Today, for your enjoyment – two new and highly rated books, and a trio of mysteries.
The New Books
I know, I said I was only going to review books I liked. Well, I can’t say that I loved these books, but they were interesting and got good reviews from other people, so I thought I’d let you know what I think.
Alva and Irva, the Twins Who Saved a City by Edward Carey. Library Journal listed this as one of the best science fiction novels of 2003. Alas, the setting, a fictional European city, is as close as it gets to science fiction. Alva and Irva are painfully socially awkward, unsure even how to relate to each other. To save their own relationship, they decide to make a plasticine model of the entire city, with Alva taking notes on the buildings and Irva making them. When the city is hit by a massive earthquake, this model is the only remaining record of how the city was. The twins are lauded as the saviors of the city. The writer is not French, but lives in Paris, which perhaps accounts for the odd feel of the book, written like an experimental film with odd lighting and film angles, giving ordinary things unusual prominence. Was it enjoyable? The jury is still out. But memorable and thought-provoking, definitely.
Bandbox by Thomas Mallon. This book was billed as a romp through the exciting publishing world of the 1920s. It is that, chronicling the battle between two men’s magazines. The biggest drawback to this otherwise fine book is that the perspective switches from section to section between any one of about 20 main characters. It took me most of the book to remember all of them. Write them down at the beginning, and you should be able to enjoy the book.
These are all mysteries of the type called “cozy” by librarians – no graphic violence or sex (romance allowed), usually set in a small village, and generally feel-good-at-the-end books. If you liked Agatha Christy, you’re likely to like these.
Aunt Dimity’s Death by Nancy Atherton. This novel is about as comfort-read as it is possible to get, with nary a sharp edge. Down-and-out American Lori Shepherd finds she must spend a month in a cottage in England (all expenses paid), to fulfill the last wishes of Aunt Dimity, previously known to Lori only as a bedtime story. No, no murders or thefts, but this book does feature some friendly ghosts, plenty of romance, and a stuffed pink bunny. This is the first book in the series, which is still on-going, and seems to get only better as it goes on.
Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters. A mystery classic – this is the first in a series that has been going on for nearly thirty years, and still has legions of fans. Our heroine, Amelia Peabody, is (at this point) a sharp-tongued Victorian spinster, who would rather have her mind than a man, thank you very much. She sets off on a journey to Egypt for some amateur archaeology, taking the waif-like Evelyn under her wing along the way. When somebody – with the audacity to try to look like a mummy – tries to kidnap Evelyn, Miss Peabody sets out to stop the miscreant. I really enjoyed this as a recorded book, where the snap of Miss Peabody’s character comes through especially vividly.
OK, I lied. It was supposed to be a trio of mysteries – I’m still reading the third. I’ll get back to that one.