31 July 2017

Books Completed Since July 1

book icon  Bright Earth: Art and the Invention of Color, Philip Ball
I'm not certain what I expected of this book. I was hoping for something like Victoria Finlay's Color, in which she travels the world looking for the sources of the colors used in art (ochre in Australia, etc.) This was a little different: Ball traces the use of colors used by artists and how artists of the past pretty much had to know more than a little chemistry to mix their own colors, since they didn't come ready-made by Winsor and Newton. Indeed, the artists' apprentices first task as apprentices was to learn how to grind and mix color.

Ball goes back to the Egyptians' love of colored glass, but most of the book is involved in talking about the classic artists (Da Vinci, Raphael, Vermeer, Rubens, etc.) and the mediums and colors they used: the pigments mixed differently if you were using fresco and if you were using tempera and if you were using oils, and sometimes the color you needed simply didn't exist yet. Blues were not only hard to come by, but expensive due to the fact that they came from precious stones, and were saved for the paintings of saints that were considered the most important thing to portray for many years.

He also covers the concept of color, and how some societies do not have names for certain colors (the Vietnamese and Korean languages, for instance, do not differentiate between green and blue; the medieval color sinople could refer to red or green), the minerals and plants and even insects that produce different colors, how palettes changed from the medieval era to the present, and how manufactured colors revolutionized the artists' palette.

It ended up being fascinating reading even if it wasn't what I expected.

book icon  Whispers Under Ground, Ben Aaronovitch
In the third Peter Grant adventure, the action opens with Peter's thirteen-year-old neighbor leading him and his partner Lesley May to a ghost spraying graffiti near her school—but he's soon brought back down to earth by the death of a young American art student in one of the Tube tunnels. It looks like a simple stabbing, but it turns out he was killed with a piece of pottery that reeks of magical vestigia. It also turns out the student was the son of an important American politician, and the FBI sends out an agent to assist the Met in finding the killer.

And then things get really strange.

The cover copy makes a big deal out of the fact that the FBI agent is a born-again Christian, but that doesn't seem to cause all that much problems—she just keeps ditching the escort the Met has on her. The big problem is keeping her out of the way once magic starts rearing its ugly head. Some familiar faces appear, including Stephanopoulos and Sahra Guleed, and we make the acquaintance of Zach Palmer, whose dad was a fairy ("and by that I don't mean he dressed well and enjoyed musical theatre" ), and Jaget Kumar, who's Peter's guide into the underworld of the tube, which contains a big surprise.

I'm devouring these books like peanuts (or chocolate). They're inventive and fun, and I love the characters. They've even inveigled me into reading the graphic novels (check out below).

book icon  A Historical Tour of Walt Disney World, Andrew Kiste
This is a nifty little book that covers the genesis of the different lands and rides at Walt Disney World (chiefly in the Magic Kingdom), from Main Street's antecedents in Walt's favorite town of his childhood, Marceline, plus Great Britain's Crystal Palace, to the history of pirates and African explorers which prompted Adventureland, to the Western legends that led to Frontierland, the history behind the Carousel of Progress, etc. There are some long-winded explanations of exhibits (the examination of "Casey at the Bat" comes to mind), but mostly the narratives are fun and interesting. If you didn't know anything about Walt Disney's life in Marceline, or about the Old West, the "darkest Africa"-type explorers of the late 19th/early 20th century, and the futurism of the 1950s that gave birth to Tomorrowland, this book will be illuminating.

book icon  Radio Girl, Carol Brendler
This is the story of Cecelia "Cece" (rhymes with "peace") Maloney, a fourteen-year-old New Jerseyite whose dream is to become a radio star. When her father signs her working papers, but refuses to take her with him to the studios at "the Mutual" (he's a sound effects engineer at the Mutual Broadcasting System where Cece's favorite radio series, The Shadow, is produced) to get a radio job as he promised, Cece sneaks off one Saturday and dares to try to get a job at the CBS radio network instead—and to her delight is allowed to help out in the mailroom. From there she goes on to helping with other things, including typing scripts, and meets one of her idols, young actor Orson Welles, as well as an actress she admires. But other things aren't going so well for Cece: her best friend seems to be dumping her for another girlfriend (one she initially said she hated), she's keeping her employment a secret from her overworked mother, and her dad's young sister, who lives with them, appears to be keeping a terrible secret.

This is a bouncy, almost believable adventure that brilliantly brings 1930s teenage life alive: fashions, after-school jobs, favorite radio programs and singers, etc. Cece's breezy narrative, laced with the teen slang of the day, follows her as she confides in her best friend, and makes her way inch by inch toward her dream, never realizing her new job may gain her fame, but it's going to change her life in ways that she hasn't imagined. She's a typical teenager, self-absorbed enough and so fixed on her dream as not to guess what's going on at home.

Brendler paints the 1930s well; I detected only one mistake: missalettes were a 1970s thing, and I did think it was a bit "overkill" to have Cece and her best friend share a similar family problem. But she nicely ties a historical event into the end of the story. Not great literature, but quite enjoyable in the end.

book icon  An Echo of Murder, Anne Perry
Victorian-era Thames River officer William Monk is called to the scene of a particularly brutal murder in an area of London where Hungarian immigrants live: the victim was stabbed, his fingers mutilated, and seventeen candles, some of them a rare purple color, were scattered around the murder site, their tips dipped in blood. Most of the people in the neighborhood do not speak English and a learned man who lives nearby agrees to help Monk by translating for him. Ugly rumors start arising from the surrounding community, that the Hungarians are aliens who practice bloody rituals. Even Monk is baffled, unable to understand what caused such hatred.

In the meantime, the Monks' adopted son "Scuff"—who asks to be known as "Will" after his adopted father—is working as an apprentice to Crow, a slum doctor who sometimes treats the Hungarians. Out of nowhere, an English doctor who calls himself Fitz comes to Crow's assistance with an amputation case—and it turns out he served in the Crimea and was friends with Hester Monk, who thought he died on the battlefield. Fitz is still badly shell-shocked and sometimes has no memory of events; could he be the murderer?

Monk takes a little bit of a back burner in this latest in the series even as he doggedly pursues clues as more murders with the same grim pattern happens; the novel more revolves around Hester Latterly Monk, her reacquaintance with Herbert Fitzherbert and facing up to the privations and horrors she endured in the Crimea, and her making peace with her brother Charles, and also with Scuff, who is less a mudlark and more a young man every day, one who is getting good experience in the medical profession. He decides that he will use the name "Will" as an adult and plays a part in discovering who committed the murders. It's a nice change of pace to see the story revolve around Hester and Will, even though in the end it's Monk who makes the final connection that brings the murderer to justice.

book icon  Head of Drama, Sydney Newman and Graeme Burk
Born Shimshon Nudelman in the poor section of Toronto, media historians might know Sydney Newman as a former promising artist, or once a vital cog at the National Film Board of Canada or at ABC Television in Britain. But almost any fan of Doctor Who's long history can tell you that Newman was the bloke who came up with the idea of an old man traveling in a time machine who can visit points in Earth history, and appointed a young woman named Verity Lambert to produce the show (a rarity in that day, as well as having a young man of Arab ancestry to direct the first story). He was determined not to have "bug-eyed monsters" on his new show, which he insisted should be about history, and was nonplussed when the second story in the series, about the pepperpot Daleks, made the series a hit.

The first half of the volume is a memoir by Newman of his life through 1987; it's frank and some of the language would be considered culturally insensitive today (although Newman uses it to refer to himself). He rises from struggling young artist to flirting with socialism to employment with the National Film Board of Canada to working in Britain where The Avengers turned from a police procedural to the hip series we remember today, and finally to the BBC as head of drama. Newman's colorful life and stubborn character is well-told in an unflinching narrative (although, as in all memoirs, he forgets some of the details, which are remedied with footnotes). At home he was married to the love of his life, Betty, until her death from polychondritis and they—well, mostly she, as was the tradition back then—raised three daughters.

Burk takes over after Newman's memoir leaves off, chronicling the final thirty years of his life as his career waned. In the 1980s he even lost touch with the series he was most associated with, Doctor Who, stating it should quit doing all those trite science fiction plots and go back to historical and scientific stories. (However, in a nod to current events, he also thought it would be appropriate if the Doctor regenerated into a woman!) As a treat—although it is a rather sad postscript—there is an afterword by Newman's daughter Deirdre, offering another short perspective on her father and also on her mother's death and how it affected him.

In a modern age where "get up and go" ambition has been replaced with the need for multiple college degrees, Newman's story of climbing the executive ladder on grit and blarney may be an eye-opener. If you have no knowledge of Canadian and British broadcasting, you may find the narrative dry or without purpose. On the other hand, if you're a fan of The Avengers or Doctor Who (especially if you saw the film An Adventure in Space and Time and wondered about that bombastic man ordering Jessica Raine's Verity Lambert about), you probably will enjoy Newman's story.

book icon  The Sherlock Holmes Book, edited by David Stuart Davies
This is one of Dorling-Kindersley's "big ideas simply explained" volumes about the Great Detective himself. There are synopses of all of the canon stories with diagrams and graphics, a timeline of Arthur Conan Doyle's life and literary work, insets chronicling historical background to many of the stories, data about the era in which Holmes and Watson worked. profiles of major characters, and chapters about other Victorian crime fiction and Sherlock on stage, screen, and audio. The text is dotted with illustrations and photographs, magazine and book covers, lithographs, maps, old advertisements, movie clips, and more to thoroughly immerse you in Sherlockania. The game is afoot!

book icon  The Royal Nanny, Karen Harper
In 1897, a young woman named Charlotte Bill arrives at the royal home of the Duke of York (later to be King George V) and his growing family, in order to take the position of assistant nursemaid. Almost immediately she discovers that the head nursemaid has suffered emotional distress and is taking it out on the two young sons of the prince: toddler David (some day to be Edward VIII before his abdication) and little Bertie (the future King George VI), and, in the process has made both children afraid of their parents. When Bill reports the abuse, she is suddenly thrust into the heady and strict role of the royal nanny.

This is a fictional story about the life of Bill, who became known to the royal parents as well as their children as "Lala," and her life as nanny and later governess to the family of six: David, Bertie, Mary, Harry, George, and the youngest, Johnnie, who was kept out of the public eye because of his epilepsy and a developmental delay that might be called autism today. Lala lavishes all her love on the children and, in a fictional bit of yarn-spinning, even turns down marriage to stay with them. She will be known to many as Johnnie's saviour, as the Yorks are constantly advised to have the boy shut away somewhere, but her strong belief in him, and in the Duchess of York's feeling that she should not give up on the child, kept him at home and at least near the family and not institutionalized.

The romance Harper creates for Lala is a bit "wet," if you know what I mean, even more so knowing that it is a totally made up character (Harper says she combined two actual servants at York Cottage to create the fictional love interest). But it is the dedication Lala shows to her young charges, especially sunny Johnnie, and the behind-the-scenes action of the royal household that is of the most interest. Read the romantic frippery with a light eye and concentrate on the real meat of the story, Lala's love for the children, and you'll be fine.

(There is an outstanding miniseries about Johnnie that can be found on DVD, The Lost Prince.)

book icon  Rivers of London: Body Work, Ben Aaronovitch & Andrew Cartmel
I haven't read any "graphic novels," as comics are known these days, since back when Comico was doing Jonny Quest and Innovation did Quantum Leap. I have to admit I haven't been very pleased with some of the comic art which I've seen in the past few years: roughly outlined faces and figures, blurred figures and backgrounds. But I love the Peter Grant books and decided to take a chance on this first collection. I was not disappointed. The artwork is excellent and characters portrayed as they are described in the book.

The story: a car found in the Thames with its driver drowned presents magical influences when Peter investigates. This leads them to a car repair shop where odd things begin to happen—like cars having a mind of their own. This is nothing new to Thomas Nightingale, who introduces Peter to the most haunted car in Britain. Would it surprise you to know the two cases are connected? I knew it wouldn't.

Enjoyable art and stories, a collection of the individual comic covers at the end, and several brief "Tales from the Folly" featuring various regular characters wrap up this volume, which has a very funny ending featuring Molly and Toby the ghost-hunting dog. 

book icon  Re-read: The One Hundred and One Dalmatians, Dodie Smith
If your total experience with this story is the animated Disney classic or the two live-action movies and the abysmal weekly cartoon that Disney Pictures did, you owe it to yourself to read Dodie Smith's original, with its wicked sense of humor and some very touching scenes. Mrs. and Mr. Dearly (not Roger and Anita as in the movies, and he's an accountant, not a songwriter) live with their Dalmatians Pongo and Missus (in the book Perdita is a different, separate character) near Regents Park with their two nannies, Nanny Cook and Nanny Butler. Mrs. Dearly's old schoolmate Cruella de Vil is eager to buy Missus' puppies, and, as you know the story goes, has them kidnapped. By way of the dogs' Twilight Barking, a rescue mission is mounted!

The book includes a lot more adventures for Pongo and Missus in rescuing the puppies, including a very sweet stay with an elderly spaniel and his even more ancient master, a sojourn in a very special barn, and meeting with a Staffordshire terrier who helps them get aboard the moving van, and is a very funny read for adults and children alike, as Smith's narrative is very witty and has jokes adults will appreciate more than children. There are also additional characters like Cruella's husband and her white Persian cat, and other things are slightly different: in the book the runt of the litter is not Lucky, but little Cadpig, who stars in Smith's sequel Dalmatian novel, The Starlight Barking.

Recommended for all ages.

book icon  A Nantucket Christmas, Leslie Linsley, photographs by Jeffrey Allen

book icon  The Longest Road, Philip Caputo
This book unlocks every ounce of wanderlust I have. On two different years, 1978 and 1975, Mom, Dad and I popped in the car and drove cross country to California (and on another year drove down to Disney World). Yes, we traveled the interstates, not the blue highways, but we stayed at local motels and ate at a lot of local places rather than chains (although we were really fond of Nickerson Farms on the I-80 rest stops; they had a killer chicken soup). It was a great adventure, from the lush hills of eastern Pennsylvania to the corn- and wheat-covered fields of Nebraska and Kansas to the arid lands of Nevada to the golden grass of California. When I heard Caputo talk about this book on "Travels with Rick Steves," I had to pick it up.

Caputo and his wife Leslie and their two English setters, Sage and Sky, borrow a vintage Airstream trailer and tow it behind their pickup truck ("Ethel" and "Fred") and drive from the southernmost mile marker in the US in Key West diagonally across the US and up the Alaska Highway to Deadhorse, the northernmost mile marker, observing not only the scenery and tasting the local treats, but in search of the answer to Caputo's question "How does the United States, peopled by every race on earth, remain united?" (There really isn't one answer; but the responses are interesting.) They meet travelers, pocket philosophers, locals with differing political views, Native Americans trying to regain their heritage, people "sticking it out" (or are they?) in dying towns, and more.

While I was a little bored by some momentary political asides, I mostly enjoyed the trip, especially the problems of traveling with a vintage trailer and seeing life off the interstate, and of course the lush descriptions of scenery. And I smiled when he visited Chicken, Alaska, the setting of one of my favorite pioneering-days-in-Alaska books, Tisha, about a schoolteacher in the early 20th century. (Caputo doesn't mention the story.)

book icon  Equus, edited by Rhonda Parrish and J.G. Formato
Somewhere in me there is a little girl who always dreamed of horses, read Black Beauty and the Windy Foot books, even though I knew I wouldn't want to go through the work it took to keep a horse healthy and happy even if we had the room for one. Better to ride imaginary horses who could take you anywhere and didn't need grooming and mucking out.

This is a fine set of imaginary steeds to ride, and unsparing of the grim as well as the glorious: a rider and trainer of war unicorns can't explain to a new assistant why her virginity is worth keeping, but knows it is in her even when a tragedy occurs; a mute Florida girl races her limerunner (another name for a water horse) against the best (including death), a woman starts to knit to belong to her husband's clique and creates a new world for herself instead, magic colors a Regency-era horse race, a fallen angel and his steed take refuge in a church with explosive results, when rain ends in a valley that needs it desperately a young woman seeks to ride the horses that come out of the sky to find out why, in a modern urban setting two hard-drinking men in Halifax make a discovery involving kelpies and secretive shipments to a lake, a mysterious carousel shows up in an Australian town just as men move to round up wild brumbies, a woman who has a daughter who is "different" begs a unicorn to change her, a being of light enters a celestial chariot race when he begins to fade, and more.

The gods of Ragnarok show up a little too often for my taste in the volume, but the stories mentioned above quite struck my fancy as I read through this anthology, and I especially enjoyed the story of the war unicorns and the celestial race, the Regency and the Halifax-set stories gave me a chuckle, and I loved the familiar yet fanciful settings in Florida and Australia. One thing: I'm grateful for adventure stories that now feature women on an equal setting with men, but I wish there had been a couple of more male protagonists.

book icon  Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome
First published in 1930 and the first in a long series of books featuring the characters, this novel introduces the Walker children, whose mother is renting a home in England's Lake District during the summer holidays (the father is a naval officer and at sea). John, Susan, Titty, and Roger are wild to camp out on their own on a small island across the lake from the rental home, and since they can all swim (Roger is just a beginner) and sail, their father and mother give them permission. When they arrive on the island in their little sailboat Swallow, they find that someone has camped there previously and they re-use the fireplace the campers have made. They haven't been there long when they meet the previous campers: two tomboyish girls, Nancy and Peggy Blackett, who crew a small sailboat named Amazon.

This is one of those wonderful kids' adventures where the children are virtually unsupervised (their mother keeps tabs on them by hearing from the farmer's wife who provides them with milk and other goodies each morning) and just live fancy and free on their own. Once they meet the crew of the Amazon, they engage in a pretend "war" with them to determine which group will have the flagship, and commiserate with the girls about their usually fun uncle, whose writing project has left him ignoring the two—until his houseboat is robbed and they are accused.

Modern parents would be aghast at leaving kids 7 through 14 on an island alone, but both the Walkers and the Blacketts have been taught to be self-reliant and responsible, so they can have fun without all those bothersome adults around, just like when I was a kid. The kids swim, sail, row, hike, and then eat lots of fresh food and homemade treats. Yeah, the sailing terminology sometimes is a little deep, but Ransome explains it well enough that you can figure out what the kids are doing. Just enough mystery and adventure without putting the kids in danger. For a nostalgic look back at kids' vacations in 1929, this one can't be beat.

book icon  Friends in High Places, A Liberty Lane Mystery, Caro Peacock
Feeling tired and restless after the conclusion of her previous case (The Path of the Wicked), Liberty Lane is ready for some tea and companionship at the home of her friend Marguerite Blessington. Instead, she is embroiled in the British aristocracy's interest in Prince Louis Napoleon and a valet who is hiding out at Blessington's home, a  Frenchman who has escaped from France with papers that may keep the Prince from jail. No sooner does Liberty arrive than strange things begin to happen: a fire near the scullery, and then the report of a burglary that never happened. But more sinister things are about to happen, including a murder and an encounter with spies, and news about the man that Liberty loves that will shake her to her very core.

I have to admit the political machinations in this story made my head spin. Good thing the usual familiar characters were there to keep it balanced: Liberty, her friend Amos Legge the commensurate groom, the street urchin Tabby, and even police officer Bevan and Liberty's beautiful mare Rancie. The mystery is suitably convoluted and will keep you guessing until a telling clue is thrown in before the final few chapters. There's also the new experience of seeing usually practical Liberty experiencing jealousy. (And I must admit the fact that she left a suspect alone with temptation in her path was pretty stupid, but then it was an emergency.)

Not one of my favorite Liberty Lane mysteries, but well worth checking out.

book icon  Rivers of London: Night Witch, Ben Aaronovitch & Andrew Cartmel
This is the second graphic novel based on Aaronovitch's book series about Peter Grant, neophyte police officer and "apprentice wizard," working under Inspector Thomas Nightingale, England's last practicing wizard. A wealthy couple from the former Soviet Union who are living in London are terrorized by a "leshy" (a woods spirit) who has taken away their daughter; they try to kidnap Varvara Tamonina, one of a former World War II regiment called "the Night Witches," to help get her back. But Tamonina, just recently taken into custody by Nightingale and Grant, refuses to go with them. Instead, an old friend works behind the scenes to alter the situation.

Accompanying the suspense of the missing child story are some humorous moments with Beverley Brook and nice insight on Nightingale's character, as well as more about Tamonina's past. As in the previous volume, the final few pages highlight the individual issue covers and one-page humorous stories called "Tales from the Folly."

This is one graphic series that lives up to the "novel" nomenclature. As I said for the first one, this is splendid artwork, not the slash-and-gash faces that other graphic novels have developed in recent times, and the stories are just as good as the books. I can't wait until the next one comes out on the 25th.

OH! Don't do like I did and read this before reading the book Broken Homes. Something happens in the book that drives the plot of the graphic novel. As River Song shrills: SPOILERS!

book icon  Four Feet to Fame, Bob Weatherwax and Richard Lester
I've been waiting for this book since I heard about it: it's Bob Weatherwax's story about his father, Rudd, and the canine star he created, Lassie. Because Bob worked with his father and grew up with Lassie, I was hoping there would be a lot more details about some of the movies and about the television series. Instead there's a lot about Bob himself, starting with a nearly fatal motorcycle accident he had some years back as well as his own experiences as a trainer (not that this was all necessarily bad).

For someone who lived the experience, there are some odd factual mistakes, though. Bob says "Spook" (the Lassie you see with the wide blaze in early Timmy episodes) was in Lassie's Great Adventure (taken from a five-part Lassie episode) when it was "Baby," Spook's successor, and he said the series titles originally showed Lassie standing on a rock "surveying his domain" and the iconic scene of Lassie jumping over the fence came later, but it was the rock scene which came later after the farm episodes. (Also, I'm not sure whose mistake this is, Bob's or co-author Richard Lester, but he refers to Corey Stuart as a park ranger, which is wrong. Corey is a forest ranger; park rangers are completely different--they even work for a different government agency.)

Another troubling bit of narrative has Bob explaining the Lassie lineage. For years the creators of the series and the Weatherwax family stated that each new Lassie was the son of the previous dog. Several years ago it came to light that the second Lassie, "Lassie Junior," who appeared on the television episodes with Jeff and later Timmy, was not a son of "Pal," the original Lassie of the movies. (However, all the Lassie collies following were descended from "Junior.") In this book Bob states that "Pal" was bred and had a son who was a Lassie-in-training; however, that collie had eye problems and couldn't perform, but his son Laddie was groomed to be Pal's successor. Unfortunately Laddie died of distemper, and a new Lassie had to be sought out. Finally one of Rudd Weatherwax's helpers, Frank Inn, found Lassie Junior, but Bob described the dog as "vicious" several times. He never explains how Rudd managed to break the dog of attacking people.

But there are enough other behind-the-scenes glimpses to be reasonably satisfying: Bob talking about being friends with Tommy Rettig, who played Jeff and who was so strictly supervised by his mother he didn't have a chance to be a boy; the truth about John Wayne "winning" Lassie at poker while filming Hondo (and how tough it was to work with John Wayne, who really didn't like to work with dogs); the dog Bob considers the smartest Weatherwax dog ever trained (it wasn't Lassie); how hard it was to work with collies (they have minds of their own); how Rudd's efforts to protect the Lassie image pretty much ruined him emotionally; about Rudd's tough childhood and the no-nonsense approach he took with his own children (if you love Lassie, you may not like the truth about Rudd); etc. And some trivia: for instance, in the 19th season episode of the Lassie television series, "The Visitor," that isn't "Hey Hey" (grandson of Baby) playing Lassie; it's Bob's dog Silver who played "Dog" in Big Jake.

So, worthwhile for a Lassie lover—just wish there'd been more.

book icon  Broken Homes, Ben Aaronovitch
So much is going on in this fourth novel in the Peter Grant "Rivers of London" series that I'm hard pressed to sum it up. A man involved in a car accident has blood all over the rear of his car as if a body has been riding there; Peter, his partner Lesley, and his mentor Thomas Nightingale are still chasing down the disciples of the Faceless Man; a young woman has been found with her face destroyed;, another man is found having been burned up from the inside; a rogue magician turns up; a man has suddenly jumped under a Tube train; a wizard's grimoire has appeared; and apparently something odd is going on at a public housing flat. Oh, and the Folly's enigmatic housekeeper Molly is working her way through cookbooks now. Got all that?

As in the way of these books, it all makes sense in the end—or as much sense as it can make in a London where magic exists, but Peter and Lesley are kept on the run trying to figure it all out. Eventually they move undercover to the public housing unit where Peter discovers there's something a lot bigger than murders and grimoires going around.

If you are reading the graphic novels, do not do as I did and read Night Witch before this book, as there is a whopper of a spoiler in it for this book.

book icon  Rivers of London: Black Mould, Ben Aaronovitch & Andrew Cartmel
I know I'm hooked: I bought this as soon as it was released on July 25.

DC Sahra Guleed is investigating the rental home of a friend whose daughter has refused to live in it any longer, citing creepy and fearful feelings, when she is attacked by an animated "creature" made from black mould. She fights it off and reports it to the Folly, where she helps Peter Grant defeat the creature off with an unusual weapon, since his use of magic just strengthens it. Peter's search for more of this "creepy" mould leads him to a swank new apartment building, two young people living slightly illegally in an aunt's apartment, an old-age home, and even to his musician dad for some advice. After all, what's the connection between homicidal black mould, a jazz musician, and a rental company?

Loved Peter and Guleed working together, the humorous subplot with Nightingale and Tom Debden (the body-shop guy from Body Work), a great action scene involving Molly and an intruder, and seeing Peter's dad "in the flesh," so to speak. My only quibble: I wasn't sure the woman character introduced near the end of the story was all that good a character; she seemed a bit over the top. Another funny ending with Molly and Toby finishes off an entertaining story that's still not quite as good as Body Work, but which gets points for a novel "villain." (And there's a couple of great chuckles in the one-page "Tales from the Folly.")