Books & Blog: August 16, 2019

  • The Nothing Girl and Something Girl and Hope for the Best, Jodi Taylor
  • Death in Captivity and Smallbone Deceased, Michael Gilbert
  • October Man, Ben Aaronovitch
  • Kill the Queen, Jennifer Estep
  • When We Were Lost, Kevin Wignall
  • The Right Sort of Man, Allison Montclair
  • Recursion, Blake Crouch
  • Big Sky, Kate Atkinson

 

I have a lot to catch up with. I’ve been working hard on the next book (the third Gunnie Rose) and I’ve let my “READ” pile accumulate. In addition to these books, I’m re-reading the Patricia Briggs books about Mercy Thompson, because I’ve had a few rough patches lately in Real Life, and Briggs’ books give me happiness.

 

So here goes.

 

Three Jodi Taylors! Three times the entertainment. Hope for the Best is the latest St. Mary’s book, and like many of them, it’s a mixture of heartbreakingly sad and deep belly laughs. If you’re following the adventures of the St. Mary’s crew, which I highly recommend, you have to read this. The Nothing Girl (and its sequel, The Something Girl) is a different animal. Raised by her aunt and uncle to believe she is somehow deficient, the stuttering and shy Jenny Dove has one ace in the hole: her friend Thomas, an invisible horse. Thomas gives her very good advice. The sudden appearance of Russell Checkland, artist and former fiancé of Jenny’s beautiful cousin, galvanizes Jenny into entering life. Russell is not a smooth ride: he yells, he drinks, he still carries the torch for selfish and stupid Francesca, and he needs Jenny’s money. But the charm of this book cannot be denied, and If you read Nothing you will certainly want to read Something.

 

Death in Captivity and Smallbone Deceased are two outstanding mysteries by the master, Michael Gilbert. Death takes place in a prisoner-of-war camp and Smallbone in a solicitor’s office. Gilbert’s specialty was taking odd locations, interesting people, and a murder, and tossing them together in a masterly way. Anyone who loves a good mystery and wants to read an excellent one need only pick up any Michael Gilbert.

 

Ben Aaronovitch is one of my favorite urban fantasy writers, and though October Man is a departure from his very popular Peter Grant books it’s still a winner. Tobias Winter is Peter Grant’s German equivalent. Winter is sent to investigate a case in Trier, Germany’s oldest town, where a body’s been found covered in fungus. He’s assigned a local police officer, Vanessa Sommer, to help. The first death isn’t the only death, of course, and ancient Trier has all too much supernatural history to rake through before Winter and Sommer can stop the rot.

 

Kill the Queen is the first in the Crown of Shards series by Jennifer Estep, well-known urban fantasy writer. Kill is definitely more epic fantasy, than urban, and it’s a really good read. Evie is seventeenth in line for the throne of Bellona, and is merely tolerated at court, until . . . you guessed it . . . just about everyone else dies. Evie’s kept her head down and her abilities concealed lest she become a target, so no one expects her to escape the slaughter, much less to come back ready for vengeance. Whee!

 

Kevin Wignall is best known for his adult novels, mostly about killers who have some sort of code or morality. When We Were Lost is a YA novel about a group of teens whose plane crashes in South America. They’ve gone far off their original course, and loner Tom Calloway finds he is the voice of reason when the survivors start thinking of what they must do to be saved. Tom’s whole life changes when he answers the demands of the situation. As one might expect, his reluctant leadership is challenged by the blowhard least qualified to make good decisions. I’ll read anything by Kevin Wignall, and I was anxious to find out what happens to these kids.

 

Set in post-WWII London, The Right Sort of Man begins the adventure of two very different women who have set up a lonely-hearts bureau to make ends meet. One of them is a former secret agent, another is a widow with a child who has to live with an unsympathetic mother-in-law. When one of their clients is murdered, Gwendolyn and Iris are drawn into the case to defend the accused man, and thereby save the reputation of their little firm. This book is aimed to appeal to traditional mystery readers, though it has an edge.

 

Blake Crouch’s Recursion has made a big splash and gotten many positive reviews, so I feel a bit like I’m jumping on a bandwagon. RRecursion is a difficult book to encompass, so bear with me. New York City police officer Barry Sutton is investigating people infected with False Memory Syndrome. The victims are convinced they’ve lived another life and they’re haunted by memories of that life, ruining their current existence. Neuroscientist  Helena Smith, desperate to help her dementia-cursed mother retain some memories, has been hired by a billionaire to build a machine to make that happen. Of course, all goes wrong (almost any billionaire in a book is evil, especially if he wants to build a machine). How Helena and Barry meet and how they deal with the destruction of society because of FMS makes a complicated and interesting tale. It led to a lot of thought, I have to add.

 

Kate Atkinson cannot write a bad book. Big Sky, therefore, is not only good by definition, but it’s a Jackson Brodie book, which makes it even greater. Jackson, one of my favorite detectives of all time, is aging. He’s living in a seaside village and sharing custody of his Labrador and his teenage son with Julia, an actress to whom he was never married. Part of Jackson’s charm is that he doesn’t delude himself, and another is that he keeps running into people he’s encountered at other points in his life: like Reggie, the girl who saved his life in an earlier book. Now Reggie’s a police officer asking routine questions about a cold case, which (in the way Kate Atkinson makes perfectly natural) ties into the case Jackson is currently hired to investigate. It all makes sense, and it all ties together. And we listen in to conversations between the mysterious Tatiana, who not only fancies Brodie but has an unexpected role to play in another case he’s been involved in for weeks. No one else but Atkinson can tie this all together in a way that not only seems right, but inevitable.

 

 

Blog

 

Not much of one, since I’m trying so hard to catch up. I’m busier than I want to be, but still trying to clear eight weeks in case I can find a time to get one of my knees replaced. Eight weeks is hard to come by; I’d have to cancel something. It’s like plowing through the underbrush hoping to come into a clearing.

 

I also have lots of family stuff going on. The grandkids are back to school, our teacher daughter is back to teaching, one of our sons is moving close to us, the church we attend is about to open its newly-built doors, and I’m due to attend both SIBA and Bouchercon.

 

I hope to see some of you during these appearances since I didn’t tour this year. (A LONGER FALL got pushed back to this coming January.) Thanks for reading about what I’M reading, and enjoy a good book soon.

 

Charlaine Harris