What We’re Reading
From time to time, it’s fun to check in with our writers and see what they’re reading, Here is what some of us are reading during this gloomy, snowy, yes, we’re sick of it, Month of March:
Lea Wait: I’ve just finished binge-reading all of Christina Baker Kline’s novels. Several years ago I fell in love with her ORPHAN TRAIN: two interwoven stories, one of which is about a woman who’s history is tied to the Orphan Trains, which I knew quite a bit about. Baker Kline brought history together with a contemporary story — set in Maine – and it really worked. My copy’s been sitting on my “books to emulate and learn from” shelf in my study. I pre-ordered her A PIECE OF THE WORLD, which was just published, and I wasn’t disappointed. Her interweaving of the lives of three real people – Andrew and Betsy Wyeth and Christina Olson – was even better than I hoped, capturing Maine and the frustrations and hopes of those whose lives are outside the norm. Now totally captivated, I went back and bought copies of Baker Kline’s first four books … two of which (DESIRE LINES and THE WAY LIFE SHOULD BE) are also set in Maine. (The other two are SWEET WATER and BIRD IN HAND.) Two of these books (SWEET WATER and DESIRE LINES) contain secrets that must be unearthed, although neither is a conventional mystery. I enjoyed all six of her books. They are well-written and realistic, and “got” the different Maines portrayed. But – A PIECE OF THE WORD is still my favorite. I’m going to read it again very soon. This time more slowly.
Kathy Lynn Emerson: I have the great honor to have been asked to give a quote to fellow MCW Jessie Crockett for the first book in her new series w/a Jessica Ellicott. I’ve just started MURDER IN AN ENGLISH VILLAGE, set in England in 1920. It features two female sleuths, one English and one American and I can already tell you that my blurb will be glowing. As for other reading, my interest in sixteenth century women has me dipping into Susan E. James’s WOMEN’S VOICES IN TUDOR WILLS, 1485-1603: AUTHORITY, INFLUENCE AND MATERIAL CULTURE. That probably sounds like a slog to most people, but it’s full of fascinating trivia and, of course, fodder for situations in future historical mysteries. On a lighter note, I’ve read a couple of new cozies, Miranda James’s TWELVE ANGRY LIBRARIANS and Sheila Connolly’s CRUEL WINTER.
Kate Flora: Despite making a resolution to do more reading, I haven’t been. So, for our current vacation, I bought a kindle so that I could carry books with me everywhere, and read more easily in sunlight. And I used a program called “Overdrive” through the library to load it with books. As part of trying to understand the current national divide, I read Hillbilly Elegy, about a guy with West Virginia and Ohio roots who became a marine and then went to Yale Law School. A fascinating sociological study of his rural, blue-collar extended family. Just before that I read A Man Called Ove, by Frederik Bachman, which was so charming I immediately read another of his books, My Grandmother Asked Me to tell You She’s Sorry. Now, because I heard him interviewed on NPR, I’m reading the Bruce Springsteen autobiography. Then I’m going to read some Lee Child, followed by White Trash.
Susan Vaughan: I’m reading Fear the Darkness by Becky Masterman. I was thoroughly caught up in her first thriller, Rage Against the Dying, also with Brigid Quinn, a retired FBI agent and now doing private investigations. She’s old enough to have the wisdom of experience and still strong enough to take down a threat. This story has me riveted as well. It just might keep me up at night. Here’s a little of the back cover copy: Brigid Quinn has seen more than her share of psychopaths. She is ready to put all that behind her, building a new life in Tucson with a husband, friends, and some nice quiet work as a private investigator. Sure, she could still kill a man half her age, but she now gets her martial arts practice by teaching self-defense at a women’s shelter. But sometimes it isn’t that simple.
Jessie Crockett: Currently I am reading The Doodle Revolution by Sunni Brown, Borrowed Time by Roy Hattersley and everything I can get my hands on by new-to-me mystery writer Sally Spencer.
Dick Cass: I’ve just started the Ava Lee series, Ian Hamilton’s wonderful series about a Chinese lesbian forensic accountant who travels the world collecting on bad debts. A kick-ass heroine and some crazily convoluted financial schemes that rival the best long con stories I know. Start with The Disciple of Las Vegas—I’m currently halfway through the Wild Beasts of Wuhan and happy to know there are at least five more to go. Also reread the Dutch crime novelist Janwillem van de Vetering’s The Maine Massacre, part of his series involving the Dutch constabulary solving murders, this time on the coast of Maine.
Jen Blood: I’m reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and listening to This Changes Everything: Capitalism Versus the Climate.
Barb Ross: I just finished Garden of Lamentations by Deborah Crombie. Spoiler alert: I loved it. Now I’m reading The Bertie Project, the latest in Alexander McCall Smith’s Scotland Street series. Not a mystery, but I love these gentle, funny books.
Bruce Robert Coffin: I just finished an ARC of Vaughan Hardacker’s latest thriller, Wendigo, for the purpose of giving it a blurb. An enjoyable read that I found to be a cross between William Kent Krueger and Stephen King. Currently, I’m engrossed in Autumn Imago by local author Bryan Wiggins. Wiggins’ book is a blend of strained family relationships, memories of better times, and the beauty of Baxter State Park.
Maureen Milliken: I can’t read mysteries, at least fiction, when I’m writing one, and since writing my third book in the Bernie O’Dea mystery series is taking soooo lonnnngggg (a blog post for another day), that’s quite an issue. But I CAN read non-fiction mysteries, and this week I’m reading two books about the Martha Moxley murder, GREENTOWN by Tim Dumas, which I first read when it first came out in 1998. He’s updated it quite a bit and added a lot, including the arrest and conviction of “Kennedy cousin” Michael Skakel. I also have on tap CONVICTION to finish off this week, by journalist Len Levitt and investigator Frank Garr. Levitt was hired by the Greenwich Time newspaper to do an in-depth investigation and story on the murder in 1982, then they took almost eight years to publish his story.
Why my interest? Well, aside from the fact I’ve always been interested — Martha Moxley was only a few months older than me when she was killed in 1975 and it’s a case that’s so 1970s in so many ways — it’s going to be the topic of the Crime & Stuff podcast I host with my sister, artist Rebecca Milliken. We’re recording the episode the night before you read this and it drops next weekend. It’s not my only research, but I like to be thorough, and know what I’m talking about.
And what aren’t I reading but should be and wish I was? I bought Elinor Lipman’s ON TURNENTINE LANE a few weeks ago, and have yet to get to it. She’s one of my favorite authors, but I want to be able to take the time to enjoy it.
Vaughn C. Hardacker: Just finished two by Dennis Lehane: THE DROP and WORLD GONE BY (the third in the Coughlin Trilogy). I’m also reading a couple by Carl Hiaasen, SKINK and CHOMP. If you like whacky adventure tales with an environmental message and equally wild and crazy characters but haven’t read Hiaasen you don’t know what you’re missing. A quote from the New York Post blurb for CHOMP: “Only in Florida–and in the fiction of Carl Hiaasen–does a dead iguana fall from a palm tree and kill somebody.”
Brendan Rielly: I just finished reading Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, an Israeli writer. It’s a suspense novel and is her first novel published in the U.S.. Neurosurgeon Eitan Green is living a wonderful life. Successful, married, two kids. Then, while driving late one night, he hits and kills an African migrant and flees the scene. But the migrant’s widow was nearby and can identify Green. She shows up at his house to tell Green that he now works for her, providing medical care to other migrants. But her motives are less than pure–she’s charging the migrants for his services. Oh, and Green’s wife is the police detective investigating the migrant’s killing. Oh what a tangled web we weave….NPR did a nice piece on it here.
John Clark: Just finished a great YA book that’s part of my Thursday Blog this week. It’s called Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller. Almost finished with a New Adult title called Because of Low by Abbi Glines (New adult is my newest guilty pleasure)
Brenda Buchanan: I’ve been on an Irish/Scottish/British crime fiction kick for a while. Ann Cleeves’s THIN AIR, the sixth in her Shetland series, was terrific. The same must be said for Tana French’s most recent, THE TRESPASSER, though you need to be patient because this particular tale of the Dublin murder squad unfolds slowly. I’ve also been reading my way through Deborah Crombie’s wonderful series featuring Gemma James and Duncan Kincaid. I’m up to NOW MAY YOU WEEP (2003). When we head to Ireland next month I feel quite certain I’ll tuck a nice, dark Ken Bruen into my suitcase to read while I’m there. PURGTORY, I think, because I love Jack Taylor and though we won’t visit Galway this trip, we’ll be close enough.
Closer to home I thoroughly enjoyed William Kent Krueger’s MANITOU CANYON, flew through Michele Dorsey’s terrific PERMANENT SUNSET and am now in the middle of Ingrid Thoft’s IDENTITY. A few months ago Chris Holm’s compelling and terrifying RIGHT RIGHT HAND kept me awake at night, in a good way.
Next on my to-read list is Chris Bohjalian’s THE SLEEPWALKER and Barb Ross’ ICED UNDER, which has been out since December, but like the last caramel sea salt chocolate in the box, I’ve been saving it up.