Friday, January 1, 2010

Mysterious Beginnings

I just finished reading The White Garden by Stephanie Barron (AKA Francine Mathews). It's her latest stand alone novel following Flaw in the Blood. While Flaw in the Blood was a mystery that suggested Queen Victoria was an insane sociopath murderer (I had to go back and read a classic biography of the queen to check her facts and if there was any hint of this!) Maybe a little unfair to Queen Victoria but she's not a in position to object. The White Garden suggests Virginia Woolf was murdered - oh, to say more needs a spoiler. Amazing stuff. I couldn't stop thinking about it. Apparently she is working on a new Jane Austen mystery- this one to be called Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron. Her Jane Austen stuff is really well-executed with an impressive use of letters, her books and stories, and the little that is known about Jane that her sister Cassandra failed to burn. Stephanie seems to get better with every book. Her books are evocative, artful, and well-written with a wry humor and elegant interesting characters.

I recently re-read Indemnity Only by Sara Paretsky, the first V.I. Warshawski novel, to remind myself about what V.I. was like at first, after having read her newest V.I. Warshawski novel, Hardball, in the recent past ( Paretsky pulls no punches with V.I., who is hardheaded and hard to take at times. Hardball is really good with lots of action, more interesting Warshawski relatives, tension with Mr. Contreras, and trouble with Lotty. Interesting stuff about the Civil Rights movement in Chicago that Sara knows really well. Sometimes V.I. behaves in a way that is totally unbelievable but it is pretty in keeping with her character.

Other recent reading included the new Marcia Muller Locked In; Duchess of Death, the bio of Agatha Christie, Even Money by Dick and Felix Francis, A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd, Margaret Maron's Sand Sharks, What Remains of Heaven by C.A. Harris, The Painted Lady by Edward Marston, and that's just a very partial list.

This blog is really for me so I can keep track of the ones I read and what and how they were. I thought of writing comments or mini-reviews or what ever I like - a kind of diary of a mad mystery reader. I don't know many people who read mysteries and no one who reads them like I do.

The first mystery I read was in 7th grade. It was The Mirror Cracked by Agatha Christie and was a revelation to me. Reading mysteries became a sanctuary of a sort. It has been a cure for insomnia and anxiety, taking me away from the (sometimes dull, sometimes annoying or troubling) worlds I live in, and my problems (lame as they might be to most people) and to new worlds of the past and sometimes future (e.g., J.D. Robb) and other places. I read lots of other things particularly classics, history and science topics, and stuff that relates to my professional field. More on that later perhaps.

Well, what do I read?

As a genre reader, I am fairly selective but fortunately there are tons of authors writing the kinds of thinks I like to select from. I prefer historical fiction or ones with evocative settings. I avoid overly gimmicky mysteries where cats or dogs are detectives, ones about knitting or sewing, that include recipes, or ones about serial killers or where children are hurt or killed (if I can tell).

Favorite authors include those mentioned above, Elizabeth Peters (a new Amelia Peabody novel is coming out in April, Caleb Carr, Sharan Newman, Jacqueline Winspear, Anna Blundy, Suzanne Arruda, and more. I intend to write more as it comes up. If you read mysteries too, feel free to write and tell me what you like.

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