Sunday, September 13, 2009

Book Report: August

Here's my August book report. I had some time to read at the beach, which was lovely, although several knitting deadlines did cut into my reading time somewhat.

River of Darkness by Rennie Airth. Airth based this post-World-War-I era novel on his late uncle's wartime scrapbook. If you like the Charles Todd books about Ian Rutledge, you'll want to give this one a try. Like the Todd books, the main character is a WWI vet who is haunted by what he experienced during the war. But John Madden is a bit more down-to-earth and less emotionally traumatized than Todd's hero. Madden is sent to figure out who is behind the gruesome murder of a family in the Surrey countryside, and comes to the conclusion that the murderer has done this before. The way that Madden analyzes and tracks a serial killer before the development of modern forensics and even forensic psychology is fascinating.

This book was published about 10 years ago, was followed by a sequel six years later, then a second sequel just this year. (Which was how I learned about it; the NY Times Book Review reviewed the newest in the series and spoke highly of Airth's writing.) I found it to be a gripping and intelligent mystery.

Silent On The Moor by Deanna Raybourn, is the third book in the Lady Julia Grey series, and was definitely a lighter -- though still suspenseful -- read. Set in Victorian England, we see Lady Julia off on a trip to wild and remote Yorkshire, ostensibly to help Nicholas Brisbane, the mysterious man she loves, settle into an old manor home. Her wacky sister accompanies her, as chaperone -- and comic relief. The story features suitably wild moors, the mysterious family whose ancestors built the manor house, a gypsy fortuneteller, and all sorts of romantic drama. Thoroughly enjoyable and perfect for the beach.

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen. Another in the frothy, beach-reading vein, not as well-written as the Raybourne series, but still enjoyable. The protagonist is Georgie, an English lady 38th in line to the British throne. She's got no money and no job, and her dopey brother, who owns the family estate in Scotland, doesn't have any cash to spare. Georgie doesn't want to get married for convenience's sake, so she heads off to London to try to make her fortune. She stays in the shuttered family home in a posh neighborhood, but has no way to support herself. So she starts a maid service for noblewomen who need their city homes aired out when they return to the city from their country estates. When Georgie returns home one day, she is horrified to find a dead body in the bathtub, and her brother is the prime suspect. Hijinks ensue as George tries to solve the murder and clear her brother's name... and will she hook up with the dashing but impoverished Irish lord she keeps running into?

Oblivion by Peter Abrahams, was a thriller in which a cop-turned-private-investigator finds himself in the hospital with brain cancer. The cancer surgery has caused him to loses pieces of his memory -- including any recall of the weekend before he was admitted to the hospital. He tries to reconstruct the missing portion of his memory, and solve the missing persons case he was working on, although he isn't quite sure what memories are real or what they mean. This was a quick and fairly easy read, and although I didn't think it was terribly hard to figure out where the plot was going, it was a decent read -- if a bit Lifetime-tv-movie-ish.

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Steig Larsson was the follow-up in a trilogy of thrillers by the late Swedish journalist Steig Larsson. I liked this installment even better than the first (which I thought took a long time to get going). This book focuses more on Lizbeth Salander, the troubled but kick-ass character who played such an important role in the previous book. Salander -- an anti-establishment computer hacker -- is suspected of several murders and needs to clear her name, by conventional or unconventional methods. Suspenseful and exciting.

Flesh & Blood by John Harvey. I stumbled across a list of the best detective novels of all time, and the series of Charlie Resnick novels by John Harvey, were mentioned in it. This is a book featuring a different detective, Frank Elder, who has retired from the police force and moved to an isolated cottage on the Cornish coast. Elder is haunted by the unsolved disappearance of a girl fourteen years ago, and when the prime suspect in her death is released from prison (after being convicted of a similar crime), Elder finds himself again obsessed with solving the 14-year-old crime. A solid detective story with a suspenseful ending.

As always, your suggestions are greatly appreciated. (In fact, I just finished a great book someone recommended in the comments last month, so keep 'em coming.)


Another Joan said...

Have you read Laurie King's work? She has a very well-written series told from the pov of Sherlock Holmes' female assistant. First one is "The Beekeeper's Apprentice"

Luise said...

Have you read any of Daniel Da Silva's thrillers (begin at the beginning, so to speak)? Also, Fred Vargas is more than worth a look. Enjoy.

Ted said...

"In the Land of Long Finger Nails" by Charles Wilkins. Author spent a summer working in a graveyard. Totally quirky.

rosesmama said...

I was happy to find that George Pelecanos' latest two, The Turnaround and The Way Home, departed from his usual formula. The DC world he evokes so well was there, but the plotlines were not predictable.

Shannon Hale wrote a graphic novel, Rapunzel's Revenge, that I picked up at the library to feed the girl's comics habit. After reading it, I went stright to the shelves for the young adult novels Hale has written, Goose Girl, Princess Academy, River Secrets. I hear there are several more. They are all superb, complex fairy tales, with a feminist slant.

Carol said...

I have read the Laurie Kings -- a long time ago. Ted, my library doesn't have the Wilkins book, but I'll see if I can get it on ILL or wait 'til the paperback comes out. I have read some Daniel Silva, but haven't tried Pelacanos yet -- I'll add him to my list. I've been seeing the Shannon Hale books in the teen section at Target -- good to know they're decent.

Lisa said...

Girl Who Played with Fire is on my list. I agree with your take on the first- almost gave up on it :)

Have you read In the Woods by Tana French? Really liked that one!

Carol said...

Yep -- I stumbled across In the Woods and also read the sort-of sequel, The Likeness. Liked 'em both!

katherine said...

I've got the third and last Larsson on hold at the library -- I actually found the second one a little slow starting for me, but both books are probably amongst the best I've read this year.

The third book, IIRC, features Salander again -- if you remember, she makes note during the second book of people she feels she should "deal with", and I think the third book is about her actually doing that.

The first installment was made into a movie. Dying to see it....

Laura Sue said...

I am reading "The People of the Book" by Geraldine Brooks. It is quite good. Often I get annoyed at modern-day heroines, but this one is okay--maybe it's the Aussie accent. If you read descriptions along with the title you'll think it sounds like snoozer, but it's quite fascinating, with its jumps between present and past.

Mary Lou said...

The Gathering, Anne Enright
Consequences, Penelope Lively

Mary Lou said...

Also, Peony in Love, by Lisa See author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, another good one if you haven't read it.