My evening hobby is traveling via Google Maps. It’s cheap. It’s easy. I get to sleep in my own bed when the journey is over.

I like visiting places where I’ve lived and with fifty addresses over a life in and around the military, I have plenty to choose from. My former home in Belgium now has new living room windows; one of my German homes has solar panels on its roof; other homes no longer exist.

I like to take virtual trips to places where friends live or have lived. My best friend when I was 11 moved to Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada when his dad was transferred, so I made a virtual visit the other night although I’m sure he no longer lives there. None of us live where we used to.

I also like “driving” to places I want to visit — (cue Abbot & Costello) Ni-Ag-Ara Falls!

Tonight’s visit is to Agatha Christie’s home, Greenway. I lived in England when I was a child, but, of course, no one ever took me to visit Mrs. Christie. I don’t know that either of us would have got much out of a visit.

On searching Google Maps for Greenway, I was thrilled to find that the service has a 360 degree view of the front lawn of Greenway, an interactive street view drive down two of the lanes leading to the home, and the 360 degree view on the dock on the River Dart.


Google Map’s panoramic view of the front lawn of Greenway.

Seeing where my favorite author lived and wrote the books I so enjoy adds a layer of appreciation to my reading.


Other Greenway websites:


For years I’ve had one of Colin Dexter’s paperbacks floating around my bookshelves: The Secret of Annexe 3. The printing date is 1998, so I’ve had it a while.  During those years, I’d often look through my bookshelves at bedtime for a book to re-read. I prefer easy books when I’m trying to go to sleep. I’d look at Annexe 3, but always skipped over it because I knew that I hadn’t ‘got’ the story the first time around. Still, the book was an Inspector Morse story, so I never got rid of it.

About a week ago I was again browsing through my bookshelves and I decided to give Annexe 3 another try.  How hard could it be?

Eighty-eight pages into the story I found out why I had no clear recollection of the story: the page after 88 was 25 — the very same page-25 I’d already read.  I flipped through the following pages to see if this second page-25 was an anomaly, but it wasn’t.  The repeat pages didn’t end until page 56, and then they skipped to page 121.

Page 88 - 25 of The Secret of Annexe 3

Page 88 – 25 of The Secret of Annexe 3


Pages 56 - 121 of The Secret of Annexe 3

Pages 56 – 121 of The Secret of Annexe 3


I’m assuming I don’t need to point out that this goof-up severely interrupted my understanding of the story line. Don’t ask me why I kept this copy. Any memory of that reason is long gone.

In recent years I’ve complained to myself about the decline in the quality of recently-published books. Most complaints have to do with typographical gremlins that crept in, or story lines that don’t track well. Given this blooper from the last century, I’ll probably have to cut newer volumes a lot more slack.

I would be interested in reading the complete book, but I just checked and the library I use doesn’t have this volume. I’m leery of buying another Annexe 3 because the book shown at Amazon has the same cover as mine. I didn’t see any complaints about an entire section having been mis-inserted into any of the books that were reviewed, but it would be just my luck to get another from the same batch.  I think my next bedtime book will be one from my collection of Agatha’s books.

1955 08 Aug 21  in crib

 (my little brother)


Inspired by the choice from the popular television series Sherlock that my daughter and her husband made for the name for their soon-to-be-born son  (and no, they didn’t go with “Sherlock”), I’ve put together a list of baby names from mystery stories with which I’m familiar.  Some names, of course, would have to be for brave and adventurous parents, but the lists should have something for most mystery-loving parents.


Agatha (call her Aggie), for the Queen of Mystery, Agatha Christie, or Ngaio Marsh’s character, Agatha Troy Alleyn
Amelia, for Elizabeth Peters’s Amelia Peabody books
Anne (Beddingfeld), the sleuth in Agatha Christie’s book, The Man in the Brown Suit
Ariadne, for Agatha Christie’s writer-sleuth, Ariadne Oliver
Barb, for Elizabeth George’s detective’s sidekick, Barbara Havers
Bertha (call her Bertie), for Erle Stanley Gardner’s Bertha Cool/Donald Lam stories
Beverly, for Clair Blank’s young detective, Beverly Gray
China, for Susan Wittig Albert’s detective, China Bayles
Cordelia, for P.D. James’s detective in An Unsuitable Job for a Woman
Eileen, for Agatha Christie’s “Bundle” Brent
Emily, for Dorothy Gilman’s Emily Polifax
Emma, (Mrs. Peel) from the mid-1960s television series, The Avengers
Georgiana, for Rhys Bowen’s royal detective, Lady Georgiana
Goldy, for Diane Mott Davidson’s detective, Goldy Bear Schulz
Harriet, for Dorothy Sayers’s, Harriet Vane
Honey, from the 1965/66 tv series, Honey West
Jacqueline, for Elizabeth Peters’s romantically literary detective Jacqueline Kirby
Jemima, for Antonia Fraser’s detective, Jemima Shore
Minette, for author Minette Walters
Nancy, for Carolyn Keene’s iconic Nancy Drew
Nora, from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books
Precious, for Alexander McCall Smith’s detective, Precious Ramotswe
Prudence, aka Tuppence, from Agatha Christie’s Tommy & Tuppence stories
Susan, for the significant other of Spenser, Robert Parker’s detective/enforcer
Tess, for Laura Lippman’s detecive, Tess Monaghan
Vicky, for Elizabeth Peters’s detective, Vicky Bliss


Adam, for P.D. James’s detective, Adam Dalgliesh
Archie (Goodwin), the sidekick of Rex Stout’s detective, Nero Wolfe
Cadfael, for Ellis Peters’s Brother Cadfael
Charles, for Simon Brett’s detective Charles Paris
Charlie, for Earl Derr Biggers’s detective, Charlie Chan (meant to counter the “Yellow Peril” Asian stereotype of the time)
Dee, for Robert van Gulik’s detective, Judge Dee (hey, the name works for rocker Dee Snider)
Endeavor, for Colin Dexter’s detective Inspector Morse’s first name
Emerson/Ramses, the son of Elizabeth Peters’s detective, Amelia Peabody
Edgar, for Edgar Allan Poe
Ellery, for the (partnership) author Ellery Queen
Gideon, for John Dickson Carr’s detective Gideon Fell
Guido, for Donna Leon’s happily married detective, Guido Brunetti
Jim, for Lilian Jackson Braun’s cat-sitting detective Jim Qwilleran
Per, for Maj Sjöwall’s partner Per Wahlöö
Perry, for Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason, of course
Peter, probably the super-name concerning mysteries, for Dorothy Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey, Charlotte MacLeod’s Peter Shandy, Reginald Hill’s Peter Pascoe, and authors Peter Lovesey or Peter Robinson
Pierre, for Hugh Pentecost’s detective, Pierre Chambrun
Reginald, Ruth Rendell’s detective, Reginald Wexford, or for the author Reginald Hill
Robbie, for Colin Dexter’s Robbie Lewis, initially from the Inspector Morse stories
, for Ngaio Marsh’s detective, Roderick Alleyn
Simon (Templar), for Leslie Charteris’s detective, The Saint
Virgil, for John Ball’s detective, Virgil Tibbs
Walter, for Walter Mosley who writes the Easy Rawlings series
Wilkie, for Wilkie Collins

On the Sisters in Crime email list for “the great unpublished” (Guppies), one of the discussions was how a member discovered Donna Leon’s Inspector Brunetti series that is set in Venice, Italy. I’m a Brunetti fan and I was pleased to see recommendations for books by authors who set their stories in Italy.

The pièce de résistance of the discussion (as far as I was concerned) was the revelation that an Inspector Brunetti television series is available, in German!  (pardon my squeal of excitement)  I now have a list for people-who-give-me-gifts, and am thinking up nine gift-giving days, such as Mother’s Day, my birthday, our anniversary, and Christmas.  I suppose we could add St. Patrick’s Day, the first day of spring, May Day, Hallowe’en and Flag Day.  That makes nine, right?

Again, thanks to the Guppy list and the generous members.



The first two-program Brunetti video set arrived yesterday and I watched the first program, “Vendetta.”  I (along with my three-week old granddaughter) enjoyed the show.  The scenes of Venice were delightful; the characters, although not identical to what I imagined while reading the books, are well-cast; hearing German took me back to Europe; the story was well-produced.  The subtitled were useful for scenes in which the German words weren’t clear, or for dialogue in which I just didn’t know the words. My baby was lulled throughout.

All in all, a success.  I look forward to (eventually) seeing the entire series.

Agatha Christie, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Agatha Christie, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

In re-reading Agatha Christie’s novels I’m listening to them rather than re-reading them.  I do have all her books, so re-reading all of the stories wouldn’t be a chore for me (the books are the 1990s Bantam collection in blue leatherette, the collection that is so readily available on eBay, and are the books that replaced my paperbacks whose pages were falling out). Still, it’s so much easier to listen to the books while I’m doing other things — we all multi-task nowadays, don’t we.

The novel I’m listening to now is A Murder Is Announced, a story set in the town of Chipping Cleghorn in which a Rudi Scherz apparently tries to murder Letitia Blacklock during an “announced” murder at Letitia’s house, Little Paddocks. In the story, Miss Jane Marple is informally assisting Inspector Craddock in discovering why (the now-deceased) Rudi would do such a thing.

Even though Mrs. Christie is called the Queen of Crime and her books are well-appreciated by readers around the world, I do listen to books other than hers.  One big difference, though, that I’ve noticed between Mrs. Christie’s Golden Age mysteries and many modern mysteries is in reading ease.   Mrs. Christie never confuses me, other than in strewing red herrings throughout the story.  I always know where I am in the story and who is who.

I’ve read the commonplace criticisms of her work: clichés, cardboard characters, and lack of depth.  My own criticism would be the repetition in what the characters are called as she seems to be fond of certain names — Archie Easterbrook in A Murder Is Announced, Mark Easterbrook in A Pale Horse.

Despite the weak spots in the Christie books, a strength I value is Mrs. Christie’s ability to tell her stories in such a way that she doesn’t baffle the reader concerning the story’s narrative, or at least, she doesn’t baffle this reader. Even when I’m not multi-tasking, I appreciate being able to follow a story even if I usually can’t figure out whodunnit.

I was very pleased to have seen Elizabeth Peters at the 2012 Malice Domestic convention.  I’d read her books for decades, so it was a thrill to see her and enjoy her humor.

Thank you to her for all the hours of adventure and laughter.

Mystery writer Barbara Mertz dies at 85

Barbara Mertz, a best-selling mystery writer who wrote dozens of novels under two pen names, has died. She was 85.

Mertz died Thursday morning at her home, in Frederick, Md., her daughter Elizabeth told her publisher HarperCollins.

One of her books is also my nominee for Best Title:  Naked Once More. If you haven’t yet met Jacqueline Kirby, you’re missing something.

01 Jenny Milchman and Nancy Pickard

This past Saturday I had the pleasure of listening to Nancy Pickard at our monthly first-Saturday meeting of the Border Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime at the Mysteryscape bookstore.  Nancy, whose most recent book is The Scent of Rain and Lightning, introduced Jenny Milchman to the Border Crimes members.

Jenny, who released her debut novel Cover of Snow this past January and is now on a 7-month bookstore tour with her family, told us about her friendship with Nancy, her publishing journey, and together they recounted the differences between Nancy’s start as a published author and Jenny’s.  It was a rewarding meeting and I was pleased to meet Jenny in person after making her acquaintance online.

This past week Minotaur published Every Broken Trust, the latest book from my Sisters In Crime pal, Linda Rodriguez.  Last night the Mysteryscape bookstore in Overland Park, Kansas, hosted Linda’s launch party.  I arrived late, but Linda was still on hand to sign a book for me.

Linda Rodriguez signing my copy of her newest book, Every Broken Trust

Linda Rodriguez signing my copy of her newest book, Every Broken Trust

I haven’t yet read the book, having bought it only last night, but I believe one of Linda’s favorite reviews of the book is at the blog, Criminal Element, and she offers the first chapter of the book at her own blog, Linda Rodriguez Writes.

My husband and I met when we were both stationed at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.  I did not make the military a career, but he did.  This evening, we met with old friends, my husband’s former co-workers, and friends-of-friends at the USAREUR G-2 reunion banquet.

The talk ranged from kids to grandkids, to who we knew in common, to where we’ve traveled and where we ought to travel, to our European adventures, and inevitably to terrorists.

The terrorist angle was underlined by a twenty-minute talk given by Major General (retired) James Dozier who was kidnapped in 1981 by the Italian terrorist group, the Red Brigades, and was held captive for six weeks in a tent erected inside an apartment in Padua, Italy.

The majority of American personnel apparently weren’t terrorist targets as it was high-profile people whom the terrorists seemed to prefer.  Still, while living in Munich, it was unsettling to know that just across the Alps, terrorists had kidnapped an American soldier.  At the time we couldn’t know that General Dozier would be rescued as both the Baader-Meinhof group in Germany and the Red Brigades in Italy had murdered kidnapped victims (Google Jurgen Ponto and Aldo Moro).  That General Dozier is able to give talks such as this was not inevitable — the guard on duty at the time had been given a gun with which to shoot the general in the event of a rescue attempt, but did not use it because he said he couldn’t shoot a sleeping man.  Stockholm Syndrome on the part of kidnappers isn’t always a bad thing.

Finally, thanks go to the author of Secrets of the Cold War, for organizing the reunion.

For Cold War veterans who were assigned to Germany, take a trip down memory lane with Mr. McCaslin’s book.  Thanks for the autograph, Lee.

In other news, I am presently enjoying Donna Leon’s latest book Beastly Things.

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