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Archive for the ‘Mystery’ Category

Before I had even written the word “ilk”, I began to wonder if it was really a word or if it was merely some literary slang that I had come across in my reading somewhere and I was about to use incorrectly.  But, thanks to those great on-line dictionaries like Wikipedia, one never has an excuse to use a word incongruously, so I looked it up.  Wikipedia, informed me that “Ilk” was a village in eastern Hungary, and did not give me any other information.  I then proceeded to Merriam Webster on-line, which can be found at www.m-w.com and found that I was indeed using the word correctly.  Here is their definition:

Etymology: Middle English, from Old English ilcaITERATE, LIKE
chiefly Scottish : SAME — used with that especially in the names of landed families

So, I discovered that not only does the word mean “same” or “like”, but it is used with “that”.

Okay, enough of that.  I got back from the recent “Girls night out” that my DF Claire so diligently planned.  I actually got to go to the secondhand bookstore without my children.  I picked out around 10 books which I narrowed down to 3 while in the checkout line.  Yes, I am one of those individuals who leaves a cartful of unpurchased merchandise at the back of lines.  Call it “second chance items” for some lucky customers.  Anyway, I was so excited to get a hardback copy of Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone for only $5.00.  I already have a copy of this book, but it is a paperback copy, and a book of this caliber simply belongs in my library and paperbacks just won’t due.  At some point, I’d like to have some stacks (library slang for shelves) for paperbacks, although they would be relegated to the upstairs sitting room.  This room doesn’t exist at the moment, but when it does, there will be paperback “stacks” for my guests to peruse.  But I digress…The Moonstone is one of two books by Wilkie Collins that I have read, the other being The Lady in White, and I loved both of them.  Mr. Collins is known as the first and best author of modern English detective novels and The Moonstone is I feel the best work in this genre that I have ever read.  His stories are suspenseful, his characters intriguing, and the endings are totally unexpected–just what you would want from a good mystery novel.  This particular work has a touch of the far east which is so prevalent in much of English literature of this era.  The story revolves around the disappearance of a priceless gem, first from an Hindu deity and then from the young lady to whom it is given as a gift.  The book is told from the perspective of several different witnesses to the crime in the form of a series of narratives or depositions.  Mr. Collins greatness is seen in the way he takes on the persona of each character in describing the details of the events surrounding the gem’s disappearance. 

The other book of that “ilk” that I purchased that evening was The Best of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterson.  I have never read a Father Brown mystery before, but I am familiar with the BBC television series about the famous detective.  The first story in the book is called “The Secret of Father Brown”.  The editor placed it conspicuously at the beginning, as a sort of forward describing the way this particular detective solves his crimes, thus enabling the reader to have a better understanding of future stories.  I found this story interesting because Chesterson mixes his interest in religious philosophy into the crime-solving ability of his character.  Father Brown is of course a priest, so it makes sense that his understanding of criminology and his very methods would be described through the megaphone of religious philosophy.  This copy of Chesterson’s works was of course in paperback, so I will have to be on the lookout for a hardback copy.

 As I was taking my new copy of The Moonstone to my library shelves, a thought flashed before my mind.  I already have a hardback copy of this book.  In fact, it is a copy published in 1959, and in excellent condition.  Well, if that doesn’t show you how much I love this book, I don’t know what does.  So, I now have three copies on my shelf.  I think more that one copy of any book constitutes a real library, so if anyone would like to borrow one, let me know.  Just make sure you sign the checkout book at the back and have it back in three weeks or you’ll be fined a quarter a day. 

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A friend recently introduced me to this first book in the Amelia Peabody series, knowing my love for history and a good mystery.  This is one of those series that I wish I had heard about a long time ago.  Elizabeth Peters combines her knowledge of Egyptian archaeology and local lore with an exciting drama filled with danger and intrigue.  Her characters are complex and her female protagonist, Amelia Peabody reminds me of a Jane Austen heroine.  Amelia is intelligent and fiercely independent.  She cares nothing for Victorian propriety and thumbs her nose at convention.  This is the very thing that makes characters like Emma and Elizabeth Bennet so appealing in the Austen novels.  Just as we see Elizabeth walking for miles in the mud, caring nothing for the state of her petticoats, Amelia can climb on top of pyramids under the sweltering Egyptian sun and descend into musty tombs all for the sake of her passion.  As a backdrop to her dramas, Peters uses real historical characters and events.  She is also very precise in describing archaeological methods and techniques of the time period.  Adults as well as teenagers would enjoy this book, although parents should be aware that there are some “adult situations” that they may want to discuss with their children.  For instance:  a young woman has an illicit affair and is disowned by her uncle.  Although the affair brings about a lot of unhappiness, it is not frowned upon by the heroine whose good or bad opinion you are most often privy to in this novel.  All in all, it is a good read.  Thank you, Leah, for your recommendation.  Please send more my way. 

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