Let’s Talk About Books, Baby

Last summer I read every young adult novel ever written, including every fantasy series. All of them.

And then I inexplicably moved into murder mysteries, which I never thought was my genre. But, it turns out, actually is. I have a blackened heart, apparently. With that introduction, I give you:

Everything Tana French has Written To Date

In the Woods, The Likeness, Faithful Place, Broken Harbor, The Secret Place, The Trespasser, and (currently) The Witch Elm. The first six are murder mysteries told from the perspective of various detectives of the Dublin Murder Squad and I LOVE THEM–the detectives and the books. Murder mysteries used to disturb me. Now I find them thrilling. Maybe it’s the concept of understanding the dark parts of humanity while not actually getting too close. Just a glimpse. French is a gifted writer. She has excellent pacing, psychological drama, police procedure, and an intuitive look at how people work. Don’t read these if dead people and/or salty language bother you. The Witch Elm is different in that it is told from a violent crime survivor’s perspective, and has the same enveloping look at the life of a Dubliner, particularly the way he must face his resulting brain injury. And it’s written by French, crime novelist extraordinaire, so I like it.

Transcription by Kate Atkinson

Atkinson also wrote Life After Life, which appealed to me a bit more than this book, which is about Juliet, a young woman working as a British spy during World War II in London. She gathers intelligence on spies who are feeding information to the Germans through her role as a typist who transcribes the recorded conversations between spies in an apartment next to hers. The book was interesting but felt a little less exciting than I guess I felt it should be. It jumps back and forth through time, following Juliet through part of the war, ten years later as she works for the BBC, and at the end of her life. It’s well written. I liked it. I didn’t love it.

A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos

Translated from French, this fantasy (the first in a series–I know. I can’t stop. Help) creates an utterly unique world which seems to be set in the future, yet which includes fashions and attitudes of previous centuries, despite having elements of newer technology. Ophelia, the protagonist, is a “reader,” meaning she can glean information from objects simply by touching them. She also has the power to move through space by walking through mirrors. She’s betrothed in an arranged marriage to Thorn, a cold and imposing figure from The Pole, a region far to the north which is housed in an ark, which is almost like a space ship hovering above the frozen forests. There is all kinds of weird courtly intrigue at the Pole, and Ophelia uses her considerable gifts to help her navigate this inhospitable world where no one seems trustworthy. This book is the most inventive fantasy I’ve read in a long time. It’s deeply creative and fascinating without being at all predictable. The second book in the series (The Mirror Visitor Quartet) will be available in May, and I don’t want to wait that long.

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

A ghost story set in 19th century rural England, Purcell’s first book has a deeply creepy premise involving a centuries-old ancestral home with a dark past riddled with unexplained death. Elsie, a young pregnant widow, arrives at The Bridge and finds a moldering, dank, sprawling country house with a locked garret containing waist-high wooden painted figures known as silent companions. One companion looks exactly like her and crops up throughout the house and stands at the window watching her as she comes and goes. This book has lots of tried and true Victorian horror tropes: dead children, abusive mothers, house fires, haunted dolls, and women relegated to mental institutions for “hysteria.” I enjoyed the writing and the moody atmosphere. It would be a good book club read with lots of discussion potential. Weirdly, I wished it were a tad scarier. What’s happening to me? Are the murder mysteries increasing my tolerance for the spooky?

What are you reading? I love a good book recommendation.

  5 comments for “Let’s Talk About Books, Baby

  1. Allison
    November 29, 2018 at 1:50 pm

    Have you read the Flavia Deluce mystery series??? If not you totally need these books in your life.

    • Megan
      November 30, 2018 at 12:02 am

      Those books are great! Flavia is hilarious. I need to catch up, since I haven’t read all of them yet. Thanks for reminding me of their existence!

  2. Jessie
    November 30, 2018 at 7:59 am

    I love Tana French too, and I just got a hold of The Witch Elm this week. I discovered her last fall and devoured all of her books in the space of a month. If you like her books, you’d probably like Jane Harper, who is an Australian writer. She’s only written two books so far, but they’re both really good.

    I also felt the same about Transcription–I loved Life After Life, but Transcription just didn’t quite do it for me.

  3. Barb
    November 30, 2018 at 1:15 pm

    These sound so good!! I love that they are different from what I would typically read. I love mysteries, but I tend to like cosy mysteries that are a little light. Mixing in a few that are a little darker (not too dark) would be a nice change.

  4. Allison Jossie
    November 30, 2018 at 7:15 pm

    I think there’s 10 now. I binge read all but the last this fall. The one where they bring her mom home…. so much depth of character. Heart wrenching with all the humor and mystery woven in. Sooooo good!

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