Monday, July 09, 2012

In which I eventually get to the point about Alafair Burke

now finished: Angel's Tip by Alafair Burke
now also reading because Angel's Tip was on my Kindle for PC and I need to have a real book with me: I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After Twenty Years Away by Bill Bryson

Here's my recommendation for you: Alafair Burke. Now, please recommend a mystery author to me.

While it has been said that I refuse to read genre fiction, that is not actually true. I avoid genre fiction, which is quite different. However, of the genres, mystery is obviously the one that I'm most likely to read and/or enjoy, and I do so from time to time. My favorites, the ones who have inspired me to go out and devour their entire oeuvre, have been Sandra Scoppettone and Nelson DeMille. I have enjoyed mysteries from several other authors, too, but there are two main problems with reading mysteries:

1. Buying them when they are brand new really is cost-prohibitive for the amount you would want to read. What I mean is, they go by a lot faster than some "literary fiction" or non-fiction, so if you're going to go spend 30% off of $24.95 on a hardcover, really, which book is more worth it? The one that you'll still be reading in a few weeks, obviously, not the one you can finish on the bus ride home from the bookstore. This is why a.)libraries are awesome and b.)so are used bookstores and book swaps and c.)the Genres (mystery, romance, sci-fi, fantasy, horror) do so well in mass market - they're cheaper that way! This is also why I immediately bought Alafair Burke's 99-cent downloads for Kindle for PC when her publisher offered the limited-time sales, because that's an awesome way to buy mysteries.More should be done, I think, to make the suck-you-in-stay-up-reading genres cheaper when they are new, and then there would be more new book sales, at least to me.

2. It can be intimidating to choose a new mystery author, because unlike, say, my A-to-Z- Literary Blog Project, in which I chose a book from 26 different authors I had not previously read, one for each letter of the alphabet, and I did not feel particularly compelled to read their other books first or all at once (or, in the case of 'O,' any other books of hers at all, ever ever ever) but with a mystery you might be browsing in the bookstore and come across some mystery that looks quite good and you're about to go ahead and get it when you notice that it is "Sammy Sleuth #3" or whatever, and then you decide to start with #1, but the bookstore has the whole series in stock except the first one, and so you make mental note to look for the Sammy Sleuth series next time you are in a bookstore or library, but then the other 900 books on your to-read list get in the way, and life happens, and then you find yourself a decade after deciding to read Sue Grafton's A to Z Kinsey Millhone series (being clearly fond of A-to-Z things) still stuck on 'E'...or was it 'F'?...and really meaning to catch up but you couldn't just buy them all in one fell swoop. Or is that just me?  (But you still have big plans to catch up by the time Sue Grafton's Y comes out, and then you can anticipate and await and maybe even buy Z all brand new hardcover like. With a coupon.) (Although, recall that I have a major problem with people who make the letter X "stand for" something it doesn't stand for, like in a kids' book that doesn't want to do xylophone or x-ray again so it tries "X is for eX-treme" or whatever. No. Just, no. If Sue does that, I retract everything I've ever said in support of her A-to-Z series and I'll stop at K, or wherever I am when that happens.)

Oh yeah, and I also read a few more  mysteries when I worked for Borders and had a.)an employee discount b.)check-out privileges for those new hardcovers c.)advanced reader copies galore. That's when I read one each from Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly, James Lee Burke, and a few others...but even then I would feel, like, really really compelled to read, say, all of the Dave Robicheaux novels in a row, although of course I didn't, and then I felt guilty about that. Christ. This is the problem mysteries present to a devoted but kind of weird, obsessed-with-planning-things-out reader.

ANYWAY. Alafair Burke. (And why yes, they are related, but their books are totally different, so don't be all stupidly reviewing her on Goodreads by saying, "Two stars -- she is  nothing like her father" because that is just dumb. Drew Barrymore is not like Lionel Barrymore, but they entertain in different ways. What is wrong with people?)

So Angel's Tip is the fourth Alafair Burke book I have read, which is not bad! for me! -- although this is her New York-set Ellie Hatcher series and I did leave Samantha Kincaid hanging, note to self, must get back to those --but, see, I had this extra motivation of sort of knowing the author. Careful readers will recall that I first read Alafair Burke during law school because she was my Criminal Procedure professor and as usual during the law school semester I missed reading my book-books so terribly much and then I hit upon the idea that I could justify reading an Alafair Burke thriller as studying for her exam. This was not as much a stretch as you might imagine, because she does drop some procedure in there, thank you very much. 

I had no idea what an Angel's Tip is before reading this book. Turns out  it's a drink. A little too sweet and chocolate-y for my tastes, I think. Reading this book made me super-duper nostalgic for living in New York, and although normally when I contemplate moving back to the U.S. and "settling" somewhere I usually dismiss New York as too a.)expensive b.)full of New Yorkers (specifically, those who say New York is the greatest place in the world without having lived in the rest of the world), this week I just was all like, "Oh, Manhattan! I sure did like living in Brooklyn and being in the city all the time and riding the subway and seeing historical things and the actual Macy's on 34th Street and McCarren Park and Chelsea Piers and Central Park and Roosevelt Island and lots of food and bars and sports and art and whatnot..."

One of my favorite things about Alafair Burke's books is when her characters say snarky things. Alafair likes the clever, incisive snark (to wit: she recognizes Entertainment Weekly as the genius magazine that it is) and she's rather good at snark herself, and I like it when her characters bust it out. She also weaves pop culture references throughout her novels. I have this vision of some literary archaeologist a hundred years from now reading her books and commenting on how they decidedly capture turn of the (21st) century New York, but who was this Zac Efron fellow?

One of my favorite things about this Alafair Burke book in particular is that it makes a little fun of the whole cluuub scene, particularly in the meatpacking district, where people are paying $400 for a bottle of liquor so they can get bottle service and feel special or rich or something. I do recall my minimal experiences with bottle service at the dance club (clearly, I was hosted by other peeps) and I don't think I will drop that kind of money on alcohol even when I have it one day. I have never been fond of standing in line to get into a club or bar, and I liked that this book revolved around that scene, which is fun to mock a little bit . I was also exceedingly happy to find in this book a petulant law student, a hideously unethical lawyer, and a philosophical conversation about whether one should go to law school.

I'm not going to say much more about the plot. I half believe that mysteries shouldn't even have anything on the back cover besides blurbs and an author bio. I don't want to know anything about a mystery before I start reading it. (This may be another slight problem in my whole finding-mysteries-to-read thing.)  But I will say that I do recommend Angel's Tip and it totally sucked me in. I was reading it on Kindle for PC, having downloaded it all cheaply, but I don't take my laptop everywhere so I had to go away from it a lot and I would be itching to get back to it and find out what happened next. Oh, and also?! I actually had a suspicion of whodunnit, and this absolutely never ever ever happens for me, so that is weird. Finally, I must tell you that I enjoyed Angel's Tip more than the first book in the Ellie Hatcher series (Dead Connection) but of course I can't recommend that you start with Ellie Hatcher #2, so... yeah. You'll just have to read them both. If you are capable of plunging in with #2 in the series, you are a better different reader than I!

And now that I have recommended Alafair Burke to you, bring it! Who is the mystery/thriller author that I should be reading? Remember, I love Sandra Scoppettone and Nelson DeMille, I enjoyed Tell No One as much as the next bookseller, I really dig the interviews I've read/heard with Sara Paretsky and Karin Slaughter although I've never got around to reading their stuff, and I freakin' hated Men Who Hate Women, or, as you know it, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Final Grade for Angel's Tip: B


jnap said...

Susan Wittig Albert-herb mysteries set in the Texas Hill Country

Tasha Alexander-set in old England, an early woman's lib, not identified as such

Nevada Barr-National Park Ranger mysteries

Deborah Crombe-Texan writing about England

Georgette Heyer-noted romance author who wrote some fine mysteries

Miriam Grace Monfredo-set right before the Civil War in the Seneca Falls NY area, includes historical stuff about abolition and suffragettes

Sara Paretsky-set in Chicago

Stephanie Pintoff-set around NYC about the end of 1800 early 1900

Kathy Reichs-author on which BONES TV show is based, not limited to Montreal or Charlotte NC

Allison Dersch said...

Patricia Highsmith. Totally underrated and brilliant.

Daniel said...

If you're interested in older stuff, try Jacques Futrelle and his stories about Augustus VanDusen,"The Thinking Machine" ("The Problem of Cell 13" is a classic piece of deduction)
On the odd side, Ernest Bramah has a series of novels & stories about Max Carrados, a blind detective. At the time, they rivaled Sherlock Holmes in popularity.