Friday, May 4, 2012

ONE BOOK IN THE GRAVE


Review of ONE BOOK IN THE GRAVE by KATE CARLISLE
(fifth in the BIBLIOPHILE MYSTERIES series)

So far this is definitely my favorite book in the BIBLIOPHILE MYSTERIES! I'm biased from the start, because BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is my favorite fairy tale and Brooklyn's restoring a gorgeous old edition of said classic. However, it's more than that; this particular installment in the series feels more personal, and more intense than any of its predecessors, probably because the case dredges up old demons from Brooklyn's past.

As a teenager, Brooklyn had a crush - that never really went anywhere - on a boy named Max, a boy beloved by many who went on to become an accomplished and admired paper maker. After a dramatic and entirely unhealthy relationship with a barely sane woman named Angelica, Max found the love of his life, Emily, and they became engaged. Since Max was a brawny gruff beast of a man and Emily a soft, quiet beauty, Brooklyn gifted them with an old copy of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST as their engagement present. Then everything went wrong. Max drove off a cliff and died in a terrible car crash, and Brooklyn always suspected Angelica of wrongdoing. As if that's not enough, a few weeks after Max’s death someone broke into Emily's house and stole the BEAUTY AND THE BEAST book that Max lovingly inscribed to her.

But that was three years ago and Brooklyn has moved on from an unsettling trauma that shook up her along with everyone else in her community. That is, until the copy of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST turns up again. Not only does the book stir up unwanted memories, but when Brooklyn tries to follow the trail of its past owners, she encounters murders, motives, and far more twists than she possibly could have expected.

Apparently, my victory of guessing the culprit in book four was a one-time-thing. I made numerous guesses along the way and not a single one was anywhere close to the truth. There are a lot of bizarre, impassioned, and obsessive people in ONE BOOK IN THE GRAVE who might have their own twisted logic behind violent actions and despite inventing my own outlandish possibilities I still didn't call the right one.

One trend has been increasingly attracting my notice throughout the series and now it's built up my attention enough that I have to comment. Whether Carlisle did it deliberately or not, she has created a character that captures some very complex and relevant questions about how we measure a woman's strength. In the first few books, I read maybe a handful of lines that made me pause, but now I see these instances in nearly every chapter: where Brooklyn thinks something stereotypically girly, romantic, and gooey, such as how safe she feels in Derek's arms or how complete she feels when they're together, and then proceeds to chastise herself for such pathetic thoughts. She's torn by her own desire to lean on Derek, both physically and emotionally, to seek him for comfort, protection, love, etc. versus her conviction that a strong woman doesn't need a man or, well, anybody. I see this trait in Brooklyn reflected not only in countless contemporary books staring female protagonists, but also in real women I know. It's a paradox: the desire to be independent versus the desire to find true love. I could go on - this is hardly a neat and tidy issue and I can feel it tempting my rambling impulses - but I'll leave it at that for now; maybe future BIBLIOPHILE MYSTERIES will prompt more discussion on this topic!

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