Monday, June 27, 2011

A Taste For Summer Mysteries

Well it's now Monday and I only have two days left of my vacation.  I'm sure, knowing myself as well as I do, I may end up doing some housework today.  I will probably be cleaning the kitchen and maybe even my bedroom.  Hopefully I will have bought the 4th bookcase I need to get and I'll be rearranging my books. It's amazing how quickly books end up taking up so much room.  Luckily for me, one thing I won't be doing is posting a blog post.  Today, I'm pleased to say that the lovely Tasha at Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books has agreed to do that for me.  If ever I want to read a review on a book that isn't something everybody else is reading, Tasha is one of the bloggers I look towards.  I can't even tell you how many books she has added to my TBR pile.  Today she did it again.  She will be discussing a book by an author I've read, but never this one.  I hope after reading this post, you will be adding it as well.

For me, there's something about summer that makes me want to read mysteries.  I wouldn't call myself a mystery fan, but when I was younger (i.e., elementary and middle school) that was all I read.  I even wrote and illustrated my own mysteries, like "The Body Buried on Boot Hill."

The summer between fifth and sixth grad was big for me.  I'd always spent summers reading, but that was the summer where I was like, "OMG, books are my LIFE."  Except I didn't use OMG because that totally wasn't in the vernacular back then.  Anyway, I read two books that became my straight-up favorite books ever:  The Vampire Diaries by LJ Smith and Night Train to Memphis by Barbara Michaels (a.k.a. as Elizabeth Peters.)

Night Train to Memphis is about an art historian (hmmmm...) named Vicky Bliss.  It's actually the fifth in a series of mysteries about Vicky, but it's the one I read first.  Vicky is asked by the German police and Interpol to go on a luxury archaeology cruise up the Nile as a lecturer--despite the fact that she's a medieval art historian and doesn't know anything about Egyptian art.  Vicky knows there can be only on explanation for this:  her sometimes-boyfriend and professional are thief, Sir John Smythe, is going to be on that cruise, and they want her to identify him before he steals something.  Vicky hasn't heard form John in a while and is worried about his, so she agrees--though with no intention of cooperating with authorities until she figures out what John is up to.

Vicky sees John on the cruise, just as she expects to; but what she doesn't expect is to be introduced to his mother... and his wife.

Michaels had me from that point on.  Even today, reading the book, I'm all like, "Whaaaaaat?  He's married??"  What's John up to?  What is hi in Egypt to steal?  And did he ever really love Vicky?

During the year after I first read Night Train to Memphis, I reread it at least 4 times.  It might have been as many as eleven.  I began rereading it as soon as I finished it.  I LOVE it--I love how it transports you to Egypt and how nothing as as it seems.  I also love the Agatha Christie-ish feel of solving a mystery on a luxury cruise.  It's by far my favorite book in the Vicky Bliss series.

Here's the thing about the book though:  It doesn't work if you've already read the series.  If you have read the other books, then John's actions and motivations don't seem so mysterious, and it's easy to be impatient with Vicky, who thinks she's pretty smart but who can't figure out what's so obvious to the reader.  It took me about five rereads before I was like, "Hey!  This book isn't the greatest."

But it sill kinda is.  It's the only book in the series that I've reread, and I still reread it.  Not every summer of course, but I do think about it.  It's a book that defines what I want in my summer reading.

What books did you read during the summer as a kid?

Have you ever read a book in the middle or at the end of a series that was better because you didn't know what was going on?


Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Hey Ryan, Hope you are having a wonderful time off. :) And try to relax as much as you can. I know house stuff comes around, but it will be there when you get back on schedule too.

And this is a wonderful post. I really didn't read as much as a kid, but I did love the choose your path reads. And I really try hard to keep in the order of books in series. I think it's an OCD thing for me.

Thank you!

Yvette said...

Not a great book, I agree, Ryan, but what the heck, I loved NIGHT TRAIN TO MEMPHIS! I read it a while back right after TROJAN GOLD which is, I believe, the previous Vicky Bliss. Yes, I had to suspend my disbelief, Ryan, but...picture me shrugging.

These books are just so much fun.

Yeah, they don't make a lot of sense, but I don't care.

Especially in the summer when I'm more inclined to like this sort of thing. OR maybe on a gold winter's night, with a hot cup fo tea snuggling with your dog. :)

Yvette said...

Forgot to answer your question. Oops.

Summer reading: I love a good mystery or romantic suspense or lately, a Regency. It all depends on my mood and the heat, I guess.

When I was a kid, I remember reading anything and everything. Can't really say that I read anything that much different in the summer except that I had more time then to indulge my favorites: mysteries, i.e. Agatha Christie and the like.

Anonymous said...

Boo to housework!

Summer books when I was a kid? I don't remember what I read, actually, more where. We had a bench swing in the back yard and I would take a pillow out and lay on that and read all afternoon.

Simcha said...

Hope you're enjoying your vacation Ryan!

I think I discovered The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe series them summer before 6th grade and I became absolutely addicted to them.

Staci said...

Thanks so much for this post...loved reading about this book and how many times you read it. I'm not one to re-read a book again but I hope to get back to the Harry Potter books again this summer!! and thanks for the suggestion on this one, if I read this author I'll read this one first!

Alexia561 said...

Never thought of that before, but you're right that some books are better picked up in the middle of a series so you find them mysterious and worthy of a reread!

I've picked up my share of series books out of order, but usually by mistake. I read the blurb, it sounds interesting, so I bring it home only to find it's book 3 of 6. Never on purpose though!

Some series books can work as stand-alones and some can't. I remember reading one book where I had no idea what was going on, and it was incredibly frustrating when I realized I had started in the middle of the series. Didn't make me want to pick up the other books, I just abandoned the book I had and never went back. :(

Anonymous said...

You've reread it 11 times? It's that good? Then I must do some investigating of my own into this book.

This summer's all about mysteries for me too. I took a look at my reading list for the next two months and I'll be gorging on thrillers it seems.

Heidenkind said...

Thank you so much for having me today, Ryan! I'm honored to be a part of your blog. :)

Melissa & Alexia~I've only ever started a series out-of-order by mistake; usually I do try to read everything in order. Sometimes it doesn't work out, but there have been a few times when the fact that I had no idea what was going on made the book a whole lot better. The Broken Sword is another example. :)

StephanieD & Yvette~What is it about hot weather that makes a person want to read about murder? Haha. ;)

Carol~I read in front of bookcases a lot when I was little. Don't ask me why.

Simcha~I know exactly what you mean. Great series!

Staci~I just recently finished rereading the whole series, and it was great to revisit. I hope you enjoy it!

orannia said...

Ohhh, heidenkind - this sounds good! When I was a teenager I read lots of fantasy (so not much has changed :) A murder mystery sounds good ATM, but it's winter here. I like the idea of curling up with a good book by the fire :) Sorry, that probably sounds weird to everyone :)

Ryan - I hope you enjoy the rest of your vacation :)

A Buckeye Girl Reads said...

One of these days I'm going to re-read that Barbara Michaels series!

Becky said...

First off, I feel like I need to hold my hand up and say, "Hi, I'm Becky and I really don't like mysteries." Yep, I struggle with mysteries, and yet love it when an author tricks me with a mystery that happens to run through the story. Then, I'm fine and don't mind at all! Yes, I'm strange that way.

I like the theory here though about jumping in so that you get more from working through the book to figure out what's going on. I'm way too weird about reading things in order, generally, for that to ever happen. It sounds like a tried and true choice here though, so I might try it. :)

Ryan said...

I must say Tasha is awesome for talking about mysteries in summer. There is nothing better than delving into a good murder or nefarious plot to take your mind of the disgusting, sticky heat.

Having Tasha do this post did two things for me. It allowed me to enjoy my vacation and know that my blog was in very capapble hands. It also gave me another book (series) to read.

Michelle Stockard Miller said...

I've been meaning to read Peters for years. I think I own The Ape that Guards the Balance...or something like that. I'm going off the top of my head! I know what it's like to be passionate about a book. I was introduced to Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles when I read Queen of the Damned (the third book) first. I absolutely loved it and it has remained my favorite book for all these years. I've read it four times and I know I will read it again. I wouldn't say it was better because I didn't know what was going on because Anne is (was) pretty good at making her Chronicles seem like stand alone books, but I loved the historical aspect of it...the background and history of the vampires. I guess it appealed to my love of history.

I had a set of Peanuts books with all the comic strips that Schultz had written since the beginning. These came out in the 70s. I used to re-read them every summer. When I got older, around junior high, I started reading Harlequin romances every summer too. I know...ugh!

Great post, Tasha!