Friday, September 27, 2013

Somebody Else's Music by Jane Haddam

A real murder mystery, a bit on the bloody side but since I could not figure out "who dunnit" I read right  along.  Published in 2003, 483 pages, it was a bargain, a paperback, at the book sale and being unfamiliar with Jane Haddam I  bought it.  It was a fast read, and  the setting  between New York and a northwestern very small town in Pennsylvania, where  there is a high school reunion  gathering is planned intrigued me.  I plan to share this with a friend in PA who likes mysteries.   Near the end the author weaves her own name into the story, a surprise.  I am not certain whether this author  has a chip on her shoulder about her own high school experiences or whether she dwelled on the fantasy of 'what if's' excessively.  In the introduction she states "This is the longest book I have ever written....."  Several characters weave around but the focus is Liz Toliver  who is a professor at Columbia, a widow, mother of two sons, successful writer, who has overcome life tragedies,  moved on and engaged to  Jimmy Card, a rock star heart throb.  She has adopted and provided for Maris Coleman, who was with her in school but who is a drunken, vituperative person. and someone who might be on the streets were it not for Liz's generosity even to providing a semblance of employment.  Liz was  the  ugly duckling in high school, and was seriously tormented by others or bullied in today's  lingo.  Emma, Belinda, Nancy, Chris, and Peggy are other former classmates who  all remained in their small town and who are astir about Liz's arrival.  

Gregor Demarkian is a famous retired detective living in Philadelphia who is called in by Jimmy to determine who is  feeding trash about Liz to the  Enquirer publication.  Apparently the author has used him in another mystery as the title  shows "A Gregor Demarkian Mystery." The action escalates as they all arrive in  Hollman, PA  where Liz's aging mother needs care and a long  ago unsolved murder raises many questions.  I thought this was worth reading as a mystery.  Some of the writing borders between sarcasm and  comedy and is  nicely written.

  Pg 79 where the restaurant menus are  described as "Banana Republic catalogue of restaurant menus, every offering had a story and every story had a wry, whimsical, pixie-sophisticated tone to it."  

Pg. 323 " Not all small towns are alike.  Some are small because they are kept that way, deliberately by  residents whose lives are really in a city not too far away, by people who know very well that a modern and efficient police force is indispensable even if it seems not to be on a day-to-day basis.  Other small towns are really small towns.  They exist naturally.  The people in those live in a bubble that allows them to think that they are immune from the disease of violence that infects every other place and has infected even small towns from the beginning of time."   

Page 379...".the point of the story is that  nobody gets to be successful at anything without something driving them and hat for a lot of us, it was being what I was at this place thirty years ago.  There's an awful lot of people out there who are still playing the In Crowd...." 

Page 381  has a clever line  working the title of the mystery into a summary of life.  

Over all I give this **** 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

Another 5 ***** novel by another previously unfamiliar, to me, author, Sarah Blake, paperback published 2010, 361 pages with supplemental Reader's Guide making it  very suitable for book clubs.  A great tale that opens with the question, "What would you think of a post mistress who chose not to deliver the mail?"  An interesting thought,  how could that happen, so I was ready for Iris James, the  postmaster as she reminded people, "there is no postmistress classification." The tale is set in Cape Cod area of New England in the 1940's  prior to the United States entering World War II.  It is a  historical fictional account of two strong women,  Iris, the town's postmaster and across the ocean, Frannie Bard, a  reporter whose purpose in life is to get at the truth and who is trying to get the US to pay attention to what is happening to the Jews in Germany and the  dreadful bombings of London. from where she reports.  Their lives intersect as Frannie is broadcast back to the states and most follow her.  Besides these two women, there are multiple interesting characters, Harry Vale,   a New Englander,  who becomes Iris' fiancee and self appointed  to keep a coastal watch for German Uboats, Dr Will Fitch who seeks penance by going to London to administer to the people after a patient dies accidentally but he blames himself.  He leaves behind his  wife Emma, whom he does not know is pregnant.  Emma is a needy sort of woman, a clinger,  who comes to know her own strength.  Otto, the town mystery, the one the people suspect to be a Kraut spy.     Rich characters, lives crossed, great writing,  tragedy from the war sprinkled with mystery as to what will happen.  .

As the author comments,  "  It is the story that lies around the edges of the photographs...it's about the lies we tell others to protect them...and about the lies we tell ourselves in order not to acknowledge what we can't bear....and what in the end do we do?"  This novels  weaves around that  concept.  

 Page 3, "Never mind, I.. am old...tired of the terrible clarity of the young..... all of you are young these days."

Page 49:  "  Large and handsome ......Mrs Cripps  stood like a striped tent without an occasion, studying the scene..."

Page 86..."gone to fat, her mother's body, hung like too many coats thrown over a hangar."

Page 245."War was coming....everyone said it, though ......Outside the windows here gulls and swallows divided an undivided sky......if there was a psychology of summer people, it was this: .. Alert and bright they trooped into the post office with letters and cards, wanting to get the work of their vacation out of the way in the morning.""