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Winter 2023 Reading Re-cap

After a short break, Brook and Sarah return with the first episode of Season 6: a recap of their reading over the winter 2023 break.


In Cold Blood (1966) Truman Capote

To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) Harper Lee

The Twyford Code (2022) Janice Hallett

The Appeal (2021) Janice Hallett

Brook’s list

The Last Devil to Die (2023) Richard Osman

Murder at the Vicarage (1930) Agatha Christie

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee (2019) Casey Cep

The Christmas Appeal (2023) Janice Hallett

Mother Daughter Murder Night (2023) Nina Simon (Sarah’s recommendation for Brook)

Sarah’s list

Opium and Absinthe: A Novel (2020) Lydia Kang

Murder at the Vicarage (1930) Agatha Christie

The Christmas Card Crime (2018) Martin Edwards (Ed.)

Long Time Coming (2010) Robert Goddard (Brook’s recommendation for Sarah)

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This transcript is generated by a computer and there may be some mis-spellings and strange punctuation. We try to catch these before posting, but some things slip through.

SarahWelcome to Clued in Mystery. I’m Sarah.
BrookAnd I’m Brook and we both love mystery hi Sarah we’re back for season. 5
SarahHi Brook.
BrookHi Sarah! We’re back for Season 6.
SarahI know I cannot believe it. We’ve been doing this for almost two years.
BrookI know it’s really exciting. And to be honest I couldn’t believe we were on six. So, we’re looking forward to 2024 and a lot of fun things, even just in the first part of the year. So make sure you follow us on all the places and so you can stay clued in.
SarahSo today we are recapping our Winter 2023 TBR lists. So before the holiday break we each shared what we were planning to read. And, Brook, why don’t I start. I’ll talk about a book that I actually. That was on my list but I didn’t finish. And that is Opium and Absinthe by Lydia Kang. So, this is a historical mystery and it is set just at the turn of the twentieth century. So, 1899 in New York and for whatever reason I just could not get into this I think maybe there’s a couple of…actually I think there’s a couple of reasons I didn’t get into it. One the main character and it’s in the title, it’s in the description but she becomes addicted to drugs and I have never enjoyed watching or reading anything that is kind of around drugs. Although I did actually just finish a book in November that was about drug use and managed to get through that. This one I just couldn’t get into it. And the other reason is that I was also reading another historical fiction set about a decade earlier and I think I just kept getting the two books mixed up in my head. And a third reason is that I was reading this as an ebook which I for whatever reason have really been struggling with reading ebooks lately. Turning to hard copy books or audiobooks. But I do intend to finish it because I’ve gotten far enough along that I feel like I’m invested in the mystery and invested enough that I that I do want to finish it. But yeah, it was just not something I was able to get through over the holidays.
BrookYeah, and you know we did that whole episode about the fact that sometimes a book just doesn’t hit for you for whatever reason. And I loved that conversation because I find that about myself and sometimes I feel bad because it’s a book that someone else has said they really like or whatever reason. I enjoyed having that conversation with you and then learning this about you because sometimes that just happens.
BrookSo the first one I will cover is the Richard Osmon book The Last Devil to Die, which is number four in his series and I did listen to this one. I didn’t realize that it was a Christmas setting so it ended up being really perfect. It’s happening around the holidays for the for the Thursday Murder Club um I really enjoyed it I love this series I really feel like this has kind of become one of my favorite series. I feel like Joyce really comes into her own in this one. I will say that there was a portion of the book because of some of the personal things that are going on in their lives that I feel like the mystery got lost a little bit. And I didn’t feel like there was as much sleuthing and detecting going on. But by this time, I’m really loving these characters. So I kind of gave them a bye on that. I loved at the end of the audiobook there was a interview with Richard Osman that was really great and I oved that he said that you need to think about if you see a group of elderly people hanging out together. You have to think about how much wisdom and knowledge and and like how many experiences that group has had and like you know, not to like count them out. So I thought that was really sweet.
SarahYeah, I listened to the book actually listened to it twice back-to-back. Which I did with his first book as well because I enjoyed both of them so much. But I’m with you I felt like there was so much about the characters that the mystery was a little bit kind of second in this in this story. So I do hope that if there’s another one that they return to more sleuthing. You know I think the the character development is is important but it it really overshadowed the mystery I think. But I have to say that that the character development was handled ah beautifully.
BrookAbsolutely yeah, you can tell everyone that we’re not wanting to give anything away for any of you who haven’t read this but, it was extremely touching. And I think um, kind of illuminating. You know, for someone who’s in the middle part of my life and looking at that generation. It was just very touching and I think ah meaningful to me.
SarahSo the next one that was on my list was the Christmas Card Crime, which is a collection of short stories put together by Martin Edwards. And these as the title suggests we’re all kind of Christmas themed or winter themed. And I thought I I really enjoyed these. There were some that I enjoyed more than others. Um, but they varied in length so some were much shorter and and some were were a little longer I I think my favorite was that. Story that was titled “The Christmas Card Crime”. But yeah I would you know if if anybody’s looking for something that is set around the holidays then I would I would recommend this I think everything was written in, I think maybe the latest was something that was published in 1960s so you know fifty or more years ago for most of these stories so that you know definitely set in their in their times but enjoyable nonetheless.
BrookSo ah, sticking with that Christmas theme. Ah the next one I’ll talk about is The Christmas Appeal by Janice Hallett and I did read this as an ebook for a very particular reason I needed to either have a paperback or an ebook because this is an epistolary novel, which is something I love but it’s a very contemporary version because ah it is set in contemporary times so they are a series of emails. And some text messages and I think some actual letters are passed back and forth. But it’s a very unique telling of ah mystery which I really really loved and I had heard some comments that you hadn’t read the appeal that there’s. Would be some spoilers or you might not be able to follow the story but I didn’t find that at all I thought it was great and um so even without reading that first one and this definitely won’t be my my last. I intend to go back and start this series.
SarahUm, I’m so I’m so glad that you enjoyed it Brook because I really enjoyed um The Appeal in The Twford Code is the other book that Janice Hallett has has written um and so The Twyford Code doesn’t have that same group of characters. It’s a different It’s a you know. Totally different book. Um, but both were really good and so I haven’t read The Christmas Appeal. Um, but I I say so I listened to both the appeal and The Tyford Code and. When I first started listening to The Appeal I had to restart it because I was like I don’t understand what’s going on and I think I really would have benefited from actually having some written words in front of me once I figured out what was going on. It was you know it. It was easy enough to follow. I think we should talk about kind of books that are in this different kind of format I think that would be a great episode for us to do.
BrookYes I would love to and I will say that even though I had it as an ebook I had a hard time just and I will say that even though I had the ebook there was a little bit of warming up to how this was going to go and how you could ah get into this story but ah, it’s extremely humorous and the characters are just really funny and ah and seeing someone’s thoughts that way in the way that you write a text message. You know back and forth to your husband for instance or an email to your best friend. It was. It was really great.
SarahSo the next on my list is Murder at the Vicarage which I know was also on your list, Brook so it’ll be interesting to hear your take on it. I think this is the first of the Miss Marple stories that Agatha Christie published and it was so it was published in 1930. I felt like she was really hard on women in this book I don’t know if you had that take. Like the mystery was good, I enjoyed that, but there were several moments where I was like “oh this is definitely almost one hundred years ago that this was written” because yeah, she just there were some unkind sentiments I felt for for women I don’t know if you picked up on that, Brook.
BrookI don’t think that I necessarily picked up on that but I really felt like she was trying to ah find her way into who Miss Marple was because in my opinion Miss Marple wasn’t the sleuth at all. I felt like the vicar was the sleuth of this story.
SarahI agree. Yeah, they kept they kept talking about how Miss Marple was um so great at kind of solving these mysteries but we didn’t actually see that in the book.
BrookNow. Um, so I it’s interesting to think about where she went um and then that this was the starting point you know and that even Agatha Christie had to kind of feel out her characters and feel out like what. What she wanted a series to be but um so back to your original point Sarah I don’t think that I picked up on it as I was reading it like it didn’t like catch you know, stick in my craw so to speak. But now that you mention it, I can see exactly what you’re saying and we see that. Sometimes with Christie’s or you know any of the golden age authors where we get a little ick sometimes it’s some of their ah references or attitudes and um, yeah I can see what you mean.
SarahNow that doesn’t mean that I won’t read anymore by Agatha Christie, and I definitely want to read some more Miss Marple this was the first ah Miss Marple novel that I’ve read by Agatha Christie and you know I I definitely will read some more um, but yeah I just it was something I noted for sure.
BrookAh, one thing that I noticed a difference from early Miss Marple and then kind of my thoughts of her long term, was like she kind of was she was portrayed as sort of an unlikeable busybody. In this book like the townspeople just really didn’t like her she ah was a thorn in their side. Um, and I you know over the years I feel like she became more likable and more ah kind of a accepted part of of the group. Maybe she did this because she already had Poirot to contend with who is ah you know a little bit hard to get along with and she didn’t need two main sleuths that both had that ah personality thing.
SarahOh that’s like that’s a great theory Brook. I really I think there’s probably some merit to it.
BrookShe got tired of Poirot. Maybe she needed like a little friend in Miss Marple.
BrookSo the nonfiction book that I read over break was Furious Hours: Murder Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee. And so we have right there in the title “Harper Lee”. The description discusses how this is going to tell us the story of when Harper Lee basically um wanted to do her own In Cold Blood. You know she helped Truman Capote research and write his breakout kind of the first true crime novel. So the setup is that she was going to do the same thing with this other case seventeen years later but we don’t even so read the name harper lee until over halfway into the book.
BrookSo I was quite disappointed although it was fascinating the crime that ah she does eventually go and research is fascinating. It’s heartbreaking. It’s absolutely amazing that it took place in the 1970s. It really makes you think maybe less of the justice system. But you know I’m I’m wanting to hear how Harper Lee was involved in this. And so I feel like the book could have been told in a little different structure in order to bring her in sooner. But eventually we get there and um, she does go and ah sit in on this trial and really attempts to write this book but she never finishes it. She writes the book for almost a decade off and on and it’s just really heartbreaking to see that she was kind of unable to get past the pressure of the fame and the um expectations that came after she wrote To Kill a Mockingbird and you know she just couldn’t do it. And the book explains that maybe about 15 years before her death she quit drinking and quit writing and actually was kind of the happiest that she was in her whole life and I just found it to be just really sad that she had so much pressure after that huge success and wasn’t really ever able to um you know to find another another way to she just wasn’t really ever able to find that confidence to to write another book.
SarahYeah, that is that is really sad and um, something to kind of reflect on ah in terms of like that that pressure that is put on really successful authors.
BrookExactly. Yeah, I think that it’s hard to know what those ah people who ah their names are in light so to speak what they go through ah in order to continue producing but just to even live their life.
SarahSo the last book that I had on my TBR list, Brook was the one that you recommended for me and so that was Robert Goddard’s book Long Time Coming and so this was published in 2010 but it was set dual timeline in the 1970s and in the 1940s and both of those times are not I haven’t read a lot from both of those times so that was that was really interesting. And I really liked the the story it was um, it was a great recommendation. So thank you, Brook I really enjoyed it and I will definitely read another book at least one other book by Goddard because um I found it quite a compelling story.
BrookThat’s great I’m glad you enjoyed it, Sarah. And the last book I have to ah talk about is also the book that Sarah recommended to me which was Mother Daughter Murder Night and I listened to this as an audiobook. And I also really enjoyed it. You know I love multi-generational women’s stories Sarah knows this and so it was great for me. It was also a book that was set very much in the outdoors which I realized as I was listening to it I don’t do a lot of the outdoorsy kind of mysteries so that was a nice change. And I really enjoyed seeing the relationships grow with these women as the ah as they solved the mystery together. So that was really ah ah a really nice point to it. Um. I have to say their last name was Rubicon and I thought what a wonderful name to give to people who are going to be solving a crime that that was just you know it wasn’t lost on me.
SarahI’m glad you enjoyed it, Brook. This was the first book by Nina Simon and I hope that it is the first of a series.  I don’t know I haven’t looked into whether there’s another one coming but I I think there was a setup there that um that there could be future books in that in that series with those three women.
BrookI would agree I think that that would be a great series.
SarahWell, it sounds like we had some good reading, Brook. I hope you also found some time to rest over the holidays.
BrookI did. We had a wonderful holiday season. And yeah, this was a great group of books and we also had some great mystery shows that we watched and it was it was just a really fun time. How about you, Sarah.
SarahWe had a great holiday season as well and I’m really looking forward to 2024.
BrookAs am I. Thank you everyone for joining us today on Clued in Mystery. I’m Brook.
SarahAnd I’m Sarah and we both love mystery.