As I get older, I find that I'm less and less willing to work hard for a read. That isn't to say that I don't like rich, deep characterisation, complex plots, or intriguing, well crafted settings. I just don't want to have to take a lot of time or energy to become absorbed into them. That's why Aaron Paul Lazar's mysteries are always such a pleasurable reading experience for me. They're easy without being facile. They're lighthearted and fun without being silly, and they're warm without sentimentality. You can't help liking the characters and admiring the way in which they use brains and integrity rather than brawns to outsmart the bad guys.
The newest series is the Tall Pines Mysteries, of which For the Birds is the first book. Like all of Lazar's books, the settings are based on places Lazar himself knows well and are beautifully depicted, showing a respect for the unique beauty of nature. The Tall Pines are all set in the Finger Lakes and Adirondacks regions of New York, with their white water lakes, tall trees (of course), and blue mountains. For the Birds is set primarily in a large, fancy hotel of the same name, designed specifically for bird lovers, with a two story glass aviary centre piece surrounded by star shaped rooms radiating outward.
The narrator of the story is the gutsy Marcella Hollister, married to the attentive and handsome Quinn, who has a propensity to walk around shirtless, showing off his toned physique. Lazar does a superb job with Marcella — it's hard to believe that this novel is written by a man, as Marcella admires her husband, removes makeup, and ponders her relationship with her mother in a way that's authentically female. Quinn is a good foil for her with his obsessive compulsive tidiness and fear of germs coupled with a tender protectiveness, while Marcella's mother Thelma provides a strong comic element with her sharp opinions, and generous bankrolling of the holiday. The star of the book, however, is without doubt, Ruby, their colourful parakeet: