Quite unintentionally, the last two books I finished were both novels by British authors, whose books I have always enjoyed. Could they keep the streak going with these two books? All will soon be revealed.
Tigerlily's Orchids - Ruth Rendell
When Stuart, a vacant and rather vain boy-toy, decides to throw himself a flat-warming party, he invites all the residents of his small London apartment house in the outer suburbs. He is loathe, however, to invite his needy and expensive lady friend, as that would entail also inviting her husband. The party sets off a chain of events that forever impacts the lives of everyone who attends.
Rendell, always a keen observer of human nature, has created in Tigerlily's Orchids a richly-drawn cast of characters. I was taken with how well-rounded these people were, with all the foibles and redeeming qualities of people you would find in any neighbourhood.
Tigerlily's Orchids doesn't follow a standard murder mystery format, in that the murder (and I am not spoiling anything here) happens quite late in the novel. By this point, the series of intertwined sub-plots had branched into twisted threads.
I did feel that the book sort of fell apart briefly toward the end, but the scatteredness was short-lived and the novel concluded most satisfactorily. A fun read, with characters who remain vivid and memorable long after the last page is turned.
Juliet, Naked - Nick Hornby
Duncan is the self-proclaimed world expert on the life and music of Tucker Crowe, an American musician who suddenly and mysteriously disappeared into a reclusive life shortly after releasing his magnum opus. Annie is his long-time girlfriend who tolerates his obsession, until the release of Juliet, Naked, Tucker Crowe's first new release in over twenty years, causes a rift between the two.
Like all of Hornby's books, Juliet, Naked is a fast and fun read. Although I have never personally broken into somebody's house to use the toilet, while stalking the occupant, some of Duncan's musical obsessions did hit rather close to home. Hornby knows his music nerds.
Lovely touches of irreverent humour, an odd cast of characters, and a realistically ambiguous ending makes Juliet, Naked a good mid-winter novel.