Monday, April 09, 2007

One Good Story

Kate Atkinson has done it again. One Good Turn is one good detective story. Jackson Brodie, of Case Histories fame, is visiting Edinburgh with his "girlfriend" Julia. He is left to his own devices for most days, since Julia is preparing for and performing in a theater production for the Edinburgh Film Festival. Although Jackson is now retired from the police force, he just can't help himself. He still keeps finding crimes. Atkinson writes the book from several points of view--we hear from Martin Canning, a dull man whose writes Nancy Drew-like detective stories, Gloria Hatter, whose husband is a powerful and nasty real estate developer, and Louise Monroe, a police inspector with a tart tongue and a sassy attitude. Each character harbors a secret, and each is connected in some fashion to a road-rage incident on the streets of Edinburgh. Most is not what it seems at first, and stories and characters are nestled within the stories of others, just like the matryoshka (nested Russian dolls) that show up here and there in the story. Although death and violence are critical parts of the story, they don't overwhelm, and when all is said and done, the bad guys satisfactorily get their due.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Time to Travel

This time of year, many folks start searching for the perfect vacation books--light enough in weight to pack in your suitcase, light enough in subject matter to read at the beach. Audrey Niffeneggers' The Time Traveler's Wife does not fit either of those categories. But it nevertheless is a perfect vacation book--some romance, some suspense, some humor, and some heartbreak. Oh, and of course, a lot of traveling. Just not the type you're probably used to. And Henry and Clare don't experience the typical meet-date-fall in love-marry-have kids-retire to sunny Florida type of relationship. Their relationship is sweet, tender, and heart-breaking. Although their love is deep and genuine, they cannot depend on each other, because of Henry's "problem"--his involuntary, spontaneous time traveling. They first meet when Clare is 6 and Henry is 36, but they REALLY meet when she is 20 and he is 28. Confused? So was I for about the first 50 pages. It's hard to wrap your mind around the whole concept of time travel. But don't give up. The rewards of reading this book are well worth it. It's a beautiful, thought-provoking book that celebrates love. It is NOT a science fiction book but is a contemporary love story in which the reader must simply suspend belief and let the story unfold. Give it a try.