Our dear Kelly, great with child, recently did some time at the Greenwood Hospital to stop pre-term labor. She and her doctor — a good customer and reader of politics, Dr. Edwin Meek — have managed to keep the baby in utero for a few more weeks while it bakes to perfection. In spite of the bad drugs and uncomfortable hospital bed, Kelly managed to squeeze in quite a bit of reading.
On recommendation from other customers and publisher reps, she read Tana French's first novel, In the Woods, a crafty and thoughtful psychological thriller set in the Irish countryside. A local detective investigates the murder of a young girl, found in the same woods where he once played as a boy and where he experienced trauma of his own. Kelly found this to be smart and surprising, a refreshing departure from your standard police procedural.
She liked French's work so much that she went straight into her follow-up, The Likeness, which follows the partner of the detective from the first novel. Kelly liked this one even better and said it reminded her a bit of The Secret History. "She's just a good storyteller, and she's a good writer, so you don't get the cheesy formula and ridiculous language."
Next she plowed right through an advanced readers copy of A Reliable Wife, the debut novel by Robert Goolrick, due in March from Algonquin Books. It's set in snowy rural Wisconsin, circa early 1900s, and concerns a businessman who solicits a wife through a newspaper ad. The mounting tension and complex motivations behind the characters make a fine story with several clever twists that kept Kelly surprised and entertained until the end. "At first I thought it was just a trashy romance, but then you realize the story is masterfully constructed," she said. "You get the guilty pleasure and the literary depth all in one."
Finally, it took only a day to read John Grisham's latest, The Associate, which she found to be a complete delight. "It was vintage Grisham," she said, "like reading The Firm when you had no expectations." An appealing main character, a solid plot, a brisk and exciting story with no dead spots. How can you go wrong? She found it to be perfect escapism in between blood pressure checks and medicine drops. (And it's the book the nurses most desired.) Hopefully she'll be on her feet when Grisham arrives to sign our copies, which we'll be happy to reserve for you.
Kelly's resting uncomfortably at home now. Both mother and unborn child are healthy but eager to get out. She reaches full term later this week, but an early Valentine is still not out of the question. Until then, we'll keep pressing her for book reviews.