Another tasty collection of bad dreams for our Baku. Out of all the episodic ‘horror’ manga there is on offer, I have only liked a handful and seeing as I’m up to volume 8 of this, you can draw the conclusion this is one of them ( Ghost Hunt is the other). I like this one because Hiruko, Hifumi and Misako are more than framework for the horror as in so many others.
The dreams included in this one include one about childhood friendship that was really more about a bully and his victim who’s finally tired of it. Kairi, the owner of the fantasy-maker club Delirium, gets trapped in his own club and Hifumi and Hiruko go to help him. Perhaps the most interesting of the dreams is the one where the dreamer is setting up traps to capture Baku putting Hiruko and his rival, Tsukishiro, at risk. Hifumi plays two central roles in a couple dreams, a serious one about his friend’s inn which leaves Hiruko injured and the absolutely silly one where Hifumi finds himself in an arranged married to Shigoroku, a cross-dressing wealthy daughter who is pretty much Hifumi was a woman. The next volume also sounds too interesting to wait long to buy it.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
I read the review in Mystery Guild and had to have this mystery. Who could resist a little girl who loves chemistry, especially poisons? This story was delightful. Flavia de Luce tells the story first person. She’ll eleven years old and born into an old English family that has more name and ancestral home left to them than actual cash. It’s set in 1950 post-war England, a time period I know nothing about. Flavia’s mother is long dead (and oddly referred to only as Harriet instead of Mom) and she lives alone with her recluse stamp-loving father, her looks-conscious sister, Ophelia “Feely”, and her classical literature loving sister, Daphne “Daffy,” and Dodger, a medic in the war and who had saved her colonel father more than once.
The trouble with writing children is they usually don’t sound like kids unless they’re made to sound very young. Flavia comes off much older than 11 but I found I didn’t really mind that. It begins as just another day of being ignored by her father and tormented by two older sisters who have nothing in common with her when Mrs. Mullet the cook/housekeeper finds a dead snipe on the stoop with a penny black stamp on its beak. That night Flavia hears her dad arguing with someone and later, unable to sleep, she goes outside only to find a man dying in her garden, whispering strange-smelling breath on her with his dying word, “Vale.” To quote Flavia, “ I wish I could say I was afraid but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.
Flavia does have a Sherlockian detachment going on and she recognizes the death as a possible poisoning which gets her investigating. It doesn’t take long before the police arrest her father for the killing and not sure he didn’t do it, Flavia starts digging in her father’s past where she thinks the killing has its roots, especially when the librarian blames her father and his friends for killing her uncle when they were schoolboys. This book came with lots of reviews from big-name mystery writers and for once, I felt they were well deserved. Flavia’s smart, scientific mind works this puzzle with unflagging enthusiasm. If I had any complaints, it was with the end. So not to spoil it let’s just say it goes on a little long. To give you insight into Flavia, she keeps a running dialogue about her sister Feely because she boiled down Feely’s favorite lipstick, infused it with poison ivy oil and reformed the stick just to see what would happen. She’s not exactly a nice girl but she is a wickedly smart one.