Books by Patricia Cornwell
I hadn’t listened to (or read) a novel in the Kay Scarpetta series in some time. The detective elements and the technology was entertaining but the emoting of the main character got annoyingly overwrought. The reading by Kate Burton was quite engaging.
Books by Janet Evanovich
Stephanie Plum Series
A sprinkling of most of the best characters (e.g. Bob the Dog, Lula, Grandma Mazur, Morelli, and Ranger) and few of the annoying characters (such as the awkward nieces, the doughy brother-in-law, and the monkey – though this story does introduce Kevin the Giraffe… but hopefully the resolution of his role in the story is a permanent exile from Stepahie Plum’s world. This volume was a pretty breezy read… though the whole sadistic serial killer bit was a little glossed over – as was Lula’s forays to the corner to earn some quick cash to buy a designer handbag. We picked up a couple of new food items – Taylor pork roll and babka – and pondered why a ‘Shaneeka’ would be wearing “five-inch red satin stilettos” instead of six or four-inch. And finally we wondered how to best survive standing in knee-deep in fresh cement in a small room… though I guess that the setup was to keep victims relatively stationary to make it easy to murder by gunshot and to then dispose of the body into the concrete… but why bother with the concrete? And what do you do about blood spattered on to the wet concrete? Mix it in? Pour over yet another layer of cement? Wouldn’t it be much more practical to murder or stun over solid ground and to then toss the inert bodies into the uncured cement? … At least these questions don’t work their way through into conscious thought in numbers sufficient to interrupt the story’s flow.
Published November 2012. A fast read with a good sprinkling of funny moments. Not enough Bob the Dog; plenty of Lulu; and (fortunately) no monkey. The villain was an unpleasant, stereotypical, former Ranger, psycho-killer – who, of course, is bested by Stephanie thanks to her own ineptitude and her associates both skilled and unskilled (including the Plum-usual droopy, loopy, stoner). Fine for regular readers of the series.
Having read the previous volumes in the series I could overlook some of the troubling and irritating aspects of 18 – but new readers beware. For example, the guy who gets offed early on is revealed to have one or two question marks in his history but when those are found to not be pertinent (or perhaps even true) his image is not rehabilitated. His death is treated pretty callously. That’s life you might say, but then why should we care about the other characters? And why should we empathize with Stephanie’s concern for the injuries to the cold-blooded killer of wrong-place, wrong-time guy? Speaking of that killer, I find it pretty implausible that a Somalian mercenary would chasing after a New Jersey teenage hacker phenom. And (spoiler alert) this is the second book in a row in which a bad guy conveniently gets killed in or by a car at the end book – saving Stephanie from doing the deed herself.
Perhaps the volumes are getting cranked out too fast – red herrings are good, but pointless details aren’t… in this case there were portentious bits early on which were shown to be true but which were not made use by the characters or in the plot development. For example, Stephanie describes in detail the awful snorer on her return flight from Hawaii but she later on she doesn’t connect him to the killer? Regardless, it makes no difference to the mystery that the killer was the snorer, the snoring wasn’t relevant to the plot, and it didn’t serve to direct our attention away from the significant details.
For all Stephanie’s moral dilemma over sleeping with two guys, she sure doesn’t work hard to resist temptation. I appreciate that she’s not hung up on getting married and being HEA, but continued dithering and selfishness is not attractive. If Morelli has to have a monogamous relationship (not that I didn’t say get married), and if Stephanie wants to keep Ranger as a friend with benefits, then Stephanie should cut Morelli loose. Fortunately Lula is on hand to provide levity and logical illogical behavior, and Joyce Barnhardt gets some good snarky moments. Grandma Mazur gets to pop off her usual one-liners but (to my relief) she refrains from funeral home misbehavior in this volume. Oh, and the rats. That provided an LOL moment near the end of the volume.
Smokin’ Seventeen is more amusing than some of the previous volumes. Ample servings of Lula helps, but it’s Stephanie’s successes at bringing in skips and in getting time in the sack with both Morelli and Ranger in the middle of the book (rather than a sly wink to what happens after “The End”) that really makes this story. It’s definitely not due to Bob the Dog – he only has a brief cameo – and Grandma Mazur and Mooner don’t get much time beyond (though they each get a turn at moving the plot along). The red herrings are reasonably effective, but I found the ending resolution a bit too easy. Definitely a better read if you’ve read other volumes in the series.
Volume 16 still doesn’t have much Bob the Dog but has plenty of Lula and a little bit of Grandma Mazur and Mooner. The dose of creepy Cousin Vinnie is balanced by no-nonsense office manager Connie. Though at points the recycled plot elements made me question whether I was rereading the book and though the ending was a little convenient, the book was enjoyable.
Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich, published by St. Martin’s Press, copyright 2010 June 22, ISBN 0312383304.
Finger Lickin’ Fifteen
Volume 15 follows much the same formula as the previous volumes in the series – with similar lol results. Stephanie is still getting cars destroyed, still pretty hopeless at catching bond skips without incident, and is still not getting any between the covers between the covers; but she does display competence and good instincts in performing computer-based searches for Rangeman and in solving Rangeman’s case of industrial espionage. There’s a not nearly long enough Bob the Dog reference but Lula and Grandma Mazur get a lot of text. The plot-line involving Lula and BBQ was weak from a mystery (and believability) standpoint – but it did offer some pretty funny vignettes balancing the not-so-funny, unconnected Rangeman plot-line. A fast summer read for those who’ve read previous volumes in the series.
Finger Lickin’ Fifteen by Janet Evanovich, published by St. Martin’s Press, copyright 2009, ISBN 0-312-38328-2.
This series introduces Evanovich fans to Lizzie, Clara, and Flo; and carries over Carl the monkey, Wulf, and Diesel from the Between the Plums series featuring New Jersey bail bondsman Stephanie Plum. In a nice segue from the Plum series, this series shifts from the grittiness of New Jersey to the tourist town environment of Salem, Massachusetts and Lizzie’s baker profession. (Technically Lizzie lives in Marblehead a few miles from Salem – in a small, two-bedroom saltbox built in 1740.) Diesel and Wulf are in a race to find the SALIGIA Stones: one powerful stone for each of the seven deadly sins. This first novel concerns the gluttony (gula) stone with a disappointingly abrupt ending setting up the second novel. Given that the second revolves around the lust (luxuria) stone, I’m expecting the series to be eked out for at least five more novels, one for each stone.
The paranormal aspects are mostly amusing though I question having Wulf as strong as he is. I also question having Lizzy in a tizzy about her cupcake skills going on the fritz when her sensitivity to the SALIGIA stones is undiminished. I liked the one-eyed ninja cat – but not his feline inappropriate diet. Nice to have just one (though forbidden) M-F relationship, but Lula is a much better sidekick than Glo. I do like Clara the head baker.
This second volume is mostly amusing and well-paced. A notable eye-roll moment consists of Lizzie and Glo audibly reciting the latest two-sentence clue conveniently within earshot of Wulf’s henchman Hatchet. Jeesh – though I suppose in their defense are the numerous instances of Silicon Valley tech employees with loose lips in public places getting overheard by the competition. Glo’s observation “You’re a ham farter” and Hatchet’s response “Tis a manly fart” is representative of the funny indignities that Hatchet suffers – but those bits are no where equal to the class Bob the Dog incidents. Morty the Sandman takes the place of Grandma Mazur and her accompanying old person jokes while Glo takes Lula’s place as outrageously dressed sidekick. As in the first volume, the supporting human characters are better in the Plum series – but Cat and Carl are much better than the hamster (though I’ll take a big dose of Bob the Dog over Carl). Sadly Clara doesn’t get much airtime in this volume.
Feline feeding alert: don’t feed cats muffins (unless they’re made of raw meat and no produce) or ungulate milk (as Lizzie does on page 64). I assume that monkeys are omnivores so there’s no lasting harm done by Carl the monkey sharing Diesel’s diet. Cute scene on page 248 with Carl sleeping on Diesel’s chest. On page 263 Diesel puts a dog harness and leash on Carl – just as I do my cats.
On pages 274 and 275 Hatchet sings bawdy love songs to Glo including verses about ‘turgid nipples’ (i.e. swollen or distended nipples) and ‘fuzzy peach cheeks’.
To protect the innocent (I guess) while the major street names are real, the end-destinations are on fictional street names. For example, there’s no Weatherby Street in Marblehead, but Pleasant Street exists and indeed turns into Lafayette Street which crosses over a bridge on the way into Salem. And Lizzie and Diesel meet with Harvard grad student Julie at the real Barker Center (nee Harvard Union) just past “the Inn” (the Harvard-owned Inn at Harvard) in Cambridge. Lizzie and Diesel drive across the “Harry Houdini bridge” which is actually variously known as the ‘Harvard Bridge‘ or the ‘MIT Bridge’. Louisburg Square is a few blocks north of Boston Common and four blocks east of the Charles River. The Massachusetts State House does overlook Joy Street.
Literary, art, and other references
Real: Elizabethan literature; Ayn Rand (author of the seminal novels Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, and founder of the philosophical movement Objectivism; ironically in comparison to the fictional John Lovey’s belief in true love, she believed in open relationships (for herself)); The Wind in the Willows; Joe Ancis’ (NYC comedian who was a major influence on Lenny Bruce) quote “The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well”; Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam (an awesome museum) and Van Gogh’s Almond Blossom series of paintings (a beautiful tracery of branches budding out in snowy blossoms delicately tinged with pink against an intensely turquoise sky – quite a contrast to Van Gogh’s early, dour paintings in sepia tones of Dutch peasants) – perhaps this painting was used in the novel’s true love sequence because it was created by Van Gogh for his beloved younger brother Theo to celebrate the birth of Theo’s son Vincent; Practical Pig was the name of the industrious pig who built a house of bricks in the Walt Disney-produced animated short Three Little Pigs; Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale (and the quote “The silence of pure innocence persuades when speaking fails”); the audiokinetic sculpture Archimedean Excogitation by artist George Rhoads; the Hulk roller coaster at Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando FL; St. John Knit clothing; Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 (aka Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?) contains the line “Sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines.”; William Butterfield was a British architect – though not in Boston (or anywhere in the United States); The Sphinx (an all-male secret society) is the oldest of the ‘senior societies’ at Dartmouth College; Hanover Inn, built in 1887, is a hotel owned by Dartmouth College; the Alpha Delta house at Dartmouth was built in the 1920s; La Perla is a high-end lingerie brand; local hardware store a la Ace.
Charles W. Duane was the rector of Old North Church from 1893 to 1911. He oversaw the first renovation of the church’s eight bells in 1894. Because the bells are change ringing, each bell is (manually) rung by a separate ringer in mathematical patterns (rather than in keeping with a musical score to produce a melody). One of the bells is inscribed (in reference to its casting in England in 1744). Ironically the bell tower of the Old North Church is best known for the two lanterns briefly hung as part of Paul Revere’s ride warning of the movement of the British Army; bells were rung in the more distant churches. Harvard graduate and MA resident Charles D. (Duane) Baker, Jr. is a politician as was his great-grandfather and grandfather (with the shared given name Charles D); presumably he’s a descendent of Rector Charles W. Duane. There’s no record of a ninth bell.
Not real: The History of English Sixteenth-Century Verse; poet John Lovey (though he was the first Master of the Worshipful Company of Mercers in 1390); Abner Goodfellow from Hanover NH (though there is a Goodfellow Road in Hanover, New Hampshire); a second Van Gogh painting of almond blossoms against a blue sky (though there are two similar Van Gogh paintings – Blossoming Almond Branch in a Glass and Blossoming Almond Branch in a Glass with a Book – the second of which is in a private collection); and Key House.
Prof. Tichy is fictional though Tichy is a reasonably common Czech surname and Tichy is a town in Northern Algeria named Tichy. His namesake dinosaur, Tichasaurus Armatus, said to resembles a Stegosaurus is fictional though there is a Stegosaurus Armatus. Further, the fictional Tichy died in 1862 while the real Stegosaurus fossil discoveries occurred during the Bone Wars (which started in 1877 between paleontologists from New Haven CT and Philadelphia). Though there is not a Tichasaurus statue – or any other dinosaur statue in front of Robinson Hall (the home of Harvard’s History Department), there is a large T-Rex statue in front of the Boston Museum of Science. There’s no Motion Machine by Monroe Tichy at the Boston Museum of Science but there is The Clark Collection of Mechanical Models consisting of 120 working mechanical models constructed by engineer William M. Clark in the early 1900s based on Henry T. Brown’s 1871 publication Five Hundred and Seven Mechanical Movements.
Books by Jayne Ann Krentz
See the Castle Krentz Quick post for reviews of books by Jayne Ann Krentz under her married name (Jayne Ann Krentz), her given (maiden) name Jayne Castle, and and her pen name Amanda Quick. Her Krentz novels are in the murder mystery / thriller / romance genres with a contemporary setting – often the wine country north of San Francisco. Many of the lead characters in her contemporary novels have psychical abilities and in the remaining one or both of the leads are strong intuitives. Her Jayne Castle novels are set in the future on another planet with emigrants from Earth with psychical abilities and her Amanda Quick novels are Regency romance / mystery / thrillers, usually with paranormal (psychical) elements.
Books by Marne Davis Kellogg
Kick Keswick series
- Priceless – a bit repetitive at points, but overall an entertaining souffle of luxury living Italian style
- Friends in High Places
Panne i Pesche Caramello; bagatelles with silver leaf
shantung silk, pink moire slippers, peau-de-soie,
taupe, topaz, aquamarine, peridot
Kashmir sapphire, peridot, topaz
Van Cleef, Raymond Yard, Cartier, Harry Winston and Graff
Beaulieu, Prosecco, Chopin martini, limoncello martini
Portofino, St. George’s hall at Windsor Castle, St. Honore Room at Hotel Bristol in Paris, Hotel du Palais in Paris, Eygalieres in Provence, Hotel Excelsior in San Remo, Mt. Blanc Tunnel to Switzerland (Geneva),
A-26 Portofino to Turin; TGV Mediterranee, Paris to Marseilles
Jean-Paul Hevin is a Parisian chocolatier
“International Refugee Foundation” =? International Refugee Organization?
Parure – ‘par-rheur’
‘Brilliant’ is a gemstone cut for extra brilliance
Chocolate souffle recipes:
Adapted Julia Child version – prone to post-cooking collapse
Chowhound version – post-cooking stable due to ‘cooked’ meringue base (hot sugar syrup instead of sugar is beaten into the whipped egg whites)
Romanoff family – Maria Feodorova, Danish mother of Nicolas I, fled the Russian Revolution in 1919, going through London before settling in her native Denmark. To finance her activities, she sold many of her jewels to Queen Mary.
Badrutt’s Palace Hotel is beautifully situated on the edge of an Alpine lake in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
Cambridge and Delhi Durbar Parure: Refer to the Nutriate Kick Keswick Pinterest board for photo pins of the Delhi Durbar Tiara in its first form (with emeralds; called “May’s best tiara” by King George V) and with the famous Cullinan III & IV diamonds (the Lesser Stars of Africa, aka ‘Granny’s Chips’; now worn as a brooch).
A ‘stomacher‘ was the inverted triangular insert on the front of the bodice of a woman’s dress. It was in and out of fashion until the late 18th Century. A stomacher also refers to a triangular piece of jewelry worn in the location of a fabric stomacher. The Cambridge and Delhi Durbar Parure includes a stomacher.
Lilly Bennett series
Encounters of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of fourteen short stories, each by a different author, involving the great fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. The best of the collection kept to the original spirit of Holmes in solving the mystery through savvy interpretation of the physical evidence and scientific investigation of the leads; the worst replaced fact with magic or Martians. Overall the collection disappointed – but a few did stand out, especially the second to last titled “Woman’s Work” by David Barnett. This story was not the best in terms of scientific deduction but rather had the interesting twist of Mrs. Hudson as the one to solve the mystery and to guide the outcome. She applied her practical knowledge of human behavior and current events with legwork and contacts find the answers in a very plausible fashion.
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins is the antecedent of English detective literature.
Spy / War Games
Clive Cussler‘s output may be prodigious (often in tandem with other writers) but based on Poseidon’s Arrow (written with Dirk Cussler), CNP reported that his books aren’t worth reading based on too many unrealistic behaviors and lucky breaks. The bad guys are ruthless killers… except when it comes to the protagonist. It’s like in old comics in which the villains hatch a complicated and time consuming murder mechanism from which the hero manages to escape instead of a quick and simple gun to the head or pair of cement shoes to the bottom. Also, though the protagonist of Poseidon’s Arrow has no applicable training for surviving the bad guys, he performs miraculous feats.
CNP was not surprised when I told him that Charles Cumming was recruited by the MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service shortly after his university graduation. That experience and his university studies in English literature both enhance his prose. It also helps that he years (1990 – 1994) studying. His relative youth – he was born in 1971 – also helps. Based on his most recent novel, A Foreign Country, CNP is going to read Cumming’s prior five novels (in order of publication from least to most recent: A Spy by Nature, The Hidden Man, The Spanish Game, Typhoon, and The Trinity Six).
CNP tried the first book in Berry’s Cotton Malone series (but his fourth not first book published) and found it interesting but too slow a read to warrant reading on in the series.
(Refer to the Thriller Romance Novels post.)