Love in Amsterdam

Freeling, Nicholas. Love in Amsterdam. New York: Harper & Row, 1962.

Reason read: Police Week is May 15th – 20th…or something like that.

When we meet first Martin he has already been locked up for two weeks for allegedly murdering his ex-lover, Elsa.
In the first sections of Love in Amsterdam Inspector Van der Valk is an unusual cop with unorthodox methods of investigation. It is up to him to solve the crime and I have to admit, he is the most interesting part of the whole story. His philosophy this: it doesn’t matter whether Martin says or believes he is innocent or if he is in fact guilty as all get out. Inspector Van der Valk is going to let Martin into his confidences and listen to every rambling theory. He is going to allow Martin in on every part of the detailed investigation because the more he and Martin spend together the more the truth will emerge. Sooner or later Inspector Van der Valk will get his man. It is an unusual way to go about solving a crime, allowing his best suspect to be an active part of the investigation, but it works.
The second part of Love in Amsterdam is all about Martin’s past revealing motive for the murder: how he knew the victim, the subsequent relationship they had, and how it all fell apart in the end. Is this section supposed to cast doubt on Martin’s innocence?
The final section is a frantic wrapping up of the case. The murderer is revealed and Inspector Van der Valk gets his man.
Stanley Ellin said it best when he described Love in Amsterdam as having “the sinister, spellbinding perfection of a cobra uncoiling.” That is definitely true for the first part of the story.

Quotes to quote, “Dead bodies are not frightening nor are they communicative” (p 21) and “Professor Comenius watched everything with slightly protuberant, healthy lobster eyes” (p 142).

Author fact: Freeling was British, lived in Holland, and died in France.

Book trivia: Love in Amsterdam was Freeling’s first book. It was made into a television show for the BBC as well.

Nancy said: Pearl said “Freeling’s psychological mysteries…remain a classic of the genre” ( Book Lust p 120).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 117).


Spring Pages

I will be traveling for part of May so who knows how many books I’ll be able to read for this month. Here is the list I will attempt:

Fiction:

  • Man in the Gray Flannel Suit by Sloan Wilson – in honor of May being Wilson’s birth month.
  • Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs – in honor of Graphic Novel month being in May.
  • Mariner’s Compass by Earlene Fowler – in honor of May is Museum Month.
  • Bear Comes Home by Rafi Zabor- in honor of May being Music Month.
  • Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters – in honor of the first Thursday in May being Prayer Week.
  • Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian – in honor of my father’s birth month. As a kid he read this book.
  • Five Children and It by E. Nesbit – in honor of May being Nesbit’s birth month.

Nonfiction:

  • Farthest North by Fridtjof Nansen – in honor of Peary’s birth month being in May. From one explorer to another.

Series continuations:

  • Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov – to continue the series started in January in honor of Asimov’s birth month.
  • Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope – to continue the series started in honor of Trollope’s birth month in April.

Appealing to April

I have a ridiculous number of books planned for this month. I have no idea what I was thinking.

Fiction:

  • The Warden by Anthony Trollope – in honor of Trollope’s birth month being in April.
  • City and the House by Natalie Ginsberg – in honor of April being Letter Writing month.
  • All Souls by Javier Marias – in honor of Oxford Jazz Festival traditionally being in April.
  • All-of-a-Kind-Family by Sydney Taylor – in honor of April being Sibling month and in honor of Library Week.

Nonfiction:

  • The Secret Knowledge of Water by Craig Childs – in honor of John Muir’s birth month (and the fact we are visiting Arizona soon).
  • Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins – in honor of Library Week.

Series continuations:

  • Hunting Season by Nevada Barr to finish the series read out of order.
  • The Game by Laurie R. King – to finish the series started in honor of Female Mystery month.
  • Topper Takes a Trip by Thorne Smith – to finish the series started in honor of Smith’s birth month.
  • The Council of the Cursed by Peter Tremayne – to continue the series started in honor of Tremayne’s birth month.
  • Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov – to continue the series started in honor of Asimov’s birth month.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • From Red Earth: a Rwandan Story of Healing and Forgiveness by Denise Uwiemana.

White Sky, Black Ice

Jones, Stan. White Sky, Black Ice. New York: Soho Press, 1999.

Reason read: Alaska’s Seward Day takes place in March.

The first book in Stan Jones’s Nathan Active series has the task of painting a picture of who Nathan Active is. The character development is slow in regards to Active’s personality. Jones spends a lot of time building the backstory of Active’s adoption after his fifteen year old Inupiat mother gave him up. He was raised by a white couple in Anchorage and grew up to be a state trooper. Here’s the rub: he has been posted back in his little birth village of Chukchi where he feels torn between the cultures of his upbringing and the traditions in his blood. He’s an obvious outsider, being raised in the big city. But when atypical suicides start happening one right after the other Active decides to listen to his ancestral roots and dig in.

Confessional: because White Sky, Black Ice takes an environmental spin I kept thinking of Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. She also tackles the theory that our planet is going to hell.

Author fact: Stan Jones launched the Kotzubue newspaper. He was also an editor for a couple of other newspapers.

Book trivia: White Sky, Black Ice is the first in the Nathan Active series.

Nancy said: Pear said nothing specific except to say White Sky, Black Ice is the first in a series.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the interesting chapter “All Set For Alaska” (p 14).


Monkey’s Raincoat

Crais, Robert. The Monkey’s Raincoat. New York: Perfect Crime Book, 1987.

Reason read: I needed another category for March and decided to throw this one in the mix because March is a rainy month. Get it? Sigh.

It’s really too bad I don’t have a lot more of Robert Crais on my reading list. I fell in love with wisecracking private investigator, Elvis Cole, immediately. (My only other Crais is a Joe Pike mystery.) But, back to Elvis Cole. With Cole’s affinity for Disney characters, yoga, and a cat named nothing, he is a bundle of personality and then some. He’s thirty five years old, former military and security, likes to look at the ladies and isn’t above saying something outrageous just to see someone’s reaction. What’s not to love? I took to his sarcastic kindness right away.
When we first meet Elvis, he is about to launch into a new investigation involving a weepy woman’s missing husband and son. All clues lead to Mr. Missing taking off with a sexy young girlfriend until he is found shot to death in the Hollywood Hills. What starts off as a simple missing case has now evolved into a murderous mystery involving high stakes drug deals gone wrong and bad ass thugs who will stop at nothing to regain the upper hand. It is up to Elvis and his silent (in more ways than one) partner, Joe Pike, to find Ellen’s missing son and bring him back, dead or alive. The details are a little dated (these are the days of calling from street corner payphones and Wang Chung hits), but still a good read.
Mousy mom Ellen Lang was a mystery to me. She didn’t get Cole’s joke about the humor of paramedics (keeping one “in stitches”) yet she understood that two years at the “University of Southeast Asia” meant a stint in Vietnam. Throughout the entire book she wasn’t consistent to me. Someone who was consistent and I wanted more of was Joe Pike. The inside flap described him as an enigma and that just scratches the surface of Pike’s personality. Can’t wait to read more about him later.

Quote I liked, “Everything always goes wrong whent the cameras turned away” (p 27).

Author fact: If you ever get the chance to check out the author photo on the back of The Monkey’s Raincoat, please do. Robert Crais could not look any cooler in his over-sized sunglasses, Batman tee-shirt and glowing white kicks. The pose is pretty bad ass, too.

Book trivia: The Monkey’s Raincoat won the Anthony and Macavity Awards.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Monkey’s Raincoat except to include it in a list she called “private eye novels.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 116).


Blackout

Garcia-Roza, Luiz Alfredo. Blackout: an Inspector Espinosa Mystery. Translated by Benjamin Moser. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2008.

Reason read: to finish the series started in February in honor of Brazil’s Carnival.

When a crippled and seemingly homeless man is found shot to death in a cul-de-sac in a wealthy neighborhood Espinosa knew from childhood personal intrigue is added to his professional duty to find the killer. The secluded neighborhood is up a very steep hill so why would a vagrant man with only one leg be there, especially late at night in a torrential downpour? Espinosa likes two men for the crime. Both were collecting their cars in the same cul-de-sac after a dinner party. Both men initially lie to Espinosa but one man in particular holds his attention longer. There is something about Aldo. Espinosa and his team slowly turn up the pressure on their prime suspect, showing up at Aldo’s work, following him around town, and repeatedly interviewing his therapist wife. Such scrutiny finally reveals Aldo is having an affair with a coworker. Even after Aldo’s wife is found murdered Espinosa refuses to consider he has an open and shut case. He shows considerable restraint when he does not eagerly arrest the obvious suspect.
Character development is subtle and substantial all at once. The character of Camilla Bruno was intriguing. Was she seducing patients or not? I wish I had more Garcia-Rozas on my Challenge list. I would have liked to see how Espinoza’s personality evolves. His love of books, for example.
One of the best part’s of Garcia-Roza’s writing is his elegant descriptions of the Rio de Janeiro neighborhoods (Copacabana and Ipanema specifically). I found myself playing around with Google Earth just to see how close he came to matching the true landscapes.

As an aside, I just finished watching two documentaries about how an innocent man spent considerable time in prison for a crime he didn’t commit because the state wanted to close their high profile case. Police became fixed on the wrong man and made the evidence fit the guilt instead of looking at every viable suspect out there. Espinosa would have been good on both of these cases. He certainly wouldn’t have rushed to judgement.

Author fact: Garcia-Roza is an academic and has written at least five other books which are not on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: this is the sixth book in the Espinosa series.

Nancy said: Pearl said “mystery fans can rejoice in reading Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza’s complex novels” (Book Lust To Go p 45).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the very simple chapter called “Brazil” (p 43).


Following February

What to say about this month? It was epic in a myriad of ways. First and foremost, I turned half a century old. I don’t mind the number; I am not bothered by the age. Never the less, friends and family gathered for a party to remember. And. And! And, I re-upped my commitment to running. It’s been slow but I have to admit something here – my breathing has been effed up. I have a scheduled appointment for early March so…I continue to read.

Here are the books:

Fiction:

  • Take This Man by Frederick Busch. (EB & print)
  • Good Night Willie Lee, I’ll See You in the Morning by Alice Walker. (EB)
  • Crossers by Philip Caputo. (EB and print)
  • Alone in the Crowd by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza. (EB and print)

Nonfiction:

  • Tragic Honesty by Blake Bailey. (print only)
  • Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner. (AB, EB and print)

Series Continuations:

  • A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King. (EB and print)
  • Caprice and Rondo by Dorothy Dunnett. (print)
  • Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov. (EB)
  • A Fine and Bitter Snow by Dana Stabenow. (EB and print)

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • How to be a Patient by Sana Goldberg.
  • Corregidora by Gayl Jones (reread).

For fun:

  • Exploring the Southwest by Tammy Gagne.
  • Calypso by David Sedaris (started).
  • Sharp by Michelle Dean (continuing)
  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (continuing)