It was another blogger who said "I can't stop starting new books" and boy, am I doing the very same thing at the moment. It's the fault of it being R.I.P. time. It's like having an open invitation to start books in honor of fall and appropriately suspenseful and ghostly tales, which are a favorite of mine at any time of the year but especially now. I love Autumn even if it has still been toasty warm and stormy of late. (Summer started early and seems to be going on and on and on). Since I seem to be reaching mostly for my most atmospheric stories at the moment, here's a little run down of the books I have been escaping into.
Fiercombe Manor. Don't you love it when publishers change titles depending on where they are published. In the UK Kate Riordan's novel was published under the title The Girl in the Photograph. I suppose that now that I am slowly getting into the story either could work. I happen to have the UK edition of the book (I wanted it in paperback back when I ordered it--it has since been released in paper in the US, too). I have to have at least one proper ghost story for the season and this fits the bill quite nicely. Her writing reminds me of Simone St. James, who I have read and very much enjoyed (and who knows, maybe tomorrow or later in the week I might pick up one of her unread books that graces my shelves at the moment).
This story oozes atmosphere. It is one of those parallel-stories novels set in 1933 and 1898 with an emphasis more on the more 'contemporary' story. Fiercombe Manor, I suspect, is going to be just as important character-wise as either of the two women who are destined to have a connection. Alice Eveleigh comes to Fiercombe to hide her pregnancy. She tells the little fib that her husband was killed in a motor accident and so is too fragile emotionally to stay in London. Her mother was friends with Fiercombe's housekeeper so it seems like the perfect solution. Fiercombe is one of those massive old manor houses that is dark and foreboding situated in a grounds that is not particularly sunny and bright and hard to get to. And things are just not quite right with the house. Among other things Alice's watch seems to have stopped (and no amount of winding will make it work). And there is a painting of a former owner whose eyes seem to watch Alice no matter how she tries to ignore him. Alice has yet to find that photograph of the girl, but as she has been snooping around a bit (what else is there to do in such a great house where she is meant to be resting?), but I think it will be soon!
My other main RIP read is Elizabeth Peters's (actually she is writing as Barbara Michaels here) The Crying Child. The book was published in 1971. It doesn't feel dated, but it has that aura about it somehow. So, I am going to say this, but I don't mean it as a criticism in any way . . . There is something a little formulaic about her novels of romantic suspense. They have a similar set up and I expect this will follow the same trajectory as other books by her I have read. These are escapist reads for me--pure, unadulterated enjoyments and the reason I often turn to her is simply because I know what to expect and I almost always want what I know will be a fun, uncomplicated but comforting read. She can pretty much always deliver.
So, Joanne McMullen is living in California making her own way in the world of advertising, scraping by is more like it despite her family's wish she would remain closer to home and take up a job in the family business. Not her family exactly, but her sister happens to be married to one of the wealthiest young men on the east coast. They live in a family home on the coast of Maine. Actually on one of the remote islands off the coast. Yes, more atmosphere here. Her brother-in-law, Ran, is worried for the sanity of Joanne's sister, Mary. She has gone through several pregnancies ending in miscarriages, but her latest pregnancy seems to be stable. Now, however, Mary is hearing the wailing of a child and disappears at night in search of this missing baby. Ran fears she has perhaps gone over the edge in her grief so he sends for her sister to come and give her support. Enter taciturn young doctor, Will, who is attractive but maddening. And you know Joanne is going to fall for him.
I should be able to make quick work of the Michaels novel and so have already added something a little different to my pile. I was all set to start the first Lew Archer novel by Ross MacDonald that I just mentioned here a few days ago, but as I was digging through my bins of mystery novels, I came across a crime novel by a Japanese author, Shuichi Yoshida, Villain, which I had heard many good things about when it came out in paper (and so had to have it and has been waiting patiently for me). I've been wanting to read some Japanese Literature and thinking about starting something, so it just seems the right book for the right moment. One of the blurb describes it as "a ripping good story of murder and secrets". It has a ghostly mountain pass and is set in part by a desolate seaside town. "A chilling and seductive story of loneliness, desperation and murder." This is Yoshida's English language debut novel and it looks quite promising.
I've still got novels by Ottessa Moshfegh and Anthony Quinn which are peripherally related to my RIP reading as well as two novels by Daphne du Maurier set aside and a library book out by Alex Marwood, all of which I am at least thinking about. My only disappointment at the moment is a lack of short stories of a ghostly variety. As a matter of fact not posting about short stories on Sundays regularly means I have gotten lax in my short story reading, so I need to do something about that.
I can recommend a very good podcast to you, however. It is somewhat disturbing even while it catches your interest and holds you glued to your earphones. It comes via Sarah Weinman whose newsletter I subscribe to (she also recommended Ross Macdonald somewhere along the line). APM Reports offers excellent investigative journalism in the form of podcasts. I am three episodes into listening to In the Dark, which is about a child abduction case in Minnesota that went unsolved until just recently. Jacob Wetterling, an eleven-year-old lived with his family in rural Minnesota until he was abducted in October 1989. The killer was living very close by and had gone undetected for almost thirty years. Madeleine Baran has been investigating just what went wrong in this police investigation. Why the perpetrator was allowed to live freely for so many years. It is fascinating to hear her piece together all the steps and what was done wrong when the crime was first committed. True crime stories are always more than just a little disturbing. I've listened to the first three podcasts and am waiting for the next installment.