Two vacations and a flurry of county book fairs have made the past few weeks fly by without blog posts. Recently, I made a little change to my book cover with a see-through label clearly indicating it’s a thriller (after a book fair visitor kept haranguing me—“It doesn’t signal it’s a thriller!”). The label works like a charm: photo shows how it came out.
Later this month I’m looking forward to a Sisters in Crime reading, a Mystery Writers of America get-together, and next month, the Public Safety Writers Association annual conference. All that hasn’t slowed down my reading. Because I read 40-50 crime/mystery/thriller books each year for CrimeFictionLover.com, a site that focuses on NEW books, and CRIME FICTION, I rarely read books that don’t fit those parameters. But lately, a few exceptions.
Best was Just Mercy, “a story of justice and redemption,” by Bryan Stevenson (one extended story in it became the movie starring Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan, which also was great). Reading it was inspired by our trip to Montgomery, Alabama, to visit The Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. Very affecting, as you’d expect and highly recommended. Crime yes; fiction, unfortunately, no.
One of Otto Penzler’s American Mystery Classics—Obelists at Sea, C. Daly King, 1932—hit my desk. It’s about a murder during a 1930s transatlantic crossing. A group of psychologists on board ship, each with a different theory about how to identify the perpetrator, tries to help the captain. One by one, their theories fail. There are a few good cracks at the profession, but the comic potential wasn’t fully exploited. And it was slooooow. Some of the characters’ rampant anti-Semitism (and knowing what came afterward in real life, so few years later), made it hard to enjoy. “Obelists,” the author explains, are people who harbor suspicions. That’s a word that should come in pretty handy these days.
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra, an award-winning literary novel that was a “best book of the year” a decade ago (I’m way behind) is an exploration of the ravages of war, set in Chechnya. In winter. Betrayal, murder, torture, random maiming, privation, inexplicable compassion, and the enduring power of love. A little grim for me. The title comes from a definition of what constitutes “life” found in a medical dictionary. No doubt this could be considered crime fiction on an epic scale.