Thursday, August 28, 2008

Night Reading by guest blogger Steven Head

I like to read in bed before going to sleep. I find reading takes my mind off those events of the day that linger in my consciousness and keep me from rest. And I especially like reading a short story. Beginning, middle, end. Good night.
“Bonfire of the Vanities” was without doubt my worst bedtime read. It took forever and I kept thinking how self-indulgent it was. I still read regular length novels before bed, but I prefer short stories.
Laura Lippman’s new book, “Hardly Knew Her” (HKH) was both a treat to read and the discovery of a marvelous author. There is something you need to know up front. Laura’s fiction is in the mystery genre and most of the stories have at least one dead body. In the “Girls Gone Wild” section the protagonist is often the one doing the killing. And getting away with it. The first couple stories of this collection reminded me of the old Alfred Hitchcock television show where things go along very normally until the end when the tale takes a very hard right down a dark alley of impulsive acts, mayhem, and twisted justice.
Up until HKH everything I knew about Baltimore was provided either by John Waters or the HBO series, ‘The Wire”. The bulk of the HKH stories involved this Maryland city where Laura was a reporter for the Baltimore Sun. Some of her characters would be right at home in a Waters production. And others talk and behave like the bad actors from “The Wire”. I’m still not sure I know what Baltimore is like but it reads a lot more interesting than where I live.
Detective Tess Monaghan is a known quantity for those familiar with Laura Lippman,. HKH includes two Tess stories and a mock newspaper write-up on Ms. Monaghan. These are stories fans of Tess should find satisfying.
For the most part I’m not a fan of female detectives and mystery writers. I’ve hopped around the alphabet with Sue Grafton, traveled to the Wind River Reservation a hand full of times with Margaret Coel, and dabbled with other women mystery authors. I find male mystery authors and detectives more satisfying. And my next mystery is going to be a Tess Monaghan novel.
If you’re looking to take a good book to bed, think about approaching “Hardly Knew Her”. You won’t regret it in the morning.

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