Monday, December 15, 2014

Grace Humiston On the Case

Reviewed by James L. Thane
Four out of five stars

This is a very engaging and entertaining novel based on the life of Grace Humiston, a crusading attorney in the early Twentieth century. The real Mrs. Humiston earned a law degree at New York University and later became the first woman ever appointed as a United States Attorney. Humiston, who used her legal skills principally on behalf of the poor and disadvantaged, was also known as a brilliant detective, particularly after she solved the case of a missing New York girl in 1917.

In Grace Humiston and the Vanishing, Charles Kelly has used the facts of that case to create a fictional investigation in which Humiston is persuaded to look into the disappearance of a young girl named Ruth Cruger. Grace's husband, who is also an attorney, worries about her safety and has urged her to focus her attention on the law and to forego the detective work. But Grace feels that she must take this case, in spite of her husband's objections, and she promises him that there will be little or no danger involved.

Famous last words.

Mrs. Huniston's principal assistant is a Transylvanian investigator named Julius Kron. Kron know his way around the mean streets of 1917 New York, and he is the principal narrator of the story. Through his eyes we watch the case unfold and we realize what a talented and determined investigator Grace Humiston can be.

Ruth Cruger was last seen near the shop of a mechanic named Alfredo Cocchi, where she was going to have her ice skates sharpened. But Grace's attention is drawn almost immediately to the jewelry shop next door, which seems to attract a significant number of attractive young women like Ruth Cruger who come from wealthy families.

Grace discovers that several other young women have disappeared in recent months and she becomes convinced that the two men who are principles in the jewelry story are running a con called the Uncle Game, in which the younger and more attractive partner seduces wealthy young women into eloping with him to his native Argentina. There he and his partner sell the women into sexual servitude.

The police are of no help at all, and so Grace, accompanied by Kron, must take matters into her own hands and solve the mystery of the missing women. It's a difficult and dangerous mission, but it's also a very gripping story. In Grace and Tron, Charles Kelly has created two very well-drawn and engaging characters. He has also expertly set the stage on which the drama plays out, principally in the New York City of 1917, at a time when the nation was gearing up to enter the First World War. This is a book that will appeal to large numbers of crime fiction fans, even to those who do not generally read historical mysteries. A very entertaining and satisfying story.

Pub Quiz-Type Info About Pubs

A Dictionary of Pub, Inn and Tavern Signs (Reference)A Dictionary of Pub, Inn and Tavern Signs by Colin Waters
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

That title, A Dictionary of Pub, Inn and Tavern Signs is very specific and very correct. That's exactly what this book gives you, an alphabetically arranged list of pub names and words most commonly associated with the trade. So, while enjoyable if you're interested in the topic, this is not super exciting reading.

It's hardly academic either. Just the same, it's thorough enough for the casualness of the topic. I just wish some of the entries were a bit more detailed:

Custom House Found in many coastal towns, these are pubs that were formerly the local customs officer's headquarters.

Soooo, "Custom House" is named after the custom house. Got it.

Some are more detailed, but only slightly:

Cutlers Arms As the name suggests, this sign relates to the cutlery trade and is particularly associated with the Sheffield area, although also found elsewhere.

So, "Cutler's Arms" is in regards to cutler's arms and it's places. Wow.

Jumping off the snark-wagon for fairness's sake, the reader is occasionally given a good, chunky entry like:

Green There are a multitude of green people, animals and objects named on inn signs. The Green Man, a pagan symbol, shows the face of a dead man with greenery growing from its mouth. It symbolizes life springing from death. Jack in the Green is a living personification of the same figure, though some signs show Robin Hood. Green Man and Still is thought to have indicated a publican who was also a herbalist. Uniforms are commonly depicted, as in the Green Coat Boy, an inmate of a home for fatherless children, as opposed to orphans who are remembered in the name Grey Coat Boy. Military connections are found in Green Beret, Green Howard, named after the regiment, Green Jacket and Royal Green Jacket. Quite different are Green Carnation, a reference to the flower habitually worn by Oscar Wilde, Greendale Oak, a large oak tree in Mansfield that had an arch cut through it to accommodate a roadway, Green Dragon, Green Gables, Greengage, the plum, Green Gingerman, a reference to local trade in green ginger, Greenhouse, Greenmantle, a novel by John Buchan (1875-1940), Green Parrot and Green Tree, a colloquial name for the oak.

Entries such as that makes me, a chronic penny-pincher (or pence-pincher in this instance), cringe a little less when I think of the ten pounds I spent on this thing while on vacation with my wife in a little shop in The Shambles in York, UK.

Ratings Note: 3.5 stars

* * * Appendix: Personal Pub Favorites! * * *

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
"Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is a public house in the City of London, England, located at 145 Fleet Street, on Wine Office this location since 1538...rebuilt shortly after the Great Fire of 1666...The vaulted cellars are thought to belong to a 13th-century Carmelite monastery which once occupied the site. The entrance to this pub is situated in a narrow alleyway and is very unassuming, yet once inside visitors will realise that the pub occupies a lot of floor space and has numerous bars and gloomy rooms." - Wikipedia

The Cheese is hands down the funnest pub I've ever been to. It's like a playground for pub enthusiasts. On your first visit you'll find it difficult to...well, find. The pub is on a main street, but down a dark, narrow and unassuming alley. Once inside you can actually get lost. Do wander around and investigate the many catacomb-like nooks and numerous floors, especially the crypt-like bar below.

The Golden Fleece
"The Golden Fleece is an inn in York, England, which has a free house pub on the ground floor and four guest bedrooms above. It was mentioned in the York City Archives as far back as 1503.[1][2] The inn claims to be the most haunted public house in the City of York." - Wikipedia

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks
"Ye Olde Fighting Cocks is a public house in St Albans, Hertfordshire, which is one of several that lay claim to being the oldest in England." - Wikipedia


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