We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Flashback post!

Bibliographic Information

Audiobook $19.60
Paperback $6.43
Hardback $120.00
Kindle $12.99
Associated ISBNs 9780140071078
9780143039976 — Paperback
9780143129547 — Paperback
9780606039505 — DEMCO Turtleback
9780141191454 — Paperback
9781101530658
9780891906230 — Hardcover
9780899685328 — Hardcover
9781448719518 — Glued Binding
9781435262225 — Glued Binding
9780822212263 — Paperback
9780445083219 — Paperback

Readers Annotation

A family tragedy has isolated two girls from the village that hates them.

Rating (VOYA)

3P, 5Q

This is an older novel, and it is a Gothic novel. While Gothic is more approachable than Horror, this still isn’t something some people are going to want to read.

This is a beautifully written novel full of feels.

Summary

Here we go. This isn’t really a spoiler, considering it’s been out since the ’60s, so I’m not trying to hide the summary today.

So the set-up is thus: Merricat, her sister Constance, and their Uncle Julian live in Blackwood manor. The rest of their family was tragically killed via arsenic poisoning.

The booke opens with Merricat needing to go to the village to get library books, groceries and stop to get a coffee (because routines are good). The whole time she’s running her errands she is thinking about how much the villagers hate her (and her family) and how much she would like to kill them all. Merricat stops for her coffee in the diner and gets cornered by one of the villagers who starts talking about how horrible the Blackwoods were, and how no one likes them, and how Constance murdered them all. When Merricat is finally able to escape she dashes home.

Constance never leaves the manor. Uncle Julian is half-infirmed due to the poisoning. Merricat keeps promising to be nicer to him. Constance gets two visitors. The second visitor asks about the poisoning. Uncle Julian starts telling her all about that fateful day. How everyone was sitting for breakfast except for Merricat (who was sent to her room with no food). The arsenic was in the sugar. Constance had washed the bowl because she had said there was a spider in it. The police could never convict her of the crime. The women visitors leave.

Merricat runs wild through the manor’s grounds, checking on her tailsmans which ward away the villagers and the bad things, in Merricat’s mind.

Soon, their cousin Charles comes to the manor. He insinuates himself into their lives. He starts to monopolise Constance’s time, starts wearing the girls’ father’s things, starts talking about money and more. He starts saying that Uncle Julian should be in a home. And he starts to try and punich Merricat for her behavior. He suggests she go to a bording school.

Somewhere between Charles arriving and the end of the book Constance brings up Merricat murdering the rest of the family.

Merricat gets so mad that she goes up to their father’s (now Charles’) room and knocks his cigarette (still smoking) in the trash, setting a fire. Soon the whole second floor of the manor is on fire. Charles keeps trying to get the safe out of the house (only concerned with the money). Constance and Merricat get out. The girls run from the manor. The villagers have come and have started wishing the manor would burn down. Eventually they convince themselves to put out the fire. They start pulling things from the manor and destroying things inside. The chase the girls and find Uncle Julian dead. They then realise they should leave.

The girls never leave the manor again. They don’t fix the manor. People start leaving them appology food on their doorsteps and time passes. The girls are happy in their home.

Evaluation

Ok people, here it is: We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I was on a old school horror kick when I got into Shirley Jackson, and here we are. I listened to The Haunting of Hill House while on vacation, and wanted to try another of the Gothic Queen’s books, and so enter We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

I don’t think I ever really read Gothic fiction before Shirley Jackson. I don’t know what I expected from Gothic fiction, but it wasn’t this. I think I had a more horror mind-set then Gothic, and they’re not necessarily the same thing. Gothic is this disquieting mood… it can be scary but its more about that feeling of quiet horror, of something not quiet right. This whole book is disquieting. Its not necessarily about the twists and turns (in fact they are pretty predictable in some ways) but it is about the characters and their feelings and the feeling that the story itself provokes.

Our characters are very fleshy. Merricat is a disquieting sociopathic-ish girl, who wants all the villagers to die and loves her sister. Her sister Cathy is a recluse (not by choice) and longs to be part of society but has embraced this secluded life they lead now. Uncle Julian is addled from arsenic poisoning, and Cousin Charles has come to prey upon their naivety and seclusion to get to their money. Some villagers have individual personalities, but for the most part they’re all lumped into the “they hate the Blackwoods” camp.

The mood of the book is visceral. You can feel Merricat’s dislike of the villagers and you can feel the villager’s hate for the Blackwoods.

The Blackwood home is a character in of itself. Its old, majestic and depressing. Home to the girls, memories and terrible tragedy.

Really, Jackson’s prose is on point here. This is some well crafted fiction. Its dripping with creepy vibes. This is a more accessible read than The Haunting… was, at least for me. I didn’t get lost in this story (though maybe that was the point with The Haunting…). I was absorbed in every word and every moment. I knew what was going on, I knew where it was going, but I was still riveted to see what was going to happen.

This isn’t a story of twists and turns. This is a story of feeling. And those feelings are exquisite.

Genre

Gothic

Horror

Readalikes

Tresspass by Rose Tremain

Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase

(Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier)

Significance

Shirley Jackson’s last novel, and her only non-paranormal novel. (Arguably her best novel)

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

Discuss the villagers and their feelings about the Blackwoods.

Talk about Cousin Charles.

Discuss how the girls/villagers reacted to the fire.

Author’s website

Shirley Jackson

Awards

none (Won Time’s best novels of 1962)

YALSA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults: Unreliable Narrators: Don’t Believe a Word (2016)

Reviews

PW

Kirkus (if working)

Why I Chose It

I had listened to The Haunting of Hill House and found it intriguing (and entirely unexpected) and wanted to try this one (toted as Jackson’s other great work).

Other Information

Coming to a theater near you! (2017 release date?)

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Oath of Office

Bibliographic Information

Audiobook $25.70
Paperback $7.96
Hardback $8.74
Kindle $7.99
Associated ISBNs 9780312587536
9780312587543 — Paperback
9781429950435
9781410447470 — Hardcover

Readers Annotation

There’s something making people kill and Dr. Lou Welcome is on the case.

Rating (VOYA)

3P, 3Q

Its not super well written (there are character flaws and plot flaws).

Its not everyone’s cup of tea (medical thriller?).

Summary

Ok here we go…

Dr John Meacham has just seen a patient. He knows that everyone in his office heard and saw what happened. He needs to take care of it. There needs to be NO WITNESSES. So he loads his gun and kills everyone in his office before turning the gun on himself.

Dr Lou Welcome works for an office that evaluates Dr.s down on their luck, or who have had their licenses temporarily revoked. Lou had evaluated Dr Meacham and found him fit to practice. So when Lou finds out about Meacham’s shooting spree, he’s shocked, and knows that this will get his own license put on pause and his job suspended (since they’re going to blame him since he was the one who said Meacham could go back to work).

Lou finds Meacham’s behavior strange and out of character. He goes to the hospital where they took Meacham (who was not killed when he shot himself). He watches as the doctors in the hospital act weird and do things he wouldn’t do and which ultimately leads to Meacham’s death. Lou finds Meacham’s distraught wife and offers to take her home. She insists on driving. She’s acting strange, super focused and crazy, saying she needs to catch up to a cat in front of them because his taillight is out. She’s driving erratically and dangerously, and Lou keeps trying to talk her down and get her to pull over. They get pulled over by the police, the chief of police of Kings Ridge. He’s heard about Meacham, and knows Meacham’s wife, and doesn’t give them a ticket.

Meanwhile, Darlene is the first lady. Her husband is in a spot of trouble because the Secretary of Agriculture had to resign because of a scandal with an underage prostitute. Darlene and her PA are at a bar when the former Secretary (whom Darlene has known most of her life) approaches. He says that he was framed, but he isn’t asking her to get his job back. He’s asking her to see if her husband can move some of the legislation that he was working on through because it is important to the country. Darlene says she will.

Darlene’s husband completely blows up at her for even talking to the former Secretary, and makes her swear to never bring up the subject again.

Lou starts talking to the police chief and talks about his theory: that something is making people in Kings Ridge act nuts. The chief says he’ll help Lou however he can. They go to the home of the woman Meacham had examined before his breakdown and talk to her. She tells them that Meacham just got upset about her eating habits again. Lou asked if she saw him anywhere outside of the office and she said: Millie’s diner.

Lou meets up with his father for dinner at Millie’s diner. They order and chat about Lou’s case and his father’s latest scheme. And then the kid behind the counter tries to cut off his hand. They rush him to the hospital (not the one in Kings Ridge at Lou’s insistence) and the doctor’s there are able to save the kid’s hand. Millie is super grateful to Lou and the two talk about the diner and the people in the town.

Meanwhile, Darlene is approached by someone she starts calling “double M,” he plays the tape of the girl getting contracted to set up the Secretary and tells her to meet him. Darlene and the PA set up a clever scheme for Darlene to sneak away from her guards. Double M tells her to find the girl. Darlene’s personal guard guy knows that she snuck off, and tells her he doesn’t care what she’s doing, but to make sure he’s there. So, he uses some connections to find some girls the girl used to work with. Darlene learns about the girl, and then does some research. She finds that the girl is dead in Florida.

Lou boxes. Lou finds that he’s being tailed. With some advice from his boxing coach, he slips out of his apartment. Coach, George, Lou and the dumb guy, trail the tail. They end up in a corn field. They notice the corn is weird. Then get attacked. The dumb guy gets killed, George and Lou get chased by a killer combine. They escape.

The next day, Lou, Coach and George bring the police out to the field. They meet the guy who runs the place (who’s super suspicious) and the guy’s son. They get the brush off.

Lou talks to the kid who tried to cut his hand off, and finds that the kid has giant man-eating termites as pets. He finds this disturbing and suspicious. Lou gets contacted by Darlene. Lou and Darlene go to talk to an entomologist. He says “yeah those aren’t natural.” He dissects the queen Lou brought. Lou gets some equipment from the entomologist to help him search for the hive.

Darlene talks to her husband about the mutant corn and the termites. He gets pissed and says he’s not going to do anything about it. And that he’s made a deal with the Chinese in exchange for that corn. Darlene wonders who this man is and where her husband has gone.

Lou tracks the termites back to an old looking shack in the woods, near the farm with the mutant corn. He surmises that this is the place where they’ve been experimenting on the corn/termites. He calls the police chief. The chief is ranting to Lou as he opens the cabin with a key and continues ranting as he leads Lou down into the lab. Lou finally grasps that the chief was in on it the whole time (too late). The chief attacks. Lou escapes. The farmer’s son ends up being “double M.” Double M and the chief end up going over the platform above a pit of termites and getting eaten alive. Lou manages to escape.

Lou tells his ex-wife, her new husband and daughter to go hide for a little bit since powerful people are trying to kill him and may try to hurt him by hurting them. He then gets a call from the farmer saying he has Lou’s friends (Coach and George). Lou must go meet with him.

Lou jumps on a moving train thinking he can get to Coach and George before they’re to be killed. He gets Coach and George free, but then all three get captured. They’re put in a silo and the farmer starts interrogating them and pouring corn on them. They’re about to suffocate when they’re rescued by the army. Darlene had convinced her husband to do something. He now needs to resign.

Lou and Darlene agree that though they have feelings for each other, Darlene is staying with her husband.

Evaluation

Now that I’ve thought about it, I am reminded of that time I read Prey by Michael Crichton. Science gone wrong! But medical science this time. I hadn’t even made the connection before… I blame Goodreads and putting a Robin Cook book in the Readalikes (note to self: finally read a Robin Cook book).

Anyway….

This was a good way to spend 10.5 hours. It wasn’t revolutionary, it wasn’t super awesome, but it was a pretty good book that I liked listening to.

Look, there’s a pretty forced love story (because what book doesn’t have a love story, and all female characters need to be involved in one you know…), the plot has some issues, and it wasn’t super thrilling. But, despite that overwhelming praise, it was a nice book.

I like Lou Welcome. He’s a doctor bouncing back from some tough times. He’s got strained family relationships, and he’s got good family relationships. Its nice to see two divorced characters getting along. His relationship with his daughter is great. And other than the forced love interest, he’s a really well formed character.

Darlene (the first lady) isn’t a very compelling character. She is a flawed character for sure (super trusting, faithful to her dumbass husband), but her flaws don’t make her interesting. She’s flat and one dimensional, as are her friends and even her husband.

Lou’s boxing buddies were pretty well thought out. They, while not completely 3 dimensional, were at least fun characters with personality.

D.C. is a big part of the book, and has some good description. Kings Ridge, however, is much more fleshed out than the nation’s capitol. Its got that small town vibe, and it really shows how small town people interact.

Its not the best mystery, for sure. Its not super thrilling. But it was a good way to spend some time (though I may have had a moment when I said aloud “you dumbass,” and I haven’t done that since the Dan Brown incident).

Genre

Medical Thriller

Suspense

Readalikes

Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline

Cell by Robin Cook

Significance

Modern science gone wrong book with a mystery.

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

How believable is evil super corn?

Is what Millie did so wrong? What would you have done if you were in her shoes?

Discuss President and his decisions.

Author’s website

Michael Palmer

Awards

none

Reviews

Kirkus

PW

Why I Chose It

I kept seeing the third book in the series (Resistant) and wanted to read that one, so I thought I’d start with the first.

Other Information

I Am Not A Serial Killer

Bibliographic Information 

Audiobook $22.00
Paperback $12
Hardback $19.61
Kindle $8.51
Associated ISBNs 9780765322470
9780755348817
9780765327826 — Paperback
9780765362360 — Paperback
9781429934848

Rating (VOYA)

3Q, 3P

While I love this book, its a 3Q because its not the most well written book, and it may have some plotting issues.

3P because I may love it, but surprise Paranormal may throw people off and not everyone is all about the murder/sociopaths.

Readers Annotation

John’s not a serial killer, but someone in his town is.

Summary

John Wayne Cleaver lives in a small town with his mother. His father left some years ago and they rarely talk. His mother and aunt work in the mortuary below the house. His estranged sister is their secretary. John occasionally gets to help embalm the corpses.

SPOILERS BELOW! HIGHLIGHT TO READ!!

We start with a murder. Someone in the town has been slashed apart and its making headlines. It’s also gained John’s attention. John is obsessed with serial killers. He’s also a sociopath, but is quick to point out he’s not a serial killer. He writes his school papers on serial killers. He only has one friend, but John doesn’t really have friends (because he’s a sociopath) but there is one kid he hangs out with so it seems like he’s more normal. His “friend” is kind of a douchebag.

The murder gets John thinking. He goes to the place where the man was killed. He notices a pile of black goo. He heads home. He anxiously awaits the body’s inevitable arrival downstairs. His mother is unhappy that he wrote another paper on a serial killer.

John sees a therapist once a week. His therapist Dr Nesbit is the only person who can somewhat understand John and who he is.

A second murder occurs, much like the first one. John starts to think that there’s a serial killer. He starts putting the pieces together. He talks to his friend about the “whys” of the case until his friend gets weirded out. 

He and his mother have a big falling out, and John is banned from helping with the embalming. 

John goes to a dance at school with his friend. At the dance, he meets a girl and talks with her (and later realizes he likes he… sort of). They are interrupted by a bully. John calmly threatens to murder him, which scares him and the girl off.

John’s mother hears about the incident and John has to talk to Dr Nesbit about it. He reveals that he has a set of simple rules so that he can prevent himself from becoming a serial killer: not watching people, not talking to one person for long, and so forth. He developed these rules from studying serial killers, because while he really doesn’t understand people, he really doesn’t want to be a serial killer.

Near Christmas, John notices his neighbor (Mr. Crowley) picking up a suspicious drifter to go ice fishing. John trails them on his bike, thinking the old man is stupid for picking up a drifter who obviously is going to try to kill him. He watches from the trees, secretly berreating himself for only watching and not stopping what’s about to happen. However, it turns out the drifter is the victim. Mr. Crowley is a demon. His fingers turn to claws and he rips the drifter apart. He takes an organ from the drifter, pulls out the same organ from his own body and switches them. His former organ turns to black goo. Then he drags the body away to dispose of it.

John is beside himself. He knows no one will believe him, and he knows he’ll have to do something. He starts to monitor Crowley’s behavior and movements. He starts breaking his own rules, knowing he’ll need to in order to keep an eye on Crowley and eventually kill him.

One night Crowley goes out to “watch the game” but John knows there is no game on that night, which means that Crowley is going out hunting. He follows on his bike and Crowley seems to get more frantic trying to find a victim. He finds one in an alley. John calls the police and waits. Crowley kills the man and takes part of him. The police arrive and there is a showdown. The police are slaughtered. Crowley takes another piece to replace his own failing pieces from one of the policemen. 

John realizes that breaking his rules is helping him start to spiral out of control. He realizes he’s stalking the girl from the dance, and threatens his mother. Even Dr. Nesbit seems concerned with John’s behavior. John needs to come up with a plan.

John comes to the realization that Crowley is trying to wait as long as possible to replace his organs. So John devises a plan. He starts leaving Crowley notes that say something like “I know what you are/did.” Crowley starts to freak out. Crowley waits so long in fact, that the next time that he needs to replace something he can’t go to his normal hunting grounds and kills one of the people from the town, who happens to be John’s friend’s dad.

The town host a memorial. John doesn’t entirely understand the point and wants to go home. He also doesn’t understand why the people are only morning for two of the townspeople and not the rest of the people that the killer has killed. John realizes he doesn’t understand why Crowley is doing this.

He talks with Dr. Nesbit, and brings up a “hypothetical” situation to get his opinion. “Why would a demon stay if he had to kill to and clearly didn’t like killing?” Dr. Nesbit helps John realize that he doesn’t understand because the demon clearly loves his wife. 

When Crowley can no longer keep from feeding, John puts his plan into motion. He sneaks into Crowley’s house and sneaks up to his wife’s room. He grabs her camera and starts taking pictures, getting gradually closer to her. He then bashes her over the head. He can’t stop himself and keeps hitting her. He barely pulls himself away and calls Dr Nesbit. He tells Dr. Nesbit that he can’t stop. Dr. Nesbit talks John down and says he’s coming over to see him. John hangs up. He ties up Mrs. Crowley and keeps taking pictures. Then he starts sending them to Mr. Crowley. 

Crowley speeds home and John barely has time to escape out the back door. He needs to sneak around Crowley’s care to get safely home. He looks through the passenger side door and there is Dr Nesbit. The man had come out to go help John and had gotten killed for it. John drags the body out of the car after realizing Crowley hadn’t stolen any organs from it. He hides the body behind the garage. Crowley comes out of the house furious and starts hunting for John and Dr Nesbit’s body.

At this point in time, John’s mother wakes up and finds him gone. She starts freaking out. John sees that his mother is coming out of the house and so does Crowley. John makes a mad dash to get to her and the two of them race through the house towards the embalming room with Crowley hot on their tales.

They reach the embalming room and defeat Crowley.

Evaluation

I did not expect where this book was going. I honestly thought it was just about a sociopath trying not to kill people (sort of ala Dexter). There was more to it this book than that.

I loved John Wayne Cleaver. This little sociopath is amazing. Not only is he aware of his own tendencies, he is trying desperately to not become what he could be. He is such an aware teenager (which, now that I think about it is a bit of an oddity). The great thing about John is that he just doesn’t understand people’s emotional motivations (and duh, he’s a sociopath). Nearing the climax he wonders why the demon is staying in town, and it just never crosses his mind that its staying because it loves its wife. Oh John… he just needs someone to understand him.

Point being, the characters are great. Learning about the characters from John’s perspective really gives you a different sort of insight into them. John doesn’t necessarily understand people or their motivations, but we can see them through him. John’s mom is an interesting character who is trying so hard but just doesn’t get it. His “best friend” is kind of a douche. His aunt is almost sympathetic. Dr. Nesbit is the only one who really understands John, and it comes through in his point of view.

Clayton is a small town, and you can tell. Its not the most graphically depicted, but you can feel how small it is through the way John talks about it.

Plot-wise, this one took a turn on me (as previously stated). I can see where people looking for a Dexter sort of deal may not like the turn to the paranormal, but since I love paranormal I didn’t have a problem with the twist. However, despite the paranormal turn of events, I thought this was a great introspection on a sociopath’s life experience. Have I mentioned how much I like John?

Genre

Horror

Mystery

Paranormal

Readalikes

Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis

Killer Instinct by S.E. Green

Significance

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

What did you think about the paranormal twist?

What did you think about the Wells’ portrayal of a sociopath?

What would you do if you knew you could potentially be a serial killer (psychopath)?

Author’s website

Dan Wells

Awards

Reviews

Kirkus

Publishers Weekly

Why I Chose It

This book sounded like an interesting introspection into the mind of a sociopath.

Other Information

Falling Angel

Bibliographic Information 

Audiobook
Paperback $13
Hardback $19.57
Kindle $6.15
Associated ISBNs 9780312957957
9781933618081 — Paperback
9781453271131 — Paperback
9781933618098 — Hardcover
9781842431542 — Paperback
9781453246702 — Paperback
9780446314329 — Paperback
9781453246580
9781453281703
9781480480742 — Hardcover

Rating (VOYA)

3Q, 3P

This book is pretty well written given the subject and era it was written in but its not perfect.

This won’t be jumping off the shelves. Its an older book, with a plot that won’t appeal to everyone and a subject that could hold it back.

Readers Annotation

Harry Angel is hired to find a man gone missing from a medical ward… 15 years ago.

Summary

Harry Angel is a P.I. in New York City. He has just been hired to find Johnny Favourite, a former big band singer and current coma patient, by Louis Cypher. Harry goes upstate to see if he can visit Johnny, but when he gets to the hospital they tell him that Johnny was transferred to a military hospital 15 years ago. Harry calls the VA hospital and they tell him that Johnny was never there.

(SPOILERS AHEAD, HIGHTLIGHT TEXT FOR FULL SUMMARY)

Harry breaks into Johnny’s doctor’s house and snoops around looking for clues. When the doctor gets home, Harry blackmails him with his morphine habit but the doctor won’t talk. Harry ties the doctor up to his bed and goes for a walk to give the doctor time to think about his information request. When he comes back he finds that the doctor has apparently committed suicide.

Harry returns to New York and gives an update to his client. He gets information from the newspaper about Johnny’s life before he disappeared. He finds out about Johnny’s ex-fiance and bandmates. He puts in calls to the bandmates and tracks one “Toots” Sweet to a club in Harlem and an M. Krusemark. He finds that M. Krusemark is the fiance’s (Margaret) sister and a fortune teller.

“Toots” Sweet and Harry talk about what Johnny was like back in the day (no friends, hanging out with mystical people, perhaps not a liker of black people). “Toots” tells Harry that Johnny had a black mamba (voodoo priestess) on the side and Harry ducks out to check out her place of business. Johnny’s woman is dead, but her daughter Epiphany now runs the store. She denies being involved in voodoo. Harry returns to the club and talks again with “Toots” until Harry touches on some things that “Toots” doesn’t want to talk about. “Toots” clams up and Harry decides to follow him home.

“Toots” doesn’t go straight home though, he stops in Central Park to participate in a voodoo ritual, led by Epiphany. After the ritual is completed “Toots” heads home. Harry follows him in and threatens him to get information and then heads home.

Harry returns to check in with “Toots” the next day, only to find him slaughtered on his bed with voodoo symbols written in his blood on the wall. Harry is harassed by the police, who think he’s murdered “Toots.” Harry tries to talk to Epiphany, but she isn’t in her store. He goes up to check out her apartment above the store. He hears her leaving and follows her straight to Margaret Krusemark. The women discuss Harry trying to find out about Johnny. They leave and head in separate directions. Harry follows Margaret.

Margaret goes to her father, the shipping tycoon. Harry poses as a window washer to and eavesdrops on their conversation. Margaret and her father talk about Harry and Johnny. After Margaret and her father leave, Harry comes in to the building, he finds an invitation for Mr Krusmark to attend a Black Mass (satanic mass) and leaves in a hurry. He has lunch and then decides to check in on Margaret.

Margaret has been murdered, her heart pulled from her chest and put on display. Harry tears a page from her calendar (which had his name on it), the astrology map she had made for him, and anything else he thinks will incriminate him and goes home.

Later Epiphany finds him. She’s afraid for her life. She tells him that Johnny Favourite was her father. Harry invites her to stay with him. They have a lot of (not explicit) sex. The next day the police come calling again. After they leave Harry and Epiphany go to a church where El Cifer (Louis Cypher in black face) is performing. When they return after a creepy fire-and-brimstone performance, they hole up in bed. The next day Harry tells Epiphany to stay home while he goes to see the Black Mass.

Harry takes cameras and his gun with him to the Mass, being held in the subway tunnels. The Mass includes creepy masks and cloaks, baby sacrifice, virgin defiling and an orgy. Harry takes pictures of it all, paying special attention to the tycoon Krusemark. After the ceremony, Harry confronts Krusemark for answers. Krusemark and his daughter had sprung Johnny and paid off the doctor at the clinic. Johnny had performed a ritual to fool the devil, with whom he had brokered a deal, into not collecting his due. He sacrificed a soldier and taken over his life. Krusemark and Harry get into a fight, and Krusemark gets electrocuted on the third rail.

Rattled by these relevations, Harry rushes back to Margaret’s apartment to find a vase that Krusemark had detailed in his story. He breaks open the vase to find Harry Angel’s dog tags. He knows who he is.

Louis Cypher aka Lucifer, talks to Johnny, telling him he can never escape and then leave. Harry/Johnny immediately thinks of Epiphany and runs home. The police are already there, Epiphany has been murdered and Johnny realizes he’ll never escape and will burn in hell.

Evaluation

I’m not sure I really enjoyed this book, which is sad to me. I literally may have fallen asleep at times, but I trucked through (b/c I was already halfway done and damnit I could finish this book, it wasn’t that long). I found it hard to avoid the spoilers (but did discover that it was turned into an awful looking ’80s movie) since this is an older book.

I really wanted to like this book. I just didn’t. I’m not sure if it was the pacing (slow), the characters (kind of boring), the plot (actually pretty inventive) or the fact that it was a Noir (never read one of those before).

Look… its got a really interesting plot with some really interesting ideas… but I just found it so boring (though those last 40 or so pages were pretty exciting). I don’t know.

New York was pretty vivid. Hjortsberg spent a lot of time laying out the details of New York (Ts, cabs, neighborhood, and so much more). New York was well drawn out, and so was the social climate of the book. Talk about dated language! But it was so fitting. It set the mood. It helped form the world. The world the book was set in was detailed.

However, the characters weren’t super compelling. I wasn’t particularly moved by Harry Angel, or his quest. Cipher became intriguing as the book went on (and as his identity was being revealed). Epiphany might have been the only compelling character, and even then she was thin but interesting. This book wasn’t big on character.

I don’t know, I was so disconnected and bored by a book that should have been exciting.

Genre

Mystery

Horror

Readalikes

Mr. Clarinet by Nick Stone

The Long Fall by Walter Mosley

Significance

A Noir style mystery with Voodoo elements and a horror twist.

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

Did you figure out who Louis Cypher really was?

What did you think about the ending?

Let’s talk about identity and how it ties in with the book.

Author’s website

William Hjortsberg

Awards

None

Reviews

Kirkus

Amazon

Why I Chose It

This book sounded like a great mix of Noir and Horror with some identity crisis thrown in.

Other Information

Catering to Nobody

Bibliographic Information 

Audiobook $49.00
Paperback $7.19
Hardback $12.97
Kindle $3.99
Associated ISBNs 9780553584707
9780449220467 — Paperback
9781574902044 — Hardcover
9780312042776 — Hardcover
9781575110202

Rating (VOYA)

3Q, 3P

As a cozy mystery, this one wasn’t bad but it wasn’t super well written. I had some issues with the plot and characters.

I think this one is a little dark for most cozy readers, and not dark enough for mainstream thriller/mystery readers.

Readers Annotation

 

Summary

After her son’s teacher commits suicide, Goldy must cater the wake. However her ex father-in-law, Fritz, is poisoned and her catering business is shut down. Goldy decides to investigate the poisoning and the teacher’s suicide in order to get her business running again. She works with Shultz, the policeman she starts dating, to solve the crime while trying to reach out to her son Arch who was close to the teacher.

Goldy looks through the teacher’s house under the pretense of looking at it to buy. She breaks into the teacher’s locker at the gym and looks at the teacher’s medical file at Fritz’s office.

In the meantime she struggles to pay the bills by cleaning other people’s homes. Arch is acting out despite Goldy’s attempts to reach out to him and her roommate Patty Sue is acting strange. She meets up with her friend and fellow ex-wife Marla.

Arch discovers a bloody knife in a car Goldy borrows from Fritz. Goldy’s ex mother-in-law over self medicates and dies. Goldy figures out it was Fritz who killed the teacher, his wife, and was manipulating a now pregnant Patty Sue into having sex with him. Fritz tries to take Goldy  out but Arch and Pomeroy (another teacher) take Fritz out. It turns out that Pomeroy was the one poisoning Fritz because he hold Fritz responsible for his wife’s death.

Evaluation

This wasn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t earth moving. I had a lot of issues with Goldy’s relationship with Shultz and its believability. I also had some issues with Arch, but he’s a teenage boy so that might just be why. The plot was a little unbelievable, in that there’s no way she would have had tacit police acceptance of her investigating, and the whole idea of her “investigation” was pretty crazy. Goldy and Arch were the only characters that were really three dimensional. All the other characters were pretty glossed over. I don’t think I really believed the setting or action. It was a small town, but I’ve read better depictions of small towns (Agatha Raisin).

I think this might not entirely work for its intended audience. Its a little dark for a cozy mystery, and the casual mentions of spousal abuse are really off-putting. Its not as fun as most other cozy mysteries.

Genre

Cozy mystery, Gentle Read

Readalikes

Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke

A Taste for Murder by Claudia Bishop

Significance

One of the first cozy mysteries.

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

What do you think about Goldy’s relationship with Shultz?

How believable is it that Goldy was able to conduct her own investigation?

Was this an acurate depiction of small town life?

Author’s website

Diane Mott Davidson’s Facebook page

Awards

 

Reviews

PW

Kirkus

Why I Chose It

Another required read. However, I’ve secretly been wanting to see if these were any good because I appreciate a good punny title.

Other Information