Monday, February 22, 2021

Review: Drawn and Order by Cheryl Hollon

This is the second book in the Paint 'n Shine series. I have to confess that I have not read book one, but am a huge fan of Webb's Glass Shop series.

I like Marinda Trent, the main character. She reminds me of many of the strong women I grew up with in Kentucky. I also liked her description of the gorge and the rock climbing group. Marinda's rock climbing adventure is cut short by the discovery of human bones near the trailhead. Those bones turn out to be the remains of her cousin. The sheriff sees a rock climbing accident but Marinda and her family aren't buying that explanation. Marinda promises to find the truth and discovers the rock climbers are hiding a lot of secrets.

The only reason I give this one four stars instead of five is that I found the length of time it took for doing Google searches unbelievable. This pulled me out of an otherwise excellent story. I think the great characters and strong knowledge of the Red River Gorge area more than makes up for the Google thread. I look forward to reading more of the series and will definitely go read the first book.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The Queens of Crime

Golden Age of Detective fiction produced a group of female mystery writers that dominated the industry. For the most part, their careers began in the interval between World Wars One and Two and continued the rest of their lives. I am simply listing them here for your consideration. I will do a more detailed piece on each of them in the future. 


Agatha Christie (1890–1976)

Elizabeth Marsh (1895–1982)

Margery Allingham (1904–1966)

Dorothy L. Sayers (1893–1957)

Gladys Mitchell (1901–1983) 

Elizabeth Mackintosh (Josephine Tey) (1896–1952)

Technically, only the first four are dubbed "The Queens of Crime" but while Mitchell and Tey fell out of favor for some decades before being rediscovered by mystery readers, their work warrants their inclusion in the group. The body of work these women left behind captures my awe, particularly when I consider that neither the computer nor word processer was available to them. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Augusta Groner (1850-1929)


Augusta Groner (1850-1929), was a detective's writer who sometimes appeared under the more masculine pseudonym of August or Auguste Groner. She also published under the pseudonyms Olaf Björnson, A. of the Paura, Renorga, and Metis. 

We don't know a lot about her early life. She was the daughter of an accountant. She was born in Vienna on April 16, 1850, and was first published in 1869.  One of her brothers was the painter Franz Kopallik, and another was the theologian Josef Kopallik. She worked as a school teacher until she married journalist, Joseph Groner in 1879. Around 1890, she turned to crime fiction, creating the first serial police detective in German crime literature, Joseph Müller, who appears for the first time in the novella The Case of the Pocket Diary Found in the Snow, which was published in 1890. Her first novel, The Case of the Lamp that Went Out, was published in 1899.

Outside of Austria, she is most known for her crime stories. Although, she wrote several juvenile stories and historicals. Groner's work is often overlooked in the lists of women pioneers of detective fiction. I am sure that part of the reason she remains unknown to many American readers is that her stories were written in German. Fortunately for us, Groner's work has been translated and adapted by Grace Isabel Colbron (1869-1948). 

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Review: Three Treats too Many by Debra H. Goldstein


Three Treats Too Many is the third book in the Sarah Blair mystery series. In this installment, Sarah has partnered with her sister Emily and Emily's significant other Marcus to open a new restaurant in Wheaton, Alabama. Things don't get off to a good start when the final inspection delays her opening. Then her husband-stealing nemesis, Jane, opens a competing restaurant across the street. While they struggle with red tape in completing inspections, Jane and her new chef, Riley, are earning rave reviews for Riley's vegan offerings. 

When Riley turns up dead on the night of an event at Jane's Place, the police are convinced that Sarah and Emily's friend, Jacob, killed her in a fit of jealousy. Pulled into investigating by Jacob's sister, a local politico, Sarah enlists the help of her lawyer boss and friend, Harlan, as well as others in her circle to find out the truth. Jacob's troubles only deepen when the building inspector and fellow biker dies doing a motorcycle stunt and Jacob is suspected of tampering with his bike.

This well-written and entertaining mystery features a great cast of characters, which includes Sarah's cat RahRah and new puppy Fluffy. Being an animal lover, I adore that Sarah's devotion to her pets is a theme that is woven throughout the book, and actually plays a part, indirectly, in the mystery.

Wheaton is one of those charming, fictitious towns that you wish were real (murder notwithstanding!) because of how well the author has conceived of and describes the location and the residents. The mystery is well-plotted. I had not started to suspect who the killer might be until I was nearly at the end of the book. The motive for Riley's murder turned out to be a big surprise. I look forward to reading about the further adventures of Sarah, RahRah, and the rest of the gang!

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Family Game Night in the 1920s

A deck of cards, a checkerboard, or a chess set seemed a little hum-drum for my intrepid Three Snowbirds. I couldn't picture the ladies playing the Cootie Game they had been in France and seen first hand the infestations the troops suffered. This just wouldn't be Cornelia's idea of a fun evening with the family gathered around a board depicting a WWI battlefield where players moved little red cooties across the board to the "cootie trap." 

This led me to look into what sorts of games a family might gather around the dining table to play. The first one that caught my attention was Snakes and Ladders. Yes, the same board game I played with my daughter in the late 1970s was around in the 1920s. The board has hardly changed. 

I discovered a game called Hokum, which was one of the most popular of the decade. Since the game was unfamiliar to me I wanted to know how it was played. It turns out that Hokum is the forerunner of Bingo and the rules are very similar. 

In 1921 a new sensation hit the market, a board game based on The Wizard of Oz series. This was more than a decade before Judy Garland was carried off to Oz through the magic of Hollywood. The board game doesn't just take us on a tour of Munchkin Land, but all the magical lands in the kingdom of Oz. 

While we're talking of magic, let's not overlook the fascination with all things magical and mystical among us, Parker Brothers introduced a game called the Venician Fortuneteller. It never became as popular as the Mystifying Oracle Ouija or the Ouija Board as it is known today. I don't know about Cornelia, but I'm sure Teddy tried her hand at speaking to the spirit world. Her natural curiosity wouldn't let her miss out on Ouija.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Waif Wander: Mary Fortune (1833-19??)

Mary Fortune is a true woman of mystery. Her series of more than five hundred short detective stories was published in the Australian Journal and spanned more than forty years. At the time hers was the longest-running series in crime fiction. She also pioneered the case book form of writing detective stories, which was later used by Conan Doyle in his Sherlock Holmes stories. Seven of her stories were reprinted as THE DETECTIVE’S ALBUM: TALES OF THE AUSTRALIAN POLICE (1871), which was the first book of detective fiction published in Australia.

Mary also wrote poetry, serialized novels, worked as a journalist, and wrote an unreliable memoir. The latter contributed to the mystery surrounding her life. Nobody really knew who she was. Much of her work was published under the pseudonyms “Waif Wander” or just ‘W.W.” with her real name, identity, and, as W.W., even her gender hidden. In her autobiographical writing, there are a few clues to her life, but both she and the Australian Journal guarded her privacy.

Sadly, her desire for privacy was so pervasive that her death passed without any public attention. The exact date of her death remains a mystery. What little we know about her comes from a book collector, J.K. Moir, who began searching for ‘Waif Wander’ in the 1950s. Through his queries to people who might have known her, he located some manuscript poems and a letter signed "M. H. Fortune." It took another generation and the microfilming and indexing of documents from colonial Australia before more information about ‘Waif Wander’ was discovered.

Among the fragmentary information revealed in her autobiographical writing was the mention that she and her little son, George, immigrated to Australia from Canada in 1855. There was no mention of a husband. However, the clue of her immigration led to the discovery of an 1858 'Goldfields marriage' (a public marriage with no minister) of Mary Helena Fortune, nee Wilson to a mounted policeman named Percy Rollo Brett. His occupation also explained her knowledge of police procedures.

The marriage did not last, and in 1866 Brett married a second time without divorcing her. It seems, though, that Mary was the first person in the couple to commit bigamy. Her first husband, Joseph Fortune, died in Canada in 1861, six years after she and her son moved to Australia. There is no evidence that Joseph ever came to Australia, but in 1856 Mary named him the father of her second son, Eastbourne Vawdey Fortune.

The only surviving physical description of Fortune was part of a police inquiry: “40 years of age, tall, pale complexion, thin build; wore dark jacket and skirt, black hat, and old elastic - side boots. Is much given to drink and has been locked up several times for drunkenness. Is a literary subscriber to several of the Melbourne newspapers.”

What we know of her later life is from the 1909 letter J.K. Moir discovered. She was impoverished and nearly blind. Her magazine contributions stopped altogether in 1913. The Australian Journal granted her an annuity and continued reprinting her Detective Album series through 1919. After that, they hired other writers for the popular series which continued until 1933. She created the police procedural and developed the casebook style while Arthur Conan Doyle, who became famous for it, was still in the nursery.

Perhaps this final note on her death is the saddest commentary on her life. The impoverished author’s funeral was paid for by the Australian Journal and she was buried in someone else’s grave. Her final resting place remains unknown, as does whose name is on the gravestone.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

A Fresh Start

 I haven't been blogging for quite some time. There are so many writers' blogs out there that we don't need another voice telling readers about their writing journey or doing a "how to ..." blog. The simple truth is that I don't like talking about myself and don't have the kind of ego that leads me to want to be the expert of the day. 

So, what do I do with my writing blog?

After much thought about whether or not to remove the blog or use it, I have decided to talk about other writers, their journies, their struggles, and their work. I am going to focus mainly on women mystery writers because my favorite writers are all women and many of them don't get the attention they deserve. This is not to say that men will never appear on my blog. There are a few that I enjoy reading and will be happy to comment about their work. 

Oh, one more thing, expect history. I am a history junkie. In 2020 I did a presentation on women mystery writers who pioneered the genre. Many of them deserve more than a passing mention. I am going to profile some of them in my blog this year. 

If you stop by, you might discover a woman of mystery you didn't know before.