Friday, March 23, 2007

Are you home for a while now?

Who's asking: Richard Bostwick, Hallowell, ME

No, actually. I thought I was, but I'm going back to Washington next Monday for a few days. Home for a day, then back to Montreal for the weekend. Then I'm home for two weeks, until I go to New York for a couple of days -- and then, at the end of the month, to Los Angeles for the L.A. Times Festival of Books.

It's the right time of year to leave central Maine, anyway. Yesterday's temperatures got up to the high fifties, which was great, except that it makes it impossible to walk anywhere without bogging down in mud or slushy snow. Walking in my mud boots feels like walking in giant clown shoes; they weigh about three pounds apiece, and make sucking sounds when I pick up my feet. It's amusing for the first five minutes, and then it's just annoying.

All this travel wreaks havoc on my sleep cycle, but that's not all bad, because it helps me catch up on my reading.

What I Read this Week

Randy Wayne White, Hunter's Moon. White's 14th Doc Ford book is a tight, hard-driving thriller that could almost be a standalone. Marine biologist and occasional covert operative Marion “Doc” Ford agrees to do a favor for one of the world’s most powerful men – a former President determined to avenge the death of his wife in a Central American jungle. I prefer Ford's more emotional side (as in Twelve Mile Limit or last year's Dark Light), but this is solid work.

Jung Chang, Wild Swans. Okay, this was an audiobook I listened to on last weekend's drive to Montreal. It's the true story of three generations of women in 20th century China -- Jung Chang, her mother, and her grandmother -- and it's fascinating and sad, but the most compelling story of all is that of Jung Chang's father, a true believer who was betrayed and driven mad in the Cultural Revolution.

John Connolly
, The Unquiet. After The Black Angel's operatic climax, it was hard to imagine what might come next for Charlie Parker, Connolly's series character. What comes next in this series is what comes next in anyone's life after a catastrophe that doesn't kill them: Parker just goes on to the next thing. In The Unquiet, the next thing is a woman who asks Parker to protect her from a stalker. The stalker's looking for the woman's long-missing father, a child psychiatrist suspected of sexual abuse; dealing with him means that Parker needs to find out what happened to Dr. Daniel Clay. The Unquiet is a beautifully-constructed book, less emotional than The Black Angel but tighter and more direct. It's so self-contained that it could serve as a good introduction to the series, although "The Reflecting Eye," the Parker novella in Nocturnes, could be an extended prologue.

Kevin Brockmeier, The Brief History of the Dead. Sometimes I worry that I don't read enough Literature -- and then I read a book like this, and remember why I don't. Brockmeier imagines a vast City inhabited by the recently dead, who live there only as long as someone on our earth remembers them. A devastating virus wipes out almost the entire population of the world, leaving only a few thousand people in the City. It turns out that all of them live in the memory of one woman, Laura Byrd, who's alone in a research station in Antarctica. As Laura discovers her predicament and tries to save herself, the inhabitants of the City discover and rediscover their own connections. The first hundred pages or so are enthralling, as Brockmeier sets up the situation -- but then he does nothing with it. Laura must die, and the residents of the City must disappear, but no one seems willing to come to grips with that realization, and it doesn't change the way any of them behave. Maybe that's the point, but I was so annoyed by the time this novel finally petered out that I wanted to hunt Mr. Brockmeier down with a ruler.

Lisa Lutz, The Spellman Files. A truly charming first novel, introducing private investigator Isabel Spellman and her family, Spellman Investigations. Isabel couldn't escape her destiny, since her parents started sending her on surveillances as a teenager; now her teenaged sister, Rae, is taking the family business a little too seriously. The Spellman Files seems inspired in equal parts by Nancy Drew and Salinger's Glass family, and Isabel is a wonderful new series character. I'm interviewing Lisa Lutz next week for another Mystery Bookstore podcast, so if you've read the book and have questions of your own, send them to me.


Running from my House said...

i had to go and download "follow you follow me" all because of you.

it's STILL stuck in my head

tod said...

I'm a big fan of Kevin Brockmeier's short fiction (which that novel is actually an extension of) and I highly recommend that you read his story "The Cieling" which you can read here:

AnswerGirl said...

That makes sense, because I thought THE BRIEF HISTORY OF THE DEAD would have been a terrific short story.