the past week.

My Thoughts:

This collection of two novellas was perfect. Twice as much Wolfe and Archie is twice the fun. It is the essence of Stout’s writing that we get here. Even though this is number 9 in the series, I would recommend this to someone who wants to get a taste for Nero Wolfe (no, not that way. I don’t promote canniblism on this blog after all!) as you’ll get two stories to see if the setting and writing works for you.

While I wouldn’t want to live in the time period of Wolfe and Archie (I just realized, I use Nero Wolfe’s last name for him but Archie Goodwin’s first name for him. I wonder why?), I would be dead of my diabetes after all, I REALLY like how the author has Wolfe and Archie knowing their rights as citizens and forcing the police to abide by said rights and the police do it. They exist to solve the crime, not prevent it, and they take that job very seriously. What’s more, both Wolfe and Archie expect that, and nothing more, from the police. They’re not cowering in the brownstone waiting for somebody else to do everything for them. They take a whole heaping load of responsibility on themselves and don’t whine and complain (well, Archie does, but that goes with the job I think) and write letters to the editor, etc. Reading about mature people is refreshing, and it’s sickening that it’s refreshing too.

The writing is as good as ever and once again, I would highly recommend this book if you want to experience Rex Stout’s writing and to see if Wolfe and Archie will be your cup of tea. With two stories, you’ll know for sure one way or another by the end. And you don’t need to have read any of the previous books to understand anything here (I think). Stout does a good job of making each book stand on its own two legs. And there is only ONE perspective, Archie’s. I’d poke this book into John Gwynne’s eye if I could and make him eat dirt on the strength of that alone! (for those not in the know, Gwynne tends to have about 100 perspectives in his bloated novels and none of them are actually important or necessary)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Instinct (One Piece #14) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Instinct
Series: One Piece #14
Arc: Baroque Works #3
Author: Eiichiro Oda
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 188
Words: 8K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_One_Piece_chapters_(1_186)

“Someone’s Out There”

“Deadly Improvisation”

“The Red Ogre Weeps”

“I Knew”

“A Dead Body is Useless”

“Luffy vs. Mr. 3”

“The Tea is Good”

“Candle Champion”

“Instinct”

Baroque Works agents Mr. 3 and Miss Golden Week are on the island in search of the Straw Hats and the bounties on the giants’ heads. With the help of Mr. 5 and Miss Valentine, they rig the giants’ fight. After thousands of draws, Broggy strikes Dorry down and, while weeping over his friend’s body, is captivated by Mr. 3’s wax-creation powers. Zoro, Nami and Vivi are captured and placed on a large candle with a rotating top, designed by Mr. 3 to slowly turn them into wax figures by covering them in vaporized wax. Luffy, Usopp and Vivi’s ostrich-sized duck, Karoo, come to save them. Mr. 5 and Miss Valentine chase Usopp and Karoo, while Luffy fights Mr. 3 and sends him flying into the jungle. However, Luffy is no match for Miss Golden Week and her hypnotic paintings. Joining forces, though, Luffy, Usopp and Karoo destroy the wax structure and free their friends.

My Thoughts:

I was looking at the dates on the inside cover. Oda copyrighted this in 1997. The english copyright wasn’t until 2007. TEN YEARS!!!! What a world the 90’s and early 00’s were. Nowadays the translated books come out a month after the japanese release. 10 years, phhhtttt.

While I was reading this one of the side characters uttered this phrase about a fight they’d been in: “….how could I dishonor him by showing mercy!!?”

A part of me understood the reasoning behind that phrase. But the greater part was disgusted at such pride and selfishness. No, not disgusted, but horrified. Because if you are not willing to show mercy to others, you in turn will not expect mercy nor will you take it when offered. To take mercy means you can accept that you are not good enough, that you have not measured up, that there is a standard to which you have failed to live up to. The attitude on display says “I am good enough!” The problem arises when somebody greater says that you are not good enough and offers you a way to be good enough, you won’t accept it. That gesture of mercy will be tossed away.

The battle at the end is utterly ridiculous. It’s meant to be that way but the badguy, Mr 3 fights with wax and there is nothing serious about a guy who fights with wax. However, it does allow the whole crew (except Sanji) to work as a team and help each other out. This volume ends with Sanji accidentally answering a call meant for Mr 3 and talking to Mr Zero.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.