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Umbrella Summer Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff

A sweet, engaging story of a girl dealing with fears after her brother’s unexpected death. For all of that, it manages to be funny and avoids becoming maudlin, helped along by a cast of likable characters. Its strengths are a depiction of childhood fears that feels real and the avoidance of any preaching or pat answers, combined with story that should appeal particularly to elementary school girl who like the occasional sad moment and realistic stories.

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Thursdays are my half day at work, so as usual I’m catching up on reviews.  Putting together my thoughts on A Broken Vessel got me thinking about my favorite mystery series, and what it is that makes them stick with me.  Of course, I typed it all up in the same post as the review, but it managed to disappear when I hit publish.  Sigh. Apparently it wants to be its own post.

Kate Ross’ Julian Kestrel books remind me, in the way they have both a satisfying mystery and endearing characters and strong writing, of some of my favorite series.  These are the ones that you want to reread you want to spend more time with those characters and in the mind of the writer.  And since I’m already planning to reread Ross’ books (and I’m only halfway through the series) I thought I ought to add them to that rarified list.

  • Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter books, starting with Whose Body? and peaking with Gaudy Night.
  • Josephine Tey’s Inspector Alan Grant series – my favorite is The Daughter of Time – as well as the stand-alone Brat Farrar.
  • Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie books, starting with Case Histories – these are of a different style, but memorable and complicated and nuanced in a way that should hold up well in a reread.

There are a few other series that I enjoy while reading, but don’t plan on going back to, like Ariana Franklin’s series starting with Mistress of the Art of Death and Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs books, but which I don’t hesitate to recommend.  Then there are the fluffier, funnier series, like any of Elizabeth Peters’ books or Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia series – you only reread these when you need brain candy, not something filling (but sometimes you really want brain candy).

What else should I have on my list?  Or any of the lists, really, because you can’t read Gaudy Night every week.

Title quote from the last sentence of The Daughter of Time.

A Broken Vessel (Julian Kestrel Mysteries, #2) A Broken Vessel by Kate Ross

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A fantastic follow-up to Cut to the Quick, with a very different mystery and setting, but even more of the inimitable Julian Kestrel. Julian’s getting more into the swing of things, as a detective, and now he’s on his own turf in Regency London. He is thrown out of his element a bit by the introduction of Dipper’s sister, Sally, who brings a crime his way and provides him with an often hilarious counterpart. I’m curious to see how Sally figures into the later books, but I’m trying not to gobble them down too quickly because there are only four. Definitely read Cut to the Quick first, if this blend of historical fiction, mystery, and sharp-witted characters sounds appealing.

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November 2009

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