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Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

Quick reads before taking on George R.R. Martin

Next on my reading list is A Dance with Dragons, the fifth massive tome in Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series.  At almost 1,000 pages, I wasn’t quite ready to commit, so I slipped in a couple of books that I bought at sales recently.  Here are there reviews:

Death and Faxes by Leslie O’Kane

Okay, while I read a lot of different genres, this is not one that I usually venture into.  Cozies are usually just too cute and touchy feely for my tastes.  So why did I read this?  I don’t know, but I did and here is my review.

While her husband is out of the country on business, Molly Masters returns to house-sit her childhood home with her two young children.  Molly, a greeting card designer, has to deal with former high school teachers, friends, rivals, sinister threats over her fax machine and murder.  Much angst and humor ensues (I did mention former high school acquaintances, right?) as Molly tries to figure out who dunnit.  As usual, the humor is just a little too cute for me, but characters were well drawn and it was a pretty good mystery.  My one comment is my surprise at how fast technology has progressed.  Written in 1996, this book has the plot centered on the use of a fax machine.  Molly uses it as her primary communication method for her business and receives her threats appear there.

The Captain by Seymour Shubin

If you read my post last week, you know that I have processed almost 800 books in the last six weeks.  There are always titles that look interesting to read, but they get put on a shelf or in a box and I forget about them until I sell them and say “I meant to read that.”  So, when I finished several books on my reading list, but wasn’t quite ready to tackle the 1000 pages of A Dance with Dragons, I looked in my pile and pulled out The Captain.

Not so much a mystery, as a character study, this is the story of a longtime head of the detective bureau in the police department, now retired and living in a nursing home.  He is referred to as The Captain by residents and staff, but is not happy at all with how old people are treated.  This is a very interesting story of murder, investigation, how aging people are viewed in our society and nursing homes.  I thought it was well written and thoughtful, as well as suspenseful.

Pronto by Elmore Leonard

I have read a lot of Elmore Leonard novels over the years and always enjoyed them.  They are always well paced, with interesting characters, and Pronto is no exception.  I pulled this one off the shelf when I found out that Raylan Givens is a featured character in the book.  For those who don’t know, Raylan is the main character in the TV series Justified on the FX network.  I had heard that it was based on a Leonard short story and didn’t realize that Raylan had also appeared in books.  Indeed, he is in Pronto and its sequel, Riding the Rap.  According to articles, and verified when I spoke with Dutch at a Michael Connelly book signing last April (see my report below), while Leonard is an executive producer of the show, he does not work on the scripts.  Even so, viewers will recognize a scene toward the end of the book!

Triple Crossing by Sebastian Rotella

Every so often, Shar reads a review of a book that really gets her attention.  The next thing you know she’s off to the library and back home reading it in her favorite chair.  It didn’t take her long to finish this one and tell me I had to read it.  She is rarely wrong and certainly isn’t on this one!

This is a gritty, fast-paced thriller about the criminal underworld and corruption at work along both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.  At the center of the story is Valentine Pescatore, a rookie Border Patrol agent trying to survive the trenches of The Line in San Diego.  He gets in trouble and finds himself recruited as an informant.  Things spiral out of control and he finds himself deeply involved with the smugglers in Mexico and South America’s Triple Border area.

The writing is terrific, with great pacing and many well drawn, complex and ambiguous characters.   I felt completely immersed is this world and happy that I live in the midwest.

Lunch with Michael Connelly

April 13, 2011 was a beautiful spring day in metro Detroit.  I loaded up the van with two bags of first editions and headed for Birmingham to meet and lunch with one of our favorite authors, one of the few that we actually collect.  The luncheon was a benefit for The Community House and the Baldwin Public Library.  Connelly had a full day with this meet-and-greet luncheon followed by an afternoon event where he discussed The Lincoln Lawyer and an evening event at the Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield which would up with an overflow crowd of more than 300.

“I might not be here today if it wasn’t for the library,” Connelly said in his brief opening remarks.  Connelly credits the local public library for the many hours he clocked reading as a child in Florida. Connelly’s mother was a bank teller, he said, and in the summer she would drop him off at the library in the morning and pick him up after work.  He said he was “happy to take part in anything that supports the library.”

After his remarks, people quickly lined up to meet Connelly and have him sign books.  Book Beat, a fine local independent book store, had a table of the author’s books available for purchase, including his latest novel, The Fifth Witness.  I think I took the prize for bringing the most books, and I waited until the line diminished before approaching the author.  He very generously inscribed copies for our collection and signed copies that will be for sale shortly.

The bonus round was the appearance of local author Elmore Leonard and his son (and author) Peter Leonard.  I had the opportunity to chat briefly with Dutch about the FX series Justified, which is based on his short story, Fire in the Hole.  Even though he is an executive producer for the show, he has nothing to do with the story line.  However, he is in the middle of writing a novel featuring Raylan Givens and, as he completes sections, has been sending them to the shows writers.  There are times when Shar an I are watching the show, hear some dialog and simultaneous laugh out loud because we know we just heard Leonard’s words.

 

Snow Angels by James Thompson

What is it about Scandinavia that makes its mystery novels so dark and melancholy and turns their protagonists into gloomy alcoholics?   I see it in the works of Henning Mankel, Jo Nesbo and now James Thompson.  Only Stieg Larson seems immune.  His characters eat sandwiches and drinks lots of coffee.

Kari Vaara is a brooding Lapland police chief (did I mention he drinks too much?) investigating the  gruesome murder of a Somolian pop star during the sunless, bitterly cold winter.  The sources and suspects include Vaara’s ex wife and her boyfriend, a dissolute playboy and the simple folk in his district.  The solution comes a bit too conveniently, but the overall story and atmosphere are compelling.

NY Times reviews Estleman’s new Amos Walker collection

Loren Estleman has published a collection of 33 Amos Walker stories and Marilyn Stasio reviewed them in the October 17 NY Times Book Review.

I just can’t figure out why Estleman hasn’t achieved the level of recognition of a Michael Connelly or a John Sandford.  He’s every bit as good, writing in multiple genres:  Crime/detective, western, historical fiction.   I love watching Amos Walker prowl the  mean streets of Detroit, my adopted home town, and the thinly-disguised avenues of the Grosse Pointes and Bloomfield Hills.

Stasio writes:  “While Amos often finds himself on foreign turf … and out of his social depth … , his comfort zone is the industrial heart of his city and the battered working-class neighborhoods that feed it the souls it needs to keep on pumping.”

Ken has 51 Loren Estleman books in stock,  many of them signed.