Literary Quote of the Month

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies," said Jojen. "The man who never reads lives only one." - George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Sunday Salon and Dial M for Murder... or 3 "Whodunnit's" of a Different Kind Worth Burning a Candle on Both Ends...

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! AND The Sunday Post (which is hosted by Kim at The Caffeinated Book Reviewer)! I've got so many great books in my TBR pile and on my library reserve list that I can't read them fast enough! I just finished The Lying Game by Ruth Ware and really enjoyed it! Look for my review this week, but just to let you know I would definitely give it 4 stars, almost 4 1/2. The last 50 pages or so I was holding my breath and feverishly turning the pages! After reading The Lying Game, which is a suspense thriller with a murder mystery at its' heart,  I was looking for more "murder mysteries" and found these three books. The first is a classic "Agatha Christie" type story, but the other two have elements of a whodunnit, but seem to have the whodunnit second to the story (and characters) surrounding the murders... Up for a good whodunnit with a twist? Read on...

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz... Here's the Kirkus Review, A preternaturally brainy novel within a novel that’s both a pastiche and a deconstruction of golden-age whodunits.

Magpie Murders, bestselling author Alan Conway’s ninth novel about Greek/German detective Atticus P√ľnd, kicks off with the funeral of Mary Elizabeth Blakiston, devoted housekeeper to Sir Magnus Pye, who’s been found at the bottom of a steep staircase she’d been vacuuming in Pye Hall, whose every external door was locked from the inside. Her demise has all the signs of an accident until Sir Magnus himself follows her in death, beheaded with a sword customarily displayed with a full suit of armor in Pye Hall. Conway's editor, Susan Ryeland, does her methodical best to figure out which of many guilty secrets Conway has provided the suspects in Saxby-on-Avon—Rev. Robin Osborne and his wife, Henrietta; Mary’s son, Robert, and his fiancee, Joy Sanderling; Joy’s boss, surgeon Emilia Redwing, and her elderly father; antiques dealers Johnny and Gemma Whitehead; Magnus’ twin sister, Clarissa; and Lady Frances Pye and her inevitable lover, investor Jack Dartford—is most likely to conceal a killer, but she’s still undecided when she comes to the end of the manuscript and realizes the last chapter is missing. Since Conway in inconveniently unavailable, Susan, in the second half of the book, attempts to solve the case herself, questioning Conway’s own associates—his sister, Claire; his ex-wife, Melissa; his ex-lover, James Taylor; his neighbor, hedge fund manager John White—and slowly comes to the realization that Conway has cast virtually all of them as fictional avatars in Magpie Murders and that the novel, and indeed Conway’s entire fictional oeuvre, is filled with a mind-boggling variety of games whose solutions cast new light on murders fictional and nonfictional.

Fans who still mourn the passing of Agatha Christie, the model who’s evoked here in dozens of telltale details, will welcome this wildly inventive homage/update/commentary as the most fiendishly clever puzzle—make that two puzzles—of the year. Stuffed with smarts and storytelling sorcery, this is a work of astonishing breadth and brilliance.

I use to love reading Agatha Christie when I was young! This sounds like it has all the elements of an Agatha Christie yarn and it is in my TBR pile now. Published by Harper Collins and available now!
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan... Here's the Kirkus Review, A woman must revisit a 20-year-old tragedy after a young man commits suicide in the bookstore where she works.

Lydia Smith loves her job at the Bright Ideas bookstore in Denver, puttering among the shelves and hovering over her gentle BookFrogs, the wanderers and dreamers who spend their days among the stacks. When one of her BookFrogs, Joey Molina, hangs himself in the store, she’s devastated and then shocked when she learns he’s bequeathed his meager possessions to her. When she discovers that he’s left messages to her in the pages of his books, she’s puzzled and begins trying to piece together his last days with the help of his friend Lyle. The reappearance of her childhood friend Raj Patel soon puts Joey on the back burner, however, as questions about her estranged father come to light. It all points back to the Hammerman, who, while Lydia was on a sleepover as a child, brutally killed her friend and her friend’s family with a hammer, leaving Lydia alive, hiding under the sink. The Hammerman was never caught, and Lydia seeks answers from the now-retired detective who handled the case, but she may not want to hear what he has to say. Turns out he always suspected her father was the killer but was stopped from pursuing that path, even in the face of some compelling evidence, and he’s never let go of his suspicion. After all, why did the killer let Lydia live after killing a 10-year-old girl and her parents, and could Joey somehow be connected? Debut author Sullivan presents a nicely paced tale about a horrifying incident with a woman at its core who must put aside her ordered life to find out what really happened all those years ago, where the truth, in the end, may be stranger than fiction.

An intriguingly dark, twisty story and eccentric characters make this book a standout.
Lots of buzz about this book. And how can you not like a story involving a bookstore?! But this looks to be more than a whodunnit, where the story of Lydia is in the forefront and the "murders" in question help create a worthwhile character. Published by Simon & Schuster and available now!

Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry... Here's the Kirkus Review, The unlikely friendship between a canny widow and a scholarly vicar sets the stage for this sweeping 19th-century saga of competing belief systems.

Widow Cora Seaborne knows she should mourn the death of her husband; instead, she finally feels free. Eschewing the advice of her friends, Cora retreats from London with her lady’s maid, Martha, and strange, prescient son, Francis. The curious party decamps to muddy Essex, where Cora dons an ugly men’s coat and goes tramping in the mud, looking for fossils. Soon she becomes captivated by the local rumor of a menacing presence that haunts the Blackwater estuary, a threat that locks children in their houses after dark and puts farmers on watch as the tide creeps in. Cora’s fascination with the fabled Essex Serpent leads her to the Rev. William Ransome, desperate to keep his flock from descending into outright hysteria. An unlikely pair, the two develop a fast intellectual friendship, curious to many but accepted by all, including Ransome’s ailing wife, Stella. Perry (After Me Comes the Flood, 2015) pulls out all the stops in her richly detailed Victorian yarn, weaving myth and local flavor with 19th-century debates about theology and evolution, medical science and social justice for the poor. Each of Perry’s characters receives his or her due, from the smallest Essex urchin to the devastating Stella, who suffers from tuberculosis and obsesses over the color blue throughout her decline. There are Katherine and Charles Ambrose, a good-natured but shallow society couple; the ambitious and radical Dr. Luke Garrett and his wealthier but less-talented friend George Spencer, who longs for Martha; Martha herself, who rattles off Marx with the best of them and longs to win Cora’s affection; not to mention a host of sailors, superstitious tenant farmers, and bewitched schoolgirls. The sumptuous twists and turns of Perry’s prose invite close reading, as deep and strange and full of narrative magic as the Blackwater itself. Fans of Sarah Waters, A.S. Byatt, and Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things should prepare to fall under Perry’s spell and into her very capable hands.

This book has gotten glowing reviews, and a "starred" review from Kirkus Review, but a few reviewers say that it's more a character driven victorian yarn that a murder mystery. Annalisa Quinn of NPR in her review of the book called the writing "so painfully lovely", that I just have to read it even if it's not such a "whodunnit" after all. She characterizes it as  a "historical novel". Published by Custom House, a division of Harper Collins, and available now.
And I Just Have to Mention...
The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss... Based on some of literature’s horror and science fiction classics, this is the story of a remarkable group of women who come together to solve the mystery of a series of gruesome murders—and the bigger mystery of their own origins.

Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents’ death, is curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is a reward for information leading to his capture…a reward that would solve all of her immediate financial woes.

But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a feral child left to be raised by nuns. With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde, and soon befriends more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.

When their investigations lead them to the discovery of a secret society of immoral and power-crazed scientists, the horrors of their past return. Now it is up to the monsters to finally triumph over the monstrous.

I want to love this book because I love the idea of characters from other books making a story together. BUT, I have read mixed reviews. Some love it, one in particular not so much, in which the  reviewer thought that the author did not develop the characters enough. But that's the strange thing about reviews- we like to read what other people think of a book when considering to read it, but it is just the opinion of a particular person. So for my money, I'm giving it a chance and have it on my TBR list. I think if nothing else it will be a fun romp!
Are Book Reviews Important to You When Choosing a Book?
⭐The one book you don't want to miss this week...
The Burning Girl by Claire Messud... Trying to console her heartbroken daughter, Julia Robinson’s mother muses, “Everyone loses a best friend at some point.” Julia is the narrator of Messud’s beautiful novel about two young girls, inseparable since nursery school in a small Massachusetts town, who feel they’re “joined by an invisible thread,” but who drift apart as they come of age. For years, Julia and Cassie Burnes have shared adventures and dreams, but as they cross the pivotal threshold into seventh grade, Julia feels betrayed when Cassie is drawn to boys, alcohol, and drugs. To the reader, the split seems inevitable. Julia is the product of a stable household, but Cassie’s blowsy, unreliable mother transfers her affection to a brutally controlling lover who destroys Cassie’s sense of security. Desperately unhappy, Cassie sets out to find the father she has never known and begins a spiral of self-destruction that Julia, now no longer Cassie’s intimate friend, must hear about from the boy they both love. Messud shines a tender gaze on her protagonists and sustains an elegiac tone as she conveys the volatile emotions of adolescent behavior and the dawning of female vulnerability (“being a girl is about learning to be afraid”). Julia voices the novel’s leitmotif: that everyone’s life is essentially a mysterious story, distorted by myths. Although it reverberates with astute insights, in some ways this simple tale is less ambitious but more heartfelt than Messud’s previous work. The Emperor’s Children was a many-charactered, satiric study of Ivy League–educated, entitled young people making it in New York. The Woman Upstairs was a clever, audacious portrayal of an untrustworthy protagonist. Informed by the same sophisticated intelligence and elegant prose, but gaining new poignant depths, this novel is haunting and emotionally gripping.

Lot's of buzz about this book! I love these friendship stories. Published by Norton and arriving Tuesday, Aug. 29th at your favorite book seller. On my wish list!
What am I reading this week? I'm finishing up a memoir by Claire Dederer titled Love and Trouble. If you are a girl of "a certain age", growing up in the 70's or 80's, you too might enjoy this! It's about Claire's midlife crisis and reflecting upon "that girl" she'd hidden away 30 years before. Some of these reflections are just too true and too funny. After I put down Claire's book, I'll be picking up my library copy of The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland, a kind of time traveling scifi romp with a great female protagonist.

That's about it for books this week. Hope you were able to find something interesting here!

Happy reading... Suzanne


Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

I'm definitely planning to read the Messud book later this year when the author comes to Houston. Thanks for sharing all these with us!

Kimberly @ Caffeinated Reviewer said...

Magpie Murders sounds really good. I listened to The Lying Game and enjoyed it. I hope you have a great week.

Anne@HeadFullofBooks said...

All the books you highlighted sound so good. If only I would spend more time reading than just puttering around on the Internet. Sigh. Thanks for sharing.

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