04 May 2007

April Book Report

This year, at least, I must agree with T.S. Eliot. April was somewhat of a cruel month. First, the whole bronchitis thing, which is still hanging on with a lovely cough. And a raspy voice. No, not a deep, sexy voice. A raspy voice. Then towards the end of the month, our Abigail died. (I picked up her ashes today, so at least she is back home with us where she belongs. But oh do we miss her!)

Anyway, I was not in the mood for any deep or involved reading in April. Apparently I was in the mood for mysteries, because I read two of them. I must admit that I am very nearly always surprised by "who did it" when I read a mystery. It pretty much has to have a statement on the first page like, "As George stepped away from his wife Mary, who he had just stabbed fourteen times through the heart ..." for me to have a clue. On the one hand, this makes reading mysteries somewhat enjoyable. On the other hand, she had warts. (OK, I just threw that in. My mother would always say that when someone started a sentence with "On the other hand"...)

So without further ado, I give you my reading list for April.

1. Dirty Blonde by Lisa Scottoline. In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that I love Lisa Scottoline. I have always enjoyed her books, mostly because she truly captures the quirks and character of Philadelphia, where her stories are usually set. Last year, I went to a booksigning of hers, and it was so much fun! She is really great in person, and whenever someone asks a question, or answers one of hers, she tosses them a Tastykake* (a Philadelphia "delicacy"). She is a former practicing attorney who now, besides writing books, teaches a course at Penn Law School about lawyers and their portrayals in movies and TV, which I think would be so cool. But I digress.

The dirty blonde of the title is a young woman named Cate Fante who has recently been named a federal judge. At first she is overwhelmed and somewhat ambivalent about all of it, but then a secret about her is exposed, the plaintiff in one of her cases appears to be a murderer, and then she realizes that someone is out to murder her.

Scottoline always finds something to put in her books that teaches you something without you realizing it, and this is no exception. Cate at one point in the book returns to where she grew up, in Centralia, Pennsylvania. For those of you not familiar with the town, it is very nearly a ghost town at this point, because of underground, abandoned coal mine fires that have been burning for years and years. There is a huge sinkhole in the middle of the main street, and most of the houses have been bought up and the people moved elsewhere. Yes, it provides for some dramatic scenes in the book, but it also made me interested in reading some of the books and news stories about Centralia.

Anyway, there are various twists and turns, red herrings, and funny commentary by some of the characters that make it an enjoyable read. It may be more enjoyable if you are from, or familiar with, Philadelphia, but that isn't necessary. I recommend it if you like mysteries that take place in the current time frame (as opposed to Victorian mysteries, for example).

2. Knit One, Kill Two by Maggie Sefton. I received this book and the second one in the series as part of a swap last year, and just got around to it last month. The main character, Kelly Flynn, is an accountant from Washington, DC, who returns home to Colorado for the funeral of her aunt, who also raised her. What starts out as a quick trip home to settle some family affairs, turns out to be more open ended, as Kelly disagrees with the local police about their prime suspect in her aunt's murder, finds a formerly unknown relative (who later is also murdered), and when she is not playing detective, she learns to knit. This is primarily because the old farmhouse where her aunt and uncle had lived, has been turned into a yarn shop.

This was an enjoyable read, mainly because the writer did a good job (in my opinion) of evoking the emotions of someone who has never paid attention to yarn or knitting before. There are several passages where Kelly discovers how wonderful different yarns can feel, and what possibilities there are as far as knitting projects are concerned. Also, at least in this installment of the series (I think there are four titles at this point), the main character does not immediately fall in love with every man she meets. I am all for love, relationships, and all of that, but it annoys me when the love story suddenly makes the mystery secondary. I could see future titles having that in store, but the fact that Sefton didn't start out with it gives her points in my book.

I can say that these were the perfect books for me to read at the time I read them. They had interesting enough characters and storylines to keep you reading, and did not require a lot of back and forth checking to remember who everyone was, or why they were in the book in the first place.

I know a lot of people who look down their noses at mysteries, particularly those that are not "intellectual." I am obviously not one of them. I enjoy reading a lot of different types of things, and find that there are times when I really cannot, or do not want to, read a "serious" book. I would recommend them if you feel like trying something different than your usual choices.

*Tastykakes are made here by the Tasty Baking Company, and are similar to the products made by Hostess Bakeries, or Little Debbie cakes, etc. If you move to Philadelphia, I recommend keeping your opinions to yourself if you are not fond of Tastykakes. Native Philadelphians don't think twice about telling you how wrong you are!

1 comment:

Carol said...

Okay, I totally agree with you about mysteries.

Lisa Scottoline used to work at the firm my husband was with, back in the day. She has a show on Court TV (A&E? one of those cable networks) that has her interviewed and she has an amazing farmhouse kind of home. Not at all nouveau or McMansionish.

Lastly, I must dispute your statement "Tastykakes ... are similar to" Hostess or Little Debbie. No effing way. That is like saying cashmere is similar to Red Heart. It is true only in the most general, categorical sense.