She is too fond of books…

August 18, 2015 at 1:01 am (Book review, books, Mystery fiction)

…”too obsessed with books” might be more accurate phrasing, in my case.

Okay, here’s what I’m currently reading:

1000H-9780805095159 I was going to take a pass on this, despite the excellent reviews and the brilliance of this author, because of what I perceived would be the depressing subject matter (for one of my  age, which is 71). However, my friend Pauline urged me to reconsider. So I downloaded a sample – I’ve been doing this a lot lately. I then proceeded to download the entire book. The beauty if the writing and the compassion of this dedicated physician will be sufficient to carry me past any rough spots, I hope..

41q+ZB-iWkL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_ A delightful read, which I’m deliberately taking slowly, in discreet chunks. Among its other virtues, the book is filled with great reading recommendations (something I’m desperately in need of, naturally).

mist on the saltings Recommended by Martin Edwards. For me, this novel was a slow starter, and at the outset I was finding the characters somewhat stereotypical. But as I read, the coastal setting, sometimes bleak and sometimes beautiful, began to cast a spell. Here’s a sample of Wade’s descriptive writing:

Bryde-by-the-Sea though nominally a harbour, lies nearly a mile back from the ocean which surges invisibly against the line of low sand dunes limiting the northern horizon. In between lies an expanse of weed-grown mud, intersected by a maze of channels which at high tide are full to the brim of salt water and at low are mere trenches of black and treacherous ooze. These are the Saltings; the home of a hundred varieties of sea birds, of countless sea-plants, of insects, reptiles, fishes, animals – according to the state off the tides and the time of year; at one time a silvery dazzle of southernwood, at another green with sapphire, at another brown with sea-churned mud, and sometimes – at the highest of the ‘springs’ – completely submerged under the smooth, swirling waters of the flowing tide.

This is not an easy book to obtain. I got a somewhat battered used copy via Amazon. To my knowledge, it is not available in e-book format.

Meanwhile, I find myself increasingly drawn by this story of a struggling artist, his sweet and naive wife, and a cheerfully amoral novelist out to make trouble.

51d7MVVHBZL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ I’m reading this for our next Usual Suspects discussion. I’ve known about it for some time but never read it. The story seems a bit convoluted, but the setting – Istanbul in the early 1800’s –  is so authentic and so exotic that you don’t really care if you lose a plot thread along the way. The Janissary Tree won the 2007 Edgar Award for best novel.

Among the many cultural references made in this novel is one to Iznik tiles. I was not sure what these were, but I found out easily enough (see the above link). And I also found this interesting YouTube video on the subject:

Britcrimes  Capital Crimes: London Mysteries, edited by Martin Edwards. Another juicy compendium along the lines of Resorting to Murder, also edited by Mr Edwards. I’m about a third of the way in and don’t want to rush things. I just love these British Library Crime Classics!

51FcoXTFTDL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ This was recommended by several people who attended the Bodies from the Library conference on Golden Age Detective Fiction at the British Library. I’ve not had the same luck with Allingham novels as I’ve had with those of Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie, Ngaio March, and Josephine Tey. But I am really liking this one.

I really enjoyed Lee Siegel’s piece entitled “The End of the Ambitious Summer Reading List,” the Saturday essay in this past weekend’s Wall Street Journal. I found particularly entertaining the number of titles he mentions that are followed, in parenthesis, by the word “unfinished.” He reminded me of me. It occurs to me that you, patient reader, might be wondering, has this woman actually finished a book lately? Well, yes, I have – three in fact:

51V0bLwLq1L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_      The usual bright and breezy confection served up by Baltimore’s own. The mystery is a bit odd and very tangled, but Tess Monaghan’s family situation is wonderfully limned. My favorite line concerns what life is like with her daughter, the irrepressible little Carla Scout, to wit: “It’s like living with Maria Callas.” Anyone who has spent more than ten minutes in the company of an energy-fueled toddler will relate, with no difficulty.

17999118 A thriller about the real estate business. I know, it sounds like a contradiction in terms, but it’s the premise of Phil Hogan’s novel about a man whose congenial exterior masks the workings of a pathological mind. Realtor William Heming has a penchant for taking full advantage of possessing, albeit temporarily,  the keys to other people’s domiciles. Oh sure, he returns them when the time comes – but after he’s been sure to make duplicates. You can see where this could lead. And it does.

The word being chiefly used by reviewers for this novel and its main character is “creepy.” It is that – but for this reader, it did not pack quite the punch that I was hoping it would. So, mildly entertaining but ultimately somewhat forgettable. Maybe the problem was me. Reviews were quite positive; you might want to give it a try anyway and see what you think.

And finally, there is this: the-ways-of-the-world-682x1024  The Ways of the World is the first in a projected trilogy featuring James Maxted, a World War One veteran of the Royal Flying Corp who also spent time as a prisoner of war. He has survived, but his father, a diplomat who’d been detailed to the Paris peace talks by the British government, has met a mysterious and tragic end. Various  factions labor to explain away Sir Henry Maxted’s unfortunate demise, but James isn’t having any of it. He is resolved to discover the truth about his father’s death, no matter the risk to himself. And that determination on his part is the springboard for all that follows in this fast-paced, absorbing novel, and presumably, in the two novels to follow. (The second book, The Corners of the Globe, has just come out in the UK.)

Robert Goddard is a writer who has never gotten the recognition he deserves on this side of the Atlantic. I’ve been reading his novels since I first went to work at the library in 1982. I remember greatly enjoying the first one, Past Caring, in 1986. Then came In Pale Battalions in 1988, a novel that takes place, like The Ways of the World, during the era of the First World War and that also, if memory serves, features a memorable love story. There are quite a few others; see the Wikipedia entry for the complete list. I’ve read several more over the years.

Goddard writes in the vein I like to call “thrillers with brains.” These novels are action packed and cunningly plotted, but they’re also about real people in whose destinies the reader becomes fully engaged. Oh – and the writing has to be excellent. In this passage, Kuroda, a Japanese delegate to the peace talks, seeks to explain himself – and other things – to James Maxted (called ‘Max’ by nearly everyone who knows him):

We can never see the ends of the roads our choices lead us down until we reach them. I chose long ago, as a young Tokyo police officer, to volunteer for special attachment to a foreign police force. I was sent to London and spent a year at Scotland Yard. That is how I came to learn English and to love the writings of Scott and Dickens and Hardy. It is why, after I returned to Japan, I was assigned to investigate the activities of foreign residents in our country. And it is why I find myself in Paris today, standing with you here, in the cold spring sunshine. The future is not written, Max. It is a blank parchment. What I will eventually read of you on it, or you of me, cannot be known. Until the time comes.’
‘And meanwhile?’
‘Tread softly. But tread swiftly.’
Kuroda laid a hand on Max’s shoulder. ‘That is your self-appointed counsellor’s considered advice.’

Robert Goddard

Robert Goddard


  1. Angie Boyter said,

    Re Being Mortal, OMG, Roberta, I LOVED this book!

  2. pamkirst2014 said,

    Being Mortal is on my list, too; I’ve written down some other titles, thanks for sharing. (Obviously the fondness for books has NOT addled your brain.)

  3. Roberta Rood said,

    Thanks, Pam. And kudos to you for completing the quote, which I meant to do but forgot about. (Also thank you for the compliment. I’m working hard to stay un-addled!)

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