Nightstand Reads: Confessions of a re-reader

Today’s guest blogger is mystery author Bernadette Pajer, who shares what she’s been reading — and rereading.

Edison_Effect_CoverI confess. I’m a rereader. Although my to-be-read pile is a teetering stack of intriguing new titles by talented authors, and although I’m sure in that pile are a few “keepers,” books that I will cherish and reread, I find myself at times unable to venture into those new worlds, and I turn instead to my beloved old favorites.

This summer was one of those times. While physically there wasn’t much happening—there were long days of no obligation to be anywhere—mentally, my schedule was packed. I was gearing up for the release of The Edison Effect, the fourth book in my Professor Bradshaw series, scheduling signings, writing blog posts, penning presentations, and taking care of all the little details of the business side of the job of being a writer. I was beginning to research and write a new book, a contemporary suspense, while pondering the next Bradshaw novel. But most importantly, I was spending time with my son, who’s 11, bright, goofy, shy and energetic. Eleven can be a fragile age, a back-and-forth between the comfort of familiar boyhood and the lure of the independence of the young adult. We’ve got food allergies complicating things, and I did a great deal of research this summer about the brain-gut connection. It’s huge! Through testing and experimentation, research and consultation, by the beginning of the school year, we’d found a diet that works to keep my son emotionally grounded, and we’d made some fabulous memories. Continue reading “Nightstand Reads: Confessions of a re-reader”

Richard III, part deux: Return of the Return of the King!

Find Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time in the Seattle Public Librayr catalogMy friends and colleagues will tell you I’m a bit of a bone nut – osteophile? – witness the lifelike replica of a Roman Gladiator’s skull that grins on my desk. Plus I’m a Shakespeare fan, so I was totally jazzed over the recent revelation that a skeleton found under a Leicester car park had been conclusively revealed to be that of Richard, the third of that name to rule over all England. The resurrection of King Richard’s reputation, if not his corpse, is the subject of one of the most enjoyable mysteries ever written: Josephine Tey‘s perennial favorite, The Daughter of Time. If you haven’t read it, you have a real treat in store. Continue reading “Richard III, part deux: Return of the Return of the King!”

Crime: Beneath the Antimacassars

I like a dark, creepy Victorian crime novel — the real doozies – stories so strange and bizarre, nobody’s thought of them yet. The Thing about Thugs by Tabish Find Tabish Khair's The Thing About Thugs in the Seattle Public Library catalog.Khair is a doozy. The Victorian mystery as we know it is turned on its head, so to speak, with a “normal” scientist, Captain William T. Meadows, fixated on phrenology; the study of skulls to determine personality and propensity for crime. The Captain’s travels in India yield a rare head currently attached to Amir Ali, a self-professed Thugee assassin badly in need of a safe, speedy exit, which Meadows is pleased to provide. When Ali arrives in London, suddenly decapitated bodies start cropping up and of course the Thugee is blamed. But where are the heads? You just know the answer will be perfectly horrible/wonderful. Continue reading “Crime: Beneath the Antimacassars”

Murder at the Olympic Games

I foolishly tried to resist getting caught up in the fervor, but it’s no use: once again my attention has been totally dominated by the Olympic Games. Such is the case for many of our patrons if the small talk at our service desk is any indication. There’s also been a run on all of our books about the Games, but there are some great mysteries and thrillers out there that feature the Olympics in various ways. Here’s a taste:

  • Find Lindsay Davis' See Delphi and Die in the Seattle Public Library catalog.See Delphi and Die, by Lindsay Davis. One of the best entries in this excellent series featuring sardonic ancient Roman detective Didius Falco, who in his 17th case investigates the mysterious deaths of two tourists at the ancient games.
  • A Game of Lies, by Rebecca Cantrell. In her third outing, journalist Hannah Vogel returns to Berlin under the  guise of reporting on the 1936 Olympic Games, but in truth to smuggle a mysterious package out from under the Nazi’s noses. For other fine thrillers involving the Berlin games, see Jeffery Deaver’s Garden of Beasts, Jonathan Rabb’s The Second Son, and David John’s Flight from Berlin.
  • Goldengirl, by Peter Lovesey. This curious early title of Lovesey’s about a physiologist who chemically engineers his adopted daughter into an Olympic champion anticipates the doping scandals and tiger mothers of today.
  • Find Shane Maloney's Nice Try in the Seattle Public Library catalog.Nice Try, by Shane Maloney. Called in to help manage Melbourne’s ill-fated bid for the 1990 Olympic Games, cynical arts minister Murray Whelan finds himself in the middle of a racially-charged murder investigation when a black triathlete turns up dead.
  • Private Games, by James Patterson. A crazed madman who will stop at nothing has a bizarre scheme to devastate the glitzy London Olympic ceremonies and restore the ancient glory of the Games. Private detective Peter Knight races the clock to foil his nefarious plans. This is Patterson’s second bid for Olympic gold, after his 1979 title See How They Run, aka The Jericho Commandment, in which Dr. David Strauss follows a trail of blood to the Moscow Olympics.

A Dream of Summer

A Dream of Summer, because we are all dreaming of summer…

Here we are in the heady rush of summer, where busy summer plans are making themselves felt regardless of the on-again, off-again weather. In the midst of all the hurry, I find myself longing for quiet dreaming reads – the ones that speak of nostalgia for simpler ways of life, the kinds of adventures that don’t require a car and the sort of long hot summer days that we just haven’t seen here in a while. These books remind me to take a breath, take a walk, eat ice cream on the sidewalk and lie around on the grass. They remind me to slow down and enjoy every late twilight and sunny afternoon that comes my way.

P.S. While many of these books feature young protagonists, they are entirely suitable for adults as well, especially if you are looking for sophisticated language and evocative settings.

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

Meet Douglas Spaulding, 12 years old in 1928 and able to turn on lights with the power of his imagination. His story is the wonderful, lyrical one of a boy in summer, with all the ordinary magic of small towns and baseball and the sharp, sudden awareness of growing up. Sure, Ray Bradbury is known as a father of science fiction and as a man with radical, challenging ideas, but you can meet him here as a writer who paints the summer into memory with extraordinarily deft imagery and singing language.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Flavia de Luce, plucky 11-year-old adventurer and amateur chemist (read: poisoner) bicycles around her small British town and investigates every mystery. She lives in a dilapidated Georgian manor house with two unfeeling elder sisters and a philatelic-obsessed father. As it happens, this summer, there’s a murder. Flavia – hilarious, determined and overly precocious – will get to the bottom of it. In the mean time we’ll sidle along with her and enjoy the eccentric rural life of British village in the 1950s.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

What better book to convince you of the glory of messing about in boats? These animals shun the wide world and all its repugnant responsibilities, and spend their time instead on the pleasures of the moment and the seduction of the river. We may lack somewhat in immediate rivers, but there is certainly no dearth of boats, so take a copy along when you rent a canoe from the UW and spend some time relaxing.


The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be by Farley Mowat

I will always have a soft spot for Mutt, a dog who out-dogs every Marley, Shiloh, Old Yeller or Enzo. Perhaps his remarkable charm comes from his general refusal to believe that he is a dog, or perhaps from the well-told madcap escapades of the boy he pals around with. Farley Mowat is known for unflinching portrayals of Canada’s last wild spaces and traditional populations, but his gift for storytelling goes far deeper than that. Picture Mutt and Farley, growing up together on the Saskatchewan prairies with ever more laugh-out-loud adventures, and you won’t want to pass this tale by.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

And finally, a book from the iconic South, where summer is a personality in its own right and night gardening is the only sensible option. Set in a small town called Bascom, North Carolina, this is the story of the Waverly sisters and their magic apple tree. It’s a story about coming home, family and really good cooking. There’s a little backyard romance, and an interesting child. This book is like a firefly, a bright flare of ordinary enchantment on a hot summer’s night.