The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik
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January 26, 2012

The House at Sea's End {and another mystery at the same time}

She has done her best but everyone in Broughton Sea's End is either dead, or in an old people's home or inside reading fishing magazines. It's an odd place, pretty but rather sad. Maybe it's just the weather but everything looks grey and washed out and somehow defeated. 'Fight coastal erosion' said a sign in the shop window, but Judy can't imagine the residents doing anything so energetic. No, the sea will get them; the houses, the shop, even the church. The sea will win in the end.
When I read the first two Ruth Galloway mysteries last year, I knew I'd look for the next one when it came out, as it just did.  In this third book, Ruth's baby, Kate, is a few months old, and she (Ruth) is caught up in her love for her child, her feelings of inadequacy as a mother, and her relationship, part of it still a secret, with DCI Harry Nelson.  That's the what's-happening-in-the-lives-of-the-recurring-characters part; the mystery/criminal investigation begins when Ruth's team, studying the effects of ocean erosion on the Norfolk coast, find a pile of human bones in a crevice torn into a crumbling cliff.  near a Victorian house also in danger of falling into the sea.  Because Ruth is a forensic archaeologist, working with the police, there is something legendary and historical as well as a crime.  As it soon turns out, the bodies belong to six German soldiers who may have been part of an invasion force during World War II. When two elderly men, who were young members of the Home Guard during the war, die suddenly,  Ruth and Nelson begin to suspect that the deaths might be connected.

I like this series, I've decided.  But Ruth and Nelson are appealing characters and the Norfolk setting is drawn in a way that makes it interesting to imagine.  It might not be necessary for Ruth's life to be in danger in every book, but the plotting and the unfolding of the clues held my attention and kept me wanting to pick the book up again.  

*  *  *

Over on my CD player, I've been listening to Stagestruck, the latest Peter Diamond mystery by Peter Lovesey.  I've only read one book by this author (and I only know that because I looked at the list I keep) and it wasn't in this series.  So far, this book is breaking all my rules about which mysteries I like ... the recurring characters don't seem all that interesting; except for the theater where the crimes (two so far) occur, the setting (Bath, which should be wonderful) is all in the background, and the crimes and their solving are more interesting than either of these other things.  Maybe the characters and the setting come out more in the earlier books -- now I'll read some and find out.  (Except for one repressed but important memory, there hasn't been much revisiting of the detectives' earlier lives in this one. Peter Diamond is middle-aged, overweight, and had a wife -- is he a widower? -- and there's also a woman named Paloma, but she's just suddenly there about halfway through.)

In this book, a has-been pop singer trying to resuscitate her career takes a dramatic role in a serious play and is  injured (in a clever and unusual way) on opening night. As Diamond and his team investigate, the person who may have assaulted her (with no readily apparent motive) is found hanging from the catwalks and pulleys backstage. Did she jump or was she pushed? I'm about two-thirds of the way through the book, and it's been great company during two long drives in the car and one closet-cleaning session so far.

1 comment:

lyn said...

Well, we agree about Elly Griffiths! I also enjoy Peter Lovesey although I haven't caught up with this latest book yet. Thanks for the reminder.

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