A couple of bloggers got together to create International Anita Brookner Day and one of the most readable of the posts is this one by Peta Mayer, who tells us 10 Things to expect from a Brookner novel. Thomas at My Porch has a nice summing up.
"I suggest that we stop arguing," said Ramsey. "If you're going to find fault with my memoirs on matters of detail, then I'm not sure if it will be at all productive to read them to you."
Betty sprang to her own defence. "I was not finding fault, as you put it. I was merely wanting to keep the historical record straight. These things are important. Imagine what the world would be like if memoirs were misleading."
1925 Hawaii was an idyllic sort of place, a place where a straight-laced New England Puritan could lose himself in the heady scent of night blooms and the sunset gilding of the sea. And that’s just what happens to John Quincy Winterslip, a Boston bond dealer who is sent by the family to fetch home his aunt, who left months ago for a visit and hasn’t come home.
His ship arrives in the evening and because of bureaucratic red tape (yes, even in Hawaii Territory in 1925) the ship has to sit outside the reef overnight and land in the morning. When he does go ashore, John Quincy discovers his wealthy uncle Dan, a controversial figure in Honolulu whose fortune is thought to have been acquired through nefarious means, has been murdered during the night. The only clue is a watch with a phosphorescent dial on which the number two is faded.
The police arrive, and among them is Charlie Chan, the finest detective on the island. As he investigates, Charlie finds some additional clues, including an ornate dagger, a jeweled brooch, the stub from an unusual brand of cigarette, and more. It turns out there were quite a few visitors the night Dan was killed, and with John Quincy’s help the police turn up numerous motives for wanting Dan dead.
This is Hawaii and so there are lots of Hawaiian words, a visit to a luau, swimming and surfboarding, leis and muumuus, and the light blinking on Diamond Head. Hawaii being the original multicultural Eden, there are not just Hawaiians and mainland Anglos, but also Japanese and Chinese, Spanish and Portuguese, English and Irish. And because this is Eden, Dan’s house on Waikiki is a house without a key.
This mystery is very dated and filled with atmosphere, Charlie Chan is a minor character but an important one, and the complicated plot comes to a satisfactory ending. The bad guys go to jail, the good guys come into some money, and the guy gets the girl. You'll have to read the book to find out which girl.
It wasn't unrealistic to expect a mystery by Marcia Clark, LA assistant DA who prosecuted O J Simpson, to be a gripping book, filled with true-to-life detail, amusing detail, inside dope. Alas, none of these are to be found in Clark's Guilt by Association.
The plot is a good one. When the heroine, Rachel Knight, stumbles on the purported murder-suicide of a fellow-DA she refuses to believe it and launches her own investigation into the situation. Meanwhile, she is handling a high-profile case that her boss in interested in. The father of the rape victim is a big donor to Knight's boss' campaign and he thinks he knows who did it. Knight isn't so sure.
Publisher's Weekly liked this book a lot more than I did, even comparing it to the first-rate mysteries of Linda Fairstein. I'll not write off Clark immediately. If she publishes another Rachel Knight mystery I'll read it. But her first attempt didn't come up to my expectations.
I read this Stephen White mystery because reviews for the latest book in this series, The Last Lie, were so enticing. I started with this, the second in the series starring Dr Alan Gregory, because the library didn’t have the first. I’m about to remedy that by buying a copy and giving it to the library. Stephen White is a skilled mystery writer and I’m hooked.
Why have two witnesses scheduled to appear before a local grand jury died violently just prior to giving their testimony? That's what Detective Sam Purdy, thrust into an uneasy partnership with Dr. Gregory, wants to know. From the first pages of the novel, when Gregory's office is invaded by a homicidal husband seeking revenge on his wife for her decision to divorce him, until Private Practices powerful climax, Purdy and Gregory strive to make sense of the pieces of an increasingly complex puzzle. In these Rocky Mountains, nothing is quite as it seems.
A pivotal character is one of Dr. Gregory's patients, seventeen-year-old Randy Navens. He has been in psychotherapy since he survived a plane crash that claimed the lives of his parents and his sister. Now he is living with his aunt and uncle, and is haunted by nightmares and suicidal impulses. The unique course of his treatment takes Alan Gregory on a quest that soon ensnarls both doctor and patient in a dangerous web that threatens both their lives.
Whisky is at the heart of this Deborah Crombie mystery featuring her detectives Gemma James, now promoted to Detective Inspector, and her partner Duncan Kinkaid. Gemma finds herself in Scotland, increasingly wrapped up in the problems of a precariously financed distillery owned by friends of her former housemate, Hazel Cavendish.
I learned more than I needed to know about how whisky is distilled, aged, bottled, and distributed. But I don’t drink the stuff and I would judge that anyone not already conversant with the life cycle of whisky might find it all much more interesting than I did.
When Hazel’s former fiancé, a distiller, is found dead, Hazel is the prime suspect and Gemma extends her stay in the Highlands to help clear her friend. Eventually Duncan joins her as they scramble to find the real murderer.
Try to envision a typical woman’s summer beach book written by the sort of author whose novels get nominated for literary prizes. There you have Untold Story, written by Monica Ali, whose Brick Lane, a novel about the lives of Bengali immigrants in London, was shortlisted for the Booker.
Ali’s new novel is a sort of alternative history wherein Princess Diana does not die in the auto accident in Paris (the car swerves a few yards further on when it has cleared the tunnel.) However, her mental health, as we now know, having been increasingly precarious for the last few years of her life, she decides to fake her own death and remake herself as a middle-class English divorcee living in the middle of the US (I assume Iowa.)
She has the help of her private secretary, who makes all the arrangements: moves money into secret accounts, locates a place where she can go swimming off her yacht and disappear, rents a bungalow in Brazil where she can live while having plastic surgery to disguise her distinctive face. His part in the deception is narrated in his diary a year after they have accomplish the disappearance, and it is one of the best parts of the book.
We find Lydia living in a small town called Kensington, which she has chosen for its irony, having made friends with three or four women, without sharing with them her real background. She has a boyfriend who is increasingly restless because of her extreme reserve about her past. And, alas, she has a paparazzo who has stumbled onto her by accident while trying to put together a 10th anniversary memoir of his years chasing her, from when she was shy Di to when she disappeared.
So, we have a clever story, good for a few chuckles and a bit of suspense, leading obviously to bonding between the women and a cooperative attempt to deceive the photographer. There is some depth in the character of Lydia and of the woman she works for at the local animal shelter, and a good deal of ultimately unconvincing angst at having left her children, never to see them again. What possessed Monica Ali to waste her talent writing such a book?
This new stand-alone Lisa Scottolini novel is what we have come to call “an Oprah book,” meaning women’s fiction that is a couple of notches up from chick lit but not reaching the outskirts of literary fiction. It’s not difficult to read but it does tackle real problems that are not easy for the protagonist to cope with. The reader can look forward confidently to a happy ending.
The premise here is the conflict a woman faces when there is an explosion and fire in a school cafeteria between saving her daughter and saving another girl who is near at hand. Her decision leaves her conflicted and at the center of heated controversy in the town she has just moved to and where she has few friends to come to her defense.
Complicating the story is her daughter’s uncomfortable awareness of her strawberry birthmark (like that of Mikhail Gorbachev) and the insensitive reactions of other children. The child’s family tries to protect her from teasing and unkind stares with which the daughter is becoming increasingly uncomfortable.
Scottolini tells a gripping story in filled with lots of action and a bang-up ending. This is just the book for when you’re home for the day with a summer head cold.