It was even cold in California when I was there mid-January. Not Polar cold, but rainy and decidedly chilly. All the better to cuddle up and read, of course.
Beyond the Truth: A Detective Byron Mystery by Bruce Robert Coffin. Well-written and gripping, this novel’s perspective offered a challenge for me. A believed-to-be-armed teenage robbery suspect is shot by a police officer who is then put on suspension during the investigation. The main protagonist is another police officer who seems to be the avatar of the author – a retired police officer himself – who struggles to understand why the general population has a hard time giving “the thin blue line” the benefit of the doubt in these troubling times when, from his view, he sees how hard his brother and sister officers try to make the right decisions. It was a code switch for me, and probably a good one to soak in for a bit.
Running with a Police Escort by Jill Grunenwald. A runner’s memoir by a woman with a unique point of view: the back of the pack of most of the races she runs. She’s a big lady, she hated physical activity as a kid, and she only took up running out of health concerns. But somehow it clicked, and she found her motivation. She refers to herself as a tortoise and she’s all about making it to the finish, and getting that blingy finisher’s medal at the end, not about speed. This personal, chatty book talks about finding and keeping that perspective.
Late Show by Michael Connolly. The first novel with a brand new protagonist in more than a decade from Connolly, The Late Show introduces Detective Renee Ballard. I didn’t know how it was going to go: could this author really write a female character that wouldn’t make me roll my eyes (and I was ready to)? Turns out I quite enjoy Ballard. She’s out there and over the top like I’d expect from a Connolly character, in just the right tough, kickass woman who knows what she’s doing way that demonstrates she’s created from a place of deep respect and admiration. Plus a pile of interesting secondary and tertiary characters that we know will develop in future and a hint that old faves (Bosch anyone?) may pop by sometime too.
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. Holy smokes, I had not a glimmering of an idea about this grim chapter in the history of the US. I’m sure most Americans don’t, so I don’t know why a Canadian like me would but wow. So much evil and so embedded in the dominant culture across generations. (I’m hearing a resounding “duh!” from First Nations and Aboriginal people everywhere even as I type - I know, I know! I am trying to be more aware…) It’s a gripping page turner and seems very well-researched., Many questions will likely never be answered including just how many of the Osage people were deliberately murdered for their headrights and by whom exactly, but a fascinating real-life mystery and piece of history to learn.
The Reckoning by John Grisham. I think Grisham really wanted to write the non-fiction recounting of the horrific Bataan Death March that he had always wanted to read and realized that’s not what his fans expected of him so instead wrote The Reckoning. The novel opens with the murder committed by Pete Banning, a decorated war hero – and Death March survivor – of his hometown pastor, for no motive he’ll share with anyone. The characters, and in particular Banning, are all curiously without much distinctive character. For several chapters, I wondered who the main protagonist actually was. There’s simply no emotional centre to the novel. When I arrived at the many chapters detailing the events in the Philippines during the Second World War, I realized the purpose of the novel. Your mileage may vary, but my recommendation would be to seek out better Grisham novels for the Grisham novel experience and perhaps use Grisham’s sources in the bibliography to learn more about American POWs after the Battle of Bataan.
On the Pod:
Double Love: The Sweet Valley High Podcast has made me laugh out loud by myself while driving. That’s pretty terrific. If you don’t immediately remember the endless series of ridiculous 1980’s and 90’s YA books about the equally ridiculous Wakefield twins, Elizabeth and Jessica, this podcast likely is not for you. Its premise is simple as told in the tagline: “Exploring the terrifying world of Sweet Valley High, one book at a time.” Two Irish friends — I’m guessing of a similar vintage to me — recapping the books and wholeheartedly discussing the plots, dialogue, outfits (oh, the outfits!) and culture through the duel lenses of their formerly tween/teen selves and now as grown women with a more feminist and worldly perspective. It is withering and frequently hysterical. I’m only a few episodes in so I’m confident there are many lavaliers and laughs to come.