This summer has been a little unusual in that I've been reading a lot of newly published literary fiction. This is an attempt to evaluate books that might be on our Sweet Sixteen list for next March's Buff Orpington Book Tournament. It's been rewarding. If I weren't focusing on new books I might have missed Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians, Roxana Robinson's Sparta, and Wily Cash's A Place More Kind than Home. But it took a lot of time and focus and I'm now feeling a pent-up demand for stories that require less concentration and for a few murder mysteries.
I have read some other books recently that I haven't reported on. The Lorimer Line by Anne Melville, for example. This is the first of six Lorimer novels by Anne Melville. The Lorimer stories have recently been republished by Bloomsbury Reader, in paperback and e-book formats. The Kindle editions are less than $10. Anne Melville is a pseudonym for Margaret Potter (other pseudonyms are Ann Betteridge and Margaret Evans.) Her father was novelist Bernard Newman, whose best-known book was Spy, published in 1935.
Melville (who was George Eliot's great-grandniece) wrote 55 novels, some of them mysteries and some of them for children. Originally published between 1977 and 1984 the Lorimer books are a family saga beginning in the early 19th century. This first book begins in 1877 and is about the daughter of the very wealthy Lorimer of the day and her love for her father's young employee who is beneath her on the social scale. Will their love win out despite the antagonism of her family and the unsettling events in the commercial world of the time? (You might be surprised.) I heard about this book from Elaine's blog, Random Jottings.
Another book I wedged in between the more serious books is Margaret Moran's Storm Track, the seventh mystery featuring Moran's Judge Deborah Knott. This series began with The Bootlegger's Daughter, which swept the mystery prizes in 1992. My friends and I have been delighted to find that each Deborah Knott book is better than the last.
Storm Track is about the unlikely arrival in Colleton County, an inland fictional county very near Durham, of a hurricane. The body of a local woman is found dead in a motel not far from the ball field where much of the town was playing or watching baseball games the night she was killed. The investigation that follows digs into the lives of people close to Deborah, all of whom have reason to want the woman dead.
Much of the appeal of these books is Deborah's family. She has umpteen brothers, most of them married, most of them with children, which means she is related to, knows well, or has worked with all of the suspects and most of the characters in the book. Again the rural Carolina setting and especially the food are tremendously appealing.
I zipped through Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane, a moderately interesting book about a man who returns to the neighborhood where he lived as a boy and remembers the goings-on of a singular summer in his youth. Some of the characters have unusual powers and not all of these people are benign. Not my kind of book but it seems very popular with its particular audience.
This Town by Mark Leibovich is an insider's view of political Washington, DC. The author writes for The New York Times and formerly was on the staff of The Washington Post. He knows everybody and has witnessed everything in the last couple of decades and he dishes the dirt. Leibovich has favorites (Andrea Mitchell) and villains (Hilary Clinton) and he does have insight into how life is lived inside the bubble and how the relationships between politicians, lobbyists, and the press make the city a swamp figuratively as well as literally