Beach reading is an activity I look forward to every year as soon as I get tired of snow and lose my last pair of warm gloves. I’m already reading reviews of summer releases before Valentine’s Day so I am ready to move on to my favorite summer authors by Memorial Day. It is easy to blame Covid-19 and, perhaps, my expectations were unusually high, but summer reading 2021 has been a serious disappointment. I’m not saying the books were not well written, but the first few pages left no doubt that it would be a bumpy road ahead.
My reaction was to switch to several mystery authors that I had not read before. I reverted to my old practice of reading only mysteries, preferably in a series, that emphasize location as a crucial component in the storyline. Books by Sharyn McCrumb, Margaret Maron, Julia Keller, and Adriana Trigiani are prime examples of the location setting the framework by incorporating local customs, shared history, and a strong sense of community. On a lighter note, Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series would fit in this category because I spent years living in Mercer County and visited that part of Trenton on Sunday mornings to visit the Italian bakeries she mentions.
On a more serious note, my new favorites include the Geneva Chase series by Thomas Kies, John McMahon’s series featuring Detective P.T. Marsh, and Tom Bouman’s Henry Farrell series. Geneva Chase, a crime reporter in Sheffield, Connecticut, is faced with keeping her job as print newspapers are rapidly disappearing. In spite of her ongoing problems with alcohol and an inability to sustain close relationships, she manages to solve crimes and stay to fight another day. Detective P.T. Marsh works in a more rural setting in Mason Falls, Georgia. He is also fighting alcoholism and recovering from the deaths of his wife and child in a car accident. Kirkus has described McMahon’s writing as “southern gothic mingles with modern noir”. Henry Farrell has moved home to Wild Thyme, Pennsylvania, to serve as the only law enforcement officer in a town struggling to survive against drugs, a failing economy, and the threat of fracking. Having envisioned a life of hunting and fishing, Farrell finds himself in the uncomfortable position of knowing too many of the residents and their previous problems with the law.
Be advised that all three of the series should be read in order. Also, I read every book on Libby or hoopla.
Thomas Kies: Random Road; Darkness Lane; Graveyard Bay; and Shadow Hill (due in August)
John McMahon: Good Detective; The Evil Men Do; and A Good Kill
Tomas Bouman: Dry Bones in the Valley; Fateful Mornings; and Bramble and the Rose
If you are looking for a less traditional mystery, try Concrete Vineyard by Cam Lang. I learned more than I need to know about the history of Niagara on the Lake (NOTL), zoning regulations in Canada, successful urban planning, growing grapes, and the War of 1812. I loved it!