BOOK & BLOG
August 4, 2008
STILL LIFE by Louise Penny and HAVEMERCY by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett
You know how you sometimes get stubborn when you hear the name of a book or author every time you turn around? Some streak of perversity raises its head, and you avoid the book or writer in question for no very good reason at all. I was that way about Louise Penny. I’m happy to say that I overcame that prejudice and read Penny’s first Three Pines book, “Still Life.” Everyone who recommended it was right. It’s great. For those readers who love conventional mysteries (popularly, if inaccurately, called ‘cosies’) Louise Penny is manna from heaven.
Set in Canada in a very small hamlet, Three Pines, “Still Life” is a murder mystery in the purest sense, with lots of wonderful character development and confusing plot twists. In fact, there were several people I would’ve LOVED to have found guilty, though I confess I did figure out whodunit pretty easily. And there are surprises galore; you’ll know them when you see them.
Now I can look forward to having two more books in the series to read.
I enjoyed “Havemercy” just as much. The first outing by Jones and Bennett, it’s sort of a cross between Sarah Monette and Naomi Novik; and since those are two of my favorite writers, I didn’t mind the combination at all. There are several plot threads in “Havemercy,” all told from different first person points of view, and it was hard to decide whose voice I liked best.
The country of Volstov has been at war with the Ke-Han for a century, with the Volstov forces always on the ascendancy because of their use of mechanical dragons created by metal and magic. The dragon-riders are an elite corps who can do pretty much as they please. This sense of entitlement leads to an open scandal, and the corps is assigned a university student whose job it is to teach them manners.
In the other main plot portion, magician and aristocrat Royston is sent to his relatives’ country home following another scandal. He finds solace in his growing relationship with Hal, who has been given room and board and is destined to become the tutor to the relatives’ children. Hal, though very young and very inexperienced, returns Royston’s feelings.
The war with the Ke-Han takes a terrible turn, and all four main characters face crises before the final battle ends.
At first I thought the story was more than a little derivative, but as I read more and more, I realized I was captured by the book’s pace and the voices of the narrators. Jones and Bennett have written a really pleasurable book, and I look forward to reading a second one from them.
After three weeks of travelling, I’m home, but I still feel as though I have to repack and fly somewhere else. It’s almost a shock to realize that I can stay at home and work this week.
I’ve reported before on NECon in lovely Rhode Island, and after that I repacked and flew to San Diego for a quick appearance at ComicCon. People had told to prepare for big and overwhelming, but I don’t think you can appreciate how huge it is until you’re there. The con is held at the San Diego convention center (which may have some proper name that I don’t know) and it has as many as 150,000 visitors. This is more people than I see in perhaps four years, normally.
Fortunately for me, I was able to schedule a sort of last-minute appearance at the Mysterious Galaxy booth. If you’ve visited the website very often, you’ll know that this San Diego store, which stocks both science fiction and mystery, is one of my favorite places to sign. The staff is friendly, intelligent, and supportive. Of course, as far as I’m concerned, the fact that they sell tons of my books would make them wonderful even if they weren’t so super in other ways. I was able to come in early and look around before the crowd came in, and after that stroll (which I only appreciated later when I saw how jammed the aisles became), and when it was my appointed time I had a very good signing.
After that, I made my way (with increasing difficulty) to the Warner Brothers “booth” more accurately, pavilion to meet with the cast of “True Blood” and Alan Ball, because we were scheduled to appear on a panel together. It was really a pleasure to meet some of the HBO staff with whom I’d exchanged emails, and they were all very helpful. I talked to one of the people who’d devised the marketing campaign; that was fun. When the cast arrived, I got to meet some of them for the first time, and they were without exception polite and personable.
We were taken through a back route by security so we could appear at the panel, and that was an experience. Our biggest danger was getting run over by a forklift. I’ve been on about a million panels in my career, and I knew once I got on the stage I’d be fine. I was. My biggest problem was hearing the questions the moderator (from Entertainment Weekly) was asking. In such a huge room, with over 2,000 people in attendance, my less-than-wonderful ears were really having to strain.
Again, the cast and Alan acquitted themselves well, and I think the audience enjoyed the experience. The questions were interesting, though not all of them got answered. Alan’s good about saving surprises. There are several filmed versions floating around on YouTube, if you want to see them.
After flying home from that, I had one night to wash and pack before we left for ASA Nationals in Owensboro, Kentucky. Our daughter’s team lasted until Thursday afternoon, which was in line with our expectations, and she hit a home run, which is always great. Then we had an eight hour drive home the next day.
I’m so glad to be in my own little corner of the world, I can hardly tell you. I hope I never again do so many things back-to-back again!
All of you out there who are doing your summer travelling stay in the shade, drink lots of water, and consider the fact that you’ll get to go home soon.
© 2009 Charlaine Harris