February is a short month and so is my book list - only five books read this month! But there two books rated as 5.0, one each rated 3.5, 4.0 and 4.5. So, perhaps, what it lacks in quantity, my list makes up for in quality?
Beginning with the 3.5 rated book - I adore Victoria Thompson's Gaslight Mystery series about early New York City. Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue is #18 and they are as delightful as ever. Frank and Sarah are still on their European honeymoon so when a woman comes to their door looking for Frank to help her daughter who has been charged with murder, their nanny, Maeve decides to take on the case. She gets help from her policeman admirer, Gino, and Sarah's parents. Their success, they believe, will insure them becoming part of the detective agency they will convince Frank to start when he gets home. A fine romp of a mystery - when the new homes in Harlem were 'out in the country'.
My 4.0 is Anne Perry's 21st William Monk mystery Corridors of the Night. Hester Monk helps out a friend by taking her night shift at a hospital. She finds a little girl wandering the corridors looking for help for her dying brother. Hester goes with her and discovers the girl and her two brothers are patients in another part of the hospital. She saves the dying boy. When she talks to the Doctor and his chemist brother about the children, she learns they have been taking blood from them to use in their experiments with transfusions. Hester is then kidnapped by the chemist and taken along with the children to a cottage in the country. Hester is forced to help the chemist with the transfusions being given to a wealthy man.
Not only was the mystery part of this book good, it was interesting to read about the early attempts to perfect the life-saving treatment of blood transfusions.
West With The Night is Beryl Markham's memoir about her life in Africa and how she learned to fly. I said last month after reading the novel Circling the Sun about Markham that I was going to go back and re-read Markham's own book, so I did. I found this to be a beautifully written biography of her life. The poetic prose was not something I expected. She writes some about her growing up years but mostly about learning to fly and what it was like to see Africa from the air. Only the last chapter was about her record setting solo flight from England to North America. (East to west taking off at night, thus the title.) This is my 4.5 rating.
DS Barbara Havers has been put on notice that her next misdeed will land her in the back of beyond. She is so afraid of making a misstep, she won't do anything but toe-the-line. She's certainly not living up to her unorthodox crime solving capabilities. Lynley is concerned and tries to get the chief to cut her some slack.
Havers begs for the chance to pursue a line of inquiry into what first appeared to be a heart attack, but after a second autopsy was found to have been one induced by a poison.
George has such a talent for writing characters and plots that even though we think we've figured everything out, we're always surprised to find out we haven't. So many great twists and turns. I think this is one of the best Inspector Lynley's yet - or maybe I was just hungry to revisit these characters. I am giving it a 5.0 rating - so glad I found it on my last trip to the Corning Library.
I am not a fan of short story compilations. When I read a book I like the entire book to be about the same characters. That said, Memory Wall by Anthony Doerr is one of the best books I have ever read. It is one of those books I wish was mine so I could underline passages and write notes in the margins.
Memory loss is a hard subject for me to read about after caring for my mother in her final years - and fearing the same for myself. Yet this book handles the subject so beautifully, so touchingly.
I've scanned the back of the book (above) so you can read some other comments about these stories.
This is from the last page of the book - a story about a woman who is saved from the holocaust as a child while her friends die. As she nears her own death, her mind returns to her childhood and those friends. "Every hour, Robert thinks, (he is the woman's grandson and has helped care for her) all over the globe, an infinite number of memories disappear, whole glowing atlases dragged into graves. But during that same hour children are moving about, surveying territory that seems to them entirely new. They push back the darkness; they scatter memories behind them like bread crumbs. The world is remade."
Memory Wall is my other 5.0 rated book. Its stories will stay with me for a long time.