Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Falling in Love - Donna Leon

Donna Leon is back!  I love the Commissario Brunetti series, but I haven't really enjoyed the last few books.  I think it's because they dealt with political or social issues that don't particularly interest me. I did admire Beastly Things because Leon showcased slaughterhouses, and animal welfare is something I fight for.

Anyway, Falling in Love is a good, authentic mystery.  Flavia Petrelli, opera star and an acquaintance of Brunetti's, is singing in Tosca at La Fenice.  A mysterious fan is frightening her, sending her hundreds of yellow roses, to opera houses in different cities and, in Venice, to her apartment door.  She doesn't want to make a big thing of it, but she's unnerved.  At dinner one night, she tells Brunetti what has happened.  Although he doesn't feel that it's a police matter, he agrees to investigate a bit.

Things step up a notch when a young singer Petrelli complimented is pushed down a flight of stairs and Petrelli's ex-lover, whose house she's staying at while in Venice, is attacked.  This makes things more serious and definitely a police matter, so Brunetti digs deeper.  A very valuable necklace points him in the right direction.

The ending is dramatic.  I saw it coming, as you will, but it's a good one anyway.  I can almost hear the music.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Washington Avenue Green, Philadelphia, PA

There's a fairly new park in my neighborhood.  It's only been open for a year or so.  Jack and I walked down to see it last fall and decided we liked the relative peace there.  It's sandwiched between busy Columbus Boulevard and the equally commercial Delaware River, so 'relative' is the operative word.

The park is attractively designed, with a nice new pier walk and a few informational signs.  From 1870 until 1915, Pier 53 was an immigration station, primarily for immigrants from eastern and southern Europe.  The station was demolished in 1915.  So, like many places in Philadelphia, we have the ruins of what once was.

For us, the big draw is the opportunity to see some birds that we don't see much of anymore.  When we lived in the country in Massachusetts, on the banks of a stream and with wetlands and woodlands, we saw anything and everything.  Around our current house and in the city, we see mostly pigeons, starlings, sparrows, robins, a few mourning doves (which I adore), and the occasional hawk.  I hear a cardinal every now and then, but I almost never see one.  This winter, we had a pair of Slate-colored (Dark-eyed) juncoes that we fed on our tiny patio.  So we were delighted to see cormorants and ruddy ducks and a pair of tree swallows.  We also saw a downy woodpecker, but he / she flew off before I could get a photo.  And you'll just have to take my word that those dots in the water are ruddy ducks, lovely small ducks with white on their heads and perky little tails.

As we were entering the park, I noticed this strange object hanging in the branches.  What do you think?  Voodoo?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Dance of the Seagull - Andrea Camilleri

I'm rather rapidly working my way through the Inspector Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri.  I think I've only missed one between the first book and this one and there are several more after The Dance of the Seagull.

Montalbano, rising early, watches a seagull die on the beach in front of his house.  The bird does an odd sort of circling dance before expiring.  Later, another death reminds Montalbano of the bird's death.

He then discovers that one of his detectives, Fazio, is missing.  As Montalbano investigates his disappearance, he finds that Fazio had been off on a secret investigation.  He'd been trying to find out if something was being smuggled into or out of the town port.  They eventually find Fazio, dazed and without his memory.  Montalbano thinks Fazio may still be in danger from the men who tried to kill him.

As Montalbano takes up the investigation, he uncovers several romantic or sexual relationships that are out of the ordinary and that, one way or another, have an effect on the occurrence of the crimes committed.  The bodies start piling up, including one of the Mafia's men, found at the bottom of a deep, dry well out in the country.  This is what was supposed to happen to Fazio before he chucked one of the Mafioso into a well, ran off, and got shot.

Montalbano, with his unusual methods of police work, ties it all up and gets the bad guys.

I like Montalbano.  I like that he's getting older and suffers the aches and indignities that many of us  suffer as we age.  It makes him human and sympathetic.  I've never gotten a clear picture in my mind of what Montalbano or his fiancee Livia look like.  I haven't seen the TV series based on the books, but there's a sticker on this copy of The Dance of the Seagull that shows the actor who plays Montalbano.  He looks nothing as I had imagined, so now I'm confused and Montalbano has become hazier.

There is usually some humor in the Montalbano books, as there is in this one.  Although there are descriptions of the meals Montalbano eats, I think there are fewer in this book than in some of the earlier books.  I miss that.  I think Camilleri and Donne Leon, in her Inspector Brunetti series, have slacked off on the food descriptions.  I enjoy reading about pastas and veggies and beer and grappa.

Camilleri took me to Sicily and Montalbano entertained me for a few days.  I enjoyed the book and look forward to the rest in the series.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

In Big Trouble by Laura Lippman and Mercy Falls by William Kent Krueger

I do not understand why my photos don't look as sharp on this blog as they do on iPhoto.  If I weren't so lazy, maybe I'd take the time to figure it out.  But I'd rather be reading.

Last week I made the mistake of taking a walk on a very nice day.  I need destinations for my walks, so I chose The Book Trader.  I hadn't been there in a while.  In fact, I'd been purposely avoiding it.  Lately, I've been very bad about reading my own books.  I've been using the library and that keeps books out of the house, but it doesn't decrease the stacks of books already here.

I used my store credit for several books, one of them being In Big Trouble, a Tess Monaghan book by Laura Lippman.  I like Tess.  Usually, she's in Baltimore, where she lives.  In In Big Trouble, she goes to Texas to look for her ex-boyfriend, Crow, who has disappeared.  She gets a newspaper clipping with a photo of him and In Big Trouble as part of a headline.  That turns out to be the name of a band he's in with a very messed up but charismatic young woman.

There have been a lot of murders in the young woman's past.  Her mother was murdered, her mother's best friend's husband was murdered, the family's cook was murdered.  When Tess arrives, she follows a lead to a house where she thinks Crow might be staying and she finds a body.  Then she finds another body.  The local police are suspicious of her but can't tie her to any of the murders.  They want her gone.  She finally finds Crow, but someone is trying to frame him.  Tess almost figures it all out, but even she's surprised when all is finally clear.  It's an exciting book, but I prefer Tess back in Baltimore.

My friend Jenny stopped overnight last week on her way back to Massachusetts.  She left me a book she'd read on vacation.  It's an author I don't think I've ever heard of.  Or my memory is just getting that much worse.  I know I haven't read anything by him, of that, I'm sure.  William Kent Krueger is the author and the book is Mercy Falls.  I turned Jenny on to Nevada Barr and she's done me a favor by introducing this author.  I think.

This is one of a series of mysteries about Cork O'Connor, a sheriff in Aurora, Minnesota, who is part Ojibwe.  Sometimes his work takes him onto the reservation near the town, in the Great Northern woods area of the state, near Canada.  The book starts with a bang, literally, when Cork and his deputy are ambushed and the deputy is shot.  After thinking about it, it's decided that Cork was the target, not the deputy.

There are a couple of investigations going on at once.  Right after the shooting, a man who's been trying to get the Indian gaming commission to sign a contract to allow his company to manage their casino is found dead and sexually mutilated at Mercy Falls.  Was his murder connected to the casino deal or was there a more personal aspect to it?  Shortly after that, a young woman from the reservation disappears and Cork has to try to find her.  Maybe they're all connected.

I have to say that I was angry at the ending, which isn't really an ending at all.  I will have to eventually read the next book in the series to find out what happens after the last page of Mercy Falls.  I like my books self-contained, thank you.

This isn't the first book in the series.  I liked Mercy Falls well enough that I've just put the first one, Iron Lake, on hold at the library.  Maybe The Book Trader has some of his books.  Excuse me while I take a walk!