This weekend is the psychological, if not literal, beginning of summer. For the passionate reader, this means that it’s time to plan and dream about all the leisure hours available to be filled with books. As an obsessive list maker, I have already created a catalog for myself, catching up with series I’ve fallen behind on and looking forward to the authors I’ve been meaning to read. The idea of leisure hours to read is more a dream than reality in the bookselling world; summer is the busiest season (except for a few weeks in December) as we try to keep other avid readers supplied. But hope springs eternal in a bibliophile’s heart, so here are some thoughts on what I plan, and some suggestions if you’re looking for them.
There are a few authors I regard as special treats. What this really means is that I don’t start reading any of their books until I know I can ignore some chores without too great a penalty, because I won’t be able to put the book down. There is always a Lee Child, John Sandford or Michael Connelly book on my desk, waiting as a reward to myself when some particularly onerous task (think tax filings or closet cleaning) is completed. I am actually caught up with Reacher, so I will have to wait until the weekend that psychologically ends the summer for the next one. But I have Michael Connelly’s Black Box and Gods of Guilt waiting for me, and I am three behind on John Sandford’s “Prey” series, so there are plenty of rewards available; I just need to do the chores.
I have recently added another author to this group of “can’t put it down” authors. John Verdon creates complex puzzles that has the reader guessing along with the detective and writes in a style that keeps the pages turning. Some chores did get neglected this past week as I read his first Dave Gurney novel, Think of a Number, and I already have copies of Shut Your Eyes Tight and Let the Devil Sleep at the top of the “to be read” pile. His fourth novel featuring Dave Gurney, a retired New York City homicide detective who has retired to the Catskills but finds he can’t give up matching wits with murderers, is due out July 1 (Peter Pan Must Die). For anyone who hasn’t read John Verdon and is looking for an engrossing read this summer, I highly recommend him.
I read Robert Galbraith’s (aka J. K. Rowling) The Cuckoo’s Calling recently, and am looking forward to the next entry in the series, The Silkworm, which will be out next month. Her Afghan War veteran private detective, Comoran Strike, living in London and struggling with personal issues (including a prosthetic leg) follows his instincts even when the authorities are convinced he’s on the wrong track. His huge, tough exterior belies his perception of the motives and mendacity of the suspects. Having read the Harry Potter series and A Casual Vacancy, which is a “straight” novel about the power struggles and politics of a small English village, all I can say is, this woman can tell a story, no matter what the genre. Try the “Galbraith” books for a great summer read.
It wouldn’t be summer reading time for me without the Scandinavians, and I am particularly hoping to catch up on Jussi Adler-Olsen’s novels featuring Carl Morck, who has been relegated to Department Q in the Copenhagen police department to solve cold cases. Like the typical Scandinavian detective, he is divorced, difficult to get along with, and carrying a burden of guilt. He is also funny and accompanied by quirky assistants whose insights are often the key to the mystery. If you’re looking for something a little different this summer, Adler-Olsen is worth your time.
For those who prefer domestic suspense over murder investigations, I suggest Carla Buckley (The Deepest Secret) and Jenny Milchman (Cover of Snow, winner of the Mary Higgins Clark Award, and Ruin Falls), all three of which I have discussed in earlier posts. For a little World War II spy action from a woman’s point of view, try Susan Elia MacNeal’s series featuring Maggie Hope, British born but American bred, using her mathematical talents in His Majesty’s service. The first is Mr. Churchill’s Secretary. There seem to be a few too many convenient coincidences in the plots, but the background details about London in wartime and the machinations of the government are fascinating.
Of course, here in New Jersey, summer wouldn’t be summer without the shore. If you’re not able to actually get to the beach, you can still spend some time in Jersey shore towns with books. Chris Grabenstein’s John Ceepak novels, all named after boardwalk amusements, (Tilt-a-Whirl, Fun House, Free Fall, and more) involve the difficulties of keeping the peace in a town full of summer vacationers. And divorced single mom Alison Kerby struggles to make her shore-town guesthouse a success while solving crimes with the help of a couple of resident ghosts in E. J. Copperman’s Haunted Guesthouse series.
I wish everyone a safe and relaxing summer, full of fun and good books. And don’t forget, if you’re having trouble getting books published by Hachette Group ( Grand Central, Little Brown, and others) because they are being punished by one retailer, your local independent bookstore has stocked up on these titles, or can quickly order them, providing prompt and friendly service. We care about our customers!