Books & Blog: June 4, 2019

  • The Dry, Jane Harper
  • Pale Guardian and Prisoner of Midnight, Barbara Hambly
  • Cari Mora, Thomas Harris
  • Kingdom of Needle and Bone, Seanan McGuire
  • The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, Theodora Goss
  • Storm Cursed, Patricia Briggs

Jane Harper’s The Dry is a mesmerizing crime novel with an unlikely protagonist. In the midst of a terrible drought in Australia, federal agent Aaron Falk receives a mysterious message to return to his tiny hometown for a funeral. Though Aaron has never wanted to revisit the place rumor drove him away from, he feels compelled to return to say goodbye to Luke, his staunch friend from childhood. Everyone thinks Luke committed suicide, but Luke’s parents think otherwise, and they pressure Aaron into investigating. The ghost of another long-vanished friend, Ellie, is very much on Aaron’s mind, too, since Aaron was all but accused of murdering her. This is a suspenseful and sharply observant book with an ominous setting. Highly recommended.

I’ve always enjoyed Barbara Hambly’s work, and I was delighted to find her UK publisher had issued two books in her Don Simon Ysidro books that I hadn’t yet seen. Vampire Don Simon Ysidro, an ancient vampire, has a strange relationship with Lydia and James Asher. James is a professor turned spy, and Lydia, his outspoken wife, is a doctor. Don Simon loves her, and she loves him, but her human husband will always come first. Don Simon is a mass murderer, and Lydia never forgets that, even when she saves his life. In the history of this strange threesome, we have reached World War I, which provides a bonanza for vampires everywhere; the front is as thick with them as it is artillery. But the creation of savage zombies (by an unknown party) is making both vampires and humans terrified. When they are unleashed, everyone will be in the worst peril. Pale Guardian and Prisoner of Midnight both mesh into this story thread.

I was very excited to hear Thomas Harris had written another book. His long silence has been puzzling, after his phenomenal books about Dr. Hannibal Lector, which made great movies and even greater bestsellers. Cari Mora, the protagonist of his new book, was a child soldier in South America. Now she’s in Miami, cobbling together a living with several jobs and on shaky ground as a working immigrant. It’s no surprise to discover that Cari is very alert for danger, and she can spot a psychopath many, many yards away . . . luckily for her. Cari is the caretaker of an estate formerly owned by a drug lord, and the rumor that he has hidden gold underneath is absolutely true. Cari has to step carefully and quickly to dodge the many people who are trying to steal the gold if she wants to stay alive. I think since Thomas Harris wrote this book, I expected amazing. What I got was a well-written and suspenseful thriller.

Did you ever wonder how Seanan McGuire feels about immunizations? You can find the answer if you read Kingdom of Needle and Bone. Dr. Isabel Gauley, who feels guilty of so many things, fights to save at least part of the world from the consequences of its actions. This is as fascinating as McGuire’s work can be, and that’s saying a lot.

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter is both fun and fascinating. If you assume that Dr. Jekyll had a daughter, as did all the other Victorian horrors – like Dr. Frankenstein – and then you assume that they band together for their mutual protection and to make a living, then you have the basis for this lively book.

Patricia Briggs’s Storm Cursed is a worthy entry in this consistently good series. Mercy Thompson, mechanic and skin walker, is horrified to feel the bond with her mate’s pack suddenly vanish. Are they all dead? Where is her mate? Because she is brave and determined, Mercy solves this puzzle. It costs her something – as always – but Mercy is consistently the most resourceful character in urban fantasy.

 

Blog

I have had a cluster of health problems recently; nothing serious, just all happening at the same time. In the midst of all this, Paula (my friend and assistant) and I traveled to New Orleans, one of my favorite places, to attend BookloversCon, which is taking the place of RT (Romantic Times Booklovers).

It was uplifting to be in Nola, and just as uplifting to be greeted with so much enthusiasm by lots of readers. Paula and I ate some excellent meals at Josephine and Estelle’s, Luke’s, and Muriel’s. Even the hotel restaurants were quite good.

The real pleasure of attending a conference is the other guests, of course. I got to see and visit with Chloe Neill, Heather Graham, Karen Marie Moning (we’d never met), Sonali Dev, MaryJanice Davidson, Christine Feehan, and many other writers I seldom get to see. I know I’m going to send this off and then think, “Oh gosh, I wish I’d mentioned so-and-so!” Tonya Kappes, for one . . . I know I’m leaving someone else out besides Alexandra Sokoloff . . .. Oh, I ran into my old friend Carolyn Haines! What a surprise to see her! She just came in to hang around one day since several of her other friends were presenting there. Sitting in place for the mass signing was a small price to pay for having so much fun.

Next year this conference will be in Nashville, a totally different vibe. Could be a great time, so think about it. I am.

Charlaine Harris