Reading Lately

I am on a Marti McAlister kick. The author is Eleanor Taylor Bland,  Marti is a black city cop. She worked in Chicago for a long time. Her husband, also a cop, dies before the first book in the series begins, and she moves to a smaller town on the outskirts of Chicago with her two kids (grade school and teenager).  She’s dropped into a partnership with an older cop (this otherwise excellent website says he’s young, but his kids are adults, and hers aren’t), and she combines solving crimes with worrying about her kids and how to be a busy single parent with a job that is anything but 9 to 5, and trying to do her job and get along with her partner and other cops who are not always up to date in their social views. Vic, her partner, is old school Polish Catholic and he thinks policing is men’s work. Two young vice cops who share her office think policing is mostly fun and games and off colour jokes.

The stories are good stories.  There’s some Chicago area history and geography- this is territory the author is deeply familiar with, and I’ve been to a couple of the areas she mentions, so that’s fun.  There is some social/political stuff, but it’s deftly woven in. It’s not heavy handed and doesn’t seem like there’s an ax to grind- at least, not at the expense of the story and characters.

There are times when it runs a little slow- these are not fast, cotton candy for the mind reads. They have a steady pace with details of family life, Black culture, Polish culture, Chicago culture, woven in gently and realistically. Some of the details are a bit saltier than I prefer, but what I do appreciate is that any of the unpleasant I wish I wasn’t reading this sexual stuff is not gratuitous or graphic, and I don’t feel like a peeping tom into Marti’s personal life. So far, of the three books I’ve read (well, 2.5, I stopped reading one to leave this review), that stuff is connected to the crimes.  And, again, it’s not gratuitous.  I still wouldn’t hand these to young teens, and probably only to older teens (seniors in High school) who have some worldliness about them- I dont mean that in a sinful way, just, some of our more sheltered youngsters in the homeschooling world that mainly makes up my readers wanting book recommends, won’t appreciate reading about an underwear sniffing creep, and others will find it acceptably realistic without being overly grotesque and wallowing in the reality presented.

The first book in the series is a collectable- the cheapest paperback is 20 dollars.  So I haven’t read it yet, since none of the libraries available to me have it, either.

The others are less expensive, and I’ve added four to my library, and passed one on to me eldest who texted me late in the night to tell me how much she is enjoying it.

The author is Eleanor Taylor Bland, and if you like a good police procedural with warm, relatable characters,  just a bit of grit, some good family life, I think you’ll enjoy these.  If you have any kind of connection to Chicago, you’ll love them.  If you are looking for a black mystery writer and black characters, I assume you must have already heard of Eleanor Taylor Bland, and if not, somebody has let you down.  Amend this immediately.

This is an author that when I looked her up and found out she died a few years ago, I felt real sorrow and regret that I could never write her a fan letter.

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