July 31st, 2012


Books 97-99: Genesis/Undone, Broken and Fallen by Karin Slaughter

Book 97: Genesis/Undone (Will Trent #3).
Author: Karin Slaughter, 2009.
Genre: Crime Fiction. Police Procedural.
Other Details: Hardback. 436 pages.

Three years ago former Grant County medical examiner Dr. Sara Linton moved to Atlanta hoping to leave her tragic past behind her. She now works long hours as a trauma doctor at Atlanta’s Grady Hospital. When a severely injured young woman is brought into the emergency room, Sara treats her. The young woman had been hit by a car but her condition indicated that she had run into the road after being held somewhere against her will. When Special Agent Will Trent of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation visits the accident scene he stumbles upon a torture chamber buried in the earth. It quickly becomes obvious that Sara’s patient is not the only victim. Will, his partner Faith Mitchell and Sara soon find themselves in the middle of a gristly murder case.

It's been a few years since I read the six books of the Grant County series and first two Will Trent books in quite a short space of time. I admit I found the ending of the final Grant County book upsetting and was aware that Slaughter was bringing Sara into the next Will Trent book. So although I had picked up a copy of Genesis some time back, I wasn't quite ready to reconnect with Sara Linton until now. A recent newsletter from Karin Slaughter about the publication of Criminal, the 6th in the Will Trent series, made me realise how far behind if was and this resulted in a mini-marathon this month.

As always with Karin Slaughter I found some elements of the plot fairly disturbing; she does an excellent job of conveying the sights and smells of a crime scene as well as the responses of her characters to what they are encountering. I found this a riveting police procedural, full of suspense and just enough relationship drama between the various protagonists without it dominating the central plot. I was happy to meet Sara again, as she was a favourite character of mine. We are also both on similar journeys in terms of coming to terms with loss and I felt that Karin Slaughter handled this aspect with sensitivity and insight.

Book 98: Broken (Will Trent #4).
Author: Karin Slaughter, 2010.
Genre: Crime Fiction. Police Procedural.
Other Details: Hardback. 402 pages.

A few days before Thanksgiving the body of a young woman is discovered in the icy waters of Lake Grant. A note left nearby points to suicide but as the reader already knows from the opening sequence it was murder. The police also soon realise this and take a likely suspect into custody. Under pressure he quickly confesses. Sara Linton, who has returned to Grant County after a long absence to spend the holiday with her family, is drawn into the case when the suspect, whom she remembers when she was his doctor, asks to see her. I can't say too much about what happens next though this combined with Sara's suspicions about Lena Adams, the detective in charge, leads her to contact the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Special Agent Will Trent is assigned to investigate, though he quickly comes up against a wall of silence in the close-knit community.

With its setting in Grant County, this novel saw the return of Lena Adams, a character with whom I had a real love/hate relationship when I was reading the Grant County series, and also allowed Sara the opportunity for some closure on those traumatic events. Just loved this, finding it a gripping read that was very hard to put down and yet I also didn't want it to end really appreciating the dynamic between Sara Linton and Will Trent.

Book 99: Fallen (Will Trent #5).
Author: Karin Slaughter, 2011.
Genre: Crime Fiction. Police Procedural.
Other Details: Hardback. 387 pages.

When Faith Mitchell arrives at her mother's house, she is already on the alert as her mother hadn't been answering her phone. Then she sees that the front door is open and blood on the doorknob. She charges into house, gun drawn and first sees a dead man in the utility room and then comes across a hostage situation in the bedroom. However, there is no sign of her mother. One of the men says to Faith “You know what we’re here for. Hand it over, and we’ll let her go.” The situation quickly turns deadly. Faith has no idea what the man meant and is left with many questions and no answers. In order to find her mother, who had been a police captain in charge of a drug squad before forced into retirement after corruption was exposed in her department, Faith needs the help of her partner, Will Trent, and they both have to call upon the skills of Dr. Sara Linton.

This was another almost-impossible-to-put-down crime thriller. Along with the central question of who kidnapped Faith's mother and why, I found myself very invested in the characters and how the events of the novel will impact upon them individually and collectively. Now onto Criminal, which I have to wait for as it has only just been published and there is a waiting list.

Karin Slaughter's website - the pages for the individual books contain reading guides, excerpts and other material.

Book 100: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Book 100: Water for Elephants.
Author: Sara Gruen, 2006.
Genre: Period Fiction. 1930s USA Depression. Animals. Circus. Romance.
Other Details: Paperback. 429 pages.

As a young man, Jacob Jankowski was tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. It was the early part of the great Depression, and for Jacob, now ninety, the circus world he remembers was both his salvation and a living hell. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It was there that he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great gray hope for this third-rate travelling show. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and, ultimately, it was their only hope for survival. - synopsis from Sara Gruen's website.

I came to this novel, the July selection for one of my reading groups, with some trepidation given its circus theme and Depression time period as I expected that cruelty to animals was bound to take place. It did and while these scenes were difficult for me to read (and I expect for Sara Gruen to write given her own love of animals) they were integral to the plot. They also served to give a strong contrast between various characters; those who treated the animals with respect and those who were happy to brutalize them. These attitudes also carried over to their various dealings with their fellow man.

From its opening I found this a highly engaging read in both its contemporary and period settings. I felt that Sara Gruen had done a sterling job in terms of her research into circuses of the period, some details of which are given in her afterword and the interview included in my edition of the novel.

So from a nervous start about content I ended up loving this novel without reservations and was very pleased that it it had been selected. It proved very popular with everyone in the group as well.

Sara Gruen's page on 'Water for Elephants' - includes reading guide, excerpt and trailer for the 2011 film adaptation.

Note: Here I am 7 months into the year and 2/3 of my 150 book challenge completed. I have now upped my goal this year to 175 books.
Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

Since yesterday's post, I've finished reading two books.

First, I completed reading another book for the online class, Adventures in Wonderland, and there was one scene that I'd completely forgotten about, when I last read the book in high school. I'm well into the second book for this week's reading; guess what it is.

Second, I finished reading Agatha H. and the Clockwork Princess, the second novelization of the web comic, Girl Genius, which I enjoy. I liked the novelization of the comic; they are two different media, and this one has been handled properly, fleshing out what we're shown in the webzine. I'd say these novels are worth a look, especially if you've been following the adventures in the comic strips.

Book #50: Sourcery by Terry Pratchett

The fifth Discworld novel is even funnier than the previous ones, and that’s mainly because once again it centres around the hapless wizard Rincewind. The story returns to the idea from Equal Rites that an eighth son of an eighth son is a wizard, by introducing a “Sourcerer” (spelling intentional), who is the eighth son of a wizard.

So, a young boy shows up at Unseen University, who happens to be the Sourcerer and takes over, creating chaos, although for a lot of the story this is not particularly important, partly because it is very similar to parts of the previous books, with the main point of the story being so that Rincewind can have even more hilarious misadventures, and the book introduces some hilarious characters – a Barbarian warrior whose battle cry is “Excuse me, please” and a genie who uses an answerphone. The luggage from the first two books reappears and actually gets his/her own plotline, even getting emotions for others.

Most of the storyline of the book is absolutely bizarre, but it leads to an entertaining climactic confrontation with the Sourcerer, who is apparently controlled by a magic staff containing his father’s spirit. The ending is a bit of a shock, but it is also very enjoyable.

Next book: The Football Pocket Bible by Gavin Cooke
book and cup

#78 The Death of the Heart - Elizabeth Bowen (1938)

This is a novel I know I read a very long time ago. No doubt though, it was when I was too young to appreciate Elizabeth Bowen’s writing. She is something of an acquired taste I suppose; I know some people consider her to be difficult.
Elizabeth Bowen is absolutely brilliant at completely capturing the world that she is writing about. Emotionally cold upper class people in a large, virtually empty London house. Laced with secrets and adolescent awkwardness, the bitterness of teenage betrayal, The Death of the Heart is an exquisitely written novel. When I look back over this novel, I think of fur coats and London fog, tea by the fire, the sudden ringing of telephones and the desolate sound of heels on an empty hall floor.
Having recently lost her mother, Portia is just sixteen when she comes to stay with her much older half-brother Thomas and his wife the distant cold Anna. Anna takes a dislike to her; Thomas though is embarrassed by Portia, who was the result of an affair between his father and Portia’s mother. Neither Thomas or Anna have any idea how to deal with Portia, she is in a sense left to her own devices, and develops a much better relationship with the maid than with either of them. Eddie, a younger friend of Anna’s is selfish, shallow and often cruel. He enjoys toying with the innocent Portia, caring nothing for the consequences he allows Portia to fall in love with him, she hangs on his every word, believes in everything he says absolutely. Portia has not learnt the art of reticence – and wears her heart on her sleeve, she is ripe for heartbreak at the hands of the cool and emotionally stunted people that surround her.

“Darling, I don't want you; I've got no place for you; I only want what you give. I don't want the whole of anyone.... What you want is the whole of me-isn't it, isn't it?-and the whole of me isn't there for anybody. In that full sense you want me I don't exist.”

Shortly after her arrival, Portia’s brother and sister in law – go abroad – there is no suggestion that Portia will go with them. Instead she is sent to the seaside, to stay with Mrs Heccomb Anna’s former governess. Mrs Heccomb’s step children Daphne and Dickie draw Portia into their social set – and Portia invites Eddie to stay. The weekend that Eddie spends with Portia and the Heccomb’s is an uncomfortable one, and Bowen shows the vulnerable awkwardness of Portia as she struggles to make sense of Eddie’s actions and motivations, brilliantly. Upon her return to London, Portia begins to sense the betrayals of those she loves.
Elizabeth Bowen’s writing is just sublime, her characters that drive the novel are marvellous creations, and their voices ring out in cold clear upper class accents. Each sentence is constructed just perfectly.
  • cat63

Book 36 for 2012

Blood Lines by Tanya Huff. 356 pages.

Third in the series about private investigator Vicki Nelson and vampire Henry Fitzroy. This time, along with Vicki's police detective lover Mick Celluci, they're up against a 3000 year old mummy with mind-control powers.

Rob and I both enjoy this series and this book was no exception. It doesn't have as much of Huff's wisecracking humour as some of her other books, but we like it enough that we're now starting on the next one in the series.