Monday, October 29, 2012


Another William Monk mystery, this time about the influence of the opium trade. As usual, Perry has researched deeply into some aspect of Victorian England (the opium trade, going back to the Opium Wars with China) that had a profound influence on some aspect of Victorian culture. But I found this book a bit repetitive; at least four characters point out that the hypodermic syringe loaded with opium can cause an addiction that borders on a living death. The need for opium to treat pain is clear, as is the necessity for a "Pharmacy Act" that will label the contents of potions with opium; yet several characters repeatedly worry that the Act will limit people's ability to obtain it, which didn't make sense to me (though I am coming from a 21st-century perspective and it may very well have been a Victorian worry). There are some sloppy bits: for example, one of the characters, Agatha Nisbet, is "Agnes Nisbet" on page 305. Perry is so good at what she does, these are minor gripes. I do, however, prefer some of her earlier novels.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I think this is an important book--and I found it very engaging, not at all dry. Drawing on all kinds of studies--from sociological to biological to microbiological--Tough explains why warm, responsive parenting (and teaching) pretty much trumps all other influences (poverty, etc.) in creating a calm, resilient child who grows up into a successful adult; and that a student's GPA, not their IQ, is by far a better predictor of success in college and beyond. It's a child's ability to persevere that matters. I would recommend this for anyone interested in what makes our kids tick and what makes our schools work (or not).

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Michael Sears, BLACK FRIDAYS

It's funny that I just finished SUTTON, which was about an ex-con who'd just gotten out of jail. This one's about another ex-con who just got out of jail--Jason Stafford, a Wall Street type who got caught. This is one of the best suspense thrillers I've read in a long time--but it goes beyond being a straight finance-crime thriller: Jason has a crazy ex-wife and a son with autism. Another great read, that I stayed up too late for! If you like Tana French, you might like this one.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Victorian England murder and mayhem! Set in Drury Lane, with great period detail and a detective named Pyke. Rat-catchers, cat's-meat men, thieves and hole-men (who clean out cess-pools). All kinds of jobs you wouldn't want, and a mystery with a mounting body count. Good fun.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Kevin Wilson, FAMILY FANG

A very twisted novel about two children who grow up in a family with two parents who use them as objects in their "live art." They go to a mall and hand out fake coupons, then film what happens. It's so demented, so far gone, that when the father falls down in the supermarket and drops a jar of spaghetti, child B (they're child A and child B) thinks it's part of a "live art" episode and gets down and begins to lick up the spaghetti, glass and all. Very well written and compelling, but probably one of the most disturbing novels I've ever read. Women who put their daughters in beauty pageants have nothing on the Fangs.

J.R. Moehringer, SUTTON

Just finished this first novel. It's amazing. Yes, it's about a gangster, but in the same way that Peter Carey's KELLY GANG is about a gangster (as in, it's about passion and pain and memory and honor and love). Could not put it down, was reading last night till WAY after midnight. (Some of you may remember THE TENDER BAR, from a few years back, Moehringer's memoir about his father; he grew up partly in Phoenix--also very well written.) I would not miss this one.