29 December 2010

An alternate list of the best of 2010

I'm mired in Mark Twain's sort of autobiography. I'm only about half way through and the wonderfulnesses are random and few and far between. If you want a preview of my thoughts (that I'll put together when I've finished the book or quit trying to read it) look at Garrison Keillor's review in the New York Times. In the meantime, here's a great list of the best of 2010. (I recommended one of the books on his list, and one of the 2010 books I liked was one he wrote about -- Gary writes about a lot more than what he reads, and his blog, Old and in the Way is worth reading on a regular basis.)

Okay, we're recommending each other, but Gary Sankary's list of his best reading of 2010 is worth looking at.

Best of 2010- Written Word
That time of year for Sank to start thinking about the best of 2010. Why? Why not. Oh, and as you’ll figure out pretty damned fast, it’s not books that came out in 2010, it’s books I read in 2010, and that matters. In this space anyway.

As many of you know, I’m a serious media hound. I consume a boatload of music, video and books. Well, I think it’s a boatload. When it comes to music it certainly is. When it comes to books, Mrs S kicks my butt, but I’m trying to get better and spend more time reading.

It’s the right thing to do.

I even stopped driving into the office this year so I could ride the bus and, yes, enjoy even more time for reading.

So dear readers, here it is. Sank’s BEST OF 2010. First edition- the written word...

02 December 2010

Lots of reviews

The New York Times is going to publish its list of 100 notable books for 2010. You can get a head start on the list here. Each book on the list includes a link to a review from the NYT Book Review. One of them I've already recommended. The list is alphabetical.

100 Notable Books of 2010

  • AMERICAN SUBVERSIVE. By David Goodwillie...

  • ANGELOLOGY. By Danielle Trussoni...
and on and on...
Now, go out there and READ!

08 November 2010

Singing not whistling

When I saw the name Ivan Doig among the new books at the Northfield library, I had good memories of a couple of his books. When I looked them up, it turns out I've read four of his books in the last 3 years. When I checked out Work Song, I had no idea exactly what I was getting into, because while Doig's books tend to be historical fiction, they range widely in that pasture.

It turns out that Work Song is a sequel to the best of the books I read, The Whistling Season.

And, like The Whistling Season, this book is just a story about a few people. It's set in Butte, Montana just after World War I. It turns out that Butte in 1919 was a multi-ethnic city of 100,000. Copper mining was just beginning to wind down. The post-war red scare was in full swing as was union activity. The Golden Age of paternalistic mega-corporations was just past its prime.

Into this scene, the University of Chicago scholar, gambling huckster, wood splitter, and school master from the earlier book, Morris Morgan, appears. He says without offering any details that he spent the decade between the two stories in Tasmania. He's unclear about what drew him back to Montana. The Chicago gamblers, who chased him to the frontier, remember him, and he's promised not to go near the woman with whom he ran from Chicago.

Whatever plans he had are thwarted when the railroad loses his trunk and he arrives in Butte with a stachel of clothes and necessaries. He ends up, luckily for a classically educated big city guy, with a job in the Butte Public Library (he was found reading Caeser in Latin by the classically inclined head librarian). The story revolves around Morris, the landlady of his boarding house, two of his fellow boarders, one of his former students (who is teaching in Butte) and her fiance (a miners' union leader) and the suspicious corporate enforcers trying to identify Wobblies (see IWW).

Like The Whistling Season, this book is about the characters. Unfortunately, the characters in Work Song aren't as well-drawn as the ones I remember from The Whistling Season. But, it has been a bit over two years since I read it. There's a bit of suspense and adventure, but no big events. The times in which the book is set deserved a couple big events. But they're not in the story. The time and place are not evoked as vibrantly as Davis and Winspear drew ancient Rome and 1930s London. But it was a pleasure to read about fairly normal life. No murders. No huge improbabilities. Just some colorful characters bumbling through life like most of us do.

I recommend reading The Whistling Season and Work Song as a pair. Then, I recommend choosing some others of Doig's books and trying them out. Have you read Work Song? Have you read other books by Ivan Doig? What did you think? Write and tell this little bit of the world how you reacted to them.

04 November 2010

I've gotta stop reading like this

The last time I was at the Northfield library, I picked up a Lindsey Davis [right] mystery, Scandal Takes a Holiday. Over the past few years, I've read several of Davis' mysteries set in the ancient Roman empire and starring Marcus Didius Falco, "private investigator." I've enjoyed them.

Like Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs mysteries, Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael mysteries, Tony Hillerman's mysteries, and... Well, like lots of mysteries, the setting in Davis' stories is an important as the characters and the plot. The settings are often one of my motives for reading a book.

Unlike the Maisie Dobbs mystery I read recently, I wasn't drawn into ancient Rome the way I was drawn into 1930's London. Davis does an incredible job of describing the place -- even down to its aromas. Maybe I was tired of reading about the buildings, meals, and smells of ancient Rome. This book seemed to be filled with too many of them.

There were lots of interactions among a large cast of characters, but they didn't hold my attention either. Not even the gangs of evil doers kept me interested. I was curious enough to read nearly every paragraph, but it wasn't easy to do.

When I read The Mapping of Love and Death a month or so ago, I could hardly wait to find time to read more. While reading Scandal Takes a Holiday, I kept looking for excuses to do something other than read. I even watched Castle.

I really liked some of the other Marcus Didius Falco stories. The one set in Londinium and another set on the German frontier were memorable. This one, not so much. I've often discovered that my reactions have more to do with me than with the book. Your results may vary.

So, if you've read Scandal Takes a Holiday or another of Lindsey Davis' books, tell us how you reacted.

Write and tell this little bit of the world.

29 October 2010

Another book I didn't really read

Masterpiece Mystery recently featured three stories featuring Kurt Wallander, the repressed and obsessive Swedish detective created by Henning Mankell. The Wallander mysteries are intriguing and Wallander as a character is too. I keep expecting him to break out and become a real person. Maybe I shouldn't.

I picked up Depths by Mankell at the Northfield library. I'd forgotten that Mankell has written things besides the Wallander mysteries. I didn't look too closely at the book. I should have.

The back of the book jacket might have given me a hint. There's a quote from a Swedish newspaper review: "Mankell's most ambitious literary work so far." For me, that kind of response is a warning.

Depths is not a mystery and Wallander is not a character.

It's the tale of a troubled and obsessive Swedish naval officer set in 1914 as a world war is about to begin. I can't critique much about this book, because I only read about a third of it. It's constructed with little chapters of one to a dozen paragraphs each. The book jacket biography says Mankell has written many plays. The tiny chapters are like tiny scenes from a movie. Or maybe they're like individual frames in one of those antique things called films. Each of those frames is a still picture. When you run them through a projector, you get the simulation of movement.

Practically nothing happens in most of the scenes in Depths. I kept reading expecting the scenes to add up to something. I don't understand the arithmetic of the book. Even when it seemed that something had happened, I couldn't understand what was going on. (Reminded me of calculus in fact.)

I got tired of the main character rowing off into the fog to stalk a woman who lived a solitary life on an island off the Swedish coast. She was as as helpless and hopeless as he was, and nothing made much sense. Maybe if I was Swedish and not American I'd understand more. (Depths was a best seller in Sweden.) Maybe if I could better recognize my own helplessnesses. It's really not worth the effort for me. I think it should have been a short story (or as Paul Binding suggested in his review - link below - a tragic folk ballad).

After struggling through about a third of the book (maybe only a quarter), I skipped to the end and read the last couple scenes. Evidently things had happened and there was an ending with cosmic justice (I guess). But if it took 400 pages to get there, I'm glad I didn't read all those pages to find out. Next time I'll make sure I'm checking out one of the Wallander books.

Have you read any of Mankell's books? Have you read Depths? How have you responded? Write and tell this little bit of the world what you thought.

14 October 2010

First romance, now fantasy

Taking Bird Loomis' advice, I picked up a book by Thomas Perry. And then another and another. I liked them. One of the things I liked was that the characters were new to me in each book. There are times when it's a treat to follow characters through several novels. (See Tony Hillerman, Dana Stabenow, and Jacqueline Winspear.) But the novelty in Perry's books was refreshing.

I did notice in the dust jacket bios, that Perry was identified as the author of the Jane Whitefield novels. I was curious enough to look for one the last time I was in the Northfield library (celebrating the centennial of its Carnegie building). I picked out the oldest Jane Whitefield novel I could find and checked out Dance for the Dead, published in '96.

The book starts out like gangbusters. The first two chapters are great short stories. I was ready to read a series of short stories with little ligaments holding them together into a "novel." Turns out that the rest of the book is woven around those stories to create the novel. There are other short stories, but by the time I got involved in the book, I wasn't looking for them anymore.

This novel, like most of the other Perry novels, is a fantasy. Jane Whitefield is a magician, a superwoman, and smarter than any of the other bears. She's a Seneca woman from western New York who helps people disappear when they need to hide from bad people. It's a dangerous occupation, but she's the expert. Like Sherlock Holmes, she has people who help her in small, but essential ways. She always has enough money and another identity with documentation (even ones she can share with her clients). She always knows people she can go to. They're always home. She always wins the fights. She always is the survivor. No villain that Perry can invent can outwit her for long. She's heartless with the bad guys and motherly with victims. She probably does everything except shepherd people into heaven. The ones she sees out of this world are obviously going elsewhere.

I had to put on hold my desires for believability. There's practically nothing believable in the book. The action scenes are well done and suspenseful, as long as you forget that Jane Whitefield is coming out on top a the end. The plot is simple, but the telling is complex. That may be why I liked reading it.

Have you rad Dance for the Dead? Have you read any of the other Jane Whitefield novels? What did you think of them? Write and tell this little bit of the world what you thought.

07 October 2010


I've read several of Jacqueline Winspear's novels and really liked the atmosphere she creates. The novels are set in London during the early 1930s with World War I and the depression important for context. Well, not the depression so much, but the post-war experience of Winspear's main character, Maisie Dobbs, is vital. There are regular references to the depression, but Dobbs and her assistant are mostly observers. Dobbs is a private investigator and people wealthy enough to hire her haven't been hurt by the economic disaster very much. So, Maisy Dobbs and Billy Beale are gainfully employed.

It's Winspear's use of language and attention to detail that create the atmosphere of the 1930s. I can't swear that it's the 1930s atmosphere she creates, but it's definitely not a late 20th or early 21st century atmosphere. Words, phrases, and bits of material culture all contribute to a sense of another time. A romantic re-imagining of a time long past. (Maisie would have been about the same age as my grandparents.)

One of the reasons I have kept coming back to read more of Winspear's books is that they haven't strayed into romance novel territory. The stories focus on a mystery and the steps Maisie and Billy take to uncover the hidden facts. Maisie is a young, single woman and you might expect romance to be in the cards. But Winspear has created a woman who was a front-line nurse in France during World War I. She returned with traumatic stresses. The young doctor she loved and served with also came back from the war, but he was damaged much more severely. A head injury left him an invalid in a hospital for a dozen years after the war. Romance was on hold for Maisie.

But, a book or so ago, the injured doctor died. Maisie had a date or two and a serious suitor whom she turned down. In this book, The Mapping of Love and Death, romance blossoms.

But the romance is not just about Maisie and a new suitor or idealized memories of another time. Maisie is trying to find out what happened to a young American, a volunteer in the British forces during the war who went missing. In 1932, his body was found in France and, with it, a packet of love letters from an unnamed British nurse. The American parents want to identify the woman and learn more about their son's last days. (Of course it's more complicated than that because the post-mortem on the soldier's skeleton suggests he was murdered.) But there's the soldier's romance from 1915. There's a romantic image of a beautiful valley in California that the soldier visited before the war. There's an obvious romance still going on between the grieving American parents. There's are filial relationships between Maisie and her father and between Maisie and her dying mentor. And more. There is romance of one kind or another throughout the book. So, when Maisie is approached by a new suitor and she accepts his suit, it's not out of place. It does make me wonder how Maisie will continue her career if she marries into a proper upper-class family in London of the mid-1930s. Charity work, maybe. But investigative work for paying clients? I think not. The post-war, depression years were ones of great opportunity for women in Britain, but there were some things that proper women just didn't do.

In any case, in spite of all the romance and romance novel-like attributes in this book, I enjoyed it. It was a little day dream away from the fall of 2010 to an idealized time in early 20th century London. The characters are attractive. The story telling is well done and sometimes compelling. The most unbelievable thing is that Maisie's 1930 MG doesn't break down -- ever. The reputation those cars had doesn't support such reliability. Ah, escapism. Sometimes it's just the thing.

Have you escaped into a romantic past? How'd it go for you? Have you escaped into Jacqueline Winspear's London of 75+ years ago? What did you think of it? Write and tell this little bit of the world what you think.

Jacqueline Winspear's web site
Jacqueline Winspear talks about the book

Perry's Death Benefits

Gary Sankary, wrote about Death Benefits by Thomas Perry. It's one I'd written about previously: More from a fox of an author.

28 September 2010

Biological science fiction

Some time ago, Gary Sankary mentioned, in his blog Old and In the Way, that he'd enjoyed reading Darwin's Radio by Greg Bear. That was a recommendation to explore, even though he said very little else.

In the back of my head I knew that Greg Bear was a science fiction writer. So, the next time I was in the Northfield library, I browsed through the science fiction section looking for his name. A number of his books were on the shelf, but not Darwin's Radio. Okay, I thought, I'll look again later.

After several unsuccessful forays to the science fiction shelves, I resorted to using the catalog (it's still a card catalog to me, even if it's now online). And there I found the book. It had probably been on a shelf all along, but someone had decided to shelve it in the "fiction" section instead of the "science fiction" section.

This has happened before and I don't get it. Sure, there are no space aliens, intergalactic travel, or imaginary technology in Bear's book, but it's the best kind of science fiction. It is (or was when written in '99) a projection of ideas based on contemporary science. So shelve it with the rest of science fiction.

The science it's based on is biology -- molecular biology involving DNA. Now, I still don't understand very much about this science. I have read enough Stephen J. Gould essays to grasp the concept of punctuated equilibrium, but beyond that I'm clueless. Bear could have been telling me that up is down in genetics and I wouldn't have known the difference. But he seemed to understand the basics and some of the scientific speculation. And then Bear struck out from there to science fiction.

WordiQ.com says, "The scientific details in his work are such that he is usually classified as a hard science fiction author...

"Darwin's Radio... stick[s] closely to the known facts of molecular biology of viruses and evolution. While some fairly speculative ideas are entertained (it is after all, fiction) they are introduced in such a rigorous and disciplined way within the context of the cutting edge of those disciplines, that Darwin's Radio gained praise in the science journal Nature."

The mix that informs the plot includes mass murders in Eastern Europe, some possibly Neanderthal mummies in an ice cave in the Alps (Bear was referencing Ötzi the Iceman), a flu-like illness that seemed to be connected to huge numbers of spontaneous miscarriages and new ideas about human genetics. Nearly all the main characters are scientists, although some of them have fled the ivory towers of academe for commercial ventures and public health administration.

The scientific conflict arises when some scientists see rapid evolutionary change as a disease. The public health authorities have to take action to safeguard populations. Other scientists think they recognize evolution at work and do their best to evade the public health officials who threaten a natural process.

The central characters are a molecular biologist and a discredited archaeologist. Bear makes them an attractive couple and makes them fugitives by the end of the book -- sympathetic fugitives, but on the run nonetheless. That transition from science fiction to hide and seek was difficult for me.

There's too much scientific detail in the book for me. Bear spreads his explanation of genetic details quite thickly on the story. In other places, the story telling is somewhat ponderous. I found myself skimming and skipping a lot. But it's an engaging story and I, too, enjoyed reading it. I might even go looking for the sequel, Darwin's Children.

Have you read Darwin's Radio? What did you think of it? Write and tell this little bit of the world.

22 September 2010

Literature Maps

I was playing with Literature Maps this morning before really getting underway. (One delight of retirement is that I can get up, post something on a professional blog, go for a sunrise walk, read headlines in more than a dozen newspapers, have breakfast and my first coffee, and then consider "getting underway" at 9:30am.)

The Literature Maps are part of Gnod, described on its web site as "a self-adapting system, living on this server and 'talking' to everyone who comes along. Gnods intention is to learn about the outer world and to learn 'understanding' its visitors." I'm not sure what that means, and there's no explanation of how the "system" works. However, if you click on the "Gnod Books" link, you get to a page titled, "gnooks." There you'll find links to the Literature Maps and a discussion about Literature Forms. You'll also find a link to "Gnod's Suggestions," which is where the site gathers data for constructing the Literature Maps. (It collects this data so literally, that typos and misspellings are also collected and republished on the Literature Maps.) At that page, you'll be asked to identify three of your favorite writers. Based on the names you submit, you'll be presented with the name of an author you might like and a link to a Literature Map for that author.

I'd looked at these Literature Maps before, but I hadn't spent much time looking carefully at them. The idea is that if you plug in an author's name, the program will create a "map" of names, and that the closer the names of "two writers are, the more likely [it will be that] someone will like both of them."

I've been tempted before to look at the names that are closest together, but this morning I discovered that the outliers are equally interesting.

So, here are links to Literature Maps for authors I've recently written about and some of my favorites. Using Carol O'Connell as an example, the names closest to hers on the "map" are Gerri Hill, Charles Todd, Maan Meyer, Elizabeth Amber, and Jo Clayton. None of these ring bells with me. However, if I look at the outer edges of this "map," I find the names Walter Mosely, Jonathan Kellerman, John LeCarre, Nevada Barr, Dana Stabenow, Marcia Muller, and Dick Francis, all of whom have written books I've liked. Does that fit with my ambivalent response to the Mallory mysteries?

So, look at some of these Literature Maps or create your own. How well do they reflect your experiences? Write and tell this little bit of the world what you think.

21 September 2010

An American Salander?

A couple weeks ago, NetFlix delivered the DVD of the movie The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to our mailbox. After reading the books and hearing Dan Conrad's raving about the movie, I was really looking forward to seeing the movie and reading the subtitles. I was not disappointed. I only wished I'd seen the movie on a big screen in a theater. The small screen seemed to limit the impact of the movie.

Nancy has not read the Larsson books, but she was entranced by the stories in the movie and taken by the Salander character. She was reminded of a central character in a series of mysteries by Carol O'Connell [left]: NY cop Kathy Mallory. The two young women characters are blazingly smart, extraordinary hackers, and physical fighters without equal. They both are the products of very traumatic childhoods. They're both loners. The differences are physical. If Salander is a tattooed, gothic waif, Mallory is a lucious beauty who can't do surveillance because everybody notices her.

Nancy pulled Mallory's Oracle and The Man Who Cast Two Shadows off her shelf and handed them to me. I read them both. There are big differences between the Stieg Larsson books and the Carol O'Connell books. I'm not quite sure what they are. All the characters are intriguing, but the Mallory character is somehow drawn less intensely than the Salander character.

Well, there is my reading. I think I read these books in snatches too small to get into the flow of the story telling. O'Connell uses quick cuts between "scenes" with little in the way of transistion. Sometimes there's an extra space between paragraphs; other times not. But I would be reading about a discussion of magic and illusion set in an old magician's storage spot. In the next sentence I would be reading about a poker game in which a character without a poker face keeps losing his spare change. And then there were so many characters. If I didn't remember who was who, I'd get totally lost in the transition. And if I read only a few pages at time, I had trouble remembering who was who.

So, the reading experience was, for me, disjointed.

The stories in these novels were intriguing and convoluted. The action scenes, were not interrupted by abrupt transistions and were well scripted. The setting is Manhattan. What's not to like? But, they were not as compelling as Larsson's stories. I could not have read his books in the small snatches I used to read O'Connell's.

Have you read Mallory's Oracle and/or The Man Who Cast Two Shadows? Have you read another of O'Connell's books? What did you think? Is Mallory an upper class version of Salander? Write and tell this little bit of the world what you think.

20 September 2010

You're reading my memory

Novelist James Collins wrote about reading, memory, and thinking about reading in yesterday's New York Times. It reminded me of several of the reasons I began writing little bits about the the things I read. One of the reasons was to reflect on what I read. The other reason for writing an actual newsletter for 20 years and this blog for the last four is that this is my memory cache.

Collins' essay is well worth the 3 minutes it takes to read it.

PS: I've completely forgotten the plot of one of the last two books I read. My blog entry about it is in rough draft and will show up here soon — without a plot summary. In the meantime, I have to check the TV schedule to see if there's a golf match broadcast today.

The Plot Escapes Me
I have just realized something terrible about myself: I don’t remember the books I read… These are books I loved, but... all I associate with them is an atmosphere and a stray image or two, like memories of trips I took as a child.

Nor do I think I am the only one with this problem. Certainly, there are those who can read a book once and retain everything that was in it, but anecdotal evidence suggests that is not the case with most people. Anecdotal evidence suggests that most people cannot recall the title or author or even the existence of a book they read a month ago, much less its contents.

So we in the forgetful majority must, I think, confront the following question: Why read books if we can’t remember what’s in them?…

Now, with a terrible sense of foreboding, I slowly turn to look again at my bookshelf… And I have to ask myself, Would it have made no difference if I had never read any of them? Could I just as well have spent my time watching golf?…

06 September 2010

Alaskan summer

The other book I picked up at the Northfield library was A Night Too Dark by Dana Stabenow. I think I've been reading Stabenow's books for a couple decades. She's written more than 30. I keep reading them because most of them are set in Alaska. Kate Shugak or Liam Campbell show up in many of the books, and they are interesting characters. Besides creating interesting characters, Stabenow weaves good plots, tells good stories, writes good action scenes, and tells good jokes once in awhile.

I don't remember any jokes in A Night Too Dark, but the characters and plot are good. I never did figure out the title. I sort of expected that it might have something to do with short days and long nights of the Alaskan winter. Nope. The story takes place in the summer. Maybe it refers to the tragedy at the end. Or maybe things in Kate Shugak's future.

Oh well, the action centers on exploratory work on a potential gold mine just beyond the boundaries of a national park and native territory. Lots of new people flooding a once isolated community that welcomes the inflow of money more than the influx of people. A depressed mine worker walks off into the wilderness to return his body "to nature." A body is found. A month later, the missing guy stumbles out of the woods much the worse for wear, but very much alive.

And there are people and events as unusual and unexpected as anything in a script for Northern Exposure. It's Alaska, after all. Alaska state trooper Jim Chopin hires former PI Shugak (who is also his parmour) to help investigate. Old Sam goes fishing for salmon and hunting moose out of season. Kate's foster son Johnny gets a girlfriend and a paying job. Jim and Kate are as randy as usual.

It was fun to read. It's more chewing gum for the mind and a great summer book. Luckily, I finished it before summer was over.

Did you read A Night Too Dark? Write and tell this little bit of the world what you thought.


When I had read the available books from West Yellowstone, I was back in Northfield heading for the public (socialist) library. The librarians have a rolling cart positioned just in front of the main desk where recently-returned books are placed before they are reshelved. I always look at the contents of that cart.

The look paid off the last time I was there, and I went no further. I plucked a new Dana Stabenow mystery and Thomas Perry's Strip from the cart, went to the automatic check out machine with my library card, and left the library. I doubt I was there more than four minutes and walked away with several hours of good reading. I'll write about the Stabenow book later, but here's to Thomas Perry.

If many mystery writers are producing episodes of TV series featuring a few main characters and a few settings, Perry is producing movies set in a variety of places and populated with characters unseen elsewhere in the world of fiction. The dust jacket informations says that Perry "is the author of the Jane Whitefield series..." Well, I might have to go look for one of those. But for now, there is a long list of non-series Thomas Perry books that I look forward to.

Strip, like Metzger's Dog and Death Benefits, is a well-told entertaining tale.

A hapless mook lucked out when robbing a strip club owner who was trying to deposit the nightly receipts from his three gentlemen's clubs. A hapless LA newcomer, who has been spening his retirmement savings trying to impress girls, gets fingered for the robbery. A hapless police lieutenant, who has simultaneous twenty-year marriages and a kid from each who is about to enroll in an expensive university, is assigned to investigate the robbery. The mook gets a girl friend/accomplice for the next late night robbery, and she excitedly shoots someone. The newcomer proves that he's not hapless. The lieutenant stumbles along trying to figure out who is doing what to whom and where will the tuition money come from. Then, a Mexican drug boss and his bodyguards are murdered.

Details? You'll have to read Strip. It's a great and complicated tale with an ending befitting O. Henry.

Have you, too, read Strip? What did you think? Write and tell this bit of the world what you think.

04 September 2010

Horses and books

One of the books Nancy bought at the Bookworm in West Yellowstone was The Bookwoman's Last Fling by John Dunning. I was about to run off to the library when she said she was busy with John McPhee's Rising from the Plains and I was welcome to read the Dunning book. Such a deal.

I've read a couple of Dunning's books before and they've been entrancing. The books are about the adventures of ex-Denver cop turned rare book dealer Cliff Janeway. This one adds a little Dick Francis flavor because Janeway takes up scut work at a couple racetracks in order to find out who had stolen some treasures from an incredible book collection. Oh, and whether the books' owner had been killed some twenty years earlier.

Along the way there's the matter of a middle-age romance between Janeway and his lawyer girlfriend. And the ex-cop's hankering for a return to investigative action and away from the cerebral book business.

There are some good guys, some bad guys, and some nuts, and lots of horses, and red herrings. But the story moves along and it's interesting right to the end. It was not a book that I felt I had to read quickly (like the Stieg Larsson books). I read The Bookwoman's Last Fling methodically, and that's perhaps how the story was told. In the tropical days at the end of August when we were all hiding in the air conditioning from the heat and humidity, it was a good book to read.

Have you read The Bookwoman's Last Fling? What did you think? Write, and tell this little bit of the world what you think.

31 August 2010

From the far north

I had three books to write about, and I wrote about one. Now, I still have three books to write about because I've read another. It's time to write.

The other book I bought at West Yellowstone's Bookworm was The Black Path by Åsa Larsson. (She's no relation to Stieg Larsson.)

Three years ago, about the time I was beginning to read Scandinavian mysteries, I read her book Sun Storm. I liked that book enough for the vague memories to encourage me to pick up The Black Path while in Montana.

The book has echoes of the crooked business people that Stieg Larsson's character Mikael Blomkvist was writing about at the beginning and end of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The story here is about a trio of successful Swedish entrepreneurs who reach too far and not too well.

The stars of the story are the same police detective (Anna-Maria Mella) and lawyer (Rebecka Martinsson) who were featured in Sun Storm. The story is convoluted and overly-complex. It's full of flashbacks and asides. I found it quite difficult to follow the story in the first half of the book before I got to know who the characters were.

This is evidently the third book featuring this cop-lawyer pair. (I missed one, I guess.) Maybe that's why I don't have a very good impression of who these women are. Maybe Larsson has never done much revelation about the characters. Too bad, there's potential.

  • Maxine Clarke's review at EuroCrime.co.uk
  • A review from Complete Review
  • A review by Uriah Robinson (Uriah Robinson is the blogname of a short, balding, retired health care professional) at Crime Scraps

23 August 2010

Iclandic mystery, again

Suddenly, so it seems, I've read 3 books without thinking much or writing anything. What was it that some famous or notorious person said about the unexamined life or unexamined reading experience?

We are back from vacation (for three weeks now).

When we were in West Yellowstone, we visited one of our favorite bookstores, The Bookworm [see the "tower" with the word "Books" on it in the photo to the left -- click on the picture for a larger view]. Shopping there was more difficult than usual because the store was wrapped in crime scene tape for a couple days. We never found out what happened, but there weren't any body outlines taped on the floor inside. (Then again, there very little floor space inside.)

Nance and I each bought a couple books.

I mined the Scandinavian mystery section (yes, there's a table with piles of mysteries by Nordic authors). The first one I read was Silence of the Grave by Indriðason, the Icelandic writer whose main character, Erlendur, is a sad case. But Indriðason's stories aren't as depressing as those of other Scandinavian writers.

I picked this 2002 novel, which is the fourth of ten books with police inspector Erlendur as the primary character. I've read one earlier book and three later ones. Silence of the Grave offers some insight into the Erlendur character and his relationships with his children. It also allows Indriðason to tell a complicated story in which the present reflects the past.

In the murder mystery, construction excavation uncovers a skeleton. Erlendur and his partners are assigned to determine who was involved and what had happened fifty years earlier. Archaeologists excavate the burial, the detectives look at records and interview former residents, and Erlendur tries to excavate the history of his daughter in order to figure out what happened to the child he abandoned when he walked out on his marriage twenty years earlier. And he tries to find a way to save the drug-addicted daughter who has just survived a dangerous miscarriage.

There were moments (especially as I sat by the Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park), when I nearly gnashed my teeth because the stories seemed overly complicated. But the stories were compelling and I kept on reading. In the end, the complexity was worthwhile and the explanations created by bringing together the very disparate details made all the stories in this book come alive.

And the story of Erlendur, his depression and his passivity and his lack of self-understanding, made it possible for me to understand a bit more about his seemingly heartless flight from his family and his relationship with his daughter (which is part of a couple of the later books).

That gets me to the point of suggesting that you read Indriðason's books in the order in which they were written if understanding the Erlendur character is important to your reading of the mysteries. That would mean reading Sons of Dust and Silent Kill before going on to Jar City, Silence of the Grave, Voices, The Draining Lake, Arctic Chill, and Hypothermia.

Looking back at my reactions to the three newer Indriðason books I've read, I'm not as enthusiastic about Silence of the Grave as I was about Voices, The Draining Lake, and Arctic Chill. But it's worth the time. Maybe someday I'll get all these books together in one place and read through them in chronological order.

Then again, there are so many other books to read.

11 August 2010

Reading Stieg Larsson while in South Dakota

Like Bird, I finished Stieg Larsson's trilogy while on vacation. But I'd read the first two books before I left home.

I was amazed that The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest began exactly where The Girl Who Played with Fire had ended. It was almost as if an editor had cut the manuscript at the end of a paragraph and declared the first part book 2. The section beginning with the next paragraph was thus declared to be book 3. If I'd been at home, I'd have gotten Fire off the shelf to remind myself exactly what was going on in the final pages. But I was in South Dakota.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is a coda to the story (and it is all one story). Bird likened the trilogy to Tolkein's epic. As I read the last book, I began to think of Larsson's story as a symphony. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is the first movement which introduces the themes and characters; The Girl Who Played with Fire is a second movement in which those themes and characters are played out; The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is really two movements -- the first movement introduces new characters who part of one of the main themes and the second is the coda, or conclusion where all the themes and characters are resolved. (Pardon my musical ignorance, but that's how I understand symphonies. Corrections and instructions are welcome.)

After the heights of the second movement (Fire), the third and fourth movements of Hornet's Nest were a bit of a let down, but they're sort of supposed to be as the conflicts are resolved. By the time the really bad guys are introduced in the first part of Hornet's Nest, they are so vulnerable that their fate seems obvious. And the final resolutions are almost "Happily Ever After (sort of)."

I, too, was driven to read these books. I just didn't have them all during one vacation time. The characters are what really carried the story for me. The conspiracy was a little thin and a lot paranoid, but almost believable. (The Cold War can be a scapegoat for lots of terrible fictional things since it was the cause of so many terrors of real life. Remember the Cuban Missile Crisis?) But the story telling kept me going as well, though I don't know if it would have been as good without Salander and Blomkvist and the villains.

I leave it to some academics to point out the commonalities between Larsson's books, Tolkein's stories, Rowling's wizardry, and other immensely popular "must reads." I'd be interested in hearing their theories about what makes books so quickly and immensely popular.

But here's the deal: the three Larsson books are worth the time -- even if you only devote half an hour at bedtime for a couple months to them. But read them in order. I'll bet that those half hours become hours and then weekend afternoons pretty quickly.

Katherine Dunn's review of Hornet's Nest in The Oregonian
Ed Siegel's review of Hornet's Nest in Newsday
Alicia Rancilio's review of Hornet's Nest in Taiwan News

Racing through the Millennium Series

Bird Loomis wrote about the last Stieg Larsson book before I did. Here's his take.
For a mystery buff, I may have been the last person on earth to start reading Stieg Larsson's Girl With Dragon Tattoo from the “Millennium” series.

Jeesh, the Swedish Tattoo film came out, and I had to avoid it, knowing that I wanted to experience reading the books before I saw any of the films (the second one has been released in the US and a US director is working on an American version of Dragon Tattoo).

I wasn't really worried that I'd be disappointed. Everyone who has talked or written about the series has been pretty damned positive.

So, about two weeks ago, heading out to the Pacific Northwest for vacation, I took the first volume to begin on the plane.

It's always fun to be caught up in a book, racing ahead because you're compelled to. (It's also fun to savor books, but sometimes the narrative just requires that you put everything aside.) A couple hundred pages in by the time I got to Seattle, I luxuriated in the cool temperatures and just kept going. Luckily my in-laws had the remaining two books in the series (in hardback!).

I finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and plunged into The Girl Who Played with Fire. My brother-in-law offhandedly said he didn't think it was quite as good as the first and third, but you could have fooled me. And although I finished Fire at about 10:30 at night, I immediately started The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest that evening. Despite kayaking, biking, eating salmon, drinking beer, etc., I got through the last volume within another day or so - more or less 1700 pages in about a week.

A lot's been written about Larsson's's books, and I surely have no great, overarching take on them (well, actually I do, noted below, but it's scarcely all that well considered). But I am interested in why some books pull you in so completely that you just can't stop until you're completely done. For me, although the plotting is decent, it's the characters that are so compelling, even if Lisbeth Salander and Michael Blomkvist are, like many thriller characters, a bit beyond belief. Indeed, that's part of their charm. Many of the less central characters have their moments, a lot within the Vanger family.

And although there are numerous surprises, the overall arc of the story, especially in the last two books, leads one to believe that things will turn out well for the major characters and that, roughly speaking, justice will be done. About half way through the last book, it dawned on me that these three books were comparable to the Lord of the Rings, along with The Hobbit. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is like The Hobbit in that it introduces you to all the characters and the turf to be played on, but the real story doesn't start until the first book of the Rings trilogy. Larsson's first book is a great start, and we understand the world he's created, but the 2nd and 3rd books offer the real meat of one continuing story - not quite the same quest as Frodo's, but a quest (for revenge, sanity, justice?) nevertheless. Thus the seamless transition between Fire and Hornet's Nest.

In a recent post, Ken talked about putting down a Michael Connelly book because of some of the content. And these books are scarcely for the faint-hearted (nor is the first film, as I understand). Much of the talk about the books and Larsson revolves around victimhood, rape, and abuse in its many forms. But issues of gender and sex and violence are integral to these books - I'm not sure there's anything that is gratuitous (but that's probably a matter of opinion). And compared to some other thriller writers (Andrew Vachss comes most notably to mind), Larsson's not so hard edged.

And in the end, he has given us Lisbeth Salander, a truly remarkable invention of his mind (and apparently, his experience as a teenager). What a gift, and perhaps the most notable reason to hunker down and read these books without coming up for air.

Katherine Dunn's review of Hornet's Nest in The Oregonian
Ed Siegel's review of Hornet's Nest in Newsday
Alicia Rancilio's review of Hornet's Nest in Taiwan News

28 July 2010

Beauty and Beastly

In preparation for a road trip away from the great prairies I picked up Michael Connelly's 2008 novel The Scarecrow.

I've had mixed reactions to Connelly's books ever since son Jim introduced me to them. Connelly is a great story teller. He weaves together intricate plots and creates fascinating characters. But I take his story telling too literally. The bad guys he invents are really bad guys. The crimes they commit are about the most reprehensible that Connelly can imagine.

There's only so much imaginary awfulness that I want to read about.

That was especially true for me as I read The Scarecrow. It didn't help that I was reading this one while in one of the earth's most beautiful places.

The plot is about a serial killer who is more of a criminal mastermind than Lex Luthor ever could be. Reporter Jack McEvoy is being laid off by his cost-cutting newspaper and is out to write a story good enough to embarrass his soon-to-be-ex bosses. FBI agent Rachel Walling has resigned under pressure for using a Bureau airplane under questionable circumstances. She has a reputation to protect and scores to settle as well.

I was engaged and drawn along by Connelly's story telling over half way through the book. Then the beauty of a mountain sunrise convinced me that I didn't have to read a book about some of the worst human depravity -- even if the good guys might win in the end.

I put it aside. Maybe I'll go back and finish it someday.

Have you read The Scarecrow? What did you think? Write and tell this little bit of the world.

05 July 2010

What's a caper?

This time I went to a book store and found another Thomas Perry novel. After Bird's classification of Perry as a fox of a writer (as opposed to a one-track hedgehog) and after reading Death Benefits and Pursuit, I didn't know what to expect from Metzger's Dog.

My curiosity was aroused by a quote from The New York Times Book Review on the cover: "Very sharp, very funny..." Then, as I began reading the book, I quickly learned that the Metzger of the title is a cat.

It only got better from the cover and the first page. It is very funny. Great one-liners abound, but they're very bound to the context. This is not a mystery or an adventure, it's a comic opera that belongs in the category of "caper" movies like A Fish Called Wanda, Ocean's Eleven, or The Italian Job. I'm surprised it never made it to the big screen or the little one.

A Micky Mouse crime gang steals some cocaine from a research lab and also nabs a stack of classified CIA research on how the USA could take over Mexico. After the mooks fence the cocaine, they find out what they have in secret paper and set out to collect from the CIA for keeping the secrets.

The meetings in Langley, Virginia about how to get the papers back AND terminate the criminals are the funniest parts of the book. I think we're likely to be thankful for the skills collected and used by the CIA, but we're also delighted to think of the people who work for "the company" as fallible and sometimes clueless. The spooks are fallible and clueless in this caper.

Metzger and his dog are not clueless, even if Metzger's feeder is slightly clueless. Metzger's feeder is the focus of the little crime club that hopes to retire on the cocaine money and the CIA's payoff. The CIA would llke to eliminate Metzger's friends, the embarrassment of the stolen papers, and the diplomatic disaster of publicizing plans for the overthrow of a friendly, neighboring country's government.

But the comic opera CIA director is a character out of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta and so are his plans for dealing with this situation. The plot gets more and more complex and less and less believable as it goes on. But Metzger's Dog is delightful. Once again, Perry got me through the rough parts with really good story telling. I recommend it.

Thomas Perry does indeed know many ways to write books. I'll look for more.

Have you read Metzger's Dog? Write and tell us what you thought of it.

04 July 2010

Frugality again

I don't just read about murder and mayhem. I just finished The New Frugality by Chris Farrell. If his name sounds familiar, it's probably because you listen to public radio on Saturday morning. He's the guy who seems to answer listeners' questions off the top of his head on American Public Media's Marketplace Money. In fact, most of his answers probably require him to look some things up. He's thorough.

The book is a primer of personal finance in the post-recession, post-auto industry collapse, post-investment banks collapse world. The book is probably aimed at people younger than I. I heard naive versions of most of this advice from my parents. Mom and Dad never took a class or studied economics. But they learned a fair bit by living through the Great Depression, a World War, the expectations of another depression, the boom of the '50s and '60s, and the inflation of the '70s. The lessons they taught were limited by their own experiences, but were very similar to the ones touted by Chris Farrell in this book: don't take risks you can't afford to lose; don't get hooked on owning things; keep a safety net beneath your everyday living; don't get involved in things too complicated to understand; and don't start things you probably can't finish.

Of course these were rules broken with glee in the '90s by enough people to get all of us in trouble. That's why the book's called The New Frugality. (He does make a distinction between being cheap and being frugal, something I didn't learn from my parents.) The book's about living, earning, spending, saving, planning, getting an education, retiring, and giving. He advocates all those things within financial reason.

I thought about giving copies of this book to my children, but I think only the youngest needs it. On the other hand, maybe I'm overestimating the financial sophistication of the older ones. They all seem to be demostrating a reasonable frugality in their lives, but we've never really talked about it.

Hey, kids, Christmas is coming.

Have you read The New Frugality? Write and tell this little bit of the world what you think of it.

03 July 2010

Another novel by Thomas Perry

I did go back to the Northfield Library and look for another Thomas Perry novel after reading the last one. I checked out Pursuit, Perry's 2001 novel about the ultimate hunt.

People as prey to other people shows up in horror and science fiction as THE ultimate hunting game. Many of the movie and TV treatments can be traced back to Richard Connell's 1924 story, "The Most Dangerous Game." The hapless (even if skilled) victims are almost always the losers of bets or trapped by circumstance into the position of the stalkee. The stalker knows the lay of the land and has the advantages of hunting prowess and weapons. There's a movie trailer haunting TV land now about a bunch of humans on a strange planet being hunted by monster, mechanical aliens (I think). The premier combat/crime/first-person shooter video and computer games also fall into this genre.

I think Perry goes them all one better. No simple victim and villain in this story. The hunter in this pursuit is a former cop turned very private investigator. He'll hunt down the biggest, meanest bad guys -- for the right price. And at the end of the hunt, if the bad guys don't surrender, he turns their bodies over to the current cops. This hunter has been doing this for a long time. And he's very good at what he does.

The prey in this pursuit is a serial killer for hire. For the right price, he'll kill whomever he's pointed at and anyone he thinks might threaten his survival. He's been doing this for a few years. He's very good at what he does.

After an assassination made to look like a crazed mass murder, and after the local constabulary runs out of leads, the father of one of the victims hires the ex-cop to find the murderer. Pursuit is on.

The first thing the hunter does is publicize his hiring and the pursuit -- even before he has any idea who the prey is. That's where the mind games begin. They play a major role in the investigation and the hunt.

There's a great deal of intense action in Pursuit. It's one of the reasons it took me so long to read the book. (I also had to prepare for a teach a week-long class. That's not easy to do when it's the only class I teach during the year.) During most of the time I was reading Pursuit, I could only deal with a chapter or two at a time. I have trouble with keeping my blood pressure down when I'm relaxing. Reading more than a chapter or two of the action and mind games that Perry describes was all I and my systolic and diastolic could handle. But I was always drawn back.

The story is well told, suspenseful, violent, and bloody. There's more violence and blood than I usually tolerate, but Perry does such a good job of setting up the ultimate hunt and telling the story, that I wanted some resolution. And it wasn't ever clear whether the hunter or the hunted or neither would come out alive.

In many ways this was quite different from the other books by Perry that Bird and I read. No template or established cast of characters. Scenes, characters, and actions are just for this book. I'm likely to go looking for another book by Thomas Perry, and I look forward to discovering what it will be like.

Have you Pursuit or another Thomas Perry book? What did you think? Write and tell this little bit of the world.

13 June 2010

More from the fox of an author

A couple weeks ago, Bird Loomis recommended Silence by Thomas Perry. Perry was a new author to me, so I went to the Northfield Library and looked for books by him. Silence wasn't on the shelf, but Death Benefits was and I checked it out.

Perry [right] may indeed be a fox compared to other mystery writers. I can't tell yet. I've only read one of his books. I can tell you that I thought Death Benefits was outstanding. It was a delight to read. One sign that Bird is right about Perry's approach to mystery fiction was that this plot didn't follow the conventions of mystery stories. This author does indeed know more than one way to structure a mystery.

He also knows good elements to use. One of the main characters is a private investigator whose skills and connections are nearly magical. Max Stillman lets nothing stand in his way, and he always wins the brawls. He can find out anything through his connections. I began to wonder why this mystery was so difficult for him to sort out because it was hard to see a shortcoming in his panoply of abilities. But without some shortcomings, the book would be pretty short and not very interesting.

When on an assignment for an old-fashioned insurance company, Stillman drafts a young analyst, John Walker, out of the company's cube farm to help him find anomalies in suspect claims. Thus begins a cross-country adventure without any limitation of a budget (thanks to the scale of the fraud). Walker is dragged into late night surveillance, back alley fist fights, attempts to dodge bullets, and unexpected romance. (See what I mean about Perry's awareness of the traditional building blocks of mystery fiction?)

The romance comes for Walker in the form of a seductive computer hacker who works for one of Stillman's contract researchers. If Death Benefits hadn't been published several years before Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I could easily have been convinced that the relationship between Walker and the mysterious "Serena" had been copied from the relationship between Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander in Larsson's books.

If you've read many of my reactions here, you know that I have trouble with contrived situations and things that don't make sense. Well, Perry's story includes some real whoppers, but I didn't notice them until I was done with the book. I credit that to Perry's story telling: it's like being on a fast-moving train that goes through an implausible landscape that doesn't seem implausible until the train stops. (e.g. What's with a New England town of 3,500 people where the police department has 16 patrol cars? Come on, why didn't the magical investigator or his statistical wizard sidekick notice that obvious anomaly? Even the city of 15,000+ I live in doesn't have that many squad cars lined up in the parking lot behind the "Safety Center.") The final scene was rather like the mob scene from a Transylvanian horror movie, but it was only the arrival of the cavalry that made me realize what a ridiculous ride I'd been taken on.

I'm encouraged enough that when I take this book back to the library, I'll look for Silence or another of Perry's books. Have you read Death Benefits or another of Perry's books? What did you think? Write and tell this little bit of the world about your reactions.

Thomas Perry's web site

"Putting the "Fun" in Dysfunctional," Patrick A. Smith's review of Death Benefits in January Magazine

Andy Plonka's review at The Mystery Reader

01 June 2010

Mature Mystery Writers: The Hedgehog and the Fox

Bird Loomis wrote from Lawrence, Kansas about the delightful results of forgetting to take a book he'd begun on a quick trip to DC.

By happenstance, over the past couple of weeks, I have been reading simultaneously two separate mysteries, by two of my favorite authors. I started Lee Child's Jack Reacher novel, Gone Tomorrow, but neglected to take it on a quick trip to D.C. Coming home, I browsed Hudson News for a good choice, and happened upon Thomas Perry's Silence, which I snarfed up and began to read on the trip home.

So there I was, smack in the middle of two page-turners (trust me). Now I often have two or three books going at any given time, but I can't think of a time that I had a pair of compelling mysteries. In the end, for no good reason, I finished Silence, then returned to Gone Tomorrow and zipped through it to its predictably violent conclusion. Social scientist that I am, I had the makings of a study: two books, each quite good, and yet very different. So how were they different in what they delivered?

The metaphor of the fox and the hedgehog, made modern in a 1953 essay on Tolstoy by Isaiah Berlin, divides people into two sorts: the hedgehog, who knows one very big thing, and the fox, who knows many things. In politics, FDR was the classic fox, while George W. Bush looks like a major hedgehog to me. Reading Silence and Gone Tomorrow at the same time made me consider what makes writers - and especially mystery authors - so interesting that we come back to them, time and again.

Most obviously, Lee Child, through Jack Reacher, is a classic hedgehog. Child had created a protagonist who strains our sense of disbelief, with his stripped-down style of life, and unworldly skills. Time after time, Child places Reacher in a setting (often a small town, but New York City for Gone Tomorrow), creates a challenge that the stubborn ex-major cannot ignore, and allows us to observe him solve the puzzle with an admirable mix of brain and brawn. Jack Reacher, more than most series heroes, is an impossible character, and I, for one, continue to be drawn to him, as he works through a maze of difficulties, often coming to terms with a powerful background figure (the terrorist Lila Hoth in Tomorrow's Child). Child has written 17 Reacher novels, and they usually work well. It's a testimony to his writing and to the character he's created that his books have grown in popularity over time. Still, he's a one-trick pony with a great trick.

Thomas Perry, to mix my metaphors, is a different kettle of fish. Although he has created a popular series and protagonist (Jane Whitefield), he usually writes one-off thrillers. Perry is not the blockbuster author that Child has become, but he has had great critical success from the get go. His first two books, The Butcher's Boy and Metzger's Dog won substantial acclaim. I happened on them, and have been a great fan, ever since, although I've missed a book here and there, in part because each new novel does not become an event (I was lucky to find Silence at the airport). Still, I always look forward to a Perry book, because I know I'm likely to be surprised, by characters, plot, motivations, and even locale. Perry writes hedgehog novels, where plot and personality intersect to take the reader on unsuspected journeys.

In Silence, we get Jack Till, a jaded ex-cop, but with a twist. He has a Down syndrome daughter, now grown, to whom he's devoted. He's not a drunk or a fool, but he's damaged goods, something of a first cousin to Harry Bosch, Michael Connelly's complicated cop. Till turns out to be reasonably interesting and pretty damned competent, which is a good thing, in that he has to match wits with Paul and Sylvie Turner, a married team of hit artists, whose job it is to kill someone Till is protecting. The growing tensions between the highly intelligent, highly lethal Turners (which escalate up to the novel's final page) and between them and their employer combine to keep the reader thoroughly entertained. And that's without them directly dealing with Jack Till. Perry takes us on a great trip, actually a series of actual travels across California and Nevada. He also creates a terrific bad guy, the ultimate employer of the deadly Turners.

Lee Child places us on Jack Reacher's side - indeed, we often feel as if we are at his side - while he embarks upon his quest. Thomas Perry allows us to get close to Jack Gill and the Turners, and strangely, we're rooting for all of them, another fox-like move. Both Child and Perry provide real entertainment, yet it may be that neither is pure fox or pure hedgehog. For example, in the next Reacher book, it 's reported that he has a burgeoning relationship with a woman who aggressively questions his bizarre life style of traveling with nothing but a toothbrush. Maybe we'll get a little exploration of Reacher's psyche; in fact, the best Reacher novels do move in this direction.

On the other hand, Thomas Perry has created some memorable characters in Silence. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Turners return, or Jack Gill begin to work on a renewed relationship with the woman he has successfully protected. As he's demonstrated with Jane Whitefield previously, maybe this fox has more than a bit of hedgehog in his literary genes. I hope so. Paul and Sylvie Turner, dangerous to others and to each other, deserve another go-round.

Lee Child's web site

Kenneth Turan's review of Gone Tomorrow in the Los Angeles Times

Perry's publisher's web site

Eleanor Bukowsky's review of Silence at Mostly Fiction