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Cop Town by Karin Slaughter

CopTownHaving never read anything by Karin Slaughter prior to Cop Town, I have to give her credit for one thing right off the bat: She certainly has the talent for creating despicable characters.

It is 1970s Atlanta and Maggie Lawson is one of a handful of female police officers. None of the male officers want women on the job, including her brother Jimmy and her uncle Terry. There has been a rash of cop shootings recently and Terry and Jimmy don’t have time to watch out for Maggie. Additionally, it is felt that the women can’t add anything valuable to the investigation.

Partnered with, Kate, an FNG, (Fucking New Girl) from a posh neighborhood, no less, Maggie still wants to be part of the investigation but everyone thinks Kate will wash out by week’s end. When Jimmy’s partner is shot, with Jimmy close by, the murders are brought even closer to home. Everyone in the Lawson household is telling Maggie to resign. Both Kate and Maggie have something to prove to themselves and everybody else.

As I said, Slaughter has created some despicable characters, especially in the police department. Many of the males are veterans of either WW II or the Vietnam War, depending on their ages. They are anti women, anti Black, anti gay, anti everything that isn’t exactly like they are. They are habitually drunk on the job and prefer their own justice to that of the legal system.

Maggie and Kate are interesting characters, stumbling through their jobs, trying to compete in a man’s world.

Slaughter does a nice job describing the various sections of Atlanta. She also does a great job describing the police department of the times; the segregation within it (the ‘colored girls’ dress after the white girls leave the locker room and have put a curtain across it, claiming their own territory), the sexism within the department (the groping as the women enter the building) and the ‘taking the law into their own hands’ mentality.

All in all, I really liked Cop Town and would certainly read another Karin Slaughter book.

NeverLookBackNever Look Back by Clare Donoghue is a debut novel and it’s a pretty fair start to a series (I’m sure it’s going to be a series). Detective Inspector Mike Lockyer is head of homicide on the South London police force. He’s called early one January morning because a young girl has been found murdered.

His second in command, Jane Bennett, upon Mike’s getting to the scene of the crime, tries to warn him before he looks at the body, but it’s too late. This girl bears a remarkable resemblance to his seventeen year old daughter, Megan.

Unfortunately, the bodies start to pile up.

In a separate incident, another young woman, Sarah Grainger, reports that she is being stalked. Whoever it is has intensified his silent phone calls in the middle of the night.

Lockyer and his team investigate both crimes. Are they related?

In a side story, Lockyer deals with his younger autistic brother, in a group home. He never knew he had a brother until his parent’s passing, five years earlier.

There’s definitely action and suspense in Never Look Back. Lockyer and Bennett are good characters. They work well together and obviously care for each other.

I said at the beginning that Never Look Back was a pretty fair first novel–which I meant in a complimentary way. But if you were to ask me what would make it a great first novel, I wouldn’t be able to answer you. While I wouldn’t mind reading a sequel, I wouldn’t run to put it on my “do not miss” list.

Let me know what you think.

 

 

For some reason our library has Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng EverythingINeverToldYouclassified as a mystery and, if you assume that you don’t know how sixteen year old Lydia died and want to find out, then it is a mystery. But really it’s not. It’s the story of longing and desire and fitting in vs. being different.

It is in the late 1960s that Marilyn, a college junior, meets and falls in love with James Lee, her teaching assistant. After a brief relationship, Marilyn finds herself pregnant. She and James get married and her dreams of medical school are washed away. Her mother is a home ec teacher and her credo for success in life is keeping a happy home, cooking the right meals and having everything spic and span. Coming from a ‘proper’ Southern family, the thought of Marilyn’s marriage to a person of Chinese descent is abhorrent, or at least, improper.

By mid-1977, the Lees have three children, Nathan, off to Harvard in the Fall, Lydia, a high school junior and apple of her parents’ eyes and younger Hannah, all but forgotten, relegated to a bedroom in the attic. It is with shock, that the family wakes up on May 3 and Lydia is nowhere to be found. When she doesn’t turn up, the Lees call the police who, as we all know, say this happens all the time and Lydia will return soon. Two days go by and still no Lydia.

A neighbor mentions a lone row boat out in the middle of the nearby lake which prompts to police to drag the lake, unfortunately finding Lydia’s body in the process. The police ultimately rule the death a suicide but Marilyn ‘knows her daughter’ and she wouldn’t do such a thing.

Everything I Never Told You probes the secret lives and thoughts of Lydia, Nathan who is virtually ignored by his parents, Hannah who has found a way to be invisible, James, who grew up ‘different’ by being Chinese in a Caucasian world and always wanted to blend in and Marilyn, whose aspirations and dreams were shattered and vowed never to let that happen to Lydia. All of this is seen both in the aftermath of Lydia’s death and in the years preceding it as well.

More psychological introspection than mystery, Everything I Never Told You is just plain sad. In this age when teenage suicide is so prevalent, when the pressure on teens to succeed in school and in life is so strong, when I’m sure many parents’ unachieved dreams are hoisted on their children’s shoulders, this book is a strong supporter of let kids be kids for a while longer…they have their whole adult lives to be grown ups.

It’s funny (or sad) that not much has changed since 1977, only the pressure on kids today has multiplied geometrically. Everything I Never Told You is worth the journey.

OK, get your tissues out now. It’s sad. Livvie and Zoe are best friends and have been since they were young. MaybeOneDayThey started taking dance lessons together and progressed all the way up to the NYBC. That meant every day after school in New Jersey they would trek into Manhattan for several hours of ballet lessons. Until one day, their world was pulled out from under them, or so they thought. At the end of the summer before sophomore year, they were both told that they wouldn’t be continuing at NYBC…subtitle: they weren’t good enough.

Livvie, as part of her community service requirements, decided to teach ballet to underprivileged children in Newark. Zoe just foundered around, trying a little of this or that, but not finding anything to replace dance.

Remember I said, they thought their world was pulled out from under them? Well, now it really was. At the beginning of junior year, Livvie was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia. Maybe One Day is the story of Livvie and Zoe coping with Livvie’s illness.

Kantor does a great job (I imagine since I haven’t experienced it) of running through the gamut of feelings experienced by both Zoe and Livvie, their families and friends. Shock, denial, disbelief in a God who would cause/allow such a thing. Zoe’s and Livvie were inseparable, at home, in school, at dance, so of course Zoe is the conduit of information for their classmates. Do you go into all the details or just say “she’s fine”?

Livvie and Zoe are remarkable characters, more like sisters than friends. Readers will feel their closeness and one happens to one, happens to the other.

Kantor has written Maybe One Day in a light tone…almost summer beach read light. But the story is anything but. This book may be overshadowed by the phenomenal success of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. But I hope it doesn’t. There’s room in YA literature for many books with cancer as the main topic…books coming from different directions.

IfYouCouldBeMineIt boggles my mind that a country could accept (and even pay for) sex change operations yet consider homosexuality a sin. Apparently there is nothing in the Bible that says a person can’t change the gender of his/her physical body, but there is something that says having sexual relations with a person of the same sex is a mortal sin.

Sara Farizan in her debut novel, If You Could Be Mine makes this abundantly clear as seventeen year old Iranians Sahar and Nasrin are in love but must keep their feelings secret. It comes as quite a shock, especially to Sahar, when it is announced that Nasrin’s parents have promised her hand in marriage to a doctor, Reza. The wedding is in three months. Sahar cannot think of living life without Nasrin and while Nasrin says they can still see each other after the wedding, Sahar knows it can never be.

Sahar contemplates all options to cancel the wedding and claim Nasrin as her own, including undergoing the long and painful sex changes operations. She is introduced to transgenders through her cousin, Ali, who is gay. None of these people say life is easy after the changes, but at least they are in the body they should have been born into.

Sahar wonders whether her father, who has been in a depression for the several years since Sahar’s mother died, would even notice if one day she came home sporting a beard. Or would he disown her?

This is certainly a new and relevant twist on teenage sexuality. Sahar and Nasrin are two distinct personalities, one serious and determined, the other flighty and always in need of attention. So, it comes as no surprise, although in my mind it was a bit far-fetched, that Sahar should consider drastic measures to keep Nasrin. Farizan also brings up the question: would someone who loves you romantically as a woman, feel the same way if you were a man? Good question!

While, if you read this blog regularly, you know my absolute favorite books on this subject, If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan is certainly up there on the list. It is an absorbing read.

TheThinManIf an accomplished writer of hard boiled mysteries, one who set the standard, wants to write a satire on the exact same subject, then who are we to say “No.” And so the author of the Maltese Falcon, the creator of Sam Spade, has also created his alter ego, the rich, classy Nick Charles, his wife Nora and little dog, Asta.

The Charleses are in New York for the Christmas holiday season. A retired detective who is now managing his wife’s money, he’s approached by the attorney of an eccentric inventor and former client, Clyde Wynant, to find the murderer of his former secretary, Julia Wolf. All fingers seem to point to Wynant, who left town shortly before the murder.

The Thin Man is populated by Wynant’s comically dysfunctional family. Mimi, the ex-wife and a schemer, and Dorothy, the daughter, both have crushes on Nick. There is constant bickering in the family. The son is just plain weird.

The police detective is somewhat bumbling, but again, not in a hard boiled way, like those in The Maltese Falcon. Think more in line with Lt. Tragg in the Perry Mason series.

The Charleses are constantly going to dinner parties, speakeasies and the theater. They are having “cocktails”, not shots of bourbon, at all hours of the day and night (even upon awaking at 2 PM from the previous nights’ revelries).

There is no darkness to the movie. If you remember the opening scenes of The Maltese Falcon, the foggy San Francisco night, well forget that in The Thin Man. The most you’ll get here is a bit of rain.

Having watched the movie several times (although I don’t remember it being one of my favorites), TheThinManMovieI constantly pictured William Powell and Myrna Loy as the Charleses. But, I’m going to watch it tonight, again, since I just finished the book and we’ll see what I think. Stay tuned!!!!

Well, it was better than I expected, but not great. It was almost slapstick. The movie stuck reasonably close to the book, but there were some differences, as you would expect. The addition of a fiancé for Dorothy negated the need for a Mr. Quinn, who throughout the book falls for her. However, he is brought in at the end of the movie and one wonders who the heck he is.

Another part of the book that was neglected was Mimi’s second husband, Chris Jorgenson. In the movie, he didn’t play a major role, whereas in the book, he was a critical character. I realize that you must leave things out of a movie unless you want to make it hours long, but leaving characters sort of hanging does little to improve the story.MyrnaLoy

I think the two things that stole the show were the costumes, especially Myrna Loy’s and Asta. Ms. Loy wore some outrageous, some sexy, some plain costumes, but they were all noticeable. There was a style and sexiness back in the day that we just haven’t captured now.

So, in conclusion, The Thin Man book is a great satire on the hard boiled detective and the movie is enjoyable but nothing to write home about.

GIrls Like Us by Gail Giles

GirlsLikeUsBiddy and Quincy are Special Ed girls who just graduated high school. They were each given a job and a place to live…together. Biddy is obese and can’t read. She also has a ‘reputation with the boys’. Quincy has brain and facial damage from being hit in the head with a brick when she was little, by her mother’s boyfriend. Not the best of pairings, according to each of them.

They will live in a separate cottage on the grounds of sixty-plus year old Miss Lizzy. Biddy will help with cooking and cleaning while Quincy has a job at the local bakery.

Girls Like Us by Gail Giles is a heart-warming story of intergenerational bonding. No one is perfect in this story, including Miss Lizzy. But they all adapt to less-than-perfect circumstances. Told in alternating chapters by Biddy and Quincy, they each have distinct voices. They each learn a little bit about the other and learn, to some extent, to stand in the others’ shoes. You will come to love these girls. They have big hearts and a lot of gumption.DeadGirls

My only other Gail Giles book is Dead Girls Don’t Write Letters. What a great psychological thriller.

So, here are two books to put on your summer reading list.

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