Anne Horrigan Geary: Experiencing joys of binge reading

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By Anne Horrigan Geary

DALTON
— Santa was one fine dude this year. I got what I wanted for Christmas: books, and books, and more books. I even received a book club membership - to buy more books. Yay!!!

In January, the real fun begins. Binge reading. Choosing is the hard part; it's like picking your favorite from a box of assorted chocolates. Sure there are some old favorite authors, some highly recommended ones, and the random never-heard-of types. That's because I have several people choosing for me. Some read my wish list, some read lists of new books, and some must go into the mystery section of a bookstore and look at covers (I do that too). The items which inhabit the slightly tilting bookstacks are many and varied. This is what I've read so far.0

"A Great Reckoning" by Louise Penny, featuring Armand Gamache. I had been waiting to read this one since its release in October, so it was easily at the top of the pile. I have been following the adventures of the Quebec policeman through his previous 11 crimes, so I was ready to travel north again. Knowing a little bit about educational institutions, I was most intrigued to see what happened when Armand became the head of the police academy in Quebec. It took only a couple of chapters for a murder to occur within the academy, and Gamache returned to his familiar crime-solving role (including being a suspect).

Louise Penny is an excellent writer, so it was a joy to follow her lead through the plot to the surprising conclusion. I polished that one off in a single day.

Now, for something completely different, I chose "Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness". It was written by David Casarett, a physician by trade, and set in a small city in Thailand. The protagonist, Ladarat Patalung, is an ethicist at a small hospital in northern Thailand. When a dead body arrives at the emergency room, and the local detective asks for her help, she jumps right into the detecting business. After the mystery is solved, she names herself "the first nurse detective in the history of Thailand."

I expect a sequel soon. It was a fun read, learning about a new culture (and especially the food), which I also polished off in one day.

I went back to the familiar for my third day, back to America, back to Cambridge in fact. Patricia Cornwell has been spinning tales of Kay Scarpetta - formidable forensic scientist - for many years. From her early days in Richmond, Virginia to Washington, DC, and now to New England, I have been a loyal fan of the series with well-drawn characters and tightly-woven, wildly-spiraling plots. I imagine that Patricia Cornwell was born with a silver pen in her mouth, and I admire her well-honed skills.

I admit I skip over the gory autopsy pages, but I am always intrigued by the stories. I like strong female characters and Kay Scarpetta fills the bill. Yes, I read the whole thing in one day. I was on a roll.

Day four brought another admired author to the top of the stack. Laura Lippman usually sets her crime novels in some of Baltimore's grittier neighborhoods, but this time she moves to more upscale haunts. She takes along her usual cast of friends and family, but this time she juggles child care with crime investigation. I like it when authors let their characters grow and develop. I'm betting the scenes with the adorable toddler come right out of Laura's own home; the tantrums are all too real!

The plot was an unsettling one about a woman found not guilty by reason of insanity for the death of her infant, and her life ten years after the acquittal. Again, the excellent writing and plotting kept me paging away through the night.

Life is better than a box of chocolates. I will be gorging on fabulous fiction long after the candy is gone.

Anne Horrigan Geary is a regular Eagle contributor.


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