Summertime Reading For A Real-Deal Summer

Last year was a make-the-best-of-it summer, but this one’s got all the toppings. While you might associate reading with the colder, inclement weather months, think of all the beach, lake, suntanning and airplane reading that summer affords.

Here’s what I’ve been into over the last month or so…

“The Rattle-Rat” by Janwillem van de Wetering (1985) The Grijpstra-DeGier mystery series is a personal favorite. They’re part police murder mysteries, and part humorous slice-of-Dutch-life. Here the partners are confronted with the charred corpse of the man no one seemed to like very well, but probably didn’t hate enough to kill.

“Lilies of the Field” by William Barrett (1962) And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto [a]the measure of his life? And why are ye anxious concerning raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. “  Inspired by Matthew’s gospel, this is the very short story of a traveling handyman, Homer Smith, who discovers Catholic nuns scratching out existence in sunbaked Arizona. He stays with them, helps with some chores, and they come to believe he has a higher purpose. After fighting the idea, Homer is surprised to find out that they are right. A book that stays with you long after the brief time you spend reading it.

“The Day Is Now Far Spent” by Robert Cardinal Sarah (2019) Another Scriptural book title, but a very different book. Cardinal Sarah’s the leading voice in the Catholic church today on the collapse of the faith in the West, and the rise of secularism. “The West no longer knows who it is, because it no longer knows and does not want to know who made it, who established it, as it was and as it is. Many countries today ignore their own history. This self-suffocation naturally leads to a decadence that opens the path to new, barbaric civilizations.”

“Dark Sacred Night” by Michael Connelly (2018) Two of his best detective creations, Harry Bosch and Renee Ballard, work the cold case of a murdered runaway. Connelly is my single favorite mystery writer, and you will enjoy any of his series (Bosch, Mickey Haller, the “Lincoln lawyer”, and now, Ballard, his newest). No one alive is better at this genre than Connelly.

“First Team: Soul of the Assassin” by Larry Bond and Jim deFelice (2008) The “First Team” series is based on a fictitious (or…is it?) special unit, answering directly to the White House, and combining people from intel and military specialties. Great, likeable characters, big, imaginative plots, but always just inside the bounds of believability.

“An Unkindness of Ravens” by Ruth Rendell (1985) Rendell’s one of Britain’s most celebrated (and still under-appreciated) writers of mysteries, including this series based around the indomitable Inspector Wexford. Here, he stumbles into a militant feminist group. These young women are either in danger, or dangerous, or both. It starts off slow, with a middle-aged husband and father gone-missing, and picks up steam quickly to a frantic ending.

“Inquest: The Warren Commission and the Establishment of Truth” by Edward Jay Epstein (1966) The first of Epstein’s books dissecting the JFK assassination. Not a festival of paranoia, like some. Epstein’s simple thesis is that the Warren Commission, by design and practice, wasn’t out to solve the case of Kennedy’s murder; its purpose was to put a lid on the conclusion that Oswald acted alone. This is a cautionary tale for any government commission ostensibly established to find the truth–but usually intended to confirm a preexisting narrative or version of events. Epstein’s writing is concise, fact-packed and respectful of the Commission, but at the same time, devastating.

The Case of The Substitute Face” by Erle Stanley Gardner (1938) An early Perry Mason mystery, involving Perry and Della’s cruise home from an Hawaiian vacation. Their shipmates may include an embezzler, a suicide, murderer(s), and other shady characters.  As I always say, if you grew up with the TV series, there are faint tracings of the Raymond Burr portrayal of Mason in these novels, but the written Mason is different in some of the ways that the novel form of James Bond is different from the movie version.

“The Hunt” by William Diehl (1990) Reread this after about 30 years, when it was first published under the (better) title “27”. A big, sweeping historical novel about the rise of Hitler, the denialism of Germans (and many Americans) in the 1930s, and what happens when a rich playboy becomes a ruthless anti-Nazi. Diehl is another major favorite of mine: you should also check out “Eureka” and “Thai House”, both previously reviewed in this blog.

“The Witch’s Tongue” by James Doss (2004) Ninth in Doss’ series featuring Ute  tribal investigator Charlie Moon, and his best friend, local small-town police chief, and of course, the glue that holds each of these stories together, Charlie’s irascible Aunt Daisy Pereika. Each novel is a blend of crime,  the supernatural, and the tension between different worlds, whether they’re tribal and non-tribal worlds, or the temporal and spiritual worlds.


As always, please let me know if you enjoy any of these, and what you’re reading!

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