In The Writer's World

More than half of 2016 is behind us, and it’s a good time for a mid-year book review.

How is your reading going? Mine is a little slower than I would have liked, but I’m reading some terrific stuff, so let’s get started.

One of my guilty pleasures was re-reading Tana French’s thriller Faithful Place. French’s books are deeply psychological. I think she’s one of the best mystery writers on the planet, and Faithful Place is hands-down my favorite of her Dublin murder squad series. I can taste Dublin–the drippy cold, the pubs, that creepy abandoned building down the street, and the bondage of centuries-old Irish-Catholic guilt, all beautifully rendered in the dysfunctional Mackey family.

Homicide detective Frank Mackey abandoned his family of origin 20 years previously, but still talks to one of his sisters. And one day he gets the phone call. The only way he’d return to Faithful Place is to learn what happened to Rosie Daly, the girl he planned to elope with 20 years ago. Someone has found her suitcase in the abandoned house down the street, the place he and Rosie were to meet all those years ago.

I re-read this book because I wanted to study how French puts together a story, how she parses out the information and suspense, and how she makes my hair stand on end. I was not disappointed. And, I’m eagerly anticipating her next book, The Trespasser, coming to libraries and bookstores near you very soon.

Julia Spencer-Fleming has been around for a while, but I only discovered her a few months ago. Her series focuses on Episcopal priest Clare Fergusson and her congregation in the small town of Millers Kill in upstate New York. A former military pilot, Clare is a fascinating person who argues with her faith daily, all the while solving mysteries. The title of the first book in the series, In the Deep Midwinter, is from the Episcopal hymnal. I’ve read the first three books. The third left us on the verge of Clare breaking one of the 10 Commandments. This is very good reading, lots of conflict on many levels. Spencer-Fleming continues to turn out a novel every couple years, so I can look forward to more delightful reading on this front.

Of local interest is indie author Angela M. Sanders, who writes a delightful vintage clothing series featuring shop owner Joanna Hayworth. So far, I’ve read two of the four books in the series. The most recent, The Halston Hit, opens at a drag queen competition in a Portland club that is more than a little reminiscent of Darcelle XV. One of the queens is found murdered, wearing the vintage Halston gown Joanna loaned her for the event. Joanna is determined to find the murderer, and takes us on a romp through Portland to this end. I love the series, and its author walks her talk. She is often seen wearing fine vintage ensembles such as those described in her books.Millers Valley

On a more literary level, don’t miss My Name is Lucy Barton by the inimitable Elizabeth Strout. Anna Quindlen’s newest, Miller’s Valley, is an evocative coming-of-age story set in the 1960s and ’70s, told from the female perspective with great insights on the culture and the times in rural America. And, the very popular The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, is a thrilling tale about a young woman in the French Resistance during World War II. We should be so lucky to see a movie made from this novel. Inspiring.

Good news: new novels by Alan Bradley (Flavia DeLuce series), Louise Penny (Armand Gamache series), Christobel Kent, Ellen Crosby, and several other favorite authors will have new books out before Christmas.

Let me know what you are reading. I am always looking for new authors. Can’t think of a better subject for conversation than books. Happy reading, all!

 

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  • Jennifer says:

    I just last week recommended Faithful Place which stays with me years after reading. French is an amazing writer. And, so glad to hear you discovered Julia Spencer Fleming. I found her about a year ago and read most all the books.
    Thanks again for your reviews!

  • Gilion Dumas says:

    I haven’t read Tana French yet because I worry they will be too scary for me. I have many of them on my TBR shelf, so I think I’ll try In the Woods and see if I can handle it.

    I love Julia Spencer-Fleming’s books and was all caught up with her series last time I checked. But you reminded me to check again. She does an excellent job with the tension between Clare and Russ!

    I’m going to check out that Angela Sanders Portland series. Looks like fun. My book club just read a Portland mystery by Alafair Burke, daughter of James Lee Burke. She wrote 3 Portland mysteries inspired by her time working as an attorney in the District Attorney’s office here before moving back east. We read the second, Missing Justice, which was better than the first, I thought.

    My favorites so far this year have been Funny Girl by Nick Hornby, a novel about making television comedy series in London in the 1960s; Devices & Desires by P.D. James, the 8th book in her Adam Dalgliesh series; and Queen Lucia, the first of E.F. Benson’s Mapp & Lucia books, which are new to me and completely hilarious, vintage, camp fun.

    • Judy Nedry says:

      Gilion, I don’t think Tana French is scary so much as she is intense. And I think you will love her.

      I read Alifair Burke’s first book, but none of hers since then. It needed a good editing.

      And yes, the tension between Clare and Russ is exceedingly well done. If you like reading the Dalgliesh mysteries, look for the videos (Multnomah County Library). They were on Masterpiece Theatre years ago, and I re-watched them recently. They were produced with exquisite attention to detail and are very faithful to the books. Especially Devices & Desires. Happy reading!

  • […] My guilty pleasure this year was the novels of Julia Spencer-Fleming, whose series starring the Rev. Clare Fergusson, while it at times forces one to suspend disbelief, is wonderfully, ridiculously romantic. One must be patient with the romance, however; the buildup is interminable. Start with the first book, In The Bleak Midwinter. I’ve read five to date. For more information on my 2016 please visit “The inner self, the outer world” and “The half-year in books“. […]

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