My concentration was greatly impaired by the onset of the Corona pandemic, so I didn’t charge through these books as fast as I normally would. But they were great fun and provided the distraction I needed. Phrynne Fisher is entertaining, and Greenwood has assembled a robust collection of supporting characters.
Greenwood is an Australian author with a law degree and thirty or more books to her credit, of which I have read half a dozen. Recurring themes are feminism and social justice. In Unnatural Habits, Greenwood takes on the Catholic church. Unlike most writers in the mystery genre, her books include bibliographies, which is good because some plotlines strain credulity, and it’s worthwhile to learn what stimulated Greenwood’s imagination.
Unnatural Habits also includes an Afterword, in which she describes her uncanny personal experience in a convent she used as a setting. On its grounds, “…I walked into the most dreadful concentrated suicidal despair I have ever felt. Someone had stood at that window and really wanted to die. I ran.” How many authors share something like THAT?! Out of curiosity, I Googled Abbotsford Convent, now a conference/cultural center. It looks decidedly unhaunted, and is sorrowfully announcing temporary closure due to Corona virus. But where are the nuns? Not a habit in sight!
Ms Greenwood also writes Young Adult novels and science fiction. I’ll give them a try.
This book is the first in a series of mysteries. The tone is madcap. Phryne Fischer sometimes (annoyingly) reminds me of Catherine Hepburn in the early scenes of the movie “Bringing up Baby”. A real bitch. Entitled, as we say in the year 2020. A queen of conspicuous consumption. Fortunately, there’s more to Phryne.
The book takes place in Australia during the 1920s. Two prominent themes are drugs (cocaine, mostly) and illegal abortion. Fischer tackles both, and manages to get the better of some nasty bad guys.
A great book to read when you’re in the mood for a sassy heroine.
Corinna Chapman Mysteries Book 1 – 2004 (First US Edition 2007)
This entertaining mystery takes place in Melbourne, Australia. Kerry Greenwood is like Janet Evanovich (author of the wacky Stephanie Plum novels, set in Trenton, NJ) but on uppers. Crazier, and lots of fun. The title “Earthly Delights” refers to Corinna’s business, a successful bakery. In place of Stephanie Plum’s idiosyncratic extended Italian family, Corinna lives in an apartment building full of (mostly) loveable eccentrics. She takes up stray teenagers and seemingly lost causes with gusto, and in the end, the good guys win. There are seven Corinna Chapman mysteries, the most recent published in 2018. I probably doesn’t matter what order I read them in.
Greenwood has published dozens of books. I’ve heard her Phryne Fisher historical mysteries series highly praised, so maybe I’ll try them next.
This is the third (presumably the last?) of the “Rosie novels” by Graeme Simsion. The book is dedicated to “the autism community” and the protagonist is Don Tillman, genius genetics researcher and presumed “man with autism.”
Don Tillman considers himself the happiest man alive, but it took him long years of hard work to reach that pinnacle. He has satisfying and important work, a wife (Rosie) he adores and an eccentric ten-year-old son named Hudson. Circumstances surrounding his son’s education and his own experiences with armed authorities force Tillman into the shocking realization that if his possibly autistic son doesn’t acquire a good deal of “conventional” social saavy, he could blunder into situations that would be dangerous or fatal. Hudson must learn to navigate the world of the “neurotypicals”, whether or not it is rational.
Tillman shifts into problem solving mode, arranging to spend more time with Hudson and generating lists of needed skills, like how to throw a ball and dress like his peers. Hudson, in the meantime, comes up with a few projects of his own, like overcoming his fear of water and becoming a competitive swimmer.
This book takes on all kinds of “disability” related issues. One is semantics – how do you speak of a person who is autistic? What’s good and bad about having a “diagnosis”? What treatment is helpful or desirable? What “accommodations” should be made in school?
All of this is handled in a breezy style. I couldn’t stop reading, and I was cheering for Hudson (and his parents) all the way.
I read this novel because I watched someone react to it – she kept laughing. The premise (“it isn’t easy being autistic”) isn’t funny. I enjoyed The Rosie Project much more than I expected. It’s funny AND engaging.
Don Tillman is an autistic genius with a research and teaching appointment in genetics at an Australian university. He knows that his social skills are lacking. Deciding that life would be better with a wife, he designs a questionnaire that he expects will find him the ideal candidate. He also knows he needs practice in dating and socializing. A friend throws a “wildcard” candidate at him. Rosie fails to qualify according to several of Don’s criteria, but she attracts his interest.
Don refers to his quest as The Wife Project. Rosie has a quest of her own, The Father Project. She wants to find her genetic father.
Don and Rosie adventure boldly together, despite the confusion generated by their wildly different mental habits, and form an intense romantic bond.
Recently I read an article (on Facebook?) about the concept of “cognitive diversity”. It has been suggested that problem solving by groups would be improved by the intentional inclusion of people on the autism spectrum. In theory, the differences in the world view should improve decision making outcomes.
I have a further suggestion. What about brain injury survivors? Surely a person who makes a comeback from a major brain injury has a brain that is “different”, with major use of alternative pathways and other “work arounds”. Might he or she see something important in a situation that others would miss?
Meanwhile, I’m going to download Simsion’s next book, The Rosie Effect, against my next train trip or rainy afternoon. Or for when I need a good laugh.
I’ve been on a re-reading jag, and this series, published between 1930 and 1963, was a pleasure to revisit. If you are a mystery fan, check out Arthur Upfield. His novels will also appeal to those who love
- Travel (Australia)
The books I re-read were
- The Mountains Have a Secret
- Sinister Stones
- The Bushman Who Came Back
What is a man named Napoleon Bonaparte doing in Australia? Upfield’s detective hero is (in the words of his time), a half breed, son of an aboriginal woman and a European father, raised and educated to take full advantage of the wisdom of two highly divergent cultures. The capstone of his education was a three year period when he “went bush”, living off the land and becoming an initiated member of his mother’s tribe.
The interactions between these two cultures sets the framework for Upfield’s plots. The stunning, strange Australian landscape provides the background. And Upfield creates wonderful, eccentric characters.
Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte always gets his man. (If he created a female criminal, I’ve missed her.) Along the way, he breaks rules, takes chances and uses mysterious aboriginal wisdom.
If you want to get happily and completely lost in a book, try Upfield. But I’m warning you, the urge to max out your credit card and travel to Australia RIGHT NOW may be overwhelming!
I started out with one good reason to read this book, and one reason not to.
Of course I am likely to read a book with my name in the title. “ALICE” is not a common name.
But I would generally not choose to read a book in which BRAIN INJURY is a prominent theme. I dealt with that in real life – I don’t need to pile fiction on top of it. I already know too much.
But here was this novel, handed along by a friend, and said to be funny, gripping, etc. So I plunged in!
The “Alice” of the title, a thirty something mother of three who is separated but not divorced, falls and bangs her head in the midst of a gym workout. TEN YEARS of her memory is obliterated. As she rediscovers her lost decade, she has an opportunity for a “rewind” that few ever encounter. Despite pitfalls and complications and new relationships, she and her husband get back together and rebuild their damaged marriage.
I’ll skip the medical critique. I guess they do things differently in Australia.
This turned out to be a pretty good read. I’ll pass it along the next time a friend needs something to take on a plane.