Thereby Hangs a Tail, Spencer Quinn
Chet and Bernie (a canine-human PI pair) handle a missing-persons case with a twist: the real target, also missing, is Princess, a tiny but famous show dog. Tracking down Princess and her owner proves complicated, especially when Bernie’s girlfriend, Suzie, also disappears. Chet makes a few discoveries on his own, but he can’t share them in words, and it takes a few more days (and Bernie’s interviewing skills) to put the pieces together. Just as fun as Dog On It, with lots of sharp observations and canine asides from Chet.
Shall We Play That One Together? The Life and Art of Jazz Piano Legend Marian McPartland, Paul de Barros
Born in England and trained as a classical pianist, Marian McPartland became one of the top jazz pianists in the U.S. Paul de Barros tells her story, from her childhood to her experiences playing with the USO during World War II (where she met her husband, cornetist Jimmy McPartland) to the decades she spent in the States, playing, touring and composing. Thorough and fascinating (though the names of jazz pieces and players are dizzying, at times). Recommended for fans of jazz, meaty biographies and American pop music. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 16).
To Fetch a Thief, Spencer Quinn
Chet and Bernie’s third case involves a missing circus elephant and her trainer, with an interesting subplot concerning a divorce case. Quinn ratchets up the action in this book, taking our heroes south of the border in pursuit of animal traffickers. Chet’s perspective on the various circus folk is highly entertaining, as are his interactions with Peanut. Even better than the first two books.
The Christmas Plains, Joseph Bottum
Bottum recalls his childhood Christmases in the Midwest, mixing in carols, Charles Dickens, musings on holiday commercialism and traditions, and stories from other times in his life. He rambles at times, but also hits on a few profound truths about this much-loved, much-maligned holiday. (It felt odd to read this in August, but I was reading for Shelf Awareness; the book is out Oct. 23.)
The Dog Who Knew Too Much, Spencer Quinn
Chet and Bernie return for a fourth case, tracking down a boy missing from a wilderness camp. When someone else from the camp turns up dead and Bernie gets arrested for murder, it’s up to Chet to bring in reinforcements (even if that means a few long nights on the road) and crack the case. Suspenseful, well plotted, funny and satisfying – these books get better and better.
Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books, Maureen Corrigan
Corrigan, the book critic for NPR’s Fresh Air, explores the joys of a reading life, focusing on three genres and how they’ve shaped her own perspective: female extreme adventure stories (a genre she names and explains), detective fiction, and Catholic memoirs/fiction. I love books about books, and I enjoyed her smart musings and vivid anecdotes. (Also: her tales of graduate school convinced me anew that I am not meant to get a Ph.D.) Good fun if you’re a reader.
A Dance with Jane Austen: How a Novelist and her Characters Went to the Ball, Susannah Fullerton
Fullerton explains dance in Jane Austen’s day, from etiquette to menus to dress, accompanied by lovely period illustrations. She also discusses dancing and balls in each of Austen’s novels, exploring how they move the action forward and what they tell us about the characters. (She draws rather heavily on the unfinished The Watsons, but Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Mansfield Park get plenty of play.) Fun and informative; a good bet for Austen fans. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 16).
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