Friday, March 14, 2008

March reads

Slip of the Knife by Denise Mina
Protagonist: Paddy Meehan
Setting: Glasgow, 1990
Rating: 5.0
The Meehan series is one of my favorites, and this book, the third in a five-book arc, is the strongest so far. Paddy, who started out as a copy boy in a Glasgow newspaper, is now grown up -- a well-known columnist with a 5-year-old son. In this book, elements from the first play pivotal parts. Paddy's first lover, Terry Hewitt, is found murdered and Paddy tangles with the IRA, which puts her -- and her son -- in danger. The book kept me riveted until the shocking denouement. And while the book ends on a peaceful note, you just know there's going to be trouble ahead for Paddy.

The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant (audio)
Protagonist: Alessandra
Setting: Florence, 1400s
Rating: 3.9
While this book doesn't rise to the level of Dunant's other historical novel, In the Company of the Courtesan, it is still a vivid glimpse into a specific time during the Renaissance -- when the fanatical monk Savonarola whipped the city into a frenzy of fundamentalism, leading to the Bonfire of the Vanities. The story is told through a young woman, Alessandra, who is married off as a teenager rather than face the convent. Unknowingly, she has wed her brother's lover in a marriage of convenience, but he is at least a good enough man, one who lets her explore her love of painting. Still, in this time of religious fury, she and her family still face many dangers.

Shoulder the Sky by Anne Perry (second in series, audio)
Protagonists: The Reaveley children
Setting: England, 1915
Rating: 4.0
This is almost more of a war novel than a mystery, although there is a small mystery here (who murdered the annoying journalist?) and a larger one that marks the entire series: who is the Peacemaker, the person who is trying to end the bloodshed at any cost, even including a bargain with the kaiser? The characters are also faced with some difficult moral choices, enhancing the plot. I thought I'd take a little break from the Reaveleys and listen to other audio books, but I do miss them -- it may be time to get the next in the series.

New Hope for the Dead by Charles Willeford (second in the series)
Protagonist: Homicide Det. Hoke Moseley
Setting: Miami, 1980s
Rating: 3.0
In this second book, the author decided to go heavy on characterization, giving Moseley more of a social life and burdening him all of a sudden with two teenager daughters. But I found I really didn't like Moseley or care for his daughters. The crime-solving is minimal here, and I found the book pretty dull.

The Right Attitude to Rain by Alexander McCall Smith (audio)
Protagonist: Isabel Dalhousie
Setting: Edinburgh
Rating: 4.0
McCall Smith's Dalhousie series is no serious contender in the mystery genre -- there's really not even a mystery in this one. But they are always fun to read, as Isabel always manages to find herself in some moral quandry. In fact, the book opens with these lines: "To take an interest in the affairs of others is entirely natural; so natural, in fact, that even a cat, lying cat-napping on top of a wall will watch with half an eye the people walking by below. But between such curiosity, which is permissible, and nosiness, which is not, there lies a dividing line that some people simply miss -- even if it is a line that is painted red and marked by the very clearest of warning signs." Isabel, of course, often crosses this line. In this book, she not only delves into the relationship between a wealthy businessman and his younger fiancee (a possible golddigger?), but we also learn more about Isabel's family -- and she begins a family of her own. A very nice entry in this series.

Rating system:
5.0: Wow!
4.0: Pretty good
3.0: Mediocre to good
2.0: Pretty Bad
DNF: Did not finish

Sunday, March 02, 2008

News from around

From The Telegraph (U.K.) comes "50 crime writers to read before you die." Also, an interview with Robert Parker.

I haven't read Stephen King in a while, but James Campbell's review of Duma Key in The New York Times may change that.

At Reviewing the Evidence, this quick interview with author Stuart Pawson. The one time I met him, he seemed a reticient, low-key person -- with a wicked sense of humor. Here, you really see Pawson's offbeat humor.

I'm a little late on this, but Maureen Corrigan at NPR reviews Sue Miller's The Senator's Wife. I'm also afraid to read this book -- there's been so much good hype, I don't want to be disappointed.

Finally, this neat story from the The Christian Science Monitor, titled "Homeless men find shelter in a book club.