The Field of Mystery Book Group had a fascinating and far-ranging discussion of our August selection, The Dry. We talked about how environments shaped the people who lived there (such vivid descriptions of the drought stricken small town in Australia!), how people’s traumatic pasts make people who they are, and about the cleverness of the author’s red herrings and the way she played fair by giving you everything you needed to know in order to figure out both mysteries at the heart of the book.
Then we chose our book for September, which is Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. The first book in the Flavia de Luce series, Sweetness introduces us to Flavia, an 11 year old genius in 1950’s England, her fascination with chemistry in general and poisons in particular. She gets the chance to use her knowledge and her curiosity when a couple of strange events catch her attention: the appearance of a dead bird on the family’s doorstep with a postage stamp stuck to its beak, and the death of a man in the family’s cucumber patch, which brings Flavia’s father under suspicion of murder.
Because of factors beyond my control (quarantine is a pain in the butt), everybody is going to put their own copies of the book on hold individually, and we will all get together again on September 12 for a zoom discussion. If you’re interested in joining in, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for the zoom invitation. Should be lots of fun!
Thanks to everyone who attended our July Field of Mystery meeting via zoom. I realize it’s not the perfect situation, but we do the best we can in this season of zoom (sounds like an outtake from Rent, doesn’t it?). We had an excellent discussion about The Trespasser, by Tana French, and selected The Dry, by Jane Harper, for our reading and discussion at our next meeting (also via zoom) on August 1.
Going from the clouds and rain of the Dublin setting of The Trespasser to the drought-ridden part of Australia for The Dry is a bit of a change, as is the nature of the mystery. We like to switch things up, obviously.
Federal Agent Aaron Falk returns to the hometown he and his father fled years ago, when Luke, his best friend and the provider of Aaron’s alibi for murder, dies suddenly. Aaron is not only motivated by sentiment; he received a note telling him his secret is known. As he and the local detective investigate Luke’s death during the worst drought to hit the area in years, all kinds of secrets held in the small town start raising their ugly heads, jeopardizing Aaron and others as well.
Copies of the book have been placed on hold, so come on in and pick your copy up. Then join us on August 1, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for what promises to be another fascinating discussion. If you’re not currently in the group but want to be, email me at the address on the blog, and I’ll provide you with a link to join us.
Running a book group meeting via Zoom has its challenges, like the varying quality of people’s internet access (few things are more frustrating than being in the middle of a discussion and having everything freeze on your computer), but it’s especially challenging when you’re having a meeting months after most of you read the book. The Field of Mystery Book Group dealt with that hurdle on Saturday, gamely discussing Joe Ide’s IQ, which we’d taken out back in March, and remembering enough of it to be able to talk knowledgeably and interestingly about the characters and the plot and the setting of the book. I call that a victory!
We also chose our next book for our next meeting on July 11 at 11:00. Because of the way things are working with the Westchester Library System’s holds policy, it made sense for us to choose a book that’s available on Overdrive. Fortunately there are many interesting books there which have enough copies that all the members of the group can get one. We ended up choosing Tana French’s The Trespasser.
The Trespasser is one of the books (not the first) in French’s Dublin Murder Squad series, but the series is written so that you can start anywhere, since each book focuses on a different member of the squad. In this one, our protagonist is Detective Antoinette Conway, who’s facing harassment and trouble at work and is near to the breaking point when she gets the case of a young woman found dead in her apartment. It should be simple: it looks like the classic case of a lovers’ quarrel turned to murder, and yet Antoinette recognizes the victim somehow, and the case proves to be deeper and more complicated than it appeared. Antoinette’s own emotional state, close to paranoia, doesn’t make things easier for her. She can’t tell whether the difficulties she’s having with the case are due to the atmosphere in the squad or real problems with the victim and the murder.
Since this is a Zoom book club meeting, if you’re interested in joining us on July 11, email me and I’ll send you the link to join us in the discussion. For the rest of the members of the Field of Mystery Book Group, to use the immortal words of Sherlock Holmes, the game is afoot!
Because apparently I don’t have enough book clubs to run (I run the Field Notes book group here at the library, and the Drum Hill book club at the Drum Hill Senior Living Center), and apparently I’m not reading enough books already, and because (this is absolutely true) there are few things I enjoy as much as reading and discussing books with other readers, I’m starting a new book group here at The Field Library, one focused on mysteries. We’re calling it the Field of Mystery (it’s not actually required that all names of programs play on the name of the library, but clearly we like to do that), and we’re having our first meeting on March 7 from 2 to 3 p.m. Anyone who’s interested and in the area is more than welcome to come by and help us decide when the group will meet in the future.
Obviously I love mysteries (see my last post on The Death of Mrs. Westaway, if you have any doubts about that), and I’m so excited about all the different new mysteries and series that have been coming out, which I haven’t even had a chance to read yet. Mysteries that create a version of Sherlock Holmes who’s African American and living in Los Angeles, or mysteries set in the outback of Australia, or historical mysteries set in the last days of the Raj in India, or any number of other unusual mysteries: who wouldn’t want to sample them all and maybe discover a new favorite author?
I’ve already chosen the first book we’re going to read, IQ, by Joe Ide. I’ve written about this before, here. Isaiah Quintabe, known as IQ, may be a high school dropout and seem unassuming and modest, but he’s possessed of both a brilliant mind and a fierce desire to help people who need his services. In his East Los Angeles neighborhood, there are many kinds of cases the police can’t or won’t solve, and people come to IQ for help, which he gives, on a sliding scale based on his clients’ ability to pay. When he needs money, he takes on the case of a rap mogul whose life is being threatened, and IQ finds himself in deep and dangerous circumstances indeed. The book is the beginning of a series, so anyone who enjoys this character will have more to look forward to.
At our first meeting we’ll set the terms for the future: what kinds of mysteries people want to read, when people want to come, how the group is going to work. Come and join us, and meet your fellow aficionados in the Peekskill area, and check out our first Field of Mystery book selection.