French, Nicci. Beneath the Skin
. Centering on the lives of three women, this suspenseful novel is divided into three segments, developing each character and relating the events involving a serial killer. I found the difference in personality and social status to be well done, French manages to keep the reader involved with each of the women as each in turn comes (unknowingly) in contact with the murderer. I will look for more by Nicci French.
Harris, Charlaine. Grave Sight
. reviewed here
Connelly, Michael. City of Bones
. A Harry Bosch mystery concerning the bones of a child recovered after 20+ years. What happened, who was this child, who was responsible? Harry goes through some significant events with a rookie, his superiors, and his own growing wavering commitment to his role in the system. Fast read, full of rippling effects resulting from an event that took place years earlier.
Chang, Jung. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China
. Jung Chang uses the lives of her grandmother, her mother, and herself to illustrate the changes that took place in China during the 20th century. Her grandmother, born in 1909, was a product of feudal China: her feet were bound, she was more or less traded to her first husband as a concubine, and she was essentially powerless in these circumstances. Chang's mother lived through the Japanese Occupation, the civil war between the Communists and the Kuomintang, and the Cultural Revolution. Jung Chang herself suffered through the Cultural Revolution, "Re-education," and the denunciation of her parents.
The book was enlightening, to say the least. Chang's style does not allow the story to become bogged down with the horror of various situations, but neither does she allow the reader avoid the realities of life in China during war, peacetime betrayals, and famine. I had to take frequent breaks from the tension. The corrupt officials, the abuse of power, the destructive policies of Chairman Mao--are all presented through the effects on the Chang family. Reading history in a general sense and reading history from the personal point of view of someone who has been there and experienced it all first-hand -- are significantly different experiences. Excellent book.
Monardo, Anna. Falling in Love with Natassia
. I did not enjoy this novel. From the beginning, I was ambivalent, and at more than one point, considered just putting it aside. Then I'd get interested in the characters and their situations again. Then disgusted. Then interested. The interest, however, was always a distant kind of curiosity rather than a connection. The conclusion felt neither "concluded" nor open-ended. More like "this is as good a place as any to stop." Secrets are implied but never really uncovered. The last sentence in the first paragraph: "Years would pass before either of them would ever begin to understand why they had done this." Similar sentences occur throughout the first chapter. The first one was enough to catch your attention. The others were annoying. By the end, I really didn't care why they had "done this," knew more than I wanted to about the characters' backgrounds, and still had only a vague idea of why each character had behaved as he/she did. Psychological revelations aside.
Reichs, Kathy. Cross Bones
. reviewed here
King, Laurie. The Art of Detection
. The first book I've read in the Kate Martinelli series (I've read several about 5 of the Mary Russell series), and ironically, this one is also connected to Sherlock Holmes. Martinelli, a San Francisco detective, investigates the murder of a Sherlockian devotee and collector. The story involves the discovery of a manuscript that may have been written by A. C. Doyle while on a trip to San Francisco in the 1920's.
Mitchell, David. Black Swan Green
. This is my favorite book so far this year. I loved Jason/ I loved his struggle through his tempestuous thirteenth year and alternately cheered him on or suffered the agony of adolescence with him. I loved his innocence, his willingness to believe fantastic stories, his desperate need to fit in and still be himself. Someone on the back cover compared the novel to Catcher in the Rye (
the only similarity I see is that both are about adolescent boys);
I think it is more like To Kill a Mockingbird
in tone. It was also fun to chuckle about the references to 1980's language, styles, and music...and startling to see the political scene after a great distance.
Banville, John. The Sea
. Reviewed here
Zerries, A. J. The Lost Van Gogh
. The reappearance of a Van Gogh plundered by a particular cruel SS officer in 1944 quickly results in the location of an heir. The painting is estimated to be worth $50 million, and various art houses show aggressive interest in the painting. Clay Ryder, the "art dective" with the NYPD, finds that the Mossad is also interested in the case and especially in the SS officer who stole the painting. The Lost Van Gogh
is the first novel by this husband and wife team.