The launch of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in 1941 was a break-through for women writers in that the editors published not only hardboiled and noir detective fiction, which was mostly written by men, but also domestic crime and suspense stories, at which women excelled. Weinman’s authors won “Edgar” nominations from the Mystery Writers of America, founded in 1945. Some of them wrote best-sellers, including novels that became motion pictures (such as Vera Caspary’s Laura). In Weinman’s view, these authors are no longer remembered, unlike some male writers like Dasheill Hammett and Ross Macdonald, because their domestic subject matter has not been taken seriously.
One of the attractive features of the novel is the use of old style font for some of the 1780s passages, and the illustrations in silhouette, popular in the 18th century. The novel is smoothly written, the 1920s slang authentic-sounding.
A minor character speaks of seeing Duke Ellington at the Cotton Club, but we readers never get to go there and see him perform. Perhaps I’m spoiled, with too high expectations, because so many creative artists, from Thomas Wolfe to Woody Allen, have already brilliantly evoked New York.
Sam Moore is an exceptionally well drawn character. Existing fans of this series will enjoy the progressive story of Sam, as For Keeps goes deep into his psyche, revealing his long suppressed pain and a surprising number of secrets. For new fans, For Keeps provides enough back story to enable this book to be read as a standalone novel.
Through careful layering of mystery and character development, Rosanne Dingli has created another deeply engaging and powerful novel in Camera Obscura. As is always the case with Dingli’s work, the research is impeccable, enlivened by art, by a deep love of travel and exploration, and above all, by the conjunction of personal and global, art related, history.
The story Patrick M. Garry tells is a story of how curiosity on the part of a group of young teens leads them to meddle in someone’s life with tragic results. This premise is well-rooted in life especially in political campaigns. The staging for the story has a small hometown appeal well-suited for the action.
Certainly the mystery that surrounds and motivates Jonathan Pryde and the poor ‘lost souls’ that inhabit his castle, drives the story rapidly towards its conclusion, but this is more than simply a story of suspense. The novel touches on some serious thematics such as the relationship between art and life, on both ethics and philosophical responsibility, and ultimately, on how we create meaning in our lives.
How do people carry on with their lives when someone has not only departed, but vanished? How do they cope privately with the not-knowing, and endure the public scrutiny? What becomes of them? The novel gives the reader an insight into those living out their lives among the departed. This aspect of the novel is particularly compelling, thought provoking, and heart-rending.
There’s a lot to enjoy about the novel, not least the mystery: Hammett generally wrote tightly plotted novels and, in that respect, The Thin Man satisfies in spades. The banter between Nick Charles and his wife is also very enjoyable and his wisecrack about a man needing a shot of whiskey in the morning to ‘break the phlegm’ is one that most men will identify with.
The story of the Underground Railroad is also compelling and Lazar handles the history beautifully, deftly weaving it into the story, and allowing the reader to discover and enjoy each piece of information along with Gus and Camille. Managing a delicate balance between action and reflection, Lazar’s latest book FireSong is a delightfully satisfying read full of warmth, humour and drama.