The Morning's Reading List

As usually happens on a Sunday morning, I've lolled about in comfy clothes (if-not-quite-pajamas) drinking coffee and reading through the slew of publisher's emails (looking at potential ARCs, reading lists, and award winners/runners up).

This morning we have a list of Sherlockian calibre mysteries from Simon & Schuster as well as a few titles coming out in January from HarperCollins:

First, the list of fictional sleuths that Simon & Schuster says passes literary muster:

  1. A is for Alibi, Sue Grafton
  2. Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie
  3. Queen of the Flowers, Kerry Greenwood
  4. The Black Echo, Michael Connelly
  5. One for the Money, Janet Evanovich
What strikes me most about the list is that each of these stories, while fun, is terribly predictable. Don't get me wrong, I love nice light reading (I also appreciate the machinations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). I loved Agatha Christie as a child, because she was formulaic and I could follow the plot easily, even when she introduced unknowns in the form of a "plot twist." 

I know lots of people who are fans of Sue Grafton and Janet Evanovich, but I'm really not one of them. The stories and writing are perfectly fine, but neither tends to hook me. Again, formulaic.

I like Michael Connelly's later books. The Black Echo just didn't challenge my brain in the way that Doyle's writing did -- of course, that could be the difference between reading Doyle as a teenager and Connelly as an adult.

And, in all honesty, I've never paid much attention to Greenwood. Perhaps because of the style of book cover or the time period in which the stories take place - I've always lumped her in with Jacqueline Winspear, whose writing I've never really enjoyed. (not really fair of me, I know, but it is what it is).

That said, the collectibility factor for four of the five titles cannot be denied:
  1. A is for Alibi, Sue Grafton: first editions list in the $2,000 to $7,000 range (signed) and up to $1,000 (unsigned). In fact, all early titles of her alphabet series are highly collectible. I remember, when I worked at the library we had a first edition (with library marks and all) and it was stolen shortly after one of the interns realized (and commented publicly on) how valuable it was. 
  2. Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie. First editions of this title are a bit rare, as it was published in 1934. But the Crime Club published editions every 10 years or so, so you may find publication dates from the 1940s and 50s. Of course any first editions you find of Christie's work will be collectible - We're talking anywhere from $1,000 to $100,000 for signed copies, easily. Unsigned titles (first editions) still garner values in the $1,000-$5,000 range depending on the condition. There's a nice collection of titles for sale over at
  3. Queen of the Flowers, Kerry Greenwood: First published as a paperback, first editions of this title aren't all that valuable. Other titles, however,  are listing over at AbeBooks in the $100 - $200 range.
  4. The Black Echo, Michael Connelly: The true first edition (Headline, London, 1992) of this title is quite rare. It had a small initial run. Unsigned copies are listing for $2,000 to $3,000. The first US edition (Little, Brown, New York, 1992) lists for up to $1,000.
  5. One for the Money, Janet Evanovich: Signed first editions (Scribner, New York, 1994) list from $200 to $700. Unsigned first editions list from $80 to $180.

And from HarperCollins, some upcoming titles that may be good reads, if not collectible:

Debut Fiction:

God Loves Haiti, Dimitri Elias Léger

A native of Haiti, Dimitry Elias Léger makes his remarkable debut with this story of romance, politics, and religion that traces the fates of three lovers in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and the challenges they face readjusting to life after an earthquake devastates their city.

Lots of positive reviews from other authors, including Junot Diaz and Gary Schteyngart.


The Teenage Brain, Frances Jensen

“In The Teenage Brain, neurologist Frances Jensen has brilliantly translated academic science and clinical studies into easily understandable chapters to highlight the many changes in connections and plasticity of the brain. The book is a ‘must read’ for parents, teachers, school nurses, and many others who live with or interact with teens...a new framework for readers to approach parenting or teaching with more science and more evidence-based, practical advice.” 
           — S. Jean Emans, MD. Chief, Division of Adolescent/Young Adult Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital; Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School


Driving the King, Ravi Howard

The war is over, the soldiers are returning, and Nat King Cole is back in his hometown of Montgomery, Alabama, for a rare performance. His childhood friend, Nat Weary, plans to propose to his sweetheart, and the singer will honor their moment with a special song. While the world has changed, segregated Jim Crow Montgomery remains the same. When a white man attacks Cole with a pipe, Weary leaps from the audience to defend him—an act that will lead to a ten-year prison sentence.

"An indelible portrait of prejudice and promise, friendship and loyalty, Driving the King by Ravi Howard is a daring look at race and class in pre-Civil Rights America, played out in the lives of two remarkable men: Nat King Cole and his driver, Nat Weary."

The story is told from Weary's POV.

One Amazon reviewer compares it to James McBride's The Good Lord Bird.

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