Because Monday was a holiday—Martin Luther King Jr. Day—I took the day off, which is why this week’s piece is being posted on Tuesday.
There has been little snow in Maine so far this year, but we do have enough to tell a story of January, of arrival and waiting.
There are the footprints made by the boy next door, who came over with a charming handwritten note to thank us for the presents we gave him for Christmas.
Then there is a sense of waiting…the shovel and the buckets of sand and salt on the porch.
Minerva, nestled in leaves and covered by a snow blanket.
The herbs drooping in my little garden. The oregano will come roaring back, I know, but I’m not so sure about the sage. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.
A few dried leaves in the driveway, which will eventually get blown into the woods to become part of the leaf carpet in the woods.
I like this time of cold and waiting, of tidying up and resting after the holidays. The days are still short, and as the darkness comes, I make a cup of tea and settle on the couch, where I read and watch the night come. By 5:00 o’clock the sky is dark, and it’s time to pull the shades. Often there is some kind of bean soup simmering in the slow cooker, a warm hearty meal for a chilly winter’s night.
I discovered the British writer Andrew Taylor in a roundabout way. In a recent issue of The New Yorker, Jill Lepore wrote a wonderful profile of Mick Herron, of Slow Horses fame. In the profile, Lepore describes how she tags along with Mick Herron, Andrew Taylor, and crime writer Sarah Hilary as they read from their work at a local bookstore. Because I am such a fan of Mick Herron, I decided to give Hilary and Taylor a try.
I started with Hilary and her Someone Else’s Skin but gave up after only twenty pages or so. Far too grisly for me.
Then I turned to Andrew Taylor and The Ashes of London, a historical novel set in London in 1666, the time of the Great Fire.
That was in December, and I was smitten by Taylor’s writing—the vivid sense of place and his two protagonists—grumpy but good- hearted James Marwood as well as the feisty and appropriately named Cat Lovett. The Ashes of London is filled with political intrigue. There is murder most foul. There is sex and violence, but Taylor handles it just right.
Lucky for me there are six books that feature Marwood and Lovett. I have raced through The Fire Court, The King’s Evil, and The Last Protector. There is more political intrigue as Marwood becomes embroiled in King Charles’s business. There is also more murder most foul, but there is a forward momentum to the books that saves them all from being the same.
I particularly like Taylor’s depiction of Cat Lovett, his sympathetic portrayal of a woman who is of her time but who strains against its strictures in her desire to become an architect.
Book five, The Royal Secret, is on its way via interlibrary loan.
I can’t wait!