Saturday, August 14, 2010

Reading Roundup

Got an awful lot of reading done this week.  Good stuff, all of it, really good stuff.

Sauce for the Goose by Robert Campbell.  The short version: Jimmy Flannery is a sewer inspector for the city of Chicago, a Democratic precinct captain, and a committeeman in the Twenty-seventh ward.  With a wife, a new baby, and a dog at home, Jimmy's a busy guy, made busier by the classes in English grammar and Political Science he's enrolled in at his wife's urging.   He's a guy who's going places, but why does he always seem to get involved with low-lifes, murder, and mayhem?  Robert Campbell's achievement in this series--as in his La-La Land series--is to write a contemporary mystery/thriller which feels like a classic from the golden age of noir. 

The Three Roads by Ross MacDonald.  The short version: Lieutenant Bret Taylor came back from the war a damaged man, only to discover that his wife had been stepping out on him.  Next thing he knows he's in an institution (albeit a very nice institution) with no memory of how his wife came to be brutally murdered.  The Three Roads, steeped in the Freudian imagery so heavily used in literary fiction of its time, is the story of Taylor's attempt to recover his memory and learn the truth of what happened, and the ending is shocking.

The Tangent Objective by Lawrence Sanders.  The short version: Peter Tangent is an oil company executive who helps fund a coup in a small African country.  The idea, of course, is to get an exclusive and exploitative deal for his company.  How could he know he'd be swept up by the majesty of the idealistic young captain leading the coup?  Gripping and timely, despite it's having been written more than thirty years ago. 

Death of a Peer by Ngaio Marsh.  The short version: A charming and self-consciously eccentric British family, Lord Charles Lamprey and his large brood are always in financial straits.  How inconvenient when, just moments after Lord Charles has made yet another fruitless entreaty to his elder brother Gabriel, Marquis of Wutherwood to bail the family out, Uncle G. is found grotesquely murdered in the lift of the family's apartment building.  It's up to Inspector Alleyn to puzzle out the truth from all the conflicting accounts of the day's events.  Let me tell you, Ngaio Marsh is not known as one of the grand dames of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction for nothing.

 I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman.  The short version: More than twenty years after she was held hostage for six weeks by a serial killer Eliza Benedict has managed to build a beautiful life for herself.  Her former captor, at last facing the death chamber, manages to worm his way back into her life through an intermediary, and Eliza is forced to come to terms with what happened to her and how she's dealt with it.  I'd Know You Anywhere is everything that Still Missing, a similarly themed thriller by Chevy Stevens which came out earlier this year, wishes it was: smart, taut, thoughtful, and truly thrilling. 


Savages by Don Winslow.  One of the best writers in the genre today.  Winslow's thrillers are smart and gritty, and often painfully funny.  Why do you suppose his follow up to The Dawn Patrol--a quintessentially California work--has only been published in England to date?  Ah well, at least we got this one.

Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris.  Just a few pages in, but I get what the buzz was about when this came out a few years ago.  Stay tuned.

Odd Hours by Dean Koontz.  I don't often read Dean Koontz, finding him to be (my apologies to the legions of rabid Koontz fans out there, with many of whom I'm personally acquainted) kind of a poor man's Peter Straub.  But Pete brought this one home to me, and I started reading it one evening when I'd forgotten to bring my book downstairs and I was waiting for the dogs to eat their evening kibble.  Much to my surprise, I found Odd Thomas' voice to be engaging and original, and while his talent (he sees dead people) has been done before, Koontz seems to have put a fresh spin on it.  So we're going to give this one a whirl.


We hit the Salvation Army yesterday and the Manhattan Beach Library book sale this morning.  Here are the highlights.

You won't know this if you haven't read her, but Carrie Fisher is a wonderful writer.  She's both too smart and too hip for her own good, but that turns out to be our gain, as her books are funny and well-written.  And Peter Lefcourt?  Well, let's just say that the cover of The Woody perfectly encapsulates what it's about: politics and erectile dysfunction.  Well, there's other stuff, too, and all of it is laugh-out-loud funny.

How could I not pick up that gorgeous Rebecca West, even though upon closer inspection it turned out to be a book club edition?  And since I'm gathering Ed McBains, I thought I should grab the Evan Hunter since, well, they're the same guy.  And Barth, well, Barth.  I'd rather find a first edition of Giles Goat Boy or The Sot-Weed Factor, but I'll take what I can get.


Vampires and Tofu said...

Then we Came to the End has been in TBR FOREVER. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it.

EnriqueFreeque said...

Exciting stuff here! Your blurbs are bitchen! I've seen Ross McDonald forever at the library, passed him by, but now I'll keep a look out for that Three Roads. I do so love shocking endings.

And that's a first ed. of Tidewater Tales? Great book! Yeah, not absolute classic like you allude, but engaging as ever. It's the sequel to Sabbatical: A Romance, though it can stand alone.

Never heard Koontz described like that! I haven't read enough Straub to concur. Is Ghost Story truly a "classic" or just over-hyped? I've a soft spot for Koontz; glad you're enjoying Odd Hours. Do grab Seize the Night if you ever see it; it's my fave besides Phantoms & Watchers.

Glad you're back.