Tuesday, October 18, 2016


Having read the first two books of Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series (In the Woods and The Likeness) I knew not to expect a traditional mystery or any continuity from the previous novels. In this series, while each book does contain the story of a crime and the resolution of that crime, the plot takes a definite back seat to character development and, in my opinion, the reader is often required to accept a fair amount of implausibility regarding the storyline. But I don’t think that French is interested in having a water-tight whodunit in her books. I think she is more interested in showing the thoughts and emotions of a character under certain stressors and it is that deep dive into character that makes readers (at least those who like that sort of thing) come back for more.

Faithful Place centers on Frank Mackey, who was the undercover handler of Cassie, the main character in The Likeness. Frank has been estranged from his dysfunctional family ever since he left home at 19. But events from the past cause him to rekindle his familial relationships, if only to exploit them. When Frank ran away to England, his original intention was to go with the love of his life, Rosie. Only Rosie never showed and young Frank assumed that she had dumped him because of his crazy family…for fear that he would turn out to be just like them. So Frank left alone, eventually became a police officer in Dublin and maintained only intermittent contact with his youngest sister. However, when a small blue suitcase with Rosie’s identification is found in the ruins of an abandoned home in the neighborhood, Frank is drawn back to his old haunts to try and find out whether or not Rosie even made it out of the neighborhood alive 20 years ago.

As I stated above, these novels are heavy on character development and Frank is to put it bluntly, an a**hole much of the time.  I sympathized with him some, but it was pretty clear to me that he is underhanded and manipulative, which makes him good at his job in undercover, but not so good in his interpersonal relationships. This didn’t bother me. I don’t necessarily mind unlikable characters.  
As in the previous two books, Faithful Place is narrated in the first person, so the reader has more or less the same opportunity to put things together the as the narrator does. I believe that both Frank and I realized who the perpetrator was at the same time. What is less certain is if Frank realized in the course of the novel that he is much more like his hair-trigger abusive father and manipulative mother than he would like to admit. 

This is my second book for the R.I.P. XI Challenge "Peril the Second" hosted by the blog Stainless Steel Droppings.  It was pretty fun (and easy!) to direct my reading to suit the challenge and I look forward to participating in the XII Challenge next year.

Monday, October 10, 2016

R.I.P. - PERIL OF THE SHORT STORY: The Dracula Book of Great Vampire Stories edited by Leslie Shepard

This book counts for both the Peril of the Short Story for R.I.P. XI hosted by the blog Stainless Steel Droppings and for my last read for the category Classic Short Stories for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2016 hosted by the blog Books and Chocolate.

Initially I was going to read some Daphne Du Maurier short stories, but the two collections that I had did not fit the Back to the Classics criteria, since they only had 6 stories each and the rule is the book must contain at least 8 stories.  So I was delighted to happen upon this book at my library; all the stories were originally written and/or published well over 50 years ago and the volume has 13 stories in it (no doubt that “unlucky” number was purposefully chosen). 
I chose this collection primarily because of the opening novella titled Carmilla by Sheridan le Fanu. This is supposed to be the granddaddy (or grandmammy?) of the modern vampire novel, including Dracula.  My reaction to Carmilla is somewhat similar, however, to my reaction to Dracula. I sometimes have trouble with old-timey horror because often it is so obvious to the modern reader just what is going on, it can make the protagonists seem a bit thick when they don’t cop on. But that aside, the bits in Carmilla about the narrator being stalked by a black beast in her dreams were quite scary.
I was also happily surprised to see stories by favored authors M.E. Braddon and E.F. Benson included. Of the 13 tales, I think I liked best “The Transfer" by Algernon Blackwood for sheer originality (the monster wants more than just blood in this one).  Also, just for a consummate expression of paranoia  as well as for originality, “The Horla” by Guy de Maupassant is worth reading. In a more traditional vein (pun intended!), I quite enjoyed “Dracula’s Guest” by Bram Stoker (which per the introduction is a chapter that was cut from the novel for length reasons).  It reminded me of the parts of Dracula that I liked best, such as Jonathan Harker’s first encounter with the count in his castle.  And finally I was pleased to read the entertaining “Mrs. Amworth" by E.F. Benson and the romantic yet chilling, “Good Lady Ducayne" by Mary Elizabeth Braddon.

All in all this is a good collection of a variety of vampire tales from the mid –Victorian period to the Edwardian and a must for any blood-sucking fiction completist.