This historic mystery captured me with its setting in and near Florence Italy. it held me spell bound withDidn't want it to end.
Didn't want it to end.
This historic mystery captured me with its setting in and near Florence Italy. it held me spell bound with the kind of plot that gives you just enough false clues to keep you guessing, but a logical progression to solution. The characters, facing murder in the 1950s, have all been affected by their experience during WW II as the Germans, partisans and allies struggled over their land. A wonderful read....more
I read this after viewing "Making of a Lady" on PBS. The TV version is more fun. script writers took great libertiesTV Version Better
TV Version Better
I read this after viewing "Making of a Lady" on PBS. The TV version is more fun. script writers took great liberties, but they had to in order to get any action. The book endlessly repeats character descriptions and action takes fourth place to manners, mansions and fashions. I do enjoy James' Aunt who could match wits with Grandmama in Downton Abbey, but most of the book is highly skimable....more
Surely we can come up with a better word than “bunch” for a group of mystery writers? An enigma of writers? A suspicion of writers? Twenty chapters inSurely we can come up with a better word than “bunch” for a group of mystery writers? An enigma of writers? A suspicion of writers? Twenty chapters in Inherit the Dead–each by a different mystery writer.
I certainly did have a few favorites, but I also discovered the writing of some new-to-me writers that I now need to explore. Reading each writer’s short bio is nearly as intriguing as the book itself.
This is a repeat of previous efforts by a force of mystery writers, and is undertaken in good spirits with a worthy cause in mind. Some of the price of this noir mystery goes to support an organization that helps victims of crimes, Safe Horizon.
This time out, they decided to channel the past great writers of noir mystery. Obviously with so many writers of so many native styles, some are more successful at achieving noir status than others. They are playing the old game where you go around the circle and each person adds something to the story. The result is one mostly cohesive story that usually makes sense and moves forward. As noir goes it is pretty tame. Only two really stirring action scenes and no really hot love scenes (dancing doesn’t count, guys).
One of the things I was very aware of as I read through this book, was that some writers pulled me effortless through the story, while with others, I was constantly pausing to wonder why they were doing what they were doing and feeling it didn’t quite make sense. I was pleased and a bit surprised to discover that the writer I found the easiest to read–the one who seamlessly moved the story forward without reminding me that I was reading a patchwork, was a writer I had already reviewed here–C. J. Box. I was equally pleased to discover a writer I have not read who impressed me mightily with her contribution–Lisa Unger.
Ever notice the class-consciousness in noir mystery novels? The private eye is barely scraping along, but his business mostly consists of very wealthy clients. Unger introduces a subtle version of this. Contemplating the difference between the rich and the rest of us, P.I. Perry sees a woman with a poodle in a luxury apartment foyer. He looks at the doorman.
But the guy had the same look as the poodle, owned by wealth. Pampered, in a sense, manicured by association, well kept. Perry strode over to the desk and locked the other man in his hardest, nowhere-to-hide cop stare, and was gratified to see the other man squirm. A poodle, while smart enough, was no match for a pit bull. And there was much less blood shed if everyone knew this going in.
I really loved the direct references to noir in the contribution of Val McDermid, a Scottish author whom I have not read previously.
There had been something dramatic, almost film noir, about the places this commission had taken him so far. He usually dismissed high-flown romantic ideas like that as idle fantasies designed to make him feel better about the routine repetitiveness of the job. But being confronted with a woman who could have stepped out of the pages of a Dashiell Hammett was deeply unsettling.
And it was Hammett that came to mind,not Chandler.
Now there, I thought, is an author who cares deeply about the nuance of style.
There was more to the review I wrote at A Traveler's Library. To read it, click here.
I found Autumn Across America in a used book store 3 years ago, and plopped it on my shelf with dozens of other “read when I get around to it” books.I found Autumn Across America in a used book store 3 years ago, and plopped it on my shelf with dozens of other “read when I get around to it” books. Finally, this autumn, I got to it.
On their leisurely, 20,000-mile journey that took Edwin Teale and his wife to twenty-six states, they observed nature changing gears from summer to winter. The colored and falling leaves of the northeast and the migrating birds, butterflies and even beetles, the mysteries of hibernation, the geology, the human history–nothing escaped their keen curiosity and careful observation. Back home in New England, when the trip was complete, Teale expanded on his observations with research into the why of things.
I found myself mesmerized by such intellectual explorations as the one in Oregon about why salmon return to the same stream in which they hatch. Teale reports on scientific experiments that involved transporting salmon eggs from one place to another before they hatched, transporting fingerlings from one stream to another, and testing salmon’s ability to smell. They inevitably came back to the water that smelled the same as that where they hatched. And every stream has a different chemical makeup because of the different plants that grow in greater or lesser profusion.
Over and over again, this book reminded me to travel slowing and observantly. Whether he was traversing land I was familiar with (the coasts of Oregon) or land I’d like to get to know (the forests where ferns are harvested), I learned new things.
At one point, he dislodges a pebble that rolls down an incline. He ponders the long history of that pebble and how much life has passed by–glaciers, birds, insects and humans have all been here.
“Yet surely, better a single moment of awareness to enjoy the glory of the senses, a moment of knowing, of feeling, of living intensely, a moment to appreciate the sunshine and the dry smell of autumn and the dust-born clouds above–better a thousand times even a swiftly fading, ephemeral moment of life than the epoch-long unconsciousness of the stone.”
I don’t know a better way to warn a traveler not to become simply a rolling stone.
I have to agree with a reviewer on Amazon who complained that in the middle of Capital Punishment, a bunch of new characters drop in out of seeming nowhere. In the last third of the book, Wilson does a good job of keeping the reader up to speed on who’s who, so stick with him through the slightly baffling middle third, and you’ll find that the seemingly random assortment of players in the London thriller makes sense.
I think the complexity of Wilson’s novels focuses the reader’s attention on the fact that it isn’t just our everyday world that has become more complex and influenced by international forces–but the darker world of crime as well.
While “whodunit” definitely keeps the plot moving here, the underlying question of motivation provides the deeper meaning to the book. Is it terrorism? Is it personal revenge against an amoral, if not immoral, businessman? Is it love? Is it the conflict between India and Pakistan? Is it a struggle for International power between rival gangs of thugs? Even a London thriller may be motivated by forces far away.
I recommend Capital Punishment to you if you like a mystery with a bit of intellectual challenge.
Wilson was a finalist for the Steel Dagger award for thrillers for Capital Punishment, but did not win. He had previously won the Golden Dagger for A Small Death in Lisbon. Who knows what the judges are looking for? I certainly don’t. I can only tell you what is similar and what is different about Capital Punishment compared to other Wilson books.
I have more to say in my review at A Traveler's Library about his use of Characters, location and plot. Read more here.
The Boy in the Snow An Edie Kiglatuk Mystery is so firmly dependent on its setting and the culture of its main characters, that you might say it is frThe Boy in the Snow An Edie Kiglatuk Mystery is so firmly dependent on its setting and the culture of its main characters, that you might say it is frozen in place. (Ouch! Terrible pun.) The setting is Alaska, where Edie Kiglatuk has gone to help her ex-husband who is running the Iditarod (the unique dog-sled marathon). Edie, her husband, and a policeman/game warden sidekick come from Ellesmere Island in the Arctic Circle. They are Inuit. Edie is only half Inuit (her friends joke that she wears her wristwatch on the other half) but culturally, the ways of the “Outside” mystify her as much as she mystifies the outsiders. She tries to explain herself to an Alaskan policeman early in the book.
“Listen detective, I was born in Autisaq on Ellesmere Island. Seventy people live in Autisaq…I watch TV, I teach at the school, but your world, this world, is hot and crowded and noisy and you eat stuff that doesn’t even resemble food…“
Writer M.J. McGrath does for the Inuit (Eskimos to us outsiders) what Tony Hillerman did for Navajos. McGrath gives us a peek into the Inuit lives while letting us see ourselves reflected in their eyes. The reflection is not always a pretty sight.
The actions of the dangerous people in this story are magnified by the dangers and unique challenges of the frozen landscape. While Edie sees the snow and ice as a friend, they also become a deadly enemy. Driven to continue her hunt–Inuit women, are born to hunt–she tracks her prey tirelessly, waiting for her chance.
Along the way she makes sharp observations like this of her neighbors in the apartment building ” (they) were living like cliff birds, wedged into their tiny little fortresses, puffing up their feathers and pecking away all comers, wary of any motives that were not their own.“
Edie Kiglatuk is certainly the most original amateur detective I’ve every come across, and I highly recommend it for its peek at a culture we generally don’t learn about.
This is a portion of the review I wrote at A Traveler's Library. Read more...more
Before you even open this book, you get a treat. The dust jacket is the most striking cover art I’ve seen this year. And the style and choice of artwoBefore you even open this book, you get a treat. The dust jacket is the most striking cover art I’ve seen this year. And the style and choice of artwork becomes clear when you read the book. I spend a lot of time complaining about book covers, so I wanted to take this opportunity to praise the publisher, Unbridled Books and designers David Ryski and Kathleen Lynch.
Even better–in this case you CAN tell a book by its cover. What Changes Everything is as innovative, arresting, gritty, relevant and personal as the cover suggests. Masha Hamilton clearly knows the country and the people–Americans in Brooklyn, Afghans, Russian emigres–that she writes about. She currently serves as the press officer for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. (Since this was written she has returned to the U.S.) Even before that, she had been a regular in Afghanistan, and founded the Afghan Women’s Writing Project.
Masha Hamilton is a fearless writer. That too, hardly is surprising, given that she spent years as a foreign correspondent, some of that in war zones. Her bold approach to life is echoed in her bold approach to writing.
Normally I am put off by novels that are fragmented–jumping from character to character as point of view shifts in each chapter and I have to piece the story together. But the style is entirely appropriate for this story that combines the main story of an aid worker who is kidnapped in Kabul when he goes to buy ice cream, with the story of a mother and brother trying to make sense of the death in Afghanistan of their son/brother, and the story of a mother of a double amputee–injured while on duty in Afghanistan.
The small pieces of each person’s story comes together to form a picture of a still puzzling situation, both within Afghanistan and between the U.S. and Afghanistan. The questions of lawlessness, authority (who has it and is it legitimate), individual responsibility and respect for others all roll around inside the pages of What Changes Everything.