Tuesday, February 03, 2009


Arthur Conan Doyle and George Edalji. Non-fiction, I guess. Mystery about nasty letter-writing and vandalism that eventually lands Edalji in prison. Conan Doyle took up his case after his release from prison and helped clear him. Sort of. Honestly, that's all I remember. That's not a good sign.

Written by a Welshman in the 12th century, this history isn't so much fact as storytelling. But what wonderful storytelling! It purports to tell the history of the ancient Britons who were ruled over by the Romans, invaded by the Saxons and Angles, and finally driven to Wales and Cornwall. Geoffrey of Monmouth was the first major writer to give King Arthur a written form and many of the romances that picked up his story got it from Geoffrey's history. In many ways more informative about Geoffrey's time than those of the kings he's writing about.

Benedict's second novel (after the haunting ISABELLA MOON), it defies easy labels. Mystery? Suspense? Horror? Paranormal? It's got bits of all of them, woven into a story about three teenage girls who drive a young priest out of their school and, years later, have to deal with the consequences. When Varick comes to town, disaster follows for all three women: Del, struggling to fit into her perfect life; Alice, whose marriage is coming apart at the seams; and Roxanne, the artist who started it all. And when deals are made with the devil, not even the innocent are safe. Not an easy read, but beautifully written and haunting in its own right.

Aislinn is a high schooler who has always followed her grandmother's cardinal rule: Never Let the Fairies Know You Can See Them. But when a particular fairy goes out of his way to be noticed, Aislinn finds herself caught in a power struggle that's spilling out of the fairy world into hers. The Summer King needs a Queen in order to defeat his Winter Queen mother's reign, and he thinks Aislinn is the one. An urban fairy tale for today's teens, with a pace that never lets up and a plot that has some interesting twists. I'll definitely read the next one.

Ahhhhhh . . . this is how historical fantasy should be done. And where better to go than back to Sevenwaters, where Marillier's fame began. Clodagh is the sensible 3rd sister of 6 who keeps the household running while her mother is perilously pregnant. When baby Finbar is born, the long-awaited son and heir, rejoicing quickly turns to tragedy. Finbar is snatched from his cradle, replaced by a changeling child. But only Clodagh can see the changeling for what it is. Distrusted and frightened, Clodagh sets out on a quest to the Otherworld to find her brother. She's aided (naturally) by Cathal, who has his own secrets and a disturbing knowledge about the Fair Folk. Marillier is a master who doesn't disappoint--and she throws out enough hints to give me hope of more Sevenwaters books to come.

The sequel to OUTLANDER, equally lush and romantic. The bulk of the story takes place in France and Scotland in 1743-44, with Claire and Jamie trying to stop Bonnie Prince Charlie's invasion to restore his father's throne. With Claire's knowledge of the disaster awaiting the Highlanders at Culloden, they work behind the scenes to undermine the prince's fundraising while trying to avoid being labeled traitors. But history, it seems, cannot be outwitted--on the eve of the fateful battle, Jamie sends pregnant Claire back through the standing stones to her first husband, Frank. The book is framed with Claire, twenty years after her return, bringing her daughter back to Scotland to tell her about her birth father, who died at the Battle of Culloden in 1744. Or did he? I thought this one was a little overwritten and could have used some serious editing, but overall I enjoyed the romance and adventure and I have the third book waiting.

Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks is called in when a domestic violence call leads to the discovery of a vicious serial killer. The fittingly-titled AFTERMATH is complex story about what happens after that discovery and the mysteries that still have to be untangled, not least the question of motive. FRIEND OF THE DEVIL involves several characters from AFTERMATH, but I thought the first book was the more compelling. Robinson writes good characters, but I can't quite get into him the same way I've fallen in love with Reginald Hill, who also writes police procedurals set in Yorkshire.

A re-read for book club. When Iris Greenfeder gives her writing students an assignment about fairy tales, she sets in motion an uncovering of long-held secrets--not least of which is why her mother died in a hotel fire when Iris was ten. Selkies and stolen necklaces, reformed criminals and hotel millionaires, a hot summer and a search for a mother's missing manuscript . . . Goodman writes smart, romantic, and richly atmospheric thrillers that are great for book club questions like: What's the difference between a smart thriller and a dumb one?

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