05 August 2013

What R U reading?

Jan Grape by Jan Grape

With the current heat wave in TX there's only one thing you can do to stay cool. Find a comfortable chair and a good book.

For some strange reason, my favorite thing to read is a mystery. Honestly, I don't try to figure out whodunit, I'm more interested in the characters. I have many favorites. If I start listing them, I'll get carried away and even then I'll leave off someone. Then I will get upset with myself because I left off one of my all time favorites, so I won't name names.

However, I recently read an ARC, titled The Last Whisper In the Dark by Tom Piccirilli. The book just came out from Bantam.  Unfortunately, I had not read the previous, The Last Kind Words, I will be purchasing it soon. It's the story of the Rands, a family of criminals...but not your usual criminals. They are creepers, cat burglars, grifters, con artist .It's in their blood and what they do is just their destiny. And to add to the strangeness they're all named after dogs.

Our protagonist is Terrier, father is Pinscher (who is creeping up on Alzheimer's,) grandfather, Shepherd, who is in the latter stages of the disease and who Terry calls, Old Shep. There is a brother, named Collie, who for some strange reason, (if you haven't read the first book you don't know why,) goes on a killing spree and has been executed for his crimes. Terry's sister is named Airedale, he calls her Dale. There are two uncles, Mal (amute) and Grey (hound.)

Terry is in love with Kimmy, who now is married to Terry's one-time best friend, Chub. And I think Kimmy's little girl, Scooter, is Terry's biological child. I don't think I was ever sure about that but it's obvious he loves her and her mother dearly. The locale is Long Island, NY but that is incidental to the story.

Mr. Piccirilli has written an unusual cast of character who slowly become real folks as you continue to read. The mystery is not so much who does what, although there are twist and turns as Terry becomes involved with his estranged maternal Grandfather. Terry's mother was disowned when she married Pinscher and Terry doesn't know any of the maternal side until the man calls and wants to see his daughter before he dies. The old man is on his deathbed. Mother Rand goes but Terry goes with her and it soon becomes apparent the old man wants to talk to Terry too, and he wants Terry to steal something for him.

If that's not complication enough, Terry's sixteen year old sister is involved with some hooligan thugs and looks as if she could be in big trouble almost immediately if not sooner. And Kimmy's husband Chub is involved with some really bad guys and Terry's got to try to save Kimmy and his daughter.

Some reviewers compare the writing to Raymond Chandler and call The Last Whisper very dark. I suppose it is more in the noir category than anything else but it's such an intriguing cast of characters that all I could do was keep turning pages to see what would happen next. It's also probably much better if you read Last Kind Words first because without that background you're a bit lost until about a third of the way into it.  But it is definitely worth your time, especially if you like that sort of thing. Great characters and a well-written story, I mean.

The other ARC I read lately is NOT exactly a mystery. It's A Wilder Rose, by Susan Wittig Albert. It's the surprising true story of Rose and Laura Wilder and the Little House on the Prairie books. I'm not going to review it here as Susan is going to write an article in my place in the very near future and I don't want to step on her toes, but is a fascinating story within a story of the collaboration of a mother and daughter and the blending of facts and fiction unraveling the mystery of these books.

So what are you reading?


  1. Jan, as always, a pleasure to read your column. I'm not going to comment on it--just answer your question.

    What am I reading? I'm making an effort to read at least one work by each of the Sleuthsayer writers. I'm not finished yet, but I'd like to say that I haven't been disappointed by anyone's stories, and I'm proud to be a part of the crew. Hope everyone has a great Monday!

  2. I'm re-reading this summer: "Seance on a Wet Afternoon" by Mark McShane, which I have praised before; "East Lynne" by Mrs. Henry Wood (perennial summer reading); "Death of a Doxy" (my favorite Nero Wolfe).

    And, in non-mystery territory, a new book, "The Old Ways" by Robert Macfarlane and "Song Lines" by Bruce Chatwin.

  3. Jan, this was a fascinating piece - I admire your thoughts, but I'm not that fond of terribly dark characters for leisurely reading. I'm rereading two books by Earl Staggs, a gifted writer - Memory of a Murder and Justified Action. Earl is not yet in the bigtime circles of the pub world, but he is far more gifted than many of the boys and girls who get pubbed today by the Big Four ( or Five). Thelma in Manhattan

  4. Rising Wolf the White Blackfoot, by James Willard Schultz, published in 1918 and available at Project Gutenberg online, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/42235/42235-h/42235-h.htm. It's the autobiography (told to a descendant in old age) of a man born 1798 who was one of the earliest fur trappers in the American West. Absolutely fasciating read.

  5. Woops. I neglected to mention that the actual man whose story is told in Rising Wolf is Hugh Munroe, not the author James Schultz.

  6. Whew! It does sound like an amazing (and a maze-ing) cast of characters for the dog days of summer.

  7. Love your dog days comments, Leigh.
    I'm still.having mucho problems with Windows 8. Guess I'll buy the windows 8 for dummies. Heard that will help.
    Instead of messing with it, think ill just read...lol
    And thanks everyone for mentioning what your reading.


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