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Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Virgin of Small Plains (Due Dec 10)

It's November 10. It's time for the next book, The Virgin of Small Plains. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoyed reading California Girl, the book due for today.

Any comments you want to share about California Girl, please go to this post and add them there. Now that we have finished reading it, I have added my thoughts on the book. How about you? Did you like it?

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Please feel free to add to THIS post any comments you have about The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard. This book is different from many other mysteries in that there is no central "sleuth." Instead, everyone, it seems, is trying to figure out what happened and nobody is talking. Well, I have already read it so I will say no more for now.

One thing for sure, this book has received many awards! Wow!

REMEMBER: No spoiler comments here until after December 10. Then, you can unload all your feelings about the book! So until then, keep you comments, ahhh, mysterious.

Go to the author Nancy Pickard's website by clicking here.

Read Nancy Pickard's Blog by clicking here.

Friday, November 9, 2007

The James Deans - (Due Jan 10) Add Your Comments

I haven't started it yet, but if you have, feel free to post comments (as long as they are not plot spoiling comments!). We can really comment openly without worry about spoilers after Dec 10... CHANGED TO JAN 10!!

---> Sorry if you have already started on this book, but I had to swap it to January, to keep in line with the decision at our library, the non-virtual mirror to this web site. Soooo, it is The Virgin of Small Plains for Dec 10 and The James Deans for Jan 10.

In the meantime take a look at how it feels to be a reader when you are a writer. Great guest blog by Reed Farrel Coleman over at Poe's Deadly Daughters.

Legal Thrillers

Legal thrillers have always been my favorite. I began reading dozens of Perry Mason novels in junior high school (1958-60). When I began to travel in the late 1980s, I began to read mysteries more regularly. I'm sure John Grisham played a part. Anyway... if you like legal thrillers, you gotta read Steve Martini's series featuring attorney Paul Madriani.

I recently finished Double Tap and it was, as always, a pleasure. Martini does a great job of making the preparation for trial and the give and take during trial sound compelling. Through it all is the mystery - who done it? Great surprise ending.

If you have not read any of the books in this series, the book probably works well on its own. On the other hand, you'd do better to start with Compelling Evidence and work your way to Double Tap, the 8th in the series. Every plot is separate, but you get a better feel for the central character, whose career and family circumstances evolve quite a bit along the way. Check the author's web site for a synopsis of the stories.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


Yesterday I mentioned reading The Hard Way by Lee Child. On the same overseas trip I also read Hard Truth by Nevada Barr. It was just a coincidence. Or was it?? I also brought in my suitcase Hard Eight by Janet Evanovich. What would Freud say!?! [I didn't read the Evanovich book because, it turns out, I had read it before. No, I didn't have my list with me on my rush trip to the library, see my Oct 13 post.]

Hard Truth stars Anna Pigeon in her 13th adventure as a park ranger and sleuth. I enjoyed the story and characters, but occasionally the writing was annoying. There were paragraphs when it was hard to determine who was doing or saying what. Admittedly, when there are more than two characters in a scene, this is a difficult challenge for a writer; yet one that must be overcome to keep the reading smooth. Also, Barr uses a vocabulary that exceeds that of any other modern mystery writer I've read. I wish I had written down a few of these "big" words while reading through because I can't remember them now and I don't feel like reading the book again to look for them. I just remember how distracting and unnecessary it felt at the time.

The story takes place at Rocky Mountain National Park. I have visited there some years back, so it was fun reading from that point of view.

The book actually has two leading characters, and alternates point of view between Anna and Heath Jarrod, a wheelchair-bound woman who was recently paralyzed in a climbing accident. Barr does a marvelous and convincing job with Heath; actually, Heath could easily be a great character for a second series of books.

The plot had some well done red herrings. Is it the rigid cult leader? The cult youth leader? The park ranger who has lied about her ties to the charismatic youth leader? The last 100 pages was a continuous build-up in suspense.

I still like V I Warshawski as my all time favorite female sleuth, along with Carlotta Carlyle. Of course there's Nina Reilly- I'm a sucker for the legal thriller. As for Anna Pigeon? She's.... ok, maybe even more than ok. But maybe not exactly my cup of tea. I might read another, but... might be just the thing for another visit to a National Park. My wife and I and some best friends recently visited here. Does it make you think of a good story line?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Anonymous Jack Reacher

I read The Hard Way by Lee Child on my recent overseas trip. This is my first time with Lee Child and I'll have to add him to my favorite authors page. Definitely a "page-turner." I will soon be getting the earlier books in Child's Jack Reacher series.

"Jack Reacher ordered expresso...." the book begins. We learn a bit about Reacher's tastes, which is interesting because on the whole we never learn much about the central character. Who is he? His military background as an MP is repeated often enough. But who is he?

You can grow fond of Spencer (Robert Parker) and his wit. You know almost more than you want to know about Nina Reilly (Perri O'Shaughnessy) and her family and friends. But here is a guy with no apparent family or circle of friends, no office or home.

At the end of the book, chapter 77 serves as the epilogue. We learn what happened to and where they are now - both the bad guys and the good guys. Except for Reacher: "Nobody knew where Jack Reacher was. He had left Grange Farm two hours after the backhoe had shut down, and there had been no news of him since." Until, I suppose, he pops up in the next story, from nowhere.

Even the rather cold Lucas Davenport (John Sandford) has a home and family. Even The Equalizer (remember the series starring Edward Woodward in the late 1980s?) had a son and other family entanglements. Jack Reacher (at least in this novel) also functions as an Equalizer, but one that seems impenetrable. Who is he? So Lee Child has created an anonymous character, and done rather well with him.

I regret that I will miss hearing Lee Child when he keynotes at the annual Crimebake. I have attended two previous Crimebakes and they are excellent.

2009 POLL #2--Do Mystery Stories and Political Bias Mix? What is closest to your view?