19 November 2013

A Cold Heart, by Jonathan Kellerman

An Alex Delaware / Milo Sturgis novel. This was an audio book. Published in 2003.

This book begins with the murder of a blues guitarist named Baby Boy who has just come out of rehab and is on the road to making a comeback with his music. As Delaware and Sturgis become involved, as well as Det. Petra Connor and a new character named Det. Stahl, it becomes evident that this murder is related to others, and the mystery deepens.

I was a bit worried about Detective Eric Stahl, as he seemed doomed from the beginning of the story, similar to the joke about the nameless character you've never seen before in any given Star Trek episode, but he turned out to be a bit more multi-dimensional.

It's a good mystery with decent denoument. Kellerman is a master of the form.

At this stage of the series, Delaware is not living with Robin, and has a new woman-friend named Allison, who is also a psychotherapist. Milo is still with Rick, Petra is single. Eric Stahl's story is revealed near the end of the book.

This recording enhanced many miles of commuting.

14 November 2013

The Story of English, by Robert MacCrum and others

A fascinating accompaniment to the PBS TV-series that aired in the early 1980s.

The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold

Susie, at age fourteen, is raped and murdered by a neighbor, Mr. Harvey. For the rest of the book, Susie narrates the story from her vantage point in heaven.

While this is almost too poignant, it is handled fairly well. We see the effect that Susie's death has on her family and friends, and follow them for several years afterward.

Flight Behavior, by Barbara Kingsolver

Dellarobia, at the beginning of this novel, heads up into the hills near her home to meet a lover. She is, instead, waylaid by the sight of thousands, if not millions, of monarch butterflies clinging to the trees. She returns to her home and family, and her life is changed.

This book has feminism, environmentalism, religion, the people and culture of Appalachia, the nature of families, and the love of parents for their children.

It may have been a tad too simple, a bit maudlin, but mostly I enjoyed it.

08 November 2013

The Emperor of Ocean Park, by Stephen L. Carter


This is an audio book.

I just read (actually, listened to) a very entertaining and, I think, well-done novel entitled The Emperor of Ocean Park,  by Stephen L. Carter. This is basically a mystery, with political, legal, and racial issues mixed up in it. The mystery is pretty good, with the requisite unexpected twist(s) of plot. There are sufficient red herrings. The characters are all very good, to my mind.

One thing about Ocean Park that makes it extra-interesting is that the main character is an upper-middle-class African-American,  a law professor whose father had been a Federal Court of Appeals Judge. The father dies early in the story, and there is suspicion about his death. I won't try to tell the whole thing, I doubt that I could, but it's a really absorbing read. And through all of it, one gets the impression of having a really unique point-of-view, that is, if one does not happen to be an African-American.

More than once I felt that the author beat certain political drums unnecessarily. His issues happen to be abortion (he's against it) and charter schools (he's for them). Since I disagree with his positions, these drumbeats rankled particularly, and I don't think I failed to notice any. My opinion here could be suspect because of my politics, but I think Carter could have left all of that out without harming the story at all. 

If economy is to be celebrated in writing, removing anything that is not necessary to the work is an obvious goal. I wonder, however, if Carter would not disagree with me. He may have felt that including these issues was important to setting the scene or tone, to providing insight into what is (at least to me) a little-known stratum of American Society: the Middle Class, even professional,  African American. 

I keep a blog of (some of) what I read. I don't always write much about a given book, but I try to include enough to at least jog my memory if I'm trying to remember what it was about. This email is going to do double-duty, as I'm going to use it as my blog entry for this book. 

Now that's economy.