Books of the Week:
- Perfect Scoundrels, Ally Carter
- Etiquette & Espionage, Gail Carriger
- The Boyfriend, Thomas Perry
- Blood Maidens, Barbara Hambly
Two fairly light-hearted young adult novels this week, both with female leads, left me feeling pretty optimistic about the reading choices of kids these days. Perfect Scoundrels raised a few issues with me, because it’s about a crime family who resorts to some big cons to help the very rich young man who has become part of the family (and the boyfriend of Kat Bishop, the protagonist). It’s a well-written, entertaining book, and there’s no doubt Kat is resourceful, a quick thinker, and a bold planner. And she’s loyal and loving. The downside is that – well, she’s a thief and a con artist. I haven’t read the other books in this series, but I feel sure almost any girl would enjoy them without fear of that girl becoming a career criminal.
Probably quite a few of you have read some of Gail Carriger’s adult series, the Parasol Protectorate, which are set in the same world as this YA novel, Etiquette & Espionage. Carriger’s charm is abundant and fully on display in E&E, in which young Miss Sophronia Temminnick is sent by her despairing mother to what her mother (and Sophronia) think will be a conventional finishing school. This is far from the case, and Sophronia, hitherto a social misfit, finally comes into her own. It’s delightful.
Thomas Perry has been a very successful thriller writer for many years, and The Boyfriend shows he’s still at the top of his game. Private investigator Jack Till, formerly with the LAPD, is hired by grieving parents to find out who killed their daughter, a prostitute. Till discovers that there’s a pattern of murdered prostitutes in cities around America; all the girls look very similar, and they all acquired a boyfriend shortly before their murders. But there’s another layer of complexity in this excellent book; the prostitutes are killed to cover up other crimes.
Barbara Hambly’s Benjamin January mysteries have always been at the top of my list of excellent reads, and her James Asher/Don Simon Ysidro books are some of my favorite vampire novels. I was startled (and angry with myself) to discover there’s another Asher book, apparently published only in the UK. Blood Maidens is every bit as good as Those Who Hunt the Night and Travelling with the Dead. I am chiding myself for my ignorance in not having known this earlier.
Where the Bodies are Buried
I sent an email to a friend last week, telling her a reporter wanted to talk to her about me, and I added, “Just don’t tell her where the bodies are buried.” Of course, this was a reference to the saying, “Friends will help you move. A real friend will help you move bodies.”
Just to clear the air on that issue, I’ve never buried a body, and unless my friends and readers are much more adventurous than I am, I’m willing to believe none of you have, either. So why are we so fond of that saying?
I’ll tell you where the real bodies are buried: in our memories. All of us remember something painful, something we should feel remorse over, something shameful, or some incident that evokes all three of those reactions. I’m not going in for true confessions, here, but I’m willing to bet that something popped into your mind just then, something you’d rather not have in your memory bank.
Perhaps you can’t even absolve yourself of something: but your best friend can do it. You don’t have to be a hero to your true friend. I think your true friend will see you, warts and all, and still stick to you.
Maybe we should say, “Friends will help you move. A real friend will help you move a body. And the best friend will still like you afterward.”
My favorite movie illustration? “Grosse Pointe Blank,” where John Cusack’s hit man is assisted by his high school buddy (Jeremy Piven) at their high school reunion, in disposing of the body of another hit man Cusack has dispatched with a ball point pen. (Maybe I have a macabre sense of humor, but that’s my favorite touch, the ball point pen.) (Oh, and I guess there’s no maybe about my sense of humor.)
So I wish all of you a friend close enough to absolve you of your less-than-noble moments, because I assure you . . . we all have them.
And by the way, if you need a body buried . . . I have a shovel. Just saying.