Wednesday, March 05, 2014

2014 books, #11-15

Sycamore Row, by John Grisham. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2013.

This is a (very belated) sequel to A time to kill, which was made into an extremely good film.  Like the previous chapter of Jake Brigance's story, it's set in the 1980s. Unlike the previous chapter, this is a civil case about a will. Seth Hubbard hangs himself, after posting a handwritten will and covering letter to Jake; the will leaves 90% of his fortune to his (black) housekeeper and revokes a previous testament leaving substantial amounts to Seth's children.  Jake is again in the middle of a viper's nest (and increasingly disenchanted once race comes into the story), and when the principal beneficiary is swooped on by lawyers with an axe to grind, he's on the verge of throwing in the towel.  As ever with Grisham, if you're alert you can see the ending coming way ahead; but it's still worth reading for all that.

No rest for the dead, by various authors. London: Simon and Schuster, 2012.

When the dead body of Christopher Thomas, a ruthless curator at San Francisco’s McFall Art Museum, is found bloodied and decaying in an iron maiden in a museum in Berlin, his wife is the primary suspect. Rosemary Thomas is tried, convicted, and executed, but ten years later, Detective Jon Nunn remains convinced that the wrong person was put to death.  This is a collaboration between over 20 authors, most of them extremely well-known, each taking a chapter.  The chapters are cleverly allocated - Kathy Reichs writes up the forensic reports, Jeffery Deaver presides over a chapter with a couple of the switchback turns he's notorious for, and so on - and the writing remarkably even.  Good plot, and an interesting project; all profits to leukaemia and lymphoma research.

The late scholar: Peter Wimsey investigates. Based on the characters of Dorothy L Sayers, by Jill Paton Walsh. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2013.

Another excellent Wimsey novel; Paton Walsh treads a fine line between pastiche, fanfiction and new fiction, and comes out on the right side of the line on all counts.  Along with his unwanted Dukedom, Peter has inherited a position as the Visitor at St Severin's College, Oxford, and is called in as the final arbiter in a bitter college dispute which has already proved fatal for at least one of St Severin's dons, and may have accounted for the Warden, too.  And someone is using methods from Peter's cases (as recounted in Harriet's novels) to try and despatch academics.  Really excellent.

Breakdown, by Sara Paretsky [audiobook]. Read by Liza Ross. Oxford: Isis, 2012.

A group of schoolgirls who've gathered in a cemetery to re-enact Carmilla stories (a sort of Twilight-type series of novels for tweens) find a dead body on a slab.  They're not a typical group of girls, though - one is the granddaughter of a billionaire, another is the daughter of a Democratic Senate candidate and two of the others are the children of an illegal immigrant, at the exclusive school on scholarships.  All are now in danger, and VI Warshawski's cousin, a classroom assistant at the school, calls in VI to help. As she does so, she is dragged into a web of deceit and personal danger.  There are, as ever, a couple of slightly unlikely elements in the plot, but it's a very good one and stretches from 1940s Poland to the present day.

The bones of Paris, by Laurie R. King. London: Allison and Busby, 2013.

A follow-up to Touchstone, although you probably don't have to have read that one to enjoy this.  Harris Stuyvesant is in Paris in 1929, hired by an American family to find their missing daughter. While searching, he discovers she may not have been the only missing person to have disappeared in similar circumstances, and is drawn into the circle of a fashionable elite including Man Ray and Picasso, and the macabre world of the Grand-Guignol and a fetishism of death. King slips into the world of the period without obvious anachronisms.  Genuinely scary in parts, and as ever tightly-plotted.


Lixie said...

Did not know a new wimsey was out. My gripe with her as author is she goes on about emotions a lot more than Sayers did. Different topic - been meaning to ask you if you know of Yubinuki? Like mini temari samplers!

SarahCM said...

Just catching up on your blog. Like Lixie, I didn't know that Walsh had written a new Wimsey. Must look for it at the library.

Also, No Rest for the Dead. I enjoy these multi author mysteries (have you read The Floating Admiral, which I think was the first of its ilk), so will definitely keep an eye out for this too.

I've read all the Kate Shugack novels, and Liam Campbell (same author) - had to wait a long time for Fatal Thaw as my library didn't have it. Always excited to see a new one. Excellent character development.