Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Burn & Body Work

Two very good books in long time mystery series by two of my favorite authors.  Both are within the hard-boiled female detective sub-genre -Heck, Sara is one of the creators of that sub-genre and a master of it. Both are masters of setting and atmosphere.

Sara makes Chicago (a place I've never been) so real to me that I think I could find my way around if I was suddenly (and mysteriously) dropped off there. Her relationship with little (6 foot tall) cousin Petra, who is almost as annoying as V.I. Warshawski herself- it must be genetic- continues to grow. V.I. is the world's worst girlfriend to her preoccupied new musician boyfriend. Frankly I always think she must be VERY good looking or people would run like the dickens to get away from her and most do. How does she make a living? Anyway, Body Work is a very contemporary story that  includes an Iraqi soldier's PTSD, body image, violence against women, and performance art as part of the plot. You get to learn a lot more about  her friend, bar owner Sal Barthele,  and about Darraugh Graham, both pretty minor characters in most of the prior books. And all of the friends and family, like Lottie, Mr. Contreras, and Peppy,  are along. A seriously good read.

In Burn, Nevada adds a new character, Clare, an actress and mother, who goes to incredible lengths to save her children. When I became a mother, I realized a mother is really not sweet but an angry tiger protecting her young. The plot of the novel is terrifying to any mother - the kidnap of her children turns Clare into something unexpected and not altogether pleasant as she sacrifices everything in her life to save them. Anna Pigeon stumbles on to the secret in her usual gruff way. Working through the National Parks a lot more thoroughly than Ken Burns, Ranger Anna is in New Orleans staying with her friend Geneva, who works as a singer at the New Orleans Jazz NHP, on a kind of vacation healing from the nervous breakdown she had on Isle Royale and further messed up by the events in Big Bend  in her last outing. It is full of twists and turns and terrific post-Katrina atmosphere. 

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