The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte is a literary thriller with a bit of historical detection thrown in. Our hero is Lucas Corso, a book detective...moreThe Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte is a literary thriller with a bit of historical detection thrown in. Our hero is Lucas Corso, a book detective by trade, who operates in a world where the most diligent collectors would sell their own mother for that missing first edition which would "complete" their collection. "Complete" is in quotes, of course, because collectors are never satisfied and will always find one more item for their obsession. Corso does the dirty work. He tracks down books and brings them to his clients by hook or by crook. Most of his clients don't care what method brings the desired item into their hands....and will pay top dollar to make sure it winds up there.
Corso's mission is two-fold. He has been given access to two rare works--one, a hand-written chapter from Alexander Dumas' The Three Musketeers, and the other, a copy of a book purportedly designed by Lucifer himself called The Book of the Nine Doors to the Kingdom of Darkness,). He is supposed to prove the authenticity of both works...and in the case of the Nine Doors he must determine which of three copies extant (the one he has or one of two others) is the real McCoy. ("Would the real work of Satan please stand up?") It soon becomes apparent that there are others interested in the works as well and Corso finds himself involved in intrigue that seems to follow the adventures of the musketeers. There are three people dead and Corso survives several murderous attacks before the solution is revealed.
This is a very fast-paced novel. And one that should appeal to literary folk--it's been called a beach read for book lovers, and I'd say that's pretty accurate. A very interesting intellectual puzzle that will keep you turning the pages for more. My only quibble was that Corso, for all of being described as so clever and astute when it comes to books, was remarkably slow on the uptake. It took him what seemed like forever to realize that there was someone on his trail and then makes very stupid mistakes even after he knows. I expected him to be a little bit more savvy from the narrative. Over all, a fun and interesting read. Three and 3/4 stars--nearly four.(less)
By a Woman's Hand is a mystery reference book by Jean Swanson and Dean James. Published in 1994, it contains over 200 short, succinct profiles of wome...moreBy a Woman's Hand is a mystery reference book by Jean Swanson and Dean James. Published in 1994, it contains over 200 short, succinct profiles of women authors of mystery and suspense fiction--including Mary Higgins Clark, Sue Grafton, and many others. The book focuses on writers whose work appeared from the 1970s to the early 1990s. It is a handy little volume which contains entries listing some of the author's best-known books, pen names (if any), style (hard-boiled, romantic suspense, cozy, etc), and offers the reader suggestions for similar authors.
I have owned this book since 1996 and had skimmed through it in the past--primarily to look up an author I loved and find out what other authors might appeal to me. I had never sat down and read the book cover-to-cover. Now I have. It is an interesting reference book--a little out of date, certainly. After all, some of these authors have published much more since this book came out and there are better examples of their work. And, of course, there are many extraordinary women in the field who began their writing careers after 1994. Now that we have the internet, it is much easier to go to sites such as Whichbook or What Should I Read Next to find books that might appeal. And reader sites such as Goodreads and LibraryThing have built-in suggestion functions that will offer up choices based on the types of books you've read.
I did pick up a couple of useful suggestions for authors I haven't tried yet. And if you're the type to prefer a hard copy reference book to the electronic medium then this book or an updated version would be just the ticket. Three stars.
The Armchair Detective Book of Lists edited by Kate Stine is an incredibly useful and interesting book. It gives crime fiction readers a place to find...moreThe Armchair Detective Book of Lists edited by Kate Stine is an incredibly useful and interesting book. It gives crime fiction readers a place to find the winners of awards given by the Mystery Writers of America, Crime Writers' Association of Great Britain, Crime Writers of Canada, Private Eye Writers of American, International Association of Crime Writers, Independent Mystery Booksellers Association, Mystery Conventions, and Fan Organizations. It gives lists of favorite authors and books--chosen by popular mystery authors and experts in the field. And even though this particular edition is dated (running only through the mid-1990s), it was still fun to see how my favorites stacked up and how many of the award winners I have read (or have waiting in the wings on the TBR stacks). A good resource--especially for anyone just starting to dip their toes into the mystery waters. Four stars.
Books help to form us. If you cut me open, will you find volume after volume, page after page, the contents of every one I have ever read, somehow tra...moreBooks help to form us. If you cut me open, will you find volume after volume, page after page, the contents of every one I have ever read, somehow transmuted into me? Alice in Wonderland. The Magic Faraway Tree. The Hound of the Baskervilles. The Book of Job. Bleak House. Wuthering Heights. The Complete Poems of W. H. Auden. The Tale of Mr. Tod. Howards End. What a strange person I must be. But if the books I have read have helped to form me, then probably nobody else who ever lived has read exactly the same books, all the same books as me. So just as my genes and the soul within me make me uniquely me, so I am the unique sum of the books I have read. I am my literary DNA.
Howards End Is on the Landing (p. 202) ~Susan Hill
It isn't often that a book comes along that I want to underline just about every sentence....or at least snag them for my quote collection. Susan Hill's book is such a one. Howards End Is on the Landing is Hill's journey through her books. One autumn afternoon she is in search of a certain book, but her collection is strewn throughout her house in various rooms, on sundry bookshelves. There is no definite order. Certain books have congregated together--but the logic sometimes escapes her. And as she searches she discovers old friends fondly remembered and strangers that she has never read or even forgotten she ever bought. This discovery sparks a decision to spend a year reading only books from her shelves, sending her on a journey to get to know her own collection again.
Her journey takes her from Shakespeare to Dickens, from W. H. Auden to Roald Dahl, and from Virginia Woolf to Iris Murdoch. Along the way, she shares conversations with authors she has known, visits to libraries she has loved, and the books she has devoured through a lifetime of reading. She gives us comments on the writers, insights into reading, and a window into what informed her own writing. This is a marvelous book for those who love reading. It is part memoir and part review and is very conversational in tone. And I find myself in total agreement with her on the subject of books--no electronic reader can ever give the satisfaction of holding a book in your hand or walking into a room completely shelved in books, whether that be a personal or public library or a bookstore. There is something special about the presence of books that a glowing screen cannot match. Borrowed from the library, but destined to be owned as soon as possible.(less)
The Secret of Lost Things: A Novel by Sheridan Hay: Coming to New York from Tasmania at the age of eighteen, Rosemary takes a job at a used and rare b...moreThe Secret of Lost Things: A Novel by Sheridan Hay: Coming to New York from Tasmania at the age of eighteen, Rosemary takes a job at a used and rare bookstore run by the gruff Mr. Pike and his idiosyncratic staff and becomes caught up in the search for a long-lost Melville manuscript. She meets Oscar, who is in charge of non-fiction and who seems to have an encyclopedic knowledge of anything and everything; Arthur, who naturally manages the art section and seems to spend more time looking at the merchandise rather than selling it; Pearl, the loving, motherly transsexual who runs the cash register and becomes one of Rosemary's truest friends; and Walter, the store manager and an albino who is a lonely figure even in the Arcade. When Walter's eyesight begins to fade, Rosemary becomes his assistant and it is then that she first reads about the missing manuscript. Soon she is involved in a tricky game--trying to get more information from Walter while trying to please Oscar.
This is another on the fence book for me. The book's synopsis reads like Hay was trying to write a literary mystery. Was there a missing Melville manuscript? Will they find it? Who has it? The mystery portion is a bit of a disappointment. Not nearly as suspenseful and interesting as it might have been (and should have been to meet literary mystery standards). However, as a coming of age novel; as a novel of self-discovery; as a novel about loss and grief and remorse; Hay has done a pretty darn good job. She manages to tie the themes ascribed to Melville's missing book, The Isle of the Cross, to themes that run through Rosemary's life--as well as the lives of many of the inhabitants of The Arcade and Rosemary's first landlady and first friend, Lillian. The writing is at times exquisite and fully brings out the nuances of emotion. I have read an Advanced Reading Copy edition of the book and can only hope that some of the portions that did not flow as well and some of the obvious mistakes and typos were fixed before final publication. (less)
The Mystery Lovers' Book of Quotations by Jane Horning (ed) is a lovely book of snippets from some of the world's great crime and mystery authors. The...moreThe Mystery Lovers' Book of Quotations by Jane Horning (ed) is a lovely book of snippets from some of the world's great crime and mystery authors. There are quotes from the creators of such characters as Sam Spade and Sherlock Holmes, from Miss Marple to Miss Silver. There are thoughts on the detection of crime and the mind of the murderer. There are musings on the psychology and emotions and the nitty-gritty bottom line. We hear echoes of The Godfather and the Nameless detective. Horning has done a terrific job capturing well-known authors as well as writers who may have been well-known at one time, but few modern readers may recognize. My only quibble--she quite often describes an author by citing their most famous work--and the proceeds to give us quotes from other novels. I would have liked to have seen at least one quote from the novel/s mentioned. But it's a minor quibble--four stars for a great reference book. I do love me some quotes.
H. R. F. Keating's Crime & Mystery: The One Hunderd Best Books (1987) gives mystery readers his highly authoritative list of the best in crime and...moreH. R. F. Keating's Crime & Mystery: The One Hunderd Best Books (1987) gives mystery readers his highly authoritative list of the best in crime and mystery fiction to that date. Is it a subjective list--of course. Any list of the best of anything is going to be subjective. But Keating is a well-respected mystery author in his own right as well as a critic for The Times and has a pretty fair knowledge of the genre. We may quibble over the lack of one of our favorites or the submission of a novel of which we just can't quite see the value, but over-all mystery fans should be pleased with Keating's offerings. The most useful part of this collection goes beyond the list itself. Keating gives each selection a two-page synopsis--making the case for its place on the list as well as whetting the appetites of those who have not yet read these books. I was pleased to see how many of these novels I have already read and how many I would probably include on my own "Best of" list. A reference book that every mystery lover should want on their shelves. Four stars.