Hello, everyone! Happy Thanksgiving Weekend to my American readers, and a Happy Regular Weekend to everyone else. Despite a tremendous amount of homework, job applications, and my actual job, I actually managed to read 4 books this month, which is more “for fun” reading than I’ve accomplished in months. I went a little off the deep end with my murder mystery obsession, which is why you’ll find 3 crime thrillers on this list, as well as some Victorian lit to spice things up. I hope you find something on here to add to your December reading list. Without further ado let’s tuck in!
Look For Me by Lisa Gardner
Quick Synopsis: When a seemingly perfect family is found shot dead in their homes, and their teenage daughter Roxy is missing, Boston detective D.D Warren knows that she might be in over her head. But when Flora Dane, once an infamous missing person herself, tells D.D that Roxy tried to join her survival skills chatroom, D.D realizes that Roxy is no ordinary missing teen. As D.D and Flora investigate further, they discover that behind every perfect family, there are a million secrets waiting to be found.
My take: I was hooked from the first page. Gardner’s style is brisk, down-to-earth, and suspenseful. Her pacing is superb. Even though the book is more than 400 pages, I never once felt bored or disconnected. Gardner cleverly switches between D.D’s, Flora’s and Roxy’s perspectives to leave the reader guessing, sprinkling enough clues for some amateur sleuthing while not revealing the plot until the very end. In terms of the actual mystery, I thought the story was interesting and depressing, as well as illuminating some horrible aspects about the Boston foster care system. The characters were well developed and even though D.D Warren is a rather stereotypical police detective, Flora and Roxy’s characters were both new to me. She let them be capable and independent without erasing their traumatic experiences.
To read or not to read? Definitely read. It’s a page-turner!
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Quick Synopsis: A tale for the ages. Man paints a portrait of a handsome youth. The handsome youth sells his soul to stay as beautiful as his portrait. The portrait stays beautiful, and the youth descends into a life of sin and depravity. A classic fable about the dangers of valuing outer beauty over moral character, and of course, lots and lots of gay subtext.
My take: I read this novel for my Victorian Literature class and loved every page of it. Of course Wilde’s witty and beautifully descriptive prose is one of the novel’s main draws, but the real interest lies in the anguished and possibly homophobic depiction (internalized or not, depending on your interpretation) of a group of gay men who must repress their sexuality, resulting in dramatic consequences for each. Is the novel really just about the danger of aestheticism? Or is it about the dangers of repressing one’s true self? As Wilde himself said, “all art is quite useless.” But supposedly, he said that in reaction to the people who criticized his book.
To read or not to read? Of course. But who am I to tell you anything?
Love You More by Lisa Gardner
Quick Synopsis: When Detective D.D Warren is called to investigate the murder of a state trooper’s husband, it seems like a classic case of self-defense. But with the state trooper’s daughter missing, and the trooper’s statements starting to unravel, D.D realizes that her own police force might have betrayed her.
My take: Yes, two Lisa Gardner books in one month, but I’m not sorry! I liked this novel more than Look For Me because of its many layers. Just when things start to make sense, Gardner peels away another web of secrets, making the reader constantly re-evaluate how they feel about each of the characters. Like I said before, D.D isn’t a very original detective, but Gardner does her best work when she writes the supporting characters. State Trooper Tessa Leoni, the main suspect of the novel, is the best type of unreliable narrator, and her backstory was tragic, yet fascinating to read. I don’t know if I would call the events that take place in this novel realistic, or even probable, but they kept my interest and I thought the book had a satisfying conclusion. Gardner is one of those reliable writers who never makes you feel like you’ve wasted your time. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of her work.
To read or not to read? Yep yep yep.
Watching You by Lisa Jewell
Quick synopsis: Set in the idyllic Bristol neighborhood of Melville Heights, Watching You tells the story of a murder through the eyes of half-a-dozen residents.
My take: So, Lisa Jewell. I adored this novel. It’s so tightly wound that at the end all of the pieces fall into place like dominoes. Split into incredibly short chapters (like 3 pages max), the novel reads like a brisk episode of television. There’s no fat on this book, which I always appreciate in a murder mystery. The identity of the murdered person is kept under wraps until the very last pages, so each chapter intensifies the feeling of “whodunnit,” as well as the question about who will be killed. The plot was voyeuristic and kind of nasty, in that special Lisa Jewell way. I wrote about her other novel Then She Was Gone in another one of my monthly reads posts and even then I was surprised at her taste for brutality. Even though her plots are not as gory as say, a Jo Nesbo murder mystery, they’re violent in a very intimate and personal way that seems much worse. Additionally, her focus on female-on-female violence is pretty unique to the genre. She explores the worst parts of female psychology and doesn’t shy away from depicting brutal female violence. It’s refreshing, but also incredibly disturbing. I always think I know what I’m getting with her books, and then the last few pages cut like a knife. This novel especially ended on a shocking revelation.
To read or not to read? This novel’s genius really creeps up on you. I highly recommend it.