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Showing posts from October, 2008

Review: The Victoria Vanishes, by Christopher Fowler

The Victoria Vanishes is the sixth installment in the Peculiar Crimes Unit series featuring Bryant and May, two detectives who have unusual methods of solving unusual crimes. One evening, in front of the Victoria Cross pub, Bryant sees a woman murdered. Later, when he goes to investigate, he finds that the pub doesn’t exist. One murder turns into several as a killer is tracked down. There’s not only murder in this intelligent mystery, but lore about the old pubs of London and a government conspiracy. The strength of the novel lies in the psychological evaluations of the murderer, the characterizations of Bryant, May, and their colleagues, and the pub lore. As one of the characters says, "The pubs of London are taken almost completely for granted by those who drink in them. Every single one has a unique and extraordinary history...these places hold the key to our past, and therefore present. They're an unappreciated indication of who we are, and a sign of all we've lost an

A book meme

I got this from Dani at A Work in Progress . The rules are: pass it one to five bloggers, and tell them to open up the nearest book to page 56. Write out the fifth sentence on that page, and also the next two to five sentences. The CLOSEST book, not your favorite or most intellectual. So here’s my answer. Since the fifth sentence on page 56 is dialogue, I’m going to skip down a bit. Later in the evening there was singing and dancing and as the candles burned down, they were replaced by new ones. The Queen had no intention of retiring early and seemed determined to prove that although she was a decade older than her husband, her energy was more than a match for his. She flirted with the men both young and old, but was careful never to step outside the boundaries of propriety, sharing her favors in equal measure, never lingering with a particular man unless he was old enough to be her grandfather. Twice she danced with William and her hand, cool at first touch but warm beneath, pressed t

Booking Through Thursday

Are you a spine breaker? Or a dog-earer? Do you expect to keep your books in pristine condition even after you have read them? Does watching other readers bend the cover all the way round make you flinch or squeal in pain? I’m most definitely not a spine breaker! I have some books that I’ve read over and over, some that are mass market paperbacks, and their spines are still unbroken. When I go into a used bookstore, I always search for the least used-looking book there. I think I have maybe only one or two books that have cracked spines, and only because I bought them used and that was the only copy of the book that I could find. I never dog-ear, either; I have about 500 bookmarks that they give out free with purchase at the Strand, McNally Robinson (now McNally Jackson), and other places. And it drives me nuts when the book I’m reading gets banged around. I know, that’s the price I pay for carrying books around in my handbag, but I’m very particular that way. And yes, watching other r

Tuesday Thingers: Legacy Libraries

This week's question: Legacy libraries. With which legacy libraries do you share books? Tell us a little about a couple of them and what you share. I share books with 70 libraries. Here are 10 of them: Ernest Hemmingway: 74 Carl Sandburg: 56 Karen Blixen: 40 Sylvia Plath: 16 Alfred Deakin: 15 Marilyn Monroe: 14 Flannery O’Connor: 13 F. Scott Fitzgerald, 12 Theodore Dreiser: 10 Isabella Stewart Gardner: 9 As for specific books, Tupac Shakur and I share a few: The Prince, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Moby Dick, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainance, and The Catcher in the Rye. Hemmingway and I share 74 books in common, including some surprises: Anya Seton's Katherine , Jessica Mitford's Hons and Rebels , The Gangs of New York , by Herbert Asbury, a number of Agatha Christie mysteries, Jamaica Inn, by Daphne DuMaurier, The Well of Lonliness, by Radclyffe Hall; and Peyton Place, by Grace Metalious.

Movie tie-ins: Confessions of a Shopaholic

In preparation for the movie version, Dial Press is coming out with a new trade paperback tie-in of Confessions of a Shopaholic . Compare it with the original mass market paperback cover: Personally, I like the old cover better... but then again, I've always thought that movie tie-ins in general are a little tacky. What do you think?

Review: Nine Coaches Waiting, by Mary Stewart

When I was about halfway through Nine Coaches Waiting , I found myself on the phone with my mom, who asked me what I was reading. Since it’s a pretty obscure book, I didn’t expect her to react the way she did: “I read that thirty years ago!” And “Your aunt loved Mary Stewart’s books.” Apparently, it was so “trashy” that my grandfather forbid his daughters to read it. My copy of this 1958 book is a 2006 reprint, and I have to say that, considering what’s published these days, Nine Coaches Waiting isn’t all that scandalous. But it’s a great novel of Gothic suspense and romance nonetheless, borrowing from the styles of the Bronte sisters and Daphne DuMaurier. The story begins when half-English, half-French Linda Martin goes to be a governess in France to nine-year-old Philippe, Count of Valmy. Although Linda forms a special bond with her ward, she senses something distinctly dangerous and sinister about Philippe’s uncle Leon and his aunt. That doesn’t stop Linda from rushing headlong int

Friday Finds

Mistress of the Monarchy , by Alison Weir. Since I love Weir's biographies and other works of nonfiction , I'm especially looking forward to this biography of Katherine Swynford . The Seance , by Jonathan Harwood. Victorian ghost story. Harwood is also the author of The Ghost Writer . The Widow Cliquot , by Tilar Mazzeo. ARC coming to me in the mail; nonfiction about the woman who created the Cliiquot champagne empire.

Review: Those Who Dream by Day, by Linda Cargill

I really struggled with what to write in this review. Actually, I struggled to come up with something positive to say, and came up with: the premise of the novel is promising--a thriller set around the sinking of the Lusitania and the Arabian revolts. While onboard the Lusitania, Dora Benley, a college junior and the daughter of a Pittsburgh tire magnate, encounters a mysterious man who demands that she return something she has apparently stolen. Later, the same man is found in the boiler room, tampering with a fuse. Later, Dora’s fiancée goes missing in the Arabian dessert. The premise is pretty much the only good thing about this novel. On the surface, the book desperately needs a good proofreader and copyeditor, for grammar and consistency respectively. But all the proofreading and copyediting in the world aren't going to help this book with its bigger flaws. The writing style is descriptive in some parts, but then you’ll have periods of jerky movements where you feel as though

2009 Pub Challenge

I haven't participated in a challenge in a long time, so I thought I might as well sign up for one for 2009. It's The Pub Challenge, and the full rules can be found here . Basically, I'm going to be reading nine books published next year. Here's a list of books being published in the US next year that I'm looking forward to reading. Laurie Albanese: The Miracles of Prato (Jan 27) Tiffany Baker: The Little Giant of Aberdeen County (Jan. 8) Dan Baum: Nine Lives (Feb. 10) Vanora Bennett: Figures in Silk (Mar. 24) Sarah Bower: The Book of Love (April 1) Denise Giardina: Emily's Ghost (July 27) Judith Koll Healey: The Rebel Princess (June 30) Syrie James: The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte (June 30) Jeanne Kalogridis: The Devil's Queen (July 27) Sophie Kinsella: Twenties Girl (Aug. 25) Jen Lancaster: Pretty in Plaid (May 5) Janice Y. K. Lee: The Piano Teacher (Jan. 13) Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers (Sept. 29) Christian Moerk: Darling Jim (Mar. 31) Mi

Tuesday Thingers

Today's question: Series. Do you collect any series? Do you read series books? Fantasy? Mystery? Science fiction? Religious? Other genre? Do you use the series feature in LT to help you find new books or figure out what you might be missing from a series? I collect a few series: First of all, the Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella. Not only do I have the books as they were published in mass market paperback, I also have them in their trade paperback reprint form as well (the only exception being Shopaholic and Baby, which is in hardback). I'm the exact same as Shana at Literarily , except I also have Kinsella's other books as well. Can you tell I'm a fan? I'm also a collector of Deanna Raybourn's Silent series, featuring Lady Julia Grey ( Grave in mass market paperback, Sanctuary in trade). There are only two books out there right now, and I'll be excited when the third book in the series, Silent on the Moor, comes out next March. I also seem to have qui

Library Thing: How popular are your books?

Every now and then, I see bloggers who post their most "unique" books on LT (it turns out that I'm one of two people who have Capitol Reflections , by Jonathan Javitt, and one of two people who have Lucky Billy , by John Vernon). But what about those books that are most common? Recently, LT celebrated having more books catalogued than the Library of Congress. They then came up with a list of the 1000 books that are most commonly catalogued . I thought it would be fun to see what books in my library were on that list... it turns out that 287 of the 1,067 books in my library are on there. What about you and your library?

Sunday Salon

It's Sunday again! As usual, I've done a lot of reading this week. I finally finished Devil's Brood , and really loved it! After finishing such a weighty book, I decided to go for something light, so I picked up The King and Mrs. Simpson , which only took me an afternoon to finish. I was expecting it to be a completely different book, so I was a little disappointed. Right now I'm reading two books (watch me multitask). It's Nine Coaches Waiting , by Mary Stewart. The book was originally published in 1958, and it's a classic of romance suspense, derived straight from Jane Eyre and Rebecca . In it, a young woman named Linda Martin goes to be the governess of the young Cout of Valmy, Phillippe. Attempted murder, romance, and suspense are all part of the receipe of this sort-of-trashy novel. I still have about fifty pages left to read, so I'll post a review when I'm done. The other book I'm reading is an ARC of Those Who Dream By Day , by Linda Cargill.

Review: The King and Mrs. Simpson, by Erin Frances Schulz

The King and Mrs. Simpson is the story of one of the 20th century’s greatest love stories—a prince’s abdication of the English throne in favor of marriage to an American divorcee. This short book opens in 1936 on the eve of the abdication, and jumps back in time to certain events in Edward and Wallis’s pasts. Although this book had promise, it fell short of my expectations. The prose is over-simplistic, written like a high schooler’s history paper, and the chapters aren’t really chapters, just floating paragraphs that get their own pages. I understand that Schulz is trying to present the material in a way that will interest people new to the story of the Windsors, and that this book is not in any way a definitive biography of them, but I thought that she talked down to her reader a little bit, and that was a major turn-off for me. In addition, I was dismayed to find that there’s only one reproduction of a photograph of Wallis and Edward in this book. That said, however, I thoroughly e

Friday Finds

Well, try as I might, I can't keep myelf from adding to the TBR pile! Here's a list of a few books that I added: The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein , by Peter Ackroyd. Historical fiction; about Victor Frankenstein. Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelley are characters in the novel. A book that's only available in the UK right now. The Minutes of the Lazarus Club , by Tony Pollard. London, 1857, about a secret society that contains some of the most brilliant minds of the 19th century. And then, of course, there's the dead body that washes up on the shores of the Thames... another book that's only available in the UK right now. The Uncommon Reader , by Alan Bennett. Short novel about the Queen of England and her reading. The Mistress of Mellyn , by Victoria Holt. A reprint of the original, came in the mail as an ARC on Wednesday. I've read some of Holt's other works when she wrote as Jean Plaidy, but this sounds as though it's a combination of Rebecca and Jane Ey

Review: Valley of the Dolls, by Jacqueline Susann

Valley of the Dollsis a cult classic, set in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. It features the rise and fall of three women in the entertainment industry in New York and LA: Neely, Anne, and Jennifer. The focus here is on the relationships the three women have with men and with each other. As the book progresses, the women achieve startling things, but in the end all of them must face their own demons, including drug and alcohol addiction and body obsession. Technically, this book is a bit (well, very) trashy; but it’s kind of like rubbernecking at a pileup. You know that thing’s aren’t going to work out perfectly for Neely, Anne, and Jennifer, but you can’t help but keep reading, even in a day and age when the things the author talks about in this book aren’t all that shocking. The characters (who are based on real people in the entertainment industry) are well-developed, too, even the supporting ones like Helen. Susann wasn’t the best writer, but, like Rona Jaffe , she sure knew how to tell a

Booking Through Thursday... on Wednesday

“What tomes are waiting patiently on your shelves?“ I've actually been quite good about keeping my book-buying and ARC-requesting to a minimum, so this list is (relatively) short. The books are: Evelina , by Fanny Burney. This book has been on my shelf for months. The Slaves of Solitude , by Patrick Hamilton, author of Hangover Square . An ARC of The Fire , by Katherine Neville. I haven't read The Eight yet, and I've heard mixed reviews about this one, so I'm a little hesitant about reading it now. A slightly-battered first edition copy of Rebecca West's The Birds Fall Down that I picked up at a used bookstore for $5. A biography of Queen Isabella (wife of Edward II), by Alison Weir, that I picked up today. The Shape of Mercy , by Susan Meissner. All This, and Heaven Too , by Rachel Field. If you haven't heard of this book, you may have read a children's book by Field called Hitty, Her First Hundred Years . I got about 50 pages in to The Conqueror , by Geo

Review: Devil's Brood, by Sharon Kay Penman

Devil’s Brood is the third book in a trilogy that began with When Christ and His Saints Slept and continued with Time and Chance. Devil’s Brood tackles Henry and Eleanor’s children, from Prince Hal down to John Lackland. The details of the rift between Henry, Eleanor, and their sons are well-known, but the way in which Sharon Kay Penman presents it here is unique. In this book, Sharon Kay Penman continues her tradition of writing historical fiction that both tells a good story and educates the reader. The novel opens in 1172, fifteen months after Thomas Becket was murdered and just after Henry returns from a trip to Ireland to pay penance for his unwitting part in it. As with her other novels, the focus is on the interpersonal relationships: between Henry and his sons, Henry and Eleanor, Eleanor and her sons, and between Hal, Richard, and Geoffrey themselves. It's the kind of dysfunctional family you only read about in fiction, the distinction here being that these were, of course,

Tuesday Thingers

Today's question: Early Reviewers- do you participate? How many books (approximately) have you received through the program? Have you liked them generally? What's your favorite ER book? Do you participate in the discussion group on LT? I've been participating in Early Reviewers since August, and I've been lucky enough to get two books in as many months. I've been selected for Murder on the Eiffel Tower (review here ), and The King and Mrs. Simpson , which I have yet to receive. I thought that Murder on the Eiffel Tower was very lackluster; I'm eagerly anticipating the arrival of The King and Mrs. Simpson , since I love everything that has to do with British royalty. I occasionally participate in the ER discussion forum, but mostly I lurk, since most of the discussion is complaining about the Mighty Algorithm, or new people who ask the same questions over and over again (or they ask questions that can easily be found in the FAQ). Yes, I know I'm a newbie, t

Review: The Glass of Time, by Michael Cox

The Glass of Time is a sequel of sorts to The Meaning of Night. Set in 1876, twenty-two years after Meaning of Night ends, the book begins when Esperanza “Alice” Gorst goes to Evenwood to (ostensibly) become Baroness Tansor’s lady’s maid. In reality, she’s been sent by The Powers That Be to spy on her employer, for reasons that Esperanza will not be told until later. We first met Baroness Tansor when she was Emily Carteret, engaged to Phoebus Daunt, the poet who was murdered twenty years before The Glass of Time opens. She still harbors feelings for her former flame, however, and one of the things she has Esperanza do is read from Daunt’s work. She also has Esperanza run mysterious errands into town, much to the suspicions of Evenwood’s housekeeper. What unfolds is a web of deception, lies, and, yes murder—not much more than that about the plot I’ll say, only because I don’t want to give anything away. The Glass of Time has been one of the books I’ve been anticipating the most this y

Weekly Geeks

Here's more about this week's WG . I did something like this back in June , but it wasn't very succesful. Here are my answers: 1. Moby Dick 2. Pride and Prejudice 4. One Hundred Years of Solitude 5. Lolita 6. Anna Karenina 8. 1984 9. A Tale of Two Cities 10. Invisible Man 11. Miss Lonelyhearts 12. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 16. The Catcher in the Rye 20. David Copperfield 27. Don Quijote 37. Mrs. Dalloway 38. Slaughterhouse Five 44. The Eyes Were Watching God 48. The Old Man and the Sea 50. Middlesex 51. Elmer Gantry 53. Fahrenheit 451 56. Robinson Crusoe 58. Middlemarch 65. The Color Purple 67. The Bell Jar 78. The Go-Between 87. I, Claudius

Sunday Salon

Since everyone else is doing this, I figure that I might as well, too! It's been a busy week for me, reading and catching up on reviews. Yesterday I posted a review of The Rose of Sebastopol , which I wasn't so keen on. Later I found out that the book is billed as YA, so I think that had I been younger, I might have enjoyed it more. I also posted reviews of The Other Queen (another book I didn't like), The Dracula Dossier , and The Blackstone Key . I also revived Dreadful Book Covers, and held a couple of giveaways. Which reminds me, I need to pick a winner for The Shape of Mercy . Currently I'm read Devil's Brood , Sharon Kay Penman's latest novel. It's the third book in a trilogy featuring Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, and so far I'm loving it. This time Penman focuses on the volatile relationship Henry had with his sons. The author never fails to impress me with how she manages to both tell a good story and educate her reader at the same time. I

Review: The Rose of Sebastopol, by Katherine McMahon

The Rose of Sebastopol is a novel set against the backdrop of the Crimean War. The three main characters are Mariella, our over-sheltered narrator; Henry, her fiancé, who goes off to the Crimean War as a doctor; and Rosa, Mariella’s idealistic cousin and best friend, whose progressive ideas lead her to become a nurse in the Crimea with Florence Nightingale. When Rosa goes missing, Mariella goes off in search of her cousin, encountering a very sick Henry along the way. The historical detail is top-notch, but I had a slight problem with the characters: Rosa is a little too modern, and Mariella is a little boring, though I realize that McMahon may have made her so on purpose for historical accuracy. The constant references to skirts, petticoats, and corsets were a little too intrusive, and I believe that if a real 19th century woman had been narrating, she wouldn’t have even mentioned her clothes, much less her underclothes. It’s almost as though McMahon wanted to say, “look, look, I did

Review: The Other Queen, by Philippa Gregory

The Other Queen is the story of Mary, Queen of Scots, during a specific period in her life—the time that she spent in the home of George Talbot and his wife, Bess, at Tutbury Castle. It was a period fraught with political turmoil and the threat of another civil war, as Mary attempted to regain her throne. The story is told from the point of view of all three characters. I have to say straight away that this was not one of Philippa Gregory’s best—a shame, since I was looking forward to reading it. Part of the problem is that I more or less have a preconceived idea of what Mary was like. Therefore, I was a little dismayed by the way that Mary is portrayed in the book; she’s arrogant. And that’s another problem I had with the book; I feel as though it might have been better had Mary not narrated part of the story herself. Even George and Bess are pretty wooden characters with no distinctive voices of their own; I flipped from one section to the next and thought that the same person was sp


Shana of Literarily is hosting a giveaway of Michelle Moran's new book, The Heretic Queen! More importantly, there's an interview with the author herself about the writing process and her experiences with her agent and the publishing process.

Booking Through Thursday

What was the last book you bought? Philippa Gregory's new book, The Other Queen Name a book you have read MORE than once Pride and Prejudice Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it? How do you choose a book? eg. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews I choose books in all kinds of ways--sometimes by cover if I see it in a bookstore, sometimes I go by recommendations on LibraryThing, other times I choose books because they're ARCs of books that I read in a certain genre. Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction? Fiction, definitely, though about a third of my bookshelves contain nonfiction. What’s more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot? A gripping plot usually takes precedence over beautiful writing. With what's getting published by whom these days, beautiful writing is an added plus. Most loved/memorable character (character/book) It's a tie between Elizabeth Bennett and Jane Eyre. Which book

Dreadful Book Covers

Its's been a long time since I last did an edition of Dreadful Book Covers, but here's a new one for you: the cover of The Priest's Madonna , by Amy Hassinger. The book has gotten good reviews since it was published two years ago, but hasn't sold that well. Maybe because of the cover? The woman looks as though she's possessed! So I guess I revive my old questions: do you think a cover makes or breaks a book? Do you ever purchase a book based solely on its cover? What kinds of covers usually catch your eye, if you're out browsing at a bookstore?

Review: The Dracula Dossier, by James Reese

The Dracula Dossier is an interesting take on two of late-19th century England’s most famous legends: the story of Jack the Ripper, and Bram Stoker’s inspiration for Dracula . Set in 1888, Stoker works for his friend Henry Irving’s theatre company, when he meets the eccentric American doctor Tumblety, who has an uncanny ability to walk through locked doors. One night, out for a walk, Stoker sees his new friend turn a corner. At the exact same moment, Jack the Ripper’s crime spree begins, and Stoker becomes the primary suspect. The story, like Dracula (which wouldn’t be published until seven years after this book takes place), is told through a series of letters, journal entries, and telegrams, from Stoker’s point of view. Therefore, Reese’s instant challenge is to authenticate Stoker’s language patterns—which he manages to do quite well here. It really feels as though Stoker’s the one doing the talking, which I thought was a particular strength of this novel. The book is also accompan

Giveaway winner

The winner of my contest for The Glass of Time is Luanne, of A Bookworm's World ! I got an overwhelming response to this giveaway, so congratulations! I jut finished reading it, and it's wonderful, so enjoy. As a reminder, my contest for The Shape of Mercy is still going on! Don't forget to leave an e-mail if you decide to enter.

Review: The Blackstone Key, by Rose Melikan

Mary Finch, a schoolteacher, receives a letter from her uncle, inviting her to visit him. On her way there, she encounters a Mr. Tracey, injured from a carriage accident, lying in a ditch at the side of the road. In his possession is a watch belonging to Mary’s uncle. Her arrival at her uncle’s house leads to a mystery and adventure involving everything from smugglers to European politics. Along the way, Mary is assisted by Captain Holland, but she can’t help finding herself attracted to Mr. Paul Deprez, a handsome gentleman from the West Indies. The author is a scholar of late-18th and early-19th century political history, and she does a wonderful job of explaining the politics of the period, without dumbing things down. The coded messages were an added plus to this well-crafted book. Where the author is less knowledgeable is in the area of social history; there were certain things that a few of the characters did that made me think, “that would never have happened back then” (I read

Cover deja-vu #4

The top cover is that of Elizabeth Bowen's The Heat of the Day . The bottom cover is that of Wave Me Goodbye , by Anne Boston.

Friday Finds

The Unburied , by Charles Palliser. Victorian "whodunnit," by the author of The Quincunx. All This, and Heaven Too , by Rachel Field. Mid-19th century, about a French woman who is accused of a murder, later immigrating to the US. The Conqueror , by Georgette Heyer. I'd always dismissed Heyer as being a poor woman's Jane Austen, but I found this in Barnes and Noble the other day and deicded to give her a chance. An Inconvenient Wife , by Megan Chance. Chance wrote The Spiritualist; and I liked it well enough to want to read more of her. The Nebuly Coat , by John Meade Falkner. Originally published in 1903, this book is set in the 1860s. The author's been compared to everyone from Dickens to Michael Cox. Another book I have in my hot little hands is Philippa Gregory's latest. I've read mixed reviews of it, but I'm going to see for myself what people are talking about.

A giveaway winner, and another giveaway

The winner of the Girl in a Blue Dress contest is... Anna, of Diary of An Eccentric ! My new contest is for a copy of The Shape of Mercy , by Susan Meissner. According to Publisher's Weekly : Meissner's newest novel is potentially life-changing, the kind of inspirational fiction that prompts readers to call up old friends, lost loves or fallen-away family members to tell them that all is forgiven and that life is too short for holding grudges. Achingly romantic, the novel features the legacy of Mercy Hayworth—a young woman convicted during the Salem witch trials—whose words reach out from the past to forever transform the lives of two present-day women. These book lovers—Abigail Boyles, elderly, bitter and frail, and Lauren Lars Durough, wealthy, earnest and young—become unlikely friends, drawn together over the untimely death of Mercy, whose precious diary is all that remains of her too short life. And what a diary! Mercy's words not only beguile but help Abigail and Lars

Review: The Spiritualist, by Megan Chance

One wintry evening in 1857, Evelyn Atherton allows her husband to convince her to attend a séance at the home of wealthy society lady Dorothy Bennett. When a gun misfires during the séance, Peter Atherton, a well-known lawyer and son of a wealthy New York family, determines to find out why. But soon after, Peter turns up dead, and Evelyn is the chief suspect. She then determines to find out who really killed her husband—and her suspicion immediately determines that Michel Jourdain, a famous medium, must be Peter’s killer. There were a few things about Chance’s portrayal of New York in the mid-19th century that bothered me a bit. First, I thought it was a little odd how the society matrons welcomed Evelyn, an outcast, into their midst, without question. Second, the author is maddeningly unspecific when it comes to details about the city in that period. Where on Fifth Avenue, for example, was Dorothy Bennett’ house? (my best guess is near Washington or Union Square, since the wealthy eli