2 Rex Stout reviews by CJ Verburg: The Second Confession and Death of a Dude

The Second Confession (Nero Wolfe, #15)The Second Confession by Rex Stout
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An out-of-town adventure for Archie and then — when the case and the women involved spin out of control — for Wolfe. This plot hinges on the Communist threat, which makes it feel dated in a clumsier way than Stout’s nickel phone calls and $10 steak dinners ever do. Still, as always in this series, a gripping and satisfying read.

Death of a Dude (Nero Wolfe, #44)Death of a Dude by Rex Stout
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An adventure at Lily Rowan’s Montana ranch! The setting for me was the greatest fun in this episode of the ever-rereadable Wolfe and Goodwin series. Generally I prefer the mysteries this ace detective team can solve from Wolfe’s Manhattan brownstone; but since Lily is the Queen of Hearts, it’s a pleasure to travel with her and Archie to her most exotic home-away-from-home.

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Spend Your Last Week of Summer on Cape Cod — FREE!

Have you missed those lazy summer afternoons splashing, surfing, and sunbathing at the beach? Long mellow evenings of seafood and tall frosty drinks? We’re here to help!

On Friday, August 28, Boom-Books is giving away CJ Verburg’s 5-star Zapped: an Edgar Rowdey Cape Cod Mystery on Google Play, Apple/iBooks, Kobo, Nook/Barnes&Noble, and Kindle/Amazon. (We’re giving it away, but check before you click — some e-book outlets may charge you a small fee.)

Read a sample of Zapped here.

To stretch out your stretch of summer sleuthing, rejoin Edgar, Lydia, Mudge, and friends in the seaside village of Quansett for Croaked: an Edgar Rowdey Cape Cod Mystery.

Happy end of summer!

Coronavirus: Update

Earlier today we posted “Corona Virus suggestions from Stanford Hospital Board,” which has now been exposed by Stanford Health Care and Mother Jones as a fake press release. Stanford’s actual coronavirus info site is here.

We still want you to keep healthy and happy and reading, so here are the “suggestions” that have been confirmed (or not) by real medical experts.

Tips from us for our readers: When you bring home a book, clean its cover with a disinfectant wipe. Wear gloves to (and inside) the library and on public transit. And turn social isolation into a vacation with our outstanding mysteries, romances, and nonfiction!

1. This coronavirus attaches specifically in the lungs. However, the New York Times reports it also can affect other mucous membranes, starting with the back of the throat.

2. While the CDC still emphasizes fever, cough, and shortness of breath as the main symptoms, Mother Jones cites a not-yet-published study by a group of German researchers suggesting that upper respiratory tract symptoms like runny nose may be more common than previously thought.

3. “If you can breathe fine, do not go to the doctor. Only go if you cannot breathe or are very ill.” — Epidemiologist Loren Rauch, quoted in Mother Jones. If you do go to the doctor, call ahead: they’re swamped!

4. Direct intense heat, such as strong sunlight or a clothes dryer, may kill the virus. By all means, cook your food thoroughly; wash clothes more often than usual; when you’re sequestered at home, relax in the sunshine with a pot of tea. But don’t count on that to keep you safe.

4. If someone sneezes with it, it takes 6+ feet before it drops to the ground and is no longer airborne. If you sneeze with it, sneeze into a tissue and then throw it in the compost bin.

5. How long the virus can survive on any particular kind of surface is not yet known for sure. Wear gloves when you’re out in public. Wash cloth gloves regularly; discard plastic ones. Wash your hands as soon as you get home.

6. Don’t touch your face — your eyes, nose, and mouth are portals for the virus to enter your body.

7. Overall good health is one of the best defenses. Keep your immune system strong: eat judiciously, stay hydrated, get plenty of sleep, and avoid stress as best you can.

8. Drinking water and/or hot liquids will not per se protect you from the virus.

9. Zinc lozenges were indeed recommended by expert James Robb, but not as a “silver bullet.” He writes: “In my experience as a virologist and pathologist, zinc will inhibit the replication of many viruses, including coronaviruses. I expect COVID-19 [the disease caused by the novel coronavirus] will be inhibited similarly, but I have no direct experimental support for this claim.”

A Study in Scarlet by A.C. Doyle; Clara & Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland: Reviews by CJ Verburg

A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes, #1)A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

Dr. John Watson meets Sherlock Holmes for the first time: 2 young men just starting out, each looking for a flat-mate, little suspect that Holmes’s lab experiments & Watson’s budding medical practice will soon be overshadowed by their shared adventures. I very much enjoyed that part of the book. But once the detecting gets under way, Doyle shifts to an American back story which felt peripheral as well as unrealistically lurid.

Clara and Mr. TiffanyClara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland

One of those books I was very curious & hopeful about, but which didn’t get 3-dimensional enough for me to keep reading. Historical novels are hard to write! Although this one is full of plausible, interesting information about the characters, setting, & period, it felt more like a cross between a dissertation & a second draft than a believable story.

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Killers of the Flower Moon: a Real-Live Mystery (Review)

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBIKillers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

Reviewed by CJ Verburg

Writing about a real-life mystery is tricky. In contrast to fiction, the author can’t step into a participant’s narrative voice to help readers feel they’re watching events unfurl in real time. There are too many characters tromping in and out of the story, some central and some not, most of them without enough distinguishing features for a reader to keep them straight. And the plot can take years, even decades, to reach a conclusion — with or without the satisfaction of a climax.

The murderous scheme David Grann describes in Killers of the Flower Moon is shocking and horrifying, but not riveting. Like War and Peace, this is a book I’d have enjoyed more if I’d seen the movie, so as to connect faces and voices with the dozens of characters, and to visualize the parched, inhospitable land whither the Osage were relegated by whites until oil was discovered there. Black-and-white photos help, but not enough.

Just when the first round of slaughter is starting to be recognized and traced to its perpetrators (though in most cases, never avenged), Grann himself steps in. As he describes his own research, we become a Watson to his Holmes. His skills at digging out the truth are awesome; still, I wish he were a stronger storyteller.

Yet the systematic murder of so many people, and the role this case played in the creation of a Federal Bureau of Investigation to expand the reach of policing organizations like the Texas Rangers, is an important piece of American history. I’m glad there is a film in the works. I’ll hang onto the book to read again after I’ve seen it.

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Warning: our email address was temporarily hijacked

We regret to announce that on Tuesday and/or Wednesday Sept. 4-5, nefarious miscreants hijacked our email address to send out a highly sophisticated Spam mailing, with attachments.

Security was re-established by midday Wednesday. However, because the recipients were not on any list of ours, and we have no way to identify either the recipients or the sender(s), we are unable to issue any warning other than this one.

IF YOU’VE RECEIVE AN EMAIL THIS WEEK WHICH PURPORTS TO BE FROM BOOM-BOOKS, PLEASE DELETE IT UNOPENED.

We’re deeply sorry for the intrusion.

Heart of Darkness: A Voyage through Paradigms & Metaphors – Review by C J Verburg

Heart of DarknessHeart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

This is a difficult book to appreciate if you care more about racism, sexism, and colonization than intricately crafted metaphors. Conrad seems aware of the layers upon layers of contradictions that envelop his characters, yet insofar as he confronts them, he does it by observing and reporting rather than judging. For instance, the condescension of Brits to Africans is blatant and grating. Yet the narrator Marlow doesn’t remark on it, either when these events took place or now, as he recalls them: he simply describes it, and leaves any judgment to us.

Marlow is a sailor, privileged by his race and gender but not by his social position, which presumably in the Britain of Conrad’s day counted just as heavily. This short book is a story he’s telling to a crew of old sailing comrades about a voyage up an unfriendly river in a wild land that was being exploited by his shipping-company employers. His task was to find Kurtz, the company’s most effective ivory collector, who’d evidently “gone native” (= turned traitor to his race, class, etc.). Before he could take command of his assigned boat, Marlow had to dredge it up from where it sank when the previous captain beat a local chief and was killed. So, as in Melville’s Moby-Dick, we’re traveling among misfits and renegades obliged to obey an arbitrary leader.

However, unlike Ishmael et al., Marlow and his listeners are old friends (not a motley crew of strangers) waiting on a yacht (not a working boat), in the safe comfort of London’s Thames River mouth, for the tide to change so they can set sail. The prose is suitably languid for men who are in no hurry. And the multifaceted paradox of Kurtz makes a neat paradigm for the larger paradoxes Conrad describes, or delicately alludes to.

It’s a book so full of arrogance that I had a hard time with it.

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C J Verburg’s Mystery Review of A House of Her Own by Patricia Dusenbury

A House of Her Own: A Claire Marshall NovelA House of Her Own: A Claire Marshall Novel by Patricia Dusenbury
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This multilayered New Orleans mystery weaves together suspense, romance, and superstition in a colorful setting filled with diverse characters, including a possible ghost. When Claire Marshall buys a bargain house to restore, she doesn’t know what a Pandora’s Box she’s opening. Embarking on a practical project, she finds herself responsible for decisions that will change the people around her, as well as her own future. I enjoyed every twist in both the action and the love story, and was happily surprised that all my guesses turned out wrong. A House of Her Own is a book worth reading not just for the fast-paced plot, but for its insights into the powerful struggle that each of us confronts over trust vs. betrayal. The evil here doesn’t come from villains, just ordinary people whose bad experiences and fears scare them into deadly choices.

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Edward Gorey On Stage now available from Ingram

Good news! CJ Verburg’s newly revised Edward Gorey On Stage: A Multimedia Memoir is now available from Ingram.

Praised by reviewers as “delightful,” “a joy to read,” and “a must have…[for] all Gorey enthusiasts,” Edward Gorey On Stage follows this legendary artist and author through half a century of theatrical adventures, from the Poets Theatre he helped co-found at Harvard University to the numerous “entertainments” he wrote, designed, and directed on Cape Cod. It’s a treasure trove of original drawings and script notes, rare color photos, even film clips and music.

If you’re a reader, your favorite bookstore can now get this “thoroughly enjoyable” mini-biography for you faster than you can get it online.

If you’re a bookshop proprietor, you can skip right over Amazon and order returnable copies from Ingram at 55% booksellers’ discount.

Enjoy this fascinating peek behind the scenes at a unique artist at work, narrated by Edward Gorey’s close friend and collaborator CJ Verburg.

“All you could ever want from a murder mystery” – Review of Another Number for the Road

Thanks to writer Leigh Verrill-Rhys for this generous review of Boom-Books author CJ Verburg’s new Cory Goodwin mystery!

Featured Book: Review

CJ Verburg’s Another Number for the Road  has all you could ever want from a murder mystery set in two iconic periods of American history: the 1960s: Free Speech, Free Love, Stop the War, Civil Rights and sex, drugs, rock and roll; and 1980s: Reaganomics, Cold War Collapse, Punk Rock, big hair and bigger shoulders.

Rock journo cum detective, Cory Goodwin (who has as many names as identities) goes on a “Magical Mystery Tour,” and then some, to recover her true inner self which has been consumed and subsumed by the demands of her multimillionaire son-of-the-founder-of-a-cosmetics-conglomerate husband’s boardroom betrayal of all they meant to each other as writing romantics who eloped in creative Paris and crashed in corporate necessity in Boston.

Cordelia Goodwin Thorne had many years of protest activism and rock star groupie antics to keep her from sinking into the paradox of her journo daydreams and her cosmetic charity dinner reality.

She joins the “Magical Mystery Tour” when she learns that The Rind is the mystery band—a group she interviewed for a magazine as a teenager. She aims to rekindle her past admiration for the much-maligned strongman of the band, the appropriately named, Dan Quasi, who, after the brutal murder of his friend and co-band member, Mickey Ascher, takes a runner and hides out for the twenty year hiatus, having lost his wife and his French bit to aforementioned co-band member.

Did this Quasi musician kill his best friend? Or was it the French bit? Or possibly her jilted lover and third band member, also appropriately named, Roach? Or has the mild-mannered Terry, fourth band member, been hiding a violent temper all these years?

The process of discovery is further energized by the author’s experience as a playwright and director. CJ Verburg makes use of the theatrical technique of juxtaposing two scenes on stage at once: flashbacks, backstory, supposition and real time, one upon the other, while skillfully  juggling a cast of characters that would daunt Cecil B. DeMille and D.W. Griffiths.

Another Number for the Road  will satisfy all fans of complex, convoluted whodunits who remember the Sixties with longing and survived the Eighties, Nineties and are in deep with the Twentieth Century.