It is a sad truth that – as much as we would like to – the Library simply can’t keep a copy of every wonderful book ever published. Considerations such as shelf space and budget certainly play a role, but so does the availability of a book (i.e. if it goes out of print) and the “popularity” of a writer. The latter is particularly hard to take when a once favorite author gets left behind in the wake of shiny new titles and changes in publishing trends.
So imagine my happiness to have two old favorites back on our shelves! The first is A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh, the book that kicks off the series featuring gentleman detective Roderick Alleyn. These days, some may be more familiar with her detective from the “Inspector Alleyn” miniseries (available on DVD at the Library) which are based on Marsh’s books. Marsh is one of the classic writers from the “Golden Age” of British detective fiction (think Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers) and the title was reissued by the funky Felony & Mayhem Press.
The second old friend to return is The King Must Die by Mary Renault. This rich novel is a plausible recreation of what might have really happened to inspire the myth of Theseus (particularly the legend of the Minotaur). I remember staying up late at night to finish it, and then years later buying my own copies of all Mary Renault’s titles so I can enjoy them whenever I want to. (They fall into my “dangerous to dust” category of books, i.e. it’s a challenge for me to dust them without wanting to immediately stop the housework and start rereading them all over again!) I think Renault will appeal to anyone who enjoys historical novels with rich characterization, adventure and an evocative sense of place.
Something about summer makes me want to make sure I am never without a good book – to read at home or to listen to in the car. I found some audiobooks I highly recommend.
Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams (AUDIO BOOK FIC JOH) is short at just 2.5 hours, but what an extraordinary tale it tells. Robert Granier is an ordinary man making a living in the northwestern U.S. during the first half of the 20th century. He is a logger, a bridge builder and a freight man. Through his eyes we see the beauty and harshness of the American West and hear the stories of the common folk he encounters. Audie Award winner Will Patton narrates with a variety of voices and inflection and my next audio selection will probably be narrated by him as well.
For suspense, it would be hard to top Blind Fury by Lynda La Plante (AUDIO BOOK FIC LAP), read by Kim Hicks. Detective Inspector Anna Travis is on the team investigating the killings of young, unidentified women. The police know there is a serial killer at large but are hard pressed for clues. When convicted serial murderer Cameron Welsh offers to help profile the killer, and insists he speak with Anna, her superiors press her to speak with him.
As is typical of La Plante’s writing, there is dogged police work interwoven with relentless suspense. Just the ticket for fans of contemporary British mysteries. Reader Kim Hicks does a fine job on all characters, but especially Anna, who is determined to excel in the man’s world she has chosen and forced to endure conversation with the repulsive Welsh.
Prague Fatale (AUDIO BOOK FIC KER) is the 8th mystery in Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther series. It’s 1941 Berlin. Bernie is suicidal, overwhelmed by the horrors he experienced on the eastern front, when he is summoned to Prague to serve as bodyguard to Reichsprotector Reinhard Heydrich. When one of Heydrich’s adjutants is found murdered, Bernie investigates. Bernie’s caustic sense of humor, hatred for Nazis and his aggressive questioning of his superiors add to the tension. Paul Hecht narrates with just the right mix of sardonic commentary and pathos.