Gardening, Adult Nancy Drew and Hitman


Hello, readers.

It’s the best time of the year: seed time! Has anyone else gardened? I have containers proliferating on the window and under the grow lights. I bought the grow lights last year in an attempt to winterize a few stragglers after the remnants of Hurricane Ida wiped out my rooftop garden (RIP, 2021 rooftop garden). The grow lights, which fluoresce next to my desk, ended up working like those therapy lights used to treat seasonal affective disorder: Not only did my plants resist, but my mood was one of Wordsworthian joy throughout. dark months. I love a multifunction device!

The smell of fertile soil also appears to have mood-enhancing properties. A fragrance-loving friend alerted me that you can buy synthetic versions of the scent online, which of course I did, and on days when I don’t leave the house because I have 1,000 books to read for work, I treat myself to a little sniff of the old vial of dirt. Whatever it takes…


Kirkus’ original review for this 1941 thriller compares it to both satin and velvet. I infer from the review that “satin” refers to the softness of the prose and “velvet” to the novel’s romantic subplot. If I had to contribute additional fabric comparisons, I’d opt for cotton (flamable), denim (ages well), and lace (intricately patterned).

It’s Nancy Drew for adults. A wealthy family has gathered at an estate surrounded by pine trees on the shores of Lake Superior, only to see their romance shattered by a series of malicious pranks that escalate into murder. Only one woman, the indomitable Ann Gay, is brave enough to point the finger at the culprit – by setting herself up as human bait!

“The Chuckling Fingers”, which has been somewhat forgotten, has twists and sharp dialogue. After swallowing it, I read all of Mabel Seeley’s books and only found one of equal quality (“The Listening House”). The rest is below average. But whatever; we can all agree that two excellent mysteries are a major contribution to society.

Read if you like: The 1944 film ‘Gaslight’, Daphne du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’, eavesdropping, taking liberties, Minnesota
Available from: Newly reissued by Berkley or available in other forms at your favorite used bookstore

At the age of 65, a woman known as Hornclaw pretends to be invisible. She wears a low-key outfit and barely invites a glance as she skims through the Bible on her subway ride. However, hidden beneath the discreet face, lurks an assassin with a cold heart. That’s right! Hornclaw works at an exclusive hitman agency in South Korea.

As retirement age nears, Hornclaw plans to hang up his knives and open a chicken coop, or perhaps take up the world of dry cleaning. But when a mission from the past comes back to haunt her, all plans for a peaceful outcome are gone. pfft.

It seems that the original title of the book was “Bruised Fruit” or “Damaged Fruit”, either making more sense than the American version – because this is really a novel about aging that has been lightly adorned with detective thriller accessories. As someone who loves novels about aging AND crime thrillers, I was thrilled to come across the mash-up. Dry humor is a staple of both, and it abounds here; one of Hornclaw’s co-workers is a disrespectful youngster whom she openly calls “the fetus.” You’ll probably have hot water with HR if you do the same thing at your workplace, but you’ll never know unless you try!

Read if you like: Natsuo Kirino, alone time, cultivating an air of mystery, revenge, hiding and stealth
Available from: HarperCollins

  • Put Jennifer Egan’s “The Candy House” in your mouth and crunch as if there was no tomorrow, which might not be the case?

  • SHARPEN YOUR EYE GLOPS about Manny Farber’s writing, knowing that William Gibson called “Negative Space” his favorite book about movies?

  • Tear the bildungsroman of a QUIETLY VICIOUS narrator living in (what was then) colonial Rhodesia?

    Post Scriptum: A kind reader named Sandy emailed to suggest a solution to the Google Doc problem described in the previous issue. Sandy suggested starting a new spreadsheet where recommendations can be entered through this Google Form. In theory, this will allow the free and open exchange of recommendations while preventing anyone (accidentally, I hope, or drunk, but surely not maliciously) from deleting entries.

    We all know that increasing any process from one to two steps is a notorious barrier to entry, but hopefully the doc will get populated. I will check often. In the meantime, kudos to Sandy for his ingenuity and help.

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