A fan of Kate Morton, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the publication of her recent novel The Distant Hours. This book follows the same themes as her others: crisscrossing back and forth throughout time, a wealthy family, a palace, and terrible secrets enveloped in mystery. Although this is what I have come to expect, each of her stories are very different and stand out in their own right.
The book begins with a letter posted in 1941 finally reaching its destination in 1992 with invoking a mystery for the main character, Edie. She learns of elderly twins Persephone and Seraphina and their younger half-sister, Juniper, the three spinster daughters of the late author Raymond Blythe. The letter is addressed to Meredith, Edie’s mother, then a young girl who was evacuated to their home, Milderhurst Castle, during the Blitz of WWII. Edie, who’s later invited to write an introduction to a reprint of Raymond’s most famous story, visits the three women in search of answers.
This was definitely not my favorite of Kate Morton’s novels, in fact it probably scores last out of the three. It dragged at the beginning and quite frankly the storyline wasn’t as interesting as the others. The ending did provide a surprise though, which was a saving grace. I do admire this author’s descriptive writing skill and ability to weave intricate stories within the main plot. Definitely pick up The Forgotten Garden (one of my all time favorite books) and leave this one for later.
I have been reading Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone mystery series, for…let’s just say a long time. I have read every book starting with A is for Alibi up through her latest, U is for Undertow. I guess you could say I’m a chronic series reader, however when you find something good, why would you stray? The one thing that I like about this series is, even thought its been around for 28 years (that’s right as old as me), the age of the main character and era of the series stays constant, in fact only 6 years have been gained since the first book was published, so we’re currently hanging out in 1988. A year when computers didn’t exist, you had to go to the library to do old fashion research and cross-referencing, and there were no cell phones, PDAs, smart phones, or blackberries, its all old school detective work.
The most recent Millhone mystery starts with the sudden appearance of Michael Sutton, who has suddenly, remember possibly a very important detail in the disappearance of a girl from over 20 years ago. Grafton bounces between past and present to tell her story of what could have happened to Mary Claire Fitzhugh. Focusing on the lives of many different people and how they all intertwine to reveal the truth about what happened all those years ago.
While Kinsey Millhone is trying to sort out the past of others, her own past is something that has been troubling her as well. Millhone was raised by her late aunt after the death of her parents, and in recent books was reunited with her estranged family, who she always thought didn’t care for her. She finds herself doing her own detective work on her past to reveal that not everything was what she once thought it was.
For the 21st book in this series, I find it comforting that Grafton has kept Kinsey true to herself and the style of her writing is consistent. This series is a definite read in my book and you should make it part of yours as well.
It looks like I am going to surpass my 50 book goal sooner than expected. Perhaps I need a new goal for December 31st? I was thinking 75 but that seems too ambitious. It’s certainly possible if I really go for it but I am not quite sure if I want to commit. Maybe next year?
My fortieth book was the second novel in the Isabel Dalhousie series by Alexander McCall Smith. He is my go-to author when I want a quiet, charming, beautifully thoughtful read. Friends, Lovers, Chocolate was no exception. This series may not be wildly entertaining compared to others I have read, and it is in my opinion not nearly as wonderful as my beloved #1 Ladies Detective Agency penned by Smith, but it is good in it’s own right.
Isabel is a philosopher who has the knack for getting involved in other people’s business and analyzing their problems from a philosophical point of view. This time she meets a man who received a heart transplant and claims to be having a vision, or memory, from his donor. He seeks Isabel’s help in finding out if this could be possible, from a intellectual standpoint. What I found most interesting about this novel was Isabel’s growing feelings for her much younger friend, Jamie. As a reader I believe that more focus could have been put into this aspect of the plot, but Smith usually writes things of this nature slowly into his series. I suspect that in his later books the issue will be addressed more at length.
I quite enjoy Smith’s novels, even if they are on the quiet side. His writing is delicate and carefully written with detailed observations about people and life. I will end up reading the rest in this series, as one grows attached to his characters in an unexplainable way.
Because the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency novels are so dear to my heart I decided to try another series by Alexander McCall Smith, The Isabel Dalhousie Mysteries that take place in Edinburgh, Scotland. The first book is The Sunday Philosophy Club, which introduces another set of warm, curiously lovable characters. Our heroine this time around is an editor for a philosophy journal, the Review for Applied Ethics, who frequently becomes involved in problems that are none of her concern. Isabel witnesses a man fall from the upper balcony of a concert hall and takes it upon herself to investigate the tragedy. Was it an accident or murder? Isabel cannot help finding out, and along the way we get to know her housekeeper Grace, niece Cat, and friend Jamie.
Like the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books, this mystery is slow paced, leaving much time for character development in the plot. I think this is one of the best things that McCall Smith does when writing his novels. They aren’t only mysteries, but keen observations of human emotion and behavior. The reader really gets to know the characters and begin to care deeply for them. McCall Smith’s writing is so charming, it’s no wonder I keep coming back for more. His books are intelligent, entertaining and leave the reader thinking about the simple things in life. I will continue the rest of the series (I believe there are five others) and see if they live up to my high expectations!
For some strange reason I never had an interest in this book based solely on its title. I had passed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson at the library or at a book store many times but never had the desire to pick it up. But one day I realized how ridiculous (I shouldn’t be scared of a title!) I was being and read the synopsis of the book and decided I might enjoy it.
The story takes place in Sweden, its main character is Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist recently convicted of the libel of Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. Shortly after his conviction Henrik Vanger, the head of one of wealthiest families approaches him for a special assignment. Forty years ago, his niece Harriet disappeared and assumed dead. Vanger wanted to know how she died and who committed the murder. Blomkvist moves to from Stockholm to Hedestad, where the Vanger family resides, to try and crack the case. In return he will give Blomkvist information to confirm his previous accusations about Wennerstrom, which will help restore his reputation and career, and save his magazine, Millennium.
Blomkvist utilizes the help of social outcast Lisbeth Salander (the girl with the dragon tattoo) to help him in his research into the disappearance of Harriet. Salander who is under the supervision of the state is an expert hacker with a photographic memory. She has social issues and finds it hard to get along with people but is surprisingly able to work well with Blomkvist. She assists him not only in cracking the mystery of what really happened to Harriet but also saving his life when they get close to solving the mystery.
This book is written brilliantly and what happened to Harriet is shocking and I won’t lie hard to read at times. Larsson creates such depth in his characters and keeps you wanting more, I found it hard to put the book down once I picked it up ( I definitely recommend this for those long summer days at the beach). There are many surprises and unexpected turns in the story and the ending is expertly written and satisfying. If you enjoy a great mystery as I do this is a must read book.
Next Book: Dune Road by Jane Green
I am a big fan of the “dramedy” television shows, my favorites being Monk and Pysch on the USA network. There is something about a playful murder mystery that is vivaciously entertaining. It’s the perfect combination: suspense and humor wrapped into one package. Jenn McKinlay’s new Cupcake Bakery Mystery series also falls into this category, a light read with a well written murder plot.
In Sprinkle with Murder, Mel and Angie have just opened their dream business, Fairy Tale Cupcakes Bakery. Unbeknownst to them, trouble is just around the corner when their first big client, a famous fashion designer, is found dead with one of their cupcakes in her hand. Mel becomes the prime suspect in the case so the ladies decide to figure out who the real murderer is before their business goes under and Mel is behind bars.
I am now a fan of this author (Yay, new author discovery!) and enjoyed reading the first in this new series. At times it was a little foretelling but definitely a fast, fun read with a not completely predictable ending. I think I am a little biased due to seeing every cleverly written episode of Monk and Psych. My mind immediately begins turning to every possible twist in these types of stories, which is a little bit of a curse.
Nevertheless, I am looking forward to the next in the series, Buttercream Bump Off coming out later this year and Death By the Dozen due out in 2011. After doing a little research I was pleased to find out Jenn McKinlay has written other books in this genre is also working on a new mystery series for library lovers. Obviously I will be picking up the first in that collection!
Bonus: Four delicious cupcake recipes at the end of the book that the author bakes herself.