Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Two Murders & Riding Through Shadows

Murder on the Mauretania by Conrad Allen is the second book in the shipboard mystery series starring George Porter Dillman and Genevieve Masefield. This is another mystery full of beautifully dressed people who always come up with the wittiest response. Reading it, I couldnt' help but imagine Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in the main roles with their dry humor and chemistry sparking between them. On the maiden voyage of the Mauretania, sister ship to the Lusitania, George and Genevieve have been hired by the cruiseline to make sure any crimes committed are small and are solved quickly, but with almost $3 billion in gold buillion aboard, several small silver thefts, and a missing cat they are soon kept busy. As always Allen fills the book with colorful secondary characters with mysteries that are never quite solved. There's lots of detail about the construction of the ship and sailing. There aren't too many red herrings, but the ending is much stronger than the first one, and I'm looking forward to the third.

Murder on Gramercy Park by Victoria Thompson is the third book in the Gaslight Mystery series starring midwife Sarah Brandt and Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy. In this entry, Edmund Blackwell a magnetic healer is murdered in his own home, and it seems like everyone had a reason to kill him, including his pregnant wife, his unknown son, his business partner and many more. Thompson does a good job spreading the blame around so that everyone looks guilty. The growing relationship between Sarah and Frank is gaining strength as they both acknowledge their feelings for each other. The dialogue isn't as snappy as in other mysteries, but it's still very enjoyable to read.

Riding Through Shadows by Sharon Ewell Foster deserves more than 5 stars. This almost autobiographical look at a young black girl named Shirley growing up in the 1960s South is incredibly moving. Every now and then you find a book that completely blows away your expectations of it; this is one of them. The tragic story of Shirley losing all of the foundations of her life at the young age of eight, and her returning to life under Mother Johnson is tremendously poignant. Foster's manner of storytelling is very different than anything I've read before. The story jumps between Shirley in 1986 and 1967. It also jumps into Second Heaven, but I can't say much more about that without giving away major plot elements. Another technique in Foster's writing is long conversations between characters about current events or God. The conversations ring with truth and young Shirley isn't the only one to grow while listening to them. In one such conversation, Mother Johnson talks with her friend Ma Dear about God bringing storms into our lives to bring about new growth, and we shouldn't waste our time running from them or trying to control them. I'd never thought about storms in my life that way before, but I think it's a profound statement of faith. The book ends rather abruptly, which was a disappointment, but I can't wait to start on the sequel. Foster is telling a beautiful story of tragedy; I'm looking forward to the happy ending.

I'm reading Over the Waters by Deborah Raney now, and the Russian Hill Murders by Shirley Tallman will be next.