Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Alice Berenson loved her husband, Gabriel, totally and unreservedly.  They were a perfect match.  Gabriel was a society photographer and Alice painted so they shared the artistic viewpoint and understood the important of creation each needed in their lives.  They were both successful and Alice came from money so they lived in a gorgeous house and had everything material they desired.  Why then, did Alice wait one night and shoot Gabriel five times in the face?

Since the discovery of Gabriel's body, Alice has never spoken.  She had a long history of an unstable mind and even previous suicide attempts.  Most people thought it was bound to happen but no one knew what could have caused it that night.  Now, Alice has been in the hospital for over six years and has never once spoken a word

Theo Faber is a criminal psychologist and he finds himself fascinated with the case.  He has practiced for several years at Broadmoor so he knows the criminal mind.  He has devoured every word in the press about Alice and Gabriel and feels that somehow, he could find the key to unlock Alice's silence.  When a job opens at the private hospital where Alice resides, he jumps at the chance and is hired.  Can he convince Alice to speak?

This is the buzz book of the year in the mystery genre.  It is Michaelides's debut novel and to have one so successful is quite an achievement.  He studied at Cambridge and the Los Angles Institute of Screenwriting.  The book draws the reader in and the action is fast-paced enough to keep interest.  Few will expect or anticipate the novel's ending.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, July 29, 2019

This Far Isn't Far Enough by Lynn Sloan

In these fourteen short stories, Lynn Sloan invites the reader into her thoughts about life and delights and surprises them.  I don't read anthologies that often as they are often repetitive; each story showing another take on events that ends up being much like the story before and the story after.  That's not true of Sloan's work.  Each story stands on its own as a separate jewel, displaying a quirky twist that the reader rarely sees coming.

In Nature Rules, a woman who has withdrawn from life and all its demands on her is pulled back into her children's lives in a crisis.  In Near Miss, a painter must decide between his wife and a potential child and his freedom to pursue other women.  In Ollie's Back, a chef is trying to make a comeback after an investor ruined his restaurant.  These are just three of the stories but each is fresh and engaging.  This book is recommended for readers interested in choices made by individuals and the fallout from those decisions.

Friday, July 26, 2019

All's That's Dead by Stuart MacBride

It's back to work for Inspector Logan McRae.  He's been out on sick leave after his last case ended in him getting almost killed.  Seriously almost killed as in he's been off on sick leave for a year.  He returns hoping for a nice quiet entry back in but that's not likely in crime-ridden Scotland. 

The national past time these days is deciding if one is for or against Scotland leaving the Union and becoming a stand alone nation.  There is lots of rhetoric on both sides and things have been heating up.  Now someone is determined to make a point.  Proponents of staying in the Union are being kidnapped and mutilated; their body parts sent to various media outlets to publicize that the alt-right proponents of Scottish freedom are determined to punish those with differing opinions.

Logan is still in the equivalent of the Internal Affairs department, the price for being promoted.  The case is under the supervision of Detective King but he has his own problems.  Back when he was a teenager, he flirted with the alt-right faction to impress a girl and his secret is about to be exposed.  Due to the potential bad press, Logan is assigned to the case as well and not only will be working with King but his old boss, Detective Steel, who was demoted and sidekicks like Renny and Tufty.  Can they find the culprits before more men are killed?

This is the twelfth Logan McRae novel.  I love this series and anything Stuart MacBride writes is an automatic buy for me.  But the novels aren't for everyone as they are violent and there's a lot of black humor.  It's the kind of humor that lets someone work for the police where they are daily exposed to the worst that men can do.  The foibles of both the criminals and the police are on full display and those of sensitive natures may not enjoy this.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Witch Elm by Tana French

Toby has always led a charmed life.  Born into a wealthy family, good-looking with an easygoing personality that attracts others, he sailed through school and into an engaging first career job.  He has a gorgeous girlfriend who he's crazy about and good friends.  He has a solid background and a safety net most would envy.  He's got it all.

Until.  Until he gets into a scandal at work that could jeopardize his career.  Until he wakes up one night to discover burglars in his apartment and who leave him badly beaten and hospitalized.  As he recuperates, he realizes that he is worse off than most realize; his mind not as sharp and subject to nervous starts and fuzzy thinking.  Until he gets the news that his favorite uncle is dying.

Toby, after a family conference, moves in with his uncle, Hugo, who has reached a point where he shouldn't be left alone.  His girlfriend, Melissa, moves in as well and soon things seem to be turning out better than expected.  Both men have a safe place to deal with their physical issues and the company does them both good.  Until.  Until at a family party, Toby's nephew decides to climb a massive tree in the backyard and manages to dislodge something that incredibly, turns out to be a human skull.

Suddenly, all the progress comes to a halt.  The police are suddenly there, everywhere, and when it turns out that the body is someone the family knew, suspicious of them all.  Toby quizzes those around him and it slowly emerges that his memories of the past are not as accurate as he always thought and that he missed much of what was happening around him.  His very self-image is shaken as he starts to see the difference from his self-portrayal and the viewpoint of others.  Can the murderer be found before it tears the family apart?

Tana French has taken the mantle from Elizabeth George for lengthy mysteries that probe personalities and slowly reveal the evil that has remained hidden.  Her characters are memorable and the story is always plausible.  The novel was a New York Times Notable Book of 2018 and on the best of lists for such organizations as NPR, Lithub, Amazon, Slate, Vox and others.  This book is recommended for mystery lovers.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Booksie's Shelves, July 23, 2019

July is close to over and I'm finally back to a place where I can read, hopefully.  This summer has been one of family visits as we spent a lot of time with our four grandkids.  First we had the two girls, then two weeks later, all four grandkids, then two weeks later, the two boys.  It's wonderful to have the time to spend with the kids without parents and expectations; just a week of fun and expeditions and shared routines that are just ours.  But, there's not a lot of reading time!  I'm looking forward to recharging and spending more time reading.  Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  Insidious Intent, Val McDermid, mystery, purchased
2.  Meeting The English, Kate Clanchy, literary fiction, purchased
3.  Pieces Of Her, Karin Slaughter, mystery, sent by publisher
4.  Sleeping In The Ground, Peter Robinson, purchased
5.  Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk, literary fiction, purchased
6.  Astounding, Alec Nevala-Lee, anthology, sent by publisher
7.  Rhyming Rings, David Gemmell, fantasy, purchased
8.  The Enchanted, Rene Denfeld, literary fiction, purchased
9.  Sarah Thornhill, Kate Grenville, literary fiction, purchased
10.  The Water Dancer, Ta-Nehisi Coates, fantasy, sent by publisher
11.  The Bowness Bequest, Rebecca Tope, mystery, purchased
12.  The Sisters Chase, Sarah Healy, literary fiction, purchased
13.  The Dream Daughter, Diane Chamberlain, literary fiction, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  The Eye Of The World, Robert Jordan, audio
2.  The Witch Elm, Tana French, hardback
3.  The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides, hardback
4.  Quichotte, Salman Rushdie, Kindle Fire
5.  The Flight Attendant, Chris Bojalian, Kindle Fire
6.  Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, hardback
7.  Mostly Void, Partially Stars, Joseph Fink/Jeffrey Cranor, paperback
8.  All That's Dead, Stuart MacBride, Kindle Fire

9.  Evil Beside Her, Kathryn Casey, paperback
10.  This Far Isn't Far Enough, Lynn Sloan, paperback

Happy Reading!

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Melmoth by Sarah Perry

Men have known of her for centuries.  Her existence is whispered about in cities and small villages worldwide.  She is Melmoth, the woman who witnesses sin.  Cursed by her own sin, she must forever wander the Earth, witnessing the sins of others, begging them to accompany her on her endless travels.  Has someone betrayed a neighbor during a war?  Melmoth is there.  Made a choice that ended in someone's death or destruction?  You can expect a visit from Melmoth.

Now, she is in Prague, witnessing the sins various people believed they have hidden forever.  There is Hoffman, who has a story of sin from Cairo.  Karel Prazan remembers his own earlier sins before he became a famous inventor and husband to his lovely wife.  Helen Franklin has lived punishing herself for twenty years for a sin in her early youth.  Then there is Prazan's wife, the elderly woman Helen rents a room from and the young health worker who suddenly appears in the Prazan's life.  All are due visits from Melmoth.

The main characters all meet in the Prague central library.  As their friendships progress, Hoffman shares the story of Melmoth with Prazan and he with Franklin.  Soon, each is aware of a shadowy figure, someone always just out of sight but always, inexorably there.  Watching.  Waiting.  To what end?

Sarah Perry burst onto the literary fiction stage with the release of her second novel, The Essex Serpent.  Fans of that novel will also enjoy Melmoth as it has the same genre of writing; that of a Victorian horror or suspense novel.  Melmoth creeps along the perimeter of the novel, only glimpsed but always present.  The reader will want to read on to discover the sins of the various characters and the resolution of this story.  This novel is recommended for literary fiction and horror readers.

Monday, July 8, 2019

The Sentence Is Death by Anthony Horowitz

In the second of the cases of Anthony Horowitz and former Scotland Yard detective Daniel Hawthorne, the case seems fairly easy at first.  A prominent divorce lawyer, Richard Pryce, is found murdered in his house, bludgeoned and then stabbed with a very expensive bottle of wine.  Pryce had just finished a case where a billionaire real estate developer had divorced his wife, an author of obscure literary fiction novels.  She had come out on the losing side and had expressed her fury at Pryce by pouring wine over his head in a restaurant and stating that he should be glad it wasn't a bottle.  Now he has been murdered by that very method.

But is the novelist his only enemy?  Soon it is revealed that his husband has been having an affair, and Pryce was talking about changing his will.  It also emerges that Pryce and two school friends had been caught in a horrific caving accident six years before; an accident from which one of the men never emerged.  Is Pryce's death tied to this accident?  It turns out that the other survivor died the day before Pryce in suspicious circumstances also.

Hawthorne, of course, is being Hawthorne, refusing to tell Horowitz anything he thinks and delighting in keeping him in the dark.  That's usually just depressing but this time it's dangerous.  The detectives nominally in charge of the case are furious about Horowitz and Hawthorne being called in and are determined to take all the blame.  The women in charge targets Horowitz and demands he tell her everything they do.  She has the ability to cause havoc in Horowitz's professional life and he isn't sure what to do.  Can the crime be solved?

This is a delightful novel, an interesting change of pace from the usual detective series.  The interplay between Horowitz and Hawthorne is always interesting and the tidbits about Horowitz's life are fascinating; his TV series, his various novel series, etc.  Hawthorne is still very reserved about his personal life, but a few more details emerge in the novel.  The reader is left with a satisfying mystery and the hope that more cases in this series will appear.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

How To Read A Book by Kwame Alexander

In this book for toddlers and young readers, Kwame Alexander and Melissa Sweet have teamed up to make reading as enticing as could be.  The colors are vibrant and the patterns amazing, making the point that reading is a wonderful, fun activity for anyone to engage in.

Kwame Alexander has focused his authorship on creating books that encourage young readers.  He has won a John Newbery medal and the Coretta Scott King Author Award.  His work ranges from focusing on the youngest readers up to the young adult reader.  Whatever the audience, he touches the reader and makes them feel less alone in the world.

The illustrator for this book, Melissa Sweet, is famous in her own right.  She has won two Caldecott Awards for illustration and has written and written four books herself, while her career as an illustrator includes over 100 books.  She is also a New York Times Bestselling author.  Her vibrant use of color and patterns make this book inviting and one that will be requested over and over again.

Monday, July 1, 2019

I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman

Eliza Benedict has a life she loves.   After several years in London, her husband has recently taken a job back in the States and the family has moved back to where Eliza grew up.  Eliza has her ideal life, being a wife and a mother to her two children. 

But all is not as wonderful as it seems on first glance.  Decades ago, when Eliza was fifteen and known as Elizabeth, a tragedy occurred that separated her family's life into before and after the event.  Elizabeth stumbled on a killer and he kidnapped her, knowing that she saw too much for him to let her go.  He kept her for several months and she grew to know Walter Bowman better than she knew anyone else in her life.  She was reunited with her parents after Walter killed one more girl and was caught.  Her testimony put him on death row, where he has remained for all these years.

Until now.  Suddenly all his appeals are exhausted and the entire nightmare is coming up again.  Eliza, who never has told anyone except her husband about the event, is shocked when she gets a letter from Walter, letting her know he knows exactly where she is.  What does he want?  He isn't the only one who wants things from Eliza.  There is a woman on Walter's side, his advocate, and she seems unbalanced and willing to do anything to get Eliza to fill Walter's requests.  There is the mother of the last victim, who resents Eliza for living and wants to be sure she doesn't do anything to help Walter.  The only person who isn't sure what they want is Eliza. 

Laura Lippman worked as a journalist for the Baltimore Sun before she started writing crime novels.  Her second career as a novelist has been a successful one, and she has won both the Edgar and the Anthony for her work.  Her novels center on the Baltimore area and she seamlessly gets into the heads of those women she writes about; women who face life and death dilemmas through no fault of their own.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.