It feels like I always had something interesting to read in 2018, but it took me a long time to get through some of them. Thankfully, I’m glad I stuck with the books as they all proved worth the effort at the end of the day.
As with years past, I split my efforts between physical books that I already owned, new purchases and digital versions purchased through Amazon (you guys should check out BookBub for great digital deals) and more library rentals. To keep track of everything, I piled my books on a cool Superman-themed shelf my folks got me for Christmas last year and then kept a list on, as it turns out, Superman notepaper.
Alright, let’s get into it! I kicked the year off with a double feature of all things! I’d acquired copies of Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby (1967) and Son Of Rosemary (1997) and figured they’d make a good place to start in 2018. To my surprise, I tore through both novels over the course of the weekend and hoped I’d be off to a solid start when it came to quick reading. That would not prove the case, but it was nice while it lasted.
These books about a woman tricked into giving birth to the anti-Christ and then living in a world where he seems to have grown up into an adult savior were certainly interesting reads. To be honest, I didn’t take many notes while reading, so specifics are fuzzy, but the book of the first felt very much in line with my memories of the film adaptation. Meanwhile, the sequel covers a lot of different ground, fills in many questions audiences have had and then leaves you with a real big, head-scratching ending that I do still think about even a year later.
Reading Levin lead me down a nice path this year wherein I spent time with new (for me) authors, many of whom are women. The first of the bunch was Paula Hawkins and her novels The Girl On The Train (2015) and Into The Water (2017). The former’s about a woman spiraling out of control because of her growing obsession with a couple whose life she could see on her commute. She’d built this entire reality for them that all came crashing down when the woman went missing. Worse yet, she seemed intent on making herself a subject in the crime itself.
Train turned out to be this super interesting look at alcoholism, obsession, building your own lopsided reality and just how damn powerful lies can be in our lives and the real-life horrors that can come from them. In a way, it’s also a non-supernatural haunting story as the deceased woman seems to hover around everyone at all times as the book comes to a close.
I dug Train so much that I immediately borrowed Water. This one’s also about a dead woman and uncovered lies, but in this case we’re focused on a woman whose sister is believed to have committed suicide at the very spot in town where many other women have died over the decades. That crime might be related to the death of the woman’s daughter’s best friend, another recent tragedy that draws our main character in while also presenting a series of other secrets.
Though it kinda sneaks up on you, the story itself unfolds like a traditional detective novel. Specifically it reminded me of Dell Shannon’s The Death-Brings which I read a few years back in how the two cases related to one another. More importantly, I was fully absorbed by this story of women trying making real, dangerous mistakes and sometimes lying about them out of love and the selfish men surrounding them who deceived to cover up their awfulness.
Hey speaking of detective novels, I read two far more traditional ones this year: Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely (1940) and Gregory McDonald’s Flynn (1977). It wound up taking me two months to read Farewell, though I could hardly be accused of giving it my all at first. I felt swept up in a world I didn’t quite understand and kept falling asleep which meant I had a hard time keeping track of everything that was going on.
I was actually very close to putting my first Chandler/Marlowe joint down. I desperately wanted something to happen that wasn’t just another meeting and then BANG, you’ve got a proto-James Bond villain, druggings and secret boats on the water. At that point I was super back in and have a feeling I’ll go through more of these Marlowe books, but I might just listen to them as audiobooks because I feel like his phraseology and cadence would work better in someone else’s voice instead of the one in my head!
Finally — for this post, at least — I finally tried a non-Fletch Mcdonald book, though technically Francis Xavier Flynn debuted in Confess, Fletch and exists in the same world. Instead of being an investigative journalist, Flynn is…an Irish cop working for the Boston police who’s also part of a secret global spy organization of some kind. Even though he’s the star of this book and it’s the first of its series, it still felt like I had no idea who he really was as it proceeded.
On the other hand, I thought he was a pure delight as he ignored the Feds trying to investigate a plane crash that landed body parts in Flynn’s very yard, sent his high school age sons to beat up a cop and wind up in weird cults, flirt with a widow and try to find out who’d been stealing things at school. It’s a whole lot going on, but Flynn’s mostly jovial nature and his unorthodox crime-solving style appeal to me. All of that, plus an engaging series of mysteries that I’m not sure I fully understood all the conclusions to, made for a nice read, especially as I sat in the waiting room at the tire place for hours. You’ll find that’s an unfortunate recurring theme in these posts! Have I mentioned it wasn’t the greatest year ever?
Anyway, there you have the first of three installments where I look back at what I read last year. Up next I’ll focus on Stephen King and new favorite Lauren Beukes before finishing strong in part three!