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Friday, May 30, 2014

The Transcriptionist by Amy Rowland

The Transcriptionist is a sort of introspection by proxy.  Lena is 33 and the last transcriptionist at The Record.  Her day consists of listening to reporters call in new stories (from the tragic to the trivial; a bombing in Kabul, a dance review) as she transcribes them.  Alone in the isolated Recording Room on the 11th floor, Lena is force fed thousands of words through her ear phones as her fingers rapidly record whatever is being said.  Lena thinks about "the passivity of witnessing tragedy, witnessing it with my ears, and serving as a conduit...passing the news through my body and sending it to be processed into tidy column inches."

It is rare that anyone visits the Recording Room in person, but Russell, a reporter, does so occasionally.  He seems interested in Lena, but is surprised to eventually realize that her name is not Carol, which he has been calling her for some time.  It is significant that she answers to Carol and doesn't feel it is important to correct Russell, almost as if she really is only a "conduit."

Then Lena discovers a story about a blind woman mauled to death by a lion at the New York Zoo.  It dawns on Lena that this is the woman she sat beside on the bus and with whom she had a brief conversation.  The story grips her; it is personal because she met and conversed with the blind woman.  Lena becomes obsessed with finding out more about her.  The more she learns, the more she sees a connection with her own life.

This investigation into the life of the blind woman may sound suspenseful, but somehow, it isn't.  What it does, however, is give Lena a chance to pay attention to the direction her life has taken, to evaluate,  and to make some decisions.

The Transcriptionist is a debut novel that " asks probing questions journalism and ethics"; that discusses the declines newspapers have suffered as a result of online news sources; and that examines the effects of isolation and complacency.

It is a strange little book.  I found it interesting, but not gripping, and yet, I don't think it is a book I will soon forget.

An ARC from Algonquin.

Literary Fiction.  2014.  246 pages.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Blackhouse by Peter May

Sometimes you just luck up on an author that you have never read and find yourself immersed in a world or a character that demands your full attention.  

The Blackhouse is the first in The Lewis Man trilogy by Peter May.  Set on the Isle of Lewis, the most remote of the Scottish islands, the novel weaves past and present together as Edinburgh detective Finn McLeod returns to the island after a sixteen year absence.  His only other return was a brief visit to attend his aunt's funeral.

After investigating a brutal murder in Edinburgh, Finn is sent to the Isle of Lewis to see if he can make a connection to a hauntingly similar murder there.  He is wary of returning to the island and confronting old friends and enemies, and he is not welcomed by the DCI in charge of the investigation.

The victim, as it turns out, is someone Finn knew well--the island bully and bad boy.  As Finn investigates (he already feels sure that this murder is a copycat, not connected to the Edinburgh case, but he keeps that to himself), he finds himself returning to childhood memories.  

Alternating between the first person perspective of Finn's memories and the third person perspective dealing with the investigation, it is clear that the memories will somehow become crucial to solving the case.

I'm not going to go into the plot any further, but it is a rewarding one with some surprises.  The characters are three dimensional and complex, the atmosphere and landscape are beautifully depicted, and  the traditions and culture of the isolated island community are skillfully related.  

This is not simply a murder mystery or a crime novel--it is much more.   I will be looking for the sequel and some of the other novels by Peter May.  Highly recommended.

Some information about Peter May (via this source):

Peter May is the multi award-winning author of:

  • the internationally best-selling Lewis Trilogy set in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland;
  • the China Thrillers, featuring Beijing detective Li Yan and American forensic pathologist Margaret Campbell;
  • the critically-acclaimed Enzo Files, featuring Scottish forensic scientist Enzo MacLeod, which is set in France;
  • and several standalone books, the latest of which is Entry Island (January 2014, Quercus UK).

Every book in the series has won prestigious awards.

A beautiful video of the Isle of Lewis:

NetGalley/Quercus Books

Mystery/Suspense/Psychological.  2013.  Print Length:  401 pages

Terminal City by Linda Fairstein

 Terminal City  

Fairstein always does a marvelous job with the history of New York's buildings and institutions, and as usual the historical parts are fascinating

The iconic Grand Central Terminal gets the most historic detail, and indeed, it is a remarkable structure with a compelling history.  Also interesting, the historic information about the Waldorf-Astoria and the (no longer in existence)Biltmore Hotel.

On the other hand, I found the mystery aspect of this one slow, dependent on coincidence, and concocted mainly to connect it with Grand Central Terminal.  

I usually like Mike Chapman, but this time he was annoying and his typical repartee felt too caustic and too forced. Is that just me?  Did anyone else want back-hand him after some of his "clever" remarks?   Maybe I've just been reading this series for too long.

What would make a fascinating book is one that covers all of the historic sites that Fairstein has included in her novels.  The historic element has long been a draw in her novels for many readers; unfortunately, it was about the only draw in this one for me.

NetGalley/Penguin Group/Dutton

Crime/Police Procedural.  June 17, 2014.  Print length:  384 pages.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

If you liked either The Secret History or The Bellweather Revivals, you might like this novel.

I wasn't particularly taken with any of them, but so many people love The Secret History that a comparison of Bittersweet to The Secret History and The Bellweather Revivals might be in order:

  • lower class individual inserted into a privileged society
  • this individual  comes from a loveless home life
  • is isolated in some way; little or no mention of previous friends 
  • is covetous and overly desirous of being accepted
  • is full of self-justification; rationalizes to absolve him/herself from guilt
  • recognizes moral expediency and condemns it in the rich and powerful crowd he or she wants to enter, but rarely acknowledges it in personal terms
the rich
  • "Let me tell you about the very rich.  They are different from you and me," so said F. Scott Fitzgerald.  We aren't talking about rich in the terms of a million or two, but the rich with multi-millions who can buy anything they want.
  • The rich and privileged are treated pretty much the same in all three books; entitled and above moral or ethical considerations.
  • abuse of power by way of money or personality
  • long and winding books
  • Gothic atmosphere and feeling of impending doom from the first page
  • you know (generally) what will happen, but want the details
  • none of the characters are especially likable and some are simply vicious
Plot of Bittersweet:

Plump Mabel is on scholarship to an exclusive university.  Her roommate Genevra Winslow, who pretty much ignores Mabel, is beautiful and privileged.  An incident allows the two to form a bond--at least the semblance of one--and Mabel is invited to spend the summer with Ev at Winloch, the family's exclusive compound in Vermont.

Of course, Winloch seems like paradise (and guess what?  Mabel is reading or trying to read Milton's Paradise Lost).  From the arrival of  the two girls to Ev's personal cottage Bittersweet, there is an obvious, but enigmatic mystery to the condition of their presence.  
Ev says there will be an inspection which might decide whether they will be able to stay.  And, oh, Mabel does want to stay.  

The extended Winslow family has some interesting characters, and the author does an excellent job in creating them, even if most of them are unlikable.  The pacing felt slow and the unraveling of several of the mysteries felt unnecessarily sluggish.   Several scenes could have been cut to add to the suspense (especially the meeting of Galway and Mabel) and move the novel at a better pace.

The author has well-drawn characters and great descriptive passages of the various areas of the Winloch compound.  I wish I could have liked it better.

ARC from Crown Publishers

Mystery/Suspense?  2014.  400 pages.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Treachery in Bordeaux by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noel Balen

Treachery in Bordeaux  (trans. Anne Trager)

From the book description:  In modern-day Bordeaux, there are few wine estates still within the city limits. The prestigious grand cru Moniales Haut-Brion is one of them. When some barrels turn, world-renowned winemaker turned gentleman detective Benjamin Cooker starts asking questions. Is it negligence or sabotage? Who would want to target this esteemed vintner? Cooker and his assistant Virgile Lanssien search the city and the vineyards for answers, giving readers and inside view of this famous wine region. 

Treachery in Bordeaux is more of a novella than a novel, and it is definitely a cozy mystery.

If you are interested in the Bordeaux region of France and/or interested in the world of wine, you will appreciate the details included.  

The mystery portion of the book is light-weight and there is little suspense.  The books inspired a popular television series in France, and I can see that these little novellas would translate well to the visual medium.

Overall, unless you have a special interest in the region or the wine industry, you might find this short narrative slow and less than gripping.  

NetGalley/LeFrench Book

Mystery. 2012; 2014.  Print length:  144 pages.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Murder on Thames by Matthew Costello and Neil Richards

From the book description: 

Murder on Thames is the first in an innovative Crime series written in English but published by Bastei Entertainment – an imprint of one of Germany’s leading publishers Bastei Lübbe. Published in English first, to be followed by German in March 2014, the crime series features 12 self-contained episodes written by co-authors Neil Richards (UK based) and Matthew Costello (US based).

In a revival of the Dickensian tradition, a new eBook episode will be published each month with the second episode Mystery at the Manorto be published in the UK on the 19th January 2014.

A New York detective has retired to a houseboat on the Thames in the small village of Cherringham.  Jack Brennan is looking for a quiet life after his career as a homicide detective, and when Sara Edwards asks him to look into the death of an old friend, Brennan at first refuses.  The quiet life might appeal to him, but the puzzle of the death does as well, and he changes his mind about helping Sara when he finds himself agreeing that maybe the death of Sammi Jackson was not an accident after all.  
Jack and Sara investigate further, determined to discover the the truth.  
Murder on Thames is an interesting little cozy.  Cozy mysteries are not my favorite sub-genre, nor is the novella approach something I seek out, but this does everything it is supposed to within the parameters the authors have set, and I enjoyed it for what it is.

NetGalley/Bastei Entertainment

Cozy Mystery.  2013.  Print length:  119 pages.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Two by Michael Robotham

A couple of months ago,  I read Watching You by Michael Robotham and found it suspenseful and well-written.  At the time, I knew I wanted to read more, beginning with the first book in the series to get additional background on the characters.

Fortunately, NetGalley recently offered the first two books in the series:  The Suspect and Lost.  I snapped them both up and entered a two day read-a-thon.  

The Suspect centers on Joe O'Loughlin, a successful psychologist who loves his wife and child.  One of the things I was curious about was O'Loughlin's Parkinson Disease. The Suspect (the debut book in the series) covers the early symptoms and the period when he first gets the diagnosis.  It also goes into some of O'Loughlin's struggles to deal with both the physical and the emotional effects of this incurable disease.

Written in first person, the book opens with O'Loughlin on a roof trying to talk down a seventeen-year-old cancer patient who seems determined to jump.  The scene sets O'Loughlin up as an empathetic character.  

While he may be a respected psychologist and a compassionate person, O'Loughlin is far from perfect.  When he is drawn into a murder investigation, he realizes that the victim is a former patient, but doesn't reveal this right away.  As the novel twists and turns, it becomes obvious that O'Loughlin has some secrets he doesn't want revealed and that  he is being set up and may lose everything he holds dear.

Detective Inspector Vincent Ruiz becomes suspicious, and as more evidence piles up, he is unrelenting in his pursuit when O'Loughlin flees to avoid arrest.  Ruiz is a secondary character and mostly an antagonist in this first novel.

The mystery is convoluted and the plot not very believable, and yet, Robotham is so skilled that it is difficult to put the book down.   I couldn't wait to begin the next one.  

NetGalley/Mulholland Books

Mystery/Crime.  2004; 2014.  Print length:  432 pages.

Lost takes place a few years later and features D. I. Vincent Ruiz.  Like The Suspect, Lost is written in first person. D.I. Ruiz is pulled from the Thames with a gunshot wound and no memory of what happened.  Not everyone believes his amnesia to be genuine, and Ruiz turns to his friend Joe O'Loughlin to help him untangle what happened.

Ruiz knows that that somehow what happened to him is connected to the case of a missing child from three years earlier.  A step at a time, he regains fragments of his memory....

Another excellent mystery with lots of complications.  Joe O'Loughlin's role in this one is minimal.  

I've now read three books in this series, and each one features a different character.  I'm not sure I've read any other series with this approach; usually, a series will focus on one or two main characters and a single point of view throughout the series.  In Watching You, the main character is one of O'Loughlin's patients, in The Suspect, the protagonist is Joe O'Loughlin, and in Lost, it is D.I. Vincent Ruiz.  I like this approach and can't wait to read Shatter.  

NetGalley/Mulholland Books

Mystery/Crime.  2005; 2014.  Print length:  370 pages.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Body in the Woods by April Henry

 The Body in the Woods  is a YA murder mystery with interesting characters and an involving plot.

Three adolescent misfits have joined the Portland County Search and Rescue team for various reasons.  Their first participation in a genuine search effort is for an autistic man lost in the woods.  What they discover instead is the body of a young girl.  

Ruby, Nick, and Alexis all have their own difficulties that separate them from others, but they forge an awkward friendship that develops over the course of the mystery.  I liked the characters and the way they eventually come to support each other.

This is the first book in Henry's Point Last Seen YA series, and I look forward to more.

Read in January.  Blog post scheduled for May.

Henry's novel Girl, Stolen earned praise and awards:

An ALA Best Book for Young Adults
An ALA Quick Pick for Young Adults
Winner of the Truman Readers Award (Missouri state award)
Winner of the Black-Eyed Susan Award (Maryland state award)
Winner of the Young Adult Reading Program (South Dakota state award)

Quote from Author's Page on Amazon:  When I was 11, I sent a short story about a six-foot tall frog who loved peanut butter to Roald Dahl, the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He took it to lunch and showed it to the editor of a British children's magazine - and she asked to publish the story! (For no money, which might have been a warning about how hard it is to make a living writing.)

:) I love that an eleven-year-old sent a short story to Roald Dahl, that he read it, and that he showed it to a friend who wanted to publish it.  Good job, Mr. Dahl.  Your influence lingers.

NetGalley/Macmillan Children's Publishing Group

YA/Mystery.  June 17, 2014.  Print version:  272 pages.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

You by Austin Grossman

I'm at a loss about how to review or rate YOU.  I'm no gamer and have no idea about programming, early or late computer games, game development, or various computer languages.  

Book Description:  
When Russell joins Black Arts games, brainchild of two visionary designers who were once his closest friends, he reunites with an eccentric crew of nerds hacking the frontiers of both technology and entertainment. In part, he's finally given up chasing the conventional path that has always seemed just out of reach. But mostly, he needs to know what happened to Simon, his strangest and most gifted friend, who died under mysterious circumstances soon after Black Arts' breakout hit.
As the company's revolutionary next-gen game is threatened by a software glitch, Russell finds himself in a race to save his job, Black Arts' legacy, and the people he has grown to care about. The deeper Russell digs, the more dangerous the glitch appears—and soon, Russell comes to realize there's much more is at stake than just one software company's bottom line.

The good:  Austin Grossman knows video games.  From Wikipedia:
 Austin Grossman (born 1969) is a writer and game designer who has contributed to the New York Times[1] and a number of video games.
He is the author of the novel Soon I Will Be Invincible, which was published by Pantheon Books in 2007.[2] His second book, entitled YOU, debuted in April 2013.[3]Grossman started his career in the game industry replying to a classified ad in The Boston Globe in May 1992 that led him to Looking Glass Studios. Since then, Grossman has worked with DreamWorks InteractiveIon Storm of Austin and Crystal Dynamics.
Grossman, born in Concord, Massachusetts, attended Harvard University and is currently a graduate student in English literature at the University of California, Berkeley.[2] He is the twin brother of writer Lev Grossman and brother of sculptor Bathsheba Grossman, and the son of the poet Allen Grossman and the novelist Judith Grossman. Grossman is currently working at Arkane Studios

I learned a good bit about how complicated it is to create and produce an interactive video game.  Whew!  Pretty overwhelming.   

The Not-so-good:  At least for me, the novel was way too complicated for my limited knowledge and abilities.  I'm not smart enough to understand anything about computers other than point and click.  The lengthy discussions about both the mechanics and the narrative story lines of various computer characters were initially interesting, then pretty exhausting for me.  I found myself skimming on numerous occasions.  If I'd so much as played any of these games, I'm sure I'd have found things more interesting, but after  several lengthy sections relating game narratives,  these sections became numbing.

Overall:  Unless you are very computer literate or seriously involved in the history of gaming or in playing various games,  this novel (?) might not be a great choice.  If the real characters and a more satisfactory "real" plot had been more developed, I would have like it much better.

I'm glad I read it, but I remained confused much of the time.

NetGalley/Little, Brown/Mulholland Books

Fiction.  April, 2014.  Print length:  379 pages.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Quick by Lauren Owen

How would you complete the phrase "the quick and the _____ "?  The title is, of course, a clue to the content.  

I'm not entirely certain how I feel about this book.  The beginning is slow, giving the background of a brother and sister who are pretty much neglected after their mother's death.  They rattle around a huge mansion with little contact outside of their servants.  The siblings are close, big sister Charlotte feels responsible for her younger brother James.  The purpose of this section is to establish Charlotte's love for her brother and the existence of the priest hole.  It is rather slow, and the plot does not develop for a long time.

When James finishes university, he lives in London and has decided to become a poet.  For the most part, James is a solitary figure, but on deciding to share rooms with Christopher, James begins to open up some.  

How much or how little to say without giving too much away?  The book has some slow sections, but when the plot begins to intensify the intrigue increases as well.  The novel doesn't follow a typical chronological timeline or the typical flash-back technique.  The pov changes,  and large sections are in diary form.  The setting and style are very Victorian.

Interesting relationships:  James and Charlotte, James and Christopher, Edmund and Mould, Shadwell and Adeline, Charlotte and Halliwell.

Shadwell and Adeline have the potential to be the most dynamic of all the characters, but for the most part are (sort of) pawns to move the story forward.

The book is long and atmospheric, but there is surprisingly little real action.  The reader must focus on all of the relationships and question them--particulary the relationship between Edmund and Mould.  Edmund quickly abandons his goal of bettering society, and Mould (well, just look at his name) quickly abandons his humanity in his efforts to aid Edmund.  And why was he dismissed as a tutor?  I have an idea, but no confirmation.

Even the conclusion leaves the reader with questions.

Read in January.

NetGalley/Random House

Vampire.  June 17, 2014.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Opposite of Maybe by Maddie Dawson

The Opposite of Maybe is an ARC that arrived in the mail.  I wasn't sure if I'd like it, but I knew part of it focused on a male caregiver to a curmudgeonly woman of 88, and in today's world with people living longer, care giving is something most people have to face at some point.

Rosie's grandmother Soapie has hired a young man to live in, fix drinks, and when necessary, pick her up when she falls.  Works fine for Soapie, but Rosie is not so pleased.

Then Jonathan, Rosie's partner, decides that after living with Rosie for 15 years, it is time to get married.  Right before they move to California so Jonathan and his new business partner can open their tea cup museum.  Yep.  Jonathan is obsessed with tea cups.

Rosie, worried about leaving Soapie and uncertain about the tea cup museum, tries to plan a wedding and a move across country in a matter of weeks.  But then....

The Opposite of Maybe falls into that genre referred to as chic lit.  There is some fun and yet, there are several serious issues at stake; there is a little romance; there are some interesting characters.  All in all, I ended up enjoying this little novel.  Yes, it is predictable, but there is also humor,  compassion, and soul-searching about what the characters want out of life.  A light, but entertaining read, and you can't help but love Tony Cavaletti.

Fiction.  April.  2014.  402 pages.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Two More From NetGalley

Enough Rope by P.L. Doss

Tom Halloran, hot-shot lawyer, is taking his normal morning run through the park when he spots a body hanging from a tree.  Worse, when he gets closer he recognizes Elliot Carter, his friend and mentor; worse still, Carter is wearing a wig, a bra, and a thong.

When the Medical Examiner's investigator Hollis Joplin arrives, he notes a few irregularities, but the death still looks like autoerotic asphxiation.  Halloran, however, continues to insist that his friend would never have committed such a humiliating act and that it must have been murder.

Most of the story moves from Halloran's perspective to Joplin's.  Halloran tries to get at the truth, but his efforts sometimes muddle and interfere with Joplin's investigation.  Both characters are compelling as they wade through the back story that led to the death of Elliot Carter, not working together, but occasionally sharing information 

A twisty puzzle with plenty of suspects and old secrets that have far-reaching effects.  


Crime/Mystery.  2013.  Print Length:  298 pages.

The White List by Nina D'Aleo

Book Description:  

Chapter 11 is watching you.
Silver is an intelligence operative working for an agency that doesn't officially exist—beyond any government and above the law. Chapter 11 is the kind of place a person can join but never leave. And it keeps a third of the world's population under constant surveillance. At work. On the street. In their homes.
Why? Because of Shaman syndrome.
Chapter 11 observes, and when necessary "caps" the walts, as those who have the Shaman Syndrome are called.  Those born with the syndrome are unaware of the syndrome or constant surveillance, but when the walts awaken to their unusual talents and strength, Chapter 11 immediately responds by either killing them or taking them into custody for capping--whichever is least dangerous.

When I began reading, I was not sure if I'd continue, but after a chapter or two, I was completely immersed in the story.  Agent Silver and her partner Agent Dark have been remarkably successful in capturing walts after their break-throughs; unlike many agents who, when confronted with the strength and violence of a break-through walt, take the easier and officially sanctioned response of killing the walt, Silver and Dark have a record of getting their targets alive.

When Silver's partner is seriously injured by a walt, Silver begins investigating some anomalies that have bothered her, and she soon finds herself with a price on her head.  What is it that Silver (and other agents) don't know about the walts...and about Chapter 11, itself?

After a slow beginning (at least, the section of Silver's bemoaning her lack of romance), the pace picked up and the suspense began to build.   Who to trust?  Who to suspect?  What is involved in "capping" a walt?  What hidden agendas are kept from the agents?

NetGalley/Momentum Books

SciFi/Mystery.  May 13, 2013.  Print Length:  252 pages. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Feast or Famine

Sometimes a dry spell occurs when none of the books on my Kindle or in my towering stacks are just what I want to read.  But then, just as I settle down with a second choice, wonderful new titles appear on NetGalley or in the mail.  Feast!

I read my first Michael Robotham novel in March (Watching You) and found it an excellent psychological thriller.   I wanted to read the first in the series, but as usual, got lost in all the other books in the TBR que.  

Then Mulholland Books sent me an email offering both the first and second in the series!  Yes!  Now, I have The Suspect and Lost in my que.  I've already read the first two chapters of The Suspect and am again impressed with Robotham's writing!  Great psychological suspense and terrific writing--can't get much better.

I'm eager to get more of the back story on this series, and I'm eager to see more of Joe O'Loughlin and Vincent Ruiz.  O'Loughlin suffers from Parkinson's which puts a unique twist on the protagonist and hampers his abilities. Another thing I liked about Watching You is that although O'Loughlin and Ruiz are definitely important to the story, Marnie Logan, one of O'Loughlin's patients, is the main focus--it is her mystery, she isn't a secondary character.

I'm not all sure what will happen in this first novel in the series, but it will be Joe O'Loughlin's first involvement with a high profile crime, and Robotham's first chapter grabbed my interest immediately.

Also new from NetGalley:  The Ship of Brides by JoJo Moyes and Terminal City by Linda Fairstein.  Two authors I've enjoyed previously.

Tonight will be just me and Joe O'Loughlin and a good story, I hope.

Four From NetGalley

Bone Dust White by Karin Salvalaggio is a rather dark mystery/crime novel.  It certainly held my interest, and yet, the darkness of some of the situations and characters left me a bit down.  I guess it could be considered a gritty noir novel.  It is well-written, and as previously mentioned, it certainly held my interest.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books

Mystery/Crime.  2014.  Print length:  302 pages.

A Gift of Ghosts by Sarah Wynde had the possibility of being one of books that are a mixture of humor and suspense.  Akira is a physicist who converses with ghosts.  She is afraid her "gift" will prevent her from receiving tenure at the university where she teaches, when in a timely manner, she gets a phone call offering her research job in Florida.  She flies to Florida, and the rental car provided her for has a teenage ghost.  All the possibilities for a light and fun read are present, but things go down hill.  It tries too hard to be serious, and it doesn't make it.

Lips:  Zane Lattimer "takes" Akira's lips several times.  Well, he can have them.  However, I have to admit reviews are overwhelmingly positive.  I think that may be the romance element that appeals to many, but I wanted something like The Ghost and Mrs. Muir or Love at First Bite.

NetGalley/All Night Reads

Mystery/Paranormal.  Originally published 2011.  

Twelfth Night by Deanna Rayburn is a novella featuring Lady Julia Grey.  It would have been better if it had been a full-length novel.  When I requested it, I was in such a hurry to get another installment of this series, I didn't notice that it was a novella.  In fact, it wasn't until it came to an end all too soon, that it registered.  At any rate, the novella's plot is a life-changer for Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane.  


Historical Mystery.  June 1, 2014.  Print length:  51 pages.  

Murder on the Home Front:  A True Story of Morgues, Murderers, and Mysteries During the London Blitz by Molly Lefebure.  

This is one that I'm currently reading.  Because it is nonfiction, I read a while, then put it down and read fiction.  I've come back to it several times, but don't know when I'll finish. It is interesting so far, but not compelling yet. 

Description:  It is 1941. While the "war of chaos" rages in the skies above London, an unending fight against violence, murder and the criminal underworld continues on the streets below.

One ordinary day, in an ordinary courtroom, forensic pathologist Dr. Keith Simpson asks a keen young journalist to be his secretary. Although the "horrors of secretarial work" don't appeal to Molly Lefebure, she's intrigued to know exactly what goes on behind a mortuary door.

 NetGalley/Hachette Book Group

Nonfiction.  2014.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Late Scholar by Jill Paton Walsh (based on characters from Dorothy Sayers)

The Late Scholar     

Jill Paton Walsh has taken up the gauntlet and continued the adventures of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane.  It has been several years since I've read (or re-read) Sayers' original novels, so I quite enjoyed a reunion with these characters without being too critical.

Walsh has written her own detective fiction, children's books, and adult novels, including Knowledge of Angels which was shortlisted for the 1993 Booker Prize.

From Wikipedia:  In 1998, she won acclaim for her completion of Dorothy L. Sayers' unfinished Lord Peter WimseyHarriet Vane novel, Thrones, Dominations. In 2002, she followed this up with another Lord Peter novel, A Presumption of Death. In 2010, she published a third, The Attenbury Emeralds.[4] Her latest addition to the series, The Late Scholar, was published December 5, 2013 in the UK, and January 14 2014 in North America.[5]

The Late Scholar takes place after WWII, with an older Lord Peter Wimsey, now the Duke of Denver, and Harriet Vane.  Peter has an inherited position as Visitor at St. Severin's College in Oxford.  As Visitor, he is being called upon to settle a dispute within the college about whether or not to sell an ancient manuscript.  The dispute is dividing the College Fellows, the Warden is missing, and several unusual accidents have occurred, one of them fatal.  

This plot device returns the pair to Oxford, the setting for Gaudy Night.  There are certain reminiscences about the Gaudy Night plot and characters that I found quite entertaining and passing allusions to famous Oxford Dons such as Tolkien and C.S. Lewis that are amusing.  Oh, and a reference to Edmund Crispin!  (I read Crispin's satirical mystery The Glimpses of the Moon last year and thoroughly enjoyed it.)

The Late Scholar is NOT Dorothy Sayers, but it does follow many of the dictates of The Golden Age of Detective Fiction, draws on Sayer's novels, and uses her familiar characters, including Bunter, in a worthy homage.

Yeah, I liked it.  Some day, I would like to take the time to re-read all of Sayers' original series, and then add Walsh's additions to the end.  There is a certain innocence to these novels, and I have a nostalgic love for the characters.  

Read in April; review scheduled for May

NetGally/St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books

Mystery/Detective Fiction.  June 17, 2014.  Print version:  368 pages.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Vertigo 42 by Martha Grimes

Vertigo 42

I don't know how many of you have followed Martha Grimes' Richard Jury novels.  They are a weird combination of crime, mystery, quirky friendships, witty repartee, familiar places, and plenty of recurring characters.  

The titles in the series are for various pubs:  The Man with a Load of Mischief, The Old Silent, The Grave Maurice, etc.  In a recent article, Grimes states, "The only research I do is the accidental coming upon of a pub, the name of which I think is just fantastic."   Only then does she consider the plot.  

Vertigo 42 is a little different; it opens with a meeting  in a modern wine bar instead of the traditional pub, but Grimes uses the title as a basis for the plot and makes references to Hitchcock's film.

I have definite favorites among the books I've read.  Some appeal to me more than others, but what never fails to please me is meeting characters like Carole-Anne and Wiggins and the awful Cripps family again.  Of course, no Jury novel is complete without the Long Piddleton group, and it goes without saying that without Jury's foil Melrose Plant, the novels would lose much of their charm.  Most of their charm.  Long live Melrose Plant.  What?  So...maybe I do like Melrose Plant better than Richard Jury.

The novels are classified as "cozy," but by no means are they light-weight.  Cozy mysteries characteristically include a lack of graphic violence or sex, a small community setting and long-standing relationships, and an emphasis on puzzle-solving.  By those lights, the Jury novels certainly fall into the cozy genre, but some cozy mysteries are like meringue, lots of air, light, and fun, yet not fully satisfying.  The Jury novels have more heft.

Another couple of details that can always be found in these novels:  a child or children and animals, and they are not throw-aways, they have a purpose. 

Vertigo 42 is not my favorite Jury novel, but I did enjoy it.  Grimes creates interesting puzzles and wonderful characters, and I continue to enjoy the wide community of people and places she has created.   There are now 23 books in this series, and if I could afford to, I'd love to read them from first to last.  I've read most, but not all of them, and starting at the beginning would be fun.

In 2012, Martha Grimes was awarded the title of Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, joining such notables as Agatha Christie, John le Carre,  Elmore Leonard, Barbara Mertz, Tony Hillerman, and P.D. James (and many other great mystery writers).

Read in January; review scheduled for May.


Mystery/Police Procedural.  June 3, 2014.  Print version:  336 pages.