Thursday, September 30, 2010

September Reads II


Tally-ho! Two more Rita Mae Brown fox hunting books made it in my last half of September reading - "The Hunt Ball" and "The Hounds and the Fury". The more of these "Sister Jane" books I read, the more I like them.
They are mysteries, yes, but for me, I think the attraction is the interaction between the characters and their horses, hounds and foxes. Oh, yes, and birds. I've become so invested in the lives of these Virginians, I would finish the series just to know what happens to them all even if the books weren't so entertaining.
I previously mentioned learning more about fox hunting, I'm also learning more about foxes - the reds and the greys. Had I not been reading about grey foxes, I might have mistaken the one I saw near our house a week ago as a coyote instead of as a grey fox. And to think, the only reason I found these books is because I was looking for a book to read on the trip home from San Diego last February.
As I am becoming more fond of Rita Mae Brown, I am becoming less enchanted with Kathy Reichs (though I still enjoy watching "Bones" on TV). Ms. Reichs latest novel, "Spider Bones" strikes me much the same as the last one, "206 Bones" - it is as though the publisher has told her, "O.K., time for another book." - so she quickly churns one out.
I did learn about the mission of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command to locate and identify remains of those who died in past conflicts from reading this book. "On average JPAC identifies six sets of human remains each month."
The statistics I found most surprising were that there still remain 8,100 missing from the Korean War and 1,800 from the Vietnam War. I thought those numbers would be flipped. Approximately 78,000 Americans remain missing from World War II. That doesn't surprise me.
Alexander McCall Smith is a favourite of many for his "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series, which I have been unable to get into. It is his "44 Scotland Street" series I adore. I still have the fifth, "The Unbearable Lightness of Scones" to look forward to.
Smith's "La's Orchestra Saves the World" is a stand alone novel which I enjoyed reading. It is set in England during WWII. Lavender, La to her friends, decides to flee London not only to avoid the German bombs, but also to escape the memories of her shattered marriage.
She moves to her in-laws' summer cottage in a small village in Suffolk. When she decides to volunteer her services in the war effort, she is contacted by the Women's Land Army to help an ailing farmer in the area with his chicken flock. When a Polish refugee also begins helping on the farm, La is attracted to him. Later, when he inadvertently makes references to being German rather than Polish, La feels she must turn him in to authorities.
One day an air force officer from a nearby airfield turns up on her doorstep. He is a friend of a friend of hers who has told him he should call on La if he is in the area. It is when he sees La's flute that they begin talking about music which leads to the idea of starting a band for the villagers and the men from the air base in order to give them something to do and to keep their spirits up.
Does La's Orchestra save the world? Was her Polish friend a German spy? Though this novel is not nearly as good as "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society", it did remind me of that remarkable tome.
Ruth Rendell's books are growing on me. I'm beginning to understand why Minette Walters was compared to her. "The Crocodile Bird" is the story of a young girl hidden away from the modern world by her mother. To say her mother is home-schooling her isn't quite accurate. She's being taught from books printed before the 1900's. She has grown up with no concept of an outside world. She has also grown up with murder as a fact of life.
When the police come and take her mother away, she must learn how to survive in a world she is unprepared for. It does appear she is going to follow in her mother's footsteps and become a murderer herself.
This book is a psychological thriller in the sense that it does get into the minds of the characters. But it is not an "on the edge of your chair" thriller. If you've started reading Minette Walters due to my raving about her writing, you might want to give Ruth Rendell a try.
I really miss watching Tony Shalhoub as Adrian Monk. I loved him as the obsessive-compulsive San Francisco detective. (Although I missed connecting Shalhoub as the taxi driver on Wings.)
Luckily I have found another Detective Monk to take his place - William Monk is Anne Perry's Victorian London sleuth. Like Adrian, William also goes by just "Monk". "A Sudden, Fearful Death" is the fourth book in the series. Monk is once again being aided by Hester Latterly as they work to solve the murder of another of Miss Nightingale's nurses who served with her in Crimea - as did Hester.
As I read this Monk series, I have an image in my mind of him. He sort of resembles Jeremy Brett. My other image is of him walking into a crime scene and doing these strange motions with his hands.......

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