Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Smoke Scree and The Night Calls
I read every Marianne Macdonald book faster than the last. I don't do it on purpose. She just writes about a subject that I enjoy (bookselling/collecting,) has a great protagonist (Dido Hoare,) and writes well. It's the Trifecta. Smoke Screen was one of the more enjoyable Dido Hoare mysteries. Dido is asked to buy the book collection of an old and odd family. While making an inventory of the library, which is far better than she ever expected, Dido realizes that the woman was once married to a fairly famous, though now dead, poet. Mint copies of his books are in a special case in one of the rooms and she knows there must be manuscripts that go along with them. A valuable find. However, that's when all the trouble begins. She is accused of stealing a lost canto and she can't account for how she got possession of the poem. She happens to find the poem in her car on the same night the poet's ex-wife is murdered in the home that Dido spent the night. Though the mystery of who really committed the crime is fairly easy to uncover, Dido never makes anything easy for herself, her young son or her academic father, Barnabas. If you like mysteries or book collecting or amateur sleuths, this book may be just what you were looking for.
After finishing Smoke Screen, I had the choice of beginning one of two books, both mysteries. David Pirie's The Night Calls or Jacqueline Winspear's Among the Mad. I had every intention of moving onto the latest Maisie Dobbs, so I picked up The Night Calls for a page or two to see what I was eventually going to get myself into. Forty pages later, I couldn't put it down. I guess Maisie and Among the Mad will have to wait a few days as I make my way through The Night Calls. It's just too entertaining to put down.
David Pirie has written a series of books subtitled The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes: A Novel featuring Arthur Conan Doyle. These books take us back to Doyle's medical days and his apprenticeship under Dr. Joseph Bell, widely regarded as the archetype for Sherlock Holmes. Like Holmes, Bell is brilliant and erratic and posseses superior powers of deduction, which Doyle calls, his 'method.'
The series is akin to Mark Frost's in that they are adventures and mysteries about Arthur Conan Doyle and not Holmes. However, Pirie's takes us back further and we see the development of Doyle as med student and how he became part of the investigate and detective process.
"And I found that I missed my jousts with Bell even if, despite my painful lesson, I still had doubts about the man's 'method'. Perhaps he had won that particular contestt, but was there not, even here, some plain old-fashioned luck? After all, in his attempt to divine human character from an inanimate object, I had fed his ego by handing over a damaged artefact."
The Night Calls by David Pirie
Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear