Dusty Reviews

Miss Dustinea Jacquette,
Retired Spinsterish Librarian

Col. Henry Wadlow Braithwaite, Earl of Downs, is taking the waters in Tuscany for the winter months. That leaves yours truly, Miss Dustinea Jacquette, free to correspond with you, readers, on recent reads.

Me Times Three written by Alex Witchel, but read (in 11.5 hours) by Alyssa, was not really worth my time or yours. It's a late 1980s in New York City story that has narrator Sandra Berlin telling us how she finally grew up and threw away the dream of living happily ever after with her high school prom date. Seems he is simultaneously engaged to three women, one of which Sandy meets at a Metropolitan Museum reception. It takes a looonnnggg time for Sandy to realize Bucky (for Buckminster) Ross is not her white knight--he's no one's rescuer because he needs rescuing himself. You may find the story engrossing, but I find 1980s NYC rather boring. Why did I listen to it? I wanted to find out how much groveling Sandy would do before she dumped the loser.

The cover of The Annex by Russell James, "the godfather of British noir," shows a pair of sensuous, bare, female legs and a man's hands fastening jewelry around one curvy ankle. Hmmmm. . . .looks like this might be an erotic tale. But no, it is a tragedy, surprisingly sexless, set in southern England where Miro, a successful architect, is about to marry Joanna, 20 years his junior. She will be set for life in Miro's mansion, but of course there would not be a story without a villain. The chauffeur with the scarred face is the bad guy here, not the butler. Florian fancies Joanna and threatens to reveal her previous entanglement with Alan, just released from prison. Florian offers to "take care of" Alan and Joanna seems agreeable. The price for this "favor"? Well, Florian doesn't want money; you can guess what he's after, even exacting a payment the night before her wedding, while the prenuptial celebration carries on in another part of the estate. Crime doesn't pay, however. Although Joanna's and Florian's murderous secret stays hidden, the denouement is satisfying, if downbeat. You'll need some form of amusement after you finish this novel. Rent a Laurel & Hardy film or go for a roller coaster ride...

The distaff answer to Russell James is Ruth Rendell, winner of many awards, including a Diamond Dagger from the Crime Writers' Association. A Guilty Thing Surprised is an Inspector Wexford mystery, a tale that illustrates how the British police work and how Wexford sort of resembles a more tactful Columbo. The story has the beautiful Elizabeth Nightingale murdered on her own estate, but the motive and murderer are obscure and surprising. Hence the title. Was it her bumbling husband Quentin, her housemaid, sweet Swedish Katje (once Quentin's lover), her English professor brother, Denys, Denys's wife, poor plain Georgina, or was it the estate's young, buff gardener, Sean?? Stick with it and you will be surprised and pleased at a story well done.