Sunday, April 12, 2009

Reads: Some Light Fare for an Easter Sunday

I was comparing notes with a coworker the other day and happened to mention that I really enjoyed those fluffy, quirky whodunits set in the South, like those by Carolyn Haines and- to a lesser extent- Mary Kay Andrews. She clued me in to Mary Kay Andrews' alter identity of Kathy Hogan Trochek. The central stratagem in her earlier novels, the cleaning service with the unfortunate tendency of encountering corpses was to good to pass up. So I had to pick up To Live and Die in Dixie, apparently the second in the series. Couldn't resist. It was well worth the read. What more delightful way to pass the afternoon than to spend it with ex-cop Callahan Garrity, her mother, the assorted employees of "House Mouse' and the victim du jour? Truly enjoyable.

On a whole different level, but with the same feel, if a bit more grounded in African culture and human nature, was the Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. I felt I had to read it now that they were making a movie. I have to confess to being something of a snob. Ever the individualist, I refuse to climb on the bandwagon for a book. If I don't catch it early on, I may never read it. If they make a movie, I never will. Alas, it took me a year to read the first Harry Potter, fortunately before the movie. I really do have to work on it.

Because of this character flaw, when it became a smash hit with the book club set, I resisted reading the adventures of Precious Ramotswe in her newly minted detective agency in Gaborone. I was the poorer for it. This one is sweet and entertaining. The innocence and basic decency of Precious does not keep her from carrying out her duty, African style. Unlike our literary gumshoes, the fledgling detective uses her knowledge of the way things operate to solve her cases. At times, there is a kind of irony as the reader is left to wonder just how effective she has been. The copious amounts of bush tea ladled out by her secretary, bearer of the distinction of having scored a 97 on the typing test as we are advised frequently, are just part of the affectionate local color here.

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