Books Read 2003

I kept handwritten records in 2003 of the books I read (except from March through May, for some reason) and have transcribed them here. Others lists exist for 2011, 2010, 2009, 2004 and 2002.


A Fearsome Doubt (2002) by Charles Todd, in the Ian Rutledge series, set in England, post-WWI. Two cases: The widow of a man Rutledge sent to the gallows in 1912 tries to reopen the case; and in the present, 1919, there’s a killer of war amputees in Marling. Themes include disabilities (sight-loss and limb-loss), emotional and physical scars, mercy killings.  Good.

The Last Temptation (2002) by Val McDermid in the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series. This one is set mostly in Berlin and in Belgium. Several converging stories, including Tony profiling a killer whose grandfather was in a Nazi ‘hospital’ (i.e., tortured) and who later tortured the grandson, and Carol undercover trying to snag some smugglers of humans. Themes of betrayal, humiliation and power. McDermid is always good but sometimes too graphic, too much torture, for me.

Brideshead Revisted (1945) by Evelyn Waugh, for bookgroup.


Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (2001) by Dai Sijie, for bookgroup. A short novel, set in the 1970s, about the “reeducation” of educated Chinese in rural parts of the country.

1984 (1949) by George Orwell, detailing a dystopian future. Read for bookgroup/community read.  Seemed like more a conglomeration of political and social science tracts than fiction. Key aspects: Winston Smith; the 2-minute hate; thought police; people vaporised and their names erased from public records; Newspeak; oligarchical collectivism; doublethink …

More Ready That You Realize ( ) by Brian McLaren: evangelism for the non-fundamentalist Christian. Very readable, some good ideas, but kind of light-weight.

The Sixteen Pleasures (1994) by Robert Hellenga. Set in Florence after the terrible Arno flood of 1966, it’s the story of 29-yr-old narrator Margot Harrington, a book conservator, who has come to Italy to help save the art and is asked by Carmelite nuns to sell a Renaissance manuscript of 16 erotic poems and drawings. Themes: self-discovery; journey; sensual pleasure vs. mechanics of life. The book has a bit of a fairy tale nature.

March-May: forgot to keep track


Twenty Blue Devils (1997) by Aaron Elkins, in the forensic anthropologist Gideon Oliver series, involving coffee in Tahiti. With John Lau of the FBI.

Old Bones (1987) by Aaron Elkins, in the forensic anthropologist Gideon Oliver series, in France, with WWII repercussions. Begins with a drowning off Mont St. Michel of a Resistance hero.

My Only Story (2000 ) by Monica Woods, a somewhat unconventional love story set in Portland, ME and Mass.

Skeleton Dance (2000) by Aaron Elkins, in the forensic anthropologist Gideon Oliver series, at a paleontologists’ institute in Les Eyzies-de Tayac, France.


Loot (1999) by Aaron Elkins, NOT in the forensic anthropologist Gideon Oliver series. About WWII art looting by the Nazis.

The Deadhouse (2001) by Linda Fairstein, in the Manhattan Assistant DA Alexandra Cooper  series, set on NYC’s Roosevelt Island.

Make No Bones (1991) by Aaron Elkins, in the forensic anthropologist Gideon Oliver series. Set at the Western Association of Forensic Anthropologists’ conference in Oregon.

Turncoat (2003) by Aaron Elkins, about WWI collaborators. A stand-alone thriller.

The DaVinci Code (2003) by Dan Brown, involving Opus Dei, the Priory of Scion, DaVinci’s Last Supper, Mary Magdalene, cryptology, codes, symbologist Lauvre, St. Sulpice, Knights Templar, etc.


The Mermaids Singing ( 1996) by Val McDermid, in the Carol Jordan/Tony Hill series. … Lots of sexual torture. Trans-sexuality is central.

Prodigal Summer (2000) by Barbara Kingsolver, for bookgroup. Three related stories: one about pregnancy and coyotes, one about farming and moths, and one about old folks, reconciliation, grafting and chestnut trees.  Other themes are predator/prey, fecundity, legacy, and generations. So-so.

Fox Evil (2002) by Minette Walters. Not as good as her others. “Fox Evil” is an opportunist, who looks like the son of wealthy couple.

Close to Home (2003) by Peter Robinson, in the Alan Banks series. Two plots: the bones of a childhood friend of Banks’, Graham Marshall, who died in 1965, have just been found; and the son of suicide rocker Neil Byrd has just died accidentally. Not as good as his usual. Too much about the Kray Brothers and mafia/mob stuff and bent coppers. Annie Cabot is a minor character in this one as Banks’ and Michelle Hart’s relationship advances.


Original Soul: Living with Paradox and Originality (2000) by Thomas More. Non-fiction. ” 50 fresh interpretations of living with originality rather than conformity. ”

Trial By Jury (2001) by D. Graham Burnett, a non-fiction account of a jury foreman in a NYC murder trial. Law vs. justice.

The Secret Life of Bees (2002) by Sue Monk Kidd, for bookgroup. I didn’t make any notes and can’t recall the book at all now, but a review says “It’s 1964, the year of the Civil Rights Act, in Sylvan, S.C. Fourteen-year-old Lily is on the lam with motherly servant Rosaleen, fleeing both Lily’s abusive father T. Ray and the police who battered Rosaleen for defending her new right to vote.” I don’t think I liked it.

The Long Close Call (2000) a psychological thriller by Julia Wallis Martin. Involves a bank robbery and kidnapping. I liked all her books (there are only 4 of them as far as I know).


A Place of Hiding (2003) by Elizabeth George. This one is not in the Lynley/Havers series but instead it’s Lynley’s friends Simon St. James and wife Deborah investigating on the island of Guernsey in the English Channel. A bit long and not as capitivating as her series, but the plot is complex with lots of character development. Elements include WWII repercussions, stolen art, injustice and betrayals, revenge, sex (with minors, vs. love) and infidelity.

The Bear Went Over the Mountain (1997) by William Kotzwinkle, for bookgroup. Surreal satire/fable. The bear becomes more human while the human becomes more bear. Set in Maine, NYC, Los Angeles, etc.


Interpreter of Maladies (1999) by Jhumpa Lahiri, for bookgroup. Nine short stories, set in U.S. and India. I thought the ones set in the U.S. were the best; the ones set in India seemed flat.  The idea of the interpreter of maladies: the difficulty, sometimes the impossibility, of expressing our pain, our experience.

The Distant Echo (2003) by Val McDermid. Crime fiction set mostly in Scotland and a little on the West coast and in GA, in the U.S.  Four people were suspected in a killing in the 1970s, and when the case is reopened 25 years later, the real killer begins killing them off.


Dialogues of the Dead (2001) by Reginald Hill, in the Dalziel/Pascoe series. Lots of wordplay, paronomania. Great ending(s). Always a pleasure to read this series.

Dead Men’s Hearts (1994) by Aaron Elkins. Julie and Gideon Oliver on a trip/cruise to the Valley of the Nile Egypt. Not that great. Hard to follow the two skeletons with the same numbers on them.

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