Classic Movies: Death on the Nile

There are two brilliant film versions of Agatha Christie‘s classic detective novel, Death on the Nile, available now and a third to be released in September of this year.  The Peter Ustinov version from 1978, directed by John Guillerman, has a star-studded cast including Ustinov as Poirot, Maggie Smith as Marie Van Schuyler’s nurse, Bowers, Schuyler played by Bette Davis, David Niven as Colonel Race, Angela Lansbury playing the aging author Salome Otterbourne , whose daughter Rosalie is played by Olivia Hussey.  Lois Chiles plays the filthy rich, selfish airhead Linnet Ridgeway Doyle who has managed to offend, hurt or totally ruin almost everyone on the cruise and Mia Farrow plays the jilted Jacqueline while Simon MacCorkindale plays Simon Doyle who marries Linnet.  George Kennedy plays the corrupt trustee who tries to get Linnet to sign papers that will make it look like his stealing has been authorized and Jack Warden is the doctor Linnet has slandered publicly.

Ustinov (1921 – 2004) is brilliant as the Belgian detective even though Poirot is usually depicted as having a more slight build.  Ustinov was more than just an actor on stage and screen where he won Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globe and Bafta awards.  Fluent in 6 languages with some Turkish and modern Greek thrown in, he was a diplomat, writer, film maker and frequent guest on the Jack Parr Tonight Show.  Somewhat less obnoxious than the David Suchet portrayal can be at times, although in the Suchet episode (Season 9, Episode 3, 2004) he can be very sympathetic and understanding, Ustinov is perhaps the quintessential Poirot and played the character in several Christie film adaptations.

Guillerman had the movie shot at exotic authentic locations and the opening credits run over the blue water of the Nile then switch to the status car with chauffeur taking the new owner of the Wode Hall estate (near Walton-under-Wode) through the village and the countryside to the front door of the manor where her new staff is waiting to greet her.  The house has been extravagantly redecorated but not exactly in keeping with the Art Deco style of the 20s as it is in the David Suchet episode which I liked much better. Both versions use the original Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Aswan, the Nile Hotel in the movie, and use the steamer the S.S. Memnon called the Karnak.  Other locations such as the Great Pyramids, the Sphinx, and temples at Abu Simbel and Karnak were used as well as the cities of Cairo, Aswan, Abu Simbel, and Luxor.

There are some deviations from the original plot in the movies.  For instance Guillerman dropped the whole replacing jewels with fakes plot line with Tim Allerton and his cousin Joanna Southwood which made for fewer cast members.  Colonel Race (James Fox in the 2004 version), rather than joining the cruise after the first murder, joins the cast at the Nile Hotel and boards with all the others, thus eliminating the plot line about the terrorist.  And the final murder/suicide takes place in the saloon with the whole cast watching rather than on the gangplank after most of the cruise members have left.  Of course, the murderers are the same as in the book.

The Poirot tv series, begins with a dark and stormy night around the manor house of the incredibly wealthy Linnet Ridgeway (Emily Blunt) and then the scene switches to the lovers Simon (J.J. Feild) and Jackie (Emma Malin) with delightful 20s jazz in the background, Mad About the Boy.  Switching to Linnet’s huge bedroom (redone in wonderful Art Deco), where she and Joanna Southwood (Elodie Kendall) are sharing girl talk, as Joanna admires and arranges to borrow Linnet’s exquisite pearl necklace.  Jackie arrives and talks Linnet into hiring Simon, a pouty boy who turns flirty the instant he meets Linnet.

The crooked American trustee, Pennington, is played well by David Soul but Tim Allerton (Daniel Lapaine), Joanna’s cousin and partner in crime in the jewel switching, to my mind doesn’t fit up to his description in the book.  He seems too short and rather a belligerent sycophant rather than a secretive, impoverished aristocratic jewel thief ready to go straight for the right gal.  He’s in it right from the beginning.  But here, too, the film is a departure from the plot in the book for he doesn’t end up with the girl — he tells her “she’s barking up the wrong tree”.

Frances de la Tour is perfect as the aging author of steamy novels Salome Otterbourne and Zoe Talford plays the daughter Rosalie perfectly as she hides her love for her mother in brash indifference.

This episode skips several introductions/vignettes but nothing that can’t be caught up and it gives the plot a faster pace.  It goes straight to Egypt and the opulent Nile Hotel where we see colourful skiffs on the river and the painted buildings on the far shore, then after dark, the steamer Karnak lit up and reflected in the water.  Great atmosphere.  Very authentic costuming — the Egyptian garbed waiters and maitre d’, Europeans all in correct garb, and the bustling on the dock and up and down the boarding ramp.  The deck of the steamer is decked out with palm trees and gardens where the passengers have tea and an extremely elegant dining room.

Again, the locations are great and the massive monuments make a powerful backdrop.  The director, Andy Wilson, has eliminated Miss Bowers, the nurse accompanying Maria Van Schuyler (Judy Parfitt) and the naive niece (Daisy Donovan plays Cornelia perfectly) is the observer making sure anything the light-fingered Ms. Van Schuyler picks up gets returned.

Both films are excellent in their own way but I love the way the Ustinov movie has added some interesting and fun “extras”.  It’s hilarious when the first evening at the hotel, Angela Lansbury steals the scene dancing a flamboyant tango with Col. Race.  At the beginning several native boys are running along the far bank as Van Schuyler is taking in the scenery from the deck garden when a couple of the boys turn their backs and moon her.  Poirot returns to his cabin to find a python in his bathroom so begins to hum in an effort to put it in a trance meanwhile knocking on the wall in Morse code to attract Col. Race’s attention, who draws a sword out of his cane and rushes in to pierce the offending snake through its neck. It’s a delightful rendition with so many things to recommend it but do watch both if you haven’t seen them.  I’m anxiously awaiting the Kenneth Branagh version, the trailer of which can be seen here.  Both of these movies are 5 stars in my book!


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Mystery Monday Meme: 1st to Die by James Patterson (with Maxine Paetro)

I can’t believe this is the first book I’ve read by James Patterson, he’s such a prolific writer, but I’m glad I’ve finally got around to it.  Today’s Monday Mystery is 1st to Die, the beginning of the Women’s Murder Club novels.

From the back cover:

In San Francisco newlyweds are being stalked — and slaughtered.  Enter four unforgettable women, all friends . . . Lindsay, a homicide inspector in the city’s police department . . . Claire, a medical examiner . . .Jill, an assistant D.A. . . .and Cindy, a reporter who has just started working the crime desk of the San Francisco Chronicle. Joining forces, pooling their talents, courage, and brains, they have one goal: to find, trap, and outwit the most diabolical and terrifying killer ever imagined.

This book is divided into 6 sections beginning with a Prologue introducing a suicidal Inspector Lindsay Boxer.  It is an odd beginning, full of hints as to the plot line and what has brought her to this place, who her friends are, and a taste of the horrors to follow as the story actually unfolds.  But it certainly gets the reader’s attention.

The next section begins the retelling of the murder mystery and we learn that Lindsay is facing treatment for a suddenly discovered, possibly fatal illness.  Still reeling from this news, she is called to the Grand Hyatt Hotel, where the honeymoon couple, David and Melanie, has been brutally murdered and the bride sickly defiled post mortem.  As Lindsay is observing the crime scene, she sees a reporter who has somehow managed to bypass all the security and police to be the only reporter to glimpse the actual crime scene in the posh Mandarin Suite.  This is Cindy who soon develops into a friend and becomes part of the Women’s Murder Club.

On top of her illness, the murder investigation, and the faux pas of the reporter invading the crime scene, Lindsay is given a new partner, Chris Raleigh, who is more of a “containment” manager than an active cop.  Odd clues are found at the scene — almost as if the killer wants to be discovered.  The reader witnesses the murders and believes the murderer is being revealed in the manner of Columbo mysteries.  This is an illusion but to say so is not really a spoiler.  There are several points in the story when the reader shifts to  a subsequent suspect but that will be wrong, too.  When honeymoon murders are discovered in other locations, including one as far away as Cleveland, Ohio, the strain on Lindsay’s health complicates matters and new clues seem to point Lindsay and Raleigh in the right direction but there are still many surprises to come.

Despite the incredibly disgusting ways the brides’ corpses are degraded, the plot and characters were compelling and I wasn’t put off the novel at all.  The chapters were short which kept the story quick-paced and all the twists and surprises made it hard to put the book down.  I’ve purchased several more books in the series so will read them but also plan to get the first of Patterson’s Alex Cross series which he has written without collaboration.  I’ll be interested in seeing how they compare and whether the next books in the Women’s Murder Club hold my interest.  This book I give 4 out of 5 stars.


If you, too, are a fan of mysteries, I hope you’ll not only enjoy my Monday posts but will contribute by publishing your own Monday Mystery, mention my meme, then come to my blog, comment on your mystery (or mine) briefly, and include the link directly to your mystery review.  You can also copy my MMM badge to your post or your sidebar.  (Links to books are Amazon affiliate links!)

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On My Bookshelf — February 26, 2021

Getting back in the swing of things a bit and enjoying it.  These are books I’ve read recently that I’m hoping to having something to say about in the coming weeks along with some scrumptious mysteries for my Mystery Monday meme.

If you’ve read one of these, please leave a comment about it.  Looking forward to your thoughts.

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The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

The Other Einstein is the fascinating biographical fiction of Mileva Maric Einstein, wife and colleague of Albert Einstein, physicist and Nobel Prize winner who ostensibly  discovered the theory of relativity.  Author/lawyer Marie Benedict began research when she first realized that Einstein had married a classmate from his university years in Zurich and that correspondence between the two that came to light in the 1980s had “caused ripples throughout the physics world” calling into question whether the theory of relativity was Albert’s discovery or Mileva’s.

From the back cover:

What secrets may have lurked in the shadows of Albert Einstein’s fame? In 1896, the extraordinarily gifted Mileva “Mitza” Maric is the only woman studying physics at an elite school in Zurich. For her, science seems like an easier path than marriage, until she falls in love with fellow student Albert Einstein.  Charismatic and brilliant, Albert promises to treat her as an equal in both love and science.  But as Albert’s fame grows, is there room for more than one genius in a marriage?

The Other Einstein gives us a glimpse into a harsher reality of the genius of a ruthless and ambitious Albert Einstein, moody and demanding and at times brutal and abusive in his quest to have the limelight to himself.  Arrogant with his professors to the point of avoiding classes then relying on Mitza’s notes to pass his exams while she tries to conform to all that he wants his “Dollie” to be and as a result misses out on her own finals, destroying her own path to what would surely have become a brilliant career.

Their letters show discussions of physics and its reflection of the divine that have indicated to the physics world that she may have been responsible for the discoveries which he has claimed for himself.  His lack of interest in their children, lack of care for her sorrow when one died, and romantic involvement with other women give a tarnish to the sheen of his brilliance in academics.

In the Epilogue (August 4, 1948) Mitza writes:

Every body continues at rest or in motion in a straight line unless compelled to change by forces impressed upon it. . . Albert’s force acted on me in accordance with the second law of motion. I became swept up in his direction and velocity, and his force became my own.  As I took on the roles of his lover, the mother of his children, his wife, and his secret scientific partner, I allowed him to trim away all the parts that didn’t fit his mold. I expanded others to further his dreams for himself.  I suffered silently when my desires did not match his. Like the sacrifice of my professional ambitions for his stellar rise. . . Until I could stand Albert’s force no more.  The third law of motion triggered, and I exerted a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to his.  I took back the space that belonged to me.  I left him.

This story is a poignant one that highlights the view of women throughout history as inferior, to be controlled, and sometimes abused and rejected.  It shows one woman of extraordinary brilliance who gained the strength to finally make her own path.  It also highlights the anti-semitism of the times throughout Europe and amazing advances in knowledge of how the physical world around us works.  The story of Mitza and her relationship with Albert is divided, appropriately enough, according to the three laws of motion which she describes in the epilogue.  I wish I could affirm that her story is unique but sadly, I’m sure it is not.  It is a heart-wrenching story, tender at first and then deteriorating until Mitza must take action and walk away.  Beautifully written, it is a story well worth reading and gives perspective to a time, a place, and more than one universal truth.  * * * * *



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Cozy Read Wednesday: Sweet Magnolias — a series by Sherryl Woods

This week’s Cozy Read(s) are from the Sweet Magnolias series by Sherryl Woods, also a Netflix original series.  Season 1 covers the first three books in the Woods’ series:  Stealing Home, A Slice of Heaven, and Feels Like Family.  Whether you’ve seen the Netflix series or not, the books are a great read, a cozy read, and just a bit different from the series.

Stealing Home introduces Maddie, Helen, and Dana Sue, friends since childhood in the South Carolina town of Serentity and they are the Sweet Magnolias.  Maddie Townsend is in the middle of an acrymonious divorce with her doctor husband, Bill, who has left her and her three kids (Tyler (jr. @ high school, on the school baseball team); Kyle (freshman @ high school, has a crush on Dana Sue’s daughter, Annie); Katie (youngest)) to live with his nurse Noreen who is pregnant.  Helen is the fighting lawyer who is batting for Maddie in the divorce and has bought an old house in town with the idea of turning it into a spa that the three friends will run:  Maddie as manager, Dana Sue, restaurateur, will set up the health food bar, and Helen will handle the legal.

I really enjoyed this book.  I was drawn to the characters of and friendship between the three ladies, how they stand by each other, and the new enterprise they’re involved in.  The differing reactions of the children to their father leaving and the new woman in his life seemed realistic and were interesting to watch evolve.  As Ty’s anger and disappointment reach the pitcher’s mound and Maddie tries to step in, a new relationship begins for her with the coach, a former pro player which threatens to affect her standing in the community and Ty’s position with the team.  * * * *

A Slice of Heaven, the 2nd book in the series, focuses on Dana Sue’s restaurant, the difficulties she’s experiencing, and her daughter, Annie’s, eating disorder. Dana Sue has spent the last two years building up the finest restaurant in Serenity with hard work and determination.  The long hours, stress in the kitchen at work and the difficulty in trying to maintain the trust of a teenage daughter who is missing her father, lead her to try to persuade rather than command her daughter, who she suspects is suffering from anorexia.  As Dana Sue’s troubles increase between Annie, the restaurant and her ex, her own health issues arise and she blames ex, Ronnie for Annie’s eating disorder: “Dana Sue was convinced [Annie] was starving herself so she wouldn’t turn out like her mom—overweight and alone”.  Meanwhile, she invites Ronnie back to town to be in Annie’s life to help her stabilize and get back on track.  He’s looking for an opportunity to prove his love for them and to move back in.  Should one mistake ruin their family for life?  He left once without fighting for them but is desperate for a second chance.

This is a good sequel with many demon’s being fought amongst the three friends and there are lots of real-life issues here, compelling characters and the emphasis on the great comfort of family/friendship support and how difficult it is to trust again after betrayal.  A bit repetitive at times but realistically so, I felt.  Perhaps not quite as compelling as the first story.  * * *

Feels Like Family is the third in the Sweet Magnolia series and completes the trilogy although there are more books that follow in the series.  Helen is the most driven of the 3 friends, a successful 42-year-old matrimonial lawyer, she left town for her career but returned to nurse her mother and got through things with the support of her best friends and many other folks in the small southern town of Serenity.  After putting starting a family on hold while she focused on her career and being a bit cynical about marriage from her work, she’s now ready to take measures into her own hands and become a single mom.  Erik, a sous-chef at Dana Sue’s restaurant, is a great guy but with a secretive past.  They have a kind of volatile relationship which seems to be developing into something but turns out to be not quite what Erik thought.

Interesting character and plot development as the three friends try to support each other despite differing views and of course, the small town gossips who seem to see everything that’s going on.  A quick read.  Could be read as a stand-alone but better if you’ve read the first two in the series. * * * *


Be a part of Cozy Read Wednesdays — leave a comment with a link to your own review of a cozy read!  Love to know what you’ve been reading!

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Mystery Monday: Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

Today’s Monday Mystery is Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie. While movies have been made of this and other Christie novels, it’s definitely worth a read — her books are not the most read of all time except for the Bible and Shakespeare for no reason. Even if you’ve seen the movie(s), you’ll enjoy the writing — the descriptions, the characters’ foibles, and the suspense as Hercule Poirot discards one theory after another until he finds the answer to the one fact that does not fit.

Each of the main characters who will interact on what should be a leisurely cruise on the Nile is introduced in short vignettes.  By the time they convene at the Cataract Hotel to await their cruise up the Nile from Assuan to Wadi Halfa, we seem to be fully aware of all the players and their possible antagonisms toward the inevitable victim, Linnet Doyle, formerly Ridgeway, an incredibly rich heiress whose entitlement has rubbed many the wrong way.

For starters, Linnet’s husband Simon was engaged to her “friend” Jacqueline de Bellefort who introduced them in order for Simon to become her land agent but Linnet jilts her suitor, sets her cap for Simon, who jilts Jackie and marries Linnet.  Deliciously tangled.  Linnet has a trustee who “accidentally” connects with her in Egypt after sailing from New York promptly upon hearing of her wedding; it would seem he has been diddling the books and the wedding enables her to take charge of her inheritance.  Her British solicitor gets wind of the fishy circumstances and sends his junior partner off to help protect Linnet’s interests.

Nile Steamer circa 1920

Others on the cruise include the jilted Jackie who has threatened the lives of her former friend and fiancé, a communist sympathizer who despises all the rich and entitled, a young woman whose family was ruined by Linnet’s late father accompanying her aunt and her nurse, a young man (who seems extremely put out by Poirot’s presence) traveling with his mother, a doctor, a keen archaeology hobbyist, and an aging author and her daughter, a pouty lass guarding some tragic secret.

The night of the first murder, Poirot sleeps soundly; it is a while before he realizes he was drugged to be out of the events to follow.  His friend, Colonel Race, joins the cruise tracking a terrorist suspected of being on board, and while he and Poirot try to unravel the crime, two more murders and a robbery follow swiftly to complicate matters.  The only two people who are definitely clear of the first murder are the victim’s husband and the jilted Jackie.  But, as Poirot tells Race, when trying to solve a murder, people “conceive a certain theory, and everything has to fit into that theory. If one little fact will not fit it, they throw it aside. But it is always the facts that will not fit in that are significant.”  Once Poirot discovers the importance of the “fact that will not fit”, all becomes clear.  Even so, the ending is totally unexpected.

One by one the layers of secrets become revealed.  Christie is still the master of suspense and thoroughly enjoyable.  As Christie was well-travelled and had visited Egypt with her archaeologist husband, her descriptions of that country in the 1920s is accurate and captivating.  There are two movies based on this book, one starring Peter Ustinov with a star-studded cast from 1978, an episode in the British series starring David Suchet airing in 2004, and one upcoming later this year starring and directed by Kenneth Branagh.  I will be watching these and reviewing them in a future blog post.  For mystery lovers, Agatha Christie is a must. * * * * *


If you, too, are a fan of mysteries, I hope you’ll not only enjoy my Monday posts but will contribute by publishing your own Monday Mystery, mention my meme, then come to my blog, comment on your mystery (or mine) briefly, and include the link directly to your mystery review.  You can also copy my MMM badge to your post or your sidebar.  (Links to books are Amazon affiliate links!)

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The Moroccan Girl by Charles Cumming

Resurrection was intended to be a non-violent protest movement encouraging ordinary citizens to speak out individually against socially divisive propaganda, a movement that somehow quickly escalates into the most dangerous terrorist organization on three continents.  Anyone with a platform who speaks out for male supremacy, anti-Semitism, or women’s rights becomes targets of retribution.  Bloggers, politicians, radio broadcasters, editorial columnists — all were unsafe anywhere, open to kidnapping right off the street and murder.

Ivan Simakov was Resurrection’s founder.  He was a mesmerizing speaker who instilled his followers to almost blind discipleship.  An explosion in a Moscow apartment, killed a young adherent named Curtis, a young mother and her daughter in the corner apartment, and Simakov himself according to the Russian counterterrorism task force that arrived on the scene.

Lazlo is the code name of Lara Bartok, former girlfriend of Simakov, now being interrogated by Somerville, British intelligence.  She is known as The Moroccan Girl.

Christopher “Kit” Carradine is an author of spy novels whose father had been and up-and-coming agent until the Kim Philby affair heading for an authors’ conference in Marrakech when he is recruited by British Intelligence to spend a few days in Casablanca to keep his eyes open for a woman named Lara Bartok.

The two stories intertwine — Lazlo being debriefed and Kit searching for her in Morocco — and come together in the end with many twists and surprises along the way.  Lots of action, atmosphere, and suspense before the complicated truth is revealed.

This is the first book I’ve read by Charles Cumming but I will definitely read more.  A complex tale with lots of interesting characters and intrigue. * * * *

Other books by Charles Cumming:

A Foreign Country — The Thomas Kell Spy Series, Book 1

A Colder War — The Thomas Kell Spy Series, Book 2

A Divided Spy — The Thomas Kell Spy Series, Book 3

The Trinity Six

A Spy By Nature

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Cozy Read Wednesday: The Spring at Moss Hill by Carla Neggers

Today’s Cozy Read is by a new author to me, Carla Neggers, called The Spring at Moss Hill.  This is 7th in a series called Swift River Valley.  I found it in the library in my building and there are several others by her on the shelf there.

If a cozy read is defined as a romance that is easy to read quickly and has a happy ending, then this certainly qualifies.  The premise is that a young author/illustrator, Kylie Shaw, is hiding out, a bit of a recluse, in a small New England town where she has a loft apartment in a remodel of an old straw hat factory now called Moss Hill.  She writes children’s stories about a badger family under an assumed name and at the beginning, she’s a bit paranoid about people finding that out.  Enter an LA private eye, Russ Colter, who is installed in the loft across the hall from her, a security measure against the impending visit of a famous Hollywood designer whose great, great, grandfather owned the factory and had donated the town library.  The designer, Daphne Stewart (also a pseudonym), had spent 3 years living in the town, working in the library, and defining herself and her dream in an attic room in the library unbeknownst to anyone at the time.  She will be presenting an event with a lecture in the morning and an afternoon workshop on designing for the theatre and movies and there are rumours circulating that the building might be unsafe and the event, cancelled.

I can only say that this was a disappointment.  I found Daphne a far more interesting character than Kylie.  Although they both have misgivings about the upcoming situation, Daphne’s uncertainty about returning to a town where she had spent time escaping from an abusive background is easily understood and creates an empathy for a character who enjoys playing the diva, has a sharp wit, is generous with her time, and enjoys her friends.  Kylie, on the other hand, is totally paranoid about having her secret pseudonym revealed, assumes that Russ has figured out it — based on what? no idea — and had one date with a guy who also figured it out somehow, and then she outs herself to a gathering of about a dozen people as if it’s nothing.  Which of course it was all along.  The romance after the event was rather anti-climactic and went on a bit too long.  I might try a book from one of her other series but not anytime soon.  * *


Be a part of Cozy Read Wednesdays — leave a comment with a link to your own review of a cozy read!  Love to know what you’ve been reading!

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Mystery Monday Meme: The Final Detail by Harlan Coben

This week’s Monday Mystery is the first book I’ve read by Harlan Coben.  I bought 2 of his books at a discount store for reading on vacation but didn’t get around to it until this week.  The hero of the story, Myron Bolitar, isn’t actually a detective — he’s a lawyer/sports agent who is suffering withdrawal pangs from a crushing break-up and some never explained episode he feels responsible for that caused a number of deaths (maybe I missed something; it does mention it on the back cover) and when the story opens, he’s soothing his ego with a brunette anchor woman on a secluded section of a Caribbean island, aptly named St. Bacchanals.

Myron has a few close friends who have his back always:  Win — a wealthy financial advisor he’s known since college days, a man with dubious morals who is usually armed and doesn’t mind bending the law or even killing; Esperanza — formerly his secretary (and before that a wrestler) but now a lawyer and his partner; Big Cyndi — his receptionist, also a former wrestler and more recently a bouncer; and Clu Haid — also a friend from college, a baseball pitcher, drug addict, and total screw-up.  Haid is the victim.

Although Myron has disclosed his whereabouts to no-one, Win’s yacht comes steaming across the horizon one sunny morning and Myron knows something is seriously wrong.  Win breaks the news:  Esperanza has been arrested for murdering their client and friend, Clu Haid.  Not only that, but she doesn’t want his help or even to talk to him.  When a computer disk arrives in the mail with an animation of the missing daughter of the owner of the Yankees that melts into blood, Myron is completely befuddled; he has no clue what it’s all about or whether it has anything to do with Clu’s murder.

There are lots of twists (plot and sexual) before Myron eventually gets to the final detail that allows everything to fall into place.  The writing style is easy (no need to have a dictionary handy except possibly for some yiddish terms) with several sleazy mob-type characters, senseless torture, a phoney self-help guru, and Myron’s decent parents.  If that sounds appealing to you, go for it.  The Final Detail is not a book I’d recommend except as a quick read to boost your “books read” goal.  * * 1/2


If you, too, are a fan of mysteries, I hope you’ll not only enjoy my Monday posts but will contribute by publishing your own Monday Mystery, mention my meme, then come to my blog, comment on your mystery (or mine) briefly, and include the link directly to your mystery review.  You can also copy my MMM badge to your post or your sidebar.  (Links to books are Amazon affiliate links!)

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Teen Read: Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Seeing as how this is Black History Month and given the turmoil throughout the United States especially in the past year over racial issues, this book is not only extremely timely but deeply thought-provoking.  Anything good you’ve heard or read about Dear Martin is true; this is an amazing story.  Justyce (love that name) McAllister, a young black student in Atlanta, Georgia, is on a path to create a solid life for himself — 17 years old, full scholarship to a fancy prep school, 4th in his class, captain of the debating team, heading for an ivy league law degree — but despite everything he has going for him, it doesn’t seem like he’s found his niche, a place where he belongs and is accepted, respected.

This lack of place is dramatically driven home to him late one night while trying to help his drunk ex-girlfriend get home safely.  Justyce is profiled, arrested, tightly handcuffed, and kept overnight basically for wearing a hoodie.  In an attempt to learn to deal with the emotions this deeply disturbing incident conjures up, Justyce  decides to reread Martin Luther King’s teachings and begins a journal writing to him, telling him about his feelings, and questioning him about how to handle things.  He begins to stop himself before speaking or reacting when something unsettling happens and asks himself, What would Martin do?

Despite all his efforts to stay out of trouble and cop the right attitude, Jus doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere or to get a handle things.  A lot of this story takes place in his friend Manny’s basement hangout or in a class at school called Societal Evolution where the students sit in a circle with their teacher, Dr. Jarius Dray (Doc), who is also advisor to the debate team and Jus’ hero, and discuss weighty topics sometimes chosen by Doc, sometimes put forward by one of the students.

Manny comes from a wealthy family and has known the white kids in his class since kindergarten.  He tries to fit in, lets attitudes and comments slip by, and considers these boys his friends.  Jus comes from a poorer, gang neighbourhood where he was never accepted because of his constant reading and high grades but isn’t accepted at the new school by Manny’s white friends either.  They both have a lot to deal with.  When one of Manny’s friends delivers him an incredible racial insult, Manny loses it and he and Jus end up in a crucial confrontation that changes everything forever.

The characters in this story are very realistic as are the events as they unfold.  It is about perceptions and embedded attitudes that complicate those already confusing teenage years of trying to figure out the opposite sex, resisting peer pressure, and accepting that sometimes even parents don’t get it right.  There is a follow-up story that I will be reading soon.  An excellent read for teens and older.  Some profanity but don’t let that stop you.  Awesome!  * * * * *

Other books by Nic Stone:

Dear Justyce

Clean Getaway

Jackpot — All Bets Are Off

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