BOOK & BLOG
February 25, 2008
Books of the Week: TILT A WHIRL by Chris Grabenstein, BLACK MAGIC WOMAN by Justin Gustainis
I finally read two books that I’d been hearing about for months. One is a mystery, Chris Grabenstein’s TILT A WHIRL, and the other is BLACK MAGIC WOMAN by Justin Gustainis, an urban fantasy novel. Both books were recommended to me very strongly, and for justifiable reasons.
TILT A WHIRL is a buddy book, but what interesting buddies they are. Two patrol officers on a small force in a New England resort town, John Ceepak (just back from Iraq) and hometown boy Danny Boyle, are eating breakfast in a diner when they look out the window to see a child covered in blood staggering down the street. The child’s father is dead, shot multiple times, his body in a place where he shouldn’t be at a time no one should be there. The child is the only witness.
Though the town rapidly swells with law enforcement personnel, the chief of police, an Army buddy of Ceepak’s, asks that the two keep investigating. Very little is what it seems in this novel. The relationship between Ceebak and Boyle is the central dynamic of the book, and Ceepak’s Dudley Do-Right character is the foundation of that relationship. Boyle comes to doubt that his admiration for Ceepak is justified; and the rest of us have to follow along on the path of events that will lead to the uncovering of many secrets.
If you enjoy this book, which is almost a given, there are several more in the series for you to read. I plan on ordering the second one as soon as I finish writing this. The setting and the characters are refreshing and novel.
Gustainis’s BLACK MAGIC WOMAN arrives with a lush blurb by Jim Butcher. That in itself is enough to arouse interest. “The best manuscript I’ve ever been asked to read,” is part of the quote on the front cover. Coming from Butcher, that’s a huge recommendation.
Gustainis has written one previous book, but BLACK MAGIC WOMAN is a complex book that says a lot for the author’s potential, since he’s writing it so early in his career. Perhaps I wasn’t quite as bowled over as Jim apparently was, but I did think it was a very good book, and I’ll look forward to reading another one in the series. The central character is Quincey Morris, whose name should be familiar to any reader of classics. Yes, it’s the American from “Dracula.” Gustainis’s Quincey is the descendant of the original, and he’s followed in his footsteps in his attempt to track down and destroy evil of the supernatural ilk. And boy, does he face evil in BLACK MAGIC WOMAN. Quincey is originally hired to find out who is haunting a house inhabited by a very normal middle-class family. In the course of his investigation, he finds the roots of this haunting go back hundreds of years to the Salem witchcraft trials, and he has to enlist the aid of the most powerful witch he knows, Libby Chastain.
Also working on the same case, but from another end, are a South African policeman and an FBI agent, an odd couple with their own interesting relationship. They are counteracted by a good ole boy and a witch from South Africa, both people as evil as people can be; and their race to the finish is neck and neck.
There were a couple of things about this book that I could’ve wished had been done differently, but those are just my own quibbles about a good book that provided a lot of entertainment.
Another week of things that didn’t happen, and a few that did. Two of our daughter’s games got rained out, and after packing the rear of the car with all things necessary to enjoy a Spring softball game (folding chair, lap robe, neck scarf, gloves, bottled water, scorepad), it’s oddly deflating when the game doesn’t happen.
Things that did happen I did get some good work done on the next Sookie Stackhouse, and I did find an evening outfit for the Malice Domestic banquet. I went to one very expensive store with great service and found nothing I liked; I went to a chain store where the young woman couldn’t have cared less, and found five or six things that would do, finally settling on one with the advice of my good friend and best shopping buddy, Paula.
Everyone well, maybe every woman needs a best shopping buddy, a friend who tempers truth with kindness. This is someone who knows when you are at the end of your shopping rope, that you will pick one of these items or forget the whole thing -- or that you would feel better if you visited one more store and tried on one more dress. Your shopping buddy is someone who accepts it when you look at your watch and say, “We have thirty-five minutes to get out of this grocery store,” and immediately roll her cart away to fill it. This is a woman who will tell you the truth even if it’s depressing (“Yes, that dress really does make you look, ah, not your best.”). This is a woman who will not laugh when you dribble spaghetti sauce on your blouse at lunch.
As I said before, everyone needs a friend like this. It helps if she genuinely thinks your kids are almost as great as you think they are. It helps even more if you feel the same way about her kids. Because let’s face it moms talk about their children. It’s what they do. Some of those children may be in their twenties, but they’re still fair game for discussion. That’s part of being a friend, being willing to listen to long stories about “kids” who are making their own money and their own living, and some day (God willing) having their own babies. Once a mom, always a mom.
I don’t know if men really need a best the friend the way that women do. In my experience, it’s a rarer situation for one man to bond with another and to sustain that relationship year after year. It’s certainly not unknown, just not as common. I don’t believe I know a single woman who doesn’t have a very best friend.
Am I completely off base here, or isn’t that the norm? I guess I’ll wonder about the reasons for this at length. Give me something to do during the break between the innings at the ball park, if the rain every stops.
© 2009 Charlaine Harris