Michelle Recommends (III)

peter pan must diePeter Pan Must Die - John Verdon

Dave Gurney may be a retired police detective living in the Catskill mountains, but once a cop, always a cop, especially when a debt has been incurred to a former colleague, who shortly comes to collect. The investigation Gurney gets roped into was supposed to be simple: prove police corruption to get a guilty verdict on a prominent homicide case overturned. But the deeper he looks into the case, the less it makes sense, and for Gurney it soon becomes a matter of finding the person responsible for not one murder, but potentially for a number closer to one hundred.

This is the fourth Dave Gurney novel, but there’s no reason why it couldn’t be your first. Verdon establishes who Dave Gurney is on the first page, adding layers of background information smoothly, where it doesn’t break the narrative’s stride, so that you’re able to read on without feeling as though you’re missing key pieces of the puzzle. Despite Gurney’s retired status, Peter Pan Must Die is decidedly a police procedural: slow and methodical, with the case approached from every possible angle. As for the Peter Pan connection, well now, that is a fascinating detail and one I won’t spoil for you. Pick up this book if step-by-step crime solving is your bread and butter.

firelightFirelight – Kristen Callihan

Dressed as a boy to pass unmolested through London’s back streets, fiery Miranda Ellis attracts the attention of Lord Benjamin Archer when she bests a set of thugs before he can step in to offer assistance. Plauged by a condition that requires him to wear a mask, all of London society views Archer as a pariah, but unable to stop thinking of the woman who held her own–and not against just the would-be thieves but also himself–he does the unthinkable and offers Miranda’s father an irresistible sum of money for her hand in marriage. Secrets, his and hers, soon threaten their developing relationship and their lives.

The first book in Callihan’s Darkest London series borrows from the story of Beauty and the Beast, but in the characters’ minds, which is the Beast and which the Beauty is a blurred line. Along with several supernatural elements that propel the plot forward there’s a mystery to be unraveled, and characters, like Miranda’s sisters, to be introduced so they can take up starring roles in future books. Miranda and Archer were enjoyable as individuals and as a couple, eschewing the somewhat typical antagonistic-at-first-sight relationship found in every flavor of romance novel, which made me a particularly happy reader. The atmosphere and 1800s London setting also made Firelight a fantastic start to a series that I’ve since read with devotion.

More of Michelle’s recommendations


Patron Review: The Silkworm – Robert Galbraith

silkwormReviewed by Kim

I thoroughly enjoyed this second book in the adventures of private investigator Cormoran and his assistant Robin. This time they are investigating the murder of an unlikable author Owen Quine, who has penned a bizarre and horrible book which is nothing but a thinly veiled attack on the people in his life whether it’s his publisher, wife, mistress, etc. Unfortunately the people that Cormoran winds up investigating are equally unpleasant except for the one who originally hires him, Owen’s wife, who winds up surprisingly sympathetic. What I loved the most about The Silkworm is the further character development of Cormoran and Robin and their relationship. You also get to meet more of their family and friends. If you’re a fan of mysteries, and you liked The Cuckoo’s Calling, I think you’d like this. I can’t wait to see what Jo, ahem, Robert comes up with for the next book in this series.

Check the catalog for the availability of this title

Jen Recommends (III)


Garden Spells – Sarah Addison Allen

“A pinch of marigold for affection, a dash of snapdragon to repel evil, finish with rose petals to encourage love, then let nature take its course. It may be the recipe for Claire Waverley’s successful catering business, but when it comes to working its magic on her own love life, she seems to be immune to the charms found only in the plants that have always grown behind the Waverley mansion. Spellbindingly charming!”

The Lace Reader – Brunonia Barry

Towner Whitney, a woman descended from a long line of mind readers and fortune tellers, has survived numerous traumas and returned to her hometown of Salem, Mass., to recover. Any tranquility in her life is short-lived when her beloved great-aunt Eva drowns under circumstances suggesting foul play. Features vivid descriptions of historic Salem and an compelling, intricately woven story.

Mary and Lou And Rhoda and Ted: And all the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic – Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

“Pop-culture gold: a can’t-put-it-down history of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and the misfit genius women (and men) who made it. A delightfully thorough history of the show, evoking in detail the making of a smart ande funny piece of pop-culture history and telling sweet tales about the colorful cast.

More of Jen’s recommendations

Patron Review: Everything to Lose – Andrew Gross

everything.to.loseReviewed by Kim

What would you do if you saw a car drive off the road, tried but failed to save the driver’s life, and found a satchel on the floor containing $500,000? Would you keep it or do the right thing and turn it into the police? This is the question facing law abiding Hilary Cantor, who unfortunately has fallen on hard times. Her ex-husband is a deadbeat dad, her young son has Asberger’s but has been making marvelous progress at a pricey private school, her house is in danger of being foreclosed on, and she just lost her job. Could anyone blame her for giving into temptation? Unfortunately, she stumbles into a decades long unsolved murder, and people who will do anything to get the money back and to make sure that the truth remains buried, forever. I found Everything To Lose a compelling thriller that I honestly couldn’t put down. Yes, this particular type of story has been done before, but Mr. Gross adds just enough twists to keep it refreshing. Hilary is a flawed but sympathetic character and kept me wondering what I would do in her circumstances. The story is told from multiple points of view but it never gets confusing. I would highly recommend this to fans of mysteries, suspense, and thrillers.

Check the catalog for this title’s availability

Musketeers Week: Staff Review: Blood Royal – Eric Jager

Reviewed by Jimblood royal

Eric Jager’s Blood Royal may not take place at the time of Dumas’ The Three Musketeers (in fact, it takes place 200 years before in 1407) but it would be a good choice for anyone who likes Dumas or French history. It has street fights, mystery and political intrigue. Bonus: It has beautiful descriptions of Paris, and maps to back them up with.

In 1407, Louis Duke d’Orleans was murdered by a group of assassins in a Paris street in the middle of the night. Killing a peer of France was a major crime at any time, however this one was made even worse by the fact that Louis was the brother of the French king Charles VI. Worse still was the fact that Charles VI suffered from repeated bouts of madness, during which France was effectively ruled by Louis. So in one stroke this murder left France potentially ruler-less and on a path to war as a power vacuum developed that local lords attempted to fill. Needless to say, justice was demanded and the Provost of Paris, Guillaume de Tignonville, who was charged with maintaining law and order in the city, went to work on the case.

Blood Royal is the story of that case and its repercussions on French history. What is interesting about this book is parts of it read like a very descriptive history of Paris and France in the early 1400s. Jager does an excellent job of explaining the complex political situation in France while at the same time giving his reader a taste of daily life. However the parts of the book dealing with the murder read like a modern day crime thriller. Jager takes you into the rooms of the Chatelet, where Tignonville’s Examiners deposed suspects and witnesses, or sends you to walk the streets with his Sergeants. This style requires a lot of really specific descriptions of Paris geography, which he does an excellent job with, and even includes maps so the reader can follow along.


Assassination of Louis d’Orleans by an anonymous artist in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) -Banque d’images du département de la reproduction

One of the really neat things for me was why Jager was able to write the book he did. Jager uses as one of his main sources what was in effect the police report of the incident. This may seem like an obvious thing to do, but it is almost unheard of when writing history in the late middle ages. The source is a 30 foot long scroll, lost until the 1660s, that details all the actions taken by Tignonville and his underlings and also the testimonies given by witnesses. Every historian working in the distant past dreams of a source like that: one that will tell them what people were thinking and feeling at the time the events happened (not years later, which is what you usually get); something that will give you a window into the souls of your subjects. In most cases you don’t get it. You are left to piece together crumbs of information, supposition and analysis, and hope it makes a cohesive whole. This scroll gives Jager that window, and as a result his narrative has a richness and depth that a lot of other books looking at that time period don’t have.

Musketeers Week: Everyone’s a Critic, An Academic; or, Things You May Not Have Known

In one place, for when you have more than a moment, links to articles and essays on Alexandre Dumas and his works of fiction (mostly, of course, The Three Musketeers).

Caricature by André Gill Caricature of Alexandre Dumas Cover of La Lune 2 December 1866 Hand-colored Engraving [X]

Caricature by André Gill
Caricature of Alexandre Dumas Cover of La Lune 2 December 1866 Hand-colored Engraving [X]

The role of race in the life and literature of Alexandre Dumas: The episode that inspired the man behind the Musketeers
Boyd Tonkin

In September 1784, an unpleasant incident took place at M. Nicolet’s fashionable theatre in Paris. A young, aristocratic man-about-town, born in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), had escorted to the play an elegant lady whose family also came from the West Indies. Dashing, handsome, the son of Count Davy de la Pailleterie might have seemed the ideal squire for the evening. Save, in many eyes, for one thing. He was black – notably dark-skinned, the mixed-race youth had a slave mother – and his companion white.

All for One
Terrence Rafferty

“Words never failed Alexandre Dumas. In his maniacally productive writing career, he pumped out millions and millions of them: some good, some bad and all indifferent to any value other than propelling a story forward at the giddiest possible pace, if not, perhaps, with optimum fuel efficiency. Dumas’s novels are shameless word-guzzlers, big and plush and almost sinfully comfortable: ideal vehicles for the long, scenic excursions into French history he regularly conducted for the newspaper readers of mid-19th-century Paris.”

Behind the Iron Mask
Roger Macdonald

“Long before the days of mass-produced paperbacks, Alexandre Dumas achieved sales of over one million for his Musketeers trilogy: The Three Musketeers (1844), Twenty Years After (1845) and The Man in the Iron Mask (1850). In an obituary notice published in 1870  after his death, aged sixty-eight, an American newspaper placed Dumas second only to Napoleon Bonaparte as the most famous man of the century. Yet the great French playwright and author, having set the Musketeers firmly on the road to immortality, had been compelled through circumstance to obfuscate their origins, until they came to be regarded as entirely fictional characters, when they were really based on flesh and blood. In doing so he also unwittingly distanced himself from clues to the true identity of the secret prisoner in the mask, a tale more extraordinary and terrible than even Dumas could devise.”

The Old Hotel de l'Ecu where Alexandre Dumas lodged D'Artagnan and the Three Musketeers

The Old Hotel de l’Ecu where Alexandre Dumas lodged D’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers

Dumas Among the Gods
Algis Valiunas

“Somehow amid all this boyish commotion I read a lot of books, and when I was ten years old, I came upon The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas and discovered the way of life I was surely born to lead: manly adventure transformed into literature. First I’d live it, then I’d write it. At the time, living it meant playing at war with my friends, whom I undertook to intoxicate with accounts of seventeenth-century Gallic military virtue. I considered myself an embryonic musketeer…” [A NOBLE Library Card will be needed to access the full article]

Musketier mit Gabelmuskete - Jacob de Gheyn

Musketier mit Gabelmuskete – Jacob de Gheyn

Of Kings, Queens, and Musketeers
Allen G. Wood

“The first half of the French seventeenth century remains vividly animated in the collective, popular imagination as the period of the Three Musketeers, even more than one hundred and fifty years after the publication of Alexandre Dumas’ historical novel. The exploits of d’Artagnan and his three musketeer friends are perhaps better known and more read than works actually written during the reign of Louis XIII, for readers in France and indeed throughout the world. And the commercial success which Dumas enjoyed, as installment followed installment during the spring and summer of 1844 in Le Siècle, called for the sequels of Vingt Ans Après and the Vicomte de Bragelonne, which advanced the musketeers to the time of the Fronde, then to Louis XIV. Even today, the popularity of the musketeers is still apparent in the various film versions of this modern classic story. It is important to examine the dynamics of history and fiction contained within the novel in order to ascertain the mechanisms of historical transmission in novel form, and determine which elements of the seventeenth century are conveyed by the popular icon.” [A NOBLE Library Card will be needed to access the full article]

The Neglected Side of Dumas
A. Craig Bell

“Anniversaries of the births and deaths of great writers have in reality little significance; if their works survive at all they are timeless, and if they do not live in the affection and esteem of posterity no amount of eulogy, however erudite, will give them new life. Nevertheless they provide occasion and material for the pointing of a moral or the adorning of a tale, and for the making of comparisons which are not always odious. I will begin by stating that precisely a hundred years ago, when Dumas’ celebrity was just past its peak, and until about the time of his death, the name of a contemporary was frequently linked with his merely on account of the equal popularity of a couple of works; and I leave it to the French Academy and such-like highly respectable literary institutions to enlighten us as to why there is unlikely ever to be a statue erected to Eugène Sue, and why the Mystères de Paris and The Wandering Jew have long ago dropped out of circulation while Monte-Cristo and Twenty Years After live on.” [A NOBLE Library Card will be needed to access the full article]

Further reading/viewing:


Musketeers Week: Reading List: All for One


“BBC AMERICA’s new co-production drama series, The Musketeers, is set on the streets of seventeenth century Paris, where law and order is an idea more than a reality. In addition to being King Louis XIII’s personal bodyguards, Athos, Aramis and Porthos stand resolutely for social justice, honor, valor, love – and for the thrill of it.” [The Musketeers Official Website]

Related Works by Alexandre Dumas:

  • three.musketeersThe Three Musketeers
  • The Man in the Iron Mask
    “In the Musketeers’ final adventure, D’Artagnan remains in the service of the corrupt King Louis XIV after the Three Musketeers have retired and gone their separate ways. Meanwhile, a mysterious prisoner in an iron mask wastes away deep inside the Bastille. When the destinies of king and prisoner converge, the Three Musketeers and D’Artagnan find themselves caught between conflicting loyalties.”
  • Twenty Years After
    “Two decades have passed since the musketeers triumphed over Cardinal Richelieu and Milady. Time has weakened their resolve, and dispersed their loyalties. But treasons and strategems still cry out for justice: civil war endangers the throne of France, while in England Cromwell threatens to send Charles I to the scaffold. Dumas brings his immortal quartet out of retirement to cross swords with time, the malevolence of men, and the forces of history. But their greatest test is a titanic struggle with the son of Milady, who wears the face of Evil.”
  • The Vicomte de Bragelonne
    “It is May 1660 and the fate of nations is at stake. Mazarin plots, Louis XIV is in love, and Raoul de Bragelonne, son of Athos, is intent on serving France and winning the heart of Louise de la Valliere. D’Artagnan, meanwhile, is perplexed by a mysterious stranger, and soon he learns that his old comrades already have great projects in hand. Athos seeks the restoration of Charles II, while Aramis, with Porthos in tow, has a secret plan involving a masked prisoner and the fortification of the island of Belle-Ile. D’Artagnan finds a thread leading him to the French court, the banks of the Tyne, the beaches of Holland, and the dunes of Brittany.”

I. Where & When: General History

Perhaps you don’t know much about the Musketeer’s complex world: the religious conflict and wars, the unstable monarchies, political intrigue to spare.

II. Biography

Curious about the real-life individuals who make up Dumas’ novel? Dumas himself? We have biographies!

III. Weaponry & Clothing

Is it possible to put together a Musketeers reading list and not include their weapons–swords and muskets and the like–or their clothing? No, I think not.

IV. Swashbuckling Fiction & Other Readalikes

As you may recall from this post, Dumas mentions Don Quixote in his introduction of D’Artagnan, so…If you gravitate towards doorstoppers, you may enjoy reading Cervantes’ novel. Or, if you’ve read the classic, you could try Spinning Out by David Stahler Jr., a YA novel featuring a main character obsessed with his town’s high tech wind turbines, who also lands the lead role in his school’s play: Man of La Mancha.

V. Movies