I read a lot in January. I just didn’t find a lot to recommend. I read one very long YA novel that started well. Midway through, I realized the book had slowed. By the end, I had decided I didn’t much like the plot, but the characters kept me reading. It’s the first of three. I doubt I’ll buy the next. I’ve done that before with this author’s work. The first in her trilogies always convinces me to buy it but never to read the remaining books. She must not be ending the first book in the series correctly.
I also read a legal thriller with dialogue so compelling that I couldn’t stop reading even after I realized all the characters were stupid saints. They made every possible dumb error and still were revered by everyone around them. Um, no. And as compelling as the writing is, I’m not going to recommend the book.
Fortunately, the first part of the month was wonderful and the last part of the month repaired the damage that occurred in the middle. All of my recommendations come from the two weeks bookending the month. I also read some great Fiction River stories, which I’ll be sharing with you in the anthologies.
But first, here’s the great stuff other people published that I read in January.
Angell, Roger, “Over The Wall,” The New Yorker, November 19, 2012. In what is a short memoir of his wife Carol, Angell explores what death means to survivors. Not in a morbid way, but in the sense of some of us continuing while others have stopped. At a certain point, we can no longer figure out what our friends/spouse/relatives would have thought about events, because those events are so different from anything they ever experienced in their lifetimes. He says this much more eloquently than I just have. Read it, for that alone.
Dubé, Marcelle, Running Away From Christmas, Falcon Ridge Publishing, Kindle edition, 2012. I read this one after the holiday because I simply couldn’t wait until next year. Faith can’t take another Christmas alone, so she runs away to Vancouver B.C., where…well, I’d like to say the holiday stalks her, but it’s not quite like that. It’s sweeter. A wonderful story, no matter the time of year.
Land, Jon, “Killing Time,” The Best American Mystery Stories 2010, edited by Lee Child, Mariner, 2010. Fantastic thriller about a hired killer who takes a teacher’s identity and hides out in a school. Yeah, I know. After the Newtown and other tragedies, something like this should be hard to read. But it isn’t. It’s essentially a heroic wish fulfillment story. It came from an anthology that I had read, but I hadn’t read this story. I am pleased and surprised by this piece. It’s quite memorable. I can’t get the economy with which Land accomplishes all of this out of my head.
Lawson, Anthea, The Worth of Rubies, Kindle Edition, 2013. This lovely short mystery takes place in a Victorian setting, although it feels a bit Regency. Anthea manages to make the setting vivid, the characters even more vivid, and the mystery intriguing. This short piece is a good introduction to her work, if you haven’t read anything she’s done before.
Rankin, Ian, Standing In Another Man’s Grave, Little, Brown and Company, 2013. Rebus is back! Rebus is back! Dammit. Because when I had that reaction to Rankin’s novel just from the cover, I rearranged my own writing plans. Here’s what happened: Three novels by three of my favorite writers appeared on the same day. Two had series detectives, and one—to my initial disappointment—didn’t. But Rankin hasn’t written about Rebus in years, and I had to read this first. Which means…well, you’ll see. I’m writing a different book than I had planned to write this month. Let me say that much.
Anyway, Rebus. Still technically retired, he’s been working on the Cold Case Squad to keep his hand in. And he comes across a case that isn’t exactly a case and isn’t exactly cold. He grumps his way through, alienates everyone because that’s what Rebus does, and gets results. Much as I love Malcolm Fox of The Complaints (who has a bit role here), I adore Rebus. And this book is even better than I expected—which is saying something.
Robinson, Peter, Watching The Dark, HarperCollins, 2013. This is the second book of that threesome I mentioned above. Watching The Dark is an Inspector Banks novel, and a bit of a departure, in that Banks spends much of his time in Estonia rather than England. I learned a lot about Estonia, and got pleasantly stumped by the plot, and read as fast as I can. A good entry in a marvelous series.
Ruston, Elizabeth, Love Proof, Ryer Publishing, 2012. Lawyer Sarah Henley is coming off a bad year. She gets a mercy hire job from a friend, which pairs her with an old lover, Joe Burke. Yes, sparks fly—again—but there’s history that the two must deal with, and a difficult legal case, and some bad hotel food. I’d been in the mood to read legal fiction of any kind, and when I found this book I rejoiced. Not only is it a good romance, but the legal part is accurate and fascinating. I can’t wait to read the next Ruston novel.
Vonnegut, Kurt, “Ed Luby’s Key Club,” The Best American Mystery Stories 2010, edited by Lee Child, Mariner, 2010. I didn’t want to like this story. I was quite resistant to it, expecting to quit at any point. Instead, I got sucked into the trials of a married couple in the Depression who just wanted to celebrate their anniversary, and instead stumbled on something horrible and awful and seemingly impossible to survive. Highly recommended.