The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Walter Hartright, is walking down the street, his mind absorbed with his own problems, when suddenly a woman, dressed in white appears. She is clearly scared, and he walks with her toward London, eventually putting her in a cab and seeing her off. Shortly thereafter he is informed by two men who are chasing her that she had escaped from an asylum. And that's all we see of the lady in white for now. Hartright is left with a mystery. He takes a job as a drawing master, instructing two half-sisters as different as night and day. One is fair, and one is dark. One is pretty, and one is…well…unattractive. Marian is brave, brilliant, and resourceful, a marvelous character given the time period. Marian can hold her own. Hartright, of course, falls in love with Laura Fairlie, the fair and beautiful one, an heiress, an orphan, a woman in need of protection. Unfortunately, she is engaged to Sir Percival Glyde....
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The Red House Mystery by A. A. Milne

The Red House Mystery by A. A. Milne

It's a shame Milne only wrote one mystery. The Red House Mystery is clever and funny and charming. From the dedication: Our amateur sleuth is Antony Gillingham. He stops at The Red House to visit his friend, Bill Beverly, but as he gets there he finds a frantic man banging on the door of a locked room, trying to get in. Antony and the man run to the back of the house and break in the window, finding a dead man, shot. The man who was breaking into the room was Mr. Cayley, cousin and assistant to Mark Ablett, owner of The Red House. The dead man is Mark's brother, Robert, newly arrived from Australia. Mark himself is missing. Antony is an outsider at The Red House, but allowed free reign that the detectives don't have. The mystery is well-done, the clues make sense. I knew who the killer was, but not the hows and whys until the end. The characters are...
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Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

I've read three of Verne's books now, the three biggies, Around the World in 80 Days, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and I just finished Journey to the Center of the Earth. As far as I can tell, here's what they all have in common, aside from the "journey" plot. Each has a lot of really boring parts interspersed with some thrilling, brief adventures. And I'm not sure the exciting parts outweigh the mind-numbing bits. A geologist finds a hidden scrap of paper, deciphers what it says with the help of his nephew, and decides to follow what it says and make the journey to the center of the earth. They don't actually get there by the way. The geologist takes his nephew with him and they find a guide in Iceland. What they do discover is a vast subterranean cavern. This underground world is lit by electrically charged gas at the ceiling and is filled with a very deep subterranean...
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Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Orlando is a beautiful novel. The writing is smooth and descriptive. Orlando, man or woman, is charming and intelligent and introspective. He/she cares about literature and nature, love and (sometimes) people. It's rather plotless. Time passes, fashions change, but not much really happens. And the things that do, like Orlando becoming a woman rather than a man or living 300+ years, are treated as no bigger, no life-changing than day to day events. Orlando handles everything with grace and honesty. at heart, she is the same person he had always been. Reading Orlando in 2020 is not the same as reading when it was first published. When Orlando becomes a woman, she cannot inherit her own home. She can't be an Ambassador again. She feels she needs to be more aware of others see her. We forget that at the time women were just gaining the vote when this was published, and Woolf uses her book to show the...
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Double Indemnity by James M. Cain

Double Indemnity by James M. Cain

Up until a few years ago, I was an insurance agent, but not like Walter Huff. Huff is good at his job, hard-working, and knows the insurance business inside-out. Then he meets a married woman who he falls for immediately. Her name is Phyllis and she has a thought, not even a plan, just a thought of what she would like to do about her husband. We don't realize at the time, but Phyllis knows exactly what she's doing, exactly what she's suggesting, and really has no qualms and is perfectly capable of holding up under pressure. She is not a nice girl, no matter how she seems at first. It doesn't take Huff long to come up with full-blown plan. They'll kill the husband and they'll get away with the insurance money. He has been in the insurance game for a long time and he knows about every angle ever thought up by anyone to try and pull one over...
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Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Bleak House is like a soap opera, in a good way. It was originally written as a serial, so it had to have qualities that kept you coming back, day after day or week after week. There's murder and romance and everything in between. You've got some plot lines that are the same no matter how many months (years) between the last time you watched it. Here it's the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, the longest-running case in the Court of Chancery. This book actually spurred on legal reform in England. There are probably 60-ish characters, some that show up on an irregular basis and play their bit: a dance instructor, a man who constantly lives off others' generosity, a devoted housekeeper; and others who are the core characters. Bleak House shows us all the types of people in England, the poor, the destitute, the rich, the lawyers and law enforcement, the sick, the lonely. The central character is Esther Summerson,...
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