The Woman in Cabin 10

by Ruth Ware

 In my dream, the girl was drifting, far, far below the crashing waves and the cries of the gulls in the cold, sunless depths of the North Sea. Her laughing eyes were white and bloated with salt water; her pale skin was wrinkled; her clothes ripped by jagged rocks and disintegrating into rags.
   Only her long black hair remained, floating through the water like fronds of dark seaweed, tangling in shells and fishing nets, washing up on the shore in hanks like frayed rope, where it lay, limp, the roar of the crashing waves against the shingle filling my ears.
   I woke, heavy with dread. It took me a while to remember where I was, and still longer to realize that the roar in my ears was not part of the dream but real.
   The room was dark, with the same damp mist I’d felt in my dream, and as I pulled myself to sitting I felt a cool breeze on my cheek. It sounded like the noise was coming from the bathroom.
   I climbed off the bed, shivering slightly. The door was shut, but as I walked across to it, I could hear the roar building, the pitch of my heart rising alongside. Taking my courage in both hands, I flung open the door. The noise of the shower filled the small room as I groped for the switch. Light flooded the bathroom – and that’s when I saw it.
   Written across the steamy mirror, in letters maybe six inches high, were the words STOP DIGGING.

As always I’m a little late to the party. This book was all the rage last year and I’m just getting around to reading it. It was a real page turner! Laura Blacklock, Lo for short, (I hated that nickname!!) is our protagonist in this tense spellbinder. She works for a travel magazine and finally gets her opportunity to move up when she is picked to replace her boss who is on maternity leave. She is booked on an exclusive cruise ship as part of a press junket cruise for its maiden voyage. A few days before she leaves though she is burgled while she is home and the masked man locks her in her room while he ransacks her house. This sets the tone for what happens on the cruise.

‘Lo’ thinks she sees a body dumped overboard from the veranda next to her. She had had a lot to drink, she hadn’t slept since the burglary and her nerves were a wreck. Was it a dream or did it really happen? She can’t seem to get anyone to believe her. But the little evidence she has to prove the girl she thinks was killed really existed seems to be disappearing and she starts to think it is all in her imagination. The she receives a no nonsense message telling her to back off.

Even though ‘Lo’ isn’t a character I particularly liked, Ms. Ware pulled us into her life expertly and we had to find out what happens to her. She used a cool device to keep us flipping the pages to see what happens to her!

Did you read this and what did you think? I read some reviews that weren’t very kind and I was leery to read it but I’m glad I did. I really enjoyed it!


Pennsbury Pottery

Hidden in a box with my china closet stuff were four 6” Pennsbury Pottery placques. I’m finally getting to unpack and put things away after two years. My kitchen is finally painted!  I’m not even sure anymore if they were my grandma’s, aunt’s or my mom’s,  they’ve been in the china closet drawer so long. They bought this pottery at the Gateway gift shop in Breezewood, PA. on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in the late 50’s  – early ‘60’s. They loved to drive in the mountains and would pack a picnic and the diaper bags and throw us in the car and take off for a ride on the turnpike, turning around at Breezewood. I have memories of Breezewood and the one nice gift shop and restaurant. Now it’s unbelievable all the restaurants, gas stations and giftshops at the exit! It’s a bottleneck.

I looked up the pottery online to see how much the placques might be worth and how readily available pieces might be to get a hold of. They range from 3.99 to 15.00 each. There is quite a lot of other pottery pieces available too. I’m excited because I think I want to decorate the new kitchen with it. The light blues will match the new paint.

The pottery was founded in 1950 by Henry Below, his wife Lee and son. Mrs. Below was the artistic mind behind the lovely Americana designs, especially these cute Amish people. This design is what really set this pottery apart in the 60’s and 70’s. Pennsylvania is the heart of Amish country. There were also roosters, barber shop quartets, eagles and Pennsylvania Dutch hex signs. The Belows came to America from Germany in the 1920’s. Henry worked for Stangl in Trenton NJ and developed the famous tangerine glaze used on the Birds of America dinnerware, the first open stock dinnerware in the country. By 1949 Henry and his wife decided to open their own business. The pottery was in business for two decades. Henry died in 1959 and his wife and son continued on in the business. Sadly competition from China and Europe flooded the market and hurt the company. Lee died in 1969 and the next year the pottery filed bankruptcy and closed. In 1971 a fire destroyed the factory and all the molds.

In 1955 the Walt Disney Elementary School opened in the Pennsbury School District. The officials invited their namesake to the grand opening in Levittsburg PA. The Belows designed a commemorative plate in honor and presented  it to Mr. Disney. Only the one plate was made. It’s a real mystery whatever became of the plate. It will be worth a pretty penny if it ever shows up!

You can take a look at more pottery here and here. And you can check out this old postcard of Snyder’s Gateway Inn and gas station in Breezewood back in the day! Read the history here. It opened in 1941 and still operates today only now it’s basically a huge truck stop!

In Bitter Chill

by Sarah Ward

23848254Derbyshire, 1978: a small town in the idyllic English countryside is traumatized by the kidnapping of two young schoolgirls, Rachel Jones and Sophie Jenkins. Within hours, Rachel is found wandering alone near the roadside, unharmed yet unable to remember anything, except that her abductor was a woman. No trace of Sophie is ever discovered.

Present day: over thirty years later, Sophie’s mother commits suicide. Detective inspector Francis Sadler and detective constable Connie Childs are assigned to look at the kidnapping again to see if modern police methods can discover something that the original team missed. Rachel, with the help of her formidable mother and grandmother, recovered from the kidnapping and has become a family genealogist. She wants nothing more than to continue living quietly beneath the radar, but the discovery of the strangled body of one of her former teachers days after the suicide brings the national media back to her doorstep. Desperate to stop a modern killer from striking again, Rachel and the police must unpick the clues to uncover what really happened all those years ago as the past threatens to engulf the present.

This is the first book in the DC Connie Childs Series. I LOVED this book. ‘Page-turning debut’ is right. Lots of tension, suspense, a superb plot and Sarah knows how to write characters. That’s really important to me in my reading. And a sense of place, I like to to be transported when I’m reading. If the mystery or puzzle is super good, but you don’t get me wrapped up in the characters lives and the place where they live, it just loses something for me.  Sarah is excellent at both!

Detective Inspector Sadler and Detective Constable Connie Childs make a great team. Just a hint of maybe some attraction going on between them. Connie is the newbie to the team. Detective Sergeant Damian Palmer, senior to Connie, is the third person in the team. He was distracted throughout this story as his wedding was coming up. He seemed to be having second thoughts and this added some tension to the storyline. He wasn’t as big a character as Connie and Sadler. I’m really looking forward to watching this team mature and grow together. I have the next two books in the series. I won all three in a contest at the author’s website, crimepieces. She does excellent reviews there of other’s books as well! Be sure to stop over and check it out.

The genealogy thread in this story was interesting. I really liked Rachel, I guess you would call her the protagonist of this story? I find myself wishing she would be back in the next book, but I’m sure she won’t be.

Have you read any of these DC Connie Childs books? If you like police procedurals this series might be for you!



Flight 93 Memorial

visitor signOn September 11th, 2001 Flight 93 went down just two hours from our old house in Pennsylvania. It went down near Somerset, a town I passed frequently on my way to my youngest son’s house. We never took the time to get off the turnpike though and stop. Our last trip back home my friend Shelley and her dad and I went.

I wasn’t sure what to expect at a memorial to a plane crash, but I want to tell you it is beautifully, thoughtfully and respectfully put together. Well worth the long ride. A very sombre, sad place, but full of inspiration and courage too. The visitor center is excellent and full of so much information about that day and the terrorists attacks and the passengers on flight 93. We spent a long time in there.

They didn’t want anything to distract from the heroic act of the passengers so the visitor center is tucked back in between concrete walls. It draws no attention to itsself. You could walk right by it if you don’t turn your head to the left. There is a long black stone walkway off the parking lot. It follows the path the plane took as it came down. At three different spots on it there are engraved the times of the three other attacks. The walkway moves between concrete walls where the visitor center is tucked away and out overlooking the field and the boulder that marks the spot impact. It really does take your breathe away.

flightpath@ 7

wtc flightpath 5

spot from flight path

field of honor

There are three ways to get down to the Memorial Plaza at the crash site. You can drive, walk down a short pathway to the right of the walkway coming out at the Memorial Wall or there is a gorgeous walkway down that goes through 40 small groves of trees each with 40 individual oak trees. One for each passenger on the plane. It is a little over a mile though and it was very hot and we elected to drive down. The oaks are small and I think they are planted too close together , they will be crowded when they grow.

memorial walk

The concrete was made to look like wood to represent the hemlock grove that plane debris was thrown into. They really made everything in this memorial have a meaning.

wood concrete

The flight was carrying over 5,000 gallons of fuel and was going 563 MPH on impact. There wasn’t much left of the plane. The largest pieces were a small section of the side of the plane about 5 windows long. You can see the bottom cut out of where the windows were and a small piece of the nose. The nose piece is in the visitors center. The plane was inverted when it hit the ground nose first. It collapsed in on itself and the hole isn’t very large. They found debris down to 40 ft. There was left an imprint of the wings in the soft ground. It was reclaimed ground from a mine. There are so many pictures I am just going to give you a link to my album on Flickr and you can look at all of them there. Flight 93 Memorial Album You’ll notice a sloped black wall down on the memorial plaza. That follows the length of the debris field. The ranger in the visitor center said there were no real body parts, just tiny pieces. They were very lucky to find DNA to identify each passenger and crew and four others (the terrorist). Each family received about 2% of their loved ones remains.

Because the World Trade Centers collapsed down on themselves and there was all the building rubble they were not able to get much evidence from the crime scene. But they were able to get a wealth of evidence from this scene. Miraculously one of the terrorists credit card was found intact against a tree and they were able to trace his money trail. There was also a set of papers with their instructions for the night before listed and one of the terrorists wallets. They didn’t want this memorial to be about them so there is only a photo of those evidential items on the display board about the ongoing investigation. There is a website that you can go to if you want to see more of the investigation and evidence. There is so much info about this memorial on this site, I’m sure you will want to jump over and look at it. Friends of Flight 93. Click on Explore and Learn to learn about the evidence and the crew and the passengers and the terrorist.

The memorial wall was very special. It is 40 individual marble slabs with the name of each crew and passenger. each one is set at a slight angle from each other. The ones with the flight attendants name have flight attendant etched colorless beneath their name. One passenger was pregnant and they etched ‘and unborn child’ on hers.

Memorial Wall Memorial wall

There were several videos running in the visitor center too. I recorded them with my phone.

Timeline on flight 93 taken from data on the black boxes. Condensed from 81 minutes. Available at the Flight 93 Memorial visitor center.

video taken just 90 minutes after crash

FBI talking about the investigation

You can pick up phones just like the ones on the plane that passengers used to call their loved ones. On them are three of the voicemails left by passenger and crew to their loved ones. It was heartbreaking. I wasn’t sure how to record that, but I found a recording of it online…

I can’t tell you enough how special this place is. It’s a shame it is out in the middle of no where. A lot of people might not ever go to it because of that. It’s only about 10 miles from Somerset PA. though and thats a decent size town with hotels and restaurants.  If you get a chance to go, do. Johnstown isn’t too far from there either and there was a huge flood there in 1889. David McCullough wrote an excellent book about it. You could also go see The Johnstown Flood Museum. We ran out of time in the day and had a 2 hr. ride home so we ended up not doing it. I’ve always wanted to go there after reading Catherine Marshall’s book Julie.

I’d love to go see the World Trade Centers Memorial, but I’ve been to NYC a couple of times before and never again!


The Case of the Famished Parson

by George Bellairs  1949

30131529Dr. James Macintosh, the Bishop of Greyle, was a mysterious man; for a long time, nobody even knew his last name. But things take a turn for the bizarre when his body is found emaciated and battered having being pushed face-first off the edge of a cliff…

Inspector Littlejohn faces an incredibly peculiar case. How to explain the savage murder of a gentle Bishop? Did he know too much about the secretive citizens of Cape Marvin, the seaside resort of his murder? Or did the reason have something to do with the strange family he had left behind in Medhope?

Above all, why was the Bishop’s body so undernourished that death by violence won out by only a few days over death by starvation?

I came across George Bellairs first over @ The Passing Tramp. He didn’t sound like something I HAD to read, but if I came across one of his books I would pick it up. I came across a free ebook recently so I picked it up. You can get it at this nice website for George Bellairs. It seems Peter Fraser & Dunlop Publishers have undertaken republishing his books. I did grab two more ebooks for .99 cents on Amazon. I was approached by the publisher about receiving free books and reviewing. I said yes and started reading with the one they sent me, The Case of the Famished Parson.

It was a quick read with an interesting enough murder, but the characters left a lot to be desired. Not much time is spent on developing any of the characters. Maybe if I had started with the first Inspector Littlejohn I might feel differently about him. There was no sense of place either. The focus is mainly on the crime and the police procedural. It seemed like we were whizzing through the procedure step by step with no need to pull us into the place or the people’s lives. Bellairs seems to be talented at plotting a good crime, but not really talented in weaving in the place and characters and pulling us into the scene.

I found the names for characters hilarious. Most were just two words thrown together like Littlejohn, Bowater, Shearwater, Prickwillow, Dunblow, Rooksby, Mr. Topham and my favorite, not two words but funny, was Mr. Queasey! There was one line in the book I had to laugh out loud at …

“Will you stop laughing… This isn’t funny. It’s damned awful…”

It wasn’t ‘damned awful’ really, just not damned good either. Certainly not an Agatha Christie, thats for sure! I’ve heard Death Sends for the Doctor is one of his best and I have that one so I’ll read it next. Maybe it will be much better. Maybe I started with the wrong book. I have three more to read, maybe they’ll change my mind. It was a nice easy, fast read with a decent plot. If you come across one pick it up. It will satisfy your craving for a traditional British mystery.

This fulfills the ‘building other than a house’ category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card @ My Reader’s Block


Funerals Are Fatal

by Agatha Christie

Richard Abernethie was dead, but none of his quarrelsome relatives was particularly sorry. They are certainly better off. For Richard’s will made them all extremely rich!

But at the funeral a strange thing happened. Aunt Cora, a batty old art collector, suggested that Richard’s death was not quite natural. The family seemed incredulous! Then the next day another corpse was found. Was it a coincidence that it happened to be Cora?

Hercule Poirot, the famous detective, used a pet theory – “Let people talk long enough and they’ll always hang themselves.” So while all the relatives talked, Poirot listened. and what he heard was…
A case of vicious murder!

The UK edition of this book is titled After the Funeral. Why do they have to give books multiple names?  I read a review of this on someone’s blog recently (can’t find it now) and set out to find it right away. I thought I had gotten a different book when I picked up Funerals are Fatal and was pleasantly surprised to find I had the right book after all!

I enjoyed this a much as I thought I would! Excellent plot and wonderful characters, but what else would you expect from Christie?! Hercule Poirot didn’t make his entrance until chapter 7 and didn’t really play a large part in this one. An excellent case was set up for each character to have the motive and the means. I didn’t figure it out, that’s for sure.

This fulfills the ‘shadowy figure’ category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card @My Readers’s Block