Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Color of Blood by Declan Hughes

My first impression upon finishing this book was WOW!! Declan Hughes now has me hooked on his Ed Loy P.I series. The story was captivating and tangled, and complex enough to have me actually take notes...and enjoy the process. I don't think I've ever read a novel quite like it.

Ed Loy was hired to find the missing daughter of a dentist in a venerable family. The case sounds simple enough, until Loy starts to dig and uncovers grisly and dissolute secrets no family should ever have to live with, (secrets that began 30 years ago and affect every part of the family, regardless of how much they attempt to deny their existence). From "kissing cousins" to decades of murders, Ed Loy has to wade through the dissimulation ingrained in every member of the Howard family to get to the truth. However, this time he isn't doing it alone. This time, his good buddy Tommy Owens is there to help, in the way that only Tommy can.

I don't think I've read such and intriguing novel with so many layers to dig through, and it is filled with connections I was, at times, surprised to see. I'm really looking forward to seeing where Mr. Hughes takes the rest of the series.

Oh, and for those that are wondering...my notes...

The Color of Blood

Next book on the reading list is The price of blood by Declan Hughes.

Friday, August 27, 2010


I came across the word pieta today while reading The Color of Blood by Declan Hughes, it means "a representation of the Virgin Mary mourning over the dead body of Jesus" (www.thefreedictionary.com). In the story Mr. Hughes writes this:

Shane Howard had been on his feet when I recounted the history of his daughter's sexual relationship with her cousin, his hands balling into fists, his eyes blurring with rage; but the news of David Brady's murder hit him the hardest. Sandra went to him and wrapped her arms around his great shoulders and pulled his head to her breast and they subsided to the floor, Sandra whispering to her little brother and stroking his sand-colored hair. It was touching and pathetic, a grotesque pieta that was moving and disturbing.

I would have gotten the idea without the specific word, but that one word added quite a bit more to the picture. As I'm blogging, I'm finding that carefully chosen words really do add to the whole of it. I've even been thinking about the etymology...(which is a scary thought in itself), and in case you are wondering, here's what The Free Dictionary says about it:

The term "pietà" (Latin: pietas) originated from a custom of the Roman Empire around the time of 64 AD, referring to the act of prostrating oneself, and putting forth an "Emotion...of great love accompanied with revering fear....of the [Roman] gods."

Another good juxtaposition I read while reading an excerpt from a book compared the coming daylight to Guinness settling after it's poured. I particularly liked that one too.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Observations by Jane Harris

The Observations by Jane Harris was an interesting book, however, I am a bit irresolute about my feelings on it. In the beginning the story captured my curiosity, but as it went on, I found myself wondering if I should finish it on the grounds that some of the topics were more than I cared to think about. Alas, the curiosity won out as Ms. Harris leaves just enough out to keep you wondering what and why.

Bessie Buckley is a "housemaid" peregrinating to Edinburgh after her previous master has died of old age. As she is walking she comes to a country home where the lady of the manor is chasing a loose pig after recently letting her housemaid go. It was perfect happenstance. Arabella Reid, the Missus, quickly hires her, and, on explaining the chores that will need done, suspects that Bessie knows very little about keeping house. This idea is proved true when Bessie tries to use newspaper to clean coal off of the rug, making the mess worse. However, Mrs. Reid is a patient woman and resolves to teach Bessie not only how to do her chores properly, but also how to behave. The only thing she ask in return is that Bessie agree to write down everything she does, and her thoughts, in a little notebook that will be occasionally read by her mistress. It is not long however, that Bessie discovers things are not as simple as they seem when her Missus starts making odd demands. One night, irately waking Bessie from sleep, Mrs. Reid will demand a cup of hot cocoa be made only to nicely request Bessie sit and drink it. Another day, Bessie is asked to sit in a chair in the middle of the room and then stand up, then sit, then stand and sit repeatedly until she refuses to stand again, (and is then lavishly praised regardless of repetitions). Bessie can't begin to fathom the reasoning behind these request, but does them in an attempt to please the one person she has grown to deeply care for...and their begins a story ingrained with dissimulation, jealousy, selfishness, and redemption as we learn the truth, not only in Arabella's motives, but also behind Bessie's past.

In typing this out, I fear I've made the story sound much less than it is. Honestly, there is much more to it. Bessie's dependence is deeply rooted and comes from an unmentionably harsh past, and the peace she finds in its resignation is hard to imagine. It's a story that shows that when we finally come to a place of self-abnegation with those we love happiness can be found.

The Observations

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Added to the shelf

I've hit several book stores this weekend, and added several books to the "to be read" pile...as if it wasn't big enough as it was. I seem unable to turn down the chance to buy a book so the pile just keeps growing. Added this weekend:

Dennis Lehane's The Given Day. I found this one on sale at Barnes and Nobles and since I enjoyed A Drink Before the War I thought I'd give it a try. Not to mention, I really like the cover.

Jane Harris's The Observations. I've never read anything by Ms. Harris but again, I liked the cover, (not the one in the link), it sounded interesting, and it was on the clearance rack at Half Price Books so it's hard to go wrong.

Laurie R. King's Touchstone. I'm currently reading, and enjoying, Ms. King's Mary Russell series so when I saw this one also on the clearance rack there was no way I was turning it down.

Jane Austen's Northanger Abby. I picked this one up on advice from a fellow blogger. Perhaps being able to keep up with Laurie King's prose is giving me some guts to explore more sophisticated authors.

James Ellroy's American Tabloid. After reading a review of Blood's a Rover here I thought I'd check out the first one in the series and give it a try.

And last, but not least, Christopher Farnsworth's Blood Oath. I've never heard of this author and don't know anything about him, but on a trip to Austin this weekend I visited an independent book store. They had Blood Oath on display and although I think the whole vampire thing is excessive I do enjoy the occasional trip into the paranormal.

Needless to say, I've got plenty of books to read, and with the kids headed back to school tomorrow, possibly some extra time to read them.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dennis Lehane's A Drink Before the War

Dennis Lehane creates a rough world for this first in the "Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro" series. It's a world of hard and fast racism, animosity and contempt, where licentiousness is a way of life. It's not a pleasant place. In all of that however, Lehane manages to put two gratifying and amusingly cynical private investigators to solve the problems in the world.

Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro are hired by a sycophantic politician to find a missing office cleaning woman and some "documents" she is accused of stealing. However, they quickly find out it's not that black and white when Kenzie is almost beat to death on the way home, and the next day a violent gang war breaks out. As the case progresses, the P.I's start to wonder why these politicians are so interested in the missing woman and a seemingly innocuous picture she hands them, and what it has to do with the upcoming street terrorism bill waiting to be voted on in the senate. As they wade through all of the pretense, they quickly see there is a lot more going on than they were led to believe, and none of it is pretty.

The story is hard, and impossible to believe in the way that those of us who live in a secure and relatively sedate world don't understand, but is not without meaning or a valid point...a point well made I thought.

A Drink Before the War

(Currently about to start Laurie R. King's A Monstrous Regiment of Women)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Alexandra Potter's Me and Mr. Darcy

Alexandra Potter's Me and Mr. Darcy was positively cute. It was funny, charming, romantic and entertaining. I've never been the biggest adherent of Jane Austen, even though I did enjoy the 6 hour adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, and would like to enjoy her books, but this book makes me want give her another try. I might just have to restart the audio version of Pride and Prejudice again.

In Me and Mr. Darcy Alexandra Potter tells the story of a young women who is sick of modern day men. After a string of bad dates, including a guy that not only insist she pay for her food, lets a door slam in her face, and steals her cab, but storms off when she won't invite him home, Emily Albright swears off men. When a friend tries to convince her to go on a New Years "18-30" party trip to Cancun to help get her back on the band wagon, Emily gets an idea to sign up for a Jane Austen literary book tour in England instead. Anticipating a week away with her one true love, Mr. Darcy, Emily gets on the tour bus to find it full of much older women who she instantly believes herself to have nothing in common with. Then, to make it worse, Spike, a petulant, disheveled, seemingly juvenile reporter joins them to figure out what the acclaimed Mr. Darcy has the he hasn't. Not a difficult question. Throughout the week, Ms. Albright discovers Mr. Darcy is not all he's made up to be, and she quickly discovers how true Jane Austen's words are.

The characters are fun and easy, and I could almost feel myself sitting in Starbucks talking with a friend I hadn't seen in awhile over a cup of coffee while she told me about her trip as I read the story. Ms. Potter has found a nice and easy mix to get her point across, and possibly, bring an old novel new interest.

Me and Mr. Darcy

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Requiems for the Departed

Requiems for the Departed was unlike any book I've read, simply because I've never read a full anthology from cover to cover. It was an interesting process, if not a little confusing figuring out the characters and plot in every individual story. Since every short story was different I can't really give you a synopsis of the story, other than to say they all contained something of Irish mythology, and for the most part were somewhat "dark". Some of my favorites though...

Adrian McKinty's Diarmaid and Grainne.... As typical with McKinty's books, and one of the reasons I enjoy his books, is that I can see them in my mind as I'm reading it. Even a day or two later I can picture it almost like watching a movie. He manages to pull this off with seemingly fewer words than more too, which seems surprising. The story of Diarmaid and Grainne, in Irish mythology is one of a love triangle, something we've all seen, but this current rendition still manages to keep it fresh.

Gary Kilworth's Hats off to Mary...I would actually like to see these characters in a book series, (and they many be, I haven't checked). I enjoyed the cleverness of the murder weapon and how things came to be. I also thought the story developed well, (although quickly, as to be expected with a short story). This story was a murder mystery based on an Irish mythological goddess named Macha who was forced to run a race against the kings horse and gave birth to twins at the finish line. As a punishment for what she was forced to endure, she cursed the men responsible to suffer labor pains when they most needed to be strong. The moral..beware the wrath of a wronged woman.

Sam Millar's Red Hand of Ulster...Based on the story of a king, O'Neill, and a man named Dermott that both wanted the same piece of land in Ireland. The king suggested they have a horse race for it, and the first one to touch the land wins. When it looked like Dermott would win, O'Neill cut off his hand and threw it to the land and therefor took the prize. Millar takes the tale and turns into a detective crime story. This one I think was the most complex of the short stories, and the most developed plot wise. It also added some humor to the story which added some balance I think. I enjoyed it and would like to read the Karl Kane series, if I can find it.

Garbhan Downey's First to Score...This one gets an honorable mention. I can't say I remember the details of the plot, or which character did what, but I do remember laughing a bit as I was reading it. It reminded me in a way of how Janet Evanivich's books read with some of the antics. It was also based on the story of Diarmaid and Grainne, but more in a satirical way then a true love story.

There are many other well told and enjoyable stories in the book, and in the end you have to admire the creativity that went to coming up with these tales.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sam Millar

I'm currently making my way through Requiems for the Departed, an anthropology on Irish mythology stories, and I'm finding it very interesting. One of the authors in the book I'm thinking sounds worth exploring is Sam Millar. I did a little investigating into his books, and the series he mentions, only to find out that his current paperback, (shown on the left), is selling for close to $1000.oo, (yes, the decimal point is in the right place). A thousand dollars for a new paperback. Wow. Not to be penurious, but that's a bit much for me. I'm still considering looking into his Karl Kane series, which run for about $15.oo on Amazon, (except for the one out of print with is closer to $100.00), but I don't like that I won't be able to find the whole series, or possibly get any new ones because of exorbitant cost. I'm really wondering what makes a current series cost/worth so much, and, why an author would put such high prices on his books that the average person can't get them. It's disappointing really.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Book neglect

Lately I've been reading several new authors, or trying to. The problem comes in when I start looking at my book shelf and notice all of the books on it that have been on it for quite awhile. It doesn't seem fair to just neglect them, so my solution has been to try to go back to those series in between exploring the new, (well, new to me), series out there. It's not easy because I find myself really enjoying these new authors. Declan Hughes is one I'm looking forward to getting back to, and I have a Dennis Lahane novel from the library I don't think I'm ever going to get around to. I'm thinking it will have to be rechecked. Right now, I've just finished a Lee Child book, Echo Burning. It was unexpectedly interesting. I honestly thought the book would drag, seeing as how it was over 500 pages long, but somehow it didn't, and the 500 and some odd pages went fast. Now that I've finished it this morning, I couldn't resist Requiems for the Departed any longer, seeing as how one author I really enjoy is in it, (and yep, I started with that story, and it was, as expected true to form. I found myself wanting to yell "no, don't tell her...didn't you learn anything from Michael Forsythe?"). This book is going to prove a challenge as I find myself stopping to look up the mythological stories each short story is based on. Being an American, I've never heard of most of the folklore the authors have grown up on, so it will probably be slow going, but very interesting. And, ironically, I'll hopefully find yet more authors to read.

Friday, August 6, 2010

A couple days late, but none the less...it was my birthday

Yes boys and girls, I am another year older...not that I'm normally willing to admit that. In my mind, I'm sticking with 30. I like 30, it's grown up but still young, and honestly, not far from the truth. Who needs to add the petty little single digits up every year anyway? Really though, as of August 4th, I supposedly grew up more. I had a good birthday this year too, that included gift cards to a bookstore, (because I don't buy near enough books...can you hear the sarcasm there?). Anyway, last night my husband and I, and my sister in law with her husband, went out to my favorite little Irish pub out here. We ate, and drank...a lot, (I've discovered Irish Car Bombs, a nifty drink with a bit of Guinness and a shot of Irish Cream and Jameson that you drop in), and I'm willing to bet I got properly goofy. And to top off dinner my very talented sister in law made me a Guinness chocolate cake..

It was delicious!! Cream cheese icing, Guinness and chocolate is a pretty good combination. Afterward, it was to the bookstore to spend some gift cards I'd gotten as a consolation for adding another year. I picked up Declan Hughes, Ian Rankin, (who I've never read but I've seen enough to be curious), Brian McGilloway, (who I've heard about),and a David Baldacci book I really like, among others. It was a good night.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Wrong Kind of Blood by Declan Hughes

I would like to start out saying that I enjoyed this novel, but somehow saying that, without qualifying it, doesn't seem quite right. The Wrong Kind of Blood is Irish Noir fiction in every way and it was quite different from the comparatively elemental mystery novels I've gotten used to, (not that I won't still enjoy the simplicity of them). The plot was layered and sometimes a bit bewildering, and the characters were dark and, at times, violent...everything I've come to expect from a good Irish crime novel. It was, all in all, heavy. All of that said though, I did enjoy the book for it's intricacy and will mostly likely continue in the series, (after mixing in some of the mentioned lighter books).

Edward Loy is a private detective that returns to Dublin for his mothers funeral, and afterward, Linda, an old friend, asks him to have a drink...then she asks him to find her husband. That seemingly simple task turns quickly disastrous, and soon takes Ed back to a time before he was born to figure out why people are being killed. No one is who they seem, betrayal and dissimulation are there at every turn, and through it all, Ed has wade through his own feelings and grief to confront the seemingly impossible.

Of course, the story is also not without the subtle Irish humor...
Then he looked up at me, his face a mixture of anger and embarrassment.
"We've decided I'm an alcoholic," he said. "Apparently that's easier than deciding we just don't like each other anymore."
"Would you like a drink then?" I said.
"Fucking sure I would," he said.

Overall, it is a rough story, but for those that like the dark side of Irish crime fiction, Declan Hughes pretty much nails it.

The Wrong Kind of Blood