The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
originally published 1967
Dell, 6th printing, 1986
Genre: Children’s lit, mystery, suspense
Jacket copy: The first time Melanie Ross meets April Hall, she’s not sure they’ll have anything in common. But she soon discovers that they both love anything to do with ancient Egypt. When they stumble upon a deserted storage yard behind the A-Z Antiques and Curio Shop, Melanie and April decide it’s the perfect spot for the Egypt Game.
Before long there are six Egyptians instead of two. After school and on weekends they all meet to wear costumes, hold ceremonies, and work on their secret code.
Everyone thinks it’s just a game, until strange things begin happening tot he players. Has the Egypt Game gone too far?
Book report: When I’m ready for bed, I read a little. Sometimes, when I’m reading a massive tome (think The Game of Kings), I’ll pick up a lighter volume, usually YA, to read before bed so that I can properly relax without thinking too much. But there are certain books I shouldn’t read before bed, because then I don’t go to sleep. Such is the case with The Egypt Game, one of the many books I appropriated from elementary school teachers (sorry, Ms Kunishima!), which I picked up just before going to sleep, and them promptly read all the way through. It’s just that engaging. And good. Not to mention suspenseful. When things start happening in Egypt, it gives me chills.
Even though I’ve read it literally dozens of times since I was six, and sort of know exactly what happens, Snyder is just so dang good at creating tension and atmosphere that I’m gripped by it and cannot put it down. I haven’t read much else by her, but I can say definitively that The Egypt Game and Eyes in the Fishbowl are two of the finest examples of juvenile suspense fiction out there. And they were both penned back in the Sixties. Why was there such great kid fiction in the Sixties? Seriously: Harriet the Spy, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, The Outsiders (which I haven’t read, but I hear it rules), A Wrinkle in Time, The Pigman, etc etc etc, so on and so forth. Need I say more? Read the rest of this entry »
Date with a Dead Doctor by Toni Brill
Synopsis & Review: Midge “Call me Margaret!” Cohen, a former Russian professor turned children’s book author, has been through way too many set-ups thanks to her mother. Since divorcing her veterinarian husband Paul and moving from Ithaca back to New York, Midge has made an enjoyable life for herself, hammering out two girl’s summer camp mysteries and occasionally sleeping with her super, a Russian emigre named Sasha. And even though her mother’s set-ups always go wrong, when called late on a Saturday evening by one Dr Leon Skripnik, urologist, Midge reluctantly agrees to see him. Only as it turns out, he’s only interested in her Russian translation skills. But Midge needn’t hurry, because Leon Skripnik is found dead in his brownstone the next day.
Anxious to turn over Skripnik’s letter, from an elderly relative arriving from Israel in the next few days, Midge tries to reach his ex-wife Phyllis, and is instead mistaken for Skripnik’s mistress. But by the time she convinces Phyllis that she wasn’t in fact Skripnik’s mistress, Midge has become a person of interest as the last person to see Skripnik alive. Of course, with the gorgeous Detective Russo on the case, that might not be so bad. Then undiscovered Chagalls pop up, and yet more Russians, and when combined with Midge’s meddling mother and the sobbing, neurotic Phyllis, things are beginning to get a little out of Midge’s control.
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Sixteen Skeletons from My Closet edited by Robert Arthur
Dell, 1st printing, 1963
Genre: Horror, suspense, thriller
Synopsis & Review: Another AHP collection, this time of sixteen stories, and with an emphasis on mystery, thrillers, and crime fiction. Perhaps I’m picky, and just don’t like any crime fiction that’s not by Woolrich, Chandler, or Thompson; I don’t know. But this collection did very little for me. It was a bit of a chore to finish.
It’s a much more contemporary collection than Stories My Mother Never Told Me, with no stories from before 1957 or after 1961. So I would hazard a guess that they were all published in contemporary magazines about that time, and that this ought to represent the creme de la creme of thrillers of the day. But it doesn’t. Many of the efforts seem almost amateurish and transparent at best, and hopelessly uninteresting at worst. Read the rest of this entry »
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Fawcett Columbine, 3rd printing, 1996
Genre: thriller, mystery, literary fiction
Synopsis & Review: The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation. So Donna Tartt’s The Secret History opens, announcing Bunny’s death and that the story we are bout to read will explain how and why it happened, as well as what happened after. Our narrator is Richard Papen, a lower middle class Californian who transplants himself to a tiny liberal arts college in Hampden, Vermont, in search of beauty. Enchanted by a small group of Classics students, he joins their ranks, but not without some difficulty. Charming twins Charles and Camilla, the wealthy libertine Francis, the genius Henry, and the amusing Bunny make up the circle of disciples worshiping at the feet of Julian Morrow, who acts as Aristotle to the group. Charmed and thrilled to be part of the inner circle, Richard fabricates a glamorous wealthy background for himself and throws himself into their lives with abandon. Gradually, Richard learns what’s been going on in the background as he’s been getting acquainted with the group: while replicating a bacchanal, Henry, Francis, and the twins inadvertently committed a murder. Bunny, also left out on that occasion and resentful, knows too, but poses a threat to the group due to his erratic behavior. Drawn into the cover up, Richard and the others scheme to murder Bunny to protect themselves. What seems so simply achieved, however, grows more entangled and ugly as they begin facing the reality of what they’ve done.
Disclosure: As The Secret History is one of my all-time favorite books, always in my top five, and I’ve read it about a dozen times now. Since I am quite passionate about it, I find it difficult to be objective about it. So I will try to make this short, with a minimum of gushing. click here for more about The Secret History
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
Originally published 1951
Scribner Paperback, Simon & Schuster, 25th printing, 1995
Genre: mystery, historical fiction
Synopsis & Review: While laid up in the hospital due to a matter of a broken leg, Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard frets with boredom and inaction. Knowing his penchant for faces, his actress friend Marta Hallard brings in a selection of portraits from the National Museum, portraits of victims and perpetrators in some of history’s greatest mysteries. Fascinated by one fifteenth-century portrait in particular, Inspector Grant finds himself investigating the past trying to match the alleged crime to the portrait of a man variously described by Grant’s acquaintances as a judge, a saint, an invalid: Richard III. click here to continue reading about The Daughter of Time