Monday, December 31, 2018
Wednesday, August 8, 2018
This is what I read last week … Burglars Can’t Be Choosers … Lawrence Block’s gentleman burglar, Bernie Rhodenbarr’s first outing …
I came across the name Lawrence Block when I was looking for Michael Connelly’s short stories featuring Bosch. This was a story called Nighthawks that was included in an anthology of stories inspired by the paintings of Edward Hopper called In Sunlight or in Shadow: Stories inspired by the paintings of Edward Hopper. This anthology was edited by Lawrence Block and I was happily surprised by a book full of stories inspired by the paintings of a single artist!! Here Bosch appears in the story, Nighthawks, inspired by Hopper’s painting of the same name. I wanted to buy this book; the book was available, but very expensive and I kept visiting amazon in the hope that the price would come down or the book would appear in a used books portal. So, Lawrence Block was on the radar and then recently, I saw that there was another book, similar in concept, also edited by him – Alive in Shape and Color: 17 Paintings by Great Artists and the Stories They Inspired. Both books have this heady combination of literature and painting, and I was fascinated by this whole idea. It was then that I wanted to find out more about Lawrence Block.
And this was like entering some sort of treasure cave … there was so much detective and crime fiction that Block has written and so much variety and so many different series’ and characters that I began to wonder if this was the same Block who edited those two books.
I was intrigued by all these characters, but Bernie Rhodenbarr, the gentleman burglar, fascinated me the most. I wanted to start from the first in the series and started with Burglars can’t be Choosers.
Bernie is such a lovely chap and the way things happen in this book is so engaging that I finished this in real good time. He is a ‘talented’ burglar, of course, but he lifts valuable stuff and money only from the rich, with the firm belief that the poor have nothing worth stealing. He doesn’t steal in his own building or locality, and so he is a good neighbour, though his neighbours have an inkling of his profession. He is a freelancer, but in this book, he accepts an assignment, that too from a total stranger. Bernie has to lift an item from a wealthy man’s apartment. There was supposed to be payment for the job. The cops dash in while Bernie is still on the job, and one of the cops finds a corpse in the bedroom, of which Bernie has no idea. Interesting, no? He pushes away a policeman and rushes out of the apartment.
Now, the police have declared him the murderer. To clear his name, Bernie has to find the murderer, and for that he has conduct his own investigation. And he has to evade the police. He gets help from some known and some unknown sources. Lots of witty dialogues, repartees, and puns. Bernie is a learned fellow. The clever and droll use of language adds to the humour of the situation. Oh, it was a great read. I picked up the second in the series soon afterwards …
Saturday, August 4, 2018
The Liar in the Library by Simon Brett is again a series novel, the 18th in the Fethering Mysteries series. This book too was released in 2017. Simon Brett is one of the writers I discovered for myself while looking around for more crime fiction. He has four series’ of detective novels going on currently, among other standalone novels and plays. His Charles Paris series is the oldest, the first in the series apeparing in 1975. The Fethering Series was born in 2000, but I stumbled upon them around five years ago, and as usual had a lot of catching up to do. From 2012 onwards, I have been on the ball, waiting for the next novel in the series. The Fethering Novels feature Carole Seddon and Jude, two elderly ladies playing amateur sleuths in Fethering, ‘a town of ordered calm’ and “a pleasingly self-contained retirement town on England's southern coast.” Carole Seddon took (was forced to take, sort of) early retirement from the civil service and bought a house and settled down with her dog, in Fethering; divorced, stiff upper lip, reticent, fixed ideas and all that. Jude has been many things earlier and is currently a healer; no last name, just Jude, which disturbs Carole, who also suspects that Jude has had a colourful past, Jude is vivacious, humourous, lots of friends. They are polar opposites in terms of personalities, yeah, like chalk and cheese, you might say. And they happen to find themselves as neighbours. What brings them together is crime and solving of crime in Fethering.
The Liar in the Library is the 18th in the series, and Jude and Carole have come a long way together, and are tolerant of each other’s quirks and habits and temperaments, but care for each other deeply. They also have solved a number of crimes and have helped each other come out of numerous tricky situations. Here, it is Jude who is accused of murdering a famous author who had come to Fethering for a book promotion talk. They had known each other earlier, but had lost touch over the years. There are lots of other things too. The interactions between Jude and Carole, which is the actual highlight of these novels, are as fascinating as in the earlier novels. Anyway, Jude is initially angry at being accused of murder and as the questioning sessions by the police never seem to end she starts to panic. Evidence is building up against her. Jude confides to Carole, who has her own suspicions about Jude and the writer. Carole then takes over the investigation as Jude is warned by the police against interfering in the case. The police is unwilling to look beyond Jude as all evidence and information is clearly pointing towards her. Jude has to find the murderer not only to solve the crime, but also to clear her name. This is a different battle for Jude and Carole, and of course, they do find the murderer, and Jude heaves a sigh of relief, still very shaken.
Friday, August 3, 2018
A Distant View of Everything was another novel released in 2017, which was bought and read in 2018. This novel is the 11th in the Isabel Dalhousie mysteries or The Sunday Philosophy Club series by Alexander McCall-Smith, another hugely popular series. I found out about this series while I looking for more about Alexander McCall-Smith. I saw that he had another 'mystery' series – the Isabel Dalhousie mysteries. Though I was intrigued by the ‘mysteries’ attached to one of the names given the series, I was intimated by the ‘philosophy club’ in the other name. I felt it would be heavy reading, all that philosophy and stuff. But ‘mystery’ won over ‘philosophy,’ and I started the first, The Sunday Philosophy Club, from which the series gets its name. The novels are about Isabel Dalhousie and her life in Edinburgh. She is a philosopher, not a practicing one, but one by training and thinking; and she is the editor of the Review of Applied Ethics. There are a number of people around her that makes her life interesting and there is lots of art and music, and of course, Edinburgh is a huge presence in these novels. As far as ‘mystery’ is concerned, it is more of Isabel getting involved in the lives of others, and solving their issues and problems; but the problems are interesting. There is a lot of gentleness and thoughtfulness that have gone into these novels, just like the author’s The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency novels. I read the first one and found myself liking Isabel and all those people and what was happening in their lives. Since I started late, I had to catch up till 2012, by which time 10 novels had already appeared in the series. For some reason, a gap of three years intervened between the 10th and the 11th novel in the series. By the time, the 11th arrived in 2015, I was ready and eagerly waiting.
A Distant View of Everything came out in 2017, but again I waited till the paperback was released and the prices came down a bit. I bought it when both conditions were sufficiently met. What about the book itself? A second son is born to Isabel and her musician husband, Jamie; there are sibling issues here; a possibility of a misunderstanding between Isabel and Jamie is projected and averted; she gets involved in a problem concerning a friend of a friend and does some investigations of her own; and everything ends well. Lots of philosophy, actually ethics; and then some art, and music, and lots of Edinburgh.