And another mystery

In an attempt to finish off a bundle I had been working on for a while, I just finished The Answer to His Prayers by Ellen Kirschman. It is the fourth, and as of this writing, last Dot Meyerhoff mystery. It was, of the four books, the one in which psychology seemed to play the biggest part. This was a very complicated story. Everyone was lying, and there seemed to be unresolved childhood issues behind most of it. At the end, it felt like everyone understood themselves better and was going to go off and have a better life. I am hoping this is the end of the series because, It just seemed like it all just came together a little too conveniently. Oh well… Overall, I really enjoyed these books – even this one.

Another interesting book by Marie Benedict

When I saw that Marie Benedict had written a book about Hedy Lamarr, I knew I had to read it. Fortunately for me, the Brooklyn Public Library had a copy, and I quickly borrowed it. And quickly read it. The book, The Only Woman in the Room, was quite good. I knew a little about Lamarr’s story, but very little really. I knew she was an actress and an inventor. I thought she had done something to help the US in World War II, but I wasn’t sure. While the book didn’t answer all my questions (It is a novel, of course!), it added to my understanding of this very complex woman.

Born in Austria in 1914, Lamarr was married to an influential arms dealer, a situation that often made her the only woman in the room when the men discussed Hitler and Mussolini and events of import at the time. She was, of course, considered harmless in those situations. Or rather, she wasn’t really considered at all. After escaping to the US and deciding to find a way to direct torpedoes wirelessly, she continued to be the only woman in the room and was still not really considered at all.

The book was engaging and well-written. It details Lamarr’s life – both the good and the bad – as well as giving us a front row seat to the events of the time. I recommend it highly.

A fascinating book

I just finished The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict, a novel that puts forth a possible explanation of Agatha Christie’s mysterious disappearance inf 1926. The book is written in kind of dual tracks: one purportedly a manuscript written by Christie that looks at her life leading up to her disappearance and the other the days of her disappearance, that were written in alternating chapters. At first I didn’t understand why it was done that way, but it ended up really being effective.

I had known about Ms. Christie’s disappearance, but I didn’t know much more about it than that she had disappeared. This theory of the incident seems logical. The author has done a lot of research, and you can tell.

I was interested that she referred to Arthur Conan Doyle being asked to weigh in on the disappearance. I probably would have questioned that, but in the biography of Doyle that I read recently, the author mentioned that fact, as well.

This was a fun book to read. You might want to give it a try!

A fictional look at Scottish history

I just finished A King Imperiled by JR Tomlin. It is the third in her Stewart Chronicles. In this one, young James is crowned King of Scotland following the murder of his father. This was in 1436. It is common knowledge that whoever physically has control of the young king controls the government. Many people want the power that comes with that, so there is a lot of plotting and trickery. It is hard for anyone to know who to trust.

Tomlin does a lot of research and I trust her to have told a basically factual story here. I have read at least two other books she wrote, and I always come away from them feeling like I have actually learned something while being entertained. I recommend this series if you are interested in Scottish history.

A couple mysteries

I read two mysteries already this month. One was great and the other one, not so much.

The first was To Die but Once by Jacqueline Winspear. And it was the one that was great. This was the 14th of the 17 books in the series. Set during World War II and drawn from the author’s father’s war experiences, I really loved it. I learned more about England at the time and about the war itself while reading a great murder mystery. As is often the case, Maisie begins investigating a death that the police are pretty much dismissing as an accident. In this case, she didn’t know it was a murder when her neighbor asked her too look into the disappearance of his son, but when his body is discovered, she seeks to find justice for him. And she is successful. Of course. It was a great book, and I highly recommend it.

The second mystery was not nearly as good, but it was OK. I read A Fresh Beginning & Murder by Miranda Brickett. This was the first book in the series that now consists of nine books. The story is too typical: a jilted woman inherits a property and moves to a new location to start over – only to discover a dead body on or near her property. This one wasn’t any better or worse than most of the other similar books I have read. It was a quick, easy read, and the characters were kind of bland but OK. I doubt I will read any more of these.

What I think I have discovered through reading these two one right after the other is that practice makes perfect. I know this is nothing new, nothing eye-opening. But traditionally published authors usually do not get their first novels published. They write and write and write and improve their craft before we read a word they have written. Self-published authors don’t usually do that. They write a book and publish it. I know it isn’t that easy for any author, but in relation to what traditionally published authors go through, it is pretty fast. We read their work before they have really been able to perfect their craft. I have read hundreds and hundreds of self-published books, and I have enjoyed the vast majority of them. But they are not usually able to stand up against an established author’s work. Maybe these new authors will reach that level of competence, but they aren’t there yet. I will continue to read them, though, because what they have accomplished by writing and publishing a book deserves some recognition. And sometimes I discover a real gem!