August 8th, 2012

by the sea

Books 105: The Whaleboat House by Mark Mills

Book 105: The Whaleboat House (Amagansett ).
Author: Mark Mills, 2004.
Genre: Period Fiction. 1940s Long Island. Murder Mystery
Other Details: Paperback. 358 pages.

Long Island, 1947. The men of Long Island have fished the wild Atlantic waters over the centuries. For Conrad Labarde, recently returned from the Second World War, the nets hold a sinister catch – the body of Lillian Wallace, a beautiful New York socialite. Is it an accident or murder? Police chief Tom Hollis is convinced the roots of the tragedy lie in the twisted histories of local families. But the enigmatic Labarde insists on pursuing his own investigation. It seems the fisherman may have powerful reasons for wanting answers to the questions surrounding her death. And in this strange place where tradition meets power and riches, the truth is a rare thing indeed… - synopsis from author's website.

Mark Mills début novel had originally been titled Amagansett but was renamed in later editions. I felt that Mills did an excellent job of in terms of his story and characters as well as powerfully evoking the atmosphere of this post-war Long Island community. Especially notable was the contrast between the wealthy New Yorkers, who have luxurious second homes in the Hamptons, and the locals, who have fished the waters of the Atlantic for hundreds of years and retained many of the traditions of their European ancestors. The tension between these two very different communities runs throughout the novel, informing the central mystery.

This was the July selection for our library reading group and our entire group enjoyed the novel and felt it was an accomplished début and certainly worthy of the CWA's Best First Novel Award, which it won in 2004.

Mark Mills' page on 'The Whaleboat House' - gives some background on what inspired him to write the novel.

Books 21-22

Originally posted by audrey_e at Books 21-22
21 FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD  Thomas Hardy (England 1874)

This is the story of the beautiful and high-spirited farmer Bathsheba Everdene, and her three suitors, an honest farmer, a young soldier, and a desperate middle-aged farmer.
This is not Thomas Hardy's best (I prefer Tess and Jude), but it is still and enjoyable quick read. You will still find the combination of quiet pastoral landscape and bloody tragedy that is Hardy's trademark and that makes his novels so unforgettable. 

22 THE STORIES OF JOHN CHEEVER (USA 1978)  (the stories were written between the 1940s and the 1970s)

I was introduced to the work of John Cheever with the short story "The Swimmer", one of the best short stories I've ever read. Naturally, after reading it I decided to read the complete collection.
To be perfectly clear, nothing in this collection is as good as "The Swimmer", which is very disappointing. To me, the ones that stood out were "The Enormous Radio", "The Music Teacher", and "Artemis. the Honest Well Digger". The main issue I had with this collection is how repetitive it is. The most interesting short stories were the ones dealing with the American suburb (what Cheever is best known for). I found the ones about American expatriates in Italy incredibly tedious. In the end, I think I should have started with one of his novels because I really feel that this collection is made for the readers that already love Cheever.


Nouriel Roubini and Stephen Mihm collaborated on Crisis Economics: A Crash Course in the Future of Finance.  Book Review No. 27 will be brief and favorable.  It's readable, and intuitive.  Despite that, it clarifies some of the subtleties of complex financial products.  Apparently, there are some conditions under which even a properly-weighted portfolio of subprime mortgages -- one in which there's a conservative estimate of how much principal and interest will be forthcoming to support the gilt-edged tranche -- can be catastrophically undone.  In addition, traders were active constructing portfolios of portfolios, up to some order greater than two, and these were subject even more to relatively small hiccups in the housing market.  Looking forward, the authors suggest that in order for labor and capital markets to foster greater resource mobility and creative destruction, greater government involvement in job retraining, unemployment insurance, and portable health insurance is desirable.  That debate is properly left to other authors.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)


#14-16 Peter Tremaine and sister Fidelma

Finished reading the three latest books by Peter Tremaine: The Chalice of Blood, The Seventh Trumpet и Behold a Pale Horse. All three are detective stories about sister Fidelma, who is also a trained advocate, which actually means that she investigates crimes rather than simply defending an accused. I like the characters, I like the atmosphere and I enjoy reading about the systems of laws in medieval Ireland, which sounds very reasonable and much more efficient than any modern one.

My only complaint is that the author uses a lot of old Irish words and whereas in some cases they add flavour to the story, occasionally there are simply too many of them. It is one thing to use the original term for something not quite translatable to English, and another to say what a razor or a comb was called. But that is a minor gripe, and I will definitely continue reading the series.