Dear reader, life is too short for crap books.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Still, You Won't Catch Me Reading the One Where the Amish Woman Solves Crime

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

Lately, I realize that this blog has become very heavy on the detective stories. I can't help it... I've been on a serious kick. And I recently finished re-reading the book that was responsible for it all.

You see, about two years ago, I was the kind of person who made fun of mystery novels, and believed that to enjoy them, one must be a possessed of a deep love of tea, gardening, badminton, and brisk nature walks. Then I read Case Histories, which was cleverly disguised as a regular novel, without any of the trappings that make mystery novels as easy to identify from a distance as a Sophie Kinsella book.

Quickly, I realized I was reading a fairly disturbing mystery novel, one that digs up three long-forgotten murder cases, and through a sequence of events, places them in the hands of one Jackson Brodie. Brodie is, on the surface, a lot like your typical detective - he smokes, drinks, is unlucky in love, and gets beaten up a lot. However, unlike your typical detective, he adores Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams, is kind to elderly cat-obsessed women, and is a doting, slightly overprotective father.

Yet "good" as Jackson is, his smarts and a certain toughness keep him from being a complete sap. And the way that Atkinson teases out clues from decades-old unsolved, unrelated crimes is utterly tantalizing. One missing toddler, one teenage girl knifed down in her father's office, and one murdering mama = whoa... didn't see that coming.

From that point on, I was hooked, and would go on to read Patricia Highsmith, Ruth Rendell, and Patricia Cornwell. Still haven't picked up one of those P is for Patricide books, or whatever, but I hear they're better than they look.


dorotha said...

i liked ruth rendell when i was in high school. maybe i will pick one up and read it again.

i also love lucinda williams, which makes me want to read case histories. and i like disturbing.

Sally said...

If you're looking for female sleuths, I recommend Sarah Paretsky over Sue "A is for Alibi" Grafton. Ms. Paretsky's novels almost always include evil conspiracies of the rich and powerful (yum), and V.I. Warshawski is more snarky than Kinsey Millhone, who is a little too nice for my taste. Blood Shot is one of my faves.

- Sally

P.S. We met for the first time right before you headed out to California -- at the roast for Martin. How's LAPL treating you?

mary_m said...

Sally: I remember you! I was checking out your website, and thinking about how cool your job is. Sadly, I somehow skipped all the archiving classes at SLIS so it's all quite mysterious and romantic to me.

It's interesting to me to hear about what those possessed of the MLS are doing and learn about all the different ways there are to be a librarian. Oh, and my job is fantastic - thanks for asking!

And I will definitely check out Blood Shot - it sounds very cool.