Sunday, 12 June 2011

Three crime and mystery books

Well this past week has been a reasonably quiet one so I decided it would be nice to have a book binge - a crime and mystery book binge to be exact. I had three library books lined up, ready for the off, and started with The Chatham School Affair by Thomas H. Cook.

Henry Griswald, an elderly resident of the small town of Chatham, on Cape Cod, looks back to the year 1927. Then he was a teenage boy, son of the headmaster of a private school for the wealthy, in the town. In that year his father had hired a new art teacher, Elizabeth Channing. Her upbringing had been rather Bohemian, her father not sending her to school but instead taking her around Europe to educate her, and never settling anywhere. The father had written a book about this way of life. Henry, disenchanted with life in a small American town and thoroughly disliking his parents, is heavily influenced by the freedowm and lack of responsibility aspect of this lifestyle. What follows as he becomes involved with Miss Channing and her growing closeness to another teacher, Leland Reed, a war veteran and married man, is a catalogue of misunderstandings and tragedies and testament to the saying: never assume anything.

I'm not saying any more about this book as the twists and turns are what makes it such an enjoyable read and it's much better to know nothing before you start. The book itself meanders all over the place from present day, back to 1927 and then forward again, slowly drip feeding the reader little snippets of imformation. It's extremely well done. You know something awful will eventually be revealed, you think you know what it is, but the end surprised even me. Excellent, excellent read: loved it. I have Danielle at A Work in Progress to thank for this rec and I shall certainly be seeking out more books by this author.

Next: Body Double by Tess Gerritsen.

Pathologist Maura Isles has been at a conference in Paris and is arriving home from the airport. She's met in her street by the police: someone has been shot dead in their car. Detective Jane Rizzoli is reluctant to let her see the body but when she eventually does see it Maura has a profound shock. The dead woman is a mirror image of herself; eventually they even discover she has Maura's blood group and DNA. What's going on? Is there a connection between this and the kidnapping and killing epidemic that's going on in Maine? Maura's quest for answers takes her to a small coastal town in that state but also on a personal journey of her own to discover who she really is.

Oh gosh. Can this series get any better? I love, love, love Maura and Jane. Their stories are very different but I love the way Tess Gerritsen uses their personal lives as background to this series... intertwining them with the crime stories themselves. This makes the books very personal and the reader becomes very involved. The writing too is excellent, there are no frills just pacey plot and dialogue and no time wasted on extraneous details. And... you know...just the sheer cleverness of this particular book in the series (it's book 4) blew me away. It was literally fascinating what happens here... I devoured it in a day and a bit, just could not put it down. Book 5, Vanish, came back to our library on Saturday and I'm going to be on the doorstep first thing Monday morning to grab it before anyone else does. I have Elaine at Random Jottings of a Book and Opera Lover to thank for recommending this series and I am *so* grateful.

Lastly, Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon.

A world famous German conductor, Helmut Wellauer, is murdered, mid-performance, at the La Fenice opera house in Venice. It seems it was cyanide and it was in his coffee which he drank in the interval. Commissario of police, Guido Brunetti, is called to solve the murder. It sould be straightforward but it's anything but. Helmut turns out to have been thoroughly unlikeable, holding some extreme views, and not afraid to use information gathered against people. Thus he has many enemies. But who amongst the cast and staff had a strong a enough motive for murder? Well, practically everyone as it turns out...

Well, this is the first book in Donna Leon's Guido Brunetti series of crime books, set in Venice. I thought it was absolutely delightful. I haven't been to Venice but the sense of place seemed to me to be spot on. It appeared that this was not necessarily the Venice that the tourist sees and I found that extra fascinating. Brunetti is surrounded by cast of many, his wife, Paola, teenage children, Paola's parents that Guido seems not to understand at all. There's quite a lot of humour in his relations with others, particularly his extremely vain and useless boss. The crime itself, well I kind of had an idea who it was, but the 'why' was a surprise I must admit. A good start to a new series for me and I once again have Elaine at Random Jottings to thank for the rec.

Next... back to Carl's Once Upon a Time V challenge with Storm Front by Jim Butcher.


DesLily said...

gads sis! You are reading like a run-a-way train!!! lol.. I am happy though to hear that you are enjoying not just one but all of them!!.. you are on a roll!!

I am reading Faery's not a book to jump out at you but the more I read the more I envy this lady. Oh! and there's a whole area in the book that takes place at Dartmoor!!!! wanna guess who was on my mind? lol..

Anonymous said...

You have me chomping at the bit here. Tha Chatham School Affair has been on my radar since I first saw it on Danielle's blog and your take on it has me ever more intrigued. Body Double seems quite a page turner and Donna Leone's book looks to be fun as well.

You always leave me wanting to read the books you write about - thank you for the inspiration.

animewookie said...

Body Double sounds very intriguing. Ahhh!!! Storm Front...Love Love Love Harry Dresden. As the first in the series, It was a little simplistic in the beginning. IMO
But it just keeps getting better and better. Oh, I'm sooo excited!! I hope you enjoy it :D I <3 Jim Butcher

Cath said...

Pat: they were all quick easy reads. Made moreso by the fact that they were pageturners.

Hmm. Faery Tale. Don't think I've heard of that. Oh, are you picturing me running amok all over Dartmoor like Cathy in Wuthering Heights? LOL. Hobbling maybe... but the spirit is willing...

lifeonthecutoff: All three books were terrific reads. The Chatham School one was slightly different to the other two in that it's not a police novel. More of a mystery in that you know some crime has been committed but you don't know until the end what it was exactly.

Kelly: Body Double was amazing. Could easily be one of my books of the year I think.

I've been wanting to read Harry Dresden for years but just not got around to it. I've just started and already like it a lot so watch this space... :-)

Danielle said...

I'm so glad you liked the Cook--I pulled The Chatham School Affair out for a reread! You might try Places in the Dark--it has a similar set up and is set in Maine in the 1930s. I have enjoyed the Donna Leon novels I've read, too, and plan on getting back to them this summer. Unfortunately I've fizzled on my poor Once Upon a Time read, but perhaps there is still time to finish before summer is officially here....

Cath said...

Danielle: As you might have seen from the library loot post I just did, I checked the library first thing this morning for Places in the Dark and they had it, so I grabbed it quick.

I think you have about a week left to read something for OUaT. Worry not... I don't expect Carl will send a hit-man if you don't manage it. LOL.

Susan said...

*busy adding books to her reading list* see? Now I have a whole new series of books to try, the Rizzoli series by Gerritsen.....Thomas Cook, I'm sure I've read one by him long ago, and need to catch up. I love how you said not too long ago that you didn't read mysteries, and now look at you, reading and recommending as many as I do! lol
PS hurray for quiet times to read in!

Cath said...

Susan: It's crazy isn't it? Me and this crime book thing, I mean. I blush when I remember that I used to think crime books were only for little old ladies.

Oh gosh, you must try the Rizzoli and Isles books. The first two are excellent (a bit gory in places) but the 3rd. and 4th. are fantastic, particularly Body Double. It blew me away quite frankly. I felt like I'd taken a deep breath at the start and not let it out until the last page.

Another good series is the Inspector Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri, set in Sicily. I wasn't sure at first, he's a bit of an egotist, (the inspector not the author...) but I just read book 4 and loved it.

kim23 said...

thanks for sharing these amazing books with us, Cath! I will definitely read them because I absolutely adore crime and mystery novels. Few days ago, I finished to read the police novel of Elizabeth K Lee and I enjoyed it! I warmly recommend this excellent book!

Cath said...

Kim23: thanks for your comment! I too love crime and mystery novels and will definitely look into Elizabeth K Lee!