Okay, I let another month go by. Excuses: household illness, excessive work, self-recalcitrance. I did keep reading -- and managed some writing, or at least some creative noodling. I read some more Pelecanos and Woodrell -- great stuff as usual.
But I'll comment a little more on a first novel, Devil's Trill by Gerald Elias. It is a murder mystery (the murder comes late, in Carnegie Hall) and a violin theft caper. The author is an accomplished violinist, once with the Boston Symphony and now the Associate Concertmaster at the Utah Symphony.
I have a semi-personal connection to this book. My brother is a professional violinist (and crime fiction reader) and for years, he has been telling me stories of violin thefts, purchases, and catastrophes. I have written two unpublished stories (and part of a third) about instrument thefts, one featuring a violinist. So anyway, this book seemed somewhat up my alley and really up my brother's alley. I missed Elias's appearance in Portland, but picked up a signed copy of the book, which I sent to my brother.
I usually don't read traditional, fair clued, semi-cozy mysteries -- as this one is, more or less -- but I liked it quite a bit. The amateur detective, blind violin teacher Daniel Jacobus, is almost too cranky (and mean to a student), but he grows on you. In the end, the book's strengths are its glimpses into the seamy world of classical music and instrument dealing, and there is also a good dose of musical appreciation guidance.
I am now wrestling with reading yet another book about Patricia Highsmith, my third: The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith by Joan Schenkar. This is the big (or bigger) Highsmith book, in detail, analysis, and heft (nearly 700 pages). I'll report back. Highsmith is even more cranky and crazy than I thought (and I was already pretty scared, though about 20 of her novels have sunk far into my skin).