Cites & Bytes @ Bailey

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Recently Read and Heard....

Long car trips and long waits in airports bring us the following.... all in all, I think it is time for me to start reading some new mystery series. Any suggestions?

The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers. Lilian Jackson Braun. I'm reading these mainly from habit now and because I would hate to miss a volume in my complete run, but wow... autopilot. Spoiler alert: Polly the librarian dumps Jim Qwilleran. She takes her boring self off to Paris and doesn't come back. I hope he is as relieved as I am.

The Bookwoman's Last Fling by John Dunning. I have enjoyed the Bookman series featuring the character of Cliff Janeway, an ex-policeman turned rare book dealer. This entry relies more on the horse racing world for background, although rare children's books are the prize and the center of the mystery. I was disappointed, however, when Cliff finally focused on the killer as a result of a "hunch." I view this as cheating as I like to have at least a bit of a chance to solve the crime myself. Agatha Christie used to do this, too... that "had she but known" bit that stitches everything together at the end, but has left the reader out in the cold. (This phrase is in my mind since I read it on another blog, but it is also applicable here, I think.)

Dust by Martha Grimes. Okay, now you're talking. The Richard Jury/Melrose Plant mysteries are (to me) consistently delicious, well-plotted, thoughtful and broody (that's Richard Jury) and funny and quirky (that's the Melrose Plant part.) I think the major attractions of series books are a) you don't have to think too hard, and b) engaging characters for whom familiarity breeds fondness. This one whips together Henry James, a bad boy and his dog, Nazi art theft, and a vengeful cook, although some bits are left hanging. And then there's some hot sex for Richard Jury...

Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules, story collection edited by David Sedaris. Delightful audiobook with five wonderful stories from a larger print collection, I believe. It's hard to pick a favorite. I was deeply touched by the story of the dying friend in "The Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried," thinking of friends I have lost. Mary Louise Parker read that one. The story Sedaris reads about the unconventional substitute teacher, "Gryphon," made me smile and think of my own public school days.* I believe my favorite was the last tale of unrequited romance, "Cosmopolitan," wherein a lonely Indian man reads Cosmo to gain insight into the mysteries of love. It is poignantly read by the author, Akhil Sharma.

The River of Doubt by Candice Millard. I have to admit I did not get to hear all of this audiobook, but what I heard was rather amazing for being true. Theodore Roosevelt was a beast... in the sense that young people use it today, meaning he was fierce, strong-willed, he could take it. Roosevelt lost his run for a third term as president and "treated" himself to a near-death travel adventure up an unexplored branch of the Amazon as an antidote to depression. It seemed like they were constantly portaging the boats and losing desperately needed supplies. Roosevelt became extremely ill with an infection to an injured leg but refused to be carried and offered to commit suicide so the group would go on without him. Of course, this noble behavior might be expected from a presidential candidate who goes on with his scheduled speaking engagement with a would-be assassin's bullet in his chest. The more I read about Roosevelt, the more fascinating I find him. I'm at the point in the story where the suffering explorers have finally reached some safety and are within 15 days journey of civilization. The author makes an eloquent point... that none of the party would have survived (3 lose their lives) if the indigenous tribes had not allowed them to pass through the forest. Her descriptions are deft... this is one heck of a good story.

*Thanks to my anonymous commenter for correcting me. "Gryphon" is by Charles Baxter and read by David Sedaris... I was under the mistaken impression that Sedaris wrote the story.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gryphon by Charles Baxter

read by David Sedaris

It is an easy mistake, though! I enjoyed it, too.

3:00 AM  
Blogger Melba Tomeo said...

Thanks, Anonymous! I corrected the error and sent you some props. Also, thanks for reading!

7:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aw, shucks--thanks :)

8:50 AM  

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