THE ADDRESS by Fiona Davis: A Review

I finished this book nearly a month ago, but summer school and its fast pace prevented me from reviewing it until now.  I wanted to do it justice because the author is a friend, and she has written a really fine novel.

When one hears the address, The Dakota (an apartment building, now a building of condos) in New York, one’s mind automatically goes to John Lennon’s murder, but the story goes back much further than that, to the 1800’s to another infamous murder at that address. Davis has thoroughly done her research on the building (Her novels are set in buildings in New York), and discovered that the architect was stabbed to death, supposedly by a crazy woman of that day. She has envisioned how it could have been and written a very plausible story explaining her vision.

A blurb on the book describes it as “…about the thin line between love and loss, success and ruin, passion and madness.”  In the novel, Theodore Camden was found stabbed to death, presumably by Sarah Smith, his lover. That is the 1800’s story.  The 1985 story finds Bailey Camden (notice the name) an out of work recovering alcoholic just returning from rehab, who is  forced to throw herself on the mercy of Melinda, her vacuous cousin for a job and a place to live.  The job, at the Dakota, which includes an apartment, as what seems to be her only salary, develops into an interest in (bordering on obsession with) the building. I have never read such twists and turns as were in both Sarah’s 1884 story and Bailey’s 1985 investigation into her ancestor’s murder.

As in Davis’ debut novel, The Dollhouse, about the Barbizon hotel, the novel alternates between the early story and the more modern one.  This never confuses the reader, however, for chapters in both novels are clearly marked with dates. Also like The Dollhouse, Davis’ newest is a historical romance story, involves a crime of passion, and has several mysteries to solve. The opening of The Address, begins arrestingly: “The sight of a child teetering on the window ledge of room 510 turned Sarah’s world upside down.” Thus begins a tale that kept me up far past my bedtime because I couldn’t put it down. Dishes and laundry went unwashed, social activities were put on hold, and telephone calls went unanswered during my two-day immersion in The Address. The author’s inclusion of the details of the period were reminiscent of those taken by the creators of “Downton Abbey.”

I am so looking forward to Davis’ next novel, which I have on her mother’s word, is set in Grand Central Station. To all people who love all things New York and any reader who enjoys a good read, I highly recommend this book.

THE DAUGHTER OF TIME by Josephine Tey: A Review

An old Proverb states that “Truth is the Daughter of Time,” and it is a search for truth that is the premise for this novel. We find Alan Grant, Scotland Yard detective recuperating in an extended hospital stay from a freak accident. When the book opens, he has been inactive for a period of time, and is B O R E D.  Marta, an actress friend, brings photos of faces to distract him, for studying faces and having a knack of determining whether a face is that of a “good guy” or a “bad guy” is his prime talent, earning him a reputation at the Yard. He becomes fascinated by a portrait of Richard the Third, the “unscrupulous murderer of the Little Princes”–or not!

Carradine, Marta’s “wooly lamb,” called this because of his ungainly tall and curly-haired blonde looks, becomes Grant’s researcher and is soon caught up in the legwork Grant cannot do himself. Together they uncover Tudor cover ups and despair at the unreliability of traditionally “accepted” untruths and “facts.” The New York times calls this novel “one of the permanent classics in the detective field.” Here is Grant’s first entry as he pursues the mystery involved in the “case”:

“CASE: Disappearance of 2 boys (Edward, Prince of Wales;Richard, Duke of York) from the Tower of London, 1485 or thereabouts.”

Unlikely as it may seem at first glance, the book is a lively read, definitely intellectually stimulating, and even humorous at times. I thoroughly enjoyed this deliberate, yet fast-moving read.

 

TUESDAY TEASER

Grab what you are reading now, turn to where you left off, and copy a few sentences below. Maybe you will tease someone else to read the same book. Don’t forget to give the title and the author.  Here’s my Tuesday Teaser from Harlan Coben’s One False Move:

“…Brenda will be here in a couple of minutes …Then you hit her with the Bolitar charm.”

“Myron arched one eyebrow. “Set on full blast?’

“Heavens no, I don’t want the poor girl disrobing.”

This book is a Myron Bolitar novel, a mystery in an excellent series. My Better Half recommended this particular one saying it was the “best so far.”  That is high praise.

Audio Book/Younger Readers: A Review

I haven’t listened to an audio book since trips to Virginia by car or since The Dark Tower by Steven King first came out as an audio attempt, which had to stop after book four because of the death of King’s reader–many years ago. I am currently finishing the Dark Tower, circling back to pick up a skipped book four, then finishing up where I am now with the conclusion, book seven.

That said, I heard of a kid’s book, Chasing Vermeer, which our local library had only on audio book.  It has been a good accompaniment  to peeling potatoes and otherwise putting meals together as well as an off-your-feet pastime during my recent foot woes.

The two middle school protagonists, Calder, a boy and Petra,  ( a female stand-in as best friend for Tommy who has recently moved away ) are likable and extremely intelligent, and are enrolled in an exceptional sixth grade class at the university lab school. Balliett, the author, and Ellen Reilly, who voices the novel, bring them to life as they strive to solve the mystery of a mid-transit theft of a painting by Vermeer, the mysterious painter of mysterious paintings. Wondering if their teacher and an old lady in the neighborhood are involved, the two kids become immersed in a fast paced, twisty-turny adventure.

The descriptions of Veneer’s paintings are accurate and well done, tantalizing the reader’s mind until she looks them up to see the paintings themselves.  I wished the CD box had had a paper portfolio of the paintings orally described. As the children are intrigued by the patterns, connections, and “coincidences” in a strange book by Foote, their sixth senses come into play as they investigate the goings on in their school and neighborhood.  Strange letters, police protection, and the kidnapping of a painting to draw attention to Vermeer all merge together to make a delightful mystery and a good read for any sixth or seventh grader.

ARF by NY Times Bestselling Author, Spenser Quinn (pub. 2016)

ARF is the latest in the impossibly “cute” (in the good sense of the word) Bowser and Birdie novels, which I predict will be a vey successful series for Quinn. As one blurb on the back of the book says, “Imagine Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird setting out to solve a mystery with the aid of a charming, slobbery dog. ” The “kicker” is the story is told from Bowser’s point of view, which tends to skew the clues, plot, and general denouement.

Here’s a random example of the dog, Bowser speaking after hearing someone say a minor character doesn’t like dogs,”Not fond of dogs? I tried hard to figure out what that meant, couldn’t quite get there.”  Birdie’s voice interrupts, “So…what we need is for the sheriff to…to find out on his own!” She credits Bowser  with the thought that comes to her mind and calls Bowser a genius. Bowser again: “What was this? I was a genius? Sounded good. I hoped to find out what it meant one day.”  Bowser is never anthropomorphic; he is just plain “dog,” distracted from duty by the smell of bacon and spells of losing focus when he smells a big, bad snake under the garage (which has a BIG role in “getting” the bad guy).

This is a delightful read, a bit predictable in places ,but with twists and turns that stop the reader dead in his tracks.  Plenty of pompous, clueless adults and kids- with- issues make up the cast of characters in this page-turning read.

This book sent me into giggling like someone Birdie’s age ,and at the same time left me with an Aaaaawwwww feeling.

Review of two delightful cozy mysteries

As a break from my reading to give my overstimulated mind a rest, I read two light, light whodunnit, cozy mysteries.

The first was Well Read, Then Dead by Terrie Farley Moran, which is the first in a new culinary cozy series.  The recipe in the back of the book was for buttermilk pie, a specialty at the bookshop/cafe where several book clubs met. At the cafe/bookshop, books are sold, three meals a day are served by the owners/waitresses who share a life, are roommates, and , of course, solve a murder.  The victim, “Miss Delia,” one of the older women’s book club’s charter members, is found bludgeoned by a dull, heavy object and totally dead. We are on the “outskirts” of the mystery wondering what “Skully”, a local homeless man was doing skulking ( pun intended) around Miss Delia’s house.  I, an amateur Sherlock, just knew there was a “connection” but still got the “connection” wrong.  Excellent twists and turns, treasure hunters on motorcycles known as “wreckers”, and a touch of romance make an excellent summer read for anyone who loves books, belongs to a book club or just likes to read about food.  Available in paperback.

The second, Spell Booked by Joyce and Jim Laverne, a husband and wife mystery writing team, is again, the first in a series of books, the Retired Witch Mystery series.  It has great promise even though I am a good Christian and don’t like reading about witchcraft of any kind, even those as hilarious and delightful as these three witches. The book was a gift, and I enjoyed it very much.  It has a simple, but original plot. Three witches who realize they are now eligible for AARP, must “conjure up a retirement package” and find three young recruits to take their place. A big plus for me is that it is set in Wilmington, N.C., near my original “home state” of Virginia and near Beaufort, N.C. where my husband was born and raised until the age of five.

Olivia, one of the witches winds up dead near the beginning of the book, and the witch hunt (pun intended again) is on!  This is a fast read, an amusing read, and for any reader who likes humor, loves books and thrives on twists and turns.  This book is written by a very talented “team”. Available in paperback. 2014 publication.

Both books are my recommendations for beach reads, escape reads or  a “just- plain take-a-day-off-and- read- a -book- day”.  Both are  also easy to read as a “pick up and put down” book as well.

HAPPY SUMMER READING!

Rae