THE MURDER IN THE AFTERNOON BOOK CLUB TAKES A FICTIONAL LOOK AT A TRUE CRIME

The Long Drop: A Novel Cover ImageFor October, The Murder In The Afternoon book club will look at one of Scotland’s most notorious crimes through the pen of one it’s finest authors. Denise Mina’s The Long Drop looks at The Beast Of Birkenshaw who murdered eight people around the Glasgow area in the late fifties. Mina takes the facts and blends a fiction that creates something more personal and even darker.

Two of the killer’s victims were the wife and daughter of William Watt who was originally under suspicion. The book begins with a meeting Watt’s lawyer has arranged with Watt and Peter Manuel, a petty criminal who says he has knowledge of where the murder weapon is. He agrees to show Watt the evidence and tell him more, if they ditch the counselor. The two have a nightmare pub crawl that Mina weaves through Manuel’s trial for the murders.

Mina uses both stories to examine moral and social aberrations, delving into media, class, and both sins of commission and omission. Everyone who has read this book has loved it and come away with their own interesting take.  Share yours with us Monday, October 15th, at 1PM, on BookPeople’s third floor. The book is 10% off for those planning to attend.

 

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AFFECTS ON A BRILLIANT MIND : SHERRY THOMAS’ LADY SHERLOCK

Rachel R., who co-leads the 7% Solution Book Club, wrote about Sherry Thomas’s new Lady Sherlock book and Holmes adaptations ahead of the release of the latest book in the series. 

Sherlock Holmes fandom has been active since the publication of the first short stories. It’s a commonly known fact that the only reason Holmes came back from the dead, for example, is because too many fans wrote angry letters at Arthur Conan Doyle demanding his return. These days, it’s almost as common to see a Sherlock Holmes adaptation as it is to see one of Shakespeare. What tends to make or break a Sherlock Holmes adaptation, in my experience, is not a supposed “faithfulness” to the characters or the cases (though that’s too often used as an excuse for lazy writing), but a thoughtful engagement with the world that Holmes and their ilk inhabit. Take Elementary, for example; many of the cases, if they reference the original stories at all, do so in name only, and Holmes and Watson, though true to the spirit of their Conan Doyle counterparts, live in different places in society. They’re not gentlemen of leisure; the detective work is their livelihood. But what makes Elementary so captivating as a Holmes adaptation is the extent to which the show examines what someone with Sherlock’s capabilities would struggle with in the 2010s in New York City: drug use, mental health, et cetera. At one point Sherlock, speaking during an AA meeting, asks, “Sometimes I wonder if I should have been born in a different time…ours is an era of distraction, it’s a punching drumbeat of constant input, this cacophony which follows us into our homes and even into our beds…In my less productive moments, I am left to wonder, if I had just been born when it was a little quieter out there, would I have even become an addict in the first place?”

This attention to place and its effect on a mind as brilliant as Sherlock Holmes’ is no less acute in Sherry Thomas’ Lady Sherlock series, though she still resides in 1880s London. Charlotte Holmes cannot move about society, restricted by her gender, and instead pretends to be an assistant for her recluse brother, the nonexistent Sherlock Holmes. But this gender reversal doesn’t just serve as a story hook, something cool and new and different—there have actually been several Holmes adaptations in which Holmes or Watson or both have been women over the years—but instead Holmes’ gender fundamentally alters the world in which the story takes place. Holmes, no longer the aforementioned gentleman of leisure, desires and wants things from a world that does not immediately provide them: mostly autonomy, bodily, financial, or otherwise. At one point while trying to figure out her financial situation, Charlotte explains, “I do not like the idea of bartering the use of my reproductive system for a man’s support—not in the absence of other choices.” These wants extend past Charlotte herself; she wants that for her landlady and confidante Mrs. Watson, for her sisters, and the many women of all classes that she encounters in the ins and outs of her cases. By changing Holmes’ gender, Sherry Thomas has done something that Arthur Conan Doyle was never able to do: she has made Sherlock Holmes altruistic.

Thomas is well acquainted with the significance of setting in her work. In her romances, both historical and contemporary, the setting often serves to inform the plot beyond mere contrivance. Her young adult fantasy novels, with their rich worldbuilding, still keep one foot firmly in the “real” world, giving each character who crosses over to the fantastical setting the gift of awe at seeing magic for the first time. It is a delight to be a bookseller who reads across genres, watching her become more and more refined in her craft, as she continues to interrogate what is important about stories, whether they be romance, or fantasy, or mystery.

Sherry Thomas will be at BookPeople Tuesday, October 2nd at 7PM to celebrate the release of the third Lady Sherlock book, The Hollow of Fear. The 7% Solution book club (which I co-lead) will be meeting directly before the event on the third floor to discuss the second in the series, A Scandal in Belgravia, before we attend the event together. All are welcome to join, whether or not you finished the book, although there may be spoilers for the first two novels. We usually meet the first Monday of every month at 7PM; upcoming discussion titles can be found on BookPeople’s website here.

MURDER IN THE AFTERNOON GETS INTRODUCED TO JOE O’LOUGHLIN

The Suspect (Joseph O'Loughlin #1) Cover ImageIn September, our Murder In The Afternoon book club will be introduced to one of the most complex and believable series characters in modern crime fiction. Joe O’Loughlin, created by Michael Robotham, is a psychiatrist who assists the British police as a way to deal with his early onset Parkinson’s disease. We will discussing the first O’Loughlin novel, The Suspect.

It is in The Suspect where Joe gets his diagnosis and is first asked by D.I. Ruiz (another great character) for help. The victim turns out to be a nurse who was a colleague and former patient of O’Loughlin’s. As he digs deeper and darker he becomes the chief suspect and the killer targets his family. The book proves to deliver Hitchcock style suspense grounded in an emotional character study.

O’Loughin and Ruiz should give us a lot to talk about. You can join us for a discussion on BookPeople’s third floor on Monday, September 17th, 1PM. The Suspect is 10% off to those planning to attend.

THE MURDER IN THE AFTERNOON BOOK CLUB EXPLORES IRELAND’S TROUBLED PAST

I Hear the Sirens in the Street: A Detective Sean Duffy Novel Cover ImageThe Murder In The Afternoon book club‘s August book is the second in Adrian McKinty’s Troubles series, a series that’s a favorite to many MysteryPeople staff and customers. It follows Detective Sergeant Sean Duffy, a Catholic cop in early eighties Ireland, a dynamic that places him at odds with almost everyone. He copes with humor, a strong sense of justice, both personal and social, and a great record collection. In the book we will be discussing, I Hear The Sirens In The Streets, a grizzly discovery leads to larger crimes and a man and car anyone who remembers the eighties will recall.

A torso is found in a suitcase. A tattoo on the body part serves as the thread Sean follows into a dangerous web of murder, business, and politics. before the case is solved, he has to face the IRA and deal with famous (or infamous) car manufacturer John Delorean, who set his plant in Ireland.

I Hear The Sirens In The Streets is a great read. It examines life life in a war zone with a very human eye. Each chapter provides something to talk about. We will be meeting at 1PM, Monday, the 20th on the third floor. The book is 10% off to those planning to attend.

CRAIG JOHNSON SCHEDULED TO CALL IN FOR THE MURDER IN THE AFTERNOON FRO DISCUSSION OF THE DARK HORSE

In July our Murder In The Afternoon book club will continue to work through one of the best current crime fiction series, the Walt Longmire books. For those not familiar, it follows an aging yet capable sheriff who struggles to keep the peace in his Northern Wyoming county as well as get his life back on track after his wife’s death. We will be reading the fifth book, The Dark Horse, where Walt deals with a murder that takes him out of his jurisdiction.

The Dark Horse: A Longmire Mystery (Walt Longmire Mysteries) Cover ImageWalt helps out the town of Absalom by jailing a prisoner for them. Mary Barsard has confessed to murdering her husband, but the prescription drugs in her system cause a lack of focus, giving Walt doubts about her guilt.  He attempts to go undercover in her small town in the Powder River and find the truth. As he finds it, Walt also finds trouble.

The Dark Horse is a rich blend of mystery and modern western. It deals  with the issues of the area, the struggles of women in it, all while subtly examining crime and western fiction. We’ll be able to learn a lot about the book, including the movie that loosely inspired it, with author Craig Johnson calling in to the club. We’ll be meeting on BookPeople’s third  floor, Monday, July 16th, a 1PM. The books are ten percent off to those who attend.

MURDER IN THE AFTERNOON RETURNS TO MARSIELLES WITH CHOURMO

Our June Murder In The Afternoon book club will be celebrating International Crime Fiction Month with a discussion by one of France’s most celebrated crime writers. Chourmo is the second installment of Jean Claude Izzo’s Marseilles trilogy. Once again, the romantically tarnished knight Fabio Mantale navigates this port city of many cultures on a quest for private justice and other things unattainable.
Mantale has left the force, mainly due to the events from the first book in the trilogy, Total Chaos, but the cousin he used to be in love with puts him back on the streets. Her son who was having a Romeo & Juliet style affair with an Arab girl has gone missing. The search involves organized crime, religious extremism, the city’s politics, and early on the murder of his informant, Serge, creating a second mystery.
Chourmo deals with several different themes, both old and new love, intolerance, the culture of Marseilles. We will try to cover as much as we can. Join us with your thoughts Monday the 18th1PM, on BookPeople’s third floor. Chourmo is 10% off for those planning to attend.
Next month, July 16, we will be discussing Craig Johnson’s Dark Horse with the author calling in.

HARD WORD DISCUSSES EARLY DANIEL WOODRELL

Give Us a Kiss Cover ImageFor our April Hard Word Book Club we will be reading from one of the masters of rural crime fiction. Daniel Woodrell is one of those authors other authors revere. Best known for Winter’s Bone, he chronicles the marginalized in his Ozark home area. We will be reading his first book to do this, Give Us A Kiss.

The book follows Doyle Redmond, a ne’er do well writer, leaving his California wife in her Volvo. As a favor to his folks, he goes down. He goes to his home town of West Table, Missouri, to convince his brother Smoke to turn himself in to Kansas City law enforcement. Instead, Doyle finds his own trouble, when a marijuana deal from Smoke’s “money garden”  goes wrong and Doyle reignites a blood feud with The Dollys, a family of hardcore criminals.

This is Woodrell at his most entertaining. The book is laid back and funny with sudden pops of violence that build suspense into the story the further it goes as it looks at family, history, and literature itself. This should be one of our more fun discussions. We will be meeting on BookPeople’s third floor, Wednesday, April 25th, at 7PM. The book is 10% off to those planning to attend.

In May we will be discussing a book by one of Daniel Woodrell’s mentors and friends, James Crumley’s The Final Country.