Review ~ The Zombie Ball

This book was provided to me by the author for review consideration.

Cover via Goodreads

The Zombie Ball, An Eli Marks Mystery #6 by John Gaspard

A Blast From the Past

Eli’s asked to perform his magic act at a swanky charity gala, The Zombie Ball– a former zombie pub crawl which has grown into an annual high-class social event. What begins as a typical stage show for Eli turns deadly when two of the evening’s sponsors are found murdered under truly unusual circumstances. Compounding this drama is the presence of Eli’s ex-wife and her new husband, Homicide Detective Fred Hutton. Under pressure to solve the crime before the 800 guests depart, Eli and his detective nemesis go head-to-head to uncover the bizarre clues that will unravel this macabre mystery. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
I enjoy mysteries, but I haven’t gotten too involved in many mystery series. The Eli Marks books have been the exception. Eli is a working magician and his insight into crimes are often based on the principles of magic.

What Worked
One of the things that keeps me reading a book, and in this case a series, is having a character I like spending time with. Eli Marks is one of those characters. He’s smart and funny (because of course John Gaspard writes him that way) and it’s been entertaining seeing Eli get his life on track. Which means this was also a fun time-warp back to when Eli was freshly divorced and taking any gig that came his way.

What Didn’t Work (as well as usual)
This was a fairly short story, about half the length of previous Eli Marks mysteries. It has a quite a long set up; there isn’t a corpse on the scene until about the 60% mark. This is fine. The time is spent with Eli as he meets our cast of characters and settles in at the Zombie Ball venue. But is also make for a very quick resolution to the mystery.

Overall
If you’ve been following the adventures of Eli Marks, The Zombie Ball is a decent extension of the series. If you haven’t read any Eli Marks mysteries, start at The Ambitious Card. You won’t be sad you did.

Original Publishing info: Albert’s Bridge Books , 2019
My Copy: Kindle ARC
Genre: mystery

Featured

🎃 Fall Blogging Events 2019

It’s that time of the year again, friends. In Arizona, the weather doesn’t actually get cool (“cool” defined as low 80s) until late October, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying a good pumpkin porter, putting up my Halloween tree, and reading all the creepy good literature.  As is usual, I’ll be taking part in two events: Readers Imbibing Peril and Something Wicked Fall.

Updates

Continue reading “🎃 Fall Blogging Events 2019”

The Black Cat, No. 11, August 1896

Welcome to the August 1896 issue of The Black Cat and the Black Cat Project!

I will admit, I’m a tiny bit disappointed in this issue of The Black Cat. Usually, I can rely on the magazine to provide at least one creepy story or one with a speculative fiction bent. This issue does provide the solution to “The Mysterious Card,” but as the second part of a bigger story, it’s not entirely satisfying.

Stories

“The Mysterious Card Unveiled” by Cleveland Moffett

Remember “The Mysterious Card” from issue 5? Yeah, me either. I had hoped the original story had to do with a magic trick, but it did not. Instead, the plot involved a man, Richard Burwell, who was given a card by a mysterious, beautiful French woman. Burwell can’t read French. Everyone he shows it to who can read French immediately shuns him. The beautiful woman dies before he can find out from her what it’s all about. We, the readers, are never told what is on the card and apparently Burwell doesn’t have access to a French to English dictionary… Which brings us to “The Mysterious Card Unveiled.”

We catch up with Burwell a decade later. While the first story was narrated by Burwell, this one is from his doctor’s point of view. It seems that Burwell has had blackouts in the past, has some sort of weird color blindness that leads to hallucinations, and has some very strange lines in his palm. But generally, Burwell has led a philanthropic life in New York. Therefore, the doctor is surprised that Burwell is shot in an altercation. On his death bed, he tells the doctor about the card, but when he does die, a mysterious Indian prince shows up and tells the doctor what has been going on this whole time. One one hand, I was kind of impressed with the occult twist of story. On the other hand, I still feel like there was some literary shenanigans.

“Mrs. Bilger’s Victory” by Emma S. Jones & Geik Turner

Geik Turner is a veteran Black Cat writer with two zinger stories in the past, both involving solitary people standing up against big, bad industry. This story is similar. “The railroad had killed her muley cow, and the railroad had got to pay for it…” Mrs. Bilger is a very resourceful woman and this story is much funnier than the others. I can only guess that Ms. Jones had something to do with that.

“A Defender of Faith” by John D. Barry

George Bird is having lady problems. Or maybe it’s religion problems. His girl, Alice, believes that his literature should have some moral lessons to it. (Or maybe she just doesn’t like him all that well since she used to write scientific articles…?) Bird and his friend go for a walk in Hyde Park and see an atheist on a soap box haranguing Christianity. While Bird isn’t very religious, he does think it unfair that no one steps up to defend God and Christ. He does so, pointing out the comfort and charity that Christianity provides. George thinks he made an ass of himself, but Alice thinks otherwise… So, I guess she likes him after all.

Barry is new to the magazine. A Google search reveals a John D. Barry, who was a Confederate officer and newspaper editor, but he died in 1867. Another John D. Barry is, at the time of this blog post, the CEO of Jesus’ Economy.

“Tim’s Vacation” by L. E. Shattuck

This was a maudlin, sentimental story about a poor young man named Tim who works as the elevator operator in the building of the Morning Post. Everyone love Tim and shows it by giving him extra work to do. Alas, tragedy befalls Tim before he’s able to take the vacation granted to him. And that’s the story.

“Wet Horses” by Alice MacGowan

After setting two eagles free, a cattle man in the Texas panhandle recounts his time as a horse rustler and a prisoner in a Mexican jail. And that’s that story. I was pretty surprised about a horse rustler not really getting his just deserts, especially considering he really wasn’t particularly remorseful of those acts.

Alice MacGowan collaborated with her sister Emma to write over two dozen novels and about a hundred short stories. According to Wikipedia, they lived for a time in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, a literary enclave populated by Jack London, among others. Tantalizingly, though well-liked, she also had several attempt on her life…

Want to read for yourself?
Here’s the link to Issue No. 11, August, 1896

Or find out
More about the Black Cat Project

Review ~ Guilt is a Ghost

This book was provided to me by the author for review consideration.

Cover via Goodreads

Guilt is a Ghost by Tim Prasil

In 1899, a séance was held at the Morley Mansion in Boston, Massachusetts. The millionaire Roderick Morley was desperate to contact his murdered friend. He hoped to clear himself of suspicion by identifying the true killer. The séance went horribly wrong, though, and Morley left the room—to commit suicide. By 1903, the Morley Mansion was deemed haunted! The new owner hired Vera Van Slyke, an odd but brilliant ghost hunter. With her assistant, Lucille Parsell, Vera quickly realized that, to banish the ghost, the two would have to solve the murder. But a fugitive murderer wasn’t the only shadow cast over the Morley Mansion. A fake medium had performed at that séance, a shame-ridden woman who called herself: “Lucille Parsell.” And, sometimes, guilt is a ghost that can never be banished. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
I read Tim Prasil’s Help for the Haunted previously and enjoyed it. Help is a collection of connected mysteries. Set in the late 1800s and early 1900s, our detectives are ghost hunter Vera Van Slyke and reformed fraudulent medium Lucille Parsell. If you can’t see just how much this is a “book Katherine would read,” you haven’t been around my blog too long.

What Worked
As with Help for the Haunted, there are, in fact, ghosts in Guilt is a Ghost, and there are two things that I particularly like about how ghosts are treated in these stories.

First, ghosts are  naturalistic phenomena. There are rules and some scientific theories surrounding them that is in line with the era. One of those rules is that guilt rips holes in the existential fabric between the living and the souls of the dead. Ghost are the bleed-through. This places the cause of ghost more on the living, which is an intriguing idea.

Also, the solution to the mystery isn’t provided by the ghosts. Too often I’ve read supernatural mysteries in which a ghost is given omnipotence and can provide answers when the human protagonists hit a wall. That is such a cop-out, but not one engaged in here.

The mystery in Guilt is a Ghost is complex enough that it warranted a novel length story. There a few non-action scenes with characters discussing matters, but I like spending time with Vera and Lucille. Their conversations are never a hardship. Vera is a lunch-and-beer-loving character after my own heart.

What Didn’t Work
Minor quibble: Timeline-wise, the stories from Help for the Haunted fall in the midst of Guilt is a Ghost. Guilt starts out with the circumstances that lead Vera and Lucille to meet, but the majority of the story takes place after the events of Help.* The transition is a tiny bit clunky. Reading Help for the Haunted isn’t necessary before Guilt is a Ghost, but it isn’t a bad idea either.

* Actually, I was reminded that the chronology of stories isn’t quite that clean cut. In fact, one of my favorites from Help occurs right after Guilt! But don’t let this scare you. If you need it, Tim Prasil has a “cheat sheet” for you.

Overall
Ghosts, female detectives, early 20th century. The only thing I’m sad about is that I don’t have more Vera Van Slyke mysteries for the coming autumn reading season!

Original Publishing info: Brom Bones Books, 2019
My Copy: trade paperback
Genre: mystery

Bout of Books 26

Bout of Books

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly Rubidoux Apple. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 19th and runs through Sunday, August 25th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, Twitter chats, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 26 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

I need to finish up some formatting work, but then I’m calling in “sick.”

TBR

The Count of Monte Cristo Moby-Dick
Guilt Is a Ghost: A Vera Van Slyke Ghostly Mystery (Vera Van Slyke Ghostly Mysteries Book 2) The Zombie Ball: (An Eli Marks Mystery Book 6) (The Eli Marks Mysteries) by [Gaspard, John]

I need to catch up on The Count of Monte Cristo and Moby-Dick readalongs. Then finish Guilt is a Ghost by Tim Prasil. By the end of the week, I hope have started The Zombie Ball by John Gaspard. Plus short stories:

  • “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” by Edgar Allan Poe – Finished!
  • “A Defender of Faith” by John D. Barry – Finished!
  • “Tim’s Vacation” by L. E. Shattuck – Finished!
  • “Wet Horses” by Alice MacGowan – Finished!
  • A story for Deal Me In

Updates & Challenges

Sunday:

  • The Count of Monte Cristo, ch. 109
  • The Zombie Ball by John Gaspard, ch. 4-5

Continue reading “Bout of Books 26”

Sunday Salon, 8/18/19

Sunday Salon

Reading and Such

I focused on working on the VOTS archive this week and that’s pretty much all I had the overhead for. So, not much reading was done. I’m behind on all my readalongs. I’m looking forward to participating in Bout of Books starting tomorrow.

During my bi-weekly trip to the library, I ended up reading “There’s a Hole in the City” by Richard Bowes (from Ghosts: Recent Hauntings, ed. Paula Guran, but also found at Nightmare magazine) while looking for Glen Hirshberg fiction. It’s a rather good ghost story, told in the wake of 9/11.

For Deal Me In, I picked my last wild card, 2. I went to my list of bookmarked stories and picked “Two Years Dead” by Kathryn Kania from Fireside Magazine. Yes, another ghost story. This one very sweet. Opening line: “When I opened up my OKCupid profile, I was already two years dead.”

DealMeIn
Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

There is definitely a trend occurring with my reading. Along with my classic readalongs I’m also reading lots of mysteries and ghost stories. I’m far away from the end of summer, but September is coming. And R.I.P. is coming…

TV of the Week

I said I was swearing off cinematic universes, but I guess I made an exception for a literary universe. I’m a sometimes Stephen King fan. Some of his work, I’ve liked; some, not as much. Castle Rock was pretty okay as far as  horror TV goes. I had recently tried to watch the first season of Channel Zero, but I didn’t really didn’t care for it. It seemed to go all over the place without doing a good enough job of world-building. I’ve usually liked American Horror Story, but each season seems to go on about five episodes too long at which point it goes off the rails. Castle Rock, of course, has a world in place and was restrained, for what it could be.

Other Stuff

I finished over half of what I had left of the VOTS archive. I would have gotten further, but we opened Fall League registration as well. So, more reformatting this week along with Bout of Books festivities.


The Sunday Salon is a linkup hosted by Deb @ Readerbuzz

Down the TBR Hole 24

TBRHole

This is a meme started by Lia at Lost in a Story. The “rules” are:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course, if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books.
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

I’m modifying this a little since my to-read shelf is a mess of books that are mostly in storage. Instead, I’m going to look at my wishlist—all those books I add on a whim during my travels around the book blogging community—and weed out the ones that don’t quite sound as good now. The “keepers” I’m going to look for at online libraries or add to my Amazon wishlist.

God's Bankers cover God’s Bankers: A History of Money and Power at the Vatican by Gerald Posner

This book still sounds fascinating to me: history of a very secretive place/organization viewed through its accumulation and relation to money. The only way this could be more to my taste would be if it had something to do with magic. I’ll have to settle with just religion. KEEP.

The Bullet Catch cover The Bullet Catch by Amy Axelrod & David Axelrod

Speaking of magic… Oh, this book sounds pretty darn good, settling itself firmly in WWI-era without adding too many bells and whistles. KEEP.

Cinnamon and Gunpowder cover Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown

I think every time I do this there is going to be one of those books that’s probably really good, that I added to my list due to recommendations, but if I haven’t gotten to it yet, I’m probably not going to get to it ever. This is that book this time. GO.

The Girl with No Hands cover The Girl with No Hands and Other Tales by Angela Slatter

I have way too many short stories on my plate as it is. GO.

alt text Great War Fashion: Tales from the History Wardrobe by Lucy Adlington

Ooo, this looks nice and crunchy. I’m not a fashion person, but clothes can tell you a lot about an era. And this is available as a reasonably priced ebook! KEEP.

Anyone have any experience with any of these? Any arguments for KEEP or GO?