Sunday, July 31, 2011

Also Coming Soon (2011)

  • V is for Vengeance (Sue Grafton) #22- November
  • Explosive Eighteen (Janet Evanovich)- November
  • Jane and the Canterbury Tale (Stephanie Barron)- August 30

Felix Francis' Solo Debut is not quite a flying finish...

Dick Francis's Gamble
Felix Francis
Publisher: Putnam
July 26, 2011
ISBN: 0399157476
    I have read many of the late Dick Francis' thrillers starting with his early Nerve and For Kicks. His books with their English-based settings, are highly enjoyable.  Four were written with son and successor Felix since 2006. This is Felix's first solo outing and he  may need to find his own voice a bit. The horse theme unifies the series. Each has a brainy and heroic accidental detective (some become actual detectives, like Sid Halley, the rare repeat), and each has a Hitchcockian and violent plot wherein our hero must unravel the secrets or die trying- literally. Other characteristics include a well-researched back story into things like gems, banking,  restaurants, betting, kidnapping, and various aspects of horse training, racing, and riding; fairly thin characterizations; and wry if not laugh out loud dialogue. There is an edge and a sparkle to them that has made them stand out from other similar manly thrillers.

    The latest is the first one written solo by Felix in the Dick Francis tradition. It is set in the world of independent  investment firms and features Nick "Foxy" Foxworth, a former jockey who broke his neck on a race and is now a financial planner. When his work friend, Herb, is shot standing next to him at the Cheltenham Races, Nick's well-regulated world falls into chaos. He must solve the mystery or he, his girlfriend, and mother are all in mortal danger.

    The book follows the formula pretty well. Nick does seem like a typical Francis hero, not quite as charmingly self-deprecating and a little more cold than others I thought. I was taken aback by his at-first cavalier attitude to his girlfriend but that gets straightened out before long. He does seem colder and more cynical than your average Dick Francis hero. I recently read another in the series, Ten Pound Penalty, where the main character is so heroic, honest, true blue, and passionate that he convinces his father's political opponents to support the father. Nick is a bit off-putting and cynical compared to that.

    Sherri, the American sister of the murdered friend, is introduced as what? a potential love interest? then promptly dropped. Nick is also less than chivalrous to an older lady trainer putting the moves on him but not adverse to using her house as a safehouse. Nick is hot stuff to the ladies apparently.  The dialogue is a bit stiff and lacking in the wry wit, and the characters very thin. However, it was an enjoyable read so I will continue to look for the others in the series if not quite as joyously as before.

    In Search of Rose Notes: A stand-alone Connecticut based accidental detective story

    In Search of the Rose Notes
    Emily Arsenault
    July 26, 2011

    Emily Arsenault's In Search of the Rose Notes is about memory, how the past impacts the present, how the mistakes and conceits of a bunch of kids and teenagers change their lives as adults, and of course about the mysterious disappearance and death of one of them, the eponymous Rose.

    The story is told in the first person. It is narrated by the formerly troubled Nora, who grew up seemingly sane and left the insular Connecticut town once she went to college. Her rich, gifted, and somewhat creepy childhood friend, Charlotte, grew up to be a teacher in their high school. The story takes place both in the past- in 1990 when Nora and Charlotte were in 6th grade and Charlotte's baby sitter Rose disappeared, 5 years later when they are 16, around prom time, and in the present, when Rose's bones are found buried in a wicker basket.

    Nora is likable; Arsenault does not depict her as an unreliable narrator but rather a flawed but reasonable person facing the secrets and miseries of the past. I found her easy to identify with: Troubled teenage years turning into a reasonably respectable adulthood; friends with Charlotte, who is more popular and gifted; observing all the mores of the stupid little town.

    The death of Rose, who is beautiful and a wise-cracker, is told in the first chapter with the discovery of her bones. The only mystery is "whodunnit". You are hoping for no "Lovely Bones" horror - and thankfully there is none of that. There are several people that might have done it and the story is well plotted. Nora does find out who after some fairly inept investigation. The voyage into the past is interesting. I really enjoyed the description of the Time-Life books on the occult and hidden knowledge. I think I remember reading those. Pretty amusing stuff I guess finding out the hidden truths behind the ordinary is part of of a lot of people's adolescence.

    Rose Notes was well written and kept my attention even though I read some it in a car on my way back from Maine. Now I look forward to reading her  first novel, The Broken Teaglass, about clues to a past crime in a new edition of a dictionary.

    Thursday, July 28, 2011

    Vacation in Maine

    I read Felix Francis' Gamble and just finished it. Review forthcoming.

    The weather has been lovely here on Mount Desert Island, such a gorgeous place. We are starting near Southwest Harbor for those of you who know it. Are any mysteries set here? I've read the late Phil Craig's J.W. Jackson series set on the Vineyard and Sarah Graves set in Eastport. And of course, there's Murder She Wrote. Others in Maine? New England?

    Monday, July 18, 2011

    One for the Money - movie

    I just read that Katherine Heigl is going to be Stephanie Plum in an upcoming movie. And Debbie Reynolds as Grandma Mazur! Really! Sounds pretty cool. Jan. 2012. I wonder if they'll shoot any of it in Trenton?

    One for the Money

    I forgot to mention that the new Plum novel, Smokin' Seventeen is now out. Can't wait to read it. (I'm on the waiting list at the library). For those of you who have not had the pleasure, they are tremendous fun with a light, frothy romance side. With a little bit gritty and not too nice Trenton thrown in. They've got a pretty good Jersey feel to them, too.

    Saturday, July 16, 2011

    Upcoming (early 2012) Sara Paretsky novel

    Thursday Sara Paretsky posted a tantalizing excerpt from her new V.I. Warshawski novel Breakdown

    Or see a link to her blog (lower right on this page under "Creme de la Crime").

    Sounds intriguing. Sara Paretsky's V. I. novels are  so good since Sara Paretsky allows V.I. to change and grow -  to age.  And to feel regrets and the resonance of past events and mistakes. The depth and richness of the novels have only improved as the series has continued. And that is not typical. I hope that old friends like Lotty, Sal, and Mr. Contreras will be showing up too. Looking forward to this new one.

    Saturday, July 9, 2011

    Letter to a lost sister

    Rosamund Lupton

    This is not your usual jigsaw puzzle kind of crime novel that provides an easy couple of hours of escape or amusement. Bee first hunts for her missing pregnant younger sister then hunts for her killer while everyone- police, mother, boyfriend - are convinced her sister committed suicide during drug fueled post-partum psychosis. Bee at first is hidebound, corporate, and conservative ready to scold her arty "free spirit" little sister Tess but that all falls apart as the story goes on.

    Bee is soon living in Tess' house, wearing her clothes, and questioning her friends, acquaintances, and former lovers: the baby's jerky art tutor father, Simon the ineffectual stalker, Kasia a pregnant Polish immigrant with an abusive boyfriend, and the doctors who are part of a controversial cystic fibrosis gene therapy trial.

    The story winds around in a satisfying way - there are several possible killers. Frankly, Tess knew some awful men.

    The relationship of the sisters, their mother, dead brother, form the emotional heart of the story and it is very moving and sad. Something about how you can only express your deepest feelings for your sister when it is too late. I don't have a sister so exploring that is new territory.

    The dialogue is well written and the characters interesting. The London setting is serviceable but not very descriptive. I did find the medical stuff unconvincing - the way babies are delivered or drug trials conducted does not ring true, more research needed there? But the heartbreaking relationship of the sisters, how Bee redeems herself as a human, that is deeply moving.

    It is refreshing to read an accidental detective story that is not the first of a series, at least I don't think so!

    Wednesday, July 6, 2011

    Mercury Rising...

    Mercury's Rise
    Ann Parker
    Poisoned Pen Press
    4th in the Silver Rush series

    Publication date November 2011

    Set in 1880s Colorado, this series features Inez Stannert, a smart, well-born saloon owner and card-sharp married to an untrustworthy con man. This particular book focuses on a TB sanatorium and resort in the mountains of Colorado near Colorado Springs before TB could be effectively treated or cured. Many desperate people tried all kinds of elixirs,  nostrums, potions, and strange notions before the bacteria that causes TB and the antibiotics that cure it were discovered.

    Inez is likable and the setting very interesting and well-drawn. The supporting characters are also interesting. I guess these fall into the Talented Amateur sub-gen. It might be nice to read this along with Diane Mott Davidson's Goldy Schultz mysteries for a different view of Colorado ... or Hunter S. Thompson. Anyway, a well-written series for the historical mystery buff, especially if you fancy the old west.

    Also... new Laurie King

    New Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes improbably called The Pirate King. Apparently more Pirates of Penzance than ...of the Caribbean...

    Monday, July 4, 2011

    New Deborah Crombie coming soon

    No Mark Upon Her
    Coming out in the US: February 2012

    I'm really looking forward to it. Her previous outings with Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James, police procedurals set in the UK were enjoyable and the setting so convincing you'd never know that Crombie is a Texan. She does spend a lot of time in the UK. Good stuff.

    As I point out in a previous post, she explores many different parts of London in her novels ~

    And here's an article by Ms. Crombie where she explains what areas of London her novels explore and how she feels about it:

    I kind of agree but  never figured out a way to spend half my time in the UK. I'll have to write my own novel set on the Ridgeway or do something complicated with the Thames or tides like in Sayers' Have His Carcase.

    Sunday, July 3, 2011

    Missing Persons

    Missing Persons
    Clare O'Donohue
    Plume (penguin)
    Just finished this in the car on the way back from Orlando - it was so good I kept reading it every chance I got. It is apparently the first in a series featuring Kate Conway, a freelance true crime TV producer. O'Donohue has worked in this field and her depiction reads true. Kate, busy looking into the disappearance of a sweet, pretty young nurse for a TV show also called Missing Persons, experiences a true crime in her own life when her estranged soon to be ex-husband dies under mysterious circumstances. She soon becomes the main suspect, befriends her husband's girlfriend, and has to deal with a kooky cast of characters including her husband's crazy mother, the overbearing mother of the missing nurse, her film crew, and the police.

    The story is set in Chicago but it is a kinder softer Chicago than Sara Paretsky's with less detail and color. Nonetheless, the plotting is tight and twisting - and strings you along like one of those 48-hours like TV shows. The characters are very well drawn, flawed, interesting, and complex. The solution to the crime is not at all what I expected, actually I never figured it out at all, and kept reading to the end, anticipating the solution, - a very clever - and sad one - and for the pleasure of loner Kate's company.