Wilson, Barbara. Death of a Much-Travelled Woman. New York: Open Road, 1998
Reason read: to “finish” the series started in January.
Cassandra Reilly is back! She is still very much the translator, the “accidental, expatriate, dyke detective.” This time her adventures are contained in nine short stories from around the globe and there is a crime of some sort (mostly murders) in every one. Of interest, Wilson occasionally makes a serious commentary on the perceptions of what it means to be a feminist and the rights of lesbians as legally married couples.
- Death of a Much-Travelled Woman
- Murder at the International Feminist Book Fair
- Theft of the Poet
- An Expatriot Death
- Wie Bitte?
- The Last Laugh
- The Antivariaat Sophie
- Mi Novelista
Author fact: Barbara Wilson also writes under the alias Barbara Sjoholm.
Book trivia: This is the third Cassandra Reilly book in the series.
Nancy said: Pearl included Death of a Much-Travelled Woman in her list of contemporary series featuring female sleuths.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 169).
Neely, Barbara. Blanche on the Lam. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992.
Reason read: January is Mystery month. Reading Blanche on the Lam in honor of the month. Additionally, for the Portland Public Library 2021 Reading Challenge, I needed a book for category of Agatha Award winner.
Blanche White is a special kind of sassy woman; not your average maid. When we first meet her in Farleigh, North Carolina, she is waiting to go to jail; convicted of writing bad checks. This is her second offense so she knows the judge is going to throw the book at her: thirty days in jail if only to set an example. When she unexpectedly finds an opportunity to slip away from the bailiff, she takes it quiet as you please. Just slips out the back door of the courthouse.
Through a series of misunderstandings Blanche ends up working as “the help” for an upper class white family: Everette, Grace, Mumsfield, and Aunt Emmeline. Luckily, Blanche has her wicked humor and uncanny intuition because from the moment she starts working for the family, she can tell something is wrong with all of them except mentally challenged Mumsfield. It wasn’t just from eavesdropping on Everett’s conversation with the sheriff, despite the sheriff’s death the very next day. It wasn’t from observing the odd behavior of alcoholic and seemingly senile Aunt Emmeline, who never leaves her room. It wasn’t from the gardener who perishes in an “accidental” house fire. It was from watching and talking with Mumsfield. From the moment they met Blanche had a special connection to the boy; he was always on her radar whether she liked it or not.
Blanche on the Lam, while humorous also carries the stark reality of sexism, racism and prejudice. Neely deftly weaves these sobering themes through an otherwise funny plot.
As an aside, I listened to an audio recording of Blanche on the Lam read by Lisa Renee Pitts. Her performance was brilliant.
Author fact: Blanche on the Lam is Barbara Neely’s first novel.
Book trivia: Blanche on the Lam won the Agatha Award in 1992.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Blanche on the Lam.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 119).
Evanovich, Janet. Two for the Dough. New York: Scribner, 1996.
Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Female Mystery month…or something like it.
Stephanie Plum is a self-professed “fugitive apprehension agent” otherwise known as a budding bounty hunter. In One for the Money Stephanie falls into the business when her cousin, Vincent, needs a fill-in for an absent agent. Turns out, Stephanie has a knack for accidentally catching the fugitives. She’s a little clumsy and a lot reckless, but with luck and accidental courage, she catches on pretty quick.
This time, in Two for the Dough, Stephanie is after one Kenny Mancuso, Joe Morelli’s cousin. To bring you up to speed, Joe is the innocent “bad guy” Stephanie needed to apprehend in the last book, One for the Money. Ex-military man Kenny has been accused of shooting his former best friend in the knee. Armed with a stun gun, pepper spray, flashlights, a .38 and a friend named Ricardo Carlos Manoso (aka Ranger), Stephanie is back on the hunt for Kenny. Things heat up when the best friend is shot a second time, this time, fatally. Did Kenny come back to finish the job? When Stephanie’s spunky grandmother is stabbed in the hand with an ice pick, things turn serious. It’s personal this time. Stephanie needs to watch her step because now family’s involved. The plot is fun, a little unbelievable, sometimes a little mumbo jumbo, and more often than not, forgettable.
As an aside, everyone seems to be a cousin of someone else. Stephanie has the fugitive apprehension gig because of her cousin, Vinny. Some guy named Gazarra is married to her cousin. Stephanie is after Kenny who is a cousin of Joe’s. A car at the scene of the crime belonged to another cousin of Joe’s; this time a guy named Leo.
Quote to quote, “When in dread, my rule was always to procrastinate” (p 173). Yup. It’s the only one I liked.
Author fact: Evanovich has an official FaceBook page.
Book trivia: Like One for the Money, Two for the Dough was a best seller.
Nancy said: Pearl said Two for the Dough will having you laughing.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 171).
Wilson, Barbara. Gaudi Afternoon. Washington: Seal Press, 2001.
Reason read: February is my birth month and I want to honor women doing cool stuff. In honor of a female globetrotting translator, I’m reading Gaudi Afternoon.
What starts out as a promise to help a friend of a friend find a missing husband because she can speak Spanish, Cassandra Reilly jets off to Barcelona, Spain. She soon finds herself running all over the city, as in running into old lovers left and right. She is supposed to be looking for Ben Stevens, husband to Frankie. Instead, her time is taken up with deflecting old lover, Ana, and Ana’s quest to start a family with Cassandra; or lusting after on again-off again lover and hairdresser, Carmen; or getting orgasmic foot massages from the wacky weird foot therapist, Alice. Occasionally, in between being starved for sexual companionship, and looking for lost people, Cassandra works on translating a South American best seller and discovering the genius of Antonio Gaudi’s architecture. Then there’s looking for Ben…remember the missing husband of Frankie? Only, it isn’t Ben who is missing. This is a never ending kidnapping caper. The gender bending gets confusing at times.
Quotes to quote, “Or I’ll decide I need to catch up with an old lover in Uruguay, and political events will keep me there longer than expected” (p 3).
Pet peeve: small detail. Cassandra goes into a shop that seems to be full of nautical items. Maps are not nautical. Charts are the correct term.
Author fact: Wilson’s last name is Sjoholm. Like her lead heroine, she is a writer, editor, teacher and translator.
Book trivia: Gaudi Afternoon was made into a movie in 2001 starring Judy Davis. Of course I haven’t seen it.
Nancy said: Pearl said Gaudi Afternoon was a contemporary series featuring a female sleuth. I wouldn’t call Cassandra Reilly a “sleuth” but rather a woman who got caught up in sleuthing.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 169).
Evanovich, Janet. One for the Money. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2003.
Reason read: I read somewhere that January is Female Mystery Month.
Suspend most of your beliefs in regards to reality and you will enjoy Stephanie Plum and her naïve and bumbling beginning as an amateur bounty hunter. After her cousin Vinnie temporarily loses an agent he hires down and out Plum to take his place. She has absolutely no experience but she’s desperate. She’s already hocked a few appliances to keep the rent going and her car has just been repossessed. Her first case worth $10,000? Who does she need to bring in, you may ask? Her old childhood nemesis, Joe Morelli. They have history dating back to a high school indiscretion that took place behind a case of cannoli and then was gossiped all over town. Plum is still embarrassed all these years later. Now Morelli’s a cop accused of murder and on the run. Self defense, he claims. Armed with pepper spray and an unloaded gun she doesn’t really know how to use, Stephanie Plum sets out to capture Morelli by stealing his car and stalking him across Trenton, New Jersey. He’s not that hard to find. She keeps running into Morelli all over town. Problem is, every time she tries to apprehend him, he gets her all hot and bothered instead.
Speaking of being bothered, here’s where I really get annoyed. Stephanie is viciously attacked by a sexual deviant boxer named Ramirez. This madman comes close to raping her and yet later, Joe is able to climb into her apartment through a window. As someone who was nearly a rape victim, why would she leave a window open? That detail doesn’t seem to be as important as collaring Morelli and getting her ten grand. Will Stephanie keep her cool and get her man?
Quote to make me cringe, “Truth is, I wasn’t used to being a minority, and I felt like a black man looking up a white woman’s skirts in a WASP suburb of Birmingham” (p 108). Ouch. she also doesn’t like handicapped old people who take all the best parking spots. Double ouch.
Lines I actually liked, “Doesn’t matter whether it’s cats or coleslaw, death is not attractive” (p 124) and “Range etiquette was never to point the gun at the guy standing next to you” (p 150). Good point.
Author fact: to date Evanovitch has written twenty-six Stephanie Plum mysteries. I am reading ten of them.
Book trivia: One for the Money is the first book in Evanovich’s series starring Stephanie Plum.
Nancy said: Pearl doesn’t think Evanovich’s books should be in the category of mysteries.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 169).
Leon, Donna. Uniform Justice. New York: Penguin, 2004.
Reason read: to end the series started in September in
honor memory of plans to go to Italy. Fukc covid.
When we return to the Venetian world of Commissario Guido Brunetti he has found himself mired in the apparent suicide of a military cadet found hanging in a dormitory shower. It should be an open and shut case, but there is something about the death that doesn’t sit right with Brunetti. Moro’s father resigned from Parliament after Mrs. Moro was shot in an apparent hunting accident. Now Mr. Noro’s son is dead. Is this retribution for his meddling in a corrupt investigation? As usual, Brunetti”s boss, Vice-Questore Patta, is eager to move on. Looks like a suicide, smells like a suicide, so it is a suicide. Hog-tied by political play, Patta would rather Brunetti poke his nose elsewhere. Brunetti is forced to bend the rules in order to solve the mystery. It reminded me of how Brenda would stop at nothing to get a confession on one of my favorite television shows, The Closer.
Aside from the intriguing character of Guido Brunetti, Leon always illustrates Venice in a way that is mouth-watering and fills this reader with the yearning to pack her bags.
Author fact: Donna Leon was once a teacher.
Book trivia: Uniform Justice is #12 in the series, but the last one I will be reading for the Challenge.
Nancy said: Pearl said Uniform Justice is a “particularly good one.”
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “Ciao, Italia” (p 46).
Leon, Donna. A Noble Radiance. New York: Penguin Classic, 2003.
Reason read: to continue the series started in September in honor of Leon’s birth month.
Commissario Guido Brunetti is back. This time he takes on a case of a kidnapping turned murder.
What was once an abandoned field is now the final resting place of a young man buried in a shallow grave. Although badly decomposed investigators can see he was killed with a bullet to the back of the head. The crest ring found with the body suggests it is the only son of a wealthy Venetian count. This son, Robert Lorenzoni, had been kidnapped under suspicious circumstances two years prior and was never heard from again. Dental records confirm that the body is Count Lorenzoni’s only son, sending the family reeling with grief.
Confessional: I was a little disappointed with this one. I figured out who did it and why pretty early on. There was a final twist that should have been a shock but really wasn’t. The best part about A Noble Radiance was learning more about Brunetti’s home life. The scene where he must suffer his daughter’s salty cooking is hilarious. I could see that in a movie. I also enjoyed his intimidating dinner date with his father-in-law (also a count) who inadvertently helps Guido solve the mystery.
Author fact: Leon also wrote Suffer the Little Children. Not to be confused with the documentary of the same name, or Suffer the Children by John Saul, or the 1980s song by Tears for Fears.
Book trivia: A Noble Radiance is the seventh in the series.
Nancy said: Pearl said she enjoyed A Noble Radiance. That’s it.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “Ciao, Italia” (p 46).
Leon, Donna. Acqua Alta. New York: Penguin, 2004.
Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of Leon’s birth month (in September).
Here is something I really enjoyed about Acqua Alta. The characters from Leon’s first Guido Brunetti mystery come back. First introduced in Death at La Fenice, talented opera singer Flavia Petrelli and her lover, archaeologist Brett Lynch, are back five books later, in Acqua Alta. Leon is strategic in how she reintroduces these characters and ties them back to Death at La Fenice. It’s as if she reassures the reader Acqua Alta will stand on its own. There is no need to go back and read previous mysteries.
Back to the plot. After Brett is brutally attacked in her apartment, Inspector Brunetti takes on her case. As an American in Venice, Brett seems an unlikely victim of a robbery and yet the attack on her was brutal. It can’t be her lifestyle; she and Flavia have been flaunting that for two years now. It can’t be her nationality; hundreds of foreigners run away to Venice on a daily basis. Brunetti focuses on her career as an archaeologist and soon a picture of corruption and scandal in the art world emerges.
As an aside, the title of the book comes from the phenomenon called acqua alta, the occasionally flooding of Venice. This happens when there is winter torrential rain, unusually high tides (during a full moon) and wind pushing water up from the Adriadic Sea into the Venetian Lagoon. It is important to understand this weather event because the acqua alta is truly another character in the book and crucial to the plot.
Best line, “‘Don’t joke, Guido,’ she said in that voice she used when humor was as welcome as the old boyfriend of the bride” (p 64).
Author fact: According to a wiki page, Leon is the recipient of the Corine Literature Prize.
Book trivia: Acqua Alta is also titled Death at High Tide.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Acqua Alta. She talked about another Leon book she liked and added Acqua Alta as another one to check out.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the cute chapter called “Ciao, Italia” (p 46).
Larsson, Stieg. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. Translated by Reg Keeland. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.
Reason read: to finish the Millennium trilogy started in July.
As with all the other “Girl Who…” books in the Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is “chaptered” by dates and picks up pretty much where The Girl Who Played with Fire left off. Authorities are still looking for Lisbeth Salander as a murderer, even though she has been brought to a hospital with three gunshot wounds, including one to the head. Her admittance into the hospital is the opening scene to The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, allowing Larsson to begin this final installment in a full sprint. This is no dainty dip-a-toe-in-the-pool beginning. Larsson cannonballs right into the action without fanfare. Meanwhile, Lisbeth’s half brother has killed a bunch of people, stolen a police cruiser and escaped into the unknown. All the while Salander’s murderous, revenge-seeking father is in the same hospital…only two doors down.
Larsson is long winded in some places and could have used a little more editing in others, but the last installment in the Millennium series does not disappoint. Lisbeth Salander gets more and more interesting with every chapter. You never want her story to end. Her trial is riveting.
The only element to The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest I didn’t care for was the side story of Erika Berger and her stalker. For someone who calls Berger his best friend of twenty five years, Mikael Blomkvist was strangely missing from her drama.
Lines I liked, “History is reticent about women who were common soldiers, who bore arms, belonged to regiments, and took part in battles on the same terms a smen, though hardly a war has been waged without women soldiers in the ranks” (p 6).
As an aside, I sort of have an issue with the title of the book. As a rule, hornets are not solitary creatures. In a group they are called a “bike” so I would think the nest the girl kicked belongs to more than one hornet. Hornets, plural.
As an another aside, I just finished reading The Eye of the Leopard by Henning Mankell. Part of his story takes place in Sweden (Norrland, to be exact) so it was cool to see the same least populated region come up in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.
Confessional: I don’t know why, because Larsson doesn’t go into great detail about the landscape, but I really would like to visit Sweden someday. I am more intrigued by the country by reading the Millennium trilogy than ever before. I wonder if iFit has a series in Sweden…?
Author fact: who knows how many other “girl who” stories Larsson could have come up with! He was only fifty when he died and he never saw the success of any of his Millennium books.
Book trivia: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest was made into a movie in Sweden.
Nancy said: Pearl said it was a sad day when Larsson died just after finishing the Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Swede(n), Isn’t It?” (p 222).
Leon, Donna. Death at La Fenice. New York: HarperPerennial, 2004.
Reason read: Donna Leon was born in September. Read in her honor.
Death at La Fenice is a super fast read. You could probably finish it in a couple of days if you didn’t have anything else going on in your life…
This is Donna Leon’s first novel featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti. When a world famous orchestral conductor dies of an apparent poisoning, Brunetti enters a world of snobbish culture of music and celebrity.
The best part of Death at La Fenice is Brunetti’s personality. The balance he must practice between home life, being a father and husband, with trying to solve a mystery without any real leads or suspects. Who would want to kill Helmut Wellauer; this esteemed man of music; so beloved in the music world? Another great reason to read Leon’s series is her descriptions of Venice. You will get to know this watery world in beautiful detail.
Quotes to quote, “Why was it that the word with which we confronted death always sounded so inadequate, so blatantly false?” (p 80), “To be a servant for twenty years is certainly to win the right not to be treated like a servant” (p 170).
Author fact: it is rumored that Leon wrote Death at La Fenice as a joke.
Book trivia: Death at La Fenice is the first in a series of mysteries to feature Commissario Guido Brunetti.
Nancy said: Pearl included Death at La Fenice in her list of books to read before traveling to Venice (More Book Lust). In Book Lust To Go, she reiterated that “no plans for a trip to Venice would be complete without reading the series of mysteries by American Donna Leon” (p 242).
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the typical chapter called “Ciao, Italia” (p 46) and again in Book Lust To Go in the more clever chapter called “Veni, Vidi, Venice” (p 240).
Christie, Agatha. Nemesis. New York: Signet, 2000.
Reason read: Christie’s birth month is in September. Read in her honor even though I already read her Murder on the Orient Express this summer.
Nemesis is a breath of fresh air. When seemingly ordinary people: dentists, librarians, park guides (what have you) get caught up in murders again and again and again I get annoyed by the coincidence…especially if it is an unexplained phenomenon. Miss Jane Marple addresses crime’s ability to find her time and time again, acknowledging how odd it is for this elderly women to be an accidental investigator. I found that refreshing.
On to the plot: Jason Rafiel, an extremely wealthy man dies. Seeing his name in the obituary section of the newspaper sends Miss Marple down memory lane. She immediately beings to reminisce about the deceased even though she only met him once on a trip in the Caribbean West Indies. Oddly enough, they were thrown together to solve a mystery. Imagine that! What a coincidence when she receives a letter from the dead man asking her to take on an investigation without any information. If she can, she stands to earn 20,000. Is she to solve a crime or just a conundrum? Miss Jane Marple, elderly and nosy, is up to the task despite not knowing a single detail. Dear readers, this will be the final case of her investigative career. Back to the drama: Mysterious Mr. Rafiel sends her on a garden tour lasting two to three weeks and prearranges every detail for Miss Marple, right down to the people she needs to meet.
A warning to those sensitive to a time before political correctness: there is a lot of ageism and sexism. I have a high tolerance for the days before being polite…except for when they say a woman is asking to be raped. “Girls, you must remember, are far more ready to be raped nowadays than they used to be.” Whatever that means. I also took offense to the line, “Accuracy is more of a male quality than a female one.” Again, whatever.
Confessional: I have always wanted to read a Miss Marple mystery.
Lines I did like, “Well, she hadn’t wished to get mixed up in any murders, but it just happened” (p 8) and “Miss Marple lost herself in a train of thoughts that arose from her thoughts” (p 53).
Author fact: Besides the character of Miss Jane Marple, Christie is responsible for the creation of Inspector Hercule Poirot.
Book trivia: Nemesis is a Miss Marple mystery. The interesting thing is this is the only Miss Marple I am reading for the Lust Challenge, and it is well down the list in the series, meaning it was written late in Christie’s life. I have no idea why Pearl chose this particular title.
Nancy said: Pearl said Nemesis was “written quite late in Christie’s career, but up to her high standards” (Book Lust p 118).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the ginormous chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 117).
Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Complete Sherlock Holmes: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. New York: Barnes and Noble Classics, 2003.
Reason read: Doyle died in July. Read in his memory.
If you were to read the Complete Sherlock Holmes in chronological order, you would not start with the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The short stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, twelve in all, start after Holmes and Watson have gone their separate ways and are no longer sharing rooms of a flat together. Watson is by this time married with a house of his own while Holmes is still on Baker Street. One constant that remains throughout all the stories is Holmes’s ability to confuse people with his keen sense of observation. “How could you know that?” is a constant refrain. Another constant is that all of the stories are told in first person from Watson’s point of view.
- “Scandal in Bohemia” – a Duke and heir King is blackmailed by an actress. Sherlock, with the help of Holmes, attempts to end the threat but the woman outsmarts them.
- “Red-Headed League” – what do you get when you mix a redhead, an Encyclopedia, a bank, and a scam? Answer: a Sherlock Holmes mystery, of course!
- “A Case of Identity” – How far will a man go to keep his stepdaughter from marrying?
- “The Boscombe Valley Mystery” – Did a man really murder his father or is there more going on?
- “The Five Orange Pips” – a curse has come down through the generations, terrorizing a family.
- “The Man with the Twisted Lip” – This was my favorite. A man goes missing and is believed to be dead while his wife has faith he is alive.
- “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” – Who stole this precious jewel?
- “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” – another crazy story about a father not wanting his daughters to marry because of losing the inheritance.
- “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb” – is it a spoiler to say this is one story where the criminals get away?
- “The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor” – Just what the title says, a guy does the right thing.
- “The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet” – family devotion illustrated with a coronet.
- “The Adventure of the Copper Beaches” – a really interesting story about trying to thwart a wedding (another common theme for Sherlock).
Author fact: rumor has it, Sherlock Holmes is somewhat modeled after Dr. Joseph Bell, a professor of Dolye’s at Edinburgh University.
Book trivia: Despite publishing two novels previously, Doyle’s career didn’t take off until he started writing short stories. The twelve listed above were published together in 1892.
Nancy said: Pearl included the Complete Sherlock Holmes in a list of private-eye mysteries.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the really long chapter called “I love a Mystery” (p 117).
Larsson, Stieg. The Girl Who Played with Fire. New York: Vintage, 2011.
Reason read: to continue the series started in July in honor of the Swedish festivals.
Here is the great thing about the continuation of Larsson’s “The Girl…” series. He doesn’t spend a lot of time recounting what happened in the first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It is as if he depends on you to immediately pick up the next book in the series order to keep the drama going at breakneck speed. Larsson does fill you in wherever necessary for the sake of plot flow; and to catch you up in case you have forgotten some small detail. How he knows that. I don’t know. For the most part, The Girl Who Played with Fire is its own story in and of itself.
Lisbeth Salander is “growing up” before our eyes. You cannot help but like this tough, odd woman-child. She starts removing tattoos and piercings, not because she wants to change her identity (although those simple changes and breast implants alter her previously recognizable look considerably), but rather because she is changing internally. She is starting to feel things which may or may not be a good thing. After being away from Sweden from a year she comes home which definitely is not a good thing. I won’t go into the details, but Lisbeth finds herself accused of a triple murder which is a brilliant move on Larsson’s part. This allows for Lisbeth’s past to be revealed under intense scrutiny. Many questions about Lisbeth’s character come to light.
Meanwhile, Salander’s former flame, Mikael Blomkrist, is busy as editor back at Millennium. Mikael continues to be the ladies’s man, this time starting a relationship with the very woman he was asked to find in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Considering how that book ended, this may or not be a good thing as well.
Author fact: Stieg’s given first name is Karl.
Book trivia: The Girl Who Played with Fire was made into a Swedish film (2009) and a television miniseries (2010).
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about The Girl Who Played with Fire.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Swede(n), Isn’t It.” (p 222).
Larsson, Stieg. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Translated by Reg Keeland. New York: Random House, 2008.
Reason read: Sweden festival of Trastock occurs in July.
Mikael Blomkrist put his tail between his legs when he lost a libel suit brought against him by multimillionaire Hans-Erik Wennestrom. Unlike the United States where if you are convicted of a crime you immediately start serving your sentence, in Sweden Blomkrist is allowed to travel to the coastal town of Hedestad to help an old man solve the case of his missing niece under the guise of writing Henrik Vanger’s storied biography. Beware, it’s a huge family tree so study it well.
Meanwhile, back in Stockholm Croatian born Dragan Armansky, financial director, CEO and COO of Milton Security, and expert in financial fraud is investigating Blomkrist. He knows there is more to the story than what was exposed in court. How can a top notch journalist screw up so badly? He puts his best researcher on the case. If anyone can dig up the dirt it’s Lisbeth Sander, the girl with the dragon tattoo. Known only as Wasp in certain circles, Lisbeth could pass for a child if it weren’t for a bunch of punk face piercings, a really bad attitude, and a steel trap memory.
It goes without saying Sander and Blomkrist team up. Together, they uncover corporate corruption and a horror that runs far deeper than the mystery of a missing niece.
Confessional: when I stand over a tombstone, the first thing I do after reading the deceased’s name is to do the math to figure out how old they were when they died. Is that horrible of me? In the beginning of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo there is a family tree. I was surprised to see at least four people died at a young age and immediately knew that would be part of the mystery.
Author fact: Larsson died in 2004 after delivering the manuscripts for his “Girl with…” series.
Book trivia: I think everyone knows The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was made into a movie. I also think everyone has seen it but me.
Nancy said: Pearl called Girl with the Dragon Tattoo an immediate best seller.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the odd chapter called “Swede(n), Isn’t It?” (p 222).
Zafron, Carlos Ruiz. Shadow of the Wind. Translated by Lucia Greives.
Reason read: the pilgrimage to El Rocio occurs in July.
When we first meet Daniel Sempre he is ten years old and his father has just introduced him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Daniel has been granted the choice of one book as a birthday present. By chance, he chooses Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. So the mystery begins. Daniel is no ordinary boy. When he was very young he coveted a fountain pen reputed to once belong to Jules Verne. His father would accompany him weekly to “visit” this pen in a storefront window. [As an aside, what ten year old would utter, “all the evidence to the contrary”? Had he been reading Sherlock Holmes?] Moving on from the pen, Daniel becomes fascinated with writer Julian Carax and the mystery surrounding him. From there, the mystery deepens to the point of harrowing. Shadows become dangerous. Secrets become lethal. It’s a story within a story best savored slow.
Quotes I just had to quote, “A secret’s worth depends on the people from whom it must be kept” and “To truly hate is an art one learns with time.”
As an aside, when I read the quote, “Childhood devotions make unfaithful and fickle lovers” I was reminded of Charles Causely’s poem, “Rhyme of Innocence and Experience” when he wrote, “Where are all the other girls and boys and why have you brought me children’s toys?”
Author fact: Sadly, Carlos Ruiz Zafron just passed away, reportedly from colon cancer.
Book trivia: Shadow of the Wind was an international bestseller and translated into dozens of languages.
Nancy said: the only thing Pearl said about Shadow of the Wind is that it offered a “vivid picture” of Spain.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Spain.” (p 220). How simple can you get?