Three tales of action, mystery

........................................................................................................................................................................................

This classic detective story by Wilkie Collins, “The Moonstone,” waits a few chapters before even mentioning the moonstone, which turns out to be a gem brought from India by an exploring uncle, who wants it given to Rachel on her 18th birthday.

Everyone wishes there were no gem. No one liked the old uncle, and everyone is afraid of anything oriental. Rachel loves it and immediately fastens it to her dress. She insists on taking charge of it and won’t let her mother take it and guard it.

Of course, in the morning, it’s missing, or as the British say, “It has gone missing.” Police are summoned, house is searched, and the help all have to surrender their clothes from their cabinets. No moonstone.

They can’t see any way that an East Indian could have gotten into the house, though three suspicious “jugglers” had been hanging around the house in the evening.

Two cousins vie for Rachel’s hand. Franklin Blake seems to be favored at first, but then Rachel changes to accept Gregory Ablewhite. But the author seems to disapprove of him because he’s so earnest, a good person who helps all the ladies’ charitable committees.

The author similarly disapproves of cousin Clack, who distributes religious tracts. One hilarious chapter has her hiding so as not to be caught as she cleverly places tracts throughout the house. Next day she finds them all in the mail, sent back to her. Well, if that doesn’t work, she’ll copy excerpts from the tracts on little cards and place them throughout the house. Once when she appeals to Rachel to give in to her converting, Rachel scorns her.

The London policeman is funny, too. All he really cares about is roses, which he argues about with the gardener.

Good luck solving this mystery! Anyway, you will enjoy the characters and the intrigue.

Charles Frazier has brought North Carolina to life again in “Nightwoods” as he did in “Cold Mountain.” In this family story, the principal character, Luce, would be content with her simple life in the country, but her niece and nephew have been orphaned by the murderer of Luce’s sister, Lily.

Although Luce has no maternal feelings, she feels obliged to take the children.

Everyone assumes that Lily’s husband had killed her in one of his wild beatings that he euphemistically called “fights,” but the jury of “good old boys” acquitted him. He doesn’t want to fade away because he wants Lily’s savings, which he is sure she had hidden somewhere in the lodge, where Luce lives with the children.

Enter Stubblefield, the grandson who has inherited Luce’s lodge. His grandfather hadn’t planned to visit, had no interest in his tenant, but the grandson falls for pretty Luce, who had entranced him 30 years earlier when they were in high school together.

He is a help with the children, whom everyone considers retarded. Luce knows that seeing their mother murdered had traumatized them.

Wonderful suspense, wonderful woods, you will enjoy it.

Narrated by the horse, “War Horse” by Michael Morpurgo tells a vivid story of the misery of World War I and the privations that people suffered. Young Albert loves the horse as soon as his father buys it, but the father is mean, only buys the horse to spite a rival and threatens to sell or shoot it any time he feels like it.

Albert protects the horse and trains him to work so that his father will let him stay. Albert names the horse Joey to go along with their farm horse, Zoey.

After all that work, the father sells the horse anyway to an Army captain, who promises to take wonderful care of him. The captain, soon killed, is replaced by another kind master, but, Joey complains, a poor horseman.

The officers decided to have horses pull carts full of wounded to the clinic tent. One officer objects that these are fine horses, not work animals.

However, the argument always is that this is war, we have to make sacrifices. The officers always agree to give the horses special care. They are stabled on a farm, where Emilie and her grandfather fall in love with the horses.

In an afterword, the author explains that using an appealing animal, he was able to tell his moving story. You will approve.