Friday, January 25, 2008

A Great Read

Ordinarily, I'm not one for mysteries. Or so I keep telling myself. In actuality, some of my all-time favorite books have been mysteries, albeit they're ones with fascinating historical backdrops. I love the Maisie Dobbs mystery series by Jacqueline Winspear. These are books set in post-WWI England where Maisie Dobbs, a fallen woman, solves crimes that always relate in the most fascinating ways to the events of the first World War. And I cannot get enough of Caleb Carr mysteries which mostly deal with turn-of-the-20th-century USA. But the run of the mill modern takes on whodunits? Not my bag. Not my bag until yesterday.

At the SCWW conference I attended in October, I had the opportunity to eat breakfast one morning with a faculty member, Patricia Sprinkle. At the time I didn't know she was faculty. All I knew was that when she asked me what I wrote, and I gave her a rather passionate description of my playwriting/short story writing/novel writing, but then followed up her second question, was I attempting to publish anything, with a lukewarm response about wanting to emulate Emily Dickinson and have everything I wrote published posthumously, she went into mama bear mode and proceeded to inform me, in a nice mama bear way of course, to get off my lazy ass and publish my stuff.

I like people who are blunt like that, so I took to her immediately.

As it happened, our circadian rhythms were in sync and we ended up at the breakfast buffet at the same time every morning. It was only then that I learned she was a published author of a gazillion books, many of which were mysteries.

After the conference, I promised myself I would go to the library and look for her books. But then I actually took another of her excellent pieces of advice, and started writing compulsively in order to finish my novel at some point in this lifetime. Finally, this past weekend, I checked out several of her books and came home with two I found particularly promising--from her family tree series.

Yesterday, I finished Death on the Family Tree, and it was fantastic. It was the kind of book when,for example, your husband asks you to stop reading a moment so he can discuss something he saw on the TV, you become downright surly. You'd rather read then eat dinner. Rather read than sleep. It was the kind of book where, if the Swedish Men's Skinny Dipping Club just happened to parade through your living room, you would tell them to quit making so much bloody noise, you were at the best part so far. It was that good.

Luckily for me, Patricia Sprinkle has published, as I already pointed out, a gazillion books. One of which is a second family tree mystery called Sins of the Father that I started reading as soon as I put Death on the Family Tree down. Once I'm finished with these, I will move on to her other series. And because Patricia takes her own advice, I will be a happy reader for some time to come.

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