Irrelevant, engrossing, irreverent
The characters in “The Imperfectionists,” by Tom Rachman, are employees of a newspaper, which is fading, like many today. The author tells about their private lives, in short stories. Each chapter has a title from the news, usually irrelevant, such as “The Sex Lives of Islamist Extremists,” for example.
Several stories are sad, with the loss of a child, or the end of a marriage, and worst, the end of the newspaper. We learn that Cyrus Ott established the English-language newspaper in Rome just to please his girlfriend Betty, who helped him choose the famous, expensive paintings for his mansion.
The cleverest story features a self-confident woman from “Accounts Payable” on a plane to a company meeting in Atlanta. She hopes no one will sit with her so that she can work. A man does sit with her, who she realizes with horror is the man she just had fired from the editorial department. They get friendly in spite of it and afterward get almost intimate, except that he humiliates her, admitting that he had recognized her right away.
You will enjoy this sadly current novel.
Here is another engrossing murder mystery by Donna Leon, “Doctored Evidence,” again set in Venice. I immediately thought I could guess that the murderer was the doctor, but no, there are so many doctors — medical, educational, psychiatric.
An old woman is murdered, and no one can guess why. Everyone hated her but probably not enough to kill her. The consensus is that her maid from Romania did it because she was seen running away and leaving the country and having an appropriate amount of money with her.
When Signora Gismondi, a neighbor, returns from a business trip and reads about the case, she goes to the police. She knows the maid could not have done it because the maid was locked out of the house, so she could not have killed the old woman and could not have been paid her last wages.
But it was Lt. Scarpa, always a trial to Commissario Brunetti, Leon’s favorite detective, who heard Signora Gismondi and didn’t believe her.
Brunetti takes over the case, which Scarpa had considered closed. Believing Signora Gismondi, Brunetti decides to search the old woman’s possessions more carefully. In the attic, he finds bankbooks that puzzle him. The old woman had lots of money, which wasn’t unusual for old hoarders, but he can’t figure out where it all came from.
It occurs to him that the cunning old woman had been blackmailing someone. Then all he has to do is figure out the victim. Back to the attic he goes and finds the answer. Another one of Leon’s marvels.
“Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging, Confessions of Georgia Nicolson,” by Louise Rennison, is a subversive novel, full of irreverent fun at the expense of parents and teachers.
British Georgia Nicolson is 13, in love with a handsome 17-year-old, who tells her she’s too young for him, but she is so hilarious that he decides to give her a try.