Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Arundhati Roy's first novel in many years is an epic history of India and its recent history. It starts around fifty years in the past and follows the story of Anjum. Anjum is born with the organs of both sexes and after finding disapproval in society, moves in with a group of the Hijra, transsexuals who are in the midst of gender reassignment. She leaves this group after many years and moves to a graveyard where she collects a group of others whom society would call misfits.
The story then leaps ahead to the conflict in Kashmir and the struggle between India to subdue it into a peaceful territory and the freedom fighters or terrorists depending on viewpoint, who continue the struggle. The story is viewed though the life of Tilo and the men who loved her. There is Naga, the journalist who marries Tilo after rescuing her from an interrogation center. The is the Indian bureaucrat known as Garson Hobart who is influential enough that when he sends Naga to free Tilo his power insures it is done. Then there is Musa, the gentle man who becomes known as a successful Kashimi terrorist after his wife and child are murdered.
Each of the characters has a history of pain and struggle yet each finds a way to make a life and to treasure the small moments that are all one can expect to keep. Along the way the reader is introduced to a host of other memorable characters each of whom's story is told in a way that makes their broken lives understandable. This is a book of terror and struggle yet of hope and love also. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.
Monday, June 18, 2018
The year was 1944 and the place was Paris, France. Paris was under occupation by the Nazi regime of Germany although the tide of war seemed to be turning. There had been mass roundups of those the Nazi's considered undesirable; Jewish individuals, gypsies, gangsters, etc. There was a Resistance in place, in fact many groups of Resistance fighters. With all the horror going on, no one expected the discovery that was made in March. An horrid stench came from an apparently unoccupied house. When the police investigated, a scene of horror was revealed.
The stench came from an attempt to burn bodies. There were dismembered bodies in the house and more outside in the yard in a pit full of lime. The bodies were so decayed that there was little hope of identifying the victims or even numbering them or determining their gender. Who could have created this horror?
The answer seemed to be the owner. Dr. Marcel Petiot owned the house and the police believed, killed the people found there. At first the headlines were lurid, hinting at sexual motives. The police came to believe that he, instead, was so despicable that he used the circumstances of the death camps and the German occupation to victimize those most in danger. Petiot offered desperate people passage to another country where they could be safe and start over. For most of them, however, the trip started and ended at his house and they were never heard from again.
The trial was one of the most sensational in the country's history. Petiot declared himself a Resistance fighter and said various things such as the bodies were put in his house by the Germans or that the bodies were Germans he had killed in his Resistance role. There were never any firm body count. The police eventually charged him with twenty-seven murders. Petiot claimed he had killed sixty-one Germans. Regardless of the number Petiot was found guilty and executed.
With the cover of the war, this case has never gotten the attention from true crime investigators that one might expect from such a large body count. The war obscured Petiot's crimes and his trial occurred as the country was recovering from the Occupation. David King has brought the facts of the case to light in this book and had access to previously classified documents from the police in order to do so. This book is recommended for true crime readers.
Friday, June 15, 2018
In the late 1970's and early 1980's, California was terrorized by a serial rapist and killer. He began his crimes in Northern California in the small communities around Sacramento. He committed hundreds of break ins and scores of rapes. He stalked the victims in advance, and often broke in and committed his crimes while the women were in bed with their husbands. He would have the woman tie up her husband, then move her to another room. He would place dishes on the man and tell him if he heard them fall off and break, he would kill the woman. He was known as the East Area Rapist or the EAR.
When the police investigation ramped up to a level that he feared capture, he moved his activities to Southern California. There, he escalated to murder and is credited with ten murders. He had killer a couple in Northern California earlier to escape so his murder toll is twelve, although many police believe it is higher. Then, he seemed to stop. This occasionally happens with serial killers and it often means the perpetrator has died or is imprisoned. While the crimes stopped, the police investigations did not. The police had the best clue of all, a DNA profile but for many years, it didn't provide any breakthroughs.
In addition to the police, an entire society of Internet crime fighters has arisen. Michelle McNamera was one of these driven individuals. The wife of actor Patton Oswalt, Michelle was consumed by this case and spent endless hours and funds investigating it. She met and collaborated with the police investigating the crimes, found old witnesses and victims and talked with them, and spent endless hour discussing the case on Internet boards with other individuals interested in the case. She started writing I'll Be Gone In The Dark to detail her work and gave the killer a name, The Golden State Killer. Unfortunately, she died before the book could be completed. Her husband and others found a way to finish her work and the book became an instant bestseller.
Outside of the personal loss, the publishing community lost a great true crime writer when McNamera passed away. Her tenacity, intense curiosity and empathy are clear in her writing. The book has a forward by Gillian Flynn and an afterward by her husband, Patton Oswalt. As most readers know, the DNA finally provided the impetus to charge someone with the crimes. Joseph James DeAngelo, who is now 72, has been charged and will be facing charges. This was a landmark book and will be one of the classics in the genre. This book is recommended for true crime readers.
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
In the 1960's, it was still a family disgrace if a woman got pregnant outside of matrimony. With abortion an illegal operation, women were forced into marriages which had little chance of survival or they disappeared for six months or so, supposedly to visit an aunt or travel somewhere. In reality, they entered homes for unwed mothers which were set up to allow the woman to stay during her pregnancy. The baby was taken from her right after birth and given to adoptive parents.
St. Elizabeth's is such a home. It was in Kentucky and the girls that came there came from all over the United States. They formed friendships but as soon as the baby arrived, the girls left hoping that chapter of their lives was closed.
Rose was a different case. She was married but decided that life with her husband was a mistake and that she just didn't love him. She left California without a word one day and drove across country to St. Elizabeth's. Rose didn't tell anyone she was married. She just let everyone assume her story was the same as the other girls. Also, unlike the others, Rose didn't leave and didn't give up her baby. She helped in the kitchen and after her baby's birth, stayed on to cook for everyone. She married Son, the man who helped with all the repairs and upkeep of the home and they raised the baby, Cecelia together.
Ann Patchett's forte as an author is creating believable characters, giving them backstories and telling their lives in a way that the reader wants to continue to see what happens next. In this novel, she has created three such characters, Rose, Son and Cecelia. Each tells the story from their own perspective and the reader soon grows to know more than any one of the characters do about their own lives since the other character's viewpoints are also clear to them while opaque to the other characters. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.
Saturday, June 9, 2018
A serial killer is stalking Atlanta. There are several confirmed kills and the pattern is such that investigators are sure these aren't the killer's first attacks. The police are inundated with pressure from the mayor's office and the press as hysteria builds. He's nicknamed The Wishbone Killer and as he gets more famous, the police look everywhere for clues.
Police lieutenant Aaron Rauser is in charge of the investigation. He has years of experience and resources are his to use. But he wants the help of the one person the department doesn't want involved. Keye Street worked for the FBI as a successful profiler before she ruined her career with alcoholism. Now pushed out of official law enforcement, she makes her living as a private detective, serving subpoenas and tracking down bond breakers. She and Rauser are friends and he brings her into the investigation for her insights. But the killer is aware of this move and soon fixates on Keye. Can Street and Rauser catch the killer before more murders occur?
This is a mystery debut novel for the author. Williams has written an espionage series prior to entering the mystery field. There are currently three novels in the series. Readers will be interested in this strong female lead and the fast-paced plot with plenty of twists and turns. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Wednesday, June 6, 2018
When skeletal remains are found on the roof of a deserted Edinburgh building, two strong women must come together to solve the mystery of who it is and who wanted him dead. Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie heads up the Cold Case Unit and the case is assigned to her team. The first thought was that the murder might be related to the sport of climbing old deserted buildings, but a bullet hole in the head puts paid to that idea. This is murder and Pirie must first find out who it is.
After forensic investigation, the body is identified as General Mija Petrovic. He was instrumental in the Balkan wars of the 1990's and had moved to England afterwards with his lover, Professor Maggie Blake. When he disappeared eight years before, she assumed he had returned to Dubronik and the life he left behind there. Now that she discovers that he didn't leave her but was murdered, she is determined to discover who did this. The two women work together, even going to Yugoslavia to discover Petrovic's background to see if his death is related to the war. The International Crime Tribunal still working on the human rights violations of that time are also interested in discovering Petrovic's whereabouts and what part he played in all the violence of those times. Who will track down the truth first and determine who killed Petrovic and whether his past played a part in his murder?
Most fans of Val McDermid know her as the author of the Tony Hill, Carol Jordan mysteries. Karen Pirie is a different sort of police officer and this case focuses less on psychological probing and more on solid police procedures. McDermid is a master at creating strong women characters and starkly outlining the brutality that makes up a police officer's daily life as they go about the work that few can do untouched. This book is recommended for readers of mystery novels.
Sunday, June 3, 2018
Isobel has hit a milestone in her life. She has turned sixteen and her days as an indentured servant have come to an end. Her life has been one of working in the saloon, serving those who come to play cards with the Devil and learning their secrets. She doesn't know what she wants to do next, but she knows she wants to do something different. The man she works for, known as The Devil, controls the Territory and all within it. He is powerful enough to help her start a new life if she can decide what to do. But his help is never free.
When Isobel has her talk with the Devil, he offers her the chance to be his Left Hand, the one who travels the land, determining what is going on and making sure that his law is being upheld. Most would never consider a young woman as the likely Left Hand, but he sees things in Isobel that others cannot see. She leaves the only home she has known to travel in the company of Gabriel, who has made his own bargain with the Devil. He agrees to mentor Isobel in the ways of traveling in return for release from the pull of the Territory on his soul.
But this trip is not normal from the start. The two encounter evil and dangers neither have even heard of before. Someone evil is afoot in the Territory and they are the only hope against it. They meet a Magician on the road and even though everyone knows magicians are not to be trusted, they form an alliance with him. The unlikely trio ventures forward to attempt to rid the land of the danger that is apparent to them all. Will they be successful?
This is the first novel in the Silver series by Gilman. She is a Nebula Award finalist and this series is set in the Old West, an unusual setting for fantasy. The premise and characters are intriguing and readers will be eager to read the next in the series. This book is recommended for fantasy readers.
Friday, June 1, 2018
It's June 1 and summer has finally arrived in North Carolina. It's my least favorite month as I don't like being hot and sticky but the plus side of that is more reading time. I read thirteen books in May and hope to do the same this month. I had a spell of bad luck in May that also increased my reading time. My laptop gave up the ghost and I was basically without a computer for about a week till I could order a new one and get it set up. The same week I picked up a nail in a tire and had to buy a new one and the air conditioner went out, which is a calamity indeed in North Carolina. My phone also had to be replaced, as it decided not to hold a charge, although I think that was more of Apple doing me in with an upgrade than a real battery issue. Nonetheless, I upgraded my phone as it had been three or four years since my last one. My daughter arrived home for the summer from college and this could be her last summer home. I so enjoy having her around and of course, she is a reader also. I've been checking out books from the library after a long hiatus and I continue to read more and more on my Kindle Fire. Those books don't make the list below of new physical books. Here's the books that have come through the door:
1. Rust & Stardust, T. Greenwood, mystery, won in contest
2. The Waters & The Wild, DeSales Harrison, mystery, sent by publisher
3. Death Doesn't Bargain, Sherrilyn Kenyon, fantasy, sent by publisher
4. Social Creature, Tara Isabella Burton, thriller, sent by publisher
5. The Kept Woman, Karin Slaughter, thriller, sent by publisher
6. Daughter Of A Daughter Of A Queen, Sarah Bird, historical fiction, won in contest
7. The Devil's Half Mile, Paddy Hirsch, historical mystery, won in contest
8. Hard Cider, Barbara Stark-Nemon, literary fiction, sent for book tour
9. Broken Ice, Matt Goldman, mystery, sent by publisher
10. Hunting Charles Manson, Lis Wiehl, true crime, sent by publisher
11. A Gathering Of Secrets, Linda Castillo, mystery, sent by publisher
12. The Stranger You Seek, Amanda Kyle Williams. mystery, purchased
13. America For Beginners, Leah Frangqui, literary fiction, sent by publisher
Here's what I'm reading:
1. Silver On The Road, Laura Gilman, paperback
2. The Skeleton Road, Val McDermid, Kindle Fire
3. The Patron Saint Of Liars, Ann Patchett, paperback
4. I'll Be Gone In The Dark, Michelle McNamera, audio
5. Cyrptonomicon, Neal Stephenson, hardback
6. Golden Bats And Pink Pigeons, Gerald Durrell, Kindle Fire
7. The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness, Arundhati Roy, hardback
8. Everybody's Fool, Richard Russo, Paperback
Thursday, May 31, 2018
The year is 1945 in wartime London. Fourteen year old Nathaniel and his older sister, Rachel, know that this will mean huge changed in their family. Their parents are going to a posting overseas and they will remain behind, going to school and being supervised by their lodger whom they have nicknamed The Moth.
The children rebel at living in their schools and soon manage to come home where The Moth's supervision is less than parental. The children discover their mother's luggage in the basement, putting the lie to the fiction of an overseas posting. The Moth is surrounded by an intriguing cast of characters, most of whom lead shadowy lives. These become the children's mentors and they accompany them on many tasks, most of which seem to be criminal. There is no word from their parents and the children start to wonder if there is not something horrible going on that no one wants to tell them.
Years later, Nathaniel looks back on this time as an adult, trying to piece together the facts he knows with what was really happening behind the scenes. Why did his mother eventually reappear as quickly as she left, still with no explanations and with no mention of his father? What happened to the Moth? Why does his mother believe that the children and she are in terrible danger? As Nathaniel slowly peels back the layers of secrecy that hid the truth from him for years, the events of his life take on a different meaning.
Michael Ondaatje will always be thought of first as the author of The English Patient. This book has some of the same strengths; a misty remembrance of past events, strong characters, hints of a love that overshadows all else. It demonstrates without preaching the integral role that parents take in a child's life and the necessity for knowing the truth about the events that make up a life. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.
Wednesday, May 30, 2018
Circe is a demigod, daughter of the Sun God Helios and a water nymph. Unfortunately, her human side is prominent enough that she is considered less than her siblings and ignored by her parents. As she grows up, she discovers that she does have a power though; the power of witchcraft. After she uses it to change one of the other nymphs in her father's household into the monster Scylla, she is given a sentence of eviction and isolation on an island with no one else to talk to.
Alone on her island prison, Circe grows into her own personality. She gardens and gathers herbs and poisons and refines her spells and witchcraft. She tames the wild animals who become her friends and guardians. When she is threatened by visitors who would harm her, she uses her magic to turn those who would hurt her into animals. She is occasionally allowed to leave. She goes to her sister's household to help her deliver her child but even Circe is shocked when that baby turns out to be the Minotaur. Circe even has occasional lovers such as Daedalus and Odysseus and the god Hermes. After Odysseus' death, his wife, Penelope, and son, Telemachus, come to the island to live with Circe. She also has a son, Telegony, who she is determined to protect against all else.
Circe fights her surroundings and imprisonment over the ages to determine who she really is and which part of her, the goddess or the human, should she strive to be. Finally, love makes that decision for her and she leaves to live the life that will finally satisfy her.
Madeline Miller has made the classics the central theme of her life. Both her undergraduate and graduate degrees were in the classics and she spends her time adapting the old stories for a modern audience to great success. Her first novel, The Song Of Achilles, helped her burst into success and this newest novel continues that path. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.
Monday, May 28, 2018
The Mars Room begins with a bus ride as Romy Hall is transported to the prison where she will serve two consecutive life sentences. What her crimes are will be revealed later as will her life story. She grew up in San Francisco, not the city that tourists love but the seedy parts where a girl with no parents who care about her will roam the streets searching for what she does not know. Where a ten year old girl on the streets in the rain at midnight will accompany an older man to his hotel room when he offers her help, not knowing the price. Where she moves through a variety of men one of whom gives her the only joy in her life, her son Jackson. Where she spends her time working in the arid fields of sex work, her haunt the dance stage of the Mars Room.
Now her former life is stripped away, even her connection to her son. She must master and find a way to survive in a new universe as it is the only one she will know for the rest of her life. Some women will manage to leave but that is not Romy's fate. She forms relationships with some of the women there and shows occasional flashes of kindness but the safest way to live is with no connections that can tear and break what little is left of her heart.
Ruchel Kushner is one of the younger generation of novelists whose work has been singled out for praise. Her novels have been National Book Award nominees and finalists in many other literary recognitions. She has the ability to quickly catch the character of individuals whom are strangers to the reader but whose lives will sear their way into the brain, difficult to forget. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.
Sunday, May 27, 2018
When Seth Hubbard commits suicide, few people in Ford County, Mississippi, knew or even really cared. Hubbard was a bit of a recluse, an elderly man who made his living in the timber business, buying timber mills, land, and furniture factories. He lives alone out in the country in a remote house and few outside of his employees even see him from week to week. Hubbard had cancer and the doctors had given him very little time.
But Hubbard has surprises in store for the area. The day after his death, local attorney Jack Brignance receives a handwritten will in the mail. In it, Hubbard renounces all his other wills, specifically disowns his children and family, and leaves all his money to his housekeeper, a black lady named Lettie Lang. She has worked for him and cared for him when he was sick, but has only worked for him for around three years. Why would Hubbard leave such a bequest?
Jake is known in the town for his work several years earlier where he took on the local prejudice and got justice for a black man, putting his own life and property at risk. Jake's house was burned down and he is still renting another, his wife and daughter still uneasy at the danger his practice brings to the family. This will promises to bring more strife.
Soon lawyers start to circle around. Each of the children hires a lawyer to fight the will and claim something was amiss, that Lang exerted undue influence on Hubbard. Lettie Lang's husband hires his own lawyer to make sure she is represented. The lawyers who drew up the prior wills are in the mix and even retired lawyers make sure they come around hoping to get the inside story. Jake works toward the trial date, sending investigators to try to discover Seth's brother and to discover what made Seth write such a will at the end of his life.
John Grishman has written more than thirty novels. His best known are those set in his native Mississippi and focused on the law and the justice that it is meant to bring to all. The intricacies of his plotting and his spotlight on his native South are what has made him one of the preeminent novelist in the legal drama field. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Saturday, May 26, 2018
Hollywood detective Petra Connor has caught a bad one. After a concert, someone drove by and opened fire on the fans, killing several of them. Petra is put on a task force to find the killers. Her boyfriend, Eric, is overseas with a special unit fighting terrorists and the only other thing on her agenda is mentoring a city councilman's pet project. That project is a bright, some call him a genius, Hispanic kid who on the way to becoming a doctor has decided to get a master's in statistics and who thinks the police force would be a great place to write a thesis. The kid, Issac, is nice enough but clueless about how a police force works.
So when Issac approaches Petra about an anomaly he has noticed, her first instinct is to brush him off. He has discovered a series of murders, all of which have occurred on the same day in different years. That day is June 28th and its about to roll around again. Petra looks at the cases and discovers that all are unsolved and most had not gotten a very good investigation. After looking at them for a while, she starts to believe that Issac may have indeed discovered a serial killer. The question is whether she can discover who it is in time to stop the murder about to occur.
Most Jonathan Kellerman fans know him for his series about Dr. Alex Delaware, a former child psychologist who helps the police with investigations. He wrote a few novels about Petra but then apparently decided to concentrate on the Delaware series. Petra is an interesting detective, a woman who has made a success of her work and who strictly separates her personal life from her professional one. This novel nicely hooks the reader into the serial killing while pursuing the drive-by killing and building the relationship between Petra and Issac. It is recommended for mystery readers.
Thursday, May 24, 2018
He has lived for hundreds of years and has created settlements all over the world. When he goes to check on an African village he set up many years before, he is dismayed but not surprised to see that it has disappeared, its inhabitants either killed or taken for slaves. As he walks away, he picks up a vibration that there is another individual nearby who it would be worthwhile to check out. He changes course and soon finds Anyanwu, an African woman who has, like him, lived lifetimes. He makes himself known to her and soon has taken her for his wife and plans for them to move on to America.
But there is a fundamental difference between the two. Doro is determined to bend others to his will always. He has fathered hundreds of children and uses them as social experiments as he tries to duplicate his own powers. He must constantly kill in order to survive, taking the bodies of those he murders. Anyanwu is a shape-shifter and while she can be cruel if it means survival, her first instinct is always to help those around her and to build a family. These two unite in what will be a contest of wills that lasts for centuries. Who will win? Strength and cruelty or kindness and love?
This is an early novel of Octavia Butler's work. It has an interesting premise and there are three other novels that follow this start in the series. It is a classic battle of good vs evil, yet each of these individuals is forced to work with the other as there is no one else like them in the universe. The reader will be caught up in their struggle as they each attempt to build a world that will survive. This book is recommended for readers of science fiction.
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Jack Shandy is sailing to Jamaica where he has discovered an inherited fortune awaits him. He is bored on the trip and makes the acquaintance of one of the only other young passengers, a lady named Elizabeth Hurwood, sailing with her father and his friend. As they near their destination, disaster hits. The ship is attacked by pirates. Shandy's ship doesn't stand much of a chance as it turns out that Hurwood and his friend have hired the attack and join in the fight.
Shandy is one of the few passengers to fight back and as such he is given a choice; either die or join the pirates himself. Thus starts another life, one where he is cook and all around handyman to a group of pirates and their charismatic captain. He becomes close to the captain when he saves his life and before you know it, Shandy is chosen to accompany the captain and his friend, Blackbeard, on a trip to Florida to find the Fountain of Youth.
It turns out that Hurwood has an occult scheme in mind and everything that has occurred is in furtherance of his plans. Shandy, who has developed feelings for Elizabeth, is determined to stop the plan which will end in her demise. As he fights against time, he is accompanied by zombies, those with age-old magic and betrayal.
Tim Powers is one of the best of the genre. Each of his books is unique as he plays out his fascination with such diverse topics as Victorian poets, pirates, modern day spies and professional gambling. On Stranger Tides served as the inspiration for the Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Powers has gone The Phillip K. Dick Award twice and the World Fantasy Award three times. This book is recommended for fantasy readers.
Monday, May 21, 2018
Growing up wasn't easy in the east Texas small town of Liberty if you were African-American. Mired in poverty and prejudice, the townsfolk banded together to try to make a life, forcing those who didn't conform to the outside. Ruby Bell's family was on the outside. The three girls were beautiful and could even pass for white but their beauty didn't bring them joy. Instead, it brought them the attention of men, both black and white, who took from them what they weren't willing to give.
If there was an admired family, it would be the Jennings family. The father was the preacher at the local church and railed against the ills of his society. There were two children. Celia was the girl who always did what was expected of her and was at the church whenever the doors opened. Ephram was her younger brother, ready to follow Celia's lead especially after his mother was taken away and hospitalized. Celia had raised Ephram and the two live together as adults.
Ruby ran from Liberty as soon as she was able and went to New York where the rumor was her mother had fled before her. She moves through the city searching for her mother but instead finds the seamy clubs and alleyways that operated on the fringe of society. When a telegram reached her insisting her best friend growing up needed her, she reluctantly returned to Liberty. There she quickly descended into madness and poverty as the sins of her society came to rest solely on her shoulders.
But perhaps there is hope. Ephram has loved Ruby from afar even as a child. Now can he find the courage to demonstrate that love to her and save her, even against the thoughts of the entire town and everyone he knows? Can he find the courage to protect Ruby against the men who degrade her and the women who shun her? Can he and Ruby perhaps find happiness?
Cynthia Bond is one of the new novelists who are gaining fame and this is her debut novel. It was an Indie Pick, an Oprah Book Club selection and a Barnes And Nobles Discover Great New Writers pick. Her ability to take the reader into a life that is hard to imagine and to create a heroine who refuses to let the world take everything from her is astounding. Readers will not soon forget this book that draws a picture of what prejudice and evil can do to everyday people and yet where there is life there is hope. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.
Sunday, May 20, 2018
Ruby Trick is ten years old and lives in a small town on the Cornish coast with her mother and father. Her concerns are those of a child; the tension between her mother and the father she loves without reason, the bullying she gets at school for being poor and overweight and the scary woods and deserted house close to hers that provide plenty of fodder for nightmares. But overall Ruby is a happy child. With her mother working long hours and her father without a job, she gets to spend lots of time with him. He is, along with a group of the other village men, fascinated by the American Old West and the group dresses as cowboys and knows everything about Westerns. Ruby practises her quick draw with branches she finds and longs for the day when she can get a cowgirl outfit of her own.
But the village has concerns of its own. A man is on the prowl, isolating women and forcing them to strip. Once he does, he makes them call home and tell their parents or husband that they are about to die. That's enough for him at first but as the weeks go by, its not enough and he starts to follow through on the threats. The police, understaffed and without enough resources, aren't making much progress and the Cowboy group decides its up to them to patrol. Ruby's dad starts to drive around at night, determined to catch the person involved. Ruby gets to go with him but has to sit in the back whenever they pick up a young woman to give her a safe ride home.
As time goes by, it slowly becomes apparent to Ruby that things are not as easy as she has always found them to be and that her perceptions of the world have not accounted for the pure evil that can be suddenly, right next door to you. She is forced to grow up quickly and desert her childhood dreams and crushes as she is faced with real evil.
Belinda Bauer is a Welsh writer who has found great success with her writing. She has won both the Crime Writers Golden Dagger For Best Crime Novel for her debut novel, Badlands, and the CWA award for body of work. Many consider her the heir to authors like Ruth Rendell and Minette Walters and her ability to slowly weave evil into ordinary lives keeps the reader guessing and cheering for those caught up in things they never expected to see. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Thursday, May 17, 2018
Louis Nizer was one of the greatest lawyers of the twentieth century. He started his law firm in 1924 and when he died in 1994, he was still working there, a career spanning seven decades. He was extremely successful and represented many famous clients such as Mae West, Julius Erving, Johnny Carson and others. His work was credited with breaking the back of Hollywood and television blacklisting during the witchhunts of the 50's and 60's. The Jury Returns is Nizer's account of several of his more memorable cases.
The book starts with a murder case. Paul Crump had been sentenced to die for his part in a murder during a robbery. Nizer knew he was guilty but believed that his role had not deserved the death penalty and that his rehabilitation during his time in prison was worthy of another chance. This section details the procedures and strategies that Nizer used to defend his client and get his sentence changed from a death sentence to a more reasonable one of imprisonment with an eventual chance of parole.
In the second case, a divorce case is studied in depth. This will be the most difficult for readers to follow as the law around divorces has changed significantly from the 1950's and 1960's. In those times, divorce was a difficult thing to achieve with only a few reasons available that would lead the court to grant one. There was no such thing as a no-fault divorce and many couples stayed together for decades in a loveless marriage. Women were often left penniless in divorce actions when no or insufficient alimony and child support were granted and this was in the era when many women did not have a career of their own to fall back on. This section follows the case of two couples where the husband of one couple fell in love with the wife in the other. Nizer represented the wronged wife and it took several years to win her justice and the support she was entitled to.
The third case Nizer discusses was more serious. Roy Fruehauf, owner of the Fruehauf truck shipping line, was accused of making bribes to the Teamsters Union. This was in the time of James Hoffa and corruption was an everyday affair. Nizer definitely proved that Fruehauf was not involved in this corruption and that there was no reason for his firm to be disciplined.
The last case in this book is the longest. It discusses the blacklisting common in the movie and television industries in the era of McCarthyism. John Henry Faulk was an up and coming star on television. He had a successful radio career and was in the process of transitioning to television when he ran afoul of some right-wing organization. They retaliated by naming Faulk as a Communist and then his career stalled. Within a year, his work dried up and he could find nothing anywhere. Networks that had been clamouring for his services mysteriously decided they no longer needed him as they cut him in fear of being associated with Communism. It took several years, but Nizer managed to vindicate Faulk and in the process, end the rampant blacklisting that crippled the lives of many actors in this time period.
This is an interesting historical look back at law in prior decades. It is difficult for modern readers to sometimes relate to the attitudes and laws that were in play fifty to seventy years ago. But that is one of the benefits of reading this book; the realization of how attitudes on various things have changed and the role that the law has played in changing society. Nizer was one of the giants of the legal field and a study of his cases is interesting to those willing to case their minds back. This book is recommended for nonfiction readers interested in legal theory and decisions.
Sunday, May 6, 2018
Although they are sisters, Evadne and Dorina Gray couldn't be more dissimilar. Dorina is the perfect Victorian lady; petite, fashionable, beautiful in all the accepted ways except for her dalliances with other women. Evadne is a very different matter. She is short, stocky and could care less for fashion and beauty. Her passion is fencing and she devotes her time and energy to make herself a master at it.
When Dorina wants to visit their uncle in London and write a biography of his work as a painter, it isn't something she would normally be allowed to do. Young ladies who haven't even come out don't go gallivanting off by themselves. However, their parents decide it is permissible as long as Evadne goes along as her chaperone.
Their differences are magnified in London. Evadne cares nothing about the museums and the art circles that have Dorina in ecstasy. However, Evadne finds a fencing academy which has the promise of taking her skills to a new level. Each of the girls also finds a mentor. Dorina is entranced with Lady Henrietta 'Henry' Wooten, a rich, fashionable lady who cares nothing for what society thinks. Evadne finds her teacher, George Cantrell, a firm yet gentle instructor who soon has her fencing moved up several levels in skill. Although the sisters are at odds with each other, each has found a new joy in living.
Yet all is not well. Evadne discovers that George has dedicated his life to a mission, one that he wants her to join. He is sure that demons are around and that they take up residence in those who are willing to barter their souls in exchange for gifts like beauty, riches or some other skill. He is determined to find and kill all of them and he wants Evadne to join his group of demon-hunters. Evadne is especially sensitive to traces of demons. Her greatest fear is that Henry is one of those who have made a bargain with a demon and that Dorina will do the same under her guidance. Will Evadne commit to eradicating demons no matter the cost, even if it is her sister's life?
Molly Tanzer has written a fascinating look at a Victorian England that most never consider. Her depiction of the slow seduction of Dorina by the demons and of Evadne by her faith in her fencing skills is masterful. The pace is brisk enough to be a page turner while the descriptions of the people and the surroundings recreate England in another time period. Her work has been nominated for several literary prizes and she moves between genres effortlessly. This book is recommended for readers of fantasy.
Friday, May 4, 2018
Harry Bosch is nearing retirement. As such, he has been transferred to the Open-Unsolved Unit, what many call the Cold Case Unit. He has a new partner, Soto, who made detective after being involved in a shoot-out where she killed two gunmen in the midst of a robbery. The case they catch is definitely a cold case and one that most detectives would have no chance of solving.
Ten years ago on a weekend afternoon, shots rang out in a crowded downtown plaza. The man who was shot, a mariachi player, survived but with a bullet lodged in his spine that paralyzed him. The current mayor used this crime and his determination to make sure that the Hispanic community received justice as a lynch pin of his successful campaign for mayor. Now that man has died after ten years, the bullet he took that day finally killing him.
There is pressure from the mayor's office to solve the crime, although it is an almost impossible one. As Bosch and Soto work the case, they start to see that it may be tied to another, older, even bigger crime. A fire was started in a low-rent building that ended up killing six children in a daycare located there. Soto had been one of the children there that day but survived; the crime providing the impetus for her choice of a profession. Are the two cases related and can either be solved after all this time?
This is the seventeenth Harry Bosch novel. Harry is winding down his career but that doesn't mean his passion for solving crimes has diminished even a little. He is cynical about the city and its government and never quick to warm up to anyone but as he and Soto work he realizes that she is a detective he can respect. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Ignatius J. Reilly has but a simple wish. He just wants to improve the lives of all around him in New Orleans. Of course, in order to do so, they must change their ways and follow his suggestions for a better life. But, alas, Ignatius is misunderstood and ignored. His obese presence and his superiority complex are off putting and make people flee from him. From his mother who thinks a man of his age should be working to her friends who believe he should be put in a mental hospital, from the policeman who mistakenly tries to arrest him, to the various employers who attempt to fit him into their workforce, Ignatius is repeatedly misunderstood.
A myriad of interesting characters surround him. There is the barmaid who wants to improve herself and become an exotic dancer in an act featuring a parrot. There is the factory owner who doesn't want to supervise his factory but surely wasn't prepared for someone like Ignatius to come in and try to organize his workers. A policeman who is misunderstood and forced to work undercover in a variety of disguises. A hot dog vendor who tries to work with Ignatius and is unsure why he doesn't seem to bring in money but is out of product every day. A socialist female friend from New York City who is concerned about Ignatius's virgin state. A porter in the bar who is determined to change his fate. Ignatius's mother who coddles him one day then conspires with her friends to do anything to change him. What's a visionary to do?
John Kennedy Toole wrote this book while in the Army. He later committed suicide and his mother began her mission of getting his book published. She pursued her mission vigorously but unsuccessfully until the author Walker Percy read it and helped get it published in 1980. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1981. The character of Ignatius J. Reilly is one that readers will not soon forget and his humorous adventures make this a uniquely American novel. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.
Sunday, April 22, 2018
The year is 1974 and Japanese-American Jenny Shimada is working as a restoration specialist in an old house in upstate New York. Her work is meticulous and the elderly woman whose house it is is excited to have such beautiful work done and at such a low price. Jenny can't complain about the pay or long hours. She is on the run from the FBI and has been for several years. She and her boyfriend made bombs and exploded several buildings in support of the anti-war effort for Vietnam. He was captured and is serving a long term in federal prison. Jenny went underground and is living a lonely life with only tenuous connections to the movement to sustain her.
Then one of her contacts insists on seeing her. He recruits her to go help three other people in the movement who are staying in a farmhouse but cannot be seen in the nearby town. They need someone like Jenny to act as their front, running errands while they write a book about their experiences. Their experiences are from San Francisco where they kidnapped the wealthy daughter of a millionaire newspaper mogul. Although the parents paid the ransom, the daughter did not return but re-emerged several months later as a willing participant in a bank robbery, having joined the terrorist organization herself. Jenny agrees to help the three individuals, a married couple from the original group and the heiress who is now called Pauline. She lives with the couple until an event ends their stay there then Jenny goes on the run with Pauline. They manage to avoid the manhunt for another year until they are captured.
Readers who are older will not read far before they realize this is the story of Patty Hearst. Her kidnapping and reemergence as a participant in the activities of the Symbionese Liberation Army were one of the major stories of the Vietnam War era. Jenny is, in real life, Wendy Yoshimura, a Japanese-American woman born in the relocation camps of World War II who grew up to rebel against the society that could do such a thing to her family. The women's struggle to understand each other and the gradual change in them while on the run explores all the nuances of the terrorist and anti-war experience of that time. The story is told through Jenny's eyes and that distance gives the reader new ways to think about this story. This book is recommended for literary and historical fiction readers.
Monday, April 16, 2018
Dr. Tony Hill's life has hit a new level of contentment. During his hospital stay for a damaged knee, he found out one of the secrets of his life; who his father was. More than that, he discovered that far from despising him as his mother had always said, he had left Tony his expensive house. For the first time, Tony has a place that makes him feel safe and even loved. More significantly, he is about to give up his job working with damaged individuals in a psychiatric hospital and move to live there. The most important person in his life, DCI Carol Jordan, has agreed to live in the house with him as she takes up a new job there.
But plans often go awry. Carol is faced with a new serial killer in her last days at her old job. Street prostitutes are showing up dead and it is clear their murders are the act of the same person. As she works the case with her team, something even worse happens.
Jacko Vance was imprisoned over a decade ago for his crimes. He had kidnapped, tortured and killed seventeen teenage girls although the case against him for those crimes was thrown out. He had been given a life sentence for killing a police officer, a new forensic profiler working under Tony Hill who was the first to see Vance for what he was. The world saw him as a hugely successful TV presenter who had been on his way to winning an Olympic gold medal before the accident that ruined his chances. Once that dream was over he felt free to indulge the desires he had always harbored.
Now Vance has managed to escape custody and it is clear that the main thing on his mind is retribution against the people he holds responsible for his incarceration. That list includes his ex-wife but also Carol Jordan and Tony Hill along with other police officers from the original case. Can the pair find and imprison him again before he can carry out his plans?
The Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series is one of the strongest in the mystery genre. Val McDermid has created two private individuals, both scarred by events in their background, who have found each other and are making the best of the lives they've been given. The tension is always high and the reader must find out what happens next. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Friday, April 13, 2018
In the late 1990's to early 2000's, Houston, Texas had a problem. Young girls were turning up dead. They were found tied up with cord around their necks. It became obvious that the cases were related and that a serial killer was in residence.
Although the cases were investigated, not much progress was made for eight years. At that time, DNA testing turned up a suspect who confessed when brought in for interrogation. That suspect was Anthony Allen Shore, known as Tony. He ended up confessing to four murders, one of them a nine-year-old child. As the investigation progressed, he also admitted to serially molesting his own two daughters as well as raping other women.
The case went to court and Tony was charged with first degree murder with the death penalty as a possible verdict. The prosecutor was one of Houston's most well-known, Kelly Siegler. Fans now recognize her from her TV show, Cold Justice, but back then she was known as a hard-hitting prosecutor who ran many of the departments in the district attorney's office. Working with the police officers, Siegler put on a convincing case that ended in his verdict of guilty.
In many ways, Tony Shore was a surprising criminal. He tested at the genius level with an IQ of 150. He was also a musical prodigy and at one time wanted to make music his life. But his mindset and urges led him to a marginal life with jobs such as telephone lineman or tow truck operator. He always had the ability to charm those around him and never lacked for a woman or two in his life. But young women were his obsession and he craved the ultimate power.
Corey Mitchell is known as one of the more prolific true crime authors. This case is an interesting one and readers will enjoy reading about the court case and the work of Siegler and her team. Many of Shore's family members and women who dated him were interviewed and it is interesting to see how they viewed him. Many of the police believe that he had more than the four victims he admitted to. Shore is still on Death Row and perhaps he will eventually answer all the police's questions about his crimes. This book is recommended for true crime readers.
Thursday, April 12, 2018
When Kate Chambers inherited her grandparents' house and cafe in small town Wheeler, Texas, she left her job and came home to run the cafe. Her grandparents raised her and her sister and it just felt like the right thing to do. Now, a few years later, she is part of the town's power structure. Everyone comes to the cafe and its a hub of the community. Her sister runs the local B&B and her BIL is the mayor and owner of the hardware store. She sees the local law enforcement daily and is in close contact with the new pastor and his wife. Everything is just as they all like it.
But change is coming. Little Wheeler has caught the eye of a big-time developer and his vision of what the town could be is very different from theirs. He wants to build tons of houses to lure those who work in Dallas to live here instead. He wants to tear down the old houses and businesses and bring in box stores and fast food restaurants. In reality, he wants to turn Wheeler into Dallas Mini.
Kate and her friends are determined that that can't happen. They hit on the idea of moving the old bus depot and making it a community center. It has been abandoned for years ever since a young Wheeler wife was killed there one night. That murder was never solved and the bus depot closed soon afterwards. Now maybe there's a second life for the depot.
But old wounds never quite heal. Soon there are rumors about the old case and old hard feelings show up again. Soon there is even a new murder at the moved structure and Kate is right in the midst of everything. She and her lawyer boyfriend solved other murder cases in the past and it looks like they need to step in and help with this one. Can Kate and her crew find the answers the town needs?
This is the fourth novel in the Blue Plate Cafe series. Alter has written about small town life in a believable fashion and the reader doesn't have to make wild leaps of faith to follow the action. Each step seems logical to follow on that which has gone before and she captures the spirit of a small town where everyone knows everyone and what they are going through and how to help. This book is recommended for cozy murder mystery readers.
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
In medieval Cambridge, children are being kidnapped and killed in horrific ways. So far four children have met this fate and the town is up in arms. Their first and only suspects are the town's Jewish members who have been taken into the local castle where they are living under the sheriff's protection. Henry II is not pleased with this state of affairs. Not only does he believe in the law, he also is not happy with how the Jews are being treated as he collects a large amount of taxes from them. He decides something must be done and writes his cousin who is the King of Sicily, where medicine is known to be at its strongest.
He asks for a master of death, someone who can look at a dead body, perform an autopsy and determine how someone has died. The person selected is the brightest student at the medical college but her name is Adelia and she is a mistress rather than master of death. That opens her to charges of witchcraft as women are not supposed to have anything to do with medicine except perhaps childbirth. Can she function in England with its superstitions as she does in enlightened Sicily?
Adelia arrives in Cambridge along with her Arabic manservant and a Jewish crime investigator, Simon. As they travel, they make friends with the local prior who Adelia saves from a deadly disease but the local nuns are not friends as their head is using the bones of the first murdered child as their newest money-making scheme and the murders only increase their notoriety. There are various returning Crusaders in the town and it becomes clear early in the investigation that being on a Crusade is one of the killer's characteristics. One of the King's tax inspectors, Sir Rowley Picot, is in town also and it is unclear if he is on their side or if he is a suspect. As the investigation continues, so do the crimes. As the murders get closer and closer to Adelia and her group, can they discover the person committing the murders before they are killed themselves?
Ariana Franklin has written an entertaining historical mystery that will keep readers turning pages until the climatic end. She gives an interesting perspective into the rise of forensic knowledge and how it helps in solving crimes. Adelia is an interesting character who defies the expectations of her time to be able to work on the things that are important to her. This is the first novel in a series and readers will be anxious to read more of Adelia's adventures going forth. This book is recommended for readers of historical mysteries.
Saturday, April 7, 2018
Cynthia's life started well. She loved school and happily went off to university to study the law. There she met her first love and soon they were living together and talking about marriage. But tragedy struck. On the weekend they went so he could meet her family, he was struck while running in a hit and run accident that took his life. Cynthia was shocked and stunned by grief. Her family did what they could but she couldn't find her motivation to go back and take up her life.
That is, until she met Dr. David Galbraith. They met at the funeral and he explained that he was one of her boyfriend's professors in the field of social work and child psychology. He was very kind and helpful and before Cynthia knew it, she had agreed to go back to school and to change her major to the one Dr. Galbraith instructed. He arranged everything, her classes, her living arrangements, her food and rent. Soon he was the most important person in her life.
Now, six years later, Cynthia is in prison for twenty years for murder. She doesn't understand how she got there and her counselor suggests that she write a journal of her life. As she does, the reader starts to understand along with her how she got there and how her life turned into such a nightmare.
This is the second novel in the Dr. David Galbraith series and a more controlling, evil character would be hard to imagine. The author, John Nicholl, was a police officer and a child protection social worker. His background makes him the perfect person to write about this character. The reader is drawn into Cynthia's dark world and sees it constricting week after week as her dependence on Galbraith grows. This book is recommended for thriller readers.
Friday, April 6, 2018
Dr. Anna Fox has not left her house in almost a year. She has gone from being a strong, confident woman who worked as a child psychologist to a nervous, anxiety-wrecked woman who can't make herself open the door and go outside. She has gone from a woman with a loving marriage and a child to one who doesn't live with her family anymore and talks to them occasionally. Anna spends her days playing online chess, talking on the agoraphobic message forums, watching old movies and drinking way too much wine.
Her other past time is watching her neighbors from her window. She knows their schedules, who is having an affair and whose children are growing up and headed off to college. When a new family moves in across from her, she is fascinated by them. There is a father, mother and one teenage son. She meets the son who is shy but charming, then the mother. Both seem a bit reserved and perhaps a bit afraid of the father whom Anna suspects of being controlling. Then one night Anna looks out at their house and sees something she should not have and it changes everything. No one believes her as her insecurities and general strangeness are well-known but she knows what she saw. Can she make someone believe her before it all ends in tragedy?
This is a debut novel and it has arrived with a huge splash. It has already been bought and is being developed as a major motion picture. It is being published in more than thirty languages and has garnered great reviews. It is reminiscent of the best Hitchcock movies; a twisty psychological story that keeps the reader guessing until the very end. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Thursday, April 5, 2018
In this extensive anthology edited by Hollis Robbins and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Penguin Classics has collected some of the most extensive writings of African American women writers around the time of the Civil War. This is a huge achievement as these authors have been often ignored and lost in time. This new collection brings them together and makes their voice heard so that modern readers can experience some of the things that made up their lives.
There are poems, speeches, excerpts from novels and letters to the editor and opinion pieces. They speak of the daily injustices these women experienced. Banned from learning while slaves, they were then mocked for ignorance. Their families torn asunder by cruel owners that broke the family ties by selling some member many miles away and raped by owners who regarded sex as another perk of ownership, they are then reviled for promiscuity and lack of family feeling.
Yet there is so much hope in these writings. Hope as they document the achievements of those of their race. Hope that they can band together and help others be educated and break out of the mire of poverty. Hope that one day they will be recognized for their worth as individuals not just as oddities who have managed to rise above their circumstances.
Hollis Robbins is the Director of the Center for Africana Studies at Johns Hopkins University and Chair of the Humanities Department at the Peabody Institute. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and founding director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. Together they have collected and made available the work of writers such as Sojourner Truth, Hannah Crafts/Bond, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, Edmonia Goodelle Highgate, Julia Collins, Mary Church Terrell, Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Fanny M. Jackson Coppin. It is an important and eye-opening work that shows the range of interests and causes that inspired these women. This book is recommended for history and feminist readers.
Monday, April 2, 2018
What do you do when your life is a dilemma? That's Annie's life. She can either stay with her mother through the abuse or turn her in. Many children face that problem but Annie's problem is compounded. For her mother doesn't just abuse her. She abuses and then kills small children and has killed nine so far. When things get so bad that Annie just can't stand it anymore, she goes to the police and the country is shocked to find out about the cold-hearted murderer who has lived among them.
Now Annie has a new life, or at least that's what they tell her. She is in the foster system and staying with a social worker, his wife and daughter. Her name is now Millie and she goes to a new school with new kids and no one except her foster parents and the school head know her story. She is getting ready to testify against her mother and then it will all be over. Or will it?
Can Millie actually say the words that will send her mother to prison forever? Can she ever fit in anywhere with her warped background? Her foster sister is one of the most popular girls at the new school and she takes an instant dislike to Millie. As everyone turns against her and the pressure of the impending trial mounts, will Millie survive?
Ali Land has written a tense narrative of how those around evil are tainted by it. Millie tries to overcome her background but it seems everything is against her and it would be very easy to fall into the coping mechanisms her mother taught her. Land has the background necessary to write about Millie. She worked for over a decade in children's mental health jobs in England and Australia. This is her debut novel and it has won multiple prizes. This book is recommended for thriller readers.