Friday, April 3, 2009
The fascination with the mysteries of the past has built careers and consumed lives; few puzzles have fired the imagination more than the great monoliths of Stonehenge. Around the questions of Stonehenge, have legends of sacrifice and pagan ritual developed, yet for hundreds of years few answers were found. Finally in 1963, using pen and paper and a state of the art (for the time) IBM computer, astronomer Gerald S. Hawkins solved what had been unsolvable. Using the night sky as the Druids would have seen it and the positions of the Sun and the Moon, Hawkins was able to demonstrate the sophistication of the calculations of the ancients and discover the truth of Stonehenge.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
When Katherine Givens receives a package from UPS she sets out on an amazing adventure. Inside the package is a pair of red sneakers containing the ashes of her beloved friend Anne Freemen. A set of instructions guides her to gather other pallbearers for the traveling funeral and they set out on a cross country road trip. Every stop brings something new as the small group of strangers carry Annie's ashes to the special places in her life. Travel with them as they share stories and bond, all because of their friend Annie. Karen
Thursday, March 26, 2009
The night is dark and quiet, the fog thick and wet, clinging to your skin, chilling both your bones and your spirit. The only light is the faint glow of the gas street lamps, their gentle sizzle the only sound you hear outside of your own footsteps and the beating of your heart; suddenly you sense a presence behind you and turn ... you are in a Victorian mystery. Mysteries lend themselves to setting whether it's the streets of Manhattan or a quaint English village. The first great detective stories were published during the Victorian age with Willie Collins "The Woman in White", Edgar Allan Poe's "Murders at the Rue Morgue" or the "Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" by Arthur Conan Doyle. The era also brought us the crimes of "Jack the Ripper", whose menace still send shivers down our collective spines. Many modern authors have set their stories during the long reign of Victoria; ranging from the lighthearted cozy mysteries of Emily Brightwell (Mrs. Jefferies mysteries) and Edward Marston (Inspector Robert Colbeck mysteries) to the dark Victorian's such as Caleb Carr's (The Alienist).
A wonderful introduction to this era and a generally great read anytime are the Victorian mysteries of Anne Perry. Perry has two rival Victorian series; one featuring William Monk, a London Police Detective who lost much of his memory in an accident and is rediscovering himself again as he looks for clues to the crimes he's faced with. Monk is a deep rich character, slightly dark and morose, slow to trust and quick to discover deceit. The mysteries tell you much about life in middleclass London during the 19th century; it's facade of delicacy and decorum hiding a dark underworld of poverty and violence. The first in the series is called "The Face of a Stranger".
As counterpoint to the adventures of William Monk, Perry also gives us a look at crime in the upper classes. Thomas and Charlotte Pitt delve into intrigue at the highest levels, Thomas Pitt is a police Inspector who married above his station and it's Charlotte's access to the landed gentry and aristocracy that gives Thomas the means to investigate the crimes. The first book in this series is "The Cater Street Hangman".
Both series are well written and historically well researched; the secondary characters that populate the books flesh out the soul of the period. The dialogue and action sequences move the plots along quickly and as you read the main characters become as welcome as old friends.
Imagine standing on the Cornish coast, the wind whipping through your hair, the salt spray of the sea filling your lungs, the world around you full of mystery, danger, love and deceit. Welcome to Poldark country. Winston Graham began his series of novels in 1945 about the life of Ross Poldark, recently returned to England, an injured solider, only to find most of his family dead, his inheritance in ruins and his true love about to be married to someone else. The series comprises twelve novels ,with the final novel being released in 2002. This is the rags to riches saga of the Poldarks, their friends and their enemies from the years 1783 to 1815; it's full of historical details, well developed characters and a wonderful sense of setting; the coast of Cornwall comes alive here. I found the novels as a teenager when Masterpiece Theatre was showing the BBC production of the books back in the late 1970's, and from the first episode I was hooked. While the televison series was wonderful and is still considered one of the best Masterpiece Theatre ever offered (sadly it's not available on this side of the Atlantic in DVD or video), it was the novels themselves that remained in my heart.
Hello and welcome to the Best of the Backlist blogspot. The purpose of this blog is to introduce or in some cases re-introduce well loved titles from around the library; sometimes it will be an older series or author, at other times it will be a single book that tugged at your heartstrings or made your imagination whirl. For every new bestseller on the holdshelf, there are literally hundreds of wonderful novels sitting on the shelves waiting to be discovered. Every day, we at the library get asked to find "a good book", so we are creating a space to discover those forgotten gems. Please contribute your comments and suggestions,whether you loved a book or hated one, tell us, we'd love to know.