Genre:

Mystery

Book Review

Rebecca

RebeccaRebecca by Daphne du Maurier
on December 17th 2013
Genres: Classic, Mystery, Romance
Pages: 393
Format: Paperback
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Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .

The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady's maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives--presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave.

It’s no wonder Alfred Hitchcock adapted Rebecca for the silver screen.

Daphne du Maurier’s gothic tale of horror follows the tumultuous relationship between Maxim de Winter and his second, much younger, wife, whom he meets while virtually escaping the memories he has of his home in England, Manderley.

Maxim quickly marries his young bride and whisks her away to Manderley from Monte Carlo, where she is a paid companion to Mrs. Van Hopper.

Only the second Mrs. de Winter does not find herself welcome at the estate, especially by the private maid to Maxim’s dead first wife, Rebecca, and house manager, Mrs. Danvers.

Mrs. Danvers is very creepy, showing up at the oddest of times.

du Maurier’s description of Mrs. Danvers is enough to scare the hell out of me.

The newest Mrs. de Winter soon feels that Maxim doesn’t truly love her, as she firmly believes he is obsessed with the deceased Rebecca, who holds power over Mr. and Mrs. de Winter’s relationship from beyond her watery grave.

After much heartache and humiliation, Mrs. de Winter ultimately wins Maxim’s love and trust upon their becoming forever bound by a secret that comes to light months after the marriage.

The only thing I will say bothered me about this book, and it’s most likely because of the time in which it was written, but there is a minor character, Ben, who is described as a ‘half-wit’ and other derogatory terms.

Normally, I could overlook details like that description, but since my brother is autistic, I am especially sensitive to material regarding the mentally challenged.

However, Rebecca gets a resounding five stars for its amazing story and character development.

I cannot wait to watch Hitchcock’s take on the novel!

Love, Maggie

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Book Review

The Clue in the Crossword Cipher

The Clue in the Crossword CipherThe Clue in the Crossword Cipher by Carolyn Keene
Series: Nancy Drew #44
Published by Grosset & Dunlap on January 1st 1967
Genres: Children's, Mystery
Pages: 192
Format: ebook
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For cliffhanging suspense and thrilling action read THE NANCY DREW MYSTERY STORIES-the worlds most popular mystery series for young readers! Millions of fans have matched wits with Nancy Drew, helping her solve more than fifty baffling cases.

I adore Nancy Drew books in general, but The Clue in the Crossword Cipher is probably one of my favorites in the mystery series yet. I’ve probably mentioned that I love to learn as I read and with this book, set in South America, namely in Peru and Argentina, I was captivated.

In the story, Nancy and her closest chums, Bess and George, travel with another friend, Carla, to her home in Peru in an attempt to solve a mystery revolving around an ancient artifact, which has been in the possession of Carla’s family for centuries.

Now, me, being a person who rarely reads book synopses in full, as I feel synopses sometimes spoil the book, expected the mystery to involve a literal crossword puzzle, straight out of The New York Times or something. However, I was very wrong!

The crossword is actually a piece of a puzzle engraved on the ancient artifact owned by Carla’s family – which definitely came as a surprise! Full of suspense, snooping snoops, and true to its time, The Clue in the Crossword Cipher kept me entertained and on the proverbial edge of my seat – I did not solve the mystery prior to the book’s conclusion, which always makes me happy.

The story takes Nancy and her comrades from the ruins of Machu Picchu to the Nazca lines, which are archaeological sites of great interest to me. While I did have to suspend disbelief a bit while reading about Nancy and friends’ escapades at the sites, I still very much enjoyed the book and learned a bit about South American Indian culture along the way.

The only thing I could see being problematic regarding all Nancy Drew mysteries is the fact that, like I said, they are true to their time, as in they were written in the 1950s and 1960s – meaning that gender stereotypes and silliness are found in abundance.

For instance, there is a bit too much focus on the fact that Nancy is ‘attractive’ and Bess is ‘overweight.’ However, knowing the time in which these books were written, before women were seen in a more modern light, I can brush off these references.

Nancy Drew mysteries are always light, quick reads that are definitely go-to books when I’m in a reading slump. They were prominent staples in both my and my mother’s childhoods and reading them takes me back to being that young girl who had become intrigued by reading and especially mysteries.

Love, Maggie

Book Review

The Secret History

The Secret HistoryThe Secret History by Donna Tartt
Published by Vintage on April 13th 2004
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery
Pages: 559
Format: Hardcover
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Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last - inexorably - into evil.

I delved into The Secret History with high expectations, perhaps too high, and was sorely disappointed.

I should have taken a cue from my boredom with Tartt’s The Goldfinch and understood that the author’s writing style does not vary from book to book. As with The Goldfinch, The Secret History is filled with description and dialogue, but with little plot advancement or character development.

I found myself growing tired of the story after the first chapter, anxious for some excitement. That desired excitement never came to fruition.

I anticipated learning a lot while reading Tartt’s debut novel. The story centers around a secretive group of a handful of studiers of Greek under the tutelage of a single teacher.

Instead of exploring ancient undertones, the tale seems to revolve around the main college-age characters imbibing in alcohol and cigarettes and having dinner parties.

“Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it.” To its credit, The Secret History does have some beautiful quotes, but I’ve learned my lesson to stop reading Donna Tartt’s work, unfortunately.

Love, Maggie

Book Review

Elementary, She Read

Elementary, She ReadElementary, She Read by Vicki Delany
Published by Crooked Lane Books on March 14th 2017
Genres: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley, Publisher
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Gemma Doyle, a transplanted Englishwoman, has returned to the quaint town of West London on Cape Cod to manage her Great Uncle Arthur's Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium. The shop--located at 222 Baker Street--specializes in the Holmes canon and pastiche, and is also the home of Moriarty the cat. When Gemma finds a rare and potentially valuable magazine containing the first Sherlock Homes story hidden in the bookshop, she and her friend Jayne (who runs the adjoining Mrs. Hudson's Tea Room) set off to find the owner, only to stumble upon a dead body.
The highly perceptive Gemma is the police’s first suspect, so she puts her consummate powers of deduction to work to clear her name, investigating a handsome rare books expert, the dead woman's suspiciously unmoved son, and a whole family of greedy characters desperate to cash in on their inheritance. But when Gemma and Jayne accidentally place themselves at a second murder scene, it's a race to uncover the truth before the detectives lock them up for good.
Fans of Sherlock Holmes will delight in the sleuthing duo of Gemma and Jayne in Elementary, She Read, the clever and captivating series debut by nationally bestselling author Vicki Delany.

Vicki Delany’s Elementary, She Read is quite possibly the coziest mystery I’ve ever read. Cozy mysteries aren’t my go-to genre; however, Delany’s tale has helped open up a whole new world of books for me. I’m highly anticipating the follow-up to this, the first in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery series!

I mean, seriously, what’s not to love about a protagonist who owns a cozy bookstore focused on the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as books and items related to Sherlock Holmes in general? I had so much fun reading Delany’s story that I completed in less than two days.

The characters are so lovable, yet flawed, and very well-developed. I adore the main character, Gemma Doyle, who lives in the sleepy Cape Cod tourist town of West London. Gemma is lovably snarky, absentminded, smart, witty, and superbly observant, making her the perfect amateur detective.

Gemma’s best friend and owner of the tea shop adjoining the Sherlock Holmes Bookstore and Emporium, Jayne, is an excellent foil for Gemma. Put together, organized, and gorgeous, Jayne fits the role of Gemma’s best friend perfectly.

I really like that Delany’s book focuses on the mystery at hand and character development more than romance. While there are a few dates scattered throughout the story, as well as some teasers regarding Gemma’s romantic past, I love that the mystery doesn’t get bogged down by the minutiae of attraction between the sexes.

Furthermore, I enjoyed the easy, playful dialogue between the characters and the flow of Delany’s writing style. The mystery at the center of the book is intriguing and I didn’t come close to guessing which character is the culprit.

I have never delved into Sir Doyle’s work or into the world of Sherlock Holmes, but after reading Elementary, She Read, I am incredibly looking forward to doing so.

Love, Maggie