I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, for what are probably obvious reasons. Some of it is work-related, like Shirley Abbott’s Bookmaker’s Daughter and Miranda Seymour’s Bugatti Queen — both of which I recommend highly, by the way. Some have been popcorn books, and I’m not going to admit to those titles! Some were really good: Elizabeth’s Bear’s Blood and Iron, which is one of the most interesting takes on the conflict between this world and Faerie that I’ve read in a long time. She starts with traditional stories, derives familiar rules from them, and weaves that package into a truly original novel. Yes, it’s the first book in a series, but it’s complete enough to be satisfying, and the second book is already sold, to come out next year. Definitely worth your time and money. My father recommended Jason Goodwin’s The Janissary Tree, a mystery novel set in Istanbul in 1836. He said he thought I’d be fascinated (as he was) by the history, and he was right. The mystery itself is a little light, with a protagonist who spends more time reacting to events than acting to stop them, but the situations are interesting enough to carry the book along. It, too, is planned to be the first in a series, and I’ll look forward to the next book.
I’ve also been reading a whole stack of Margery Allingham’s Albert Campion mysteries, which has been a bittersweet pleasure. A few days before she died, Lisa ordered them for me, well over a dozen books, mostly paperbacks, all cheap (we’re not collectors, all I needed was reading copies), and for several weeks after she died, the packages continued to arrive: book after book, gift after gift, reminder after reminder. I’ve been enjoying the excursion into different periods — the Campion mysteries seem to divide pretty neatly into pre-WWII and post-WWII, the latter being especially interesting to me. The world of postwar rationing, Cold War fear, and frightening science (a huge feature not only in Allingham but in Nicholas Blake’s books of the same period) is new to me — it’s interesting to compare the characters’ attitudes toward the future to those in the American sci-fi/alien invasion movies of the ‘50s. But mostly it’s been another, final present, one more thing to get me through this summer, and beyond.