Happy January! Unlike several of my Maine Crime Writers colleagues who’ve escaped to other climes, I’m still in Maine. Yes, it’s cold, on many days. Yes, there’s been snow on the ground for a month now — although very little, compared to other years. And, yes, I’ve just sent the sixth in the Mainely Needlepoint series (Thread the Halls) to my editor.
Maine Januarys are not for porch sitting or gardening or eating lobster on decks overlooking harbors. Maine Januarys, for me, are time to clean out files (and my house,) take a first stab at taxes, update my website, and start on my next book.
And — oh, yes! Read books, not for research or obligation, but for pleasure.
I’ve been saving some up for just that purpose. So — here goes. Here are a few of the books I’ve read in the past couple of weeks. Maybe one or more will go on your TBR (to-be-read) pile.
Kate Flora is a fellow Maine Crime Writer, and I’ll admit I’m her fan as well as her friend. LED ASTRAY, the latest in her Joe Burgess series, is her best yet, and right in tune with today’s headlines. Joe has settled into a long-term relationship, complete with children, but he’s still, above all, a cop. When he responds to a call from an abandoned warehouse and finds three of his fellow officers shot, one dead, everything in his life recedes except finding the person who is targeting police. Flora does a masterly job of taking us inside Joe’s head, and life as he focuses on possibilities and investigates a scene with few clues, knowing that he, too, could be a target.
Jonathan Harr’s THE LOST PAINTING is the slightly fictionalized account of two young Italian art history students and the art historians and restorers they connect with in trying to establish the history of — and find — a lost masterpiece by Caravaggio. Harr doesn’t just recount the steps they took … he takes us along to visit dusty archives and two hundred year old auction gallery records, introducing the reader to fascinating people in Italy, England, Scotland and Ireland along the way. For anyone who loves research, history, art, or just a darn good story … this is it.
WRITTEN OFF by E.J. Copperman (AKA Jeff Cohen) is the first in a new mystery series, whose premise is mysterious to begin with. What if a man claiming to have the same name … and lifestyle … and speech patterns … and a very similar job … to an author’s sleuth, arrives at her doorstep explaining that three mystery authors have been killed and he needs her insights and help to solve the crime … before she becomes the fourth victim? Is he crazy? Is she? Who is this man? And … why are mystery authors being targeted? Copperman/Curtis always writes with wry humor, and WRITTEN OFF is light, fun … and yet … mysterious.
Emily Carpenter’s BURYING THE HONEYSUCKLE GIRLS is poignant and gripping. What if you found out your mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother all died when they were thirty, and your thirtieth birthday is just around the corner. Althea Bell, just out of rehab, is told she doesn’t have much time. To find out why, and whether she can break the pattern, she must investigate her own family history, and, along the way, discover the secrets it hides. With a trace of Gothic tradition, BURYING THE HONEYSUCKLE GIRLS is hard to put down.
Clearly I’m fascinated by hidden family secrets from the past, because they’re also the center of B.A. Shapiro’s THE MURALIST. A woman artist working in the WPA (Works Progress Administration) in 1940 and lauded by major abstract expressionists of her time, disappears. Seventy years later her great-niece determines to find out what happened to her and her paintings, and finds unexpected connections to other artists, Hitler’s persecution of Jews in during World War II, and other members of her family. A quest that leads her through the art world of today .. and yesterday.
And one more with family history presenting both the mystery … and its solution … is Barbara Ross’ ICED UNDER. (Yes, another friend and fellow Maine Crime Writer.) A mysterious package containing an extremely valuable piece of jewelry arrives in Maine on a snowy winter day, with no return address. Who sent it? Why? And who is the real owner? Barbara Ross keeps us fascinated until the end, as secrets are gradually revealed.
I’ve read more … and will write about some of those in the future. But, for now … I’m going to find a cozy corner and another good book to take me away from issues of today into secrets of the past … and into the minds of others braver than I am.
What books are you reading this winter?