Monday, June 30, 2014

Dying Light by Stuart MacBride

Things are never placid in the homicide department of the Aberdeen police department.  Sergeant Logan McRae has been shunted to the 'screw-up squad' after some unfortunate events on his last case.  He's reporting to DI Steel, who rides him hard and takes the credit for his accomplishments.  His old boss, DI Inche hasn't given him up and expects Logan to help on his cases also.  Add in trying to have a relationship with one of his co-workers, Jackie, and Logan's life is busy and chaotic.

The murders just keep coming.  Someone is picking up prostitutes, beating them and murdering them.  Six so far have been killed.  Then there's the woman who calls or comes in each day to see if anyone has found her missing husband.  Add in an arsonist who is now killing the people who live in the apartments and houses he picks out to burn, and there's not enough time to get to everything.

Throughout it all, McRae manages to solve cases while balancing the needs of his bosses and those of his friends and lover.  Stuart MacBride has created such an interesting character in Logan McRae that the reader can barely stand to put down the book at intervals to go on with their own lives.  It is imperative to read further and find out how Logan will solve the cases and resolve his personal issues.  The tone is not brutal even though it is talking about brutal events.  Rather it is full of the dark humor found in jobs that require its employees to see things most of us can't even imagine.  This is the second book in the Logan McRae series and is recommended for mystery lovers.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sweet Tooth by Tim Anderson

It's the late eighties, and Tim Anderson is a typical high-schooler growing up in the South, specially Raleigh, North Carolina.  Typical that is, except for two things.  First, Tim is gay and hasn't told anyone yet.  He is trapped in the South, sure that there is an accepting, happy gay world out there somewhere if he can just get out and get to it.  Second, on a church trip to summer camp, Tim gets extremely sick and is rushed to the hospital where he is diagnosed with Type I diabetes.

How Tim handles these two facts are the basis for this humorous memoir.  Tim uses the format of starting each chapter with a recounting of a diabetic episode.  He is prone to low sugar plunges where he must have something sweet to counteract the effects.  After each of these tales, he talks about a different part of his life growing up.

Tim talks about going to high school, feeling like an outcast.  He talks about big high school parties with lots of drinking and drugs.  He starts at a small college, sure that it has a large gay population, then transfers a year later to a bigger one.  He studies a year abroad.  Throughout it all, he searches for acceptance and romance.  The reader learns about his life as well as about diabetes.

Anderson is the author of Time In Tokyo: The Gaijin Diaries.  He also writes young adult historical fiction under the name T. Neill Anderson and blogs at  His account of his life will find two audiences.  Those who also have diabetes will enjoy reading about how he learns to manage his illness.  Young gay adults struggling with coming out about this central truth of their lives will like reading about Tim's struggles and how he managed to end up with a successful life that is satisfying. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Booksie's Shelves, June 23, 2014

It's hot and muggy in North Carolina.  Summer days are best spent with an early morning trip to the gym, then home to read and veg out.  This past week I've visited rural Montana in Fourth of July Creek, gone to England with What Came Before He Shot Her, and spent time in Aberdeen solving mysteries with Stuart MacBride.  Of course, new books came to take their places on my shelves.  Here's the list:

1.  The Insanity Plea, Larry Thompson, mystery, sent by author
2.  Vertigo 42, Martha Grimes, mystery, sent by publisher
3.  The Story Of Land And Sea, Katy Simpson Smith, literary fiction, gift from friend
4.  Perfectly Miserable, Sarah Payne Stuart, memoir, sent by publisher
5.  Queen Of America, Luis Alberto Urrea, literary fiction, Paperbackswap
6.  Gold Digger, Frances Fyfield, mystery, sent by publisher
7.  A Song For The Dying, Stuart MacBride, mystery, sent by publisher
8.  Alias Hook, Lisa Jensen, fantasy, sent by publisher
9.  What It Was Like, Peter Seth, literary fiction, sent by publisher
10.  World Of Trouble, Ben Winters, fantasy, sent by publisher
11.  The Signature Of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert, literary fiction, sent by publisher
12.  The Fever, Megan Abbott, young adult, sent by publisher
13.  The Book Of Life, Deborah Harkness, fantasy, sent by publisher
14.  The Lighthouse, Alison Moore, Paperbackswap
15.  I Am Pilgrim, Terry Hayes, thriller, gift from friend
16.  Daring My Passages, Gail Sheehy, memoir, sent by publisher
17.  Winter At Death's Hotel, Kenneth Cameron, mystery, gift from friend
18.  One Plus One, Jojo Moyes, literary fiction, sent by publisher

Here's the books I'm working on:

1.  The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton, reading on Kindle
2.  The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner, reading on Kindle Fire
3.  The Orphan Master's Son, Adam Johnson, hardback
4.  What Came Before He Shot Her, Elizabeth George, hardback
5.  The Sign Of The Book, John Dunning, hardback
6.  A Necessary End, Peter Robinson, paperback
7.  The Silent Wife, A.S.A. Harrison, paperback
8.  Sweet Tooth, Tim Anderson, paperback
9.  Compulsion, Jonathan Kellerman, paperback
10.  The Spook Lights Affair, Marica Muller/Bill Pronzini, hardback
11.  Dying Light, Stuart MacBride, reading on Kindle Fire

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Fourth Of July Creek by Smith Henderson

Pete Snow is a social worker in rural Montana.  His days are spent trying to help families who have fallen on hard times, and when they can't be helped, making sure their children are cared for.  He has a huge territory and no real co-workers so he is on his own, doing what he thinks best while working in isolation.  His own family, a daughter and an ex-wife, have moved to Texas so he works even longer hours to distract himself from the hurt of not being with his daughter, Rachel.

As he goes about his work, he comes across a boy who has been living in the wild.  Benjamin Pearl camps out with his father who is a survivalist, a man who believes in conspiracies and that the government is trying to find and kill him, while the whole world is about to collapse under a fiscal disaster.  The Pearls live on what they can hunt or fish or forage, and are dirty, in poor health and trust no one.  Over months, Pete manages to get Jeremiah Snow to trust him a little and is able to take them clothes, food and medicine.  He knows there is a wife and more children but Pearl never allows Pete to meet them. 

Disaster strikes when his daughter runs away from his ex-wife.  Pete takes off and scours city after city, using his contacts as a social worker to find out where runaways in each town congregate but he can't find Rachel.  He knows only too well the dangers a teenage girl faces as a runaway and is willing to go anywhere and do anything to find her.  His inability to help his own daughter tears at him, making him doubt himself and his work.

As the months go on, Pete is torn between his search for Rachel, his desire to help the Pearls and the increasing pressure from the government to help them capture Pearl.  The government considers him to be a domestic terrorist and wants Pete to use the trust he has built up with Pearl to betray him and help them capture him.  Pete's world is fraught with disappointments, pressure and a realization that he can't fix the world.

Smith Henderson has created a world that the reader usually never encounters.  This is the world of the working poor, those who have given up and live however they can and those who have opted out of society entirely.  Pete Snow is a fascinating character, desperate to help those around him and slowly realizing that he may not be able to.  This is a debut novel and one that will make Henderson's mark in the literary world; a blazing indictment of a society that fails at providing for those less fortunate.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Summer Suspense Reads from James Hayman

James Hayman is one of the hottest new authors in suspense and the Witness Impulse imprint is kicking off a summer of hot reads.  There is a read-along of the series with James Hayman's McCabe and Savage detectives ready to solve murders.  The discussion for the read-along will be on Goodreads and starts July 18th, with the author participating.  Use the hashtag #savagereads to participate.  If you're looking for great reads and great discussions, join the fun.  Booksie is planning to!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Faceoff, Edited by David Baldacci

The premise of this crime anthology is enticing.  Twenty-two of the top crime writers currently working are paired with a colleague.  The pair writes a short story that uses their detective characters working as a team to solve a mystery.  The pairs are: 

Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly
Ian Rankin and Peter James
R.L. Stine and Douglas Preston/Lincoln Child
M.J. Rose and Lisa Gardner
Steve Martini and Linda Fairstein
Jeffery Deaver and John Sandford
Heather Graham and F. Paul Wilson
Raymond Khoury and Linwood Barclay
John Lescroart and T. Jefferson Parker
Steve Barry and James Rollins
Lee Child and Joseph Finder

My personal favorite was the story by Jeffery Deaver and John Sandford that combines their two iconic detectives, Lincoln Rhyme, the paralyzed forensic specialist with Lucas Davenport, rich cop that is still hooked into being a street cop.  Along with their partners, Amelia and Lilly, the pair works to solve a serial killer murder in New York City that features a sculptor involved in S&M torture killings.  Although there is no love lost between the pair, by the end of the case there is respect. 

Mystery readers will enjoy the original stories as well as the concept of pairing their favorite detectives into new and unusual teams.  There are all kinds of crime; street crime, terrorism, paranormal, historical and just plain murder cases.  Some of the authors were already good friends while others are working together for the first time.  The result is a fun anthology that will keep readers entertained to the last page.  This book is recommended for mystery lovers.

For those who enjoy the book, or just those interested in the authors, a great opportunity is coming up.  All twenty-two authors will be attending Thrillerfest this year, the mystery conference held in New York City.  This years convention will be July 8-12 at the Grand Hyatt and affords readers a rare chance to meet many of the top names in detective fiction.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Purity Of Vengeance by Jussie Adler-Olsen

There's never any rest for Detective Carl Morck and his colleagues in Department Q.  There are always tons of cold cases to work and Morck just can't get the rest he knows he deserves.  His secretary, Rose, decides that the team's next case should be that of a brothel owner who disappeared without a trace twenty years ago.  As the team investigates, they find that there are others who vanished the same day and none of them have been heard from since.  What connection do they have with the head of a scary political party that is on the rise and whose politics are just this side of Hitler's?

Morck's right-hand man, Assad, seems especially upset about this case.  Morck is not sure what has struck a chord with Assad, but he knows that something has, and that something won't let him rest until the case is solved and the political head of party is stopped. 

In the meantime, Morck's life rolls on.  His ex-wife has agreed to a divorce, finally, but wants Morck to pay for her wedding to her new husband.  His stepson has left college just short of a degree and seems to do nothing but hang out.  His tenet has found a new lover, a physical therapist, who at least comes in handy in the care of Hardy, Morck's former partner who is now a quadriplegic and lives with him.  Then there is the delectable Mona, who Morck is determined to win for his mate. 

But the case won't wait on Morck's personal life.  It soon becomes clear that the team is being personally targeted by the culprits who think that if they eliminate Department Q that their crimes will continue to go unpunished.  Attempts are made on each member of the team and the chance of success rises with each try.  Can the Department Q team solve the crime before they lose their lives?

This is the fourth Department Q novel.  Jussie Adler-Olsen is Denmark's top crime novelist and he has gained many fans wherever his novels have been translated.  The characters on the team are each unique and their quirks merge satisfactorily to make them able to solve crimes that no one else has the time or patience to investigate.  This book is recommended for mystery lovers.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Here Is Where by Andrew Carroll

Did you know that the first explorer to reach the top of Pikes Peak was a woman, Julia Ann Archibald Holmes?  That the oldest living tree, named Prometheus, was cut down in an afternoon by a scientist who wanted to study it?  That the Supreme Court used to have X-rated movie showing days back when the laws about obscenity were being tested?  That the 1918 Spanish Flu actually started in Kansas and before it was over killed fifty million people here and overseas, with 200,000 dying in the U.S. in thirty days?  These and other fascinating historical stories are showcased in Andrew Carroll's compelling new book, Here Is Where.

Carroll is fascinated with history and determined to find out the obscure tales and forgotten sites that make up the nation's life story.  Once he decided on this quest, he traveled the country finding the often overlooked places where those who contributed to our nation's history lived or worked.  He visited Hart's Island, the largest Potter's Field in the United States.  He visited the birthplace of the men who invented penicillin and then figured out how to get the medicine into mass distribution.  He visited the only original Declaration of Independence copy which is open to public display year-round.  He outlined the life of the man who was most responsible for preserving America's redwoods, Madison Grant, and went on to explain why he has been relegated to obscurity.  He visited the site of a plane crash discovered in the mountains fifty years after it occurred. 

The book is divided into several topics.  These include sections named Where to Begin, The World Before Us, This Land Is My Land, Landmark Cases, Sparks, Bitter Pills and Miracle Cures, Burial Plots and All Is Not Lost.  In each topic, Carroll's love of history and his determination not to allow it to be lost is evident.  The reader will come away from this book with many new stories and an appreciation for all the stories that didn't make it into the history books we used in school.  This book is recommended for readers who enjoy history and travel, as well as for those interested in the accomplishments most people don't know about. 

A free copy of this book was received from Blogging For Books for this review.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

All Day And A Night by Alafair Burke

All day and a night.  That's prisoner and cop lingo for a life sentence without parole.  That's the sentence Anthony Amaro, better known as the College Hill serial killer, received eighteen years ago after the death of six women.  Everyone feels better knowing that he will never see the outside of a prison again.

But now, that reassurance is in doubt.  A woman is murdered, and there are similarities to Amaro's murders, including facts that were never released in public.  At the same time, the DA is sent a letter claiming that the man who killed the women before has also killed the most recent victim.

The letters stir up controversy.  A famous TV lawyer decides to take on the case and ask that Amaro's sentence be overturned.  In order to booster her efforts, she hires Carrie Blank, a lawyer who also happens to be the sister of one of the victims.  At the same time, the DA assigns the case to one of his up and coming associates; Max Donovan, to take a fresh look.  Max picks the best NYPD police detectives he knows to investigate the original case.  Ellie Hatcher and her partner JJ Rogan, have many successful murder investigations under their belts.  The fact that Ellie is Max's girlfriend is a complication that they think won't matter.

The lines are now drawn.  On one side the attorneys attempting to free Amaro and on the other side the police and DA's office attempting to reinvestigate to prove beyond a doubt that Amaro is where he belongs.  The tension rises as clues are followed, secrets start to emerge, and people start to get hurt.  Can the matter be resolved before another death occurs?

This is Alafair Burke's tenth novel, and the fifth in the Ellie Hatcher murder.  Ms. Burke is a former prosecutor who now teaches criminal law.   Her background means that the legal procedures and explanations for why an investigation is done a certain way are correct and explained so that a layman can understand.  The characters are interesting, and the reader is compelled to read to discover who really did all those killings.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Exciting Contest To Celebrate The Paperback Version of Elizabeth Gilbert's The Signature Of All Things!

New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert, Penguin Books, and White Flower Farm want to bring the gifts of nature into your home.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s New York Times bestselling novel The Signature of All Things is a spellbinding journey into the heart of the natural world through the eyes of Alma Whittaker, a young nineteenth-century woman who becomes a world-renowned botanist.

In honor of this exciting paperback release, we’re offering a sweepstakes for a chance to win a year’s worth of plants from White Flower Farm—a plant for every month! Coming in Paperback June 24.

" The Signature of All Things is . . . [a] vibrant, hot-blooded book . . . Every page teems with the glories of the natural world." JANET MASLIN, The New York Times

Enter Here:


A "A Plant for Every Month" subscription from White Flower Farm (http://www. which will run from September 2014 through August 2015. The subscription includes a selection of choice and unusual houseplants for every month of the year, sent in twelve separate shipments by standard delivery to one address only. Included in each delivery will be full instructions for the care of each plant. (Approximate Retail Value ("ARV") = $425.00). In addition, the winner will also receive a copy of The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert (ARV = $17.00). Total ARV of prize: $442.00. Residents of California and Arizona are not eligible to receive the grand prize.

Twenty-five (25) runner-up winners will each receive a copy of The Signature of All Things (ARV = $17.00 each).

No purchase necessary.

Open to residents of the United States and the District of Columbia, excluding Rhode Island, age 18 or older.

Sweepstakes begins June 2, 2014. Entries must be received no later than July 24, 2014, 11:59:59 PM Eastern Time.

Winners will be selected at random on or about July 31, 2014.

Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Field Notes From A Hidden City by Esther Woolfson

In this fascinating book, Esther Woolfson takes the reader to Aberdeen, Scotland.  She writes of the environment and biology of her city throughout one year's time.  Aberdeen is a rainy, cold city, home to sea animals such as seals and dolphins as well as the animals and birds that tend to live in cities.  Woolfson writes in detail of her observations during the year, taking the reader into a quiet, nuanced life that focuses on how we can live without harming the other creatures that share the world with us.

As she writes, the reader learns many interesting facts.  She talks of how pigeons which are often held in disdain, are merely a different kind of dove, a bird which is beloved.  Slugs may have contributed to the depiction of Cupid with his arrows from their own ability to shoot a 'love dart' during their courting behavior.   She talks about the rapid decline of many species, especially songbirds, leading to birds such as sparrows, which are considered very common due to their former numbers, now being put on endangered lists.  We learn that many birds, such as gulls, may live to be forty years old, and that they have the ability to remember places as well as recognize other birds over the years. 

Woolfson also writes of emotions stirred by our interaction with nature.  She talks of how our children's lives can be marked by the time pets lived in our homes.  She talks about the recognizable scent of baby birds, similar to people who talk about puppy breath.  She writes about how certain animals and birds are singled out for disdain, often because of how they are given human characteristics by their observers.  Two examples of this are magpie and spiders, each of which serve an unique biological function that can't be replaced if they disappear.  She also talks about the emerging field of 'invasion biology' which attempts to return an environment to some former point in time as regards the plants and animals found there, and the difficulties in justifying such an endeavor.

Kirkus Reviews recently put this book on their list '2014's Most Overlooked Books'.  Readers will be enchanted by the quiet beauty revealed by Woolfson's writing and compelled to look at the world in a different manner by her championing of the sharing of our world.  This book is recommended for nonfiction readers and those interested in learning more of how our world works.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Booksie's Shelves, June 7, 2014

Another great week of reading.  I finally finished The March Of Folly by Barbara Tuchman which I've had a bookmark in for months.  I also started some great mysteries, a couple of nonfiction books about historical places that have been overlooked and a year's nature observations in Scotland, and a fantasy book I think will be great.  Here's the new books I received since the last post:

1.  The Shadow Queen, Sandra Gullard, historical fiction, won in contest
2.  Down The Shore, Stan Parish, literary fiction, sent by publisher
3.  Running Secrets, Arleen Williams, literary fiction, sent by publisher
4.  Joseph Finder, Suspicion, mystery, sent by publisher
5.  Fatal Purity, Ruth Scurr, biography, Paperbackswap book
6.  Face Value, Michael Kahn, mystery, sent by publisher
7.  Paw Prints In My Heart, Andrew Hessel, memoir/pet story, sent by author
8.  The Assassin King, Elizabeth Haydon, fantasy, Paperbackswap book
9.  A Barricade In Hell, Jaime Lee Moyer, fantasy, sent by publisher
10.  Mortom, Erik Thierme, mystery/horror, sent by author
11.  Thunderstruck & Other Stories, Elizabeth McCracken, anthology, Curled Up With A Good Book
12.  Frog Music, Emma Donoghue, literary fiction, gift from friend
13.  The Steady Running Of The Hour, Justin Go, literary fiction, Curled Up With A Good Book
14.  The Skin Collector, Jeffrey Deaver, mystery, Curled Up With A Good Book
15.  The Black Country, Alex Grecian, mystery, sent by publisher
16.  What Has Become Of You, Jan Elizabeth Watson, mystery, sent by publisher

Here's the list of what I'm reading:

1.  The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton, reading on Kindle
2.  The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner, reading on Kindle Fire
3.  The Orphan Master's Son, Adam Johnson, hardback
4.  Field Notes From A Hidden City, Esther Woolfson, hardback
5.  The Sign Of The Book, John Dunning, hardback
6.  A Necessary End, Peter Robinson, paperback
7.  The Silent Wife, A.S.A. Harrison, paperback
8.  Here Is Where, Andrew Carroll, paperback
9.  Compulsion, Jonathan Kellerman, paperback
10.  The Spook Lights Affair, Marica Muller/Bill Pronzini, hardback
11.  Dying Light, Stuart MacBride, reading on Kindle Fire

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The March Of Folly by Barbara W. Tuchman

In this groundbreaking work, Barbara Tuchman explores the reasons that humans, especially governments, persist in actions that by all logic, are foolish.  It is a common action, leaving us to often use the wisdom of time to look back at decisions that were made that seem so wrong and illogical.  What possessed those living in the moment to make such bad decisions, and more importantly, refuse to correct their course?

Tuchman studies several monumental historical mistakes to explore her thesis.  She starts with the decision that every schoolchild knows of--the decision to take in the Trojan horse resulting in total disaster for the city.  It's not like there weren't those who counseled against this course but their voices were overridden.  Those in power were entranced with the horse, determined to possess it, and did so, bringing total ruin on everyone.

The next case study is those of the Renaissance Popes who provoke the Protestant secession.  Tuchman gives the history of this period, the outrageous actions of a series of Popes who broke every rule they had vowed to uphold, and who refused to see the consequences that their actions would have once they were reviled rather than loved by the people they ruled. 

Section Three covers the Revolutionary War and how the British managed to lose the American colonies.  The short-sighted policies that sought to punish the colonies rather than form a stronger relationship, and the entire ruling structure in Britain lead to the mightiest power on Earth losing to a small group of determined men. 

The final section showcases the Vietnam War and shows that knowledge of bad outcomes is still with us in modern times.  Tuchman outlines the history of the war, the backroom negotiations, the fear of looking foolish which led to the reality of looking foolish, and the eventual defeat of the American effort to shore up the South Vietnam government.  Readers will remember the men showcased and the actions they took that not only led to military failure but to a lack of respect for the government and its actions.

What then, leads us to make and continue in bad decisions?  Tuchman suggests there are several reasons.  High on the list are greed and ambition which make men in a position to change course hesitant to appear to be weak or to ignore the greater good for their own benefit.  In the first stage, an erroneous conclusion is reached.  As opposing points of view emerge, the initial conclusion is codified as those in power resist having their viewpoint 'lose'.  Persistence in error is the main issue.  Even as evidence piles up and the cost of a bad decision becomes evident, it is difficult to admit defeat, leading to even more costs and an eventual stunning loss of prestige. 

Readers of history will welcome Tuchman's conclusions.  The research is evident and her conclusions are well thought out and never overblown.  Her suggestions on how humans can avoid the folly of sticking to bad decisions are weaker, as there is little evidence that we can effect a change in so basic a human tendency.  Still, one can hope that current leaders can read the results of historic bad decisions and apply the lessons to today's problems.  This book is recommended for readers of history and those who enjoy policy discussions.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney

Ray Jarrell doesn't do missing person cases.  Early in his private detective days, he managed to find a girl who the police couldn't locate after months of trying.  He felt like the best detective in the world.  At least until the girl was killed by the family she had been trying to escape all along.

But something about this missing girl, Rose Janko, touches him and tests his resolve.  Her father appeals to Ray's background and he knows that only someone with his background has a chance of finding Rose.  For Rose is a gypsy and that culture is totally closed to outsiders.  Ray is half-gypsy, and knows that he can get information that won't be given to anyone else.

Rose was married at nineteen to Ivo Janko and they quickly had a baby, Christo.  Rose disappeared soon after.  The stories vary.  Some say she met a gorjio (anyone not a gypsy) and ran away to get married.  Some say she couldn't face the fact that Christo has inherited the Janko family illness and will probably not make to adulthood.  Whatever the reason, no one has heard of her for six years.

Ray takes the case and starts to investigate.  Rose lived with the Janko family and that's where he starts.  There's Tene, the patriarch of the family, paralyzed after a car crash but determined to keep the family together.  Ivo and Cristo share a trailer.  Tene's sister and her husband share another, while their child, Sandra, and her son, JJ, live in the last trailer of the compound.  As Ray starts to peel away the layers that hide the family secrets, JJ also starts to investigate his family.  He has never known who his father was and hopes to gain that knowledge as Ray reveals more and more.  He isn't sure if he is really ready for all the secrets he never expected his family to be hiding.

Stef Penney has created an interesting novel sure to keep the reader's interest.  The story is told in alternating chapters by Ray and JJ, each sharing the nuggets of information they find and putting them together to create an answer of what happened to Rose and what secrets are the Janko family hiding.  The reader is drawn into the family and learns about a culture that most will never get a chance to know, that of the gypsy.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow

Things are not going well in Caroline Meadows life at the moment.  She has just ended her long-term relationship when she and her partner realized that they weren't really in love.  Then she gets laid off at her job unexpectedly, making it more difficult to make both halves of the rent on her London apartment.  Even worse, her mom is starting the early stages of dementia, and Caroline realizes that a decision will have to be made about her mother's further living arrangements.

She goes down to the cottage where she grew up to help her mother clear things out.  While there, she uncovers a beautiful quilt, full of luxury fabrics and intricate needlework.  Since Caroline's ambition is to open a design business, she is intrigued by the quilt, but her mother can't remember much about who might have made it, just that it was in with Caroline's grandmother's things.  Caroline vaguely remembers a woman who may have lived with her grandmother who always seemed to be sewing.

With time on her hands, she starts an investigation of the quilt.  She soon determines that the woman who lived with her grandmother, Maria, was probably the quilt's creator.  As she researches further, she learns that Maria was institutionalized for decades in a mental hospital, where she was known as Queenie.  Queenie was the derisive nickname Maria was given as she insisted that she had worked as a seamstress for the queen, and that she had secretly given birth to the Prince of Wales son. 

There are two scenarios.  Either Maria was truly troubled, making up an elaborate fantasy to get through her humdrum life, or she was telling the truth and had been bundled away and deprived of a normal life for the sin of having a relationship that wasn't sanctioned by the royal family.  Can Caroline discover the truth so many years after the events occurred?

Liz Trenow has written an interesting novel that explores the scandal of the many lives buried away in the time period where women whose truth was inconvenient were hidden away against their will.  She uses the metaphor of the quilt to show how something beautiful can emerge in the worst of circumstances and how the truth will shine forward over time.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Leopard by Jo Nesbo

Women are being killed in cruel and mysterious ways in Norway.  Baffled, the police send Kaja, a female policewoman, to Hong Kong to talk Inspector Harry Hole into returning to his native land.  Hole is known as the man who captured the most famous Norwegian serial killer, The Snowman.  That investigation cost Hole everything; his career, his love, his hope of being normal.

Still, the lure of Norway and the fact that his father is ill in the hospital, draws Harry home.  He returns to find his former police structure in a turf war with another government agency, and it is unclear which will emerge as the winner.  Whoever is able to track down this newest killer will have a big bump on their side of the scales.

To solve the murders, Harry is forced to travel to Africa, where the murder weapons are originated and where there seems to be a thread necessary to the unraveling of the plot.  He also has to uncover old family secrets that have been hidden for year.  Harry draws on his network of friends and colleagues and the loyalty that those who have worked with him have for this lonely, tortured man.  His team consists of Kaja and his old friend, Bjorn.  Can they solve the murders in time to stop more from occurring?

This is the fourth in the Harry Hole series, and fans of Jo Nesbo will be thrilled.  Nesbo is definitely one of the masters of the thriller now working, and Harry is a character that cannot be forgotten.  The plot twists and turns with the surprises that a Nesbo novel always provides, and the ending is satisfactory.  The reader learns more about Harry's life and what makes him the man he is.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.