On April 18 at 10 a.m., the Tuesday Morning Book Group will discuss Airs Above the Ground, by Mary Stewart. Published in 1965, this This is a 50th anniversary program. Young English veterinarian Vanessa March travels to Austria and gets mixed up in a mystery involving a traveling circus and Lipizzaner stallions. Here is my earlier review.
The Tuesday Evening Book Group will meet at 7 p.m. on April 25 to discuss The Translation of Love, by Lynne Katsukake, a first novel set in Tokyo in 1947. Fumi Tanaka asks her classmate Aya Shimamura, who spent the war at an internment camp in Canada, for help in finding her sister. My review is here.
The Crime Readers will meet at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 20 to discuss The Tiger in the Smoke, by Margery Allingham. This British mystery, featuring amateur sleuth Albert Campion, is set in London and was published in 1952. Crime Readers are co-sponsored by the Indian Prairie Public Library. Optional dinner is at 6 p.m.
Copies of these books are available at the Adult & Teen Services Reference Desk.
I’m in the middle of so many books that I haven’t reviewed any for a while. Spring is usually peak time for new books to be published, but there are several winter gems here, along with some older titles. Enjoy!
What I’m Reading Now:
Clement, Blaize & John. The Cat Sitter and the Canary.
A cozy mystery set on Siesta Key, on Florida’s gulf coast.
Hambly, Barbara. Patriot Hearts: A Novel of the Founding Mothers.
Kline, Cristina Baker. A Piece of the World.
I was familiar with some of American artist Andrew Wyeth’s work, but not Christina’s World, which is the inspiration for this historical novel set in Maine. Kline is the author of The Orphan Train.
Mack, Doug. The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA. From the U.S. Virgin Islands to American Samoa, the author explores our territories. Fans of Ken Jennings’ Maphead or Bill Bryson’s humorous travelogues may enjoy.
Norton, Andre. Lord of Thunder, sequel to The Beast Master. A classic science fiction writer I’m reading for another 50th anniversary post. A Navajo who can communicate with animals is caught up in adventure and intrigue on another planet.
Ryan, Jennifer. The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir.
Historical novel set in WWII England, on the home front. Narrated by several characters, including a young teenager, a mother who’s just sent her only son off to war, a conniving midwife, a seductive young woman, a choir director, and others.
Stewart, Mary. The Ivy Tree.
Another book I’m reading for a 50th anniversary post; currently getting neglected because of all these other excellent books.
Flanders, Judith. A Cast of Vultures. The third mystery novel featuring a book editor as amateur sleuth.
Gaiman, Neil. Norse Mythology. The award-winning dark fantasy author has fun retelling Norse myths.
Saunders, George. Lincoln in the Bardo. A grief-stricken Abraham Lincoln visits his son’s grave; ghosts are present.
Odds Against, by Dick Francis
Former jockey Sid Halley has spent the last two years at a London detective agency, but is assigned only routine cases. After fourteen years as a steeplechase jockey, he’s restless and unhappy. On a simple assignment, he is shot in the gut and can’t eat solid food for a while. While he recovers, his father-in-law, Charles Roland, invites him for a visit, even though Sid and his wife Jenny are separated. Charles has borrowed an expensive gem and mineral collection and wants Sid to help him impress and investigate another guest, Howard Kraye. Kraye may be connected to a string of bad luck at nearby Seabury Racecourse. Sid learns that a developer wants to buy out Seabury’s shareholders and build houses on the land. At a visit to a stockbroker, Sid encounters secretary Zanna Martin, who hides an injury from the world, just as Sid does with his damaged hand. Thefts and explosions add to the suspense of this intricately plotted mystery, published in 1966. During an exciting pursuit behind the scenes at Seabury, Sid’s injured again, and his future at the detective agency is uncertain. I enjoyed the fast pace, well-developed characters, and some witty dialogue. Sid appears again in three more mysteries, and this book was made into a television series, The Racing Game.
Airs Above the Ground, by Mary Stewart
I’ve recently read six novels that were popular in 1967, as my library is celebrating its 50th anniversary all year. Frankly, some of the books feel rather dated. This book doesn’t, except for newsreels playing before feature films at theaters. Young English veterinarian Vanessa March is asked to accompany a teen friend of the family to visit his father in Vienna. Puzzled at the request, Vanessa learns that her husband Lewis, currently on assignment in Sweden, was just seen in a newsreel at a traveling circus in Austria. Vanessa and 17-year-old Tim head off to Vienna, where Tim wants to work with the Lipizzaner stallions. Mountain driving, a visit behind the scenes at a small circus, including veterinary work on an older horse, a suspicious fire, plenty of delicious Viennese pastries, suspense, an old castle, the Lipizzaners, and a very unusual chase scene all add to the novel’s appeal. Also, when Vanessa finally sees her husband, he’s in disguise. Vanessa, Lewis, and Tim all work together to solve a mystery, just in time. This book is a real pleasure to read, or re-read.
The Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John Le Carré
For a book in which only the first and last chapters are action scenes, this award-winning spy novel has a big impact. Alec Leamas, 50, has just lost his last operative from East Berlin, and is called home by MI6 to London. He is given the option of retirement or one last revenge mission, to take down Mundt, who had his operatives killed. Deep under cover, Leamas takes to drink, works in a psychic library, has an affair with coworker Liz, punches a grocer, and ends up in jail. Afterward, he pretends to defect and spill his secrets for $15,000. Handed on from contact to contact, he tells all in Holland, then is sent with Fiedler to East Berlin. He is arrested, beaten up, then asked to testify against Mundt, who’d ordered his arrest. But MI6 has slipped up, contacting Liz, who just happens to be a communist, and paying Leamas’ outstanding bills. Twist after plot twist, with lots of suspense and deceit, neither the reader nor Leamas are sure in the end which is the right side. First published in the U.S. in 1964, awarded the Edgar and the Gold Dagger, The Spy Who Came In from the Cold was made into a 1965 movie with Richard Burton as Leamas that also won an Edgar. This year, a TV mini-series based on the book will be released. Le Carré, writing under a pseudonym, taught at Eton before spending five years with the British Foreign Service, and has just published a memoir, The Pigeon Tunnel. This very bleak look at the Cold War is still a terrific read.
The Corner Shop by Elizabeth Cadell
When Lucille Abbey travels to Hampshire to find out why three of her best employees have left the job of private secretary to Professor Hallam, she finds that the cottage is at the top of a steep hill, lacks basic amenities, and that the professor is quite unreasonable. Lucille can handle the job, the cottage, and the professor, but is soon off to Paris for a “vacation”, running her aunt’s small shop while she’s away. It becomes apparent that Lucille’s aunt is dishonest, and acquaintances from London and Hampshire keep turning up in Paris. A charming, pleasant read, with some mystery and a little romance. This book was published in 1967, and is a bit dated. Why am I reading and reviewing it now? I have enjoyed other books by Elizabeth Cadell in the past, but I’m currently looking to read and review books that were popular 50 years ago, as the Woodridge Public Library is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017. Information on special events can be found on the library’s website. The library owns 15 novels by Elizabeth Cadell, and she’s always a good choice if you’re looking for a light, gentle read.
Happy New Year!