The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve

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I picked this one up on one of my compulsive thrift hauls, sitting on my shelf since sometime this past fall. I was curious to see if Shreve would leave the same impression on me, as this is my second Shreve novel (the other being Testimony, which I read back in 2011). I found them similar in that they were slow to start but packed a punch by the end.

For me, The Pilot’s Wife took a little while to get into because of Shreve’s writing style between chapters. There isn’t much awareness between the present moments and the change to past memories, with the exception of a chapter break and the punctuation of dialogue, which changes from quotations to em dashes. The first few chapters, the present tense would hook me into the plot, and then the flashback chapters would confuse me. It was almost as if I should be looking for clues in the flashbacks, but I had no idea what to look for. This slowed the pace, and I’m not a fan when the author controls my pace, haha. I want the action! This was similar in Testimony, so I’m going to guess that this is Shreve’s style. (Fans of hers, am I correct?) The other similarity I picked up on was how the plot is revealed. At first, there’s a lot of detail, background and setting and character relationship information. This bogs me down, but Shreve uses really beautiful language and there was enough interesting tidbits within that made me want to continue reading, not quit.

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Right from the very first chapter, Shreve introduces her main character, Kathryn, who is awoken in the middle of the night by a man knocking on her door. Her daughter Mattie is asleep down the hall, and her husband Jack, an airline pilot, was overseas in London and due back around lunchtime. When she finally answers the door, a man named Robert, a rep from the airline union, gives her the worst news: Her husband’s plane had exploded over the Atlantic, and there were no survivors.

Kathryn, now a widow, is faced with the aftermath, including varying rumors that the accident was Jack’s fault. Trying to help her daughter and herself come to terms, Kathryn attempts to prove Jack’s honor, but ends up finding seemingly insignificant details coming together to prove that Jack had something to hide. When Kathryn pieces everything together, the reader is left to wonder how the pilot’s wife will continue on with the newfound knowledge.

I’ve just recently found out that there is also a movie of this novel, so I’m curious to see how it will compare, but I always think the book is better so I guess it doesn’t matter too much. The Pilot’s Wife has Oprah’s Book Club seal of approval, and if you’re in for an intimately gripping read, I’d give Shreve’s novel a chance.

 

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Saratoga Payback by Stephen Dobyns

When I checked this out of the library, I thought there was something familiar about it. Turns out, I’ve read another of Dobyns’ books, called Saratoga Backtalk. Both are ‘Charlie Bradshaw’ mysteries, where we follow private investigator Charlie as he tries to solve crimes in the horse industry. I know that the horse connection had a lot to do with picking them both out, but in all honesty, while reading these novels, you don’t care much about the horses. The reader is too wrapped up in the suspense of the mystery!

In Saratoga Payback, Charlie is officially a retired PI (something tells me there is more to that story but it isn’t discussed in depth in this novel), yet he can’t help getting involved in the murder mystery that actually drops on his doorstep. Mickey Martin is found dead on Charlie’s sidewalk outside his home with his throat slashed and his tongue cut out. Charlie can’t quite figure out why, but he has a hunch that someone wanted Mickey to stop running his mouth, and wanted Charlie to know it too. So, trying his hardest to not meddle in police business, being that he no longer has his PI license and could go to jail for investigating, he takes on the “concerned citizen” role and tries to figure out why Mickey was brutally murdered.

It’s a quick paced novel, and very funny despite the scary situation, what with all the vicious slashing going on. As I was reading Payback, it made me recall why I liked Backtalk. Dobyns’ character driven plots make it easy to follow along but leave enough mystery to keep you turning the page. Charlie’s easy going personality and witty banter with his clients, friends, family, and informants make these novels an enjoyable read.

 

Burn Town by Jennifer McMahon

“There is no someday. We spend so much of our lives waiting for someday, don’t we? There is only right now. This is our someday.”

Burn Town just made one of my top favorite books of the year so far. When I read ‘Winter People’, I remember liking it but not enthralled, but I’m glad I decided to try again with McMahon, because WOW.

Burn Town had me hooked in the first 10 pages. HOOKED. By page 35, I had a running list of questions, and by page 50, I couldn’t take my eyes off the page. There are very few books that I’ve read in one day, yet here I am, adding this suspense thriller to the list. I could not put it down.

The whole story starts with the murder of Elizabeth Sandeski, the grandmother of the main character, Necco (Eva). Necco’s father, Miles, witnesses the murderer take his mother’s life, and years down the road attempts revenge. Thanks to a machine that links the living with the dead, Elizabeth reveals who killed her, and Miles takes matters into his own hands- or so he thinks. Years after that, Necco’s mother has a sort of premonition that the family is in danger again, and Necco learns that she’s in danger just before things get foggy and her memories fade to black.

Now, Necco is on the run again with the help of a high school drug dealer, a circus-crazed cafeteria lady, and a part-time private investigator, trying to figure out who is after her and what happened to her family after “the Great Flood”. Everything Necco though she knew is nothing compared to the truth she uncovers.

Absolutely recommend the read, as long as you can handle the thrill of it!