MINI-REVIEW: Fiona Davis’s THE MASTERPIECE

MasterpieceI’m not certain what possessed me to want to read Fiona Davis’s The Masterpiece, other than a yen to leave the familiar reader-world of genre fiction for a while. Romance and mystery fiction are like comfortable only-at-home pants and sweatshirt. I ease into them and enjoy their sense of familiarity; on occasion, they also stifle. I need “something else,” so I venture into other reading territory. As a result I’ve read some remarkable non-fiction, Philippe Sands’s East West Street, the overhyped Peter Frankopan’s The Silk Roads, or left-me-agog Yuval Harari’s Sapiens. This time around, I went for historical fiction, that in retrospect, has a great dose of women’s fiction to it (cue moue of disappointment) Fiona Davis’s The Masterpiece. I love all things art and museums and thought this might be the thing to refresh my romance-murder-mystery-reading malaise. Written in third-person POV, The Masterpiece tells the story of two women, very much of their time and circumstance, 1920s-30s illustrator Clara Darden and 1970s breast cancer survivor, newly divorced Virginia Clay. The main character, however, is NYC’s Grand Central Terminal, its fortunes and misfortunes, its acme and nadir, its glory, dereliction, and resurrection. Of all the novel’s elements, I liked the building and Virginia the best.
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REVIEW: Arnaldur Indridason’s REYKJAVIK NIGHTS, Darkness In Light

Reykjavik_NightsMiss Bates read Arnaldur Indridason’s Reykjavik Nights as a rom palate-cleanser. (Eons ago, when her genre reading was crimefic, she read Indridason’s Jar City and Silence Of the Grave. They’re fabulous books; Miss Bates highly recommends them.) To return to Indridason’s latest Erlendur mystery, Miss Bates was surprised to find how poignant it was and even more surprised to find herself identifying with the detecting character.

Reykjavik Nights is Indridason’s tenth Erlendur mystery; it serves as a prequel to the previous nine. In it, Indridason explores what made Erlendur the man we met as a seasoned detective in earlier books. Indridason brings Erlendur full circle in this latest, having resolved the childhood incident that plagues him in Strange ShoresReykjavik Nights introduces it. Miss Bates read Reykjavik Nights in two keys: in the major, as a detective’s bildungsroman; and, in the minor, as a study of one of crime fiction’s great introverts. An introvert herself, Miss Bates saw in the youthful Erlendur the signs pointing to a life-long hermetic existence outside the monastic. Like most introverts, Erlendur possesses a tenacious work ethic, tends to melancholy, and reads voraciously.   Continue reading