I started but could not finish BUSY BODIES by Joan Hess and THE ICON THIEF by Alec Neval-Lee. With the former, a light read, the plot (murder in a college town with an amateur sleuth/bookstore owner) seemed promising; however, too much inane dialogue and too many lengthy sentences turned me off. With the latter book, an international thriller, I could not connect with the good guys and the bad guys were just too typical.
PLEASE NOTE: I mean no disrepect to these two authors, but I cannot continue reading what does not appeal to me. Sometimes I know by the first page; sometimes it takes a couple chapters. My opinion is purely personal preference.
On the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed Laura Lippman’s THE GIRL IN THE GREEN RAINCOAT. After reading many of Lippman’s Tess Monaghan novels about a Baltimore reporter turned private investigator (BALTIMORE BLUES, CHARM CITY, BUTCHERS HILL, IN BIG TROUBLE, THE SUGAR HOUSE, etc.), I took a hiatus for a couple years. Last week at the library, I happened on this delightful 158-page quick-read.
Tess is unexpectedly pregnant at 35 and ordered to bed for the final two months, which goes totally against her grain, as well as her bank account. While strictly confined in her own house – she can, if absolutely necessary, walk ten feet to the bathroom and back – she is looked after by her boyfriend, Crow, and brought dinner by several friends.
Unused to confinement, she restlessly watches the world go by outside her bedroom window, which faces a park. One regular walkee is a woman in a green raincoat with a dog in a similar color. But one day, when the dog rushes by sans its owner on the other end of the leash, Tess is instantly suspicious. Such a devoted dog-walker would not abandon her pet. Tess’ efforts to convince someone/anyone in believing her intuition that something has happened to the green-coated woman fall on patronizing ears.
Resorting to telephone calls and the internet, Tess begins an off-the-feet investigation, despite Crow’s concern for her blood pressure and their baby’s health. After learning the woman’s name and who she is married to, the private investigator is told that no missing-person report has been made. Furthermore, the husband happens to have a dead wife and a dead girlfriend in his past. Intrigued, Tess arranges a vicarious interview between her flirty friend, Whitney, and the husband…The book’s climax snuck up on me and nearly did in Tess and her baby girl.
Another recent library read was CLEANING NABOKOV’S HOUSE by Leslie Daniels. Even halfway through, I was questioning the title, having come up with several alternatives. Nabokov wrote Lolita and lived with his wife Vera in upstate New York. Barb Barrett happens upon their long-abandoned house in Onkwego, after finding herself alone, desperate, and in need of a plan for the rest of her life, including how to regain custody of her children, Sam and Darcy.
Barb, 39, tells us about the “experson” she walked out on, the inadequate job of writing reply letters to customers of a local dairy, her worn-out car, and her heartache over only seeing her beloved children on weekends. While cleaning Nabokov’s house, she finds a hidden manuscript that the author may have left behind. With the possibility of a reward or recognition by the literary world, she finds a local agent, who gives her the name of a law firm that might help with the verification.
While waiting to hear about the possible financial upswing in her life, Barb realizes she has to do something else to guarantee the restoration of her permanent motherhood. She must show that she has a job, money in the bank, and an appropriate home – responsibility being the key. So what Barb decides to do is open a cathouse for the lonely, needy women in the small town, under the guise of a university experiment. She finds the perfect isolated location, an abandonded hunting lodge owned by a very trusting old lady, and interviews studly college boys for the experiment, which entails writing down what the women request, expect, and pay for. Although only open two days a week, the enterprise grows into a thriving business with the help of Onkwego’s beauty salon’s grapevine. Barb’s self-confidence and determination grow into independence along with the success of her idea.
Meanwhile, John, the experson, takes the children and moves an hour away to be closer to his girlfriend’s job and family. This action spurs kooky, oddly-dressed Barb to further turn her life around, improve herself, and fight for her children. A love interest seals the remaking of her life, and she triumphantly gets full custody of Sam and Darcy, who never understood why she abandoned them in the first place. Oh, and she shuts down the cathouse after a few months and becomes a romance writer.