June 24, 2014

June 24, 2014

Books of the Week:


  • The Kindred of Darkness,  Barbara Hambly
  • Designated Daughters, Margaret Maron
  • Skin Game, Jim Butcher


I’ve always enjoyed Barbara Hambly’s books, from the very excellent mystery series about Benjamin January to her vampire novels. I was delighted to find there was a new book in her James Asher/Don Simon Ysidro series, The Kindred of Darkness. While Oxford don and secret spy James Asher is off on one of his mysterious journeys to the continent, the most horrible thing happens: in his wife Lydia’s absence, their little girl and her nanny are kidnapped by the vampires of London. Lydia and James know exactly what can happen to their child. They discover what they must do to ensure Miranda’s return: destroy an interloping vampire who is somehow able to hide his whereabouts from the English vampires. In such a great crisis they must ask for the help of their ally, the terrifying Don Simon Ysidro, a vampire who loves Lydia. This is another satisfying entry in a series that puts the awfulness back in bloodsuckers.


Designated Daughters is by Margaret Maron, which is like saying there’s a seal of goodness stamped on the cover. Maron’s consistently excellent writing has secured her one of the great landmarks of the mystery world: she has been voted a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America. Judge Deborah Knott is a great character; she’s part of a huge family, children and grandchildren of the bootlegger Kezzie Knott. Deborah’s married to Deputy Dwight Bryant and a happy stepmother at this stage of her life. Part mystery, part meditation on the role of caregivers, the book is based on the curious circumstance of a dying woman who says too much.


Jim Butcher is one of the biggest names in urban fantasy. This is no surprise to anyone who’s been following his career. Butcher’s Harry Dresden books are amazingly, consistently, outstanding (to my admiration and envy).  Skin Game has flickers of hope for Harry to come; amidst all the double-dealing and mayhem, the disasters and near-brushes with death, Harry and former police officer and ally Karin finally have a conversation about their feelings for each other. There’s so much to enjoy in this full-tilt adventure that I’m not even going to attempt to summarize the plot.






Like all other writers, at every personal appearance I’m asked the same things. But the most common questions, the ones posed at every speaking engagement, are: “Who’s your favorite writer? What’s your favorite book?”


My answer has come to be, “It depends on which week it is.” I have read so many books and found so much to admire that I have no one clear response. Sure, I have writers that I often recommend to people who like my books. But that too can depend on which books of mine they’ve enjoyed the most. If they’ve liked my conventional mysteries, I can safely recommend any of my friends with whom I blog: Donna Andrews, Toni L.P. Kelner (Leigh Perry), Miranda James (Dean James), Catriona McPherson, Mary Saums, Marcia Talley, Dana Cameron, Hank Phillipi Ryan, Elaine Viets. Or I can advise them to read Margaret Maron, or Carolyn Hart, or Eve Sandstrom, or Denise Swanson.


If they’re readers who like something edgier, I can tell them what pleasure I’ve found in Laura Lippman, or Robert Crais, or Lee Child, or Karin Slaughter, or Charlie Huston.


If you tell me you like writers who write both mysteries and science fiction, well, I’ve got a list of those, starting with Barbara Hambly and stretching onward.


Out and out urban fantasy? Jim Butcher, Kim Harrison, Kelley Armstrong, Carrie Vaughn, Kevin Hearne, Benedict Jacka, Mike Carey . . .


Much, much edgier fantasy? Oh, gosh, just a few: Richard Kadrey, Lillian Saintcrow, Rob Thurman, Laurell K. Hamilton.


And that’s just living writers. Don’t get me started on dead ones.


So please, if you see me in person, be prepared for a long answer if you ask me who my favorite writer is.


And if you really care who I’m reading, you can find out what books I’ve read for the past two years; at least, the ones I’ve enjoyed. Just click on BOOK & BLOG here on this website. You can find out there.


There are so many great books out there. The only problem, as I see it, is finding the time to read them. I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about this before, and I’m probably going to do so again. It’s one of the few things I see no other side to.


Charlaine Harris