Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Thursday, January 21, 2016
Broken Harbor is book four (of five) in Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series. I listened to this audiobook third (after the number five book, The Secret Place, and the number three book, Faithful Place). This book features Detective Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy, whom we met in Faithful Place.
In Broken Harbor, the Spain family was murdered in their home at Broken Harbor, a half built, deserted housing development. Kennedy is assigned to the case. He finds oddities in the Spain home: holes in the walls, an open attic hatch, lots of video baby monitors.
Although Scorcher Kennedy is one of the best detectives, he has a history with Broken Harbor. As we work the murder case with Scorcher, we learn about his family, the nuances and complexities of his personality, and the secrets of this history with Broken Harbor.
As always, French is masterful in the weaving of her tale and in the superb development of her characters. Her writing in general is magical. For example, at one point Scorcher talks about how murder is chaos. In the old days, Scorcher notes, people smiled at strangers, talked to their neighbors, left their doors unlocked, and helped old women; the murder rate during this time was almost zero. But now, Scorcher goes on, people are “turning feral” – and the final step into feral is murder. This sort of poignant development is typical Tana French and makes reading her work truly a memorable experience.
I greatly enjoyed Broken Harbor, and I look forward to the two Dublin Murder Squad books I have not yet read (despite the mis-ordering of my reads). I am rapidly becoming a devoted Tana French fan.
Monday, January 4, 2016
DEATH OF AN ALCHEMIST
When I reviewed Mary Lawrence’s first book, The Alchemist’s Daughter, I stated that I looked forward to reading about more of Bianca Goddard’s adventures. Well, Bianca is back, and she does not disappoint. Lawrence’s second novel, Death Of An Alchemist, is even better than her first.
Death seems to follow Bianca. In Death Of An Alchemist, Bianca consults a well known alchemist, Ferris Stannum, seeking advice from him about an alchemical process that she needs in making some of her healing concoctions. She leaves him alive and expects to find him that way when she returns: “The next day, Bianca expected to find Ferris Stannum busy at work. Instead, she found Ferris Stannum busy being dead.” (p. 52) Stannum’s alchemical journal, in which he had recorded his making of the elixir of life, was missing. Bianca desperately needed to locate the journal so that she could concoct an elixir to heal the ailing John. Meanwhile, other deaths followed Stannum’s.
While I enjoyed The Alchemist’s Daughter, Death Of An Alchemist is even better. The writing, which was good in the first book, is even better in the second, as it feels more relaxed and more natural. Furthermore, this mystery seems to involve more action and adventure.
I continue to be amazed by Lawrence’s Tudor era mysteries in that they depict this historical time from the ordinary person’s point of view. The pictures that the books paint from this point of view are not as attractive as those painted by many historical novels set in this time period; nonetheless, as uncomfortable as the pictures might make me feel, I find them to be novel and much more realistic.
At the end of the book, Lawrence includes a much appreciated Author’s Note in which she discusses the sweating sickness that was feared so in Tudor England, hemorrhagic disease, and the historicity of this work of historical fiction. As one who values historical accuracy in historical fiction, I welcome this addition.
At this point I feel as I did after reading and reviewing The Alchemist’s Daughter: I thoroughly enjoyed Bianca’s latest adventure, and I look forward to sharing many more with her in the future. Even though Death Of An Alchemist will not be published until January 26, 2016, I already cannot wait for book three!
(Quotation and citation are from the Advance Uncorrected Proof provided by the author.)