Book review: The Black Lizard / Beast in the Shadows

The Black Lizard

The Black Lizard / Beast in the Shadows
by Edogawa Rampo
translated from the Japanese
by Ian Hughes
January 2006
280 pages
The stories were first published 
respectively in 1934 and 1928
Mystery/Japanese literature

Read for The Classics Club

I recently discovered the Japanese Mystery Book Club on Discord (check here). We were supposed to read The Black Lizard and Beast in the Shadows a few weeks ago, and share on Instagram Stories.
That was a total debacle for me, I still don’t understand how you can share things on Stories (instead of in the Feed), as I can’t seem to be able to do a search with hashtags in Stories). So I have no idea what the others thought about the book.
Anyway, it doesn’t matter, I’m glad it gave me the opportunity to discover a classic Japanese author I didn’t know yet. And a really great one!

Click to continue reading

Six degrees of separation: from Glasgow to fire


Six degrees of separation:
from Glasgow to fire

Sometimes, the book we have to use to start the chain is challenging for my own rules. So to start this one, I decided to go with another author whose first name is Douglas.
So I started in Glasgow, and ended up with  a French philosopher!

Using my own rules for this fun meme hosted by Kate at Booksaremyfavouriteandbest (see there the origin of the meme and how it works – posted the first Saturday of every month).

Here are my own quirky rules:

1. Use your list of books on Goodreads
2. Take the first word of the title (or in the subtitle) offered and find another title with that word in it
3. Then use the first word of THAT title to find your text title
4. Or the second if the title starts with the same word, or you are stuck

Shuggie Bain  Shadows Walking

  The Black Lizard  Lady Agnes Mystery 1  

  fire season The Psychoanalysis of Fire  

Links will send you to my review or to the relevant Goodreads page

1.  Shuggie Bain, by Douglas Stuart

So this is the book we have to start with. I haven’t read it, and am not planning to, this is not a theme I’m interested in.

Shuggie Bain is the unforgettable story of young Hugh “Shuggie” Bain, a sweet and lonely boy who spends his 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow, Scotland. Thatcher’s policies have put husbands and sons out of work, and the city’s notorious drugs epidemic is waiting in the wings. Shuggie’s mother Agnes walks a wayward path: she is Shuggie’s guiding light but a burden for him and his siblings. She dreams of a house with its own front door while she flicks through the pages of the Freemans catalogue, ordering a little happiness on credit, anything to brighten up her grey life. Married to a philandering taxi-driver husband, Agnes keeps her pride by looking good–her beehive, make-up, and pearly-white false teeth offer a glamourous image of a Glaswegian Elizabeth Taylor. But under the surface, Agnes finds increasing solace in drink, and she drains away the lion’s share of each week’s benefits–all the family has to live on–on cans of extra-strong lager hidden in handbags and poured into tea mugs. Agnes’s older children find their own ways to get a safe distance from their mother, abandoning Shuggie to care for her as she swings between alcoholic binges and sobriety. Shuggie is meanwhile struggling to somehow become the normal boy he desperately longs to be, but everyone has realized that he is “no right,” a boy with a secret that all but him can see. Agnes is supportive of her son, but her addiction has the power to eclipse everyone close to her–even her beloved Shuggie.
A heartbreaking story of addiction, sexuality, and love, Shuggie Bain is an epic portrayal of a working-class family that is rarely seen in fiction. Recalling the work of Edouard Louis, Alan Hollinghurst, Frank McCourt, and Hanya Yanagihara, it is a blistering debut by a brilliant novelist who has a powerful and important story to tell.

2.  Shadows Walking, by Douglas R. Skopp

So as explained above, I went with another Douglas.

Here are excepts from my review:
Let me tell you right away that if you are interested in German history, in the Nazi era, and in what happened then, you need absolutely to read this novel. Fruit of 20 years of study and work, it is extremely rich and multi-layered.
Skopp translates extremely well how the characters evolved and let themselves slowly but surely get trapped in foolish and evil ideas, ideas that appeared good at first. The whole Nazi system is presented in its scary logical cold reasoning, leaving no room for empathy or humanistic thoughts.
It is unfortunately not too difficult to do some transposition, and think about the consequences some political logical decisions could have…
The whole theme of dreams, delusions, and fantasy is omnipresent. There’s also a lot on the themes of religion and violence.
The ending is very clever, like a sword of Damocles you may have expected for a while…

3. The Black Lizard / Beast in the Shadows

I just read this book last week, but unfortunately, haven’t reviewed it yet. These were my first two stories by Edogawa Rampo, a brilliant Japanese author of classic mysteries. So so clever!!

“Two Golden Age classics from Japan’s grand master of mystery. Edogawa Rampo (pseudonym of Hirai Taro, 1894-1965) is the acknowledged grand master of Japan’s golden age of crime and mystery fiction. In the early part of his career, he created the Japanese gothic mystery, developing the work of Edgar Allan Poe and related nineteenth century writers in a distinctly Japanese form. This part of his career coincided with a great flowering in Japanese literature and culture, a relatively free and uninhibited popular press being a defining feature of the times. In this context, Rampo’s dark vision and extravagant grotesquery found an avid readership, and had a profound influence on other writers.
The Black Lizard, a master criminal as deadly as she is beautiful, wagers all in an epic battle with a master detective.
A mystery writer vows to protect the woman he secretly loves from the Beast in the Shadows, but disaster strikes when he turns detective himself.”

4.  The Lady Agnès Mystery vol 1: Book 1. The Season of the Beast

VERDICT: Suspenseful saga set in France in the 14th century, at the time of the dreadful Inquisition. Rich in historical details and ripe with secrets powerful enough to kill or to die for.
5. Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout

Excerpts from my review:
I read this book because of my love for nature and hiking, and also solitary life. I found all this in the book, but much more! I learned a lot about fire management.
I enjoyed the author’s beautiful prose as he contemplates and scrutinizes the horizon at the top of his tower, for several months every year, in New Mexico.

This book was a big revelation for me, I loved it to pieces. I was 17 at the time (so that’s a long time ago!!). Indeed, during the last year of high school. all French students had to study philosophy.

“[Bachelard] is neither a self-confessed and tortured atheist like Sartre, nor, like Chardin, a heretic combining a belief in God with a proficiency in modern science. But, within the French context, he is almost as important as they are because he has a pseudo-religious force, without taking a stand on religion. To define him as briefly as possible – he is a philosopher, with a professional training in the sciences, who devoted most of the second phase of his career to promoting that aspect of human nature which often seems most inimical to science: the poetic imagination …” – J.G. Weightman, The New York Times Review of Books”
– that’s the synopsis featured on Goodreads.


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2021: March wrap-up

March 2021 WRAP-UP

I introduced my February recap saying we were getting closer to a Covid vaccine. I didn’t think things would suddenly accelerate, at least in some areas. So I just got my first vaccine yesterday!

March has been an interesting reading month, with the highest number of books read per month I believe, and possibly also for the first time more audiobooks than books in print!!
I have discovered that listening to audiobooks and doing jigsaw puzzles (checked out at my awesome public library) was indeed a great way to relax.

The focus these past 3 months has been on Japanese literature, for the Japanese Reading Challenge 14, and I managed to read 12 books, so actually 3 more than originally planned. This is also the most I have read for this challenge.
I’m actually going to read more Japanese fiction, even if the challenge is technically over.

I have also restarted posting notes from my Orthodox reads.

BUT, I am again way behind in my reviews, as I haven’t had time to participate in the Sunday Post, where I usually do short reviews.

📚 So here is what I read in March:

16 books:
7 in print 
with 1,859 pages, a daily average of 59 pages/day
9 in audio
= 39H17
, a daily average of 1H16

6 in nonfiction:

  1. The Book of the Song of Songs
  2. The Book of Wisdom
  3. The Book of Sirach
  4. The Book of Hosea
  5. The Book of Amos – these first 5 books were as audiobooks, for The Classics Club and the Books in Translation Challenge
  6. Less Than Fully Catholic, by Trisha Day – written by a friend

5 in literary fiction:

  1. Kusamakura, by Natsume Soseki
  2. Le Mineur, by Natsume Soseki – French ebook
  3. To the Spring Equinox and Beyond, by Natsume Soseki – this one and all the above were ebooks for The Classics Club,  the Japanese Reading Challenge 14, and the Books in Translation Challenge
  4. Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro – for the Japanese Reading Challenge 14
  5. Before the Coffee Gets Cold, by Toshikazu Kawaguchi – for the Japanese Reading Challenge 14. And Buddy read

5 in mystery:

  1. Cards on the Table (Hercule Poirot #15), by Agatha Christie
  2. Dumb Witness (Hercule Poirot #16), by Agatha Christie
  3. Death on the Nile (Hercule Poirot #17), by Agatha Christie – these 3 were audiobooks for The Classics Club
  4. The Black Lizard/Beast in the Shadows, by Edogawa Rampo – ebook for The Classics Club,  the Japanese Reading Challenge 14, and the Books in Translation Challenge
  5. Rien ne t’efface, by Michel Bussi – French audiobook


This is too hard, I have to pick four this time!!

 The Miner The Black Lizard

 Klara and the Sun Rien ne t'efface


Classics Club: 32/137 (from November 2020-until November 2025)
Japanese Literature Challenge: 12 books 

Total of books read in 2021 = 42/120
Number of books added to my TBR this past month = 10



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The only woman in the room

click on the cover to access my review


The top 8 books to read in March 2021


Caffeinated Reviewer
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please go and visit them,
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Come back tomorrow
to see the books I plan to read in April

📚 📚 📚

How was YOUR month of March?

Nicole at Feed Your Fiction Addiction
has created a Month In Review meme
where you can link your monthly recap posts
Thanks Nicole!