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Lisa Barkley, PR representative with a stalled career, mother of two girls who attend private schools didn’t seem at first to be a character I would like when I cracked open Best Intentions, the new novel by Emily Listfield.
I was wrong.
She may have two kids in elite schools, but she and her husband Sam work hard to put them there, and while never see her in a gym riding ellipticals, the fact that she has no great love of tone-y Pilates studios warmed my heart.
If there is a genre called “cozy thriller” this book is it’s poster-child. At the beginning of the novel, it seems like straightforward women’s fiction – Lisa intercepts a phone message on her husband’s cell phone and fears he’s having an affair.
When her best friend is found dead shortly thereafter, layers unfold, revealing many petals of mystery: the takeover at Lisa’s job, the stability of husband Sam’s journalism career, and, of course, the apparent murder of longtime friend Dierdre.
On the other hand, there’s still a very human thread – that of Lisa’s relationship with her older daughter.
At the end, this novel is gripping, both for it’s glimpse into a certain class of New Yorkers and for the mystery itself.
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I first discovered Jane Green after a hot and tiring day of shopping last July. My desk had broken, and we’d been going from store to store looking for office furniture, when I remembered I still hadn’t completed one of the pre-conference assignments for a novel writing workshop I was to attend the next month.
We slipped into Borders, where I quickly lost track of the assignment, opting instead to browse books. The book that caught my eye was The Beach House, and even though I resisted buying it, I enjoyed it immensely when I finally read it.
When Second Chance caught my attention on another bookstore trip, I bought it, then promptly forgot I had it. Desperate for something to read during last month’s migraine extravaganza, I finally picked it up.
It’s one of Green’s first works, I think, because it’s not as smooth as later novels, but the story of old friends reuniting for another friend’s funeral, and using the event as a catalyst to change their lives is one that I found extremely compelling.
At times funny, at other times poignant, Second Chance is an excellent summer read, but it’s also perfect any time you want to curl up with lemonade and cookies, and escape for a while.
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice
Laurie R. King
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I’ve reviewed work by Laurie R. King in this blog before, but finding a couple of her Holmes & Russell novels at Half-Price Books last weekend, and then finding out that she had a new book in the series out this year has spurred me to re-read the entire series.
I’d forgotten how refreshing it could be to immerse myself in a novel where no one had cell phones, or worried about upgrading their computer memory, or complained about having 500 channels and nothing to watch. As well, re-reading these novels with a slightly more mature eye gives me the ability to really pay attention to some of the nuances I’d missed the first time around.
If you’re not familiar with the series, the first novel, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, introduces us to a character who would be a Mary Sue under hands any less deft than Ms. King’s. This Mary – one Mary Russell – is a teenage girl sent from America to live under the “care” of an aunt, who holds her fortune in trust. One of her neighbors in their remote corner of Sussex just happens to be Sherlock Holmes.
The two form a somewhat unlikely friendship, especially considering Holmes’ oft-noted misogyny, that eventually blooms into a partnership of crime-solving equals. Imagine the tag line: He’s a famous detective who retired and took up beekeeping. She’s a young Oxford student studying Theology and Chemisty. They fight crime!
But the thing is, they do.
Of course, they also bicker, banter, and bargain their way through many adventures, and leave the reader – or at least this reader feeling only that the book has ended too soon.