reading, books

The Weekly Reading Fix: July 24th – 30th

Hello, and Happy Tuesday everyone! I am still on vacation this week and despite a minor eye injury (because don’t we all have emergency trips to the doctor on vacation?!?) I have been reading a lot. This week’s books fall into some of my favorite categories – mystery/suspense and historical fiction. Here’s what I read this week:

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. SullivanMatthew J Sullivan

I’m always up for reading a book set in a bookstore, and this mystery was right up my alley. Lydia works at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, where one night she discovers a regular customer, Joey, has killed himself. He leaves no note, but Lydia finds a picture in his back pocket – a picture of her as a ten year old child, celebrating her birthday. She has no idea where Joey got the photo. As she tries to unravel the mystery of who Joey is and how he is related to her, she has to revisit the people and tragic events of her past.

As you read the book, there are really two mysteries to figure out. As a child, Lydia was the only survivor of a terrible murder, where the killer was never found. Lydia has worked hard to forget about the incident, but now it seems tied up in Joey’s death somehow. A word of warning – this is not a cozy mystery. Some of the details of the murders are graphic, and one of the victims is a child. Both story lines are fascinating and leave you thinking you know who the murderer is several times, only to find out at the end that it was someone unexpected. I flew through this book in a day; it is a real page turner.

Rating:

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Into the Water by Paula HawkinsPaula Hawkins

This is the story of Beckford, a town near a river, a river where women keep drowning. Some drownings are accidents, the earliest ones were punishments for witchcraft, and some were suicides. Except it’s starting to look like those suicides might have been murder.

Jules has returned to Beckford, where her sister Nel had been living, because Nel is the latest woman to drown in the river. She has left behind a 15 year old daughter and a book she was writing about all of the women who have drowned in Beckford. As the police investigate Nel’s death, it becomes apparent that she is connected to all the other women who have drowned there, and that her death, like some of the others, was not an accident.

This book is told in alternating chapters by a variety of characters, which was confusing at first. I had a hard time keeping track of the relationships between all of the characters, but eventually got the hang of it. You don’t truly know what happened to Nel until the very last page, which I like. Through the course of the book, I guessed a dozen times who was responsible for her death, and had to keep changing my mind as I read more. This is the second novel from Hawkins, the author of The Girl on the Train. I read and enjoyed that book, but thought that this one was better. I do think that there are some characters for which I would have liked to see more of a resolution, but overall this checked all the boxes of a good summer thriller.

Rating:

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Camino Island by John GrishamJohn Grisham

I have read and enjoyed some of Grisham’s books in the past, but hadn’t planned on reading this one. Then I heard an interview with him on the Just the Right Book podcast, one of my favorite reading podcasts. A few days later was Amazon Prime day, and the book was offered for $9 so I took it as a sign I should buy it and read it!

This is not another lawyer story, nor is it really a thriller, although it certainly starts out that way. Thieves break into the Princeton University library and steal 5 original manuscripts by F. Scott Fitzgerald, including The Great Gatsby. The manuscripts are priceless, but the university insures them for 25 million dollars. Meanwhile, in Camino Island, Florida, we are introduced to Bruce, an eccentric bookseller and rare book dealer, and Mercer, a struggling writer. Mercer has been hired by Princeton’s insurance company to determine whether Bruce may have possession of the stolen manuscripts.

Throughout the story we meet some really interesting characters. Bruce and his wife Noelle, as well as the rest of the writers on the island, are quirky and intriguing. Unfortunately, Mercer, the main character, is not. The details we have about her – her student loan debt, her struggle to write, her childhood summers spent with her grandmother on Camino Island – are repeated over and over throughout the book, making her fairly dull to read about.

In spite of that, I really enjoyed this book- until the end. I stayed up late to finish it and was pretty disappointed by the lackluster finish. As I mentioned, it starts out with a midnight heist and is quite a page turner. However, the end is wrapped up too quickly, neatly, and without any of the heart – pounding suspense I was expecting. I don’t do spoilers here, so I can’t give much more detail, but his courtroom dramas that I’ve read have had more exciting endings than this one.

That said, I did finish this book in a day, because the first 75% of it was really good. I think if I had gone into it knowing what to expect from the ending, I would not have been disappointed. Overall, if you like Grisham, it’s worth a read, but I’d pick it up from the library, rather than paying full hardcover price.

Rating:

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Girl in Disguise by Greer MacallisterGreer Macallister

This historical fiction novel tells the story of Kate Warne, America’s first female private investigator, hired by the Pinkerton agency. Not much is known about her, but the author uses the facts that do exist, as well as her imagination, to paint the picture of a woman who did things very differently from other women of the time.

The story starts in 1865, when Kate first meets Allen Pinkerton and convinces her to hire him, and leads up to and through the Civil War years. I really enjoyed the characters in this story, not just Kate, but the other Pinkerton agents she works with as well. Kate and other agents come to the aide of Abraham Lincoln, both when he is a lawyer, and when assassination attempts are made on his life right after winning the presidency. Throughout the story, Kate struggles to define her identity, a difficult task, when she is required to take on so many different identities in her work.

This was a very enjoyable read, centered mostly around the characters, not as much around the historical time period. Anyone who likes reading about women who do not do what is expected of them will enjoy this book.

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That’s all for this week – Happy Reading!

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