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Admittedly "Mysteries That Saved My Sanity" is a rather lofty title; and I am certain many, including my teenaged sons, feel strongly that my sanity has not been saved. And, 2022 has been an extremely challenging year for me thus far. As Queen Elizabeth might say, it has been an "annus horribilis" (hers was 1992 - maybe there is something to beware of in years ending in two); I'm weary and wary and we haven't even gotten half way through it. There have been personal and family health scares, adjusting to kids growing up and out of the house, moving parents into memory care facilities (huge thank you to my sister Kathleen), as well as an unexpected (but definitely not conscious) uncoupling. And then there's what is happening in the Ukraine, with our national politics, with gas prices, the global economy, our climate, in our neighborhoods plagued by gun violence, in our mental health challenged post covid lockdowns existence, and with families who have lost loved ones to covid/cancer/insert tragedy here. I completely recognize those much larger tragedies out there and truly mourn for all that is happening to everyone of late; I also remain truly grateful for all I still have. And yet, as my friend, the author KJ Dell'Antonia - look for her latest book, In Her Boots on July 5th - has commented, I appear to be living under very, very, messy and misaligned stars.
As I navigate my new normal in terms of health, kids, and personal relationships, my attention span has contracted. My ability to dive into intricate novels is nonexistent (big sigh). Luckily, mysteries have saved me. Perhaps it is their ability to have a beginning, a middle, and a satisfying conclusion. Perhaps it is because my lovely friends who are trying to help me cope with the above list of 2022 challenges keep giving me great mysteries to devour. Perhaps it is that they are just plain fun. Whatever the reason, I'd like to share the mysteries that have saved my sanity these past six months (again my kids probably would dispute this assessment), in the hopes they may help others who are struggling with their own demons as we pull out of pandemic lockdowns and masking mandates; and with the knowledge they may entertain the rest of you who are thankfully finding 2022 just delightful. ~ Lisa Christie
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (2020). I avoided this book for years because too many people raved about it. I just assumed there was no way it could be as good as people stated. Luckily a good friend (thank you Deb) dropped it off for me when my long awaited trip to London was aborted due to the inconvenient fact I contracted covid just two days before departure. I couldn't read it then as my disappointment and symptoms made concentrating difficult, However another severe personal set back recently had me reeling and this book saved my sanity for the moment (as stated above it has been a very challenging 2022). Anyway, this book and its foursome of retired folks, living in what must be the best retirement village ever, charmed the socks right off me. The Thursday Murder Club of the title started as a group working old murder cases culled from the files of club founder and former police officer Penny, who's currently comatose. The four remaining members include Elizabeth holder of an unspecified job (MI6?); Joyce, a former nurse; retired psychiatrist Ibrahim, and former politician Ron. When the cold cases are replaced by a double murder right outside their village, the club springs into action, charming two local police officers into assisting them - or at least into appreciating their meddlesome ways. Mr. Osman is an English television personality and comedian and knows how to craft a tale that pulls you in and keeps you there for the duration. Enjoy this from any lounge chair you happen to find yourself in this summer. You will not regret it. In a fun coincidence, Lisa Cadow also read and enjoyed this during a very dreary late March/early April in New England.
The Drowning Sea: a Maggie D'Arcy Mystery by Sarah Stewart Taylor (out June 21, 2022 - preorder now). Luckily for mystery fans, Maggie D'Arcy is back - this time, unemployed and in Ireland to figure out whether her renewed romance with a beau from decades earlier can withstand close contact, trying to help her daughter Lilly deal with the trauma of Lilly's father's recent death, and trying to figure out what is next for her own career. Happily for readers, she's in West Cork as she ponders all these items. It's gorgeous, and a vacation, and life is good until a body or two washes ashore. The development of an old manor home, migrant laborers from the European mainland, and old versus new money clashes seem to be at the center of the deaths and some other things Maggie can't resist investigating. Think of this novel as a chance to spend quality time in an amazing Irish village with characters you'd love to have as neighbors (or who at least would make your life more interesting). This is a perfect book for a comfy chair and some tea, or a porch, or a beach, or a plane, or to keep you company while waiting for an appointment, or when needing some travel inspiration or ... Thank you Sarah for being an amazingly steadfast friend, as well as a talented author.
The Murder of Mr. Wickham by Claudia Gray (2022). KJ (see above) reviewed this in one of her newsletters and graciously agreed to pass it along to me when I asked her to share. If KJ's review hadn't enticed me, the back cover's description of Jane Austen meets Agatha Christie would have. This was just perfect (although I still have about 100 pages to complete, I'm assuming they will hold up). This novel features a house party, many of Jane Austen's characters, a murdered Mr. Wickham (relax, it's in the title so I didn't spoil anything), and plenty of suspects. Claudia Gray is the pseudonym of YA author Amy Vincent; based on this I may have to pick up her other works.
The Missing Piece: Dismas Hardy #19 by John Lescroart (2022). The 19th book in this series does not disappoint. I read these as much for the opportunity to live in San Francisco again as I do for the time spent with the fabulous characters Mr. Lescroart has created -- Dismas Hardy, lawyer with a heart of gold and a complicated past, former SF head of homicide Abe Glitsky, Hardy's law partner Wes Farrell, and their respective romantic partners. In this one, the aging protagonists are a bit more cynical and questioning of their career choices as they face a case from their past lives and as questions of guilt, innocence, and appropriate punishment abound. Recommended for anyone who has ever loved San Francisco; you can buy it just for the tour. I must thank the aforementioned estranged husband for putting this on our "for the moment still joint" ebook account.
Run Rose Run by Dolly Parton & James Patterson (2022). Yes I normally avoid books by celebrities; no idea why. I just do. But, this was Dolly. So, I read this during my bout with covid. It was perfect; it entertained and had a lot of Dolly thrown in. And it got me out of my doldrums. The plot is simple - Rose is running towards a future as a country music star. With the help from a glittery established star with fake lashes nails and hair (sound familiar?) she just might make it before her complicated past catches up to her. The book reads like the movie it will inevitably become. Until it hits a big screen, read as an escape - nothing more and nothing less. In doing so, learn a bit about how music is made in Nashville, especially the important role studio musicians play - the ones who will never be big stars but whose skills are essential to the success of every star in town. Huge thank you Jane who dropped this off for me as I was indulging in a wallop of self-pity to not be London bound.
The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley (2022). Jess is broke and broken and needs a new chance at life. She turns to her half brother Ben who didn't really say yes to her suggestion she crash with him for a bit, but he didn't say no. She arrives at his stellar Paris apartment from England only to find him missing. His neighbors are by turn helpful and suspects. Each day brings less clarity about what happened to Ben and what Jess needs to do with her life. Enjoy the eccentric characters in this building, the time in Paris, and the unexpected aspects of the plot. As The Library Journal said in their review, "Another well-paced, suspenseful locked-room mystery with shifting points of view.” Thank you Jen for having a trip to Paris so I had an excuse to read this and then pass it along to you to enjoy while strolling France with your son.
The Maid: A Novel by Nita Prose (2022). I just downloaded this from our beloved Norwich Public Library's Libby site as an audiobook. I can not wait to immerse myself in it as I walk the dog, clean the house, and purge a ton of unwanted baggage. While I can not yet recommend this as I have not yet read it; I trust the booksellers who do love it. I can also recommend you explore your local library's free audiobook resources if you have not yet already; I think you will be pleased with what you find. Thank you Lucinda and Lisa and ... for running such a great resource for those of us here in Norwich.