Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"Started Early, Took My Dog"

I have been lucky, or maybe it is just diligence, that when I have just about read my way through all the books by a favourite author, I happen upon a new author I really, really like. On the last library trip, I found two new authors.
Kate Atkinson's Started Early, Took My Dog" is a delight. This March, 2011 library acquisition is the fourth book of the 'Jackson Brodie' series. Unfortunately, my library does not have the previous three, nor any of Atkinson's other books. Fortunately, I found numbers one and three of the series and her Whitbread winner at the Half Price Bookstore yesterday.
Jackson is a former policeman. Now, as a reluctant detective whose own life has been stolen, he has been hired to find someone else's. Atkinson deftly fits together seemingly random story lines. In this novel, Jackson Brodie crosses paths with another retired cop, Tracy Waterhouse, now working as the head of security in a shopping mall, and an aging actress, Tilly, who is teetering on the edge of senility while trying to remember her lines. When Tracy 'buys' a child, all manner of murder and mayhem ensue and past secrets come to light.
The Brodie character reminded me a bit of Ian Rankin's Detective Inspector John Rebus, whom I adore. And, like Rankin, Atkinson is also a citizen of Edinburgh. I hated to finish this book. It was full of wit and wisdom and intelligence. I can't recommend it highly enough.

The second 'new to me' author in this group is by Minnesotan Brian Freeman. The Bone House is set in Door County*, Wisconsin - an area I have long wanted to visit. You might think the title comes from bones found in a house - as did I. However, Bone is the name of a family whose mother and two sons died in an intentionally set house fire. Only the father and a daughter survive. The father is quickly arrested and admits to starting the fire. He escapes while on his way to prison after the trial.
Years later Hilary and Mark Bradley buy a secluded home on Washington Island where they commute by ferry to their teaching jobs at the local high school. As outsiders, they will never be accepted by the locals, but they are well liked teachers until Mark is accused of having an affair with a student. They both deny it and Hilary believes in his innocence, but he loses his job. Later, when a different teen aged girl is found strangled on a beach, Mark again faces a hostile town convinced of his guilt.
Bradley's writing is suspenseful, his red herrings plentiful. I did have most of the bad guys figured out before the ending, but I was still surprised by a couple of the guilty parties. The good thing about this author is that the library does have more of his books, which I'm looking forward to reading.

When old friends of mine visited last month, I made the comment that there are times when I almost wished that I still lived on the farm - or at least out in the country on an acreage. Kristina asked if I had ever read Allen Say's Caldecott award winning children's book, Grandfather's Journey. When I said, "No", she said I should. It is a lovingly written and illustrated book - Say does the illustrations as well as the wording - about a young man from Japan who comes to America on a steamship. After exploring North America, he decides to settle in California. After a time, he longs to see his homeland, so returns to live there. Then he misses California. The book is about being homesick for one locale while being in the other. I understand why she recommended I read it.

I returned to three other authors I can depend upon - Ruth Rendell for another Inspector Wexford mystery - Not In The Flesh; Rhys Bowen for a new Molly Murphy Mystery - Tell Me, Pretty Maiden and Barbara Delinsky's Looking For Peyton Place. Reading this latter book reminded me of what a scandalous book Grace Metalious's Peyton Place was in the late '50's and early '60's. It was banned by many libraries and even some countries. I remember reading it and seeing the movie though I don't remember much about the TV version. I decided I would re-read the novel - but our library does not have a copy on its shelves. (Banned, perhaps?)

I have always been a fan of Dean Martin. I remember going to the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis movies when I was young and being a devoted fan of his albums when I was older. So when I saw his daughter Deana's memoir, Memories Are Made Of This, on the library shelf, it came home with me. I wasn't disappointed. I learned a lot about Dean and his families, including the secret ingredient in Grandma Angela's Pasta Fagioli.
Martin and Lewis ("my name comes first because Dean comes before Jerry") were hilarious. Their movies were ones my Dad would always take us to see. We were so disappointed when the team broke up. And I remember being glad that they mended the rift twenty years later. This book reminded me of many instances in my own past because Dean's music was a part of it. (Everybody loves somebody sometime.)

* I have always loved to read because I always learn something new. In The Bone House I learned why Door County is so named - "The peninsula juts out into the water between Lake Michigan and Green Bay. The area where the waters come together at the tip of the land is extremely treacherous. A lot of people have lost their lives in those waters. So the passage got the French name Porte des morts. - Death's Door."

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