You can tell that any schedule I get falls to pieces in summer! But while there's still plenty of time to do some summer reading, I thought I'd share a few books I finished -- any of which I think you might enjoy!
I finished seven books this month, some pretty thick and all quite good. As always, my list leans heavily to mysteries, but there's one really rather lovely novel in this list as well.
A Question of Identity by Susan Hill
Dead Opposite the Church - Francis Vivian
This was written in the 1950s and is similar to many of the Golden Age of British Mystery books. Set in a newspaper office, it is a locked room mystery, in which the editor of a paper is killed. Was it the reporter who disagreed with his tactics, a local author, his sister and heir, or another of the potential suspects? It's short and good fun.
The Ghost Fields and The Woman in Blue - Elly Griffiths
Elly Griffiths writes the "Ruth Galloway" mysteries -- a series set in the UK region of Norfolk. Ruth is a forensic archaeologist, a single mother and police consultant when bones come into the picture. In "The Ghost Fields," Ruth and her fellow characters are drawn into a mystery regarding a prominent family living near the abandoned WWII air fields (or "ghost fields") where a body is found in an airplane during an archaeological evacuation. The plane is from WWII. The body is definitely far more contemporary.
In "The Woman in Blue," Ruth's druid friend Cathblad believes he's seen a vision of the Virgin Mary but he discovers it is the body of a young woman in a blue dressing gown. Meanwhile, Ruth is reunited with a friend from her past who is now planning to be an Anglican priest, a move not without controversy and the recipient of threatening letters. The cases coincide as Ruth and DCI Nelson are drawn into the case once again.
Fatal Remedies - Donna Leon
Commissario Guido Brunetti is back in the eighth installment of Donna Leon's series, set in Venice. This time his personal and professional lives collide when his wife, Paola, is arrested for vandalism, having hurled a rock into the window of a travel agency with a reputation for shady tourism involving underage girls. A bank robbery, occurring around the same time, that ended with a suspicious death. As the two events intersect, the Mafia comes into play, leading Brunetti on another intriguing chase.
As always, Leon doesn't disappoint. Like the Serrailler and Galloway mysteries, it is the private lives of the Brunetti family that provides an emotional center for the series, while her descriptions of the Venice tourists don't see are fascinating.
The French Widow - Mark Pryor
I wrote about "The French Widow" by Mark Pryor last month for Paris in July so I won't include it here but link to the earlier post. But as a quick summary, Hugo Marston, Chief of Security for the U.S. Embassy in Paris, is drawn into the case of a murder in a prominent Parisian family. Pryor has a wonderful sense of Paris and his writing easily takes viewers into the City of Light. (I have read two of these and while many of the characters recur, I haven't noticed that reading in order is essential.)
Love, Death and Rare Books - Robert Hellenga
This is the only fiction book from June. It follows the life of Gabe Johnson, the third in a generation of antiquarian book sellers. We meet Gabe as a youth but the bulk of the story follows him as an adult, living in Chicago and working with his father and in love with the elusive Olivia. As Gabe's life evolves, we follow changes in the book selling world as well as in his personal life, with the deaths of his father and grandfather. Carrying on the family legacy, he leaves Chicago for the Southern Michigan town of St. Anne (a fictional name for the small towns near Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, New Buffalo, and others on the southern Lake Michigan coast.) There he establishes his new business and continues many of the relationships he has developed along the way, including the love of his life, Olivia.
The story here is fine. The characters are interesting, one cares about them. But what most fascinated me was the breadth of information about the antiquarian book world and the things I learned from Gabe's own reading of favorites and what he learned from those books. I will look at the rare book business now with new and far more appreciative eyes.
Stay tuned! I'm pulling together July's list and I'll post it soon!
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