Saturday, March 5, 2016

Discovering the Harry Bosch mysteries

Maybe the Metropolitan Planning Commission knew what they were doing when they tried to close the doors of our Little Free Library.  I confess our LFL has turned me into a junkie.  I’ve become addicted to the Harry Bosch mysteries by Michael Connelly.  It started out innocently.  I saw a three volume tome of Harry Bosch mysteries in our LFL and took them out, thinking I had never read any of these books though I had heard of them.  One night when I was in the mood for something different to read, I picked up this thick book. 
I thought if the book wasn’t any good, I could return it to the LFL without reading it and have more room on my personal library shelves.  It didn’t turn out that way.  In quick succession I read the three books in that volume: The Last Coyote (1995), Trunk Music (1997)and Angels Flight (1999).  I stayed up until 1:00, 2:00 and 3:00 am reading these books.  I couldn’t put them down. 

Once I finished, I remembered I had another paperback by Michael Connelly that had been on my book shelves for months.  I found and quickly read City of Bones (2002).  I breathed a sigh of relief.  I might now get some sleep and complete other things I needed to do.  However, the next day I went out to the LFL after some school children had messed up the books.  As I straightened up the LFL, I saw someone had left another Michael Connelly mystery.  So, in the next couple of days I completed 9 Dragons (2009). 

Someone left a couple boxes of books on our porch.  Since ours is the most notorious LFL in town, we get a lot of donations.  Periodically I organize the books and share some with other LFLs if we are overstocked in a certain genre or author.  As luck would have it, one box held another Harry Bosch mystery, The Burning Room (2014), a more recent addition to the series.

I don’t worry about reading the books in order because I don’t seek them out.  They find me, so I read them in the order in which they appear in my life.
I like the titles of the Bosch books because the connection between plot and title is strong and helps distinguish one book from another in my memory bank.

The Last Coyote refers a bedraggled coyote that roams Harry’s neighborhood after the massive LA earthquake that severely damaged Harry’s home.  Or is the last coyote that Harry sees and dreams about really Harry himself who is in danger of being the last police detective of his ilk in the department?  In this novel, Harry is on forced leave from the department and takes advantage of the time off to investigate his own mother’s murder.
Trunk Music is what police term it when the killer shoots someone who is captive inside the trunk of a car at the time of the killing, an unpleasantly vivid image that describes the plot of this who-done-it. 

Angels Flight concerns the sexual abuse and murder of a young girl.  The title describes the way she was posed in death and her release from the horrors of her life on earth.
City of Bones is what the medical examiner called the grid she laid out when recovering bones from a suspected homicide site on the side of a hill. 

9 Dragons is the English translation of Kowloon, the name of the most populated region of Hong Kong. The murder of a Chinese liquor store owner takes Harry from L.A.’s Chinatown to Hong Kong where Harry’s daughter and ex-wife live.
The Burning Room refers to an unauthorized basement child care center in a tenement that was torched by arsonists. 

The Harry Bosch mysteries are gritty police procedurals, and Harry is a seasoned veteran.  His job is his life blood but his success in solving murders comes with high collateral damage to those around him.  The action is fast-paced and the body count high. Bureaucrats are Harry’s nemesis, and he often doesn’t have the support of his superiors in the police department.  Just when it appears Harry has worked his last case, he gets a reprieve and his services, investigating homicides, are again in demand.   


Friday, March 4, 2016

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikey

Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 2014
“On the ferry from Hyannis to Alice Island, Amelia Loman paints her nails yellow and , while waiting for them to dry, skims her predecessor’s notes: ‘Island Books, approximately $250,000.00 per annum in sales, the better portion of that in the summer month to folks on holiday.’” 

 Amelia Loman, the publisher’s sales representative newly assigned to Island Books, is on her way to meet the store’s owner and proprietor, the often irascible A. J. Fikry.  Amelia has a personality as sunny as her nails and is confident she can handle Fikry.  Recently widowed, Fikry has little tolerance for people.  His old sales rep died and no one bothered to tell him, and now he has a different book rep assigned to his store, and he isn’t happy about it.

 The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry offers a glimpse into the world of booksellers and publishers in the days when publishing houses hired representatives, essentially traveling salespersons, to visit independent book stores to pitch the publisher’s latest offerings.  The lives and stories of Amelia Loman and A.J. Fikry soon intertwine, along with a small girl named Maya, Fikry’s former sister-in-law Ismay, her writer husband Daniel, and the local police chief. 

A.J. Fikry is a multidimensional character and most of the other characters are likable and well-developed.  Author Gabrielle Zevin begins each book chapter with notes that Fikry has written to guide and educate his daughter about selected short stories.  These prefaces add charm to the book.

I enjoyed the book more when I was reading it than I did after I finished it .  The author expects the readers to suspend disbelief at multiple illogical plot elements, and I eventually reached the tipping point.  I was also disappointed with the ending.  I felt the author was in a hurry to tie up all the loose ends in the plot, so the ending seemed glib and abrupt to me.  Nonetheless, the book was engaging.  I read it all one night after supper. 

My sister gave me this book when I visited her in November.  Her book club had read it, and the book includes suggested discussion questions for book club use.   I’m sure my sister’s group wasn’t the only one to select this book. It was also the featured book of the Target Book Club.  This novel generates spirited discussions.

Author Gabrielle Zevin is something of a child prodigy.  She began her writing career at age 14 as the music critic for the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.  A Harvard graduate, she writes for the young adult market, as well as novels for adults.  Two of her screenplays have been made into movies.  The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry spent over four months on the New York Times Bestseller List.