Blog Posts by David

  • "Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M." by Sam Wasson: Book Review


    "Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M." by Sam Wasson
    HarperStudio, 231 pp., $19.99
    Reviewed by David Marshall James


    With a half-century's perspective on the film version of Truman Capote's novella "Breakfast at Tiffany's," it's safe to declare that Holly Golightly is Audrey Hepburn's most iconic role.

    And, as much as the screenplay differed from the text, as much as Capote wanted chum Marilyn Monroe to be his Holly, the character has long since gained immortality-- owing largely to the cinematic version, underscored by Henry Mancini's haunting score and Johnny Mercer's splendid lyrics to "Moon River."

    And then we have come to realize how right Audrey is for the role, with all her doubts about playing a call-girl who has deserted her husband and children back in Tulip, Texas. Swathed in black dresses (long and short) by Hubert de Givenchy, brandishing a cigarette holder, and flipping her sunglasses up and down, Hepburn jump-started a fashion trend that Jackie Kennedy (with Oleg Cassini) were

    Read More »from "Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M." by Sam Wasson: Book Review
  • "A Brush with Death" by Elizabeth J. Duncan: Book Review

    "A Brush with Death"
    by Elizabeth J. Duncan
    Minotaur/Thomas Dunne, 258 pp., $24.99
    Reviewed by David Marshall James

    Renovation is the order of the day for Penny Brannigan of the North Wales village (fictitious) Llanelen, about an hour's drive (on steep, narrow roads) from the seaside resort of Llandudno.

    (Happened to catch, serendipitously, a rerun of the "Two Fat Ladies" cooking show while reading this mystery novel, and the TFLs were prepping Welsh lamb pie, among other savories, for a men's chorus in Llandudno: What a beautiful place, and the chorus picnicked on a hillside above the city-- breathtaking views-- and then sang-- enchanting.)

    So, it's not difficult to imagine why Penny, a native Nova Scotian, dropped her bags in Llanelen more than two decades ago. Since then, she has built up a manicurist's business, although painting is her true avocation.

    And painting figures prominently in the plot of Elizabeth J. Duncan's second outing with

    Read More »from "A Brush with Death" by Elizabeth J. Duncan: Book Review
  • "Death of a Trophy Wife" by Laura Levine: Book Review

    "Death of a Trophy Wife" by Laura Levine
    Kensington, 259 pp., $22
    Reviewed by David Marshall James


    Jaine Austen has followed in her namesake's (well, namesake sans "i") calling, eking out a living as a writer.

    Although, the 19th century novelist never wrote about toilets, as the 21st century incarnation does.

    Then again, maybe Jane-with-no-"i" would have written about toilets if she had had one. Nah, scratch that.

    Speaking of plumbing, today's Jaine can't seem to get enough strawberry-scented bubble baths, enhanced by the simultaneous consumption of Chunky Monkey ice cream and/or Oreos. Now, Jane the First probably would have written about C.M. and Double Delights, had she had those.

    It's the simple things in life that carry L.A.-based advertising copywriter J.A. through some of the more onerous tasks she takes on to keep herself in elastic-waist jeans and anything chocolate, and to put canned delights in her kitty's, Prozac's, dish.

    Nevertheless, "Pro" would much rather have

    Read More »from "Death of a Trophy Wife" by Laura Levine: Book Review
  • "A Spider on the Stairs" by Cassandra Chan: Book Review

    "A Spider on the Stairs"
    by Cassandra Chan
    Minotaur, 310 pp., $25.99
    Reviewed by David Marshall James


    The rain is falling in buckets, flooding the roads in and around York (England), just in time for Christmastide.

    And it's not letting up anytime soon, at least not for the duration of detective sergeant Jack Gibbons's latest murder investigation.

    Gibbons, of New Scotland Yard no less, has been convalescing after being shot in the abdomen. Or, as Edward G. Robinson would have put it 75 years ago, "Being pumped full of lead."

    The Sarge's first assignment back with the Yard is to check out a distinctively staged murder at a shop in York, since the handiwork looks suspiciously like that of the Ashdon Killer, a serial killer whom the Yard has been tracking, with mounting futility.

    So, Gibbons is spending Christmas Eve on a train up from London, ringing up his good mate, Chelsea bon vivant Phillip Bethancourt.

    Bethancourt is something of the

    Read More »from "A Spider on the Stairs" by Cassandra Chan: Book Review
  • "Stork Raving Mad" by Donna Andrews: Book Review

    "Stork Raving Mad" by Donna Andrews
    Minotaur, 309 pp., $24.99
    Reviewed by David Marshall James

    Professor's wife and blacksmith-on-hold Meg Langslow of fictitious Caerphilly, Virginia, is great with child.

    Well, make that two children.

    As if her any-day-now delivery isn't drama enough, Meg and husband Michael, who teaches drama hisownself at Caerphilly College, have houseguests sleeping-bagging it from cellar to dome of their in-slow-progress-of-renovation Victorian farmhouse.

    The heating system for the college's dormitories has kerflooeyed, and it's freezing out in the Virginia December; hence, the regugee-student encampment.

    Furthermore, Meg's brother Rob has a flock of interns for his computer-games company ensconced in said cellar.

    At least Cousin Rose Noire is bustling about, trying to keep things tidy and comfortable and New Age "friendly" for Meg, including the presentation of a likeness of Tawaret, Egyptian goddess of pregnancy and

    Read More »from "Stork Raving Mad" by Donna Andrews: Book Review
  • "The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree": Book Review


    "The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree"
    by Susan Wittig Albert
    Berkley Prime Crime, 290 pp., $24.95
    Reviewed by David Marshall James


    It's almost summer, eighty years ago, in Darling, Alabama (fictitious, but not far from Harper Lee's hometown of Monroeville).

    The town's residents are understandably worried about the economy, but the garden club members (Dahlias) are putting as pretty a face as possible on the courthouse square, while trading and canning fresh vegetables and fruits from one another's yards, when they're not swapping "slips" of ornamental plants.

    Yes, they're thrifty, but hyacinths feed the soul.

    There is a double feature (one silent movie, one talkie) at The Palace theatre, and some of the more fortunate locals own radios: otherwise, the principal entertainment in town is gossip, facilitated by the widespread use of telephone party lines.

    Then, of course, there's the beauty parlor grapevine, contributing to a veritable communication arbor along with the

    Read More »from "The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree": Book Review
  • "The Dog Park Club" by Cynthia Robinson: Book Review

    "The Dog Park Club" by Cynthia Robinson
    Minotaur/Thomas Dunne, 295 pp., $24.99
    Reviewed by David Marshall James


    Debut novelist Cynthia Robinson references such film-noir classics as "Double Indemnity" and "Laura," and her dialogue moves from the crunchy argot of that genre to the theatrical/cocktail-party ripostes and repartee of "All About Eve."

    Picture cumulonimbus banks of tobacco smoke, cigarette holders, stuffed olives adrift in long-stemmed martini glasses, clacking cubes of ice, and canape trays laden with pickled, smoked, and salted sea delicacies, all on display herein.

    So, how do we move from well-appointed living rooms and barrooms to the dog park (the title sounds like that of a tween confection)? Answer: Take the party there, yet scale it down a bit, to mere beer and wine.

    A group of eight regulars coalesces at the titular site in Berkeley, California. A substantial part of the novel's attraction rests in the author's artful descriptions of

    Read More »from "The Dog Park Club" by Cynthia Robinson: Book Review
  • "Sizzling Sixteen" by Janet Evanovich: Book Review

    "Sizzling Sixteen" by Janet Evanovich
    St. Martin's, 309 pp., $27.99
    Reviewed by David Marshall James


    Take an alligator, homemade stink bombs, fire bombs, a bigamist (and his four wives), a toilet-paper thief, a flasher high (so to speak) on e.d. pharmaceuticals, a band of Hobbits (well, people who think they're Hobbits), and innumerable doughnuts (with lots o' sprinkles) and pieces of fried chicken (from Cluck-in-a-Bucket)--

    And you have a few of the components of Janet Evanovich's latest Stephanie Plum opus.

    It's a down-day for Vincent Plum's bail-bonds agency in Trenton, New Jersey, but Vinnie's brought it all on himself.

    He's swimming in red ink, and his wife and wealthy father-in-law are refusing to bail him out, as Vinnie has just been caught with his pants down on Stark Street (seems apropos). Doing what, precisely, we'll leave to the author.

    As a result of his loan-shark indebtedness, Vinnie has been abducted by his unscrupulous lender, and

    Read More »from "Sizzling Sixteen" by Janet Evanovich: Book Review
  • "A Colourful Death" by Carola Dunn: Book Review

    "A Colourful Death" by Carola Dunn
    Minotaur, 337 pp., $24.99
    Reviewed by David Marshall James

    Those who favour the English village mystery after the manner of Ann Purser and Hazel Holt will delight in this second volume of Carola Dunn's "Cornish Mystery" series.

    Dunn gathers and assembles all the necessary ingredients for the genre as if she were preparing a custard trifle-- heavy on the strawberry jam and that bit of sherry in the background. And, if one is expecting a little old lady at the center of it all, one shan't be disappointed-- with omnipresent doggie, no less.

    Widow Eleanor Trewynn has traveled the globe, mostly to places where others don't care to tread, in her mission to eradicate world hunger. Now settled in the Cornish village of Port Mabyn, she has established a thrift shop for an organization that provides World hunger relief, with her living quarters upstairs.

    Eleanor is more than ably assisted by Jocelyn Stearns, wife of the local vicar.

    Read More »from "A Colourful Death" by Carola Dunn: Book Review
  • "Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer" by John Grisham: Book Review

    "Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer" by John Grisham
    Dutton Children's Books, 263 pp., $16.99
    Reviewed by David Marshall James


    When a boy's parents are both lawyers, he's either going to emulate them or one-eighty on them in his career pursuit.

    Eighth-grader Theodore Boone, resident of a small (seems Southern) fictitious city, Strattenburg (pop. 75,000), is doing a bit of both.

    He couldn't be more caught up in the law; indeed, his favorite hangout (aside from his own "office" in his parents' onetime-house-turned-law-office) is the courthouse.

    However, Theo (only his Mom calls him "Teddy") isn't interested in following in his parents' footsteps, per se.

    His Mom is a divorce attorney, and most of her clients are women. Therefore, she only appears in the non-jury setting of family court.

    Meanwhile, Theo's Dad is a property lawyer, so he doesn't argue cases in court at all. Rather, he's more of a glorified paper-rustler.

    Theo's aspiration is to do something

    Read More »from "Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer" by John Grisham: Book Review

Pagination

(248 Stories)