BOOK & BLOG
July 4, 2008
Books of the Week: “A Royal Pain” Rhys Bowen, “Night Shift” Lilith Saintcrow, “Hit and Run” Lawrence Block
If I’d been blindfolded and spun around before I picked books out of my TBR pile, I couldn’t have selected three more diverse novels. I enjoyed all three very much, so it was a wonderful reading week for me.
It’s hard to balance light-hearted with well-plotted and written; somehow light-hearted books seem effortless, if they’re done right, and novelists who construct these books often don’t get credit for their hard work. So, a tip of the hat to Rhys Bowen, whose second novel about the misadventures of Lady Georgianna Rannoch is just as good as her first. Georgie is in the same sad state in “A Royal Pain.” She’s trying to learn how to fend for herself after having been brought up with numerous servants. To give her credit, she’s very good at accepting reality. And she has an added help in her heritage. Her actress mother isn’t worth much, and isn’t a bit of help to Georgie, but the mother’s father is not only a down-to-earth former policeman, but much nicer than his progeny. It’s good to have a policeman in the family when you’re as prone to finding bodies as Georgie is. Have a great time with this delightful book.
“Night Shift” introduces a new Saintcrow protagonist, Jill Kismet. Saintcrow specializes in tough women for whom the term “kick-butt” might have been coined. Kismet is no exception. She protects the deserving from evil and falls in love with someone completely unsuitable, as Saintcrow’s previous protagonist did. Despite the similarities, I enjoyed “Night Shift” as much as I enjoyed her Dante Valentine books. Her world-building is wonderful, very detailed and thorough, and poor Jill rockets from crisis to crisis in a desperate kind of way. You just want to put her to bed, clean her apartment, and make her eat balanced meals . . . which is exactly what her probable love interest, a werecat, does. Good instincts!
Lawrence Block has been a great writer in the mystery field for a long, long, time. I’ve always enjoyed his Keller books more than any of his other series, though I don’t believe Block can write a bad book. His language is simple, his craft is huge, and the Keller books are his best. Keller is a hit man. He has one friend, Dot, who is his manager, in a sense. She dispatches him on his jobs and is his go-between with the client. Unfortunately for Keller, in “Hit and Run” he’s being set up to take the fall, and he’s been set up in a very clever way. While he’s in Cleveland to do a job, an Obama-like political figure is assassinated. All the evidence points to our hero; and that’s what Keller is, oddly enough. Keller has to go on the run, and he reads in a newspaper that Dot’s body has been recovered from the wreckage of her home. The person setting him up has been very thorough. “Hit and Run” has multiple surprises. If you haven’t read any of these books, pick one up immediately.
Fourth of July . . . freedom. The two mental images are the same. You can’t think of one without the other if you’re an American. Unfortunately, these wonderful things have gotten tangled up with images of gun nuts, the Ku Klux Klan, and other extreme examples of America’s love affair with self-expression.
Sure, they’re part of the total panoply of what it means to live in this country. But there’s a lot of quiet resolution, a lot of honest pride, in many Americans that doesn’t have anything to do with the number of rifles in the gun cabinet or the violent and grotesque demonstration of political or social convictions
On occasions like the Fourth, it’s wonderful to just be proud of the United States. Let go of all the misgivings about our apparent role as policeman of the world. Put aside our economic and international troubles. Don’t worry about our illegal immigration issues.
For today, for the Fourth, just enjoy what we have, what we stand for not what we represent under the Bush administration, or to those who hate us, but our original purpose.
Just look at the flag and feel proud.
© 2009 Charlaine Harris