Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Get Thee to a Library: Catching up with Suzanne Arruda and Kerry Greenwood

Thank goodness, winter slows things down enough so I can duck into the library and survey the shelves. And here in northeastern Vermont, the library has a good assortment of mysteries. It's one of the great ways to check out an author's work when you don't yet know it -- and that's how I finally burrowed into books by Suzanne Arruda and Kerry Greenwood during the recent snowstorms.

Suzanne Arruda's series is in its sixth volume, THE CROCODILE'S LAST EMBRACE (2010). Set in 1920s Africa, it features adventurous Jade Del Cameron, whose family and close friends -- among them a cheeetah -- can't keep her out of trouble. After all, she's had nose for crime, and that, in turn, means she's on the revenge list for criminals from her past. In this smoothly written "good read," Jade worries she's going mad, literally: Apparitions, dreams, visions even when awake, haunt her and proclaim she'll never escape the claims of a dead lover. From basic aviation to the nasty habits of crocodiles, Jade has a lot to learn before she'll be able to turn her hunter into the hunted.

I picked up the 2010 Kerry Greenwood, DEAD MAN'S CHEST, when I noticed the cover blurb calling is "the best Australian import since Nicole Kidman." I've had so much pleasure in Australian mysteries by Garry Disher and the classics by Arthur Upfield that I couldn't resist trying another. Greenwood's "Phryne Fisher Mystery" series is in volume 16, polished, funny, poignant, and immaculately plotted. Although it's not especially scary, it gives another delicious take on the Roaring Twenties, with intriguing insight into class and social standing as well. Call it a sunnier version of the Dorothy Sayers series featuring Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane -- Phryne (pronounced to rhyme with "briny") has insight, tolerance, and an urge to see the silly side of neighbors, as well as their prejudices. I enjoyed it all, and will look for earlier volumes; the author's character website is also good fun.

Now, get thee to a library or bookshop. Why not?

Coming tomorrow: A look at the latest partner effort of Max Allan Collins and Barbara Collins under their joint writing name Barbara Collins: Antiques Knock-Off, a Trash 'n' Treasures mystery.
Yes, book lovers really do visit Kingdom Books in this season ... that's why we treasure the work of our "plow jockey" on that long driveway!

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