earl derr biggers

Vintage Mystery Challenge 2012 – Completion

I participated on the Vintage Mystery Challenge 2012 hosted by the wonderful Bev Hankins of My Readers Block.

I had chosen to read from two Vintage Themes (16 books). The themes were,

Deadly Decades: 8 books, one from each time period plus one of your choice (Pre-1900s; 1900-09; 1910-19; 1920-1929; 1930-1939; 1940-1949; 1950-59).

Golden Age Girls: 8 books by female authors OR 8 books with female detectives.

And drumroll, please! I completed the challenge last month! It took me on an average two books per month. I could have done it faster but I didn’t want to. I wanted to savour it as much as possible. But here we are at the end of the road.

Once again, I’d like to thank Bev for hosting this challenge! 🙂

Completed Books:

Deadly Decades: 

Pre-1900s: The Big Bow Mystery. Israel Zangwill. (1892)

1900-09: The Hound of the Baskervilles. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. (1902)

1910-19: At the Villa Rose. A.E.W. Mason. (1910)

1920-1929: Behind That Curtain. Earl Derr Biggers. (1928)

1930-1939: The Thirteen Problems. Agatha Christie. (1932)

1940-1949: The Body in the Library. Agatha Christie. (1942)

1950-59: 4.50 from Paddington. Agatha Christie. (1957)

Decade of my own choice: 1900-09: In the Fog. Richard Harding Davis. (1901)

Golden Age Girls: 8 books by female authors.

1. The After House. Mary Roberts Rinehart.

2. The Lodger. Marie Adelaide Belloc.

3. A Pocket Full of Rye. Agatha Christie.

4.  The Old Man in the Corner. Baroness Orczy.

5. The Moving Finger. Agatha Christie.

6. Evil Under the Sun. Agatha Christie.

7. Death And The Dancing Footman. Ngaio Marsh.

8. The Beckoning Lady. Margery Allingham.

Mystery & Suspense Reading Challenge 2012 – Completion

I participated in the Mystery & Suspense Reading Challenge 2012 hosted at the Book Chick City. My participation level was TWELVE (12) mystery & suspense novels.

And I have completed my first challenge of 2012! I thought it would take me at least six months to finish 12 mystery & suspense books but I did it in five. So yay me! 🙂

So glad to have participated in the Mystery & Suspense Reading Challenge 2012! Thanks to everyone in Book Chick City for hosting this fabulous challenge!

Completed Books:

1. The Big Bow Mystery. Israel Zangwill.

2. The Hound of the Baskervilles. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

3. At the Villa Rose. A.E.W. Mason.

4. Behind That Curtain. Earl Derr Biggers.

5. The Thirteen Problems. Agatha Christie.

6. The Body in the Library. Agatha Christie.

7. 4.50 from Paddington. Agatha Christie.

8.  In the Fog. Richard Harding Davis.

9. The After House. Mary Roberts Rinehart.

10. The Lodger. Marie Adelaide Belloc.

11. A Pocket Full of Rye. Agatha Christie.

12. The Old Man in the Corner. Baroness Orczy.

Behind That Curtain by Earl Derr Biggers

As a mystery addict and a movie buff, I have always known of the Charlie Chan mysteries. I have heard much about the 1930’s series of Charlie Chan movies and Warner Oland’s legendary portrayal of the detective. As a result, I was quite curious about this detective series.

Behind That Curtain by Earl Derr Biggers is the third book in the Charlie Chan series. It was published in 1928.

Sir Frederic Bruce, the former head of Scotland Yard, is a man obsessed with the past. For fifteen years he has been searching for the answers to only two questions, “Why was Hilary Galt wearing a pair of Chinese slippers when he was found murdered in his own office?” and “How did young Eve Durand vanish without a trace from the hills of Peshawar?”. But before he can finally reveal the answers to these questions he is found dead and the Chinese slippers he was last seen wearing have mysteriously disappeared.

I loved the way Biggers manages to create a sinister picture of the past crimes. The description of Eve Durand’s disappearance was particularly creepy. It is easy to understand how Sir Frederic Bruce can become so obsessed with the unsolved murder and mysterious disappearances.

I liked Charlie Chan, despite him being portrayed as the stereotypical calm Buddha like ‘oriental’ man. I would like to read more of his adventures.

The character of Barry Kirk irritated me. The romance between Barry Kirk and June Morrow was boring and unnecessary.

I found Biggers’s treatment of his characters to be a bit strange. He makes Charlie Chan his main detective at the height of the ‘Yellow Peril’. Chan is portrayed as a gentleman and as a force of good. Of course, Chan is a stereotype who keeps spewing ancient Eastern adages but that’s not a major irritant. He had also made a deputy in the district attorney’s office, June Morrow, a woman, quite unusual for the novel’s era.

However at the same time, many of the book’s characters keep insulting them. Charlie Chan is called names and is belittled. I guess he tries to show how deeply racist people of that era were and how Chan rises above all of that. Miss Morrow is frequently lectured (a lot of the times by Charlie Chan himself) on the ‘proper’ place of a woman and of her ‘womanly’ duties. Barry Kirk and Kirk’s grandmother at first refuse to believe that a pretty girl could be a lawyer,

“Calm yourself. Miss Morrow is a very intelligent young woman.”

“She couldn’t be. She’s too good-looking.”

Everyone laments how she is ‘wasting’ her youth.  It is indicated at the end that she would give up her ‘wicked’ ways and settle down. It is kind of like if someone wrote a book on differently abled people and used derogatory terms to describe them.  Or if someone wrote a book on racism but used the ‘N’ word throughout the book. Why do all of the characters constantly have to remind the readers that Charlie Chan is a man of Chinese origin and that Miss Morrow is a woman? This undermines whatever good Biggers may have done by creating Charlie Chan and Miss June Morrow.

The actual solution is a bit disappointing. The link between the mysteries is weak to say the least. Why would anyone go to such great lengths to protect a rather lame secret is beyond me. Thankfully, at least one of the happy conclusions appealed to me. Otherwise it would have been a total bust.

Behind That Curtain has a great build-up that ends up disappointing a tad bit but overall the book is enjoyable.

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The Friday 56

The Friday 56 is a bookish meme hosted by Freda’s Voice.

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56.
*Find any sentence that grabs you.
*Post it.
*Link up at Freda’s site

Today’s sentence comes from Behind That Curtain by Earl Derr Biggers, .

“Men stumble over pebbles, never over mountains.”

Teaser Tuesdays (Feb.21)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read

• Open to a random page

• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

 My Teaser:

“A black shadow shot past his elbow and materialized with a soft thud on his desk. Bill’s heart leaped into his throat and choked him.”

~ Behind That Curtain”  by  Earl Derr Biggers.