Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: The Mystery Lady Book Reviews

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: The Mystery Lady Book Reviews

Article excerpt

The presents have been opened, new toys already abandoned, the opinionated brother-in-law had too much of your food and drink and you had too much of him, but good news - it's Friday, the day after Christmas, and it's all over. Time to curl up with a good book that has nothing to do with Santa, carols, shopping or wrapping yet another pair of slippers for Grandma.

Here are a couple of suggestions each from four authors who paint word pictures and tell tales better than just about anyone, most with a razor-sharp sense of humor, all with well-drawn, memorable characters - including a Southern city where being a "character" must be a residency requirement.

Empire Falls and Straight Man by Richard Russo

Russo won a Pulitzer for Empire Falls, the gracefully written, funny, moving story of a dying Maine town and the characters that come and go as it languishes, including Miles Roby, whose sense of duty moves him to stay on, running a local grill as others ebb and flow around him like the river that runs through town.

In Straight Man, Russo wickedly depicts the cutthroat politics that surface among the English department faculty of a Pennsylvania college. What would you expect when an authority-averse prof like Hank Devereaux finds himself department chairman, however temporarily? Threats to kill a duck each day until he gets a budget approved? At the very least.

Killshot and Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard

Some believe Killshot may be Leonard's best. As always, there's a great caper at its core, this one involving extortion. But it's Leonard's fully drawn characters, including oddly sympathetic bad guys, that mark his work. In Killshot, those characters include real estate agent Carmen Colson and husband, Wayne, who discover the scheme and go on the lam from a hitman nicknamed "Blackbird" and his sociopathic sidekick (whose girlfriend thinks Elvis has not left the building). An edge-of-the-seat read.

Get Shorty features one of Leonard's great characters, Chili Palmer, tracking not-so-dead-guy Leo Devoe from Miami to Vegas to Hollywood to collect on a bad debt for his jerk boss, Ray Bones. …

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