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Books in May

Reading in Spring/Is a Very Fine Thing!

Duncan Kincaid’s cousin Jack Montfort has been plagued with spells of automatic writing, evidently from an early medieval monk attached to the Abbey at Glastonbury. He and a number of friends are working energetically to discover what it’s all about, but when his girlfriend, the local vicar, is injured in a car accident and then another person associated with the group is found dead, ostensibly drowned, Jack calls on Duncan to help him figure out the case. In the meantime, Gemma James is keeping a secret while she tries to help a young pregnant girl who is also involved in mystery at Glastonbury….This is the seventh Kincaid/James novel, and at last I feel caught up in my reading of this series as the next book, And Justice There Is None, is one that I read in 2018, completely out of sequence. I enjoyed the character relationships, as per usual, and the Glastonbury setting was quite exotic and mysterious, but the actual causes of the crimes didn’t really live up to the suggestive nature of the tale; a mild recommendation from me, then.

A re-read. Makes more sense to me now that I’ve read the preceding books in proper order.

On a matriarchal planet, Silhouette gives birth to a child conceived with the priest of a religion from another planet. In Silhouette’s world, the mother names the child, and she calls him T-Mo; but the priest demands the naming right and calls the child Odysseus. T-Mo is deeply beloved and endlessly curious, Odysseus is bent on power and destroying everything in sight. And the two, in one body, start a number of families that end up on Earth….I adore Meerkat Press, if only for its name - meerkats, after all, are inhabitants of parts of Africa most known for how they have sentries who sit straight up to see any danger coming toward them, and Meerkat Press brings their readers to see things they might not otherwise notice, if not for their attention. All that said, I’m a bit mixed about this book; on the negative side, the author trails the story from its origins into about the fourth generation, which to me as a reader gave short shrift, trying to bundle too much into too short a space. On the positive side, the language is beautiful - this is a writer whose turn of phrase in almost every sentence is practically a poem. Really gorgeous. I’d wish to have this story turned into, maybe, two (or even three) books, to give full voice to each generation, which I felt was a bit too rushed; but I’d love to read her future writing anytime, anyday.

Ambrose Bierce and his colleague/sidekick Tom Redmond are called on by their boss, publisher “Willie” Hearst, to look into the murder of a very popular San Francisco preacher. Said preacher was better known for his many, many female conquests than for his piety, which means there’s a long list of suspects, but Bierce hones in on one of the preacher’s other passions, that of the suffragettes, who happen to be planning a march in The City which many men oppose. Things only get more complicated when three young female orators known as “the Trey of Pearls,” come to town and Tom Redmond falls madly in love…. I think there are four or five books in this series, although I’ve only read three before this one; at any rate, the series order doesn’t seem to matter very much in this case. Many readers will be quite upset with the misogynistic and racist stereotyping in the series, but if you can keep in mind the fact that these attitudes were the norm in the period in which the series is set (this book is set in 1892), there’s a lot to enjoy here, not least the fact that each chapter is headed with a definition from Bierce’s real book, “The Devil’s Dictionary,” which are hilarious. I didn’t really buy into the solution to the crime, but the period setting and characters were well done; so, with the caveat about race and gender noted above, a mild recommendation from me.

June is poised to be....cold, brrr! Better reading weather!

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