Books of the Week:
- A Skeleton in the Family, Leigh Perry
- Omens, Kelley Armstrong
- A Matter of Blood, Sarah Pinborough
- Codex Born, Jim Hines
It took me some time to realize that aside from recommending Leigh Perry’s new book, I had neglected to review it; I’d read it so long ago. By now you know that Leigh Perry is the new pin name for my friend and co-editor Toni L.P. Kelner, and A Skeleton in the Family is the first book in new series. I’m not going to ruin any of the surprises in this delightful mystery by over-explaining it, but the premise is that Georgia Thackeray moves back into her family home with her daughter Madison, a teenager. Georgia, a college professor, is delighted to reunite with her childhood friend – Sid, an animated skeleton, who lives in the attic. Sid wants to find out how he died, and Georgia is just the woman to help him solve his own case. Perry’s book is a charming traditional mystery with a colorful picture of academic life, and it’s a page-turner.
Kelley Armstrong took a bold stance with her Women of the Otherworld series – telling her stories from the viewpoints of different women, rather than sticking to the most popular female, the werewolf Elena Michaels. It’s not any surprise at all that she makes an equally interesting choice with Omens, the first Cainsville novel. Olivia Taylor-Jones, a child of wealth and privilege, finds out she is actually the daughter of a notorious serial killer duo. Her birth name is Eden Larsen. This devastating discovery would level most fictional women, but Eden/Olivia is a very resilient and tough young woman with many inner resources. Though she doesn’t realize it at the time, she’s steered by a series of “chance” encounters to the town of Cainsville, whose inhabitants know her birth parents, and she is connected with her mother’s lawyer, a charismatic and cold man named Gabriel Walsh. Then the omens start popping up, and the plot starts popping, too.
I met Sarah Pinborough in Harrogate at the Orion dinner. You can’t meet her without wanting to read her books, and I hurried to by A Matter of Blood. Detective Inspector Cass Jones is a police officer in a depressed England. The police force is largely corrupt, though Jones is not, and life seems incredibly difficult for Jones; his wife is distant, he’s too busy to call his brother back, and the bloody cases just keep on falling his way. When Cass receives the call that his brother has murdered his own wife and son, Cass is devastated . . . and then he becomes the main suspect in that killing. This is a complicated and dark book, full of twists and turns, very compelling.
Jim C Hines’s Codex Born has the coolest premise ever. Isaac Vainio can reach into books and manifest items he reads about. Since he has this ability, in common with a few other people, he is a part-time librarian and also has a part-time magical research assistant job. He’s dating a dryad, Lena. Lena also has a relationship with another woman. It’s complicated, but they’re making it work. Then the werewolves of Michigan contact the team to say that wendigos are being murdered. Is this just a monster slaying gone brutally wrong? Or is it a deeper plot? The investigation leads to serious complications and near-death for everyone involved. Jim Hines is an engaging writer who is also greatly entertaining, and I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys superior world-building.
Recommending books is easy and natural. Picking a topic to write about is hard. Right now, I’m breathing a sigh of relief that the dogs are all out of the room. It’s rare that I don’t have one at my feet or right behind me on a pillow, since we have four rescues and have had for many years. The two oldest are very old, we figure fourteen and twelve, Oscar and Rocky. The two youngest are approximately five and three, Scrunch and Colt. And, at the moment, we have our daughter’s two English bulldogs, Jackson and Jillian.
Jackson and Jillian are used to a lot of attention and to being indoor dogs. In fact, they are high-maintenance, and they are not suited to being out in the heat. If you’ve ever spent time with an English bulldog, you’ll have noticed that they breathe like steam kettles, drool a lot, and grunt. Even when they’re asleep, they snore quite loudly. These are not subtle dogs.
Our dogs, on the other hand, spend hours outside every day (except Oscar), can actually sneak up on us (if they understood the concept of sneaking), and are usually quiet when they one of their fifty daily naps. They all like a little one-on-one time when they can get it – especially Scrunch, who is a small sort of terrier. She is our lap dog. She does not want to share anything.
As you can imagine, often this clash of different dog families does not always go smoothly or well. There are snarling and snapping episodes between the two camps. At least they sleep a lot, which is a blessing.
But if our daughter isn’t here, the bulldogs follow every step we take. Whichever one of us is on the move is the target. It is easy to see where the term “dog” comes from, as in, “He dogged my every step.” I think this term was coined about bulldogs.
I have to say that our canine visitors are very sweet-natured. Our Scrunch tends to be a bit (excuse me) bitchy, but Jackson and Jillian are like large sweet bumblebees unless they feel a gauntlet has been thrown down. Even then, Jillian would rather wander off to hide rather than leap into the fray.
When our Beautiful Daughter moves on to her own abode, we’ll miss Jackson and Jillian, too. But not the rumbling, mumbling, and bumbling. Or the occasional spats with our dogs. We’ll miss the uncomplicated affection a dog offers. A pat on the head or a tickle under the chin, and you feel like you’ve done something great for another being on this planet. And that’s a great feeling.