23 December 2015

Library Limelights 97

Tess Gerritsen. The Keepsake. New York: Random House, 2008.
The discovery of a scary mummy hidden away in a museum basement seems to herald the tired, oft-related curse of the pharaohs, but quite swiftly segues into truly mysterious (and scary) events. Boston detectives Jane Rizzoli and Barry Frost have to work with museum staff to find and stop a twisted murderer. Archaeology is the major element binding a variety of personalities. Egyptologist Josephine Pulcillo seems as bewildered as anyone else until she disappears ... and the hunt intensifies. It's not a horror story per se, but the reader will learn something of how to prepare a body for mummification and how to shrink a head!

Identity theft is another issue — no instructions given, a good thing because copycats are not wanted! The need for museum funding is also explored, in this case involving rich eccentric donors and how much control they may or may not exercise. Bits of the personal lives of detective Frost and medical examiner Maura Isles add normalcy to the surrealism. A quirk of the author is to use bold type in place of (properly) italics; she also uses it at times to denote a character's private thoughts, but the usage is not consistent — an unsettling practice. But a heck of a good story.

One-liner: The heart makes its choices without weighing the consequences. (14)

Evil at work:
"So Frost isn't just bullshitting?" said Jane. "There really was a mummy's curse?"
Annoyance flashed in Robinson's eyes. "Of course there was no curse. Yes, a few people died, but after what Carter and his team did to poor Tutankhamen, maybe there should have been a curse."
"What did they do to him?" asked Jane.
"They brutalized him. They sliced him open, broke his bones, and essentially tore him apart in the search for jewels and amulets. They cut him up in pieces to get him out of the coffin, pulling off his arms and legs. They severed his head. It wasn't science. It was desecration." (46-7)

Phone tag:
Please answer. Please be there for me.
His voice mail picked up.
She hung up without leaving a message and stared down at the phone, feeling betrayed by its silence. Tonight I need you, she thought, but you're beyond my reach. You've always been beyond my reach, because God is the one who owns you. (404-5)


Elizabeth Adler. Now or Never. New York: Island Books/Dell Publishing, 1997.
What have I done? This "filler" paperback ... did I stumble into a bodice-ripper by mistake?! Not my genre. Yet it is a crime / detective novel as the back cover promises, but the romance element is equally strong. Both elements are well-done, held my interest all the way. I can only admire this author, admitting my prior doubts that a writer could satisfy two different audiences. Boston cop Harry Jordan is the detective committed to stopping a serial killer; he is also every woman's dreamy hero. In the course of investigating, he soon meets Mal Malone, hostess of a popular TV journalism show. Sparks fly.

While chasing the murderer, Harry also uncovers Mal's pathetic Cinderella story. It's a weeper, although Adler never descends into bathos or gratuitous sex. Plenty of tension sustained, maybe a little overboard on glimpses into the killer and his killings. There is a tinge of fantasy as the couple often seem too perfect for each other, but their personalities and banter are refreshing. Oh, and there's a dog called Squeeze. All in all, quite satisfactory!

Seize the opportunity:
Rossetti looked admiringly back at her. She was young and pretty, with fiery red hair and wide green eyes. He'd been trying to get a date with her for months.
"When're you gonna relent, Suzie, and go out with me?" he called.
"When you grow up, Detective Rossetti," she replied without lifting her eyes from the notes she was reading.
Harry laughed. "Great technique, Rossetti. Works every time, huh?"
"Win some, lose some, Prof. You just gotta bet the numbers, that's all." (110)

Alien life form?
"I'm going now, Mom," she said wistfully to the thin, pathetic figure hunched in a corner of the sofa. Her mother glanced vaguely at her, then back at the program. She said again, "I'm leaving for college, Mom."
"I know," her mother answered in the same mild tone she used for any news, good or bad. "Have a good time, Mary Mallory." And she lit a cigarette from a butt in the ashtray.
Mary Mallory let her hand rest for a moment on her mother's hair. Tender feelings flowed from her—she wanted so badly to hug her, kiss her, to know that her mother cared. "Bye, Mom," she said.
Her mother got up and poured herself another cup of coffee. "Good-bye," she said distantly. (266)

Andrew Taylor. The Barred Window. UK: Penguin, 2007.
Two male cousins growing up together in 1960s England live in a household that's a throwback to a repressed Victorian time warp. (Well, books are seldom written about normal, functional families, are they?) The narrator Thomas Penmarsh is a sensitive, naive pawn in his domineering mother's world, totally codependent on his more rebellious cousin Esmond Chard. The author weaves the mysterious past with the present where Thomas must face meeting his adult daughter for the first time and make life-altering decisions.

Taylor perfects the psychological suspense although the first chapters and the prep school days were a bit tedious for me. Yet all in good time to set some character development of the extended family, as we sense that each and every one of them has a subtle creepiness; it's easy to lose our slight grasp of whatever truths they are hiding. Beyond a bit of teenage drug experimentation – slipping into one's wrong mind – some family members are practising manipulation and control. But which ones? The "death room" in the Penmarsh house contributes to the mysterious atmosphere. An author well worth looking for again.

Word: prosody = rhythm and sounds used in poetry; intonation patterns in language

One-liner: Like a constitutional monarch I assented graciously to a stream of decisions made in my name by other people. (286)

Deathly expressions:
The adults around us wrapped Aunt Imogen's death in euphemisms. As far as my mother was concerned, she had passed on and over. Aunt Ada said that it was a merciful release. According to the vicar ‒ who gave us his professional opinions in church, on the following Sunday ‒ Aunt Imogen was watching over us from Heaven on the right hand of the Lord. I overheard the Jodson family discussing it. Mrs Jodson said that Mrs Chard was "pushing up the daisies, poor soul." On another occasion, young Bill Jodson said she had kicked the bucket, and his father remarked that she had gone for a burton. (90)

LSD tripping:
I reminded myself that we were not in a position to do anything; after all, we were not in our right minds.
This last phrase set me off on a tangent. If we weren't in our right minds, where were we? I reasoned that we must each have at least one wrong mind, and each of us was in it at present. Unless, of course, I was of the wrong "right" mind: I might be in my left mind, my sinister mind. I realized then it was all a question of labels; that labelling a thing determined its apparent nature; that beneath each layer of labels was another, that the layers were shaped like a ball or a globe; that I spent my life peeling off the layers in search of the hard core of real meaning; and that if it were possible to remove the last layer, I should find nothing, because there was no centre, hard or otherwise, and the meaning, such as it was, lay in the layers I had already peeled off and discarded.
I felt faint. I had made a discovery which would change the course of history. (268)

House guests:
Everyone came down to breakfast with good intentions. We smiled at each other and enquired how we had slept. When in doubt one tends to talk about the weather: in our case we discussed how the rains had stopped and the wind decreased overnight, and how this situation was unlikely to last; Alice said it was fresh and mild outside now, although the sky was grey; Bronwen told us what the weather forecast had told her; and Esmond said that he was going to put up the storm shutters tonight because there was no point in taking chances. Then we ran out of weather and had an awkward silence instead. (327)

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