Resisting is sometimes futile. When a book calls loud enough it is just downright rude to ignore it. And I am all for civility these days. So I have started not just one new book. No, not one. Not even two. But yes, three new books (one an eGalley) added to my in progress pile. The year is young, so why worry about cleaning up those 'in progress books'. I have months and months to be good (and bad).
So, first up, and I am sorry I am not going to be able to share a teaser since Jacqueline Winspear's newest Maisie Dobbs mystery, In this Grave Hour (#13 in case you are counting!) is not due to be released until March 14, is a book I have been eagerly awaiting. I held off for more than a month. It has been sitting in my Bluefire Reading app for a while now. But if I don't start reading it will not be accessible and I waited too long to get in line at the library. I will just say that it starts with the announcement of England's declaration of war and the start of WWII! Such a long journey I feel like I have taken with Maisie.
It is early days, but if you have missed the Maisie we all know and love, she seems to be back. The story, which has just the tiniest little hint of espionage overtones, appears to be a more traditional Maisie mystery. She has returned to her role as psychologist/investigator. It is now my gym book since it is on my tablet and can easily sit propped on the stationary bike. Nothing like a good book to keep me motivated to exercise!
I have been regularly visiting my favorite used bookstore in search of new Viragos, but if something else catches my eye, I will grab it, too. I have never read Francine Prose, and I didn't realize she had written so many books. I guess I am mostly familiar with her newer books, but I found one published back in 1981 called Household Saints about an Italian-American family living in NYC's Little Italy ca. 1950. It is light and humorous--at least on first impression. The story revolves around the Santangelo family in particular. At the start Joseph Santangelo wins his wife in a game of pinochle! Joseph's mother tries to talk him out of marrying Catherine Falconetti. She tells him--you don't even know this girl (she is a mere 17. I am not sure how old Joseph is--his 20s perhaps?).
"And then, for the first time that either of them could remember, his mother's own magic worked against her. For as Joseph stared down at his plate, he thought of the sausage he rubbed (he's a butcher by the way) in front of Catherine's face, and of her serious wide eyes watching him. More than anything in the world, he wanted to see her look like that again."
"Sensing the sudden change in him, Mrs. Santangelo resorted to her darkest tone, saying,"
"'Joseph, if you marry that girl, your whole life will taste like that meal'."
"But Joseph's only reaction to this gloomy prophecy was a dreamy grin."
"'As I remember,' he said, 'the antipasto was delicious'."
This coming after a disastrous meal cooked by Catherine. I am really enjoying this. I love finding these little old gems in the used bookstore. I even seek them out.
So, one brand new book. One old book but new to me. And now one old book and long untouched on my shelves. There is a sort of symmetry about it all, don't you think? You know how much I love Mary Russell. There have been lots of reinterpretation of Sherlock Holmes as a character and of his various mysteries and adventures. I am not well-read really when it comes to Sherlockania. I have read a book or two and maybe a short story or two, but Sherlock is such an icon that you don't necessarily have to be well read to know something about the man and the mysteries.
I have had several of Carole Nelson Douglas's books on my shelves for years. She is a prolific writer and at one time in her long career she took the one woman to better Sherlock Holmes and give her her own adventures--Irene Adler. I cannot tell you how many times I have picked up the first of the series, Good Night, Mr. Holmes, which was published in 1990. Another case of just the book I need at the moment, as I have just started and it has clicked nicely!
I don't know anything about Irene Adler, other than she is an opera singer. She reminds me of Mary Russell (Holmes definitely prefers women who are his intellectual equals) in that she is adept at subterfuge, well read and very articulate with a very dry sense of humor. I like her. Here is a little something about her (rather the author's interpretation of her). And just to put it into context--the narrator is sort of a Watson-type foil (or will be) to Irene. Penelope Huxleigh is a former governess (her family left for India and didn't take her along) and daughter to a curate who has also left her. She is wandering the streets of 18th century London trying to figure out what to do next when she is spotted by Miss Adler, who comes to her rescue.
"Before I could act or the awful child could answer, someone else was in our midst. A lady had wheeled from the crowd to seize the lad's arm. Had she not been so well dressed, my protective instincts would have led me to defend even this wretched ragamuffin."
"But the lady was magnificently attired--a sheared beaver muff cuffed one entire forearm. The brown felt hat smartly tipped over her brow was lavished with velvet ribbons and crowned with a peacock-blue bird in full flight."
"She descended upon us like some glorious goddess, her dark eyes flashing fire, her pendant amber earrings swaying exuberantly. Then that angelic face screwed into an unlovely snarl. A stream of Queen's English translated through the scullery poured from her mouth."
She certainly shows more than a little moxie. I think she and I are going to get on well together, too. I think there are only a handful of Irene Adler mysteries, so I will work my way through them slowly. And I should read Arthur Conan Doyle's short story "A Scandal in Bohemia", too. And then maybe it will soon be time for another Mary Russell, too. Yep, more reading paths are diverging.