28 November 2010

Another Thing to Fall, by Laura Lippman

A Tess Monaghan mystery, set in  Baltimore, involving a TV production company taping a new show for a cable series, some suspicious events including at least one murder, and a glimpse into the personalities, stresses and conflicts that populate such an enterprise.

This is a well-done novel of suspense, not a masterpiece of literature, that kept me entertained all day today, a cold and rainy Sunday in late November.

27 November 2010

Cinnamon Kiss, by Walter Mosley

Great mystery, story, atmosphere. Great insight into the life, and point of view, of an African-American in California in the 1960s.

Great book.

Independence Day, by Richard Ford

Frank Bascombe's life in Haddam, New Jersey, continues after The Sportswriter.

Frank is a real estate agent now. Most of the action in this book takes place over the Fourth of July weekend, during which he tries to sell a house, resolve a relationship, and help his disturbed son, among other things.

Frank's days seem to be 96 hours long. Perhaps this reflects on my own laziness and lack of productivity, but the amount of action and thought that this man experiences in twenty-four hours is—to me—unbelievable.

Frank Bascombe's world is well-to-do, if not wealthy, and white. (His ex-wife's second husband, Charley, is indeed wealthy, for contrast.) Many of his problems are those of abundance, and as such perhaps not much to be pitied. He mentions more than once that he doesn't really need to work. His independence of financial worry sets him apart from most Americans. He is, in fact, a landlord who owns two rental houses in the "colored" neighborhood of Haddam, and we get a hint of the lives of his tenants in a very different world.

In this book we get a close look at Bascombe's son Paul, a rather disturbed teenager. Paul figures in the other books in this series, but I believe this is the most detail I've read about his life and problems. While Paul isn't quite believable as a character, he does represent many of the things that happen to kids in America who are given too much, and raised to expect too much.

Swan Peak, by James Lee Burke

This Dave Robicheaux novel takes place in Montana. Cletus Purcel, Dave, and his wife Molly, are spending the summer with Albert Hollister, a retired English professor.

It's not much of a vacation. Clete is intimidated by a couple of hired thugs within the first few pages of the book. Murders that at first seem like serial killings are reported soon afterward. Cletus' drinking and womanizing, and Dave's sober-alcoholic angst threaten to get in the way of them being any help to the local sheriff, and the FBI (in the person of a young lady to whom Cletus takes a liking).

Burke does a great job of describing the Montana countryside, and evoking the moods of this tough, remote land.

Swan Peak is a thoroughly enjoyable continuation of the Dave Robicheaux series.