Our next book club will meet on Thursday, January 16, 6 p.m. at the Grand Traverse Pie Company, 291 N. Zeeb Rd. We’ll be disussing Elly Griffiths’ stand alone, The Stranger Diaries, a gothic style ghost story set in present day Britain on the grounds of a slightly creepy old school. Griffiths introduces three strong female characters who share narrative duties. Clever, hard to put down & beautifully written. Purchase a copy on the website here. In February, we’ll be reading The Life We Bury by Alan Eskens, date to be announced. All are welcome at book club!
I couldn’t keep it to 10 this year – can I ever? My taste does tend toward the traditional and historical fiction side of things, so that’s mostly reflected here. And a note: Kent Krueger’s This Tender Land, while not strictly a mystery, can definitely be enjoyed by his mystery loving fans. Quite simply, it’s the best book of 2019 of any variety, and I hope everyone reads it. I am looking to read it again myself.
There was lots to love this year! Some long-awaited returns (S.J. Rozan), some debuts (Melanie Golding, Allison Montclair, Jess Montgomery), some trying a different format or series (Ann Cleeves, Elly Griffiths), and of course some solid entries in already great series (Benn, Bowen, Jones, Massey, Shaber). Lots of great, passionate, spectacular writing. I love being a mystery reader!
Reading all kinds of lists about the best crime novels of the past decade, I, of course, being incredibly opinionated, felt I needed to chime in. Looking through this list one of the things that stick out, as far as my favorite reads are concerned, are a very specific sense of time and place. Sometimes place is pre-eminent , sometimes time, sometimes both. These books also contain some of the loveliest writing and most indelible scenes, things that remind me of why I love to read. So in alphabetical order, my favorites of the last decade or so:
As Elly Griffiths pens her eleventh Ruth Galloway novel, she comes – appropriately, given the title – almost full circle, back to her first novel. Cast your mind back to Ruth’s teacher Eric and the henge discovered on the saltmarsh and move forward ten years, and Ruth is now dealing with Eric’s son, Leif, who is in town to look at a newly discovered henge. Just like 10 years ago, two bodies are discovered on the site, one ancient, and one not so ancient.
Somehow Griffiths’ storytelling style is not only plot oriented, it’s character oriented, so she’s taking into account the many happenings in her character’s lives over the past 10 years. Ruth is the mother of a 10 year old, thanks to a one night stand with the father, Detective Nelson. Nelson’s wife is expecting a late in life baby at any moment, which may or may not be Nelson’s – she’d been having an affair. Their older daughters are unaware that Kate, Ruth and Nelson’s daughter, is their sister.
This is a banner week for us as we add two new reviewers! The second is our daughter Margaret. who unsurprisingly is a big mystery fan, and one of her favorites is Elly Griffiths. Welcome, Margaret!
Elly Griffiths, author of two mystery series, takes a stab at stand alone fiction with The Stranger Diaries. This novel brings us a modern-day gothic horror story while keeping solidly grounded in tradition. Instead of a castle or drafty mansion, there is an old school with secrets. Instead of a threatening lord of the manor, characters are menaced by fellow teachers and students. There is a ghost story in the background of the novel, and a mystery concerning the true identity of someone long dead. Delightfully, the novel’s three heroines are not quite so traditional.