Sunday, March 29, 2009

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

Just a quick note. Thanks to my review reading children, I am aware that tonight HBO will air a pilot for The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. Most of the media has good things to say about it and already has a page about it. I am ready to enjoy the series and to be beguiled. See you tomorrow morning to see what you thought about it.

Guest Blog - Night and Day by Robert B. Parker

It feels as if I haven’t read anything in weeks. I have started several books and have not got beyond the beginning chapters. Then I got notification that the new Jesse Stone was available for me to pick up at the local library. I was caught from the first page and before I knew it I had finished Night and Day.

As usual, I could see the whole story played out with Tom Selleck as Jesse Stone. And I could hear his voice with every line and I could see Kathy Baker and Kohl Sudduth as his two sidekicks. For some reason on the TV series Molly played by Viola Davis has morphed into Rose. She is still Molly in the books but I now have Baker in my head.

Will I spoil the story for you if I tell you that this is not a story about a murder investigation? Instead it is a tale of obsession. Obsession on many levels afflicting various people and destroying their lives or preventing them from moving forward with their lives. It is a good story and a quick and enjoyable read.

Sunny Randall is back in this Jesse Stone story. I like her. She too has an obsession with her ex that is keeping her from moving on. While browsing, I discovered that Robert B. Parker has several books that are about her. I will have to check the library and find out if any of the books featuring Randal are carried there. I have never got into the “Spenser for Hire” ones, but I would like to read about her. I wonder if Jesse Stone shows up in the pages.

So if you have run into a reading block, I recommend this new one by Parker. He might get you past the beginnings of the best sellers or biographies that you have been trying to read and back into the middle of a book.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Guest Blog - Killing a Unicorn

I spent last week visiting three of my granddaughters. The youngest who is not quite three years old had me read some witch stories again and again. I don’t remember being attracted to witch stories when I was little. However, I did notice that at the end of all of the tales, the wicked witch received a just punishment. Maybe Camille’s enjoyment of reading witch stories gives her the same reassurance that justice can prevail as a good mystery with a satisfactory ending brings to me.

I did find time to read Killing a Unicorn by Marjorie Eccles on my trip. I still have not read any of Eccles’ books about Gil Mayo. Killing a Unicorn is a cozy murder mystery where it doesn’t take long for the police to realize that the murder of Bibi must have been committed by someone in the family.

The story was satisfactorily interesting and so were the characters, but I did not feel comfortable with the author’s shifts from past tense to present tense throughout the story. “Forty minutes later, Fran steps off the train...” just does not feel comfortable to me as a reader. The use of the present tense did not give me any sense of being right there in the action of the story. The words were still there on the page that was apparently printed in 2002.

Other than that quirk of the author, it was an enjoyable novel with a few twists that I did not expect. The wicked were punished and the innocent resolved their problems. A comfortable ending.

However, I never quite understood the title of the novel either. I have always associated the killing of a unicorn to an act of wanton violence. The dead woman in the story does not turn out to be the kind and caring person that she seemed at first glance. Definitely not a person who is gentle and good like a unicorn or without enemies.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Guest Blog - The Unexpected Guest

The Unexpected Guest is the adaptation of an Agatha Christie stage play by Charles Osborne. According to an afterword by Osborne, the play was written in four weeks by Christie. It opened in Bristol in 1958 and played successfully in London for 18 months. The adaptation by Osborne was copyrighted in 1999.

I was hoping for another Agatha Christie novel. The Unexpected Guest does not fulfill that wish. It reads very much like a stage play despite the fact that Mr. Osborne takes some of the action outdoors. Like a good Christie work there is no unnecessary conversation. All of the information you are given leads to the solution of the mystery. However, the solution became apparent to me early on in the story. Have I read her mysteries too often? Is it the fact that I am an older reader? I am not sure if someone less aware of Christie’s stories would be deceived or not.

I won’t spoil the ending, but I would love to hear if anyone else was unsurprised by the conclusion. Do not read Wikipedia's information on the book because it gives away the ending. By the way, Charles Osborne seems to be a bit of a mystery man himself. The internet does not seem to have the final word on him. In a site mentioning that he has written several books about music, it makes no mention of his adapting several Christie plays into novels. The best information I could find on him was inside the back cover of the paperback I just read.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Guest Blog - The Camomile Lawn

I am so glad that the Bookrater’s blog is subtitled “or what I'm reading now.” I am not reading anything intellectual. In fact it was several years ago that I read The Camomile Lawn by Mary Wesley. However, I came across the DVD of the novel the other day at the library and just had to check it out. Needless to say, there was way too much sex for my taste when I read the book. I should not have been surprised that the televised version was the same. I think I saw more nudity in this series than I have ever encountered before. Perhaps that is partly due to the fact that it was a mini series produced in the UK with five episodes. But I kept on watching even though I resorted to fast forwarding through a few conversations between individuals in their all together.

I was attracted to the novel in the first place because it is the story of an English family. The story covers the summer of 1939 and continues into the years that Britain was at war. All of the young people who are carefree while visiting their Aunt Helena in Cornwall with the lawn planted in camomile find themselves dealing with the world as it changes when their nation goes to war. Of course all of the young men join the military. One of the girls goes to work for the war office.

This looked like my type of book until I got into it a bit. I did not read about Mary Wesley until I watched the DVD this past week though. She was born in 1912 but did not have her first adult novel published until she was 71 years old. Over the next twenty years she had several best sellers. I noticed that the Sunday Times obituary writer seemed to be sympathetic with my view of her novel. “But the vast amount of time her characters spend thinking about bedroom matters was, perhaps, both her selling point and her one shortcoming as a writer. Occasionally, one could not escape the suspicion that she was going out of her way intentionally to shock.”

By the end of The Camomile Lawn I had come to the conclusion that not one person in her novel had any sense of sexual morality. The uncle put his hands up the skirts of little girls, the young adults slept with everyone they met and even the ten year old in the story confesses at a funeral forty some years later that her first sexual encounter was with a family friend who was about forty years her senior.

In a depressed mood, I picked up D.E. Stevenson’s novel about post WW II at the library. Mrs. Tim Gets a Job is the story of an army wife who decides to get a job while her husband is stationed in Egypt and her two children are away at school. Hester ends up assisting the owner of a bed and breakfast in Scotland. On one occasion Mrs. Tim and Erica discuss the behavior of a Mrs. Ovens whose husband is still posted aboard in the military.

“About that lady.”
“Nasty piece of work!”
”Erica,” I say in a lower voice, “There’s something odd going on between her and Mr. Wick. Perhaps I should have told you before but...”
“Something odd!” exclaims Erica fiercely, “What a way to talk! I hate mimsey-mouthed people - why can’t you call a spade a spade!”
I am so roused by the accusation of euphemisms that I tell Erica in Elizabethan language exactly what I suspect
(Stevenson, p 138-9).

This exchange recorded by Stevenson is exactly my kind of reference to sexual encounters on the page. She left no doubt of what was going on and left me chuckling over their conversation.
Undoubtedly because of authors like Wesley, I keep on reading mysteries. Even with mysteries I prefer discreet references to the characters' love lives and sketchy information about violence. There is a long list of best sellers by Mary Wesley but I don’t think I am going to be checking them out at the library or looking for them on