Thursday, July 15, 2010

July Reads I

What good reading I've had the first half of July, mostly thanks to Minette Walters.
When I find a new author I really like, it is hard for me not to read my way through all the books she has written before I read anything else. I almost did so the first two weeks of July beginning with:
"Acid Row" by Ms. Walters.
Acid Row is the nickname given to Bassindale Housing Estate - subsidized housing for low income families. The project is riddled with crime and infested with desperation and fear. Poor design resulted in only two through streets in the area - the balance ending in dead ends. The two main streets looped back upon themselves - confounding anyone trying to find an address in the compound - and adding to the loss of life when the riots broke out. Social workers were trapped along with innocent residents.
But wasn't a social worker responsible for the riots? Hadn't she planted the idea that a pedophile was living in Acid Row? And wasn't there a 10-year-old girl missing? This book differs from the others of hers that I have read in that there is no murder or trying to figure out who the perpetrator is. It is a well written, compelling weave of plot lines building up to a suspenseful ending.
"The Echo" is Minette Walter's fifth novel - my second July read. A destitute man has been found dead in the garage of a wealthy woman. Who is he? Why did he choose her property upon which to die? Why did she pay for his funeral when she claimed not to know him. Could he be her missing husband who absconded with ten million pounds five years previously? Or a career diplomat missing for seven years? Why, when the police rule the man's death suicide by starvation, does the woman agree to an interview with a reporter six months later which will only result in an investigation into the man's identity?
I think it is this author's ability to plot such twisting tales that makes her books so enjoyable to me. She may hint at an attraction between her characters, but there is no "love story" - just plain, good, mysteries - ones that are hard to unravel.
I have read most of Anna Quindlen's novels. The library got her newest, "Every Last One" in May. I had not read any reviews of it. The dust jacket talks only of a woman who has built her life around her family - husband and three children - and the rituals of their everyday lives. Her daughter is a high school senior; twin sons are in middle school; husband is an ophthalmologist.
The blurb mentions one son's deepening depression and a shocking act of violence. The book itself is an easy reading look into the lives of people who could be our next door neighbors. I'm two thirds of the way through before being surprised by the hinted at act of violence. I may not have read it had I known what was coming.
Quindlen puts her readers inside the mind of her character. She shows us how the wife/mother deals with tragedy. She gives hope. She also makes her readers wonder how they would deal with such life-altering events.
Carol Goodman is a new author for me. Her "Arcadia Falls" focuses on a mother/daughter and their strained relationship after the untimely death of the husband/father. The mother is forced to sell their Long Island home, give up their upscale life and find a job after her husband's death because of his poor dealings as a 'prosperous' hedge fund manager.
The job she finds is teaching at a private school in upstate New York. The atmosphere is Gothic. The setting resembles the Hansel & Gretel woods, even their new home looks like the witch's cottage. The book is a fairy tale murder mystery updated with cell phones, i-Pods and a modern day woodsman in sheriff's clothes. I couldn't wait to finish it and get on to:
"The Dark Room" by Minette Walters. What a relief to be reading another intelligent, superbly plotted, English murder mystery. When our heroine, Jinx Kingsley, respected fashion photographer and only daughter of millionaire Adam Kinglsey, is found unconscious in the wreckage of a mysterious car accident on an abandoned airfield, the police suspect a suicide attempt. And why wouldn't they when they learn that her fiance has abandoned her to run off to France with her best friend?
"Dazed, confused, and suffering from post-traumatic amnesia, Jinx is placed in an exclusive private clinic, where she struggles to regain her memory." I know; sounds just like any other run of the mill mystery, doesn't it? Trust me. It's not. Trust me. Read any one of Minette Walters' novels books and tell me you're not hooked. This was the first time I was pretty certain of who the murderer was before the end of the book. It's an amazing author that can wrap up the book, deliver the guilty party, but still leave you wondering.
Have I mentioned how much I like Minette Walters books? To quote Publishers Weekly: "Minette Walters has continually worked outside the boundaries of crime drama. She simply won't walk the line - and she's confoundingly good".

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