If you have been following me at all, you know how particular I am about my murder mystery books. Most are crap. Let’s just lay it all on the table. When I find a book or an author worth my while, I’m pretty excited. When I read In the Woods a couple of years ago, I was hooked. Tana French wrote an excellent thriller that kept me guessing without using tired old tropes. For the record Robert Galbraith (AKA JK Rowling) writes great thrillers, too. Start with The Cuckoo’s Calling.
What’s clever about French’s books is they are connected but not direct sequels. The first book features two detectives, Rob and Cassie. The second book features Cassie and her superior, Frank. The third book (I peeked) features Frank but takes place in the past. So, there are familiar characters, but the plots aren’t directly hooked so I would say you could read them in any order. A few things from the first book were mentioned in the second, but you don’t really need to understand them to follow the plot.
Cassie used to work undercover as a girl named Lexie Madison. Said Lexie turns up dead and happens to look exactly like Cassie. So, the police get creative and send Cassie back home with her four claiming innocence roommates. They tell her Lexie was injured rather than dead and let Cassie take her place to see if she can dig up any dirt. What’s really great about these books is the lack of red herrings. I am exhausted by “the killer reveal on page 30…oh wait just kidding” plots. French just lets it all unfold and evolve naturally. It’s what I like best about her books. I can’t wait to dig into her next book.
I’ve never been a big fan of mythology. I find it interesting, but mostly, I don’t seek it out to read. I guess I’m familiar enough with the stories and don’t feel the need to revisit them. But when I heard about this book and how it’s a creative retelling of a familiar mythological character, I figured it would be a good way to get back into the genre.
Circe is one of the goddesses who I didn’t know much about. I haven’t read any mythology in a while (I did read Medea in college…uh…wow, she was something else) so this story really was more new to me than it might be to others. Basically, the plot is Circe angers her father, the sun god, and gets banished to spend eternity alone on an island. She’s allowed visitors, and she receives plenty. She bides her time by growing crops and herbs, creating animals, working with potions, etc. One visitor after another comes bringing her news of the world and asking for her help.
I enjoyed this book quite a bit, but I think it would have been more meaningful if I had known more about Circe. That said, I talked so a few friends about this book who had zero knowledge of Circe and loved the book. Whether you love mythology or not, this book is a well-written, creative one.
I’m a big fan of true crime. That’s a really weird thing to say. But I also know I’m not alone, given the sheer volume of books, tv shows, and podcasts featuring true crime. I’ve read about plenty of serial killers, but the Golden State Killer (GSK) was one I didn’t know much about. I had heard about this book from several people, but I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to read it. Usually, I don’t enjoy when an author inserts him/herself into the narrative. Not that I think they shouldn’t, but rather, it just doesn’t appeal to me as a reader. However, I read The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir earlier this year and really loved it. The author completely immerses herself into the story, and it worked. So, I went ahead and gave this one a try.
Sadly, Michelle McNamara passed away in her sleep before this book was finished. Sections are pieced together from previous stories and notes, but the bulk of it was finished. Michelle was married to Patton Oswalt, a comedian, so she spent a bit of time in the spotlight. Though, it seems she never used this to her advantage. She did her work, dug through countless files, interviewed dozens, etc. She was desperate for the GSK to be revealed. It’s clear she didn’t care if she was the one who identified him, but she was on a mission to uncover as much as she could.
Knowing she never knew who the GSK was (spoiler alert- he was found recently. Look up how. It’s fascinating), made this book hard to read. I feel really bad for her husband and daughter who lost someone they dearly loved. However, if you are someone who is interested in true crime, unsolved mysteries, etc, then this is a great one to read.