The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson

What an absolutely satisfying conclusion!! When is the last time I sat by the fire eyes glued to my book, hand reaching in and out of popcorn bowl, just completely caught up? Although I couldn’t remember too much about Truly Devious and the Vanishing Stair that was fine because there was a lot of recapping. Once again the book is set up with Stevie working away at the 1930s mystery of the vanished kidnapped child, Alice, along with the more recent suspicious deaths at her school and alternating chapters telling us exactly what happened in the 30s.
It was immensely satisfying to be reading and know that I would soon have all the answers and it was immensely satisfying to finally get those answers. I couldn’t make this last at all-purely enjoyable and unputdownable.

Mac Undercover and Impossible Crime (Mac B., Kid Spy #1 and #2) by Mac Barnett

Mac Barnett is one of my favorite go-to funny authors and these are the first two in his new series, which is all about when he himself was a kid in the 1980s and how he was a Kid Spy.  His tone of stating that directly to the audience is hilarious. There are abundant illustrations in cartoon style.  The hilarious initial premise is that Queen Elizabeth calls on him to be a spy. There are corgis galore, the Queen is a hoot of a character, Mac has a nemesis, Derek, and his mom has a boyfriend, which very much reminded me of Rick, the jerk, in the Brixton Brothers books.

The first book sets up Mac getting called in as a spy, with a focus on his stolen Game Boy. The second one has Mac solving an Impossible Crime, the kind where something happens in a locked room.

All in all, great fun, highly recommended.

One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

I feel like this took foreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeever to read. And it’s no fault of Kate Atkinson’s because this book is just as good as all the other Jackson Brodie books. (Though I will say, this is #2, and I recently read the very newest, and reading these two together they seem to have an awful lot in common. Russians, call girls, money laundering, bad guys, etc.)
Something that I think is very interesting about all the Jackson Brodie books is that you think of them as being all about him-he’s the main character, it’s his story, how will he solve it, etc. But! An awful lot of the chapters don’t even have him in it and you do get these wonderful back stories about the other characters who get wrapped up in these extremely complicated webs.

My quarantine reading is really not happening the way I had ever imagined it. I’m prescribing for myself a dose of Rosamund Pilcher, or possibly Outlander. Though they are big books they are comforting and familiar and engrossing.

Started Early Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson

After Big Sky I was itching to read another Jackson Brodie. Even though I was pretty sure I’d already read this, it’s what was available at the library at that moment, so I took it. Even while I read it I still wasn’t sure if I’d read it or not, but just now I see on Goodreads that yes, I read this once before, in 2011.
Even though there are a lot of terrible things that happen in these novels, somehow it is not soul crushing to read them. I liked the way the point of view went back and forth, I always like peeking into Jackson’s personal life, and the setting was fascinating to me.  Best of all, Atkinson is a fantastic writer. I found myself reading for about 45 minutes one night and just solidly enjoying so many lines and the way certain paragraphs were written, never mind the story itself. These books are a pleasure to read.

Love and Death Among the Cheetahs by Rhys Bowen (Her Royal Spyness)

I’ve been especially looking forward to this one since it is enticingly set in Africa (Kenya, to be exact.)
As usual there is a little of the Queen, Mrs. Simpson and cousin David (the Prince), and fussy sister in law Fig. (Fig, Binky, Diddy–these names crack me up) which is all very entertaining, but the bulk of the story has Georgie and Darcy in Kenya, ostensibly on their honeymoon, but really Darcy is investigating something and then of course someone gets murdered and they investigate that.
It is so interesting to read about how they get to Kenya–a long and difficult journey, which included a surprising amount of glamorous air travel. And once there everything was new to me–how the Brits were “settling” in valleys and farming, but also being aristocrats, terrible to the natives, and so on. Just like Lady Georgiana I was fascinated by the big animals and how they were just in the wilderness with them-but also horrified by how casually people talked about killing them.
The biggest surprise of all I won’t explicitly state here-I’ll just say that I was TOTALLY surprised and the author’s note afterward explains that she didn’t make it up-it really happened. Fascinating.


A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder by Dianne Freeman

I was so excited to only just recently read the first book and therefore be able to have #2 give me some instant gratification by being available. I had hoped for a bit more of a  Marion Chesney’s  School for Manners vibe with the series set up at the end of book #1 (helping young American ladies through a London Season), but I still found this very satisfying. As before, the countess and her special friend, George, end up investigating a crime, in this case the unseemly murder of an acquaintance. Countess Harleigh’s independent household is filling up with women-in addition to her aunt, there is also her young sister, and the sister’s friend. All of the women pitch in with the mystery solving in some way, while also working on their own potential matches.
I can see this will be a reliably delightful light historical mystery series.

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

I read this back in the winter, but I guess didn’t ever write anything here….

Catching up:

For my second foray into Agatha Christie mysteries I tried a Poirot. I liked it very much (though I think I might prefer Miss Marple) and I particularly enjoyed the Nile cruise aspect of it. Did I figure out whodunnit? I had some ideas but couldn’t really figure it out.

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

Can you believe……this is the first Agatha Christie I’ve read?! I know! It’s crazy! But I was rereading a bit of Dear Fahrenheit 451 and when I read the Agatha Christie letter I thought “I really need to read these.” After all, though I don’t consider myself a mystery reader I do like Sherlock Holmes and there are some other mystery series I’ve read. So, next time I was at the library I went to the Christie shelf to pick one out. I chose The Body in the Library. What a treat! A touch prissy and old-fashioned and British in a way that I love (people describing others “Oh yes, she was quite shrewd”.) As for the mystery it was clever and I didn’t know who did it. Also, I appreciated what an efficient story this was. This is the way I like my mysteries-not a ton of character development, very much a telling of what is happening. Miss Marple is a delight with her village observations. I’m looking forward to reading more!

The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson

When I read Truly Devious I loved it up right until the end and then I got so mad at it that I said I wouldn’t bother reading the second one. Well of course that was a lie and here I was, back for more, but prepared this time to get angry all over again at some cliffhanger.
The basic set up of this trilogy is going to be “one mystery solved, another mystery begun” for each book.  For Truly Devious did solve one mystery (mostly) but left us still wondering about the historical mystery, and ultimately introducing yet another.
I didn’t quite remember the details of book #1, but everything I needed to know was very neatly and seamlessly included.
In this installment Stevie (who seems more and more like a savant detective) is putting together clues new and old to figure out the ancient Ellingham kidnapping case. But maybe someone doesn’t want this mystery solved?
I found the bits with David and Edward King a bit tiresome, mostly because I was really interested in the clever mysteries.
And while I gasped at the end this time I didn’t throw the book since I was prepared to be left on a cliffhanger.

Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding by Rhys Bowen

I’m startled to see that this is #12 in the series because I’m fairly certain I haven’t read twelve Her Royal Spynesses. I guess that means that I can always go back and have more to read-it certainly doesn’t make you unable to follow what’s going on. I love this series so much. It’s mystery the way I like it-light and British and historical. And, although I consider these light and fun books, Bowen’s historical detail is wonderful.
In this latest installment Lady Georgiana is finally (FINALLY) about to be married to Darcy, having received approval to renounce her right to the throne (because honestly, if she were to be queen a crazy plague would have had to wipe out at least 35 members of the royal family.) I was getting a bit annoyed with how drawn out this was, so was glad it was finally about to happen.
I enjoyed this one very much, in part because I enjoyed seeing Lady Georgiana finally get bold and assert herself in various areas of her life (that nasty Fig! those terrible servants flaunting her instructions! even Darcy!)
As usual she is able to pick up on all sorts of clues that something is not quite right and bravely investigate and put pieces together.
Tremendously enjoyable