Monday, September 17, 2007

Same Old, Same Old

With the end of summer, reruns should be over, too, but I have just finished books in two of my favorite mystery series. I say "same old, same old" even thought they're new books because I've posted about these series before.

The Penguin Who Knew Too Much by Donna Andrews: The latest in the Meg Langslow series, and a very fun read. The first in the series is Murder With Peacocks. I usually just say how fun this series is, which I'll do again, but maybe I'll try to add something new this time! Meg is a blacksmith with a huge extended family. Her parents are a hoot. Her mother is very proper, while her father, a doctor, loves murder mystery novels and relishes the chance to be involved in a real investigation. Her brother, Rob, is a law student without much interest in practicing law (boy, can I identify!). The family lives in a small Virginia town. The mysteries are fun, but the characters are what make this series stand out from the crowd of cozy mysteries. Meg's dry wit and exasperated tolerance of her crazy family manages to make her appealing rather than unsympathetic and complaining. There's obviously a lot of love behind her good-natured comments about her family. In Murder With Peacocks, she meets university theater professor Michael, and it doesn't take a sleuth to see he'll be an important character in later books. Murder With Peacocks introduces Meg and the Langslow clan. The much put-upon Meg is involved in three weddings--her brother, her friend Eileen, and her mother's. Each bride is more demanding and exacting than the last, and poor single Meg runs errands and puts out fires all over the place.

Puss N Cahoots by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown: Sneaky Pie co-writes this series with her human companion, the fabulous Rita Mae Brown. The first in the series is Wish You Were Here, which introduces Crozet, Virginia postmistress Harry and her small brood of intelligent animals. Mrs. Murphy, a tiger cat, and Tucker, a Corgi, along with numerous other Crozet animals (wild and domestic), really solve the crimes here, trying to steer the humans to the root of the mystery. Yes, the animals talk to one another, and that could be really cloying and irritating, but it's not, at least to me. They add a fun dimension to Crozet life and the usual whodunit cozy. There's a companion cookbook, Sneaky Pie's Cookbook for Mystery Lovers, that includes Mrs. Hoggendobber's Orange Cinnamon Buns, thank goodness. They're amazing :) The latest book wasn't necessarily the best, but having followed the human and animal antics for many years, I enjoyed it anyway.

Sweet Revenge by Diane Mott Davidson: I can't really summarize this one too much without giving away things that happen in earlier books, so I'll talk about the series instead. The first is Catering To Nobody, which introduces Goldy, a caterer who recently escaped from an abusive marriage to John Richard Korman (the Jerk) with her son Arch (poor kid--naming him Arch? No wonder he's such a brat). Goldy caters the wake for Arch's former teacher and special friend. Her former father-in-law keels over dead, and Detective Tom Schulz shuts her business down until the investigation is complete. This gives Goldy the incentive to nose around on her own. Each book includes recipes (from Sweet Revenge, I just made the Pina Colada Muffins, which were YUMMY), and several are all-time favorites of mine. I like Goldy, and despite some annoyances in the books, I enjoy the series. The cooking talk is fun, Aspen Meadow is fun, and Goldy's nosing around is entertaining (even as you sometimes roll your eyes at her extreme nosiness). Edited to add: Something Davidson said in Sweet Revenge sort of changed my perspective on this series a bit. While reading these (and re-reading), I've been guilty of muttering, "Oh, just get OVER it already" in regard to Goldy's whining about her ex-husband. In Sweet Revenge, she says something about how it's easy to SAY "get over it" but it's not easy to DO. And that really resonated with me. She was married to an abusive philanderer for seven years, in constant fear for her safety and her son's, and she found the courage to get a divorce. Of course it's not so simple that she can just get over it as soon as the papers are signed. Davidson went to a lot of trouble to develop a complex heroine in a conventional genre, and I think Goldy's words are a smack at the critics who want Goldy to just get over it. Anyway, I have sort of a new appreciation for these now.

I'm now reading The Tale of Holly How, #2 in Susan Wittig Albert's Beatrix Potter series.

No comments: