"There's nothing like a good murder mystery to settle my stress."
Those words came out of my mouth recently, in the midst of post-pandemic plans and preparation for Babe's wedding. (At this writing, it is two weeks away!)
It's true, I love a cozy murder mystery to calm my nerves. Maybe because, despite the tension in the moment, I know there will be a solid explainable resolution in the last pages. Rhys Bowen, Frances Brody, Louise Penny, Caroline Graham are some of my favourite authors in this genre.
I usually have several books on the go, in different genres, including children's books. Some make me think. Some make me laugh. My favourites are the ones that suspend me in time with their beautiful words.
In no particular order, here are a few books I'm reading/have read this year that might spark your interest:
If you cannot speak truth at a beheading, when can you speak it?
The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel, third in her series following the life of Thomas Cromwell, was quite an undertaking at just under 900 pages. It begins in May 1536 at Anne Boleyn's demise and ends with Cromwell's own death. I am in awe of this author, who manages to take the reader back in time to the tastes, smells, sights, and sounds of 16th century England.
Placemaker by Christie Purifoy
Beautiful, encouraging words on every page. This book is in my top ten of all time favourites.
In Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler, Ira and Maggie are on a road trip to the funeral of an old friend. The entire book takes place in one day, and their conversations are typical of people who have known each other for a long time. It made me laugh out loud so many times. In this excerpt, Maggie's trying to convince Ira to stop at the small town of Cartwheel on the way to the funeral so they can drop in on their ex-daughter-in-law and see their granddaughter. This particular chapter is from Ira's point of view, and he's in the middle of daydreaming about how he always wanted to be a doctor:
At one point he had figured he might be an orthopedist, because bonesetting was so immediate. Like furniture repair, he had thought. He had imagined that the bone would make a clicking sound as it returned to its rightful place, and the patient's pain would vanish utterly in that very instant.
"Hoosegow," Maggie said.
She scooped up her belongings and poured them back in her purse. She set the purse on the floor at her feet.
"The cutoff to Cartwheel," she told him. "Wasn't it something like Hoosegow?"
"I wouldn't have the faintest idea."
"Moose Cow. Moose Lump."
"I'm not going there, whatever it's called," Ira told her.
"I would just like to remind you," he said, "about those other visits. Remember how they turned out?"
"What is the bravest thing you've ever said?" asked the boy.
"Help," said the horse.
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy
The timeless illustrations draw you in, and the beautiful words will bring you back again and again.
To believe the truth that beauty tells: this is our great
struggle from the depths of our grief.
To trust the hope it teaches us to hunger toward: this is our fierce battle.
To craft the world it helps us to imagine: this is our creative, death-defying work.
Beauty and brokenness told me two different stories about the world.
I believe Beauty told true.
This Beautiful Truth by Sarah Clarkson
A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie is a classic I'd never heard of until this year. First published in 1936, the prayers are organized by morning and evening for thirty days, with special prayers for Sundays. This updated and revised edition by Susanna Wright is composed in a more contemporary style. I'm finding it a beautiful reflective way to begin and end my days.
First Day, Morning:
Eternal Father of my soul, let my first thought today be of you, let my first impulse be to worship you, let my first word be your Name, let my first action be to kneel before you in prayer.
Every day you have less reason not to give yourself away.
This Day: Collected and New Sabbath Poems by Wendell Berry
These poems date from 1979 to 2012, and include the poems Wendell Berry wrote on Sundays. In the preface he writes, These poems were written in silence, in solitude, mainly out of doors. A reader will like them best, I think, who reads them in similar circumstances-at least in a quiet room.
Well, there's a rather eclectic mix for you. I have enjoyed all of them and I hope one or two have made you curious to read.
But right now I think I'll take a break from wedding day table-centres, seating plans, and time charts, and find out who locked Kate Shackleton in the basement. Was it because she's on to the murderer? Could this be the time when the butler actually did it?