Friday, February 26, 2016

As promised...

First, the belated book reviews.

For the March library mystery book club, we're reading Mrs. Jefferies and The One Who Got Away by Emily Brightwell:

I have to say, I am anything BUT impressed with that cover art. If I had seen this on a shelf I'd never have picked it to read, on the basis of that cover. Also, there appear to be about 30 of these Mrs. Jeffries books, but I had never heard anything about Emily Brightwell at all, in my long mystery-reading career. It caused me to wonder how well-written they would be (okay, I'll be blunt: the cover and that huge long list of novels I'd never heard of set my expectations extremely LOW).

However, I was pleasantly surprised! Ms. Brightwell is a completely capable writer, and knows her English grammar, spelling and punctuation just fine. The editing, therefore, must be pretty good, too. I mean, I was expecting something ghastly along these lines but was very pleased to be proved wrong.

The story was good, with lots of characters full of verve and color, it moved right along and kept me guessing (though I don't try to figure mysteries out while I'm reading them, at all - so this is probably not a reliable recommendation for people who do try to beat the protags at solving the mystery) until the reveal.

I'll be reading more of these, but honestly, it will be to satisfy my curiosity about this series. It seems to me to be aimed at a particular reader, which is not a bad thing, let me be clear about that. The main characters are the serving staff in the house of the main detective. They appear to have organized themselves into a highly effective detecting team - without the actual detective's knowledge! The housekeeper Mrs. Jeffries is the ring-leader, and the information her subfusc team comes up with, she conveys to her boss for the benefit of his investigations - with the chief aim being he doesn't know how he comes by it! So he thinks he thought of it himself? I guess? It seems a bit weird, to me.

But a large part of the intention of this set-up, I *think*, is to portray a created family - the "downstairs" staff - which also includes a couple of people who are most definitely not servants, or even employed by the main guy - who have learned to trust and depend on one another and always have each other's backs in all sorts of ways. There is a lot of ink devoted to the descriptions of these relationships and how they treat each other.  To the extent that I believe the books are meant to appeal, perhaps, to lonely people, to kind of create a literature family for them to feel good with. I may be wrong - that's why I want to read some more of them.  There's nothing wrong with this intention, if that's what it is. It's just emphasized more than in any other mystery I've ever read.

So I can recommend this one pretty confidently.

The second book is another of Fred Varga's Commissaire Adamsberg mysteries, An Uncertain Place:

After the first Vargas I read, for the mystery book club, The Ghost Riders of Ordebec, I bought four titles I found at the used book store. I read This Night's Foul Work, then this one. Which are the three latest in the series, and I even read them out of order within the three. So I need to go back and start at the beginning - not because you can't read them out of order, but because I think I'll enjoy them even more that way.

Anyhow, this is another excellent book. The crimes in these books tend to be gruesome, but committed off-screen, so to speak; the aftermaths are described but not in such a manner as to be sickening or worse, titillating. If you want sickening details you're going to have to supply them out of your own imagination. The "good guys'" reactions will tell you all you need to know. The story here starts with a collection of severed feet, vintage spanning several decades, still in their shoes, turning up at the entrance to Highgate Cemetery in London, and ends up taking Adamsberg all the way to a tiny village in Serbia. In between he receives a horrible shock halfway through, which confronts him by surprise in his own kitchen, and has another, particularly horrifying, experience in Serbia.

When the story pointed to Serbia, I naturally thought of the terrible war there in the '80's, so was expecting much bad stuff from that - but even worse things happened far far earlier than that in Eastern Europe, and not all of them have rational explanations. We in America can't fathom the kind of clan hatreds that are nurtured for centuries and break out in unspeakable violence every few generations. Some roots defy logic.

Again, there are plenty of lively and distinctive characters in this tale and I enjoyed it immensely.

So I give it a most definite Thumbs Up!

And for the Announcement: I've signed up to walk in the MS Walk in Omaha April 9th, so I'm hoping folks will donate to the cause.

Bought new walking shoes today!

I'm going to start training right away - I've let it go too long. I'm hoping to start, April 1st, walking the actual route of the MS Walk. They haven't posted the map yet but I've been on one of them that started in the same area so I'm guessing it'll be the same: from AkSarBen Village up along Elmwood Park, then across the Dodge Street overpass and up and around Memorial Park and back to AkSarBen Village to  the end. I don't know how long it is.

If you want to donate to Team Jensen (my nephew's wife's team), here is the URL:

or here's a live link.

If you don't want to donate on the web site, let me know, and you can give or send me a check or the cash (I'll be happy to provide a receipt) and I'll make sure it gets to Team Jensen. The advantage of using the web site is that they'll send you an email for the tax-deductible donation.

So as the weeks go by, I'll probably be posting photos of my walks and complaints about my blisters LOL. Oh boy, can't wait, eh?

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