Friday, March 30, 2007

What I Read This Week

No questions today. I do have a backlog, but they're all things that require investigation or serious thinking, and I'm at the end of a busy, busy workweek. Good to have the work -- good to be here in Washington, where everything's in bloom -- but I am tired and very close to tapped out. I've run out of the easy questions, so if you have any, send 'em in.

Next stop, Montreal; I fly from here back to New Hampshire tomorrow morning, get in a car and drive north to the border. If you're in the area, go see the fabulous Claire Bea and some other people in McGill's production of The Merchant of Venice, running this weekend and next weekend.

My reading list's been heavy on bestsellers lately, but as I said earlier in the week, the fact that something is popular doesn't mean it's not good.

What I Read This Week

Lisa Scottoline, Daddy's Girl. In my theoretical bookstore, where I'd classify things as "Contributions to Humanity," "Entertainment Without Insult," and "Total Crap," this book would get display space in "Entertainment Without Insult." Law professor Natalie Greco is the lone girl in a large, smothering family of brothers who all work for their father’s construction company. Nat agrees to teach a class at a local prison, but a riot breaks out during her first class, and a prison guard dies in her arms. His last words are “Tell my wife it’s under the floor.” Delivering this message should be simple, but someone’s willing to kill Nat to keep her from doing it. Solid entertainment, with some interesting insights about justice vs. law and -- coincidentally -- The Merchant of Venice.

Harlan Coben, The Woods. This book doesn't come out until April 17; Mr. Coben has agreed to be a victim -- er, subject -- of a Mystery Bookstore podcast at the end of April, so I could pretend this was homework. Of course I'd have read it in any case, and it's Coben at his best: a tight, suspenseful thriller narrated by someone who may not be telling the reader everything he knows. County prosecutor Paul Copeland is called to a murder scene, because the victim has a stack of press clippings about the disappearance and presumed murder of Copeland's sister, 20 years earlier. Camille was never found, but two other bodies were, victims of a serial killer later convicted for similar crimes. Paul is shocked when he realizes the murder victim is the fourth person who went missing that night -- also presumed killed -- and starts a new search to find out, once and for all, what happened to his sister. The Woods kept me guessing to the very end -- an ending both happy and sad, in surprising ways.

Declan Hughes, The Color of Blood. If The Wrong Kind of Blood could be described as "Philip Marlowe in Dublin," The Color of Blood moves squarely into Ross Macdonald territory. Dublin P.I. Ed Loy takes on a missing persons case for a wealthy dentist, Shane Howard, after Howard receives a blackmail threat containing pornographic pictures of his daughter. Within 24 hours, the daughter's ex-boyfriend and her mother are found murdered, and Loy's client is arrested for the crimes. Loy's search for answers turns up increasingly horrific secrets, leading to a devastating climax. The moral of the story is, "Everybody lies," and with this second novel, Hughes further carves out his own space in the PI canon. After I finished this book, I needed to sit in the sunshine and look at some pretty flowers for a while.

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