What I'm Reading Now: 12 August 20

Brat Farrar-- Josephine Tey
Snow blind-- PJ Tracy
The fairy godmother-- Mercedes Lackey (fantasy)
Judgment call-- JA Jance
Gone girl-- Gillian Flynn
Death in a white tie-- Ngaio Marsh

Brat Farrar: Simon Ashby is about to inherit Lachetts, the family estate that has been in trust for him since his parents' death, and his older twin's suicide a few months later. Days before his birthday, a man arrives claiming that Patrick never committed suicide, he merely ran away. He knows, because he is Patrick. The family slowly accepts this man, although they prefer to call him Brat, the name he had used as an alias. Brat knows himself to be an impostor, but he loves horses, and he comes to love the family... all except Simon, who on the surface is welcoming, but occasionally shows signs of deeper undercurrents. I enjoy Brat Farrar every time I read it, and the ending is quite satisfying. Definitely recommended.

Snow blind: Snow is nothing unusual in Minnesota... except this time, when it won't stop snowing. At first, the snow is welcome, especially for a pair of cross-country skiers and for the children's snowman-building contest. But when one of the snowmen is found sporting expensive cross-country skis and has unnervingly human hands. Across the state, a rookie sheriff discovers another eerie snowman, and the steadily falling snow makes travel dangerous and hampers everyone's investigation. The computer firm (and crime-solving consultants) Monkeewrench step in to help both departments catch a serial killer... if these murders are in fact the work of one killer. Again, PJ Tracy puts together a plot that's both unexpected and believable, and the small details of character and setting are perfectly placed. This is another must-read.

The fairy godmother: As you may have gathered, I'm partial to fairy tale retellings. Mercedes Lackey's series, The Five Hundred Kingdoms, is all about the fairy tales; about kingdoms where Tradition is an active magical force that pushes people into following fairy tale archetypes when their situations indicate it. Elena is one such person - she would be a perfect Cinderella, except that the only prince is only half her age. She is rescued by the fairy godmother of the kingdom, and becomes a fairy godmother herself, discovering how Tradition can bless or doom a person, and how a fairy godmother can use and subvert it to save an individual or a kingdom. Lackey's basic idea is quite intriguing, and she makes good use of various tales to support her main story. She does her own subverting of fairy tales to come up with an ending for Elena that is happy without being, well, Traditional. It was enjoyable, and I expect I'll be reading others in the series.

Judgment call: Joanna Brady was not prepared for her teenaged daughter to call her and report finding a dead body. She was also not prepared to find the balance between being a mother and being the sheriff, especially when a crime scene photo is leaked on Facebook-- a picture only Jenny could have taken. Joanna follows the Facebook lead and discovers a shocking video of the victim that suggests the killer could be a student at Jenny's high school. The plot follows a lot of twists before the killer is discovered, and there are some interesting characters along the way. As always, this entry in the Brady series is a good read, with plenty of personal as well as professional challenges for Sheriff Brady to meet and deal with.

Gone girl: I don't really know how to classify this book. On the surface, it's a mystery: man comes home and finds his wife missing on their fifth wedding anniversary. Man comes under suspicion, and can't seem to clear himself - in fact, he keeps re-incriminating himself. Told in alternating chapters, first from Nick's point of view, then in Amy's diary entries, the story as it's presented keeps you wondering: guilty? innocent? not quite either? The mystery aspect becomes more of a gloss on top of the real story, which is the anatomy of a relationship. As the story progresses, your sympathies flit back and forth, wondering which of the two you dislike more, and the ending... I'm sorry. Words fail. The ending feels both inevitable and the last thing you would have expected. Gone girl was very good indeed - I couldn't put it down for more than fifteen minutes before needing to go back to it, needing to find out what happened next. Highly recommended

Death in a white tie: Lord Robert Gospell was just helping out the police a little, observing the comings and goings of the London Season, trying to help track down a blackmailer. Someone caught him on the phone to Scotland Yard, and Lord Robert was found dead in a taxi that morning. Detective-Inspector Alleyn had little enough to go on: two cigarette cases, a missing letter, and a secret drawer. Alleyn is also very much in love with a young woman who passes through the scene from time to time, which causes some distraction, but also gives him a few minutes' break from the case. I wouldn't say this is one of Marsh's best, but it's certainly worth reading, and has less of a period-piece feel than some of  her others.