Andy and I don't often read the same novels. He usually gravitates to thrillers, whodunnits, police procedurals, that sort of thing. His favorite authors are James Lee Burke, Daniel Silva, the late great Robert Parker, Lee Child, Vince Flynn, you get the idea. Which doesn't mean that that's all he reads—for instance, we both read and enjoyed those two Jonathan Tropper books—but it does tend to be what he prefers.
He's been trying for years to get me to read James Lee Burke, because the writing (confirmed by every review Burke's ever gotten) is so sublimely beautiful, but it's just not my genre. I prefer literary fiction, which doesn't mean only books by and about women (there go those Tropper books again!), but can mean books where the characters and the language might matter more than the plot (though not always). Well, if you follow this blog at all, you know what kind of books I usually read.
So now I've gone and read two murder mysteries—what's up with that?
The first was The Writing Class by Jincy Willett. The only other book I'd read by Willett was Winner of the National Book Award (yes, that's the title!), which I reviewed here. That book had me quite literally laughing out loud, and Willett's sense of humor is evident in this book, too, although in a more subdued way. The Writing Class tells the story of Amy Gallup, a former bestselling author who now teaches adult ed. fiction writing classes to the expected motley crew of wannabe writers. Willett pokes (good-natured) fun at Amy, at the students, at writing classes in general, at academia, at the world of publishing, and pretty much everything and everyone in between. But they're subtle jabs rather than flat-out jokes. Anyhow, someone in Amy's latest class must not be happy with the way the semester is going, because bad things are starting to happen, from mysterious phone calls to menacing pranks to—yes, even murder. But it's a fun little romp of a book—not even remotely scary or upsetting—and you will really be curious to find out whodunnit by the end.
The other book was far more chilling and creepy: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. When I first heard about it, I had no interest in reading it, but then all sorts of people from different parts of my life kept saying they'd just read it and loved it. Finally I decided that I would wait until it came out in paperback this November. Then more people were talking about it, and the next thing I knew, I'd bought the hardcover and started reading. It tells the story of Amy and Nick Dunne, who awaken on the morning of their fifth anniversary, have crepes for breakfast . . . and then Amy vanishes. There's all kinds of incriminating evidence at home and around town, but Nick swears he had nothing to do with it. Or did he? The chapters alternate between Nick talking in the present, while he's being interrogated by the police and maintaining his innocence, and Amy's diary entries from the last few years. Both sections reveal that the marriage was anything but ideal, but was it bad enough that Nick might have actually killed her? Or did he maybe mean to hurt her but killed her accidentally? Or did someone else kill her? Was she kidnapped? Did she run away? Did she kill herself? None of the above? I really and truly couldn't put this book down, although I kept having to because of stupid work and family obligations. It's very much a psychological thriller, and downright disturbing in parts, but I just had to know what happened. I was also very impressed with the writing—the characters were fascinating, the plot convincing, and the language itself clever and intelligent. I think Andy will like this book!