I’m sipping a cup of surprisingly delicious tea right now, not my usual steeped chai tea but a combination of one regular orange pekoe teabag and one masala chai teabag - too lazy to make the steeped stuff this morning, and this is a good substitute, tasty and double-strong! I’m also enjoying a treat from City Cafe, a yummy date bar - mmm!!! What better way to enjoy this holiday in honour of Queen Victoria than with a cup of tea!
I have a book and an audiobook I want to tell you about today. The book I read is What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman. This is a reread, and it’s a bit of an indulgence for me, as it’s not overly well-written, but it’s a twisty, turny rollercoaster ride through the past 30 years of a woman who claims to be one of the two sisters who were believed to have been abducted from a mall in Baltimore one Saturday afternoon in 1975. The novel opens with a woman’s confused ramblings as she is driving down the highway. Her confusion leads to an accident and she is taken to hospital where, having no ID with her, she reveals under questioning that she is one of the Bethany sisters, the younger sister Heather, then refuses to say anything more. Enter Kevin Infante, a chauvinistic detective who becomes more and more frustrated as he struggles to come up with any leads that might help crack this case. He consults his former partner, Nancy Porter, who after maternity leave, has joined the Cold Case squad, and together they try to get this woman to open up to them, to give them something, anything, that they can work with. Unfortunately, all she seems to tell them are vague stories that include details that shift and change according to the situation. There is also a social worker, Kay Somerville, who becomes involved in Heather’s case, and she approaches her lawyer friend Gloria Bustamante to take on this case and help this woman out. There are multiple stories intertwined, as lengthy flashbacks fill in the details of the day of the crime, as well as what happened in the intervening years for both of the parents while their daughters were still missing and presumed dead. It was very confusing, but it’s the kind of book I love to read every once in awhile, a bit of a “trashy novel” filled with secrets and lies and mystery (I mean "trashy" in the best sense of the word, as in plot-driven as opposed to language- or character-driven). I didn’t really remember exactly how it ended, but I had some idea, so I could pay attention to the minutiae of the story with that in mind and appreciate the complicated story Lippman created rather than just feeling lost and confused. All in all, it was a good read, and a change from some of the more literary stuff I usually choose. I’d give it an 8 out of 10, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys books about family secrets and doesn’t mind multiple stories and many flashbacks. As an aside, I loved this part near the beginning of the book, when we meet Kay for the first time. She is talking about books, and how she prefers reading to engaging with others. She joined a book group to give her a cover and validate her frequent choices of reading over talking. But she says she doesn't really like being in a book group, because "talking about the characters in a book she had enjoyed felt like gossiping about friends". I can relate to that!
And speaking of multiple stories that are confusing, I just finished listening to A Banquet of Consequences by Elizabeth George. This is the latest in the “Inspector Lynley” series, and it was certainly long and confusing! Since I last listened to one of her books, This Body of Death, it appears that Barbara Havers, Lynley’s partner-in-crime, has gone off on her own to pursue leads in a case without authorization, landing her in the doghouse with her Superintendent, Isabelle Ardery, and her every action is being watched and monitored while Isabelle waits for just that one misstep that will lead to Havers’ transfer to Berwick upon Tweed. The novel begins with a troubled young man, Will Goldacre, trying to salvage his relationship with his girlfriend Lilly, while also placating his overbearing mother, Caroline, and not doing a very good job of either. When Lilly discovers something and Will jumps to his death, his mother is inconsolable. Flash forward two years, and Caroline has found employment as an assistant to Clare Abbott, a popular feminist and author of Looking for Mr Darcy, the only thing that gives her life purpose besides her other son, Charlie. Still grieving over Will’s death, she is devastated to discover Clare’s body in her hotel room one morning while they are on a book tour in Cambridge. It is ruled as natural causes, a heart attack, but Clare’s publisher, Rory, is sure that it was murder. Having met Barbara at a previous book signing in London, she enlists her help in finding out the truth, but Barbara has to fight tooth and nail to get the others on her team on board, particularly Isabelle. Lynley does what he can to help, and the results of a second autopsy reveal that Clare was, in fact, murdered, poisoned with a drug that would cause heart failure. When a second attack takes place, Lynley, Havers and Winston Nkata must dig deep to uncover the truths underlying these dysfunctional relationships and find the killer before time runs out and Isabelle pulls the plug on the whole investigation, handing it over to the Cambridge police. And since the last book I read, Lynley has become involved with a veterinarian who works at the London Zoo, Dierdre, whom he met during a previous case. Will she commit, or is Lynley wasting his time? I thought this book was a bit over-long, but because it was an audiobook, I couldn’t skim or skip ahead, as I would probably have done if I’d been reading it. It was still a great listening experience, and I always enjoy listening to John Lee narrate. This book detailed the shenanigans of one of the most dysfunctional families I’ve ever come across in literature (and that’s certainly saying something, because I love books about dysfunctional families - hmmm… what does that say about me?!). I would only recommend this to fans of previous books in this series, even if you’ve missed a few here and there (this is, after all, the 19th book in the series). I am interested in reading or listening to Believing the Lie and Just One Evil Act, the two novels that preceed this. I have other older titles still to read, too, but if I read these, I’ll feel like I’ve taken up the series again after Helen’s death. I’d give it an 8 out of 10 - her novels are always ambitious undertakings, but this one seemed even more so than usual.
That’s all for today. Happy Victoria Day!
Bye for now…
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