Short reviews of what I’ve been reading recently:
Walter Hunt’s excellent A Song in Stone, highly recommended for fans of medieval tales, time travels, and thrillers that don’t involve impending destruction of the world. Hunt handles the Templar trope with skill and finesse — he really knows his history and his religion. Plus he has real characters, with depth — even spiritual dilemmas.
Two, no wait that’s three, no wait five murder mysteries of varying quality and memorability, including some very good ones by the ever-reliable and ever-funny Donna Andrews.
Re-read Patricia Cornwell’s Postmortem, the first of the Kay Scarpetta novels. I first read it back in the 90′s, when it was a new bestseller and the simple fact that Cornwell included direct forensic observations was shocking and fascinating. Not being the kind of person who’s bothered by things like blood and bodies, I loved it. I don’t know whether Cornwell really started the most recent trend for forensic and crime scene shows, but she was certainly on the early part of the wave. But the forensic parts don’t stand up so well to re-reading 12 years later. Cornwell used leading edge technology of the day, but the computer stuff especially seems almost laughably dated. It gives me pause about some of the things in my own writing — but I guess all I can do is write the best story I can, and if life circumstances make it a forgotten story, well, that’s out of my control.
Boston Noir, a collection of detective stories edited by Dennis Lehane. Very good short stories, showing the dark side of life in Boston. Or just life in Boston. There’s just something about walking down Boylston Street before a Red Sox game or strolling by the harbor that makes you think something black and nasty is just around the corner. And hey, is that a body bobbing in the water? The stories Lehane chose capture that feeling perfectly.
P. D. James’ Talking about Detective Fiction, a good analysis of the British mystery, with a brief stop by American noir detectives. I hoped she’d talk more about her own writing, but it’s mainly about the genre and its history. It includes a bibliography that has some titles that look interesting for further research.
I have some further thoughts about noir and detective stories, but I’ll save those for a separate post.