a few mysteries and more prison libraries

Well vacation was outstanding and too short as usual. Hope everyone enjoyed. With a total of 22 or so hours on planes and 8 or so hours on trains… I did some reading!

I started with Unhinged, by Sarah Graves, which is “A Home Repair is Homicide Mystery” – one of those specialist mysteries like the quilting or recipe-filled ones, or one of the book-related ones I binged on recently. Pretty interesting as such, but my fear with books of this sort is always that they’ll be sort of simplistic, or rely on their novelty status. This one didn’t do half bad; I was amused and interested and the characters were cute. It wasn’t terribly serious or literary and was definitely a cozy. I might pick up another with the same casual interest for an airplane ride, but it was unremarkable. I’m no home-repair buff, but the related details were light and unobtrusive. Of course if you were a home-repair buff, I’m not sure you’d be satisfied with those aspects.

Next came another Lee Child, One Shot. I am decidedly a fan. I love the Jack Reacher character; those who told me he’d be a good character for me based on my love for Connelly’s Bosch were so right! The fast pace and strong sense of place are great; I stayed up late into the night to finish this one, and have recommended it to the Husband, who likes Connelly, couldn’t get into the more thoughtful pace of Raymond Chandler, and reads just a few pages at a time with long gaps in between, so fast pace is pretty important to him. He likes it so far. One Shot is set in small-town Indiana, which is not an environment I’m familiar with, but Child makes it seem plenty real. I just love the suspense and the loner aspects of Reacher; he has the Bosch characteristics of seeming intolerant of people trying to form relationships, while really being something of a softie inside, though he has trouble giving in to this impulse. Reacher is a little bit of a caricature Rambo-type, but I’m so into it that I don’t mind. I’ll definitely be pursuing this series – and good thing, since I’m all out of Connelly for now.

Finally I picked up the James Lee Burke I found to bring along, Cadillac Jukebox. Classic Burke with Robicheaux going it alone (despite being a member of law enforcement) in renegade cowboy fashion against massive injustice, including the racial and sexual kinds. Clete Purcel makes a few minor appearances, and New Iberia, New Orleans, and the surrounding environs are strongly evoked. Burke writes beautiful, poetic, prose with an appreciation for nature. These are great books. But, I’m noticing that the more time I spend with Connelly and Child, the slower Burke feels to me. His books aren’t slowly paced by any means, but they’re decidedly more leisurely than the other two. Robicheaux is also a bad-boy loner, also with soft spots (the wife in this book is Bootsie and daughter Alafair is present as well), but his self-destructive tendencies almost feel more pronounced to me. Where Reacher is fairly well outside society, completely outside law enforcement, has no ties, and is completely unstoppable in physical combat, Burke is more human and seems to have more to lose. Where Bosch has loyal compatriots in the force and a teflon-like mastery of department politics, Burke feels isolated and more vulnerable. Here in Cadillac Jukebox he gets wrongly accused of sexual assault and is threatened with the loss of his health insurance, both of which somehow feel unlikely with Bosch, who (in the course of the series) leaves and returns to the LAPD without significantly changing his relationship with crime investigation. At any rate, full marks for Burke as usual, but I’m starting to notice that he’s not the perfect counterpart to Connelly I once thought he was – that might be Child – while on the other hand, I just had a patron request Connelly and Burke in the same sentence, so clearly I’m not alone in my tastes!

I was without reading material for the flight home 😦 but I made it anyway, and am now back to Avi Steinberg’s Running the Books and ready to render a verdict on the questions I asked earlier. Not tiresome, but fascinating and engaging! It took long enough, but by halfway through, I’m hooked and anxious to get back into it. The separate story lines have converged, if minimally, but more so, they’re no longer anecdotes but continuing tales involving characters that I really care about. These are real people (literally, but they also feel real) and I mourn them when they die. (This is about prison; not everyone gets a happy ending; just past halfway, I’ve yet to find one happy ending, in fact.) Avi, the narrator, is emerging as a real person with some soulful stuff on the line, too; he gets involved with his inmate patrons and some of the larger issues as well. I enjoyed the tour he takes of past prison and jail buildings and his historical/social/philosophical/literary discussion of them (look for Sylvia Plath). What I called a clever and potentially pretentious writing style I have come to find engaging, contemplative, self-reflective, maybe even slightly poetic. I enjoy the part I’m reading now, about the difference between archivists and librarians, and which of them Avi will turn out to be – bearing in mind he didn’t have a library degree or any background when he took the job, so he’s learning as he goes. I’m giving this book an endorsement, in case you can’t tell.

Stay tuned… next I’m trying to decide between Still Missing by Chevy Stevens, finally starting Larsson’s series with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, or getting into the fat Sharon Kay Penman I’ve got looking at me on my desk, When Christs and His Saints Slept. What are YOU reading?

6 Responses

  1. All your hard work of reading as well as thinking about it – and then writing! about it – is making me want to take a nap. I don’t do nearly this amount of reading .
    Just wanted to mention that Alafair Burke is an author. I’ve seen her books next to her daddy’s in the mystery shelves of HalfPriced. I’m sure there’s a good tale about her life. She is a lawyer, by the way, with an interesting bio of her own, according to the cover blurb.

  2. Yea I think I’ll have to look into her one of these days. I’m fast deciding that I need to tackle the entirety of Burke (James Lee) like I did Connelly; maybe when I run out of him I’ll move on to Alafair.

  3. […] and holds a special place for me because of the South Texas setting. Strangely, I really liked One Shot for all the gun stuff. But The Hard Way has to be one of my top two or three, because of the high […]

  4. […] One Shot: A sniper is killing wantonly in Indiana. With all the evidence pointing to one man, it’s an easy arrest. But he wants Reacher there, and won’t say why. The police can’t find him, but don’t have to, because he shows up on his own. He knows the sniper from his army days, and may have something to add to the case. […]

  5. […] concerned that it may be a little while because maybe he’ll be busy helping make the One Shot movie. I don’t know, are authors involved, or is his work […]

  6. […] Reacher is based on the Reacher novel One Shot, set in Philly, in which an ex-army guy named Barr is accused in an apparent open-and-shut case: […]

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