Through no specific plan, it seems as though the books of July focused on three topics: Paris, New York and England (specifically, London and Penzance). They include a guide book, three mysteries, a novel of historical fiction, a chick-lit novel and a non-fiction history of a renowned hotel. It's summer -- and the reading is fun and easy!
"Paris" by Eleanor Aldridge
I wrote about this excellent new guidebook to sites, restaurants and more in Paris in far more detail during Paris in July. If you read the post then, move on! If not, you can find it well detailed in THIS POST.
"The Paris Key" by Juliette Blackwell
If you read my Paris in July post on this book, you can skip this one. In fact, unless you like a predictable novel set in Paris, you can probably skip the book, too. It's plot is routine (a woman divorcing her husband inherits a locksmith shop in Paris and moves there hoping to manage the shop and create a new life for herself.) Yes, there is a handsome Irish neighbor, an elderly and charming viscount who is a client of her uncles, an unusual cousin, an exuberant new French friend and a selection of kind neighbors. But will she be happy?
And, as she explores Paris and her uncle's home and shop, she discovers a secret about her past. Don't they all?
To give it its due, the setting is lovely and as one who has been to Paris, it was fun to see some of the spots I dearly loved featured in the book, which gives it an added visual. And I learned a good deal about antique locks and the Paris catacombs, so not all bad. It's not badly written, just trite. Hallmark movie formula.
"To Perish In Penzance" by Jeanne M. Dams
This is the fifth or sixth entry in the "Dorothy Martin" series by Jeanne M. Dams. These are relatively cozy mysteries featuring the American ex-pat (Dorothy), who has resettled and remarried in a small British town. After a long spell of bad weather, she and her husband, retired police commissioner Alan Nesbitt, decide to visit sunny Penzance, in Cornwall, where Alan was once a member of the police force and had one unsolved crime that still haunts him.
Their first day in the resort town they meet a beautiful young woman, Alexa, and her terminally ill mother, Eleanor. Alexa, adopted by Eleanor as a child and the birth daughter of her best friend, has decided to search for her father. But within days she is dead, in a scene reminiscent to that of her mother.
The last Dams I read did not impress me and I took a long break. But this one -- a fast read -- was very entertaining, revealing a great deal about the Cornish history of smuggling as well as the beauty of its rocky cliffs. The plot seems far more realistic than some of her work and I think the balancing element of Alan on the scene is a big plus. For a fun, quick read, it's rather fun.
"The Sentence Is Murder" by Anthony Horowitz
This is the second in Anthony Horowitz's "Hawthorne" series, in which the author himself plays a lead character in the mystery.
This one finds Hawthorne called in to investigate the murder of a prominent divorce attorney and the suspects abound. There is his husband (who is having an affair); the wife of his most recent client, who is an acclaimed author with a temper; the client himself, who may have his own reasons for wanting his lawyer dead; his former cave-splunking buddy, terminally ill and who knows a secret (or his wife); a woman who is the widow of another cave-splunker and is a beneficiary in the victim's will... the list goes on!
Adding to the fun, a race to the finish between Hawthorne (and Horowitz) and the detective assigned to the case and one who seemingly has it in for Horowitz.
All in all, this is another delightfully fun mystery with good humor, twists and turns and a fun and fast summer read!
"New York" by Edward Rutherfurd
In short, well worth it. All 1020 pages of it.
Edward Rutherfurd writes the kind of historical fiction I like -- he tells great sagas of fascinating places with intriguing characters, following through their families, rich and poor, through generations. Now and then, a famous person makes an appearance, but in their historical context. It's not a fake biography of people but true fiction with enough now-and-then "guest appearances" to be interesting but only in their own historical context. For example, during the Revolutionary War segment we see a fair amount of characters encountering George Washington, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. Did the encounters happen as written? Of course not -- it's fiction. But they COULD have!
The real interest is the families and in telling the saga of New York, Rutherfurd focuses on several. The leading players of the book are the Master family who come to New Amsterdam in the 1600s. Their story takes them through the Revolutionary War, where father and son are on opposing sides, the father being a loyalist, the son a patriot. It continues through future generations, right up through 9/11 and covering such events as the Civil War, the Draft Riots, Prohibition, the influx of immigrants from Italy and Ireland, the Triangle Factory fire, the Great Depression and more.
We also meet the O'Donnells -- Mary, the sister who becomes a maid and eventually a companion to Hettie Master, and Sean -- Mary's brother and a key player in Tammany Hall. From Germany, we meet Gretchen Keller and her brother, photographer Theodore. The Caruso family, particularly Salvatore, Luigi and Angelo are later immigrants from Italy. Sarah Adler and her family represent the Jewish men and women who made New York their home. Many of these characters are encountered by members of the Master family, if only in passing, but their stories are told, representative of the experiences of hundreds of thousands of new arrivals to America.
I think it's fair to call "New York" a family saga -- as well as a saga of a city. It's a very long book. And I found myself racing through it, reading late at night and not wanting to put it down.
"The Plaza" by Julie Satow
As long as I was reading about New York City, I thought I'd venture into non-fiction and the history of one of the city's oldest and arguably most famous hotels, "The Plaza." Satow's book has enough factual history to be enlightening and enough gossip and stories to be entertaining.
If you are a fan of history or architecture, the sections on how the Plaza was created and its ravishing details might be what fascinates you most. Or, if you were a fan of Kay Thompson's "Eloise," you'll delight in learning how the little girl who lived at the Plaza came into being -- and what an impact she made on its guests! Or perhaps you recall stories of Truman Capote's black-and-white ball with a guest list that was as eclectic as it was large.
Over time, the Plaza has changed owners several times, ranging from Conrad Hilton to Donald Trump and many others before and after. With each came changes in the structure and the interior design of the famed hotel. Often, those changes infuriated the "39 Widows" -- some of New York's wealthiest widowed women who called the Plaza their full time home.
Today on Broadway, Neil Simon's "Plaza Suite" is getting a revival with Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker. No matter what the reviews, they cannot compare with the star-studded story of the famed hotel itself.
"The Night Hawks" by Elly Griffiths
Several books I ordered from Amazon arrived here at the cottage and within two days I had finished "The Night Hawks," which I found hard to put down. It is the thirteenth book in the "Ruth Galloway" series by Griffiths and it was a good one. Although the mysteries are self-contained, this is a series with rich character development over time and best read in order.
They are dropping like flies in the area of Norfolk where Ruth Galloway has returned after an academic stint at Cambridge to be the department of archeology at the university where she once worked. A new term has barely begun when she is called to investigate bones found on a nearby beach following a murder reported by a group of detectorists called The Night Hawks. (A detectorist is one who goes out metal detecting in search of treasure.)
It's not long before the body count begins to pile up and the Norfolk police, under the leadership of DCI Harry Nelson, are called in to solve a baffling case that includes the legend of a fierce black dog that is a harbinger of death, more bones in a garden, a presumed murder-suicide, and the deaths of several more Night Hawks.
Fans of the series will be glad for the return appearances of Nelson's team -- Judy, Tanya and the new Tony; Judy's Druid partner, Cathblad; Nelson's wife, Michelle, and a surprise appearance by his former colleague Clough. New characters abound and the final chapters make me want to find the next in the series soon!