Thursday, April 10, 2014

The blurb:
With her poet’s eye and naturalist’s affinity for wild places, Kathleen Jamie reports from the field in this enthralling collection of fourteen essays whose power derives from the stubborn attention she pays to everything around her. Jamie roams her native Scottish “byways and hills” and sails north to encounter whalebones and icebergs. Interweaving personal history with her scrutiny of landscape, Jamie dissects whatever her gaze falls upon—from vistas of cells beneath a hospital microscope, to orcas rounding a headland, to the aurora borealis lighting up the frozen sea. Written with precision, subtlety, and wry humor, Sightlines urges us to “Keep looking. Keep looking, even when there’s nothing much to see.”

This is my first exposure to Kathleen James and her writing reminded me of Barry Lopez's Arctic Dreams. She's a poet and writes with an economy of words. Descriptions are simple, stark and very effective as she conveys the discomfort, the beauty, and the isolation of her boat trip with other North Americans and Europeans along the fjords of Greenland.

The fourteen essays cover nature broadly and include the visit with a pathologist. Jamie's chapter on medical pathology was fascinating to me as my husband is a pathologist and teaches medical students. I look forward to sharing her perspective with him and his colleagues.

Overall, Sightlines, is an enjoyable read - carefully crafted and beautifully written.

  • ISBN-10: 161519083X - Paperback $14.95
  • Publisher: The Experiment (September 10, 2013), 256 pages. 
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher and the Amazon Prime Reviewers Program.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon

The blurb:
They say behind every great man, there's a woman. In this case, there are three. Stella Crater, the judge's wife, is the picture of propriety draped in long pearls and the latest Chanel. Ritzi, a leggy showgirl with Broadway aspirations, thinks moonlighting in the judge's bed is the quickest way off the chorus line. Maria Simon, the dutiful maid, has the judge to thank for her husband's recent promotion to detective in the NYPD. Meanwhile, Crater is equally indebted to Tammany Hall leaders and the city's most notorious gangster, Owney "The Killer" Madden.

On a sultry summer night, as rumors circulate about the judge's involvement in wide-scale political corruption, the Honorable Joseph Crater steps into a cab and disappears without a trace. Or does he?

After 39 years of necessary duplicity, Stella Crater is finally ready to reveal what she knows. Sliding into a plush leather banquette at Club Abbey, the site of many absinthe-soaked affairs and the judge's favorite watering hole back in the day, Stella orders two whiskeys on the rocks—one for her and one in honor of her missing husband. Stirring the ice cubes in the lowball glass, Stella begins to tell a tale—of greed, lust, and deceit. As the novel unfolds and the women slyly break out of their prescribed roles, it becomes clear that each knows more than she has initially let on.

With a layered intensity and prose as effervescent as the bubbly that flows every night, The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress is a wickedly entertaining historical mystery that will transport readers to a bygone era with tipsy spins through subterranean jazz clubs and backstage dressing rooms. But beneath the Art Deco skyline and amid the intoxicating smell of smoke and whiskey, the question of why Judge Crater disappeared lingers seductively until a twist in the very last pages.

I do enjoy narrative nonfiction and detective mysteries and found The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress right up my alley!

The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress is fiction but largely based upon the mysterious disappearance of justice Joseph Crator in 1930, the heyday of the Jazz Age.  A New York state judge, Joseph Crator had a socialite wife but was known to frequent speakeasies and have ties to the known gangster Owney Madden.  One August night, Joseph Madden leaves the popular speakeasy Club Abbey and disappears without a trace.
The story is told from the point of view of three women whose lives intersect with that of Joseph Crator.  Crator's  socialite wife Stella spends much of her time in their vacation home in Maine and it takes her weeks to report his disappearance.  Crator's mistress Ritzi is a popular Broadway showgirl and one of Owney Madden's proteges.  It's Ritzi's bad luck that she's there the night that Judge Crator disappears.  The Crator's maid, Maria,  is juggling two jobs and struggling to keep her life in order.  It doesn't help that Maria keeps bumping into Ritzi and that Maria's husband is a detective assigned to Joseph Crator disappearance.    Maria must keep deadly secrets - hers and other peoples' - and keep from attracting the attention of powerful and dangerous men.

The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress takes us to society penthouses and popular speakeasies and gives a peek into the glamour and squalor of the1930s Jazz Age.   The novel starts slow but grips you once you get to know Ritzi and Maria.  If you're looking for a fun, historical mystery, The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress won't disappoint!

  • ISBN-10: 038553762X - Hardcover 
  • Publisher: Doubleday (January 28, 2014), 320 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley.

About the Author:
Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress (Doubleday, 2014) is centered around the still-unsolved disappearance of New York State Supreme Court Judge, Joseph Crater. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.