Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

#24: Doomed to Die (Dorothy Simpson)

512bdtn42ba6l-_sy344_bo1204203200_I returned to my Library Shelf project with Dorothy Simpson’s Doomed to Die. This mystery novel featuring Inspector Luke Thanet was another quick read, but definitely had a convoluted plot line. The twists and turns were unexpected and were not adequately prepared; this reader felt as though he was on a constant roller coaster ride through the novel’s pages.

The story centers around a young artist who is found dead in the kitchen of her friend’s cottage after telling her husband that she wants a divorce since she is in love with another man. The woman is bleeding severely from a head wound and has a plastic bag covering her head. What was the cause of death — the head wound or suffocation? To solve the mystery, everyone must be considered a suspect — from her husband and mother-in-law to friends and her illicit lover.

A few things caused me problems while reading Doomed to Die. Simpson, a British novelist, obviously uses British spellings and phrases that are now out-of-date and difficult for the American reader. More importantly, however, was the way the mystery finally gets solved. A minute detail that is barely mentioned in the initial presentation of the murder suddenly becomes the catalyst for the crime’s solution. It felt as though Simpson had reached the pagination requirement set by her publisher and then decided to suddenly wrap up her novel in a tidy package. That type of writing always annoys me.  I would rather have a short book that tells a great story than one that seems to be circling around on itself in an effort to become more substantial.

I’m sad to say that I devoted a few days to reading this novel that I can never get back. This has been the first major let-down on My Library Shelf….and I certainly hope it is not the beginning of a trend.

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#21: Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore (Matthew Sullivan)

My latest novel took me to a used bookstore that is a home-away-from-home for its quirky employees and eccentric patrons. The book’s opening scene features Joey, one of Bright Ideas’ most regular customers, dangling from a noose. His body has been discovered by Lydia, the lovable and loyal bookseller. As Lydia lower Joey’s body from the rafters, she discovers a photograph in Joey’s pocket. Is this a clue to the reason for Joey’s suicide? No….it actually raises more questions because the picture was taken at Lydia’s 10th birthday party — and was one of the last times she saw her friend Carol before she was tragically killed. Why does Joey have this picture? He and Lydia first met a few years ago…..long after her birthday celebration.

Lydia’s story is not without complication as well. As a young girl, Lydia was having a sleep over at Carol’s home on the night that their world would be turned upside down. While playing in a blanket tent in the living room, Carol and Lydia witnessed a stranger enter the house with a hammer in his hand. As the girls heard the sounds of Carol’s parents being murdered, Carol raced to aid them and lost her life in the process. Lydia found a hiding place under the kitchen sink and escaped the Hammerman’s violent rampage. The criminal’s identity has remained a mystery ever since the murderous night and has crippled Lydia in the process.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore weaves together the two mysteries of Joey’s tragic suicide and the Hammerman mystery into one story effortlessly. It is an exciting read that will keep the audience glued to its pages until the final revelation is made in the closing chapter. Thankfully, the violent scenes were not explicitly graphic and a welcome change of pace for my reading adventure.

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#2: 2nd Chance (James Patterson)

I’m continuing to work my way through the Women’s Murder Club series and thoroughly enjoying the easy reading. The central characters return, facing personal danger as they search for a serial killer. This time, events spiral as the murders begin with the death of an 11-year-old black girl exiting a church choir rehearsal. What first appears to be a series of hate crimes quickly turn much darker.

This installment also features the return of Lindsey’s long lost father. At times touching, this personal narrative becomes painful to watch. I’m not sure if I want to see Dad return in future episodes or not. I suppose I’ll just have to see what Mr. Patterson has in mind for his readers.

My only complaint about the book involves the ending. I’ll be careful not to include spoilers. When the suspect is finally apprehended, Lindsey dramatically realizes he is the wrong guy. In a head-spinning series of events, the hunt leads back to a minor character briefly appearing earlier in the story. Personally, I felt a little cheated, as though the author was simply looking for a way to stretch things out for another 50 pages.

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#4: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Mark Haddon)

The February selection for the “Reading with Jacqs” project was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. The book is basically a mystery narrated by a young English boy, Christopher, who is a highly functioning autistic. The mystery begins with the death of a dog, Wellington, that our narrator finds with a lawn fork stuck in him. His search for the cause of the dog’s death leads to the instruction by his aggressive father to “stop sticking your nose in other people’s business.” Christopher decides to write a book detailing his search for answers. When his father trashes the manuscript as a punishment for Christopher’s persistent search for the dog’s murderer, the search for his prized notebook leads to an unexpected discovery that shapes the course of the rest of Christopher’s adventures.

Mark Haddon eloquently expresses the quirkiness of an autistic boy and takes the reader deep into the inner-workings of the mind. Every detail of the book — including the numbering system used for the book’s chapters — are designed to paint a clearer portrait of our main character. At times difficult to process because of the tangents Haddon’s writing includes, it quickly becomes clear that we are seeing the world through the eyes of the disorder. What I found most intriguing is that the novel is not about the disorder; autism is simply a fact of Christopher’s life that partially defines him. Although I don’t normally read mysteries, I found myself immersed in the tale of Christopher, his family relationships, and the curious incident that links them all together.

What’s next on my reading list? I’ve just begun Trevanian’s The Crazyladies of Pearl Street. I’m hoping to make a nice dent in it during tomorrow’s snow day from school.

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