IN THIS HOUSE OF BREDE by Rumer Godden

House of Brede This book about the life of cloistered nuns was written in 1969.  I never read it, because I was not Catholic, and because, well, it was about nuns, for pity’s sake.   It was quite popular at the time, was on the Times Best Sellers list for something like 5 months,  and was even made into a movie, implausibly starring Diana Rigg.  Never saw the movie.  Like I said, it was about nuns.  And Diana Rigg?  Oh, please.

I stumbled across it recently, and because I had been reading a whole spate of mysteries, wanted a change of topic, and thought I would dip into this book, even though I am still not Catholic,  but maybe because the idea of nuns has become so much less mysterious and separate that I was interested in getting a look at the contemplative nun of the scapula and wimple and long flowing robes of yore.

What an absolutely beautiful book.   There is something of a main character, Philippa, but the full breadth of many of the nuns is explored in compassion and depth.   It is not only about the life of some particular nuns, but the life of the Church as it moves through its ecclesiastical year, its comforting sameness solid and secure.

Mz Godden unobtrusively explains the Rule, the unceasing round of prayer, praise, and work continuing “without sloth or haste” through the hours, days, years and centuries, and what makes it work, and how it affects the inner life of its participants.  We learn about the postulants, novices, Simple Profession and Solemn Profession.

The Council of Vatican II made many significant and far-reaching changes which shook up the residents of Brede, and the nuns had to learn to adapt and change, understanding that their duty and devotion was to God, and everything else was window dressing to that central idea.

Their days in the monastery are not unceasingly dull;  there are stories within stories, and life provides its drama no matter how much we try to hide ourselves away from it.

This is a loving examination, perhaps somewhat idealized, of the lives of contemplatives nuns in the mid 20th century years.  Perhaps it still holds today.

 

 

 

 

HOMESICK by M. M. Justus

homesickA truly delightful story, one of a series, about Yellowstone National Park in the time of World War II, when most of the Park staff were off fighting the war, and there were few visitors because there was no gas for traveling.

Ranger Will McManis is the guy in charge of the Upper Geyser Basin. He and his wife have had the care of their now five-year-old grandson since his birth, due to the death of his mother and his father’s despair.  But after this summer, he will be moving to Denver to live with his father and to go to school.

A beautiful story full of loving details of the countryside, the relationship with the three family members, and a ghost.

Oops!

Didn’t mean to tell you about the ghost.   This is a gentle story with just a smidge of paranormal.  Just a smidge.

Did I ever tell you about the ghost in my house in NJ who would stand at the back door?   Another time, my children.

SKELETON’S KEY by Stacy Green

Skeleton's Key Old antebellum plantation house in Mississippi.  Secret rooms, hidden passages.  And a skeleton in the basement.  Oh, yeah, and some bodies in the basement, too.

Yeah, just your typical day in the Old South, sipping sweet tea, restoring old dilapidated mansions, and hauling out the bodies.   Ho hum.

In this second of the Delta Crossroads series, the first being Tin God, we meet up again with our favorite peeps, and now Cage, the deputy lives in the carriage house of a vacant plantation house, and acts as caretaker and minor handyman for the empty Church-owned property.

Then a young woman from Indiana, after her mother’s death, researches and buys the property.  She is an expert in historical home restoration,  the smallish Ironwood is in her price range, and she figures, new start, new life.   Well, bless her heart, she’s a Yankee for pete’s sake!  An outsider!  Who talks too fast and nobody can understand her.

That skeleton I spoke so lovingly of?  When Deputy Cage and the electrician were in the basement checking the fuse box in preparation for the Damn Yankee’s arrival, they discover gleaming in the funky overhead bulb, a skull.   So natch they call in the authorities, who start a dig, tape up the house as a crime scene, and poor Mz Scarlett Wannabe is forced to make other temporary arrangements, with the help of Deputy Cage.    Mz Scarlett insists on sleeping on the only piece of furniture in the house, a sofa in the parlor, when she hears a noise in the basement. Whoa Nelly!   She carefully eases down to the basement to see……EEEEEK   a raccoon chewing on a ….. oh dear….. a human finger.

Well, this makes it a whole nother kettle of collards.  The authorities come back and find two more bodies down there, wrapped in plastic bags.   Well!  Our boy is starting to look good for offing these unknown former people,  mainly cause the head investigator doesn’t like him.  There is a Cloud Of Suspicion hanging over his head.  No motive, no real evidence, but somebody’s gotta swing for this, right?

Inside the house, the church had locked up a number of rooms hoping to preserve what they could from renters, but the keys have gone missing, and the title is a very clever play on words, because they are all looking for a skeleton key to open all those locked doors, and of course, there are clues connected to that skeleton in the basement, whose bones are thought to be quite old, not at all recent.

Another great mystery, with our familiar  friends starring in the action, and and you just know it is going to get exciting.  Especially if you have read Tin God.   This is a stand alone book, not necessary to have read Tin God, but if you have, it will definitely add to the pleasure.

OK, gotta go to the store.  Now where did I put my keys?

 

 

 

 

TIN GOD by Stacy Green

tin-god-stacy-green Mississippi.  For us Damn Yankees, it’s a mysterious land of plantation houses, seedy trailer parks, ghosts, cheap fireworks, steamboat gambling casinos, and people who talk funny.

But it is really just a place where people are just like the rest of the world, trying to live their lives, survive,struggle,  get ahead.  And talk funny.

This is a page-turner of a saga of some rich people, some religious fanatics, some poor people, and a lot of murders, set in the historic town of Roselea, less than two hours away from the crossroads of Routes 61 and 49, the crossroads where many people believe Robert Johnson sold his soul to the evil in exchange for his blues mastery.

It is the story of a dysfunctional family, with a capital DYS, of how a few poor decisions and desperation can lead to lots more poor decisions and even more desperation, and of how you can’t always fix what’s broke.  Sometimes the damage is irremediable.

It is the story of sin without the mitigating redemption, of mourning, loss and infinite sadness.

The characters who populate this book are people you probably know in real life.   Some are kind,  some are  struggling, some are mean as cat sh*t, some are lost, some are trying to maintain a stability in an unstable world.

It is a complex, deep story, and I am not going to summarize it for you, because I don’t want to give anything away, especially the jaw-dropping ending.  If you really want to know the plot, go to Amazon and read it there.  Just know that if you like mysteries and realistic stories about the people involved in them,  this book is for you.

This novel was runner up for The Kindle Book Review’s 2013 Mystery/Thriller and an Amazon summer bestseller.  It is a compelling read, and I read it in two sittings, staying up way past my bedtime.

And there are two more in the series,  Skeleton’s Key and Ashes and Bone.  Hot damn!

THE INSCRIPTION OF EVIL TIMES by Mike Ricksecker

Inscription  Mr. Ricksecker tells us he is a ‘ghostorian’.   What is that, you may well ask.  He says

A Ghostorian is one who researches and investigates a ghost and the place in which it haunts.

Ok, fair enough.   So this ‘case file’ is a story,  a ghost story of sorts,  told through means of some journal entries of a mysterious Dr. Patrick, some journal entries of a bereaved husband writing in 1867, and the case notes of the Ghostorian himself.

In digging a grave for the deceased wife, the mourners come across a strange tablet, age and provenance unknown, warning of evil times.  It says, in part:

We have fallen upon evil times and the world has waxed very old and wicked.

Since this is a short story, I am not going to tell you anymore of the plot.   You will have to read it for yourself.

Just a side note :  in my Kindle edition, a number of random words throughout the text are in bold .  They seem to make a sentence.   See if you have the same  thing.

Spooky.   Damned spooky.

PAYBACK – Mar Preston

Mar-Preston-PaybackMurder in the mountains.  A small, fairly remote mountain town in California,  a place where you would think the biggest crime wave would be a couple of breakins  at summer cottages, is the scene for this really nifty mystery.

Ok, so let’s see.   We’ve got the Security Patrol for the village, we’ve got  a bunch of villagers, We’ve got a body.  Well, parts of a body.  We’ve got the hands and feet.  And the head.  What more do you want?   Don’t be so picky.  You can’t have everything.

So, it turns out the head belonged to the Mayor of the village, whom nobody liked, so most of them weren’t all that broken up over seeing the Mayor being head over heels, if you will pardon the expression.   Therefore, the list of possible suspects is seriously long, but the perps did a good job.  No clues.  The County Sheriff’s station in Bakersfield, an hour and a half away sends up a couple of detectives to do some detecting.  Fat lot of good THAT did.  Still no clues.

But of course, if you do the scut work, and have some patience, things start to turn up, little by little.  And so they do, even in little Sierra Mountain Village.

Lots of interesting characters, and the story is told from the point of view of the second in command of the Security Patrol, Holly Seabright, an ex-cop who left the Arizona force a number of years before after being shot in a take down, then spending a lot of time in rehab, and finally deciding she wanted a more peaceful life.  Couldn’t get much more peaceful than Sierra Mountain Village.  Well, up until the body parts turn up in the golf club lake —- during a major festival weekend.

The Town Manager is a weasley guy who seems to have married WAY above his station,  the new missus being a hot number who it was later found out was a pole dancer going by the name of Lil Bit.   We are told that his first wife had run off with the Amway rep.   That’s gotta tell you something about how low on the rankings poor Staley was.

Holly’s best friend was another gal on the Security Patrol, Christy,

Christy’s life was bob til you drop.  Way too much coffee, not enough money, schmooze and hustle, make do, improvise, hope you got gas money til the end of the month.

One of the Bakersfield detectives was a nice looking guy with an attitude, and that attitude didn’t think much of hick Security Patrol types, but as in all Utopias,  eventually, he and Holly see there might be possibilities there among the body parts.  (See what I did there?)

Lots of clever writing, such as

A waitress with a low-rent look and six inches of cleavage took their orders.

And

From him gusted the breath of a dog that has just eaten something nasty.

And one last taste:

De Laurier was gay as a bowl of fresh daisies.

And an exciting —- and unexpected ending that will just knock your socks off!   When I was done reading, I had to go searching around the room for my socks.   So I recommend you read this excellent mystery barefoot.

FOREVER DOOMED by MaryAnn Kempher

Forever_Doomed_ebook_amazon_BrighterForever is a cruise ship, albeit a smallish one, carrying usually about 3,000 souls.   (You do know that airplanes and ships carry souls, and not people, right?   Don’t ask me why.  Do I look like Google to you?)    It does a variety of cruises, some only a few days, others much longer.   We come on board with a group of people who are accompanying a young man and woman who plan to get married while on the month-long cruise.  How cool is that!

Jack Harney is a cop in Tampa,  and gets a leave from the force in order to sub on the cruise ship for about two months for  his friend who is head of security for the ship.

OK, all that is simple enough, but now it gets complicated with a cast of a kabillion.  Let’s see, we have Jack, his ex-girlriend Amy and her BFF Katherine.  We have the soon-to-be bride Sophia and her bestie Kimy, (a slimy creature and frankly one that makes you raise your eyebrows as to why they are friends), we have the soon-to-be groom Alex and his brother Scott.   Kimy is Scott’s ex-girlfriend, another eyebrow-raiser,  like eeeuuu, we have Scott’s current girlfriend, who is Katherine.   We have Scott and Alex’s mother who dislike Katherine.  I think I am forgetting someone in that crowd.  Maybe it will come to me.

Now we have the other members of the security force, JoJo and Bobby in particular, a couple of bozos which makes one wonder WTH they employment office was thinking when they hired them,  we have the Captain,  we have the pint-size owner of the ship, Mr. Small (yeah, cute name, right?)  we have a stripper hired for the bachelor party, we have a woman and her acquaintance from work,  we have a couple of funny old ladies, we have Chef Phillipe who is a participant in the bake off contest which will happen during the cruise.  Oh, I didn’t mention the bakery competition?  As if the wedding weren’t enough.

(Are you getting all this?  Want to open up an Excel spreadsheet?  I’ll wait. )

Now the mystery part.  One of the crew disappears.   Blood is found in the kitchen.  The stripper’s cake disappears, the one she is supposed to jump out of.  One of the passengers is found dead on the Lido Deck?  I think it was the Lido Deck.   The owner is about to lose his mind and is desperate for a solution.  They turn the ship around after only two weeks and head back to Florida so the police can take over the investigation.  Jack is trying to find out who dunnit,  when another person falls into the elevator shaft and    eeeuuuu I don’t even want to think about it.

So we have a lot of somewhat high-schooley drama with all those interrelated people and their exes, you know — who doesn’t like who, and who is trying to get into who’s knickers, and who is mad at whom — stuff like that,  which pretty much has nothing to do with the murders, and we have the murders,  and all in all, there is a lot going on.  And you will never guess whodunnit.

But it does keep you turning pages, that’s for sure!