Tuesday, November 16, 2010

November Reads I

I had to wait about six months for my turn to get Elizabeth George's new Inspector Lynley mystery from Gibson Memorial Library. I thought it worth the wait. George's books are among my favourites and I especially like the characters of Lynley and his partner, DS Barbara Havers. It is good to have Inspector Lynley back inspecting after not being in the last two books while he dealt with his grief over losing his wife and child.
It took a while to get into this story. The book begins with an old report about the death of a child (based on a real crime in England). At first it isn't clear that this has happened twenty to thirty years in the past, nor what it has to do with the present murder in a London cemetery of a young woman.
This Body of Death is Elizabeth George's sixteenth Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley novel. It has received mixed reviews. I agree with some of the negative ones especially the ones comparing this book to some of the first ones she wrote. I've noticed this with other authors, too. It seems after they have achieved a certain level of success, they say, "Time to churn out another book." That is not to say the mystery - the story - isn't a good one; it just seems the author isn't enjoying the telling as she once did.
But, I'm a die-hard Elizabeth George/Inspector Lynley fan. I'll keep reading these mysteries as long as she keeps writing them.

Shake Hands Forever is another Ruth Rendell Inspector Wexford mystery. These are really becoming favorites. This one was published in 1975. It is interesting to note the differences modern technology has made in solving crimes. Also the way terrorist attacks have changed the information available regarding airline passengers and their itineraries.
I'm beginning to see why Minette Walters is compared to Ruth Rendell. They are both adept at keeping one guessing until the final pages - in some cases not only who the perpetrator is, but also who the victim is.

I read the last of the Colin Dexter, Inspector Morse novels I bought a couple months ago - The Dead of Jericho. The middle-aged Morse meets an attractive younger woman at a party. They share some wine, some conversation. She asks him to see her home from the party, but before they can leave, the Inspector receives a call from Lewis and has to leave. He knows the young woman is married, still he considers pursuing a relationship with her. Before he can make up his mind, he gets the news that she has committed suicide. But was it suicide? Or was it murder?
Then the neighbor across the street is murdered. What is the connection?
I do enjoy the Inspector Morse books now that the series is no longer on PBS. John Thaw played Inspector Morse so perfectly. It is impossible not to see him while reading the novels.

Bret Lott's The Hunt Club is so beautifully written. I could imagine myself in the mist-covered swamps of South Carolina's Lowcountry as I read about Huger Dillard and his blind Uncle Leland. Fifteen-year-old Huger's (pronounced You-gee) own father left him and his Mom when Huger was a little boy. Each weekend his mother drives him out to the Hunt Club - a tract of woods and swamp belonging to the family - so he can help "Unc" with the Charleston doctors and lawyers who come to hunt.
The Saturday after Thanksgiving hunt begins the same as usual - until a body with the head pretty much gone from a shotgun blast and the hands skinned, changes everything. A sign laying at the feet of the man identifies him as Dr. Charles Middleton Simons, "killed and manicured by his loving wife. PS: Leland, can you blame me?"
Huger is caught in a treacherous labyrinth that stretches deep into the past as he tries to help his uncle and save the family's land. The book is a mystery and a coming of age novel. I liked it so much that I checked out another book by the same author:

Ancient Highway which is a multi-generational story of a dysfunctional family. It begins with a fourteen-year-old boy leaving his family's Texas farm in 1925 to hop a boxcar heading for Hollywood and a life starring in the "flickers".
It continues in 1947 when a ten-year-old girl aches for a real home with a real family in a wide-open space, far from the crowded Los Angeles streets where her handsome cowboy father chases stardom and her mother holds a secret.
In 1980, a young man just out of the Navy visits his colorful grandparents in Los Angeles, eager to uncover his family's silent history.
The information on the inside cover of Ancient Highway says Bret Lott was inspired by stories of his own family. In the pocket of the book, on one of the "Rate This Book" slips put there by our library, someone has written, "One of the most depressing books I have ever read!" I did not find it depressing. I found a lot of hope for family healing embedded in some of the most beautiful prose I've ever read. I would rate Bret Lott's writings as among the best. I will read his other books when I can locate them.

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