read_warbler (read_warbler) wrote,

Three crime novels

Well this past week has been a reasonably quiet one so I decided it would be nice to have a book binge - a crime and mystery book binge to be exact. I had three library books lined up, ready for the off, and started with The Chatham School Affair by Thomas H. Cook.

Henry Griswald, an elderly resident of the small town of Chatham, on Cape Cod, looks back to the year 1927. Then he was a teenage boy, son of the headmaster of a private school for the wealthy, in the town. In that year his father had hired a new art teacher, Elizabeth Channing. Her upbringing had been rather Bohemian, her father not sending her to school but instead taking her around Europe to educate her, and never settling anywhere. The father had written a book about this way of life. Henry, disenchanted with life in a small American town and thoroughly disliking his parents, is heavily influenced by the freedowm and lack of responsibility aspect of this lifestyle. What follows as he becomes involved with Miss Channing and her growing closeness to another teacher, Leland Reed, a war veteran and married man, is a catalogue of misunderstandings and tragedies and testament to the saying: never assume anything.

I'm not saying any more about this book as the twists and turns are what makes it such an enjoyable read and it's much better to know nothing before you start. The book itself meanders all over the place from present day, back to 1927 and then forward again, slowly drip feeding the reader little snippets of imformation. It's extremely well done. You know something awful will eventually be revealed, you think you know what it is, but the end surprised even me. Excellent, excellent read: loved it. I shall certainly be seeking out more books by this author.

Next: Body Double by Tess Gerritsen.

Pathologist, Doctor Maura Isles has been at a conference in Paris and is arriving home from the airport. She's met in her street by the police: someone has been shot dead in their car. Detective Jane Rizzoli is reluctant to let her see the body but when she eventually does see it Maura has a profound shock. The dead woman is a mirror image of herself; eventually they even discover she has Maura's blood group and DNA. What's going on? Is there a connection between this and the kidnapping and killing epidemic that's going on in Maine? Maura's quest for answers takes her to a small coastal town in that state but also on a personal journey of her own to discover who she really is.

Oh gosh. Can this series get any better? I love, love, love Maura and Jane. Their stories are very different but I love the way Tess Gerritsen uses their personal lives as background to this series... intertwining them with the crime stories themselves. This makes the books very personal and the reader becomes very involved. The writing too is excellent, there are no frills just pacey plot and dialogue and no time wasted on extraneous details. And... you know...just the sheer cleverness of this particular book in the series (it's book 4) blew me away. It was literally fascinating what happens here... I devoured it in a day and a bit, just could not put it down. Book 5, Vanish, came back to our library on Saturday and I'm going to be on the doorstep first thing Monday morning to grab it before anyone else does.

Lastly, Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon.

A world famous German conductor, Helmut Wellauer, is murdered, mid-performance, at the La Fenice opera house in Venice. It seems it was cyanide and it was in his coffee which he drank in the interval. Commissario of police, Guido Brunetti, is called to solve the murder. It sould be straightforward but it's anything but. Helmut turns out to have been thoroughly unlikeable, holding some extreme views, and not afraid to use information gathered against people. Thus he has many enemies. But who amongst the cast and staff had a strong a enough motive for murder? Well, practically everyone as it turns out...

Well, this is the first book in Donna Leon's Guido Brunetti series of crime books, set in Venice. I thought it was absolutely delightful. I haven't been to Venice but the sense of place seemed to me to be spot on. It appeared that this was not necessarily the Venice that the tourist sees and I found that extra fascinating. Brunetti is surrounded by cast of many, his wife, Paola, teenage children, Paola's parents that Guido seems not to understand at all. There's quite a lot of humour in his relations with others, particularly his extremely vain and useless boss. The crime itself, well I kind of had an idea who it was, but the 'why' was a surprise I must admit. A good start to a new series.
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