Posts Tagged ‘Tessa Harris’

Reading Elmore Leonard’s new novel Raylan, I can no longer separate the title character from Timothy Olyphant, who plays Raylan Givens on  TV’s Justified on TV. Of course, the FX series is based on a couple of earlier Leonard tales about the laconic U.S. marshal, and lean, blue-jeaned Olyphant has made the part his own. Leonard must think so, too — that’s the TV Raylan on the cover.

Although the book shares some outrageous characters and twisted plot lines with the series, it’s not a duplicate. Rather, it’s a complement as Leonard surehandedly tracks Givens juggling three cases in Harlan County, Ky. — human organ trafficking, mining schemes,  gambling and bank robbery –and coming up against three formidable females: a transplant nurse, a coal-company exec, and a risk-taker of a college student.

Leonard is such a pro at this kind of down’n’dirty, droll storytelling, and Raylan such a cool guy. Can’t take my eyes off him, in print or on screen.

Every now and then in the early morning, I’ll see one of the local crew teams out on a nearby lake. They make rowing look so easy as they skim across the water, and I’m duly mesmerized. I had much the same feeling reading the first chapter of Deborah Crombie’s No Mark Upon Her, in which a Met detective with dreams of the Olympics takes her shell out in the Thames in the early dusk. “She was moving now, listening to the whoosh and thunk as the oars went in, followed by an instant of absolute silence as they came out of the water and the boat plunged forward like a living thing. It was perfect rhythm, this, it was music. The boat was singing, and she was a part of it, lifting from the water like a bird.”

The next day the cry goes up for a missing rower, and Scotland Yard’s Duncan Kincaid, returning from holiday, is rerouted to Henley to investigate. His wife, DI Gemma James, returns to London with their two sons and their foster daughter, Charlotte, but eventually she, too, will be involved in the case with its controversial ties to police politics and sexual abuse.

It’s a layered, complicated tale that also involves members of the prestigious Leander Club, an Iraq war veteran with post-traumatic stress, Duncan and Gemma’s balancing act of work and home, Charlotte’s 3rd birthday party themed to Alice in Wonderland, and two memorable search-and-rescue dogs. Yes, the kids and the dogs threaten to upstage proceedings, but Crombie steers all to a pulse-pounding ending.

Kids and dogs also figure in Sara Paretsky’s Breakdown, the 15th in the excellent V.I. Warshawski series. Vic finds trouble as she tries to keep a group of young teens out of trouble. The girls are paying homage to their favorite vampire stories in a Chicago cemetery when a man is staked in the heart nearby. Coincidence? Maybe not. One girl is the daughter of a Senate candidate, another the granddaughter of a Jewish immigrant philanthropist, and both families have drawn the vitriolic ire of right-wing newscaster Wade Lawlor. The dead man is a shady private detective who may have been working for Lawlor.

Trying to keep the girls out of the glaring media spotlight, Vic finds connections among the “vampire killing,” her wealthy best friend Ashden’s bipolar behavior, and a state mental hospital with a wing for the criminally insane. It’s a terrific book to read during an election year, touching on hot-button issues like immigration and negative campaigning.

I think those may be about the only two topics not included in Elizabeth George’s Believing the Lie, the newest outing for Scotland Yard’s aristocratic Thomas Lynley and his proletarian partner Barbara Havers. Tabloid journalism, drug addiction, gay marriage, infertilty, surrogacy, adoption, adultery, internet predators, pedophilia, alcoholism, dysfunctional families, buried secrets. George’s kitchen-sink-and-more plot is a tangled web, indeed.

As Lynley looks into an accidental drowning in the Lake District with the help of forensic scientist Simon St. James and his photographer wife Deborah, Havers mines the family history of the wealthy Faircloughs and gets her hair cut and colored. The latter digression will be appreciated by series’ fans up on the series characters’ personal lives. And it’s actually Deborah’s continuing quest to have a baby that dovetails with a major plot point concerning the beautiful wife of a Fairclough scion. Even though George delivers a boat-load of red herrings, shame on you if you can’t see where the story’s headed.

If you’re looking for a new series, I suggest The Anatomist’s Apprentice by Tessa Harris, which introduces Sir Thomas Silkstone, a young Philadelphia surgeon who comes to London in 1774 to learn more anatomy. He is asked by Lady Lydia Farrell to study the decomposing body of her brother, Sir Edward Crick, who died under mysterious circumstances, and so begins his career as a pioneering forensic detective.

If you’re not put off by the gooey and gory details of Kathy Reichs’ novels and the TV show Bones, and you’ve already gloried in Ariana Franklin’s historicals, you’ll be entertained by Silverstone’s sharp dissection of corpses and detection of clues.

Open Book: I read review copies of Elmore Leonard’s Raylan (Morrow) and Crombie’s No Mark Upon Her (Morrow), an advance reading copy of Harris’ The Anatomist’s Apprentice (Kensington), and borrowed copies of Paretsky’s Breakdown (Penguin Group) and George’s Believing the Lie (Penguin Group) from the wonderful Orange County Library.

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