Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Populist Reader

Managed to polish off Anne Perry's Buckingham Palace Gardens and Stuart Wood's Shoot Him if He Runs, as well as a little morsel by Mary Kay Andrews. Seems the theme this week was "how the other half lives." The upshot: Perry's latest entry into the Inspector Pitt series satisfies as usual, although the marked absence of Charlotte Pitt leaves a gap in the proceedings. Set in Buckingham Palace during Victoria's reign, although in her absence, the plot is set in motion with the early morning discovery of a murdered lady of the evening in the Queen's linen closet. Again we have the tensions between the pursuit of justice and the pretensions and snobbery of the upper classes. Perry is always at her finest in conveying the Victorian social milieu. Despite having devolved into being somewhat formulaic, her mysteries have heft, an impression made stronger by comparison to the Stuart Woods novel.

I had forgotten that I had sworn off Stone Barrington novels when I picked this one up. All that slice of upper class life in trendy New York is getting tedious- their hanging out at Elaine's in particular gets my goat. Not that I object to the rich in principle, it's just that there is just the slightest tinge of elitism in there. And then there is the sexual angle. Holly from the Orchard Beach novels reappears in this case and almost spontaneously falls into Barrington's bed. There is no foreplay for the reader. At this point, the most appealing character in the book is the villain. Having highlighted all my objections, I still have to say that it's a fair read for a sunny afternoon, if you were once fond of the Woods' novels, say like my favorite, Chiefs.

Savannah Breeze by Mary Kay Andrews also boasts a wealthy main character, at least initially. In this unabashed piece of fluff, old money Savannah native Bebe Loudermilk-that's pronounced Beh Beh- finds herself fleeced by a smooth talking con man. Left only with a broken-down motel on Tybee, one with a title in question, she sets about picking herself up with the help of an assorted cast of characters. Also with their help, she works her own con and recovers the lost loot. The one thing I found jarring was the switching of perspective in a few chapters. Definitely a girlie beach read.

On a more serious and substantial note, I came across an article in the New York Review of Books on a new/old effort on the part of Peter Matthiessen. I've posted on his Everglades trilogy before, but it seems he has reworked the material into a single 975 page book. I don't know if I'll read it. I still savor the haunting quality of Lost Man's River. Don't want to ruin the taste, if you know what I mean. The article itself by Michael Dirda, as well as the actual history, is fascinating. Read it here.

Finally, a bit of book news. Michael Connelly, a must read if you like crime novels, has edited a book of police stories- The Blue Religion. I actually met him at a reading festival. Here's a link to an interview about the same, courtesy of the National Review Online.

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