Thursday, February 26, 2009

Amid all the hoopla, yes, hoopla, surrounding the launch of Kindle 2, I've been able to keep my distance from the eReaders. I've found my solace in Will Thomas's Barker and Llewelyn series and Iain Pears's Jonathan Argyll series. Thomas's Llewelyn as narrator of Thomas's series is a highly likable character and guide through the streets of Victorian London. The Llewelyn novels are akin to Caleb Carr's 19th Century novels that take place in dark NYC,The Alienist and Angel of Darkness. Grisly murders, underground societies and shady cobblestone streets. But they differ in that Thomas's novel are a little lighter in tone, which makes for a much quicker read. Carr's novels are often time lengthy and tiresome...and dreary. Thomas brings humor and self deprecation into an already rich story. Thomas Llewelyn is a young man that has just lost his young wife to TB and had spent 8 months in prison. He finds work for one of London's leading Enquiry Agents, Cyrus Barker and begins his tutelage, investigating murders. Barker is one of London's first "Orientalists" and is well known for spending years in China, learning the culture, martial arts and fighting side by side with some of China's most infamous armies. All of this is incredibly new to Llewelyn and every few chapters he learns something new of his master. In a way, I'd say these novels are more entertaining than any Sherlock Holmes story. Though they may not be breaking any new ground, they are exactly what I want from mystery novels...excellent writing, good stories and unforgettable characters.

Pears's Argyll novels are part of the Art Mystery series set in Rome and involve art dealer Jonathan Argyll and his fiance, Flavia de Stefano, inspector in Rome's Art Squad. These books remind of a lot of different Italian mysteries and I don't know why. A mix of Andrea Camilleri, Michael Dibdin and Donna Leon. But the strange thing is, these are nothing like that. I don't have a good reason why I keep relating these series, I just do. The Argyll novels are written in third person, but I think they would have been better if told from either Argyll's perspective or better yet, from Flavia's. She seems to have the most internal turmoil and I'd like to see her cursing or speaking in Italian every now and then. Either way, anytime I get to visit old monasteries, read about religious icons or imagine looking at Baroque paintings, is worth my time. I'm only two books into each series, so I have quite a few more to get my hands on. Can't wait.

Currently reading:
Iain Pears Death and Restoration
G.K. Chesterton The Complete Father Brown Stories

On deck:
Marianne Macdonald Blood Lies

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I first read Wallace Stegner a few years ago. His novel Crossing to Safety was filled of gorgeous prose and heartfelt reality. Now it's the centennial of his birth and he's still fighting (or not fighting) for recognition.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I'm in NYC for the Tools of Change Conference for Publishing and finally made my way down to the Strand Bookstore last night and made my way through the 18 miles of books. This may come off like blasphemy, but there was just too much. Too many books, too many shoppers, not enough space. I did buy three books and if I was shopping like I used (without care for condition of a book,) I'm sure there would have been many more books making it to the checkout line with me. Instead, I got three firsts in G (good) to VG (very good) condition. The third book in the Barker and Llewelyn series by Will Thomas, The Limehouse Text; Road Kill and Blood Lies in the Dido Hoare series by Marianne Macdonald.

None are the first books in the series and none are in F or VF condition, but I believe they were good buys for $6 each. I think my library will be happy to greet them tomorrow afternoon. Right now they are only worth what I paid, but these were bought for my personal collection, not for potential resale.