Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Winds of Change – Martha Grimes

Martha Grimes is a writer that knows her craft. Her characters are fully treated and you get to know how they think and why they act the way they do The main two characters are Richard Jury and Melrose Plant. Richard Jury is with Scotland Yard. His “sidekick” is Wiggins. I say sidekick, because Grimes uses him as a comedic relief to Jury’s seriousness. There is a lot of light and dark in these books. Melrose Plant is a Lord, independently wealthy, who has given up his title and travels around the country helping Jury to solve the crimes. Jury uses him as an “expert” on many different subjects from antique furniture to gardening…usually to very funny effect because he knows nothing about the subjects.

What I want to focus on with Grimes is her use of children. It is amazing how well she writes them. In most mysteries, because of the murder element, children don’t appear at all or are very one dimensional. They are there to add to the story only by being kidnapped, grieving, or just the kids of the adult characters. Grimes doesn’t do that to them. She makes them an integral part of the story. They aren’t always the ones that are in peril…but they do have a way of helping solve the mysteries. Grimes gives them sense and smarts that I’ve seen in children myself. Jury has a very good way with children and they take right too him. Melrose Plant they like to torment because as anyone knows when you get someone that doesn’t like children, children want to bother them. But even then Plant has a way with them, because he treats them as equals. She manages to do the same with pets, but that does happen in other books I read.

The last few of her books have been very dark. This one is about a dead girl and a missing girl. It is suspected that the dead girl has something to do with a house very near where she was killed that might be a house run for pedophiles. The house is owned by the missing girl’s father, who has been divorced by her mother. Could the missing girl be working in this horrible house? Who killed the child? Though this sounds worse then it is, the subject is covered very delicately and I found it a lot better then I thought it would be.

This is the nineteenth of this series all named after pubs…well she has a lot more luck finding pub names then I have. We finally saw an interesting one this weekend called the “Odd Wheel”. Some of these books can be read out of sequence, but if you read them in sequence you get a really good feel for the pub friends of Melrose Plant and Jury, the funniness of Wiggins and the cat Cyril at New Scotland yard, and Jury’s neighbors.

A little aside here….though Grimes is not English and actually lives in Chicago I was interested to see how well she depicted life in England and the English scenery. I must say she does a brilliant job and you can tell that she has visited often and has done her research very well.

She has written other books, Hotel Paradise, springs to mind as another really good book where she uses a girl as the protagonist and does it brilliantly.

This is her website:

The Jury Books are in order:

The Man With A Load Of Mischief
The Old Fox Deceiv'd
The Anodyne Necklace
The Dirty Duck
Jerusalem Inn
Deer Leap
Help The Poor Struggler
I Am The Only Running Footman
The Five Bells and Bladebone
The Old Silent
The Old Contemptibles
The Case Has Altered
The Horse You Came In On
Rainbow's End
The Stargazey
The Lamorna Wink
The Blue Last
The Grave Maurice
The Winds of Change
NEW The Old Wine Shades

I’m continuing on with my reading list. I snuck in another Muriel Spark, because I had to get it through Interlibrary Loan. It was The Comforters, which was good but not great. I wouldn’t suggest it as a book to read unless you want to see what Spark is about. You can see her toying with a couple different effects in this novel and she doesn’t really pull them off. I’m reading Gillian Tindall - The House by the Thames at the moment and must get back on track. I just looked and I actually have 4 books still on my list that I’ve seemed to have forgotten about! Oh well. I’ll work on my list and post it for Autumn reading.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

"Farmers' Market"

Found an interesting article in Bookseller about a cool new thing, a Farmers' Market set up for independent booksellers. Unfortunately, it is September 1 & 2nd in Manchester, UK in St Ann's Square. I wish I could drop everything and go, but I've already spent a ton of money this month and must be good! It is an interesting premise though. It reminds me of the new markets that are happening in the States for Indie crafts! Read more about it here...

I think I might write and see if I can get some publicity material or something. It would be good to know how to contact some of these publishers.

I already support one independent bookseller, Persephone Books. They republish books, ususally written by women but not all, that they feel should be out there for people to read. I love getting their free quartely newsletter and finding out what new titles they have. They put out about two every few months. I recently purchased a book by Virgina Woolf called "Flush". Check out the titles and more about the publisher:

I've been to the store front also, which was just what you would imagine. It was an old building in a old part of London. There were packages to be sent and paperwork here and there, but they had made the front part very comfortable with chairs. They were happy to let you browse away.

One more bit of information I've picked up today...two of my favorite writers have come out with new books. Michael Palin, of Monty Python fame, is releasing some of his diaries. The book is called "Diaries 1969-1979: the Python Years". The topic is self-explained I believe.

The other writer is my most favorite non-fiction/travel writer Bill Bryson. He is coming out with a Fiction book this time. It will be interesting to see how this goes. "The Life and Time of the Thunderbolt Kid" has gone on my wish list!

Happy Reading...I promise to post a review soon. I've finished a Martha Grimes book and I need to get the time to do a review for it. I'm reading another Muriel Sparks at the moment "The Comforters". I have to get it done, because I had to interlibrary loan it.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Email trouble (cross posted)

I'm having trouble with my yahoo email account. If you get an email from DON'T open it. I cannot get Yahoo to help me at all! I can't get into the account and I'm trying to get them to cancel it, but they don't seem to be able to. If you have IM and get a messaging saying that your account has been used for unauthorized purposes and you need to click on an URL to clear up the problem DON'T do it! That is what happen to me.

I am hoping to get a new address soon, maybe gmail...we will see. If you want to write me, please write dlao_1967 at yahoo dot com dot uk.....


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Guilty pleasure......

I have to admit that during very down times in my life I like to read....don't tell anyone....Miss Read. Who, I hear you ask, is Miss Read? Well, she was the name used by Dora Saint for her English country novels. She has written too many to recount here, it would take the whole page. I did find a really good website for them though:

I would call these 1950's chicklit. Or maybe farmgirl-lit..... They recall an innocent time, when communities knew everything about everybody. She wrote two series, one set in Fairacre and the other in the neightboring Thrush Green. Fairacre centers around the Miss Read character who is a teacher in a two room school house. You learn all about the lives of the children she teaches. It is all roses either, there is a grumpy cleaner and evidence of child abuse. But it is done in such a way that you understand that this is what real life is like! Thrush Green covers all of the people that live there and doesn't settle on any one person or household.

So why are these guilty pleasures? Well, when I was married to my first husband and we were having problems,I would close myself off into my bedroom and read of a distant place. A place where a woman, Miss Read, often talked about how glad she was she wasn't married. A place where everyone knew the other and supported them in times of trouble, and celebrated in times of triumph. I spent many a happy hour reading each and everyone of Miss Read's books, becoming one of the neighbors. Living in a place I didn't even think I would visit, the Cotswolds. I enjoy them as much fact when I was so worried about my nephew, who was having breathing difficulties after birth, I got back out one I haven't read in ages, and it helped me to unwind.

So what are your guilty pleasures? What book is it that you unearth whenever you need a lift of the spirit?