Book groups are the best because not only do you get to pick books that have been on your To Be Read list since forever, but you also get to read books that you wouldn’t have otherwise picked up on your own. In Cold Blood is the latter. It’s one of those books that I’ve probably thought “Huh. I should read that some day.” Happily, a book group member had access to a ton of copies, so here we are.
I had very little background knowledge of this story. I know the book itself is considered a great work and is often found on Books You Must Read list. It also helped create a genre of fictionalized journalism where Capote took nonfiction and added in the details. We don’t know what really happened, but Capote interviewed people and filled in the blanks with his own details. This, of course, bothers some people who think it creates fiction. Once you muddy the waters, it’s no longer a truthful account.
In November 1959 in a town in Kansas, four members of the Cutter family were murdered. This was a place where things like this don’t happen. There was no motive, no reason for the family to have been targeted and it looked like whoever had done it was going to get away with it.
Read more about the murder, the men who committed it, and Capote’s research and nonfiction fiction.
And we wrap up CBR5 with Flavia de Luce 5. All the faults from previous instalments are still niggling, but Flavia is so awesome, I forgive them all. Full review is on my blog here.
After a disappointing book for my first Cannonball, I really wanted an ace book for the double. But I chose badly. In this seventh entry of the Thursday Next series, Fforde drives his creation right off the literary cliff. It’s a clumsy and over plotted mess. Such a shame. The full review is on my blog here.
It’s 1949, and in the shoreline water of a Mississippi island the body of a young woman is discovered. She has been strangled, tied with wire to blocks to weigh her down and has been in the water for a few days. Her blonde hair and the gold anklet she is wearing quickly identify her as Beulah, the eighteen year girl who turned up on the island three weeks before with her fifty year old lover Luther Eustis. A witness leads police to him, and he is arrested and tried for her murder.
All of this is revealed to you in the opening chapter, which is narrated by the court reporter in the town where the trial is to take place. The joy of this book, then, is not in detection or the chase, but in the gradual reveal of Eustis’ motives, and the strange path that seems to inevitably lead him to murder. Faith, passion and birthright all combine to bring Eustis to his young lover and his crime. This is disclosed to us over the course of the book by an array of narrators. These include the aforementioned reporter, Eustis himself, his wife, Beulah, the ‘Dummy’ witness who identifies him, and his trial lawyer. Each of these very different voices has its own perspective, knowledge of and level of intimacy with the quiet, respectable and devout Eustis, and helps build the picture of how he came to do what he did.
Shelby Foote came into my life years ago, when he appeared in Ken Burn’s documentary series about the American Civil War, and I was curious about his works of fiction. I wasn’t disappointed. His writing is evocative and dreamy without the slightest hint of showiness or fuss. He also does not shy away from the darker side of human nature and what can drive a man to do a terrible thing that is so out of character. Tom Parker’s reading of the novel is beautiful. Calm and considered, his tone and accent combine with Foote’s prose to hypnotise. The story will exert a quiet grip on you, and is not easily forgotten.
The seventh book in McDermid’s endlessly popular series of novels featuring Tony Hill. This one also brings back her most notorious criminal invention, Jacko Vance, who escapes from prison and sets about ruining the lives of those he holds responsible for putting him there. It’s a breathlessly brilliant read that I just could not put down. Full review is on my blog here.
I am a fan of Stephen King. I think Carrie and Pet Sematary are horrifying reads. I think Different Seasons is brilliant. That said I haven’t read Stephen King for years. When Joyland was published I thought it was a good time to start again.
My first thought was that if you are a rabid Stephen King fan, you might be disappointed in Joyland. It’s more a tender, nostalgic coming-of-age story than a “typical” Stephen King horror story. But the more I read the more I thought that if you are a King fan, you’ll love this book. And if you’ve never really enjoyed Stephen King, you too might just love this book. While it does contain some of the tried and true Stephen King tropes – horror, suspense, great dialogue, sympathetic characters – the story isn’t so fantastical you have to suspend disbelief to enjoy it.
The story is told in flashback by Devin Jones, now a man in his 60s, who spent the summer of 1973 working in the Joyland amusement park. Years before Devin’s arrival a young girl was murdered on one of the rides, and rumors and legends about her ghost abound. Through a series of serendipitous events, Devin becomes a star performer at Joyland, attracts the attention of a protective single mom and her son, and delves into the murder.
Joyland won’t get under your skin the way some Stephen King stories can, but it does have a little something for every reader. There is horror, violence, heartbreak, romance and yes, sex. But the heart of the story is quite sentimental and wistful.
A proper return to form after some lacklustre efforts, this is the very definition of gripping and unputdownable. The full review of what could be dismissed as Rear Window for the digital age, but is much more, can be found here.