Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Oh, Flavia, How I Love Thee!!

Huzzah!  Flavia de Luce has returned in Speaking from Among the Bones, and she does not disappoint.  Let me elaborate...

It is 1951. Flavia is the eleven-year-old daughter of Colonel de Luce, widower and owner of their beloved but beleaguered English country estate, Buckshaw.  Beleaguered because his wife and heir to the estate died intestate during a Himalayan climbing expedition ten years earlier. Despite her young age, Flavia is chemist and detective extraordinaire, and her skills are put to use once again when the organist at St. Tancred's is found dead in said Saint's tomb, apparently suffocated by a WWII gas mask.  Thus Flavia begins her latest investigation, much to the chagrin of the local police, her family and eventually, the culprits.

Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley is the fifth book in the Flavia de Luce series.  There is nothing I don't like about his books.  I love Flavia, her sometimes horrid older sisters, her haunted and distracted stamp-collecting father, his factotum Dogger, their cook/confidant Mrs. Mullett, and all the villagers in Bishop's Lacey. This is my only complaint:  I've finished the book, and now I have to wait for the next one!!

Goodbye until next time, Flavia.  I miss you already.  TBC

Kinsey and Me

One of my most favorite authors is Sue Grafton. She is the reason I love mysteries so much!  I've become an intimate of her character, P.I. Kinsey Millhone, through 23 amazing novels, but I knew little about her creator, the notoriously private Grafton.  That has now changed.

In Kinsey and Me, Sue Grafton has re-published nine short stories that appeared in magazines and other publications starting in 1986.  They all feature Kinsey in satisfying vignettes of crime designed to begin and end in only a few short pages.  That is quite an amazing feat when you really think about it.  In the preface Grafton describes the process required to successfully produce a short crime story.  It is very interesting!  I loved each and every one of these little mysteries.

I always knew that Sue Grafton was a great writer, but I only knew her through the vehicle of Kinsey and her cases.  The second part of the book proved to me just what an outstanding writer she really is.  The thirteen stories of part two feature Kit Blue, who is really just Sue Grafton as her younger self.  Sue grew up in a troubled home, with an alcoholic mother and a father who left Sue and her older sister to their own devices.  In reality, she grew up parentless, and through Kit Blue we find out how her experiences in childhood and beyond made her who she is today.  I know, you can say that about anyone, but not everyone has written 23 fantastic books over a period of 30 years.  I'm just saying!!  If you love Sue Grafton and Kinsey, you will love Kinsey and Me.  If you are from outer space you've never heard of her, read Kinsey and Me.  You'll love her, too!

Tigers in Red Weather

Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann begins at the end of WWII.  It is the story of cousins Nick and Helena, their husbands Hughes and Avery, their children Daisy and Ed, and their summer home on Martha's Vineyard, Tiger House.  Each character is given a turn to tell their story, and we soon discover that all is not well in this post-war world.  Nick and Hughes are reunited in Florida, but this distant and silent Hughes is not the same man Nick married.  Desperate for love after the death of her first husband, Helena marries Avery who promises her a glamorous life in Hollywood. (Sorry, spoiler alert!) He's a creep and a liar.  Soon Daisy and Ed come along, and the next 20 plus years are filled with summers on the Island in tennis whites and dinner jackets, gin and tonics and lemonade.  It sounds idyllic, but nasty undercurrents lurk just beneath the calm waters.

From the title to the last page, Tigers in Red Weather is all about atmosphere.  Not just the physical atmosphere of each setting, but the emotional storms her characters survived, or did they?!  Part F. Scott, part Alfred Hitchcock, I felt an uneasy langour while reading this book. Considering that Liza Klaussmann is the great-great-great -granddaughter of Herman Melville, she had rather large shoes to fill.  With Tigers in Red Weather I think she has succeeded.

I'm back!

I have been remiss.  By that I mean lazy.  I've read 4 books and haven't written a word, but now I intend to rectify my bad behavior.  So get ready for a posting marathon!

I think I'll start with A Fistful of Collars by Spencer Quinn.  YES!!  Chet and Bernie are back with a vengeance, working to right all the wrongs in their Arizona world and beyond.  In this latest adventure, Bernie agrees to keep watch over a troubled actor as he stars in an old western movie being made in the Valley.  In fact, he is working for the mayor who believes the film industry is the answer to all of the area's money woes, and keeping Thad Perry safe is crucial to his plan.  But Bernie soon discovers there is much more to this movie than is written in the script, and it is hard to keep someone out of trouble who has a death wish.  Chet and Bernie have their hands and paws full digging into Thad's past to discover the reasons for his behavior.  Is it all an act?  Will Chad make his next call?  Can Chet obey the command, "Quiet on the set!"?  All will be revealed in the final scene.

I simply adore Chet and Bernie.  They are the perfect crime-fighting team, and Chet is the ideal narrator.  This is quite an extraordinary skill, because, if you didn't already know, Chet is a dog.  The only problem with these books is waiting for the next one to come out.  Sit and stay at your computer, Mr. Quinn!  We're all waiting!!