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.

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.

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.


I splurged. I bought books!

I just realized I wrote that like this was an extraordinary occurrence- even added an exclamation point. Might as well tell the truth. Buying books comes naturally to me. This behavior was actually encouraged by my parents: Instead of saying ‘ooooh Mom…….can I have those earrings? (or t-shirt or whatnot)’, I’d say ‘ooooh Mom….can I have that paperback?’ And Mom (or Dad) would say ‘Yes’. You see? Early training does stick. But back to my treasure.

When the libraries closed last year, I turned to my still-to-be-read-piles of books on my shelves. Unfortunately, I couldn’t always find quite the right book for my mood. Then I found ThriftBooks. Very reasonably priced and quick to arrive, I am hooked. I haven’t bought many new releases this past year, rather, I’ve been sticking to those that have been out for a bit. Better late than never.

I read the first in the Cormoran Strike series The Cuckoo’s Calling and liked it so much I had to get The Silkworm. Cormoran Strike is Robert Galbraith’s flawed private detective. The Cuckoo’s Calling established him as an intelligent detective but quirky; an odd childhood with a distinguished military career cut short. When we meet him, he is down on his luck. Short of clients, cash, and recently thrown out of his girlfriend’s apartment, Cormoran has no choice to but to live in his office. Into this arrangement comes his new temporary secretary, Robin Ellacott. I enjoyed the development of the characters as well as the plot line. I am looking forward to reading more about this duo.

I could spend quite some time extolling on the delights of Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher mysteries. Her books have become a lovely escape during this pandemic. Worried? Stressed? Twitchy? Stop doom scrolling and vanish into 1929 St. Kilda. For a moment, just play pretend you are there…… intelligent, resourceful, daring, stunning (she was portrayed by Essie Davis), and Uncle Scrooge McDuck wealthy. You have Mr. and Mrs. Butler attending to your every need, Dot the faithful assistant, and Bert and Cec the cab driving back up. Relax and enjoy. Sooner or later you will remember things like- no air conditioning, sketchy medical care, you know, reality. That’s okay – it was nice while it lasted.

Last bit of treasure was Snobbery with Violence. I’ve never read Marion Chesney/M. C. Beaton so this is a brand new adventure. I do like period pieces and haven’t read an Edwardian in ages. I am looking forward to this one.

I seem to have prattled on. Can’t help it – books bring that out in me!

Thank you for reading and stay safe!