The above illustration, "Blowing Bubbles," has been adapted for use here by generous permission from the artist, Cyril Rolando.

January 11, 2011

Recent reading

A new book from Robert Crais is always welcome, and in THE SENTRY, the third in the Joe Pike series, the author continues to open windows onto Joe's soul. Here, Joe finds himself with feelings for a woman who -- like so many of Crais's characters -- may not be exactly what she seems. The pace may not be as relentless as in the previous book (THE FIRST RULE), but readers who've been longing to see a more romantic side of Joe will get their wish -- sort of. Let's just say that Pike is not a guy you'd want to cross, in love or war.

BLIND JUSTICE was the first in a mystery series built around the character of Sir John Fielding, a real-life 18th-century jurist who presided over London's Bow Street court. Fielding is blind and relies on the story's narrator, 12-year-old Jeremy Proctor, to aid in the investigation of the murder of a lord. Fans of historical mysteries should enjoy this one, for although the plot is not altogether original, the author depicts the era vividly and comprehensibly for the modern reader. Alexander completed eleven books in the series before his death in 2003.

Ken Harmon's debut novel, THE FAT MAN: A TALE OF NORTH POLE NOIR, is charming. Gumdrop Coal, the Christmas elf in charge of delivering the bad news, in the form of coal, to naughty children, gets himself fired by Santa. Or was he framed? Gumdrop is no goody-two shoes, he's two-and-a- half feet of kickass. But if Santa is such a great guy himself, how could he be so cruel to the toys of Misfit Island? Kringle Town is being divided into factions. Someone is out to get Santa, and Gumdrop is looking like a pretty good fall guy. There's no detail of the American Christmas tradition, from carols and films to poetry and myth, that author Harmon doesn't twist to his own purpose, played against the tropes of the hardboiled detective story to often-hilarious effect. For a book that is billed as noir, it's got a solid feel-good ending, and I recommend reading it, as poet Eugene Field wrote, "jest 'fore Christmas."

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