PARIS REQUIEM/Lisa Appignanesi/C
In 1905, an American lawyer whose name I can't recall, goes to Paris to bring home his brother and sister. But his brother is determined to solve a string of murders involving young women of the streets, with the latest victim being a Jewish actress whom he loved. And the sister is unable to walk any longer, apparently a pscyhosomatic illness, as she can walk fine when hypnotized. I wanted to like this book. It had a good setting and a good premise, but the writing and characterization did absolutely nothing for me.
VARIOUS HAUNTS OF MEN/Susan Hill/A+
Hooray! My favorite thing in the world--a new-to-me mystery author who writes in just the right kind of style for me--multiple viewpoints, interesting subplots, fabulous characterization, an English setting, and baffling disappearances. This is the first in the Simon Serailler series, but the Inspector is not the central character of this novel. In fact, he only has a few viewpoint sections and is mostly a focus for several of the characters in the book, especially his new young sergeant from London. Freya is delighted to be in a new town and a new posting, but completely unprepared when she falls in love with her inspector. She throws herself into new friends and current investigations and is the focal point of the novel. Be warned--there is a twist at the end that left me gasping for breath and made me wonder if I would read any more of Hill's books. But I've decided she's just too good to hold a grudge. I'm taking the next two Serailler novels on our cruise later this month.
NOT IN THE FLESH/Ruth Rendell/A
I love Inspector Wexford. In this novel, a body is turned up in a field by a truffle-hunting dog. Determining that it must be at least 10 years in the ground, Wexford begins hunting through the past. And then another body turns up, about as old, and perplexity really sets in. What connection does either body have with a husband and father who disappeared around that time? And what of other missing men? Not to mention the strange households that surround the field where the bodies are discovered. My only complaint was that I couldn't understand why Wexford didn't grasp an essential truth as quick as I did . . . but it's a minor quibble for a Rendell book.
ABSOLUTE FRIENDS/John le Carre/B
Ted Mundy used to be a spy--a career he stumbled into during the Cold War and has since put behind him. Now working as a tour guide in Germany, Ted is shocked when his friend and espionage partner, Sasha, reappears with an offer that might be too good to be true. Some past ties can't be cut, and some people will always be ready to use a handy scapegoat. The book spends a great deal of time in the Cold War era, filling us in on the Ted/Sasha relationship, before returning to the world of present-day terrorists and their plans for destruction. Not my favorite le Carre, but it's hard to find a bad book by him.
THE WOMAN IN BLACK/Susan Hill/A-
Obviously, I did pick up another Susan Hill, but this is not a Simon Serailler novel. It's a ghost story like Jane Austen might have written. It opens at Christmas in the early 20th century with a family telling ghost stories around the fire. The husband and father cannot enter into the spirit of the game, because he once experienced too closely the real thing. He writes the story for us in a very Victorian way, back to the days when he was a London solicitor and had to travel to a remote East Anglian village when an old client dies. The house of the deceased is on an island that is cut off by the tides except for twice a day. The townspeople think he's crazy to spend the night there, but he does, and that's when the noises begin . . . Very creepy and very tragic. My kind of book :)
THE AMBER SPYGLASS/Phillip Pullman/A
The last in the Golden Compass trilogy. My daughter warned me I would cry, and I did. But I loved this book, much more than the second. Pullman does a wonderful job of tying up threads that seemed irrelevant and bringing all his characters to fitting if sometimes unexpected ends. Personally, I thought the atheism was way toned down in this book, to the point that I could make the belief system whatever I wanted it to be--either way, the story was front and center and Pullman is a great storyteller. Lyra and Will both come into their own as strong, vital not-so-much-children any longer. I'm very, very glad I read this series.
DEATH IN THE GARDEN/Elizabeth Ironside/A
The book opens in 1925 with a country house party for Diana Pollfexen's 30th birthday. The weekend ends in the poisoning death of her husband. Diana stands trial and is acquitted, after which she virtually disappears. Sixty years later, Helena, is celebrating her own 30th birthday when Diana's death at the age of 90 leads to surprising revelations for Helena, who had known nothing about her great-aunt's notorious past. Helena determines to find out what really happened to Diana's husband on that long-ago weekend. I loved the structure of this book, opening in 1925 and then spending the latter part of the book with Helena's researches and discoveries. A beautiful and wonderfully constructed traditional mystery.
THE YEAR OF FOG/Michelle Richmond/A-
Abby Mason is on a foggy beach with her fiance's six-year-old daughter, Emma. She looks away for a few seconds and Emma has vanished. The book traces the next year in Abby's life as searching turns to resignation. Only Abby refuses to believe that Emma is dead. It's a very literary mystery, with some beautiful thoughts on memory and photography and hope. The ending is bittersweet and not at all what I expected.
THE PRICE OF SILENCE/Camilla Trinchieri/C
Another very literary--I can hardly call it a mystery--novel. This one didn't work so well for me. I disliked Emma Perotti, the main character who is standing trial for the murder of a young Chinese artist she took under her wing. The book moves back and forth between the trial and everything that led up to the girl's death, as well as the secrets that have been kept between Emma and her husband. Her teenage son has secrets of his own and they all weave together, supposedly, to the end. But I'm not entirely sure what the end was--I still don't know if the artist was murdered or killed herself--and I didn't like anyone enough to really care.