Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, November 02, 2018

My FrightFall finale for 2018

My Halloween was a happy one for many reasons, one of which was finishing up a book for the FrightFall readathon, hosted by Michelle Miller at Seasons of Reading. In fact, this was one of my better readathon achievements to date, completing six out of the seven books that I had chosen for this challenge.

In the final three(I wrote about the others in an earlier post), one of them happened to be a last minute selection, thanks to a nice little visit to the library. Agatha Christie's Ordeal by Innocence is a stand alone story with none of that good lady's regular detectives around to solve the case,although I do believe this story was adapted into a recent Miss Marple series.

The leading man of this story is Arthur Calgary, who learns to his horror that he was the alibi for a young man accused of murdering his adoptive mother, Jacko Argyle, who died in prison. Arthur is able to inform the authorities and then the surviving family but much to his surprise, Jacko's relatives are less than thrilled with the news of his innocence.

As it turns out, Jacko was quite the obvious suspect and known troublemaker in a family made up mostly of children adopted by the seemingly goodhearted Rachel Argyle. His conviction allowed the rest of the remaining Argyles to get on with their lives, including widower Leo who is making plans to remarry. Arthur's revelation stirs up a lot of old resentments and creates new suspicions about who the killer truly is:

Arthur,along with the police and an insider among the Argyles, decides to find out who the murderer is, feeling highly responsible for his inadvertent part in this familial tragedy. Answers are eventually discovered, with the lives of the whole Argyle family changed forever.

OBI is quite the riveting read, the kind of book that you have to force yourself to stop reading in order to go to bed long after midnight. The variety of suspects and their growing doubts about each other do make for a vicious round robin effect here.

While there is racially insensitive language about one of the characters(Tina, a biracial young woman also adopted by Rachel), it is sadly true to the time period and that particular person is otherwise well portrayed, despite the assumptions of those around her.  Apart from this off putting element, the book is sharply well written and quite the tension packed thriller.

This is the second stand alone Christie that I've read(And Then There Were None was the first) and it has inspired me to try another,Crooked House. That book was recently adapted into a major motion picture and the screenplay was partly written by Downton Abbey's Julian Fellowes. While that movie sounds like fun, I think that I'll try the novel first, making such a devious delight last as long as possible:

On the somewhat lighter side, I was pleased to be able to indulge in Royal Blood, the fourth entry in Rhys Bowen's Her Royal Spyness series. While Lady Georgiana may only be 34th in line to the British throne, that does not exempt her from doing her noble duty by king and country,so when asked to attend a wedding in Transylvania, it's more of a command than a question.

Georgiana was invited specifically due to having been a boarding school classmate of the intended bride, Princess Maria Theresa, who wants her as a bridesmaid.

 While she is willing to spend some time abroad, complications arise such as running into the dashing Darcy O'Mara(along with the unwelcome attentions of Prince Siegfried), the poisoning of a rather obnoxious wedding guest and a random late night encounter with a possible vampire.

Like the previous titles in this series, there is a good blend of old fashioned screwball comedy and romance, with a touch of mystery and a splash of political intrigue. One of the best things about this book is Queenie, the inept maid that Georgiana winds up hiring. She's a good natured gal who may not know how to iron a fancy dress without scorching it but does manage to stick by her employer when a mysterious man is lurking about the castle they're visiting.

Yes, the vampire notion does turn out to be a bogus one but it's still amusingly done. I wonder if there's a series with a pre-WWII vampire hanging about high society solving crimes-that would be a real kick indeed! In the meanwhile, I look forward to more of Her Royal Spyness(with Queenie in tow) and who knows, maybe another supernatural storyline in the near future:

Last yet far from least, I finished up On Thin Icing by Ellie Alexander on Halloween morning. It's the third of the author's Bakeshop Mystery series that is set in and about the town of Ashland,Oregon, which is home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Juliet,aka Jules, Capshaw is happy to be back in her hometown helping her mom and their vibrant young staff make the family bakery Torte a roaring success. However, the chance to do a little off-season catering at a resort for the OSF board members is hard to resist, given the need for more money to renovate Torte's kitchen.

The actual cooking over the weekend goes well for the most part(the high altitude of the resort location causes a few baking problems) but two major events serve to shake Jules up much more; the arrival of her estranged husband Carlos and the murder of local bartender Tony. With a sudden snowstorm keeping everyone in place as well as making it difficult for the police to show up, the list of suspects is mighty short and so not sweet.

Jules is quite the engaging heroine and I really enjoy the time taken to develop certain relationships such as her mentoring of new culinary apprentice Sterling and more backstory about her romance with Carlos, who is too much of a charmer for my taste. Not spoiling anything but his explanation of why he didn't tell Jules a certain secret is serious weak sauce there!

Anyway, this was a good solid story and yes, I have the next two books in the series(Caught Bread Handed, Fudge and Jury-these tasty titles are punningly delicious!) to read later on. Ashland sounds like a great place to be and thanks to Jules, I will be seeing more of it on the page very soon:

My thanks to Michelle Miller for another wonderful holiday themed readathon and I hope that all who joined in for the reading fun had a good time. There is a Christmas readathon being planned for late November/early December and I might take part in that as I actually have two new books for that occasion(yes, one of them is a foodie mystery)!

What really made this FrightFall special was having my holiday spirits revived, especially with all of the real life terrors making horrifying headlines these days.  Even though facts are becoming scarier than fiction lately, there was good ghoulish entertainment to be had with my Halloween reading here. By this time next year, it may be easier to embrace the nightmare ride of the season and let us all have a grand literary dance party together then:


Heather G. said...

Looks like you had a great time with your challenge. I've read a couple of Christie's books and have enjoyed them. I just watched the Amazon Prime Ordeal By Innocence and really liked it. I need to read more of her.

lady t said...


Michelle Miller said...

WAY behind on my wrap-up visits! I'm so glad the readathon helped to revive your holiday spirits. I agree it is very tough right now, although there is a little light now after the election. Ordeal by Innocence...I think I read it years ago, but when I watched it on Amazon, I couldn't, for the life of me, remember the story! May have to read it again. Loved Crooked House on Amazon too. I definitely need to read more Agatha Christie.