Pietr the Latvian by Georges Simenon

Pietr the Latvian, originally published in 1930 is Georges Simenon’s first Maigret mystery. This edition is translated by David Bellos

Georges Simenon, 1903-1989, published seventy-novels featuring his Inspector Maigret.  This fabulous character has been featured in several series, (in both English and French), and well as a recent two season remake which sometimes pops up on PBS/Create TV.  

I first heard of Georges Simenon and his ‘Flying Squad’ while reading a novel written by Andrea Camilleri.  Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano was reading a Simenon book in his book.  (Wow does that sentence sound wrong…anyway..). I had never heard of Georges Simenon – I was curious of course, but life being what it was/is I promptly forgot about this author.  Now life being what is/was, I recently remembered.  And found the above book and loved it.

I think that the actual plot – which is quite good, dark and twisty and powerful – is secondary to the spare, elegant writing of Mr. Simenon.  While this book, and the writing, is somewhat noir – it isn’t.  True crime and gritty, sure, but with a casual depth not often seen.  I recently read a discussion in which his writing was compared to Camus and Sartre.  Okay, so I’ve never read Camus, and Sartre was college reading done eons ago – but you get the drift.  George Simenon is definitely a genre defying – in writing at least – and his Inspector Maigret in a category of his own.  Try one. or more.

Thank you for reading, and stay safe.

Accidental Tarot

Do you remember back at the beginning of the pandemic, with the first of the lock downs/stay at home/shelter in place orders, the initial fear/panic and compliance?  We stocked our cupboards as best we could, thanked our deity of choice for having cupboards in our life as well as the ability to stock said cupboards, and then tried – as best we could – for the potential positive uses of our time such as:

not only learn, but master two or three languages,

get started on that book I believe to be lurking inside me, 

achieve the yoga crow pose,

or..um…… maybe I clean out a drawer or two….

Yes indeed that last one was my winner.  I organized, recycled, and threw away bunches of stuff.  During this embarrassingly short purge time, I came across a Rider Tarot Deck.  I had purchased this particular deck years ago in an effort to learn the tarot – something I have wanted to do since childhood.  It was not an instant affinity.

Now this is THE deck that created tarot as we know it and therefore studying this deck is vital.  While I loved the intricacies of the symbolism, the sagas behind each card, and above all learning about Pamela Colman Smith, I did not connect to this deck.  It simply didn’t speak to me – I don’t know why.  Not wanting to give up, I went searching for another deck.  And came across Melissa Wortherspoon’s Etsy site and saw this:

 

The Low Rider Dachshund Tarot

What? Dachshunds speaking tarot? It was too silly and delightful for words. Oddly enough, I did not purchase the deck immediately but continued on my search for a far more ‘serious’ first deck. After poking around various blogs and channels, I realized the truth: the dachshund tarot was my perfect deck.

The artwork is unbelievable! Each card is simply beautiful. The packaging is fantastic: a hard box with magnetic flap closure and an extensive full color booklet. And all the better, since I’ve known and loved dachshunds forever, (and so has Ms. Wortherspoon), I found myself starting to grasp the intent of the cards.

Since purchasing and using this deck, I’ve really begun enjoying trying to learn tarot. Oh it will be a very long time before I gain any skill level, but I’m making a start – I have purchased a brand new all human deck.

Thank you for reading and stay safe.

Gluten free delight(s)

I had a – I don’t think ‘spectacular’ would be an exaggeration – gluten free bakery experience this weekend. I ordered, and picked up from, Cherbourg bakery. Simply wonderful! A polenta rosemary lemon cake that was out of this world, donuts and a carrot cake twinkie – the baker here specializes in a balance of sweet and savory – nothing too sweet – just plain delicious. A true treat and a soon-to-be habit! Not only was this an indulgence to mark the end of a horrific year, being fully vaccinated, but – most importantly – for being three years gluten free.

I was, for nearly two decades, plagued (or is that assaulted by?) an odd assortment of debilitating medical ‘problems’. These ‘problems’ included everything from chronic giant urticaria (huge hives that didn’t go away permanently (one can only hope)) for three years, unexplained weight gains that I could not diet or exercise away, swollen and consistently infected gums (leading to gingivitis and then periodontal disease) and so on and so on. Nothing was life threatening, just life deadening. What’s worse, somehow my assortment of doctors, along with family and friends seemed to believe, (no matter what superficial comfort was offered), my physical and increasingly shaky mental health was somehow my fault. I still, and most likely always will, remember bursting into tears during an old Golden Girls rerun; the one where Dorothy was eventually diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. (I’m now a loyal fan of this long ago show. I have the t-shirt and everything.). My turning point came when the urinary track infections started.

I’d never had a uti before. Yet here I was, not only having one infection, but three consecutive infections. Talk of specialists started. Panic started taking up residency. I was so very fortunate when a friend of mine happened to stop to say hello. My friend was very open about having chronic utis since she was very young. I poured my heart out to her and she was very comforting. She talked me through my panic and reassured me that it was still entirely possible that nothing dreadful was happening. On her way out she said:

‘oh, try cutting back on your bread.’

‘um?’

‘how much bread you eat. I’ve found it helps to cut back on bread. but I love bread too much’

I was stunned. It couldn’t be that easy. Still, I decided this was time for drastic measures. I didn’t cut back on bread, I eliminated gluten from my diet. I never went to a doctor. I admit I couldn’t believe the answer to my health problems could be so simple and entirely in my control. I thought if I brought it up, I would get that standard look and sigh I had seen and heard too many times before – so I made the choice on my own. And slowly – over these past three years – after endless reading and research – I found the root cause of my misdiagnosed disorders. Every one of my medical problems is indeed listed as being associated with Celiac disease. Oh, there are still lingering difficulties, for example; once you have it, periodontal disease does not vanish, but overall I’m finally feeling pretty darn good.

Thanks for reading – especially today! And stay safe.

P. S. you can order Cherbourg bake goods on Etsy. She ships!

A look at Three Sisters by James D. Doss

Three Sisters is the twelfth book by James D. Doss in his Charlie Moon mystery series.

A brief aside :

James D. Doss (1939 – 17 May 2012) was a noted American mystery author.   He was the creator of the popular fictional Ute detective/rancher Charlie Moon, of whom he wrote 17 mystery novels.   These mysteries, primarily set on the Southern Colorado Ute Reservation, combine complex mysteries and a glimpse of Native American life and custom.

The police work side of these mysteries is provided by Scott Parris, the Granite Creek chief of police and best friend to Charlie Moon.  Charlie Moon is a sometimes tribal investigator, or as in Three Sisters, occasionally, temporarily, deputized by Scott Parris.  Never deputized, but none the less vital to the book series, is Moon’s cranky Aunt Daisy Perika, a tribal shaman.   

And we’re back

Three Sisters is the saga of the Spencer sisters, Cassandra, Beatrice, and Astrid.  All beautiful, intelligent, and wealthy.  Astrid’s role in the book is brutally short: While on the phone to her husband, she begins screaming. Scott Parris is alerted and sent to the scene.  On his way, he calls his best friend, Charlie Moon, to help with the investigation.  They discover poor Astrid gruesomely mauled and quite dead – perhaps a bear?

The plot immediately complicates as both Cassandra and Beatrice are introduced into the plot.  Cassandra is a very popular TV psychic with a knack for foreseeing fires and murders.  Sophisticated and elegant Beatrice, an artist, immediately sets out to seduce Astrid’s ‘grieving (?)’ widower Andrew Turner.  And lastly, Aunt Daisy becomes involved, well, because that’s her, and because she actually can connect to the spirit world.

This book is fast paced, filled with interesting and quirky characters.  There is a great deal of humor and warmth despite the body count.  The mystery is pretty good and I enjoy the complex main characters.  A quick and thoroughly enjoyable read.

I want to add one more bit….. I came to this series a couple of years ago.  There was time when I saw Mr. Doss’s book all over – now they’re a bit challenging to find.  Even though I usually start a series at the beginning and go through in order, I think this is a series you could grab in whatever order you find the books.  That said, I would, however, recommend first book, The Shaman Sings.  Originally out in 1994, it does lay the groundwork for the series.  Either way, a very enjoyable series. 

Thank you for reading and stay safe.

I’m tickled paisley

I got my second Covid-19 vaccine on Friday!

The first shot had left me feeling a bit sickly for a week. This one had me brain foggy, groggy, inattentive (my sincerest apologies to the very nice person I inadvertently very nearly ran over with my shopping cart in Trader Joe’s. I swear I didn’t think I was that close.), and a bit crotchety for four days. But…. an imaginary drumroll here if you please….my head has cleared! In a couple of weeks, I will be secure in the knowledge I can – with exercising common sense caution – expand my world!

Wheels in motion – plans being made – and a minor celebration is in order. First, to my hair stylist! Haven’t a clue what that color is that’s growing in, (murky brown with gray highlights?) but I shall return to my new natural auburn. Next, a tour of my favorite independent bookstores – I can smell my credit card smoking already -purchases to be enjoyed with a cup from my neighborhood coffee shop. And lastly, a trip to the gluten free bakery across town with a reputation for being the best in town. I’ve only eaten her delightful baked goods once, but I know I’ll want to buy a cake when I get there. To be washed down at home with a bottle of my favorite Prosecco.

Thanks for reading and stay safe.

From my bookshelf……

I made a decision last week. I firmly took myself to task regarding my overflowing bookshelves and informed myself I was not to buy a single new book, (I haven’t browsed my library since early last year), until I started/resumed/finished reading everything I already owned. Fine. I started poking thru the stacks, peeked behind the decorative doodads – thoroughly enjoying myself I might add – when this little gem caught my eye:

Dr. Chase’s Recipes – or – Information – for – Everybody

(um…didn’t mean to make that so dramatic. Still learning this block editing stuff. my apologies.)

This little gem came from a different time and place – in more ways than one. I found this book in one of the best used bookstores I’ve ever shopped. It was located in the charming old town center of Sarasota, Florida. Drift back a couple of decades, technically into the last century, to Sarasota. A sleepy little town -considered at the time to be on the undesirable side of Florida – populated by a mix of locals and snowbirds inundated for a few weeks every year by rowdies, and then left in peace to slumber on. An early morning off season visit to the magnificent white sands of Siesta Key would take your breath away. A sublime moment; seemly endless miles of solitude, grace, beauty, and raw power shared only with sea birds, the sand rakes and the occasional senior citizen. Following such a morning, sunburned to a shade that alarms passing strangers (I could be using sunblock 850,000 and still burn), while wandering the shops downtown Sarasota, I met Dr. Chase.

My edition, printed in 1876, was the seventy-third edition. This little cure all book is in turns hysterically funny, appalling, and a tad scary. A skim through the table of contents alone is mind-boggling. Why you could learn how to make Apple Custard, Blood Root Tincture, and wait…….Opposite page under Index of Illustrations: Shilling Battery! I could make my own Shilling Battery! What’s a shilling battery? And hey- a cure for Deafness? page 118: Deafness. If Recent, to Cure -If not, to Relieve. – Hen’s oil, 1 gill;……..wait… under 2. “Much has been said in France about sulphuric ether first tried by Madam Cleret, of Paris; and, although she lost her reason by the elation of feeling brought on, no doubt, by the honor given her for the discovery, yet the continued trial of the article does not give the satisfaction which had been hoped for, from its first success.” Hey…What? I mean… oh dear…. And so follows the rest of Dr. Chase’ s disturbing little book. I’ll spare you the glossary section and the ‘new to this edition’ section for General Female Debility and Irregularities.

Well. Right about now I usually decide that is enough history for me. Time to leave behind the Mill-Picks and Saw Gummers, the Grain-Side Blacking, for Ten Cents a Barrel, and poor Madam Cleret (and all the others reminisced about in this book), and rejoin – happily- my century- and a new pick from shelf. Although, after experiencing Dr. Chase and his seventy plus editions, I must add: I strongly suspect a couple of centuries from now, a reader will be alternately chuckling and gasping through our books.

Thanks for reading and stay safe.

A time change, a sleepy day, and a book chat

As we – who live in daylight savings time zones that is – already know, yesterday brought the time change euphemistically known as ‘Spring Forward’.

I think it is safe to say I have never sprung forward in my life. At best, I trudge, grumbling as I go (of course), into six months of awaking far too early. Various relatives, grandparents etc would condemn me as ‘lazy bones’. Not true. My body clock is simply set differently – for me 2:00 AM to bed and 10:00 AM to rise is just plain ‘right’. I decided to pass the ‘Spring Forward’ day as I usually do – sulking on the sofa with a book. I grabbed the first one on my pile, Snobbery with Violence by Marion Chesney – a mystery set in England’s Edwardian high society world.

From the book’s dust jacket:

“When a marriage proposal appears imminent for the beautiful – if rebellious – Lady Rose Summer, her father wants to know if her suitor’s intentions are honorable. He calls on Captain Harry Cathcart, the impoverished younger son of a baron to do some intelligence work on the would -be finance, Sir Geoffrey Blandon. After his success in uncovering Geoffrey’s dishonorable motives, Harry fashions a career out of “fixing” things for wealthy aristocrats. So when the Marquess of Hedley finds one of his guests dead at a lavish house party, he knows just the to call. But when Harry is caught between his client’s desire for discretion and his suspicion that murder may indeed have been committed, he enlists the help of Superintendent Kerridge of the Scotland Yard and Lady Rose, also a guest at Lord Hedley’s.”

We quickly find out Lady Rose was photographed at suffragette demonstration, well read and intelligent. Strike three for a titled girl in Edwardian world. We also discover she is lacking in the social graces/skills need to function in her environment as well as having no discernible survival instinct and, well, basically unlikable. Her social ineptitude is finally explained about a third of the way into the book when she speaks about her parents, “It was only on my seventeenth birthday when they asked how old I was that they realized they would need to prepare me for a season.”. Ah. An explanation at last, but still not enough to warm to her. And finally, nearing the end of the book, “I always feel as if I am outside of them all, surveying some elaborate play and I do not know my lines.” If only this revelation had come earlier.

As for Harry? I started out liking him. The enjoyment quickly dissipated when we see that he is jealous of Lady Rose’s intelligence and rude to her : He calls her ‘unfeminine’ on many occasions which would seem to be the ultimate insult in Edwardian society.

However, I stuck with this book because I did like the secondary characters, Rose’s maid Daisy and Harry’s servant Becket. These two were three dimensional, smarter than their employers, personable, and I wanted to know more about them. There was a spark between them and I liked their development.

A quick word about about the setting and additional character development: There wasn’t nearly enough. Rose’s fellow guests sort of blended together and I think Superintendent Kerridge could have had a bit more focus.

I really wanted to like this book. It had potential: The main characters are both intelligent misfits in their society – it could have worked. But for me it fell a bit flat. All that said, if you are sulking on your sofa and need a quick read, Daisy and Becket are a likable duo.

The prep’s the thing

There had been rumors of a statewide weather warming trend coming this week. Up into the sixties even. I didn’t quite believe the news.

Like virtually.. well, everywhere, these past couple/few months have been frigid. and snowy. and icy. Although we have been fortunate to escape the despair of Texas, it has still been pretty darn nasty. I’ve spent the vast majority of this winter wrapped in a sweater, a shawl, and on occasion, an afghan whilst sitting on the sofa. While this position makes for a lovely reading space, especially when accompanied with a glass of wine, it does not make for a lovely step onto the bathroom scale. That moment when you hop off then on again thinking, ‘I could not possibly….I mean….OhComeOn’. The time to act is clearly now. Actually, the acting time was anywhere from six weeks to three months ago, but now is not the time to split hairs.

The morning brought sunshine and coffee. I frowned at the sparkle beyond my window. The leafless shrubs rattled. ‘Aha’, thought I. I’ve been tricked before by bright welcoming sun, only to be blasted by a frigid wind. I seized my iPad. Local temperature – 51f. huh. I decided: Today I would resume my walk/run program. Actually, I had barely gotten into the ‘run’ part of the program before the weather had made it impossible to continue. I had hit the point where I would stride – with purpose- for a bit then jog, sort of, for a bit. Past at least two or three houses.

I started my preparations for A New Exercise Program. I pulled out my thickest sweatpants. Exercise bra, long sleeve breathable cotton t-shirt, hooded sweatshirt (in case of sudden frigid wind gusts), super terrific walking sneakers, find and recharge Fitbit, and then a light yet sustaining breakfast (technically brunch at this point). Breakfast was a large bowl of oatmeal with walnuts, raisins, and a teaspoon and a half of peanut butter for extra protein. Bathroom, coat and out the door.

Done and done! I had Restarted an Exercise Program! So what if I had only walked for twenty minutes? And I think maybe I pulled something…. I was breathing hard – -which could be because of the slight pain in my thigh, the layers of clothing or the result of Exercise. I guess time will tell. In the meantime, a pat on the back for me!

Thank you for reading and stay safe!