This is the first Joe Grey mystery I read. Quite enjoyable. Grey and Dulcie are exceptional animal characters because the magic of the stories is thei...moreThis is the first Joe Grey mystery I read. Quite enjoyable. Grey and Dulcie are exceptional animal characters because the magic of the stories is their human interaction. They talk, think (for the most part), and act with human values. Of course, they are cats, so they also use super-human smell and dexterity in their adventures, all the while interacting with their human counterparts, at least those who know their special talent, because even though it is that kind of magical world, they are still exceptional. Not all animals can do what they can do.
The cat festival and the look-alike contest that form the backdrop of the story are a bit silly. I've seen local festivals, and they can be equally silly (mule days?) but never a local festival so focused on a kind of pet, as if a whole town would have the same regard for cats. No matter, Murphy captures the flavor of this kind of regional event and some of the psychology of a celebrity has-been trying to hold on to a former glory. Fortunately, though the author does not focus hard on these setting elements of the story but on the characters of the cat detectives. They use their wonderful sense of smell, but it can be foiled. They follow people to a restaurant, but are still somewhat distracted by the broiled fish. They can move the evidence, but only within the limits of their paws and size.
I liked the story and will probably try the story that launches the series.(less)
Stephanie's ongoing hijinx with her steady boyfreind Joe Morelli and her gulity pleasure Ranger are as situation comedic as ever. These two men give t...moreStephanie's ongoing hijinx with her steady boyfreind Joe Morelli and her gulity pleasure Ranger are as situation comedic as ever. These two men give the backdrop for Plum's anxiety, while Lula provides one for her sense of inadequacy. Her family seems simply to be a place to unwind. If you're looking for resolution in the bigger sense, it's not happening. Admittedly, resolution for this isolated story was a little weak though. On the whole, Steph as a little less competent than usual, there was a standard catastrophe missing, and Ranger played a smaller role than usual. Joyce Barnhart though, now she showed up a lot, if you like that sort of thing. For my money, the whole keystone hitmen, FBI fumblers and mysterious photo plot seemed a little too strained. But the lines were funny, and the slapstick was effective, which is what keeps me coming back for more Evanovich anyway, so, vive la bannana peel and keep em coming.(less)
With all the audacity and silliness of Amelia Peabody, Vicky Bliss gives as much as she takes, and then some. This story is a corny romp through touri...moreWith all the audacity and silliness of Amelia Peabody, Vicky Bliss gives as much as she takes, and then some. This story is a corny romp through touristy historic Rothenburg. The castle, the walls, the tombs and secret passages give one all the pleasure of an episode of Scooby Doo with a vocabulary. The twists and turns are quite predictable in retrospect and Mertz follows the literary rule of getting her heros in so much hot water they can't possibly get out ... but, of course, they do. The Drachenstein castle was a necessary invention, as no existing site would want the kind of sappy and nosey attention they would get as a result of a tale this engaging. If this book did not do well when it was published, it should have. It is worth three of current best sellers that can compete in a similar genre.(less)
This is a current trend that I've not heard explained, though I think I get it. The Tale of Hill Top Farm offers up Beatrix Potter as a heroine detect...moreThis is a current trend that I've not heard explained, though I think I get it. The Tale of Hill Top Farm offers up Beatrix Potter as a heroine detective, along-side books that forward others like the members of the Dante Club and Jane Austin. Certainly there must be other authors out there masquerading as characters in books, espcially detectives. Sure, whatever works. It's a bit of pretty harmless fictional revisionism, but does run the minor risk of making readers believe they know something about historical figures when actually, they don't.
This mystery is a fun diversion because of three things. First, the mystery is not a murder, it is a string of homey thefts, the most intensive of which is a really good painting, minor enough to be in the private collection of a non-rich person. This kind of mystery is good because it takes the pressure off. The story can then focus on the real conflict in a small town which is comprised of the gossip levels, the family dysfunction and the day-to-day decisions of new home owners. This is the real story.
Second, the animals have a viable underground culture of their own. The people who own the pets or put up with the mice and birds may anthropomorphise, but they truly have no idea what is going on in their little varmint noises. The American love for animals, which borders on a mass neurosis has given rise to a whole range of talking animal stories, childhood fables trying hard to grow up. Here the animals have very human concerns and are also concerned with the humans in their world, but they cannot meaningfully interact with the people. Instead they have a cultural heirarchy all their own, doing their duty of helping out those who are kind to animals.
Finally, the characters. I have no idea whether the sketch given of Miss Potter is accurate, but I hope it is. she is a woman on the verge of a stifled, Victorian social order and a more modern, independent identity. She does not simply embrace modernism, but struggles with it, wanting it, but also feeling the pull of traditional values and duties. In that way the book is unexpectedly deep, not cavernous, but definitely thought provoking, asking the question: what am I doing that is merely a matter of convention and not the true calling of my own identity? What am I doing that follows my own true heart?(less)
This is not King's normal stuff. Obviously not horror, more like noir. The story that is not a story has all the elements of a mystery that will not b...moreThis is not King's normal stuff. Obviously not horror, more like noir. The story that is not a story has all the elements of a mystery that will not be solved. Read this book for the sheer slow-moving thorough coverage of the details of a case that has all the trappings of a mystery without the restraint of neat closure. Of course, the story behind the story, masquerading as a sub-plot is a great tale of warmth and acceptance in itself.(less)
As I went through this book, I thought I recognized it from time to time, but the fact is I had no idea where it was going or how it would end. I read...moreAs I went through this book, I thought I recognized it from time to time, but the fact is I had no idea where it was going or how it would end. I read it 5 years ago, but barely remembered it at all. I love the fact that it is a "non-fiction novel." The author is clear in his afterword what was fictional, but that was primarily an issue of sequence, not of salient facts or character relationships.
The author encounters several very colorful and eccentric people in Savanah and becomes privy to a killing. Exactly the nature of the killing is the subject of the book, so I won't give it away, but Jim Williams, the alleged killer, is as interesting as any character devised by John Grisham. The portrait of the city of Savannah is wonderful to the point of lushness and deserves a place all its own. The book is worth reading just for that detail. But it becomes clear when the author defines himself as a writer how he becomes embroiled in the circles in which he travels. It could be no other way. The New York set of the wild and colorful can be found in any urban area (as well as most rural areas, though they are harder to find), so he naturally falls in with the same crowd that in New York recites poetry and eats at trendy restaurants.
Follow the story expecting it to ramble as much as life. Some of the characters are so tangetially connected to the story as to be almost decorative, but they are so decorative as to become a recognizable part of the landscape. As the author moves from the home of the respectable swindler to the home of the drag queen, it becomes a matter of interest to see what part they will play in the main plot ... but that's life.
The cast of legal players is just as diverse, entering and exiting the stage as quickly as you would expect in a musical variety review, but then with so many trials on the line, what else could be the case.
I recommend the book to those who are not automatically put off by the decadence of contemporary headonism. The book is not excessively graphic or profane, but it treats much that is profane as normal. The narrator presents himself as the objective observer everyman, seeing all, judging none. But it becomes clear by the end that he is not without scruples.(less)
Sometimes my tolerance for fiction based on historical fact wears a little thin. For the most part I like it. I think though, I like it best when the...moreSometimes my tolerance for fiction based on historical fact wears a little thin. For the most part I like it. I think though, I like it best when the historical ideas are so obscure that the modern world has basically forgotten them unless you're a student of history prying into ignored corners. Berry dosn't do that. He picks ideas that are really quite well known: Nicholas and Alexandra, The Madonna Miracles and in this book the Library of Alexandria. The thing that bothers me a little about it is that some people will probably think that what he says is factual, but that is only a little true. I don't think anyone's going to buy that the actual library lies hidden somewhere, but his ideas about the Hebrew Bible can be down right damaging to anyone who is unfamiliar with the history of the text. He makes some rather obnoxious claims.
Getting past that takes the reader into an entertaining espionage style thriller. It isn't so deep that I missed out on anything by not reading Cotton Malone's first book, and that says something. Unlike The Third Secret Berry does not propose easy answers to hard questions, instead he plays with making the questions harder. There is no Peace in the Middle East waiting in the hidden halls of the library.
Malone is as two dimensional as a character can be. He wrestles very little with the complexities of his calling and too easily passes over the complications when they intrude into his ex-wife's life. His son is way too resilient. And all politicians are ... well, stereotypical. I can only hope that the abridgement of the book as I read it on audio is responsible for some of the weaknesses. I know the seams showed rather starkly at times.
Don't let these negative comments keep you from reading the book. If you like episodic television, you will like this story, and, I suspect, others featuring the same characters. I'm sure Berry's research is extensive, but I get the impression that it is broader than it is deep, so take his history with a grain of salt and let it draw you into reading of your own on the topics he introduces.(less)
Nancy and her friends go west to Shadow Ranch with Bess' 15 year old cousin Alice and her Aunt Nell who owns the ranch. While there, she becomes intri...moreNancy and her friends go west to Shadow Ranch with Bess' 15 year old cousin Alice and her Aunt Nell who owns the ranch. While there, she becomes intrigued by the cranky and dangerous neighbor Martha Frank and her charge Lucy Brown who is obviously not Frank's daughter and is terribly abused by the woman. Nancy and her friends, on vacation ride about the mountains having adventures among the wildlife and the rugged landscape, but constantly are drawn back to the squatter's hut and the poor little girl.
Amidst the clue finding endeavors and the fun Nancy uncovers a complex tale of kidnapping, assault and amnesia that leads to a happy ending for everyone.
I find the period material interesting. The ranch has a phone, but it is not assumed that everyplace will have one. Rather than simply calling another person, the household makes regular use of the telegraph office. Train is the default mode of long distance travel and it is surprising when someone decides to fly. Oil lamps are not an unusual form of lighting, and most surprising, Nancy and her friends are encouraged to take a pistol with them when they go riding in the wilderness and are compelled to shoot several animals. There are only good feelings about this development.
As always, the dialogue is stilted, in the publisher's attempts to make sure that the language is not only age appropriate but nurturing of good habits. But this minor flaw does not get in the way of a good story that is neither overly predictable nor needlessly complex. A review of the character list makes for an interesting study in just how complex the story is though. However, in order to maintain the action level, Wirt does not overly develop the characters.
Read Shadow Ranch for a visit to a less complicated time, but also as a reminder that these simpler times were not necessarily better. Crime and violence were still huge problems. Child abuse was understood and deplored. The more things change, the more we recognize the past in our own present.(less)
This book is some of the most original fun I've had in a book for a long time. Some of the language gets salty, but other than that it's clean. The wh...moreThis book is some of the most original fun I've had in a book for a long time. Some of the language gets salty, but other than that it's clean. The whole story told from the dog's perspective is refreshing in that it is less tainted than some others. Most animal based mysteries like to make the animals into little humans that may or may not be able to talk to humans. Not Chet. Chet is a dog with all the limitations of a dog. Necessarily his view is a little altered, but his focus on food and satisfying Bernie are right on target.
I love Chet's short attention span, his focus on the obvious and simple, his love of Bernie and Slim Jims and grilled steak. The twists and turns of the plot are a little corny and unlikely, but it doesn't matter in the least. Bernie and Chet are an amazing team so their sentiments are allowed.
I will be looking for Chet and Bernie mysteries, but I'll be somewhat careful. It's a fairly new series and I don't want to run through them too fast. Is this excellent stuff? You'd better believe it.(less)
The Lost Years is pretty good Clark. I think I've read better books written by her, butin this one had lots of things going for it. Aside from a level...moreThe Lost Years is pretty good Clark. I think I've read better books written by her, butin this one had lots of things going for it. Aside from a level of awkwardness in needing to call all characters by full names and various kinds of formal English, it's got Clark's classic well mving plot and satisfying twist at the end. The misdirects are effective and the characters are colorful.
The premise that a scholar is killed in connection with a priceless document, a letter to Joseph of Aramathea thought to have been written by Christ. The document is fictional, there is no such letter, though there is a spurious letter supposedly written by Christ. However, the purported original of that letter no longer exists and it is nothing like Clark's fictional letter. It doesn[t matter, it gives Clark the device she needs to create the criminal obsession. Mariah and her monther are sympathetic. There are sufficient questionable motives running around to keep the reader looking. And the indomitable Elvira is keeping the cops doing their jobs. The lost years of the book's title are not the "lost years" of Christ's life explained in the letter, but the lost years of Mariah's relationship with her dad in the wake of her mother's illness and his affair. Quite well depicted.
I think of this as the Anti-DaVinci Code. Whereas Brown works with real documents to create falsehood, Clark uses a fictional document to champion truth. Books that use biblical ideas in modern settings are a particular interest of mine. Usually they are means to discredit the Bible, as in the aforementioned DaVinci Code, The Word, The Gemini Contenders, The Body. These are only the most well known and those by good authors, there are more, of course. But in this case, the document primarily serves to move the action, and Clark does not follow the errors of these others.
Read it if you like Clark, you'll find all her characteristic moves. You'll also find a novel that does not need to rely on crudeness, profanity and sexuality to succeed. She writes with style that lacks a certain root in reality, but does not come across as false, only a little over cautious. And for fans of Elvira, well, she is what she is ... enjoy.(less)
It was probably the abridgement of this A-book, but I found it very confusing. I had a hard time keeping up with what was going on. Generally speaking...moreIt was probably the abridgement of this A-book, but I found it very confusing. I had a hard time keeping up with what was going on. Generally speaking, the adventure, the mystery was kind of fragmented and predictable. I'll probably read it again someday, just so I can try to follow it better. I'm sure it was very good, for a few reasons, but the only part of this book I really connected with was the epilogue.
Crighton is definitely got some opinions. His perspective on global warming is quite out of synch with popular doctrine, and he knows it. I'm not sure I agree with him, but I like to think he's right, but I've read enough science to have my own suspicions. I think if I read enough, I might be able to know more, but I'm not going to invest so much time into something that is so impersonal. His point about the political popularity of eugenics (in the U.S., not in Germany) is a great analogy of how wrong things can go when science is politicized. Unfortuneatly, I think part of the reason the book was hard to follow was that he was busy trying to push his agenda.
Unless, of course, you remember the last line of the book.(less)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is very obviously a good read. That is as a best seller made into a movie, the public opinion has already established...moreThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is very obviously a good read. That is as a best seller made into a movie, the public opinion has already established it and my own opinion is of merely local interest.
But here it is anyway. I generally really liked the book. It has some obvious features that make it a cautionary book: sexual elements, some language and the endorsement of a lifestyle that is clearly not part of a Christian worldview. Not that it endorses everything, no. In fact it is one of the most thoroughly post-modern books I've read in that the biggest immoral ideas in the book are intolerance and cruelty, though dishonesty and profiteering.
Nazis are the obvious poster children of intolerance and cruelty, so they make their appearance in a purely historical and influential role. The much more present problem is connected with cruelty to women which becomes one of the central motifs of the book. I wouldn't go so far as to call it the theme. The theme I think is the dilemma of morally confronting moral choices.
The characters of Bloomquist and Salander are, of course, very saliently written. The hovering figure of Harriet is wonderful in all her vulnerability and power. The antagonist is as revolting as you expect him to be once you figure out what he's done and he is completely unmasked. The plot moves like a European novel, that is slowly and with languorous description moving into the action of the book and through the denouement, covering every detail in a way that is unnecessary in more action packed American books. In that way it is like a gourmet meal instead of tasty fast food.
I do not broadly recommend The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, though I would recommend it to some adult readers. I caution anyone who is offended by casual sexual attitudes and references. More offensive are the descriptions of sexual cruelty. Not because they reference sex explicitly, but because they are far too unlikely to be taken as truth. More importantly I caution anyone who is subject to be passively influenced by high sounding ideas and realism without looking under the hood. The post-modernism of the story explains much about its popularity.(less)
This book is a worthy successor to it's prequil. Lizbeth and Bloomquist are as engaging as ever and the villains are truly bad guys. I was a little di...moreThis book is a worthy successor to it's prequil. Lizbeth and Bloomquist are as engaging as ever and the villains are truly bad guys. I was a little disappointed that Lizbeth did not have the opportunity to face off with the scum who violated her in the last book, but he was the subject of scornful scrutiny, so I guess that will do.
As with Dragon, I do not for most of my friends recommend this book. It was exciting to read, but had a good bit of dicey stuff in it. The story is thoroughly post-modern in that Lizbeth's "morality" is her own and is respected by everyone who knows her. No main character, so far, has had any religious awareness, though the book is laid out around the Easter season, naming the holy days as its markers. Also, everyone's various forms of sexuality are open to the reader's approval, unless, of course, it is exploitative, whereupon it becomes the criminal point of conflict in the book.
That said, I like the apparent Swedish policy of making sex trafficking the crime of the customer and the management rather than prostitutes themselves. Dealing with the supply and demand rather than the "product" seems more appropriate to the goal of eliminating the crime. Also, since sex trafficking is so tied in with human trafficking, kidnapping, and other criminal forms of abuse and exploitation, it seems better to attack the abusers than the victims.
But this book is about the nature of friendship: specifically the friendships surrounding Lizbeth that she is so tragically unaware of. So many people reach out to help her and she in her shell cannot see it. In her mistrust and fear she has become cynical and others around her reach out in various intensities because of gratitude, respect, admiration and genuine affection. There are some minor agendas in some of the attractions, but they are mostly harmless and part of any milieu of friends.
How many of us are Lizbeth, ignorant of the people who love us, and how much? So frightened of being hurt we shrink back and think the worst? Isolate ourselves for safety's sake? In most regards, Lizbeth is not much harmed by her isolation, but it does make for a sad bigger picture.(less)
In this book a local murder becomes embroiled in secone world war attrocities and the subtlties of Henry James. That explains some of the richness of...moreIn this book a local murder becomes embroiled in secone world war attrocities and the subtlties of Henry James. That explains some of the richness of the text, but also contributes to its abtuseness. Grimes is a brilliant wordsmith, but her story telling can get somewhat hard to follow. I left this book with somewhat of a difficulty imagining what Jury's relationship with the ME was and confused as to his standing with Aguillar. Perhaps the vagueness is supposed to reflect the vagueness in all uncommitted relationships.
A particularly difficult aspect of the book was the way it entered while another case was still wrapping up and finishing before this one was wrapped. The title, Dust, refers to a club where so little of the story is set that it makes little sense to incorporte it as a story element. I guess "dust" also refers to the age of some of the other elements of the story that are rather settled and "dusty" in our thiniking: WWII, the home and legacy of Henry James, the paintings that have all but disappeared from public knowledge, but this is a stretch, and if Grimes intended for the connections to be made, she did not help us along much.
However, Jury is an engaging character. I gather that I'm going to need to begin his story at the beginning if I am to understand the other characters in the book or keep up with the internal conversations. I love Grimes power of description, not just of settings or objects, but of actions and impressions. These give her story texture and depth that go beyond the average. One is always tempted to compare Criminal Investigators across authors and cultures, but in this case, it would be a bit unfair. I'm not sure where Jury's abilities and, say, Kinsey Milhone's intersect. They are such different people that a contrast is almost meaningless. However, I am glad to keep them in the same league.
I give Jury a generally "good" rating, but I suspect if I started at the beginning of the series he would capture my imagination more fully.(less)