BOOK & BLOG
January 28, 2012
Miranda James is actually a man, and further more a good friend of mine, which I’m pointing out because I read four books, all crime novels, by men this week. This is fairly unusual for me.
Classified as Murder continues the adventures of mild-mannered librarian Charlie Harris, who has returned to live in Athena, Mississippi, after the death of his wife and his beloved aunt. Charlie has two adult children, and in this book we meet his son Sean and explore their relationship. But the murder in the book is not of a family member, but of a respected library patron who’s hired Charlie to catalog his personal rare-book collection. Mr. Delacorte suspects that someone’s stealing his rare books, and he further suspects that the thief is a family member. Of course, Mr. Delacorte is murdered, and his truly bizarre family provides the suspect pool. You’ll enjoy this entry in the series.
Geoffrey Household, of course, wrote some of the best thrillers in the English language, and time hasn’t dulled their appeal. Rogue Male was arguably his most famous book, though I personally prefer Dance of the Dwarves, which is almost as frightening as Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. However, Rogue Male, written in 1939, is the prototype for so many thrillers that you’ll instantly feel at home. An unnamed aristocratic Englishman stalks a dictator (Hitler, of course), and is caught. He escapes, makes his way back to England, and goes to ground – literally – in a remote country spot. He’s wanted by his own police, too. What happens after that is extremely tense reading, and I guarantee a good afternoon if you pick up this short but seminal book.
I’d never read Gregg Hurwitz before, but The Crime Writer is a wonderful book. The protagonist is, of course, a crime writer, and the plot against him is simply chilling. Drew Danner wakes up in a hospital with a terrible scar on his head. He discovers he was found at the home of his ex-girlfriend, lying on top of her dead body. The police are sure he killed her; but he had a brain tumor, now removed, and he is released eventually. Even Drew is not sure if he killed her or not. A fascinating read.
Night of the Jabberwock is a 1950 Fredric Brown novel. Brown wrote many, many novels and short stories. Both his newspaper background and love for the novels of Lewis Carroll play large roles in this story about a middle-aged newspaper owner in a small town and the events of a terrible night that lead to him being suspected of murder. In a way, the book is dated: not least of which in the drinking habits of almost all the characters, especially the protagonist, Doc Stoeger, who has never stopped hoping for one big story for his floundering paper. But this is both entertaining and puzzling all the way through.
An extreme (and tragic) instance of this is a couple whose child is lost to drugs. If that child reforms, the emotional reception of the parents might be (a bit cautiously) ecstatic. A child who has never been in trouble a day in his life would perhaps be miffed that his excellence and steadfastness hadn’t been acknowledged with as much fervor.
On a mundane level, today two of our dogs, Scrunch and Rocky, got out of the house and took an unauthorized jaunt. They have always been terrible together. Each dog separately is a good dog, and may take advantage of a gate left open or some other bonanza to stroll outside the boundaries. But when they’re together, they take off like rockets and may be gone for eight hours. When they return, they’re filthy, lame, and exhausted. Why do they do it, when the cost is so high? They’re dogs.
Today our two bad ‘uns got out, and they didn’t even have on their new tags with the correct phone number on it. Even if someone found them and was able to get close enough to read their collars, it wouldn't do any good. My husband walked and looked and then rode and looked. When I got home I took my turn. When I was in the car, I spotted them out of the corner of my eye; they were in a deep ditch where branches and other debris had accumulated, and they had cornered something under the brush.
Scrunch was glad to see me, and ran up to me, to be captured and tossed into the car. Of course, she was absolutely filthy. Rocky saw my husband coming (God bless cell phones) and decided to start loping away. He’s a mid-size dog, and he can cover ground; but he’s also old and lame, and this was a big plus for my husband. I tried to head Rocky off with the car, while my husband followed him on foot. Rocky led us quite a chase, but eventually my husband prevailed, not without a certain amount of huffing and puffing.
Scrunch has been bathed and is in purgatory (the washroom) with Rocky, while they both dry off. While they were gone, I wondered if this time they wouldn’t come home. If we’d have to call our kids and tell them we’d lost Scrunch, who is our cuddly dog, and Rocky, who is our sweet dog. And I was so glad to see them down in that ditch that I almost wept.
But here’s my point; what I’m going to do now is go hug Colt and Oscar, who were home all the time. And maybe I’ll give them a doggie treat. Because sometimes, being steadfast should get a reward.
© 2012 Charlaine Harris