Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Raspberry Jam  -  1920
Carolyn Wells
211 pages
genre  -  Mystery
my rating  -  3 out of 5 stars

My ideal book has an even balance of dialogue and description.  If the balance HAD to tip one way or the other, I guess I would prefer it to go towards the dialogue side.  That is how I would define Raspberry Jam - lots of talking.

List of characters:
Eunice Embury - orphan, raised by her aunt
Abby Ames - Eunice's aunt
Sanford Embury - Eunice's husband
Alvord Hendricks - Eunice's friend and admirer
Mason Elliot - Eunice's friend and admirer
Fleming Stone - a private detective
Terence McGuire, aka Fibsy - Stone's assistant, a boy

Raspberry Jam is a classic mystery story of the 'locked room' style.  According to Wikipedia: "The locked room mystery is a sub-genre of detective fiction in which a crime—almost always murder—is committed under apparently impossible circumstances. The crime in question typically involves a crime scene that no intruder could have entered or left, e.g., a locked room."

It was a very quick read.  For as short as the book is, I thought that the characters were well defined.  I agree with another review that I saw on Amazon: "I was pleasantly surprised to see the main woman in the story wasn't the sweet little damsel who did no wrong. She has a temper and is spoiled. (There were times I got impatient with her.) This adds a great little dimension to the story."  by kindlefan  May 12. 2013

Wells wrote 61 books with Fleming Stone as the detective called in to solve the mystery.  The first in the series is The Clue (1909). Raspberry Jam is the 11th book written. I didn't find out until after I had read the book that Raspberry Jam was part of a series. It certainly didn't feel like I was reading a book from a series.

About the Author  -

Carolyn Wells was born on the 18th of June, 1862  in Rahway, New Jersey.  She was the daughter of William and Anna Wells. After finishing school she worked as a librarian for the Rahway Library Association.

Wells married Hadwin Houghton, the heir of the Houghton-Mifflin publishing empire.

Carolyn Wells wrote a total of more than 170 books. During the first ten years of her career, she concentrated on poetry, humor, and children's books. According to her autobiography, The Rest of My Life (1937), around 1910 she heard one of Anna Katherine Green's mystery novels being read aloud and was immediately captivated by the unravelling of the puzzle. From that point onward, she devoted herself to the mystery genre.

Wells died in 1942.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Zoe  -  1890
Evelyn Whitaker
184 pages?
genre  -  General Fiction, short story
my rating  -  3 out of 5 stars

"Hath this child been already baptized, or no?"

"No, she ain't, leastwise we don't know as how she've been or no, so we thought as we'd best have her done."

At the beginning of the story, Mr. and Mrs. Gray and their teenaged son have brought a baby to a nearby church to be christened. But it's not their own child; Mr. Gray found the little girl at their cottage gate.

Amazon says their ebook has 184 pages.  It was much shorter than that.  There is a paperback version available on Amazon.  It's product page says the book has 52 pages.  That sounds more like it.

There are eight chapters. There is a transcriber's note before the contents page. It reads: "The source book had varying page headers. They have been collected at the start of each chapter as an introductory paragraph..." These page readers remind me of what you read in the Bible at the beginning of each chapter. For example, here is the heading for Chapter 1 "The Christening - An Outlandish Name - The Organist's Mistake - Farmwork - Tom and Bill - The Baby - Baby and All".

The story kept my interest, although there was not a lot of conversation for easy reading.

About the Author  -

Evelyn Whitaker was born in 1844, the seventh child of Edward Whitaker and his wife Emily Ann Woolbert. Whitaker attended the Ladies College in Bedford Square, which later developed into Bedford College, part of the University of London.

All Whitaker's works were published anonymously from 1879-1915 and her identity was not revealed until 1903.  Many of these editions were beautifully bound and illustrated. Whitaker's writing style was praised as "a study in English for its conciseness, simplicity, and elegance" and Tip Cat was adopted as a textbook for German students studying English.Whitaker's stories were described as "charming, pure, and wholesome," full of "humor and pathos."

For more than a decade after Evelyn Whitaker's death, her two most popular titles, Miss Toosey's Mission and Laddie, continued to be reissued as gift books.

Whitaker died in Hammersmith, London at the age of 84.  She never married.