Monday, October 17, 2016

On This Week in 2005: From the Historical to the Hilarious

It's me-- back again with more of my reading from eleven years ago! As I've gone through this book journal of mine, it's really given me food for thought. Why did I stop reading this series? Do I still read that type of book? When's the last time I read____? It seems as though I always have an endless loop of questions running through my mind!

On this week in 2005, I read three very different books. Each was a very enjoyable read, and each was a mystery. There's something for everyone in crime fiction, which is probably why I have yet to tire of the genre.

What was I reading back then? Let's take a look!

It's hard to describe a book by one of my favorites, Jasper Fforde, so I'm just going to give you the synopsis of this first in his Nursery Crime series, The Big Over Easy:

"It’s Easter in Reading—a bad time for eggs—and no one can remember the last sunny day. Ovoid D-class nursery celebrity Humpty Stuyvesant Van Dumpty III, minor baronet, ex-convict, and former millionaire philanthropist, is found shattered to death beneath a wall in a shabby area of town. All the evidence points to his ex-wife, who has conveniently shot herself.

But Detective Inspector Jack Spratt and his assistant Mary Mary remain unconvinced, a sentiment not shared with their superiors at the Reading Police Department, who are still smarting over their failure to convict the Three Pigs of murdering Mr. Wolff. Before long Jack and Mary find themselves grappling with a sinister plot involving cross-border money laundering, bullion smuggling, problems with beanstalks, titans seeking asylum, and the cut and thrust world of international chiropody.

And on top of all that, the JellyMan is coming to town . . .

Hopefully what you got from that synopsis is that Fforde likes to take something very well known-- like a nursery rhyme-- and turn it on its head using brilliant word play, a wickedly silly plot, and some well-drawn characters. The word play and situations keep you laughing, and-- wonder of wonders-- there's actually a good mystery to be found. I love Fforde's imagination and rated this one an A+.

Troy Soos is a talented writer who has a series of historical baseball mysteries that my husband enjoyed and another historical series of only four books that I really enjoyed. The Gilded Cage is the second in the Rebecca Davies and Marshall Webb series set at the turn of the twentieth century. Here's the synopsis: 

"In the riveting Island of Tears, Troy Soos introduced dime-novelist Marshall Webb and reformer Rebecca Davies. Now, the critically acclaimed author plunges readers once again into the gritty underside of turn-of-the-century New York, as Marshall and Rebecca reunite to take on Tammany Hall and the city's ruthless elite. A cholera epidemic has forced New York's immigrants into quarantine, and fear and panic ripple through the city. Amid a shaky economy, Rebecca Davies' father cuts off funding for her woman's shelter. Rather than turn these destitute women out onto the cold, dangerous streets, Rebecca seeks investment help from Lyman Sinclair, a remarkably successful young banker. But when Sinclair is found dead--an apparent suicide--and Rebecca's money is nowhere to be found, the police refuse to investigate further. Determined to recoup her money, Rebecca approaches her friend, writer marshall Webb. Together, Rebecca and Marshall unravel a web of corruption that runs from the top levels of Wall Street, through the lavish theaters of Broadway, to the mean streets of the Bowery. At its heart is a massive cover-up, marked by unquenchable ambition and greed that could shake the very foundations of New York City."

I really appreciated Soos's grasp of the historical context of the books. The period came to life as I read each one. Of course, the mysteries were also good, but the author's characters really put the sparkle on these stories. Rebecca Davies comes from a privileged background which gives her entrée into areas of society where freelance reporter and dime novelist Marshall Webb cannot go. Both are strong, intelligent individuals with plenty of common sense, although Rebecca can be a bit more adventurous than Marshall. There's also a growing attraction between the two that is never fully realized in this short series. I rated The Gilded Cage an A.

Pardon me for sharing this hideous cover for Judith Cutler's Staying Power, but I could not find the cover of the edition that I read. Yikes. That thing is scary!

Cutler is one of my favorite crime fiction writers. She has a knack for creating female characters that are complex and fascinating-- and her sense of humor (check out her two Josie Welford mysteries) keeps me laughing. Although there are flashes of humor in all her books, most of her series are not played for laughs. Her Kate Powers series is an example. Here's the synopsis:

"Detective Sergeant Kate Power is on her way home from a trip to Florence when the textile importer sitting on the plane next to her strikes up a conversation. Days later he is founding hanging from a bridge in Birmingham - with Kate's card in his pocket the only means of identification. What follows includes a scam to forge ecstasy tablets, bondage, long firm fraud and domestic violence - and Kate's in the middle of it all.

Besides the fast pace and intriguing mysteries, the thing that impressed me most about Cutler's Kate Power series (written from 1998 to 2003, six books total) was her depiction of what it was like to be a female police officer in Birmingham, England at that time. If you're a fan of British police procedurals and strong female characters, Judith Cutler's Kate Power series is definitely one you should check out. I rated Staying Power an A.

There you have it-- three more books that I read way back in 2005. Whatever will be next? Your guess is as good as mine!



  1. What an interesting roundup here, Cathy! And I do think it's interesting to go back and see what you found interesting (or not) a few years ago vs now. Thanks for reminding me of Fforde, too - someone whose work I ought to spotlight one of these times.

  2. The books in your "looking back" files are so much more interesting than the ones in mine!

    I've tried twice (& failed both times) to get into Fforde's Thursday Next series, but this one sounds very clever. I must give it a try.

    I have read and enjoyed one of Troy Roos' baseball mysteries (when I was doing a Detroit themed reading month) but this one in 1900s NYC looks like it was written for me!

    So many books . . .

  3. My son and I discovered Jasper Fforde together. And yes, it's been about that long too! We hold out hope for more of all the continuing stories he's got going on!


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