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about Steven Rigolosi 2006-12-06 17:48:10
This is a light-hearted suspense book that I recommend for the great story-telling and plot. I liked it so much because it's something different than the usual mystery story. Basically, the author provides several alternate endings to the book and part of the mystery requires the reader to figure out which is the "real one." The nice part is - They are all fun, and very different, so the pages fly by. The book also includes a built-in sequel, so it's sort of like two books for the price of one. Basic plot: A lowlife tricks four people into renting an apartment that doesn't belong to him. None of the four people know each other, so they have to figure out "who gets the apartment." You'll never guess what these four come up with!
about Sinners and Saints by Eileen Dreyer 2007-05-17 10:34:21
My book club’s book for April was Sinners and Saints, by Eileen Dreyer. We’ve been experimenting with different ways of reading. Last month we decided to read two books with similar settings, and then compare/contrast them. This month we all put our names in a hat. The person whose name was selected was in charge of getting the book. We all gave her $10 and shipped her off to Barnes & Noble to come back with 10 copies of the chosen book for us. We all know each other pretty well, and we know what we like and what we don’t, so this wasn’t as risky as it sounds.
She came back with 10 copies of Sinners and Saints, which she’d found on the remainder shelves for $6.99 each! What a joy to get a hardcover for less than what we pay for some paperbacks (I was reminded of the recent discussion on DL of the pleasures of hardcovers). And, with the leftover money, we got a nice selection of cakes and cookies for the meeting.
She said she chose the book because several of us have friends or family in New Orleans, and we’ve all been concerned about what’s going on down there in the wake of Katrina. Also, the book has a fabulous cover….
We liked the book’s set-up quite a bit. Chastity Byrnes is a forensic nurse living in St. Louis. She has a troubled past that has led to a break with her sister, Faith. Out of the blue Chastity gets a call from a brother-in-law she didn’t know she had. He asks for her help in finding Faith in New Orleans. Sensing the opportunity for a reconciliation, Chastity heads off to the Big Easy. We all thought this was a very plausible premise for a mystery. One member mentioned that the subtext is the idea that nothing interesting happens in America’s “second cities” like St. Louis, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati—and that you have to go to one of the big cities to get any excitement.
We also loved the New Orleans atmosphere—the sense of personal freedom, the cemeteries, parties, the “get drunk and make love” ethos of the place, along with its darker side of voodoo history and crime. As Chastity investigates, she finds that people who tried to help her sister have also disappeared, which is a suspenseful premise. Interestingly, what also adds incredibly well to the suspense is a gathering storm/hurricane that could wipe out New Orleans. So, Chastity is racing against the clock and, perhaps, someone who’s out to get her. Again, this was a totally plausible scenario and really made for a page-turner.
We liked the characters too, though, but with some reservations. Chastity, while engaging, seems to be today’s stock mystery heroine, independent and sassy. There’s also the sort of stock romance with an ex-fireman she hires to be her guide around New Orleans. The dialogue there can get a little cloyingly cute. We also felt that the book was a little too long. In addition, this is a very Mary Higgins Clark type of book, with short sentences and paragraphs written at a very low reading level. This makes it a good book for people of all ages, but it’s not really a sophisticated read, and some of the writing is unintentionally funny. (Example: “Chastity embraced a plethora of personal portents.”) A couple of us have teenage children and we thought this would be a good book to help them make the transition into adult reading, especially because the story is so cinematic and well crafted.
So, in a nutshell, we really did enjoy this book. It created a sense of sadness all over again for what has happened to the people of New Orleans, and it also made several us think we’d like to pick up another book by the same author as a good beach or airplane read.
about Circle of Assassins by Steven Rigolosi 2007-05-17 10:32:46
Our book club’s book for May was Circle of Assassins, by Steven Rigolosi. Each month we try a different type of book or selection process. For May, we decided to read a book with multiple viewpoints; this was based on a discussion we had last month about how much we enjoyed An Instance of the Fingerpost, by Iain Pears, and how much we liked a story that is told from different perspectives.
Circle of Assassins starts with an advertisement placed in The Clarion, a New York City newspaper. It begins “Revenge is Sweet” and promises to help people get back at someone who has hurt them or someone they love. The people who answer the ad come from all walks of life and are motivated by extremely different circumstances. One is an older woman who’d worked all her life to afford her own home, only to find her peace and quiet threatened when a drug dealer moves into the neighborhood. One is a telephone lineman who harbors a murderous resentment against his brother-in-law to be. One is a feminist college professor who has serious issues with her dean. And so on.
The person who placed the ad, known for much of the book as “A” (though his/her identity is eventually revealed, and it’s a shocker when it is), offers them a deal: Kill the target chosen by another member of the “circle of assassins,” and someone will return the favor for you. It’s an ideal setup because everyone has the perfect alibi.
If it sounds like Strangers on a Train, it is, in a way. But events take very odd and unexpected turns as the assassins go about their plots. There are a lot of mysteries in this very tight little book. Who, exactly, are the assassins? (We find out, little by little.) Do the victims “deserve” to die? (We find out as the author explores their lives, showing us a side of them that is often at odds with their enemies’ perceptions.) Who is the person behind the ad? Will the assassins go through with their plots, or will their morality win out?
This is without a doubt a book for readers who like the unexpected. 8 out of our group of 10 agreed that reading it is like watching two trains on a collision course—you expect a terrible outcome, and you can’t look away, and the outcome is pretty terrible but not at all what you expected. We thought the author did an absolutely amazing job of giving voice to a very diverse set of characters, speaking in their own voices and letting us see them from a variety of perspectives. One reader said that the book was like a Shakespearean tragedy, and that the tragedy of it all made her cry pretty much all the way through. Several of us were in awe of the way the author managed to juggle plot, character, and narrative structure so effectively.
But the book is not for everyone. Two of our members struggled through the first part. The author is doing so many things simultaneously that you really have to just go with the flow, or you may be tempted to give up. Also, this is far from a traditional whodunit, so anyone who likes a linear narrative with one murder to be solved will not be a fan (one of our members said, “This isn’t a murder mystery, it’s a book that tries to solve the mystery of murder,” which caused a lot of heads to nod). Also, don’t expect a lot of humor (or any humor, for that matter.) Circle of Assassins is pretty serious, though it stops short of being grim.
All told, we were impressed by this author’s skill as a plotter and a structuralist, as well as his characterizations, and we admired his successful attempt to do something different. This book really is unique (almost as unique as Martin Amis’ Night Train, which we’d read several months ago) and ambitious. It’s a book you can discuss for a long time, and continue to think about after turning the last page.