Review: The Stolen Blue by Judith van Gieson

7. The Stolen Blue by Judith van Gieson
Publication: Signet (April 10, 2000), Paperback, 245pp / ISBN 0451200012
Genre: Mystery
Challenges: Support Your Local Authors (#1)
Read: January 13, 2010
Source: Borrowed off a coworker
Summary from Amazon:

For the fifty-year-old, recently divorced Claire Reynier, it’s time to start over. But her new direction in life–at a New Mexico university–becomes a detour to murder when an old friend and mentor is found dead.


This review is another one of those ambivalent confusing ones, because on the one hand this takes place in Albuquerque, at my university, in MY FAVORITE LIBRARY. Specifically, in the Center for Southwest Research, which is a thing housed in the main Library. And that’s quite exciting! I can recognize everything she talks about. The landmarks, the way people act, the weather. It’s all very familiar and it was really fun to read about something, like an ugly statue that haunts my campus, for instance, and go “I know that!”

On the other hand, if I had read this and I was still living in Maryland, with no knowledge of the southwest or New Mexico, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have even finished it. The characters, including the protagonist, are really bland. Everyone speaks in short choppy sentences and the dialogue reads like this: “Did you like that thing?” “No.” “What about that other thing?” “Nope.” It borders on parody, and I can’t help but wonder if Ms van Gieson was trying to give it a Western feel– aren’t cowboys supposed to talk like the words are being dragged out of them, or something?

The plot was unfortunately really boring. Nothing happens for about three-fourths of the book, and the conclusion is just sort of plopped there grudgingly. I think most of the book is taken up by descriptions of Albuquerque and New Mexico as a whole, and while that’s not bad in a literary fiction book, it doesn’t make for exciting reading in a mystery. And in fact, the mystery is sort of secondary to everything else. Maybe even tertiary– all I know is that it’s not terribly important in the plot.

I suppose if you’re wondering what Albuquerque is like, this would be a good book to read. I think it captures the idiosyncrasies of my town quite well, especially in small things like how people drive (very angrily) and why they don’t wear coats in the winter (because they dress for the temperature in their car, not the temperature outside). The mystery, what there was of it, has a particular lure to book-lovers because it’s centered around rare books and libraries. I particularly liked the idea that a vital clue was hidden in a book with an extremely small run (30 copies!) and practically all of them are missing. The hunt for a copy of that book was fun to read about.

Anyway, I guess my thing with this book is: I dislike everything but the descriptions of Albuquerque, and those descriptions are giving me such good feelings and hometown pride that I can’t completely hate the book like I think I want to. So, you know. I don’t know. This has turned out to be quite a depressing review. Pictures! That’ll liven things up.

Photo by JadeXJustice on Flickr

This is Zimmerman Library, where the story partly takes place! And where the CSWR is. It’s somewhere on the left side, I think. I’ve never, er, been in there. It always seems to be closed.


Find your own copy @ Amazon.

Other reviews: The Mystery Reader | Betty’s Book Nook

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0 thoughts on “Review: The Stolen Blue by Judith van Gieson”

  1. Sorry this one didn’t work out for you but at least you got to enjoy reading about your city! Sometimes the setting is better than the story itself. 🙂

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