Books & Blog: March 9, 2015

Books of the Week

  • City of Stairs, Robert Jackson Bennett
  • Pocket Apocalypse, Seanan McGuire
  • Deadshifted, Cassie Alexander
  • Uprooted, Naomi Novik, on sale JUNE 30

The jacket copy, which calls City of Stairs a “stunningly original work of fantasy,” is not exaggerating. I had never read Robert Jackson Bennett’s work before, and I could never in a hundred years have imagined the world he has created. Shara Thivani, a citizen of the nation that has long ago conquered Bulikov, arrives to investigate a murder. Disguised as a minor functionary, she is accompanied by  her savage aide, Sigrud. Thivani’s country conquered Bulikov by killing its Gods, but are they really all gone? Or just biding their time? The evidence of their works is all around Bulikov, and maybe the Gods are, too.
 

If you love the Aeslin mice, who worship the Price family, as much as I do, you’ll be glad to see them again in Pocket Apocalypse, in which shy scientist Alexander Price goes home with his Australian fiancé, Shelby Tanner, whose family is the Aussie equivalent of the Prices, who monitor the supernatural community of the United States  . . . and have many enemies. As it turns out, the Tanners’ group pretty much numbers among those enemies. But they’re in crisis, because there’s an outbreak of heretofore unknown werewolves on the continent, and they need Alex, who’s had experience with the creatures. He brings a colony of Aeslin mice with him, to establish them in a country where they’re thought to be extinct. The Aeslins are unexpectedly useful. I read this in a big gulp, since I love everything Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant has ever written.
 

Cassie Alexander’s novels about nurse Edie Spence get even darker with Deadshifted. Edie is taking a cruise with her beloved, Asher, a shapeshifter. But first thing, Asher recognizes an old patron of his, who was evil in the past and is even more evil now. The cruise turns into a ship of the dead, and it’s all Edie can do to rescue Asher and survive herself, with an unexpected ally or two. Edie just can’t catch a break, but she continues to be an amazingly human and strong character.
 

I was absolutely delight to get an ARC of Naomi Novik’s new novel, Uprooted. This is not one of her Temeraire series, but something quite different and wonderful. A magician called the Dragon comes to receive his tribute from Agnieszka’s village every year, but every ten years he takes a young village woman to serve him. Agnieszka’s best friend, the prettiest girl in the village, is the one everyone assumes will be taken, but to their astonishment he senses magic in Agnieszka and takes her instead. The Dragon turns out to be total jerk, and Agnieszka is pretty miserable until the magic lessons start . . . and then she’s blossoming into something completely different. This is a wonderful story, and I hope you read it. It’s HIGH RECOMMENDED. It’ll be on sale JUNE 30.
 

Blog

I was thinking the other day about mysteries I read when I was in my teens, books that shaped and influenced me. I remembered a name I hadn’t heard in a long time – Dell Shannon. No, not the singer, but the mystery writer.
 

Dell Shannon was only one of the names Barbara “Elizabeth” Linington used. It’s just the name she used when she was nominated for three Edgars. In a time when women did not write police procedurals, “Dell Shannon” did. Hers were about LAPD Homicide Lieutenant Luis Mendoza. He was a former card shark, and when he needed to think he shuffled cards. Not only were these procedurals, the lead character was a Latino man married (at least during part of the series) to an Anglo woman.
 

I truly think I read all of them. I was delighted to find they’re now available for e-readers, if you’d like to sample them. I’ve ordered an old favorite in print version for a penny (yes, a penny!) plus shipping.
 

If you haven’t encountered Dell Shannon, you may have encountered Lesley Egan.  The Lesley Egan books are mysteries, too. I have read at least five of them, maybe more. I inhaled mysteries as a teen.
 

I was surprised to discover Dell Shannon and Lesley Egan are one and the same writer. I counted 26 books under the Egan name, and a staggering 41 as Dell Shannon. Under Elizabeth Linington, she managed a paltry 16, and there are one each under the names Anne Blaisdell and Egan O’Neill.
 

I’m exhausted just thinking about this output. These were all written between 1955 and 1988, when Linington passed away. Eight-five books in 33 years.  (At least two of these were published after her death.) What an amazing legacy.
 

I am so happy to have rediscovered this prolific writer, and I’m really looking forward to finding out how her writing has aged.