Tuesday, June 10, 2014

What I've Read Recently

This is a quick rundown of the books I've finished since the beginning of May.  The titles and authors are:

Darkness Take My Hand  -  Lehane

Bon Courage  -  McAdams

The Preacher  -  Lackberg

India Black  -  Carr

Borderlines  -  Mayor

The Santa Klaus Murder  -  Hay

The Art Detective  -  Mould

Through the Evil Days  -  Spencer-Fleming

Major Benjy  -  Fraser-Sampson

By Its Cover  -  Leon

Wild  -  Strayed

I finished Wild about an hour ago.  I didn't like the detailed description of the author's mother's death from cancer, but it is an integral part of the book.  I've spent enough time in hospitals and nursing homes watching people die, so, forgive me, but I stay away from that subject matter in my reading.  However, the adventure that Cheryl Strayed had hiking the Pacific Crest Trail alone in 1995 is fascinating.  I couldn't put it down.

Bon Courage wasn't very satisfying.  The author and his second wife vacationed in France after a whirlwind courtship and marriage.  They buy a house in the village and have all the typical problems renovating it, plus some problems that aren't so typical.  I like books about living in foreign countries, but I didn't like this author very much.  He's grumpy and yells and drives off on his motorcycle after he and his wife have a fight.

I read Darkness Take My Hand while Jack and I were in Boston.  Dennis Lehane is from Boston and his six books about private detectives Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro take place in the city.  I don't know Dorchester very well, the section of the city they live and work in, but I have fun recognizing other places when they venture out of the neighborhood.  The books are exciting and I like the main characters.  It seems that the pair are not very good at protecting people from being murdered, though.  My friend Dean says they must be read in order, so I'm doing that.  This one is number 2.

I've been waiting eagerly for the next Clare Fergusson / Russ Van Alstyne mystery and yet, somehow, Through the Evil Days slipped past me last year.  These mysteries should be read in order, too, otherwise it might be a bit difficult to follow the progression of the relationship between Clare, an ex-military helicopter pilot turned Episcopalian priest, and Russ, the police chief in a small upstate New York town.  In this one, Russ and Clare are trapped in an isolated area by a huge snow storm that's also trapped kidnappers and meth cookers.

India Black was a fun romp through politics and prostitution (wait, aren't they one and the same?) in 19th century England.  A politician dies in India Black's bordello and some very important papers disappear.  An agent of the government is trying to find them before they harm the country.  He enlists India's help.  They embark on a sometimes ludicrous chase, getting the papers, losing the papers, getting the papers, and losing them again!  There are more books in the series but I doubt that I'll read them.

The Preacher was a decent mystery that kept me guessing until the end.  Girls disappear and their remains are found, just like years ago.  But that murderer is dead, so who's killing them now?

Borderlines takes place in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, a place with lots of trees and not a lot of people.  As a former New Englander, I like books that take place in my old stomping grounds.  Joe Gunther, acting chief of the Brattleboro, VT, police, goes north on a temporary assignment and finds himself searching for a killer.  Or two.

The Santa Klaus Murder is a reprint of a 1930s mystery.  I wanted to like it, but it was very slow.  I suppose I'm used to the faster, more complicated murder mysteries of today.  The solution to this one had everything to do with who was where at the time of the murder and who benefitted from the will.  Most of the book was spent tediously discovering and verifying where people were, like a very long and uninteresting game of clue.

Major Benjy continues the wonderful Lucia and Mapp series by E. F. Benson, this one being written by contemporary author Guy Fraser-Sampson.  I adore the Lucia and Mapp books.  Although this one captured some of their flavor, it fell short for me.  All Mapp, no Lucia.  I also have Lucia on Holiday by the same author and I still plan to read that.

I love art mysteries, so I enjoyed The Art Detective.  I was a little put off at first because it's mostly about paintings hidden beneath other paintings rather than art hidden in someone's attic or in a cave (yes, I loved The Monuments Men).  But the detection involved in sussing out masterpieces that have been painted over or altered to the extent that the original artist can't be determined is very interesting.

And last but not least, the newest Donna Leon Inspector Brunetti book, By Its Cover.  Brunetti is contacted when rare books and pages from rare books are stolen from a private library in Venice.  And then someone is murdered.  Brunetti figures it all out.  I was holding my breath when I started this book because I haven't really liked the last few Brunetti books.  I like his wife Paola and what they read and their meals and when they sit together on their balcony drinking ice cold wine or grappa, so I'm disappointed when there's not a lot of that.  There's more in this book than in the previous couple, so I was happy about that.  Maybe Paola should have her own books!

I'll try to do updates more frequently so they aren't as long as this one.  Happy reading!


  1. You've done a lot of reading recently, and I haven't read any of them, but I'm taking note of a few. I so agree about the hospitals and care homes and watching people die. When you've done it in reality you don't want to re-visit in fiction.

    1. Too true. I read to learn and to escape life. I'm interested in other people's lives, fictional or non-fictional, and often want to be somewhere else without the headaches of travel. And it's refreshing to be in a life for which I have no responsibility

  2. Good list of books, of which I have read none! I do have the Santa klaus Murder though and am looking forward to it. I think I have a Mayor book too, but not this one.

    1. I like the Mayor books for their location and their characters, but they're also mysteries I can follow. I'm not clever that way and never try to figure out 'who done it', although I've sometimes got an inkling. I'll be interested to hear what you think of the Santa Klaus Murder after you've read it. I really wanted to like it (and I just bought another of hers, Murder Underground) but didn't. I might not have been in the mood for it.