One-Minute Book Reviews

April 29, 2008

Why Do We Like to Read Mysteries? (Quote of the Day / David Lodge)

Filed under: Mysteries and Thrillers,Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:24 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Why do mysteries and thrillers so often seem to dominate the bestseller lists? Why have writers as different as Agatha Christie and John Grisham both ranked among the most popular of their eras? Here’s an answer from the novelist and critic David Lodge in The Art of Fiction (Viking, 1993), an excellent collection of 50 brief essays for serious readers on how the different aspects of fiction (such as irony, point of view and coincidence) relate to the whole:

“A solved mystery is ultimately reassuring to readers, asserting the triumph of reason over instinct, of order over anarchy, whether in the tales of Sherlock Holmes or in the case histories of Sigmund Freud, which bear such a striking and suspicious resemblance to them. That is why mystery is an invariable ingredient of popular narrative, whatever its form – prose fiction or movies or television soaps. Modern literary novelists, in contrast, wary of neat solutions and happy endings, have tended to invest their mysteries with an aura of ambiguity or leave them unsolved.”

Comment by Jan:
Some critics have described the appeal of mysteries in starker terms. While Lodge argues that they assert “the triumph of reason over instinct” and “order over anarchy,” others say that they are at heart morality tales – they represent the triumph of good over evil.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

April 28, 2008

Jacqueline Winspear’s Latest Maisie Dobbs Mystery, ‘An Incomplete Revenge,’ Coming This Week

Filed under: Historical Novels,Mysteries and Thrillers — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:14 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Few suspense novelists have won more praise recently than Jaqueline Winspear has earned for her historical mysteries about Maisie Dobbs, a World War I nurse-turned-private investigator in London. Winspear has won Alex, Agatha and Macavity Awards for books in the series, which began with Maisie Dobbs and continues with the just-published fifth installment, An Incomplete Revenge. Should you consider giving one of them as a Mother’s Day gift to someone who loves mysteries or historical novels? Check back later this week for a review. Click here to read or listen to an excerpt or find a reading group guide

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

October 10, 2007

Ann Rule on Edna Buchanan’s Memorable Collection of True-Crime Stories, ‘The Corpse Had a Familiar Face’

Filed under: Memoirs,Nonfiction — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:33 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

My favorite series of short reviews is the “Five Best” column that appears weekly in the weekend edition of Wall Street Journal. Each Saturday a different well-known writer gives a one-paragraph review of some of the best books in his or her specialty.

A recent example: In the issue dated May 19-20, 2007, the true-crime writer Ann Rule chose the books on murder that she most enjoys. One of them, Edna Buchanan’s The Corpse Had a Familiar Face (Random House, 1987), is also among my favorites the category. Rule said in part:

“Pulitzer Prize-winner Edna Buchanan spent 15 years as crime reporter for the Miami Herald after going to work for the paper in 1970; this is an intriguing memoir of her days and nights at crime scenes trying to unravel the truth. Along the way she memorably evokes the witnesses, families and cops that she encounters. Some of the crimes are comic — a jilted octogenarian tosses a Molotov cocktail into his girlfriend’s house but is nabbed by police after she recognizes the label on the container he used: his favorite brand of prune juice. Other crimes are horrific and will haunt you for weeks.”

Most true-crime books focus on a single case, and The Corpse Had a Familiar Face is unusual partly for the range of macabre events that it covers. And Buchanan was one of the first — and is still one of the best-known — women to earn a national reputation for her work on the historically macho police beat on newspapers. She now writes mysteries. But her most famous line remains her lead for a story about a man shot to death while waiting in line at a fast-food place: “He died hungry.”

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

« Previous Page

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: