I am about a week late with this post, but still want to finish it up and share it, at least before the month is over.
Whenever we go on vacation, we always take books. There are other times we take books with us on short trips, such as shopping – one of us may want to browse through a store that holds no interest to the other, so having a book along, rather than mindlessly killing time in the story is a great way to encourage the other. “Take your time” I say to my husband as he goes into a sporting goods store or a favorite gun shop. This is much easier done in good weather than in the cold of winter. In the winter, I would say “drop me off at the craft store.” To this end, we make sure we have our phones with us. My favorite time to “vacation read” is the week following Christmas, the week following a long year of…life. I had planned to take my kindle with me on vacation but managed to forget it at home. As a result, I just finished The Little Cafe by the Lake, my first Joanne Tracey novel, after returning from vacation.
I have never been to New Zealand or Australia, and while I do not expect to make that journey, reading The Little Cafe was like a tour in many respects. Because it was my first read of an Australian writer, I was grateful for and curious about some of the things Joanne referred to that I had no idea what they were, so I was grateful for the dictionary app on my Kindle. (And my mother’s life lesson modeling of using dictionaries). There was only one definition that did I did not understand. but looking back through the text, I can’t find it. It was some type of food item. That in itself is a lesson, next time I look up words in my kindle, I will be careful to also highlight them!) When I began connecting with bloggers and writers from Australia and New Zealand, I promised myself that I would get a map of the area so that I could understand where folks were and places they referred to. When I began reading “Little Cafe” I wished I had already done that, but that is on me.
I confess I was a little confused about some of the characters, for instance sometimes Jess’s father was referred to as Fletch and sometimes Cam. That depended of course, on who was talking about him, his wife, or others. Because this was my first Joanne Tracey novel, I wasn’t sure if the characters had been introduced in a previous work. But sometimes my reading gets disjointed (like leaving my Kindle home instead of taking it on vacation). So those are simple things, just me getting used to a new author.
I have a bad habit of (sometimes) reading the end of a book before I get there. As I read through food descriptions, I kept thinking, boy, I hope there are recipes. But I did not go looking. While there were a lot of things I liked about the book, when I got to the end and saw there are indeed recipes I threw my hand up in the air and said, “Yes!” I want to try the cheese scones soon.
One of the things that impressed me was the author’s ability to reveal plot twists and turns, unexpected occurrences that kept me wanting to see what happened next. Every chapter pulled me ahead to the next chapter to see what would happen. I never anticipated any of them. There were times I did not like certain characters, pretty sure that was intentional. I was happy to see character growth.
Twenty-One Days: A Daniel Pitt Novel by Anne Perry (2018) and One Fatal Flaw: A Daniel Pitt Novel 2019
Taking these two together as they share many characters and settings. As I had written elsewhere, i like Anne Perry’s writing and have enjoyed all of her books that I have read. She has several characters in series, in addition several Christmas stories. The ones I have enjoyed the most have been the Pitt family, Thomas and Charlotte Pitt, the first generation, Charlotte was a socialite who fell in love with Thomas who was a police detective.
Daniel is one of their two children. In the Daniel Pitt novels, he is a 25-year-old lawyer, who ends up playing detective in many of his cases. The novel is set in England in the early twentieth century. Women had not yet gotten the vote, and women’s lives were extremely regulated, with social conventions beyond most of our ability to imagine. Two that come up in these stories are that it was legal for a husband to beat his wife, and that women were not accepted as doctors or scientists.
In Twenty-One Days, the number of days in question is the amount of time he has to appeal and find the real murderer before his client is executed. Fatal flaw, in large part, deals with social prejudices about women’s abilities to learn and carry out medical and scientific work. The fact that we have come so far, does not mean that there is no racism, sexism or classism in the world today. That assumption would be naive. I enjoyed both of these books and was on the edge of my seat for much of it. However, as I came to the end of Fatal Flaw, I felt that perhaps the ending had been rushed, or that that particular section of the story, which was the climax to be sure, came so late in the story I wondered if the author was pushing up against a deadline or a page limit. i still want to read the next one though.
The Judge’s List by John Grisham, audio book unabridged, read by Mary Louise Parker
John Grisham is one of my favorite authors, and I was really happy to get this from the library, since it is a new release. The characters were strong and intriguing. In the introduction, read by the author, he talked about the heroine of this book, Lacy Stoltz, who was apparently the heroine in The Whistler (I have to read or listen to that now.) He said that he had been waiting for a story that would be a good vehicle for Lacy, and this story is it.
Before saying anything at all about the story, I want to comment on the characters, the heroines of this story, in my opinion. Certainly, Lacy comes through and makes the story. I want to suggest though that “Margie” who goes by many names (her real name is Jerry Crosby) is also a heroine. She has tracked, stalked actually, the man who killed her father. In the course of doing that she was able to pin other murders on him, revealing him to be a serial killer. She has been able to identify both the method and the motive but has no real evidence. While I do not approve of everything she did in the story, I think she also deserves heroine status. Without her work, and resolve, there was no case.
I often joke that I heard the “call of the mild” not the “call of the wild” so there were many facets of this book I found frightening, the fact that the person accused of being a serial murderer was a judge, who was supposed to uphold justice, not obliterate it, the cold hearted, vengeful pursuit of individuals who had wronged him, his ability to break through firewalls and use technology in pursuit of his objectives – all scary.
I do not want to say more about the case, but to me, there was a third heroine involved in this story, and it is Mary Louise Parker’, who read, narrated or voiced the story. No matter how good a book is, when it goes to the audio version, the ability and talent of the reader/narrator, can be make or break. I have never taken acting classes and don’t plan to start now, but, I am always fascinated by the ability of actors to do multiple voices and keep them straight.
I thought as I end this month’s contribution, I would share a few of my favorite mystery writers through the years:
Robert B. Parker, was my first mystery book author. I saw a book in the library that was a book about Spenser, which was on the air at that time (1987?). I started collecting them in paperback and read every one. I also like the Jesse Stone series. I have tried, but just not able to get into the Sunny Randal series, though it might have helped if I had read the first novel in the series and gone from there. I have read or listened to some of the books that have been written “in his vein” by authors approved by the family and have enjoyed them.
Sue Grafton, read or listened to most of the “letters” was very sad when she died.
Jodi Picoult, a wonderful author, her research (does she do it all herself or have assistants?), character development and simply surprise draw me in.
Lisa Scottoline, The first thing I listened to by Lisa was funny, so I was really caught off guard by her mystery writing. I especially love the Rosato and Denunzio series.
John Grisham (have read many, but certainly not all). Although many of his books are similar in terms of tension, danger and character, I loved “A Painted House” which was very different and “Skipping Christmas” which was the basis of the movie “Christmas with the Kranks”
David Baldacci, have read or listened to most of his books. I like the Amos Decker series, but others as well.
Grateful for the opportunity to read and share and,
Not holding back the tide,
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