Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Question of Honor

by Charles Todd, William Morrow, August 2013

...strongest story in this series

The fifth in the Bess Crawford series is the best one in my opinion.  Bess is a WWI battlefield nurse who continually runs into murder mysteries (like a lot of these series you must keep your incredibility in check).  This mystery is 10 years old and starts in India where Bess was raised.  Her father was the colonel in command of a British Army unit stationed there.  One of his officers is charged with five murders and to the dishonor of Bess’s father and the entire regiment he escapes.  Fast forward to the front lines in France in the waning days of WWI where Beth receives information from a dying man that the officer in question is still alive and serving in the British army as an enlisted man.  Things take off from there, Beth, ever relentless in her investigation tracks down leads in France and back in England.  She must have crossed the English channel at least 20 times in two months to further the investigation.  No more spoilers on this story but the plot is more complex than earlier novels in this series although the denouement is fairly weak.

This series is good but not great.  Beth as the central character is always being rescued by Simon her father’s aide, so not exactly your feminist role model.   Because Beth is neither a detective nor a police official the plotting takes some leaps to keep Beth’s actions credible.  This story is stronger because Beth and her mother solve the case without depending on her father’s army connections to elicit information.  So if you’ve enjoyed earlier books in this series you’ll find this one entertaining.  If you are looking for a good WWI female detective try the Maisie Dobbs series.

I read a copy of this novel provided by the publisher.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can -Eat

by Edward Kelsey Moore, Knopf March 2012

...a great beach read

Covering a 50 year span from the late 60s through the new century, this story covers the friendship of three African American women, Clarice, Odette and Barbara Jean.  The girls meet and bond in high school.  They hang out at the local eatery, Earl’s  All You Can Eat where they are quickly dubbed the Supremes.  We meet their spouses, Richmond, Clarice’s philandering husband, Lester, Barbara Jean’s much older husband and James, Odette’s rock solid partner. Still friends after all these years they continue to meet at Earl’s now with their husbands.

The story is told in two voices, Odette speaks in the first person and the rest of the story is told in the third person.  Oh by the way Odette sees and speaks to dead people including her mother and Eleanor Roosevelt.  Sounds kind of crazy but it works in this story.  The tale is really not plot driven but character driven.  The friendship among these women is the story.  They are now in their fifties and are all dealing with life changing events.  Clarice has decided that she will no longer accept Richmond’s infidelities.  Barbara Jean is haunted by an earlier relationship and the death of her son Adam and Odette has a significant health challenge.  How these women deal with these issues and help one another is the core of the story.  I forgot to mention how much humor is in this story, while not the  laugh out loud type it is surely fun.

I am sure that some people will criticize this novel as being made up of stereotypes but I don't agree, I think these women are warm, real, intelligent characters that show the best parts of female friendships.  A surprise for me was that the author was a man.  I liked this book a lot and was sorry when it ended.  A great beach read!

I read a copy of this novel provided by the publisher.