Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

Some authors manage to pack more atmosphere and tension and characters into less than 200 pages than others ever manage to, even in books twice as long. Lindsay has done just that in Picnic at Hanging Rock. Girls at a boarding school go out for a picnic, as the title states, at Hanging Rock. Hanging Rock is a former volcano in central Victoria, Australia. The setting plays a huge part in the story, casts its shadow over the whole book. Hanging Rock After lunch, four of the girls go climbing in the rocks, followed eventually by one of the teachers. One of the girls runs back to the picnic area in terror, but with no memory of what happened. The rest of the girls and the teacher are never seen again. The rest of the story tells us what happens after. The ripples from the disappearances fan out, bringing terrible endings for some people and happily ever afters for others. There are a...
Read More
The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag

The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag

Wow! The Wolf and the Watchman is the most engrossing novel I've read in a while. I want to tell you that you should read it and you should, but only if you like historical mysteries and don't mind some gruesomeness and brutality. It is not for everyone; it's dark and disturbing and if it was a movie I would have had to cover my eyes. It's also brilliant and I loved it. Stockholm in 1793 seems a terrible place to live unless you're rich. Crime, sickness, poverty, filth, corruption, rape, and death. Against this backdrop, two men with little to lose are on the hunt for a killer. Mikel Cardell, a former soldier with no family, no friends, one arm, and little money, pulls the mutilated body of a young dead man out of the lake. Cecil Winge, dying of consumption, takes the case in his position as consulting detective for the Stockholm police. Winge and Cardell are both interesting...
Read More
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

I knew I'd love The Three Musketeers. The Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas is one of my favorite all-time books and this is even more mentioned/read/known. So, I was happy when the Classics Club Spin hit #1 and my challenge was then to read The Three Musketeers by the end of January. Dumas takes the historical events of France, 1625-27, and plays with them to bring us one of the best adventure stories ever. The beautiful Anne of Austria is Queen of France, but she is lukewarm, at best, toward her husband, XIII. Cardinal Richelieu, the true ruler of the country, has made advances towards her, but been rebuffed; he's eaten up by jealousy and spite, especially since he knows through his network of informers that Anne's heart in fact belongs to the handsome Lord Buckingham. These fictionalized historical figures are at the center of the story, it's their loves, desires, conquests and favors that everyone else's life revolves...
Read More
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy

https://twitter.com/carolsnotebook/status/992475284963233793 I don't usually notice who narrates the audiobooks I pick up, especially those from the library, so I didn't realize Ralph Cosham was the narrator of The Scarlet Pimpernel, until he said "Armand," and then I was like "oh, yeah." His narration here was as good as I remembered. He does a wonderful job with both the British and French characters. The Scarlet Pimpernel is just a fun adventure/romance story. The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of the first heroes with a secret identity, kind of like Batman. Sir Percy Blakeney is an English dandy, concerned with dressing well, being amusing, but not incredible bright. That's just a disguise he's cultivated to cover his secret identity as the Scarlet Pimpernel, the leader of a group of daring Englishmen who rescue French nobility headed toward the guillotine. But his wife doesn't know about his secret - and ends up putting him in grave danger. But I'm sure it's not spoiling anything to say that...
Read More
The Italian Party by Christina Lynch

The Italian Party by Christina Lynch

There are so many secrets in The Italian Party, personal and professional. Scottie and her new husband, Michael, move to post-war Italy for Michael's job. He's opening a new Ford Tractor store in Siena. Except we learn quickly that it's just a cover, he's actually in the CIA, a fact he doesn't share with Scottie. We also learn one of Scottie's secrets early; she's pregnant and The baby is not Michael's, but those are just the tip of the iceberg. Secrets, both theirs and others', unfold throughout the story against the global backdrop of the "Communist Threat" and a citywide horse race that seems like the big event of the year. Scottie's teenage Italian tutor was supposed to be in the race, but he's disappeared. Scottie is determined to find. Scottie is interesting. She's beautiful, seems maybe not so bright, but she's fun and friendly. Truth is she's as smart, and sly, as any of them. She is definitely guided by...
Read More

The Visitant by Megan Chance

I don't usually read ghost stories, but this seemed like a perfect fit for RIP X and I do love Venice as a setting. To me, The Visitant had three parts: the setting, the ghost story, and the romance. The story is set in Venice but most of it takes place in the Basilio palazzo. It's the perfect setting: a crumbling old mansion, too cold and grey, in a city that, while romantic, is also decaying. The servants are hostile to Elena and the aunt is just flat out odd. There is a lot of time establishing the atmosphere. Elena is hoping to see Venice but seems trapped in this house. the setting is probably my favorite part of the story. The ghost story was not scary enough to keep me up at night, but progressed well. The ghost was clearly angry, and, unlike Elena, the reader knows it's a ghost from the beginning - the title tells us. It doesn't take...
Read More