Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Book notes on two books, two detectives - Siri Paiboun and Sheila Malory




53. Thirty-Three Teeth - book 2 in the Dr. Siri Paiboun series
by Colin Cotterill
mystery, 2005
library book fifteen
Nook book 20
finished 10/18/12





"Thirty-three teeth. It's almost unheard of. The Lord Buddha also had thirty-three … It's a sign, an indication that you've been born as a bridge to the spirit world."
"And you believe all this?" Siri asked as he began to use his tongue to count the teeth in his own mouth.
Isn't this exactly what you would do? I know I did, as I read this passage. (I don't have thirty-three, thank goodness!)

In this second chapter in the life of Siri Paiboun, coroner for the country of Laos in the 1970s, he learns more about who he is, and just why he does have connections with the dead, with the spirits. This mystical connection is a very big part of Siri's life and work. There are kindly spirits, like an old woman who appears eating betel nuts. She doesn't do anything; she is merely there. But then there are the Phibob, really malevolent ghosts who are angry at Siri from the first book. There is a bear on the loose, who is appearently killing people, but which visits Siri while he is in bed, and then just leaves. There's a chest that should not be opened. There are other deaths that Siri must look into.

As in all good series, this second book allows the reader to get to know the main characters better which enriches one's appreciation of the book. There is a tremendously strong sense of the Laotian setting, the weather, and the political climate. I am fascinated by these books, and highly recommend the series.


 


54. Mrs. Malory and the Fatal Legacy - book 10 in the Mrs. Malory series
by Hazel Holt
mystery, 1999
finished 10/23/12






Have you heard they came up with updated covers for the Mrs. Malory series? I'm hoping that cute cat will draw many new readers to this really exceptional cozy mystery series. Mrs. Malory is smart, educated, an author of books on 19th century writers, a great mother, a good citizen. And she comes upon crimes, through no intention of her own. When I pick up one of these books, I can feel an inner sigh of contentment. I know what I'm going to find, I know that Mrs. M. is unchanging, though events around her do change. I can fully relax. The author isn't going to kill off her son, or have some horror happen to dear Sheila.

Even though Sheila Malory is some years younger than I am, I feel she is a most motherly figure. She works things out so well. She is exceedingly kind to people, and greatly helps them through their problems, all the time being humble and completely free of any self-aggrandizement. This particular book finds her in London after the death of her college friend, a famous writer. She has been appointed the literary executor. As Hazel Holt was the same for Barbara Pym, I expect all those details were, as the British say, 'spot on.' Sheila stays with her cousin Hilda, a delightful character who is brusque and self-contained and who is only beginning to show her softer side in middle-age when she finds herself the owner of a Siamese cat. She and Sheila have very good conversations about the world, both past and present, and they truly enjoy one another's company. 

The death of her old friend brings Sheila into contact with the friends they knew in common when they were young. Late in the book one of them perfectly describes Sheila.
"I always said you were bright. You never had the ability to pursue an argument that Beth had, nor her clear, logical mind, but I remember how you used to make these intuitive leaps that landed you where we both were without going through any of the thought processes. I see you're still at it!"
 There's an interview with author Hazel Holt, in which she says something so startling, so unusual. 
I read virtually no fiction published after 1950.
Perhaps this is the reason her writing is so timeless, so not trendy. This is a marvelous mystery series with intelligent, literate writing. Hazel Holt in in a league of her own. Every time I read a Mrs. Malory book I am so very impressed. I've now read eleven, and when I finish the series, I may go back and read them all again.

27 comments:

  1. I enjoyed the first book so I will look forward to this second of Siri.

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    1. I'm so tickled that my state library has a slew of them to borrow and read on my Nook.

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  2. Just been to the dentist, so I didn't have to count my teeth (I can still hear the hygienist doing that).... I am going to see if I can find the Mrs Mallory series at the library.

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    1. I laughed right out when I read this. Delightful! You will LOVE Mrs. M. The list in order is here:
      http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/h/hazel-holt/

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    2. Oh, and if you are interested, you could go to the authors tab and scroll down to Hazel Holt to read more about some Mrs. M books.

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  3. Oh, dear. Now I have two more books that I'm dying to read and in the midst of writing grants and updating "plans" and all the things one must do to continue to fund our early childhood program, I must stay frustrated for awhile longer!!

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    1. One of results of the internet is learning about SO many books. Like Mr. Monk says, 'a blessing and a curse.' :<)

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  4. Sadly, my local library does not show any entries for Hazel Holt in their online catalogue, but there is plenty on Amazon's Kindle store, so I may splash out on some of her books - you make them sound like exactly my kind of book!

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    1. You might ask your mother-in-law if she reads HH. She really is a wonderful writer.

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  5. These both sound good books - I'm in sympathy with Hazel Holt's statement that she has read no fiction published after 1950. I'm a bit like that myself:) I shall go and look on Amazon now and see whether I can locate either of these series.

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    1. Gosh, they should be in your 'charity' shops that I read about on many English blogs. I think she is probably more well-known there than here, but I could be wrong.

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  6. Nan - I LOVE Hazel Holt and Mrs. Malory! I have to use interlibrary loan, and sometimes I get them in the Large Print section, but everyone has been a delight. I am trying not to gobble them up all at once. I will look for the Dr. Siri books. Also, I have to tell you that I love your banner. It might just as eaily be the look west from my house. Thank you.

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  7. I too am in sympathy about reading no fiction published after 1950. While I do (and a great deal of it in fact), there is something comforting about books that were written before then. I'm a huge fan of vintage fiction and am in fact reading one now by Temple Bailey called "The Blue Window." It was published in 1926(!) and belonged to my grandmother. I don't feel that it's dated at all, just good writing and a good plot.

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    1. 'Just good writing' - isn't that the truth! That's why I love such writers as D.E. Stevenson, and some of Elizabeth Cadell's work. A good story, with good characters is what I want.

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  8. I love the Sheila Malory books - they're set in Somerset in the west of England and Taviscombe is a fictionalised version of the seaside resort of Minehead. I'm a great fan of 'cozies' which is why I'm writing them myself now. One of the reviews for my last book, 'Murder Fortissimo', said my sleuth, Harriet, reminded the reader of Mrs Malory. You can imagine how proud I am of that!

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    1. I am so sorry I haven't yet read your book. It's been an odd reading year for me, and I hope to read it next year.

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  9. That's funny. I was counting my teeth with the title. I was just on another blog that was asking for recommendations of early 20th century fiction. I suggested Edith Wharton. Can't go wrong with her.
    Oh, I wanted to tell you about a new meme I started on Mondays in case you want to play along On Mondays, you’ll find My Dreaming of France meme

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    1. I know so many love her work, but I can't seem to get into it.
      Thanks for telling me about the meme. I shall check it out!

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  10. I like the Mrs. Malorys, too! (And I also like the painting at the top today!)

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    1. She is such a good character - and thanks!

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  11. I haven't read this one of the Mrs Malory books - they are remarkably hard to come by, so I was delighted when they started to be reissued in the US and available on Kindle. But I ration myself to one every few months, because they are such a pleasure. I like the Siri Paiboun books, too - much as I love books written before 1950, I think I'd be missing out on a lot if I restricted myself to that period.

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    1. I am just so surprised that they aren't everywhere over there.
      And yes, I've read many, many wonderful books written after that date!

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  12. So glad that your readers of this blog, Nan, who have read Hazel Holt's Sheila Malory novels enjoy them so much. And if this is the latest to be published in the USA, there are plenty more to follow!
    Margaret P

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    1. They've all been published here. I bought mine used, and still have a few more to add. I think the reissues should bring new readers to this wonderful series.

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  13. Nan, if you look at www.savistamagazine.com you will see my interview with Hazel Holt in last month's issue of this lovely online mag for the over 50s.
    Margaret P

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    1. I found it! And I've bookmarked it to read later. I'm delighted. Thanks.

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