Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Death Without Company by Craig Johnson (2nd in series)
Protagonist: Sheriff Walt Longmire
Visiting the old sheriff, Lucian Connally, in the Durant Home for Assisted Living, Longmire is drawn into what at first seems a natural death, that of Mari Baroja. Lucian is convinced it's murder, and turns out he's right. But that only begins the unraveling of decades-old secrets. Johnson's debut novel was wonderful, with witty, wise-cracking characters. They're back -- and this novel is just as good as the first one.
The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer (memoir, audio)
Someone recommended this, simply telling me it was a memoir about a journalist on Long Island, N.Y. That was enough to intrigue me, a journalist on Long Island. Well, because the memoir covers Moehringer's life from childhood to young adulthood, there's actually little of his journalistic career in this. This is a tale of growing up with an absent father, a loving mother and a cast of characters -- mainly the men from the Manhasset, Long Island bar who help raise him, including bartender Charlie, his uncle. They take him to the beach as a child, and, perhaps more importantly, give J.R. the gift of storytelling. There are other men in his life -- such as Bill and Bud, the managers of a bookstore who give J.R. his first job, an education in books and the push he needs to apply to Yale. While this book dragged out a little too long toward the end, it's still a nice tale, very well told.
December Heat by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza (2nd in series)
Protagonist: Insp. Espinosa
Setting: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
After a drunken night with his companion, a prostitute, a retired cop finds her murdered the next morning. Because of the alcohol, he can't remember anything. Worse yet, his belt was used in the murder, and his wallet and ID are gone. I'd read another in the Espinosa series and didn't like it as much. But here, Espinosa partners with the retired cop, Vieira, and the two work to solving this murder, along with other killings that follow them -- and soon threaten their own lives. The chemistry between the two makes this a much more readable, entertaining book.
Kindness Goes Unpunished by Craig Johnson (3rd in series)
Protagonist: Sheriff Walt Longmire
This time, the setting changes to Philadelphia. Walt and Henry Standing Bear travel to Philly, Henry to set up an exhibit of Indian photographs and Walt to visit his daughter. But before he even has a chance to see Cady, she suffers a vicious attack that leaves her in a coma. There's no way that Walt will stay out of this investigation, of course. Like Johnson's first two books, this is a solid, well-crafted detective story. If I deducted any points, it was because it was set in Philadelphia. Part of the charm of the books is the Wyoming setting. Still, this is a highly enjoyable series -- one I'll continue.
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Protagonist: Tom Ripley
If you've seen the movie and think you know the plot, you don't. The book is quite different from the movie, with only broad strokes connecting the two. The initial premise is the same: Tom Ripley is asked by Dickie Greenleaf's father to go to Italy to try to persuade his son to return to the U.S., where Dickie's mother is in bad health. Once there, though, Tom decides he likes Italy and, later, he likes being Dickie Greenleaf. But in the book, Tom is much more of a cold-blooded sociopath, with an ending that is very different than the movie.
The Careful Use of Compliments by Alexander McCall Smith (audio, 4th in series)
Protagonist: Isabel Dalhousie
This book moves Isabel in an entirely different direction -- here, she's the mother of baby Charlie, her son with Jamie, a younger man (and the ex-boyfriend of her niece Cat). Although Cat was the one to end the relationship with Jamie, there's now a chill in the air. Isabel has also been ousted from her job as editor of a philosophy journal in a political move, although she extracts her revenge. There's a lot of pondering about philosophy and morality, but the story really picks up when Isabel decides to meddle, as she is wont to do, and uncovers a little mystery surrounding paintings that may be forgeries.