Sunday, June 30, 2024

Children Of The Revolution by Peter Robinson


DCI Alan Banks is called out to a murder.  A man is sprawled on the railroad tracks, an obvious fall from the parapet above.  Although not much older than Banks, the malnourished man appears decades older.  It's surprising as the team discovers that the victim was a former college instructor but had become a recluse and an alcoholic.  It's soon determined that his fall was the result of murder not accident.

Who could have wanted to kill such a sad man and how was he found with five thousand pounds on him?  The team soon finds that he was fired from his college professorship when two girls accused him of inappropriate actions.  Some believed them while others thought he was the victim of false allegations.  Was this the answer?

As the man's phone calls are traced, another surprise is revealed.  Shortly before his death, he called Ronnie Bellamy who is extremely wealthy and married to a lord.  What could this call be about?  Surely, two members on the opposite ends of the social scale couldn't have anything in common.  Or could they?  Bellamy was rich enough to be blackmailed and Banks and his team discover that the two went to the same university.  Are the roots of the murder to be found forty years back?  

This is number twenty-one in the Alan Banks series.  Banks is being pushed by his superiors to retire or take a promotion that would have him in the field far less.  As he mulls this, the bodies start to mount as secrets are revealed.  I will be sad to get to the end of this series as the characters have grown over the length of the series and now feel like old friends.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.   

Saturday, June 29, 2024

This Is Not An Accident by April Wilder


These eight stories and concluding novella are April Wilder's first book although her stories have been published in various collections and writing magazines.  The overarching theme is that while we think we can plan our lives, life will do what it wants and we are left to react.  The novella talks about a housesitter who agrees to the job for a few days, maybe a week or so.  Two years later, he is still there walking the dog and waiting for the soldier whose house it is to return.  When the dog escapes and is killed, he can't bring himself to give such news to a soldier in a military zone, perhaps being shot at.  The housesitter flees to another state where he lives with friends while deciding what to do.  

April Wilder is a writing teacher who lives in California with her daughter.  Wilder has written about her experience with getting pregnant which happened with her ex-husband four years after their divorce at a wedding where they drank a bit too much and fell into bed together.  This kind of experience is exactly what these stories are about, how life has a way of happening regardless of our plans.  This book is recommended for anthology readers of literary fiction. 

Friday, June 28, 2024

Goddess In The Machine by Lora Beth Johnson


Andra was one of the million inhabitants of Earth chosen to relocate to another planet.  She is the daughter of one of the main scientists and her family is friends with the founder of the institute that is heading up the project.  The plan is to put everyone in suspended animation for a hundred years and when they wake up they will be at their location.

But when Andra wakes up she can tell something is wrong.  She has been asleep for a thousand years.  Even more surprising, when she emerges the people around her fall to the ground and start calling her Goddess.  Andra knows she is just a teenager, not anyone's deity.  She is in a desert not the green resource rich planet the project had planned to go to.

She meets two men.  One is a leader of the populace and the other his friend.  They give Andra some answers but she can tell they know more.  Zhade, the leader, takes her to the domed capital city where the Emperor is sometimes friendly to her and sometimes aggressive.  He is a mercurial youth who has a cruel streak.  That doesn't reassure Andra when she discovers there were two Goddesses before her--and that both were sacrificed to appease the population who sees the city dome breaking down and are looking for someone to blame.  Can Andra save her own life and those around her and discover what went wrong on the mission?

This is a debut novel for Lora Beth Johnson.  I liked the premise much more than I expected to and there are massive surprises along the way.  This is YA science fiction and Andra is the typical teenager, surprisingly adaptive and creative one moment and infuriating with attitude the next.  This book is recommended for young adult and science fiction readers. 

Thursday, June 27, 2024

The Waking Land by Callie Bates


Elanna has been raised as a hostage in the court of her father's greatest enemy, the king of the country that conquered theirs.  As Elanna grows up she becomes close to the king although his daughter hates her.  When the king dies, Elanna is accused by the new queen of his murder and flees back to her homeland.

There, she learns that she is to take her place as the new Steward Of The Land as she has always felt the pull of the magic embedded in the stones and forests of her native land.  When her country and that of the one she has fled go to war, she must quickly learn how to use her power.  She is to wed the new king, Finn, but her heart belongs to another Jehan who is a sorcerer.  Will Elanna be able to save her homeland?

This is the first novel in a trilogy.  Elanna has been betrayed by everyone she knew growing up so she finds it difficult to trust.  In spite of that, she feels a deep connection to the land and wants to find a way besides war to bring the two countries together as they were in ancient times.  Her courage and determination fuel the book and as the first book ends, there is a sense of accomplishment although troubles still loom on the horizon.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.  

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

The Gameshouse by Claire North


There's a branch of the gameshouse in most big cities around the world.  Most of those who enter the doors find every game imaginable on the first floor, chess, poker, backgammon, roulette, etc.  A very few are asked to come to the second floor.  There the games have much higher stakes.  An individual might lose their entire fortune or their healthy lungs might be transferred to a winner with failing ones or those who lose a game might lose their life.  The games are played out over years and across the world.  This novel, in three pieces, tells the stories of the gameshouse.

The first part tells the game where the players have candidates that they try to install as the king of an ancient world.  Each player has resources that they can call on, both monetary and human.  The second part tells the story of a man who plays hide and seek for his life across the rural areas and cities of Vietnam.  The third part tells the story of a player known as Silver who has been with the gameshouse since the beginning who attempts to take over ruling it from the woman who has run it for centuries.  

Claire North is an English writer best known for her fantasy novels.  She has recently been retelling the Greek myths but her early days were spent worldbuilding.  When I read my first of her novels, Notes From A Burning Age, I immediately went back and purchased everything she has written.  In this novel, she writes with an air of mystery.  The reader slowly discovers the Gameshouse and its rules and the stakes that the best players are willing to make, even when losing means losing their life.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.   

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett


It is the middle of the pandemic and Lara and Joe's three adult daughters have come home to ride it out.  They live on a cherry farm in Michigan and it's harvest time so they all work sunup to sundown as the lockdown means that most of their usual crew did not come to work this year.  As the long days go by, the daughters ask the mother, Lara, to tell them about her brush with fame in her early twenties when she dated a movie star, Peter Duke.

Lara had started her acting career as Emily in Thorton Wilder's Our Town.  She caught on and was flown to Los Angeles where she had a good part in an upcoming movie.  Then the movie stalled in production and she ended up in Tom Lake playing Emily again in summer stock.  Peter Duke was also there and they formed a relationship.  Her best friend, Pallace, is her understudy and she also is acting in Caberet.  Pallace starts a relationship with Duke's brother, Sebastian, who is a tennis pro in Detroit and who comes to visit whenever he can.

The summer goes along and Lara thinks her relationship will last.  She and Duke make plans to go back to Los Angeles in the fall together and get acting jobs there.  But things go badly and after an accident, the relationship ends and so does Lara's acting career.  The girls want to know everything about the summer and about how their mother and father end up together.

Ann Patchett is an American author who is a national treasure.  Her books explore human relationships and the reader will always walk away knowing more about life and others than they did before they started the book.  Patchett has won numerous awards for her novels and also runs a bookstore in Nashville.  Readers of this book will like Lara and be interested in her life story and how she ended up choosing a life as a mother and farmer rather than as an actress.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Sunday, June 23, 2024

The Safekeep by Yael Van Der Wouden


Isabel lives in the same house she and her uncle bought and her family moved to during the war.  It is located in a rural Dutch province .  Her two brothers, Hendrik and Louis. moved out as soon as they were adults but Isabel stayed behind to nurse her mother through her final illness.  Now it is 1961 and Isabel is thirty.  She is considered bitter and unwelcoming to all.  She has one maid whom she constantly suspects of stealing small things in the house.  There is a local suitor but Isabel is not interested.  Her only social life is occasional visits to and from her brothers.

At one dinner they all go to, Louis brings his latest girlfriend.  There are a series of these women and Louis always declares himself madly in love.  This one is named Eva and she is gauche and a bit loud.  Isabel and Hendrik make fun of her behind her back.  Then Louis brings Eva to stay at the house which the uncle plans to leave to Louis.  He is going to be working out of town and he wants Eva to stay with Isabel.

Isabel is mortified.  She can't imagine her structured life interrupted by such a woman.  Eva sleeps late, makes messes wherever she is and talks constantly.  Isabel is unwelcoming and often refuses to speak to her all day.  Eventually, the two make an uneasy truce although Isabel again suspects that things are missing in the house.  Now she has two suspects.  As time goes on, Isabel and Eva start to be attracted to each other and then fall madly in love.  It is Isabel's first sexual encounter and she could never have imagined the force of such an event.  Eventually, long buried secrets start to emerge and the truth about the relationship is revealed.

Yael Van Der Wouden is a Dutch-Israeli author.  This is a debut novel and it is amazing, widely anticipated and bid on by many publishing houses.  I will be shocked if it isn't included on either the Booker or International Booker lists.  It is a quiet book that then rises up to explore sexuality and the power of hidden secrets in an explosive twist.  This book is highly recommended for literary fiction readers.   

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Horse by Geraldine Brooks


This is the story of the best racing horse in American history and the people obsessed with him over the years.  In 1850, Lexington was born.  He was given to a free black man who worked for the owner and his son, Jarrett, still a slave, formed an indivisible bond with the horse.  Although Lexington was given to Jarrett's father, the stable's owner sold the horse and Jarrett as well.  Jarrett stayed with Lexington for the horse's entire life and through his racing career.  

Back then, paintings were done of the horses on the racing circuit as photography had not advanced well enough to capture them.  Such a painting was done of Lexington and a famous art collector in Washington D.C. found the painting in the 1950's and purchased it.  It was passed along after her death and eventually thrown out in a pile of discarded garbage on the street.

There a Nigerian-American art historian named Theo found the painting and rescued it.  He went to the Smithsonian to have it restored as he was writing an article about various things there.  He met Jess who was Australian and headed up the area that worked on skeletons.  She had just discovered that the Smithsonian had Lexington's skeleton and was working on it so it could be exhibited.  The two started a relationship but it ended in tragedy.

Geraldine Brooks is an Australian author who writes historical fiction.  She won the Pulitzer Prize with her novel March which followed the father of the Little Women girls to his time in the Civil War.  In this book, she follows Lexington's racing career while using it to highlight the evils of slavery and the perils that still attach to race relations.  The book has been nominated for various prizes and readers will be fascinated by the history.  This book is recommended for historical and literary fiction readers.  

Friday, June 21, 2024

The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth


A year ago, they thought they had the perfect family.  The father was a respected surgeon, his wife active in the community.  The two girls were grown; Tully had a lovely family while Rachel had her own business.  Then the wife, Pam, began to be forgetful.  Although she was young for it to happen, soon she was diagnosed with dementia and soon had to go live in a memory hospital.  

Then the unexpected happened again.  Their parents had just been starting a renovation project for their house.  Heather is their designer and became friends with Pam before she had to be hospitalized although she is younger than Pam and Stephen's daughters.  After Pam is gone, Stephen and Heather fall in love although Heather is younger than Stephen's daughters.  Stephen divorces Pam and soon he and Heather are engaged.  

That's not all that's wrong.  Tully's world is shaken by her husband and by getting caught shoplifting, an activity she has indulged in for years.  Her son is having issues she doesn't know how to handle.  Rachel is finally starting to face a trauma that happened back in her teen years.  The entire family is upside down and now this engagement!

Sally Hepworth is an Australian author who writes mysteries dealing with family issues.  I listened to this novel and hearing the Australian accent by the narrator really placed the book in the proper environment.  The reader slowly uncovers the mysteries surrounding this family and the biggest mystery which concerns Pam and Stephen.  The idea for this book came from an incident that actually happened in Hepworth's own family.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.  

Monday, June 17, 2024

Cora's Kitchen by Kimberly Garrett Brown

 Cora has a job in the library but she wants to be a writer.  She doesn't have a clue how she would go about that but it's her dream.  While working, she meets Langston Hughes at the library and they become friends.  That gives her some hope as she now has a friend who understands her dream and has already started down that road.

Cora was raised by her aunt.  When she tells Cora that her cousin has been beaten by her husband and can't work for a while, she asks Cora to take the cousin's place so she won't lose her job.  The cousin works as a cook/housekeeper for a rich white family.  Cora doesn't want to do that but family loyalties tug at her and she agrees to take leave from her library job and fill in.

Mrs. Fitzgerald is fine but Cora is less sure about Mr. Fitzgerald who is seldom home and seems in a bad temper most of the time.  Mrs. Fitzgerald seems to want to be friends with Cora and asks Cora to call her Eleanor.  When summer rolls around, Eleanor asks Cora to go for the summer to the lake with her.  She tells Cora that she can spend the summer writing.  It's a dream come true and Cora accepts only to be faced with tragedy.

Kimberly Garrett Brown is an author and publisher.  This novel has been a finalist in several writing prize contests.  Cora is a woman whom the reader can emphasize with as she pursues her dream even with all the handicaps that stand in her way.  Few seem to believe in her but she manages to believe in herself with some encouragement from Mrs. Fitzgerald and Hughes who encourages her to enter a writing contest.  This book is recommended for readers interested in women's literature.  

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Watching The Dark by Peter Robinson


A police inspector has been killed.  He was in a police treatment center and when he went out for a cigarette after dark he was shot with a crossbow and killed.  Who has done this?  Was it one of the men he had tracked and brought in over the years?  When DCI Alan Banks finds incriminating pictures in the inspector's room, he starts to wonder if the man had been blackmailed.  Was he corrupt?  

There is another murder case associated with this one.  The inspector had been haunted by the case of a young woman who went missing while abroad at a bridesmaid's weekend.  Was that case tied to this one?

This is the twentieth DCI Alan Banks novel.  In this one, he must work with a woman from the Internal Affairs group as she is investigating whether there is corruption in the force and if the dead man was the source.  The two don't get along very well but Alan is focused on the two cases; one he has been assigned and the other he is determined to finally solve.  His usual team is also involved and the interaction between them all is interesting to watch.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.  

Saturday, June 15, 2024

The Long Drop by Denise Mina


The time is 1958 and the place is Glasgow, Scotland.  William Watt's family has been brutally murdered.  Someone broke in and shot his wife, sister-in-law and daughter, killing them all.  The police arrest Watt but have to release him as they have no evidence and he was miles away.  But his name is ruined and Watt posts an ad asking for information and offering a reward.  He is contacted by Peter Manual who says he knows who did the crime.  The two meet in a bar and during a night of carousing, it becomes clear that Manual knows what he does because he is the murderer.

The two meet again in a courtroom.  Manual has been arrested and charged with eight murders.  Two were teenage girls who were strangled and left by the road, three were Watt's family and then there was another family of three, killed the same way.  Manual confesses to all the crimes but then pleads not guilty in court.  He insists on representing himself, trusting on his charming personality to set him free.  That doesn't happen and Manual is found guilty and hanged.

This book is based on the true case of Peter Manual, often called the first serial killer of Scotland.  The title The Long Drop is the method of hanging that kills the person being executed immediately.  Mina is a Scottish author whose debut novel won the John Creasy Award for best first novel.  Since then she has written many crime novels, several of which are in series. In this book, she features the personality of Manual and how his reactions are not normal to personal interactions.  He believes, for example, that his testimony is going over well at his trial when in fact it repulses all those who hear it.   This book is recommended for mystery and true crime fans.  

Friday, June 14, 2024

Sisters by Lily Tuck


In this short novel, Tuck describes the thoughts of a second wife.  This woman had met her husband while he was still married and started an affair with him.  It led to divorce and her marriage to that man.  He had two teenage children.  The second wife spends a lot of time thinking about the first wife, what her life is now and who is better off.

At first the second wife feels that she is the winner, that she has taken what the other woman cherished.  But as her sense of victory diminishes and her desire for her husband wanes, she begins to fantasize that the other woman has been the ultimate victor and that she has won freedom to live her life as she wants with no one to interfere.  

Lily Tuck was born in Paris and writes novels that delve into the psychological makeup of her subjects.  One of her novels was a National Book Award winner.  In this study, the second wife goes from feeling like a victor to a loser and her marriage which seemed like a glittering prize now is tarnished and worth little.  The genesis of the book was the former common practice of a man whose wife died marrying her sister and how that plays out in our modern life where divorce is common and women must form some type of relationship with their predecessor, especially if children are involved.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.  

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Four Treasures Of The Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang


Daiyu was put out on the streets by her grandmother as a young girl.  Her parents had been taken by the government and executed as traitors and the grandmother knew her granddaughter would be next.  She cuts Daiyu's hair and disguises her as a boy.  Daiyu lives on the street, begging food and work until she ends up at a calligraphy master's studio.  There she worked for him by day and learned the craft by night.  That comes to an end when Daiyu is kidnapped and taken to the United States where she is installed in a brothel.

The brothel is run by a tong and when Daiyu escapes with the help of a customer, she knows she must run far and quickly.  She goes back to her male disguise and goes by the name of Jacob Lee.  She ends up in Idaho and works in a Chinese grocery where she becomes part of the family of the two men who own it.  She also meets another man who gives violin lessons as he attempts to become a concert violinist. 

But in the late nineteenth century in the West, Chinese immigrants are not welcome.  The miners insist that the Chinese men take their jobs and there are riots and violence against them.  The government passes the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 which suspended Chinese immigration for ten years and made Chinese immigrants ineligible for naturalization.  After that the violence against the immigrants increased, ending in Jacob's case with him, the grocery owners and his friend arrested and falsely charged with murdering a white grocery store owner.  

This book is based in truth.  The author's father was driving through Idaho and stopped to read a roadside marker.  He was shocked to see that it memorialized a place where Chinese men were lynched for murder.  Zhang researched the event and from that her novel emerged.  This was a New York Times Notable book and deserves the acclaim it has gotten. I listened to this novel and the female narrator was perfect to portray Daiyu.   Most Americans know little if anything about the Chinese Exclusion Act or the wave of violence against the Chinese who were brought here to build the transcontinental railroad then discriminated against when American workers moved into the West Coast.  This book is recommended for historical fiction readers and those interested in other cultures.  

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Darling Girls by Sally Hepworth


Three girls bond as sisters when raised in a horrendous foster home.  Jessica came as a toddler and she and Mrs. Fairchild had a maternal child relationship until Jessica went to school and Mrs. Fairchild wasn't her whole world.  Norah came later and was always a strong individual so she came in for most of the abuse Mrs. Fairchild handed out.  Alicia came last when her beloved grandmother died leaving her without a home.  

Mrs. Fairchild insists the house always be spotless.  Sometimes there was food, sometimes not.  There was verbal, psychological and physical abuse.  But the girls never told anyone as they didn't want to ever be separated.  Mrs. Fairchild started taking in babies but she would get tired of them and make the girls take over their care.  Finally she adopted a toddler named Amy but again she got tired of her when Amy started transferring her affections to the girls.  Mrs. Fairchild started abusing Amy and the girls decided they had to tell someone.  But when the authorities come to save Amy, there is no trace of her and Mrs. Fairchild said the girls made her up.  Amy is never found but the girls are taken away to a group home where they finish growing up.

Now years later, bones have been found under Mrs. Fairchild's house.  They are the bones of a small child.  Jessica, Norah and Alicia return to the town to help the police.  Mrs. Fairchild is still there and she tries to incriminate the girls.  Who was the body and what happened?

Sally Hepworth is an Australian author.  Her thrillers focus on various family relationships and are full of twists and turns.  This one follows the same formula and readers will be fascinated at this tale of abuse and murder.  Each of the girls has made a life for herself, one a social worker, one a home organizer and one moving from job to job.  This may be the final piece that makes their lives whole.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Ginger's Shoes by Steve Lindahl


When Susie's mother Nancy is about to pass away, she leaves her daughter with a deathbed wish.  "Find Ginger's shoes" she says and Susie knows that if she can she will get the answers about her life that she always wondered about.  When Susie was a child, she had lived on an island on Lake Hopatcong and she goes there to start her search.

She finds that her childhood friend, Kyle, and his family had bought her childhood home and he still lives there.  She starts her hunt there and Kyle remembers seeing her mother holding a shoe and crying one afternoon when he was visiting.  They quickly find that shoe but the other one is missing, sending Susie, Kyle and his girlfriend, Taylor, on a hunt that recreates her mother's life.

This is a quiet mystery without murders or dead bodies.  It allows Susie to slowly find out the things about her mother she never knew and how others who knew her years ago had interacted with her.  Susie also finds out the secrets of her own past.  There is a love interest for everyone and a surprise ending.  This book is recommended for cozy mystery readers.  

Monday, June 10, 2024

The Things We Didn't Know by Elba Iris Perez


When Andrea Rodriguez and her brother Pablo are children, their parents split up and their mother sneaks them away back to Puerto Rico, where both the parents came from.  But the mother isn't interested in being a mother.  She farms the children off on various relatives for months.  Some are so poor that the children go hungry and are dressed in rags, unwashed for weeks.  Finally, their father discovers where they are and comes to rescue them.

He takes them back to the small New England town where the only industry is the factory where he works.  Much of their father's family has come there also and the children are surrounded by family. Some are good to Andrea while others are cruel.  Regardless, she is bound by the strict rules for girls in their culture while Pablo is free to roam and make friends.  

The book follows the children as they grow, as their small town changes and their father's life does as well as he remarries and as the rest of his family moves away.  Eventually the children are grown.  Andrea goes to college and marries while Pablo is lost to the family as he ran away years ago.  

Elba Iris Perez is a historian from Puerto Rico so she is well acquainted with the Puerto Rican culture she shares.  The reader will emphasize with Andrea and wish her life was easier while wondering while Pablo is given so many more privileges.  The secret of his life that is eventually revealed explains much about the family.  The key importance of family is made plain in the book and in this culture family is all.  This book is recommended for readers of novels from other cultures.

Sunday, June 9, 2024

The Address by Fiona Davis


Sara Smythe works in a grand hotel in London.  When she saves a guest's child, he responds by offering her a job in New York, manager of the new Dakota apartment building, a major promotion.  Sara accepts and soon is busier than she thought was possible in a new country where she knows no one except Theo Camden, the man who offered her the job.  Theo is an architect and the Dakota is one of his jobs.  Over the years, Sara and Theo develop a relationship although she knows he is married with children already.

In the 1980's, Brooke Camden is at loose ends.  She is fresh out of rehab and fresh out of her decorating job.  She accepts her cousin's offer to redo her apartment in the Dakota and live there during the renovation.  Melissa is wealthy as Theo's great granddaughter while Brooke did not share in the estate as her Camden ancestor was adopted.  As she stores the original woodwork in the basement, Brooke discovers old trunks from Sara, Theo and his wife.  She discovers that Theo died young and Sara was the one who killed him.  What could have caused this and is Sara her ancestor?  

Fiona Davis is an author known for her books set in New York.  In this one, she highlights the iconic Dakota apartment building, known for its famous celebrity occupants.  Told by two women in alternating chapters a hundred years apart, it highlights the disparity between the rich elite and those struggling to make a living.  Brooke's detective work uncovers much more than she ever expected and it becomes a personal discovery.  This book is recommended for historical fiction readers. 

Saturday, June 8, 2024

The Postcard by Anne Berest


In 2003, a postcard comes to Anne Berest's Paris home.  On it is nothing but four names, Ephraim, Emma, Noemie and Jacques.  They are her grandmother's father, mother, brother and sister, all taken during the German occupation of France and killed at Auschwitz.

Anne wanted to find out who sent the postcard.  Her mother had never been willing to talk about what she knew as her mother had refused to talk about those times and had in fact, sent Myriam to live with others for much of her childhood.  Could Anne break through her family's reluctance to talk and find out her relatives' stories and who sent the postcard?

This book was a best book of 2023, chosen by many publications such as Time, the New Yorker, NPR and the Globe And Mail.  Anne Berest is from an artistic family with several famous painters in her background.  The family whose story she looked for, the Rabinovitchs, had started in Russia, moved to Israel for a while then ended in Paris.  The first half of the book tells their story while the second is the hunt for the sender of the postcard.  Anne and her mother are able to find the French village where her family had fled during the Occupation and from which they were taken to be killed in Auschwitz.  I found both halves to be engrossing and the book brings home the tragedy of the Jewish extinctions during World War II in a hard-hitting way as one reads of the impact of the deaths down through the generations.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and memoirs.  

Friday, June 7, 2024

Hunted by Abir Mukherjee


A bomb goes off in a shopping mall, killing scores and wounding hundreds.  A new fundamentalist group claims responsibility.  Now the hunt is on to find those responsible.  FBI Agent Shreya Mistry is on her last chance, her bluntness and willingness to cut corners making her a pariah in the service.  But she knows she can find the group before it sets off more bombs.  With the help of a new agent, Kramer, she sets off to track down the assassins.

She isn't the only one looking for them.  Parents of two of the group have come to the Oregon area to try to find their children before the police do.  Sajid has come from England to find his daughter, Aliyah.  She had told her parents she had a job teaching English in Japan but instead had come to America to join up with the group she had joined online.  Carrie's son, Greg, has returned from Iraq with the knowledge to build bombs and a leg that will never be right again after his military service.  Carrie has come from Florida and joins Sajid as they are sure that there is a big mistake.  

The head of the group is a woman, Miriam.  She has collected a crew of those with grudges against the government and those willing to do whatever they are told.  She is ex-military as well and perhaps her only goal is to influence the American Presidential election which is days away.  Regardless, it is clear her group has plans to set off more bombs.  Can they be found in time?

Abir Mukherjee has written a thriller that puts its foot on the gas in the first chapter and never takes it off.  He is a British author best known before this book for a series of mysteries set in post-colonial India.  In this book, he delves into the world of terrorists and their motivations and the love of parents for their children and their determination to always believe the best of them and do whatever it takes to save them.  The disgraced FBI agent, Shreya, is an interesting character with an ability to put herself in the minds of her prey and make deductions that are a reach but often pay off.  This book is recommended for thriller readers.  

Thursday, June 6, 2024

The Resting Place by Camille Sten


After her grandmother's death, Eleanor has inherited her estate and is shocked to find that it included an estate in the country.  Vivianne the grandmother had raised Eleanor when her parents were killed in a car crash and she never mentioned the estate nor had they ever gone there.  Eleanor is fighting off anxiety as she walked in on Vivianne's murder and found the body.  Now she, her fiance Sebastian, her aunt and a lawyer are headed to the estate to make an inventory.

The estate is grand and has been kept as if the inhabitants had just left yesterday rather than years ago.  There is a caretaker but they can't find him.  Soon after they arrive a blizzard occurs, trapping them in the house.  Then the strange things start happening.  Eleanor is trapped in a dumbwaiter.  There seems to be someone outside that only Eleanor has seen.  The aunt insists that she had letters from her father that the lawyer must have stolen or someone has.  What is going on?  Before the group leaves, the dark family secrets will be revealed and Eleanor will find that she has been living in a bubble of carefully created lies. 

Camilla Sten is a Swedish author best known for her mystery novels.  Her debut novel, The Missing Village, was a major hit and this one was released the next year.  She has a great ability to portray families with secrets and the psychological damage they do.  This novel was told in alternating views of the group now trapped at the estate and those who lived there thirty years before.  I listened to this novel and the narrator was able to portray Eleanor's anxiety and determination to find out what was happening.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.  

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Angry Wind by Jeffrey Tayler


In 2005, travel writer Jeffrey Tayler went to Africa and traveled the Sahel which is the lower half of the Sahara Desert.  It is a barren, unwelcoming place and the people are mostly Muslim.  There are areas that are quite fundamentalist with strict Sahari law and other places that are more relaxed.  Regardless, in almost every place he went, the American government was disliked and scorned.  

Tayler traveled as the native people did.  He used taxis, moped, camels, small boats and cars with huge holes in the floors.  The travel almost always took more time than he expected and he often had to pay extra at borders to get his passport stamped.  The annual wind was blowing and there was constant dust and debris.  Food was sometimes wonderful but often poverty level as he ate with those he traveled with.  

One thing that was surprising was that he encountered slaves in several places.  In some places, it was a remnant of slavery with two distinct classes, nobles and slaves who never intermarried even if the slavery was not in place anymore.  In other areas, there was slavery where the people enslaved worked for those who were the masters.  Although outlawed, in the rural areas there is no one to report it to and no one to enforce the laws against it and it endures.

Jeffrey Tayler was the Russian correspondent for The Atlantic for many years and also contributed to NPR's All Things Considered.  He has written eight travel books, mainly focusing on Russia and Africa.  In this book, he discusses the disparity between other countries and the bleak existence he encountered in these areas of Africa and how it is the foundation for an eventual uprising and revolution.  This book is recommended for readers who enjoy travel writing. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

House Of Names by Colm Toibin


In this novel, Toibin tells more of the story of the consequences of the battle for Troy.  Agamemnon and Clytemnestra rule the city of Mycenae.  They have three children, Iphigenia, Electra and Orestes.  Agamemnon asks Clytemnestra to come to his battle camp with Iphigenia to see them off but in reality, his plans are to sacrifice Iphigenia to gain favor with the gods.  

After this betrayal, Clytemnestra goes back to the castle and takes a lover.  Together, they rule the city and send off Orestes along with other noble sons to a camp far away.  When Agamemnon returns successful from the Trojan War, the two murder him and leave his body to be seen, demonstrating that they are now the rulers of Mycenae.

Years later, Orestes returns with another boy, Leander.  He learns what his mother has done and when she continues her bloody ways, he and his sister decide that she must be defeated.  

This is my first novel by Colm Toibin, although I'm reading Let The Great World Spin in the next few months.  He is a master storyteller, showing the loves, the deceit and the yearning for power that typified the ancient courts.  The gods were never far away and the capriciousness that they showed was mimicked by the rulers.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and mythology.  

Monday, June 3, 2024

Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey


Maud's memory is going.  Sometimes she recognizes the women who come to care for her and sometimes they seem like strangers who have broken into the house.  Sometimes she recognizes Helen, her daughter, and Katy, her granddaughter, but not always.  She can't remember to turn off the stove or lock the doors.  She doesn't know where she is if she leaves the house to go for a walk.  But one thing she is sure of.  Elizabeth, her best friend, is missing even if no one believes her.

Maud knows all about missing women.  When she was young, before she was married and had her own children, her beloved older sister, Sukey, went missing.  Sukey was married to Frank and lived a few streets away.  What happened to her?  Did she decide to leave and never contact anyone from her former life?  Or had someone kidnapped or killed her?  Maud doesn't know and her mind twists the story to fit it to her friend's absence.  Can these mysteries be solved?

I found this book very unsettling.  Alzheimer's is one of my greatest fears as I grow older and getting a viewpoint into Maud's unsettled, confused mind was terrifying.  Eventually the bits and pieces she is able to remember from the past start to coalize and form answers but Maud's dependence on others will never be reversed.  This book is recommended for mystery readers. 

Sunday, June 2, 2024

The Hunter by Tana French

 French returns to the location of her last novel, The Searcher, in this novel.  It's the same rural Ireland with Cal, Trey and Lena and the villagers.  Trey is living a more settled life these days.  She works with Cal on carpentry and they have gotten a good reputation.  Trey is going to school and doing well.  Lena and Cal are now a couple.

But things are about to change.  Trey's father shows up after years away in London.  He has brought a London millionaire with him or at least that's what he says.  The two are hunting gold and sure that it can be found in the land surrounding the village.  All they need is a small investment from those whose land might hold the gold.

Soon there's gold fever in the village.  But who's conning who?  Are the Londoners taking advantage of the rural men or do those men have a trick or two up their sleeves?  Cal takes part enough to try to protect Trey without telling her as she is sure she is grown up enough to take care of herself.  When the other London man is killed, Trey starts to play a dangerous game that would give her revenge on the village for her brother's death a couple of years ago.  Cal is frightened for her and not sure how to help.  

Tana French has been a five star author since her debut with the Dublin Murder Squad series.  In these most recent books, she delves into the mindset of rural Ireland and those who live there.  Cal is a former detective and that gives him some insight into what is going on, and he and Lena are fiercely protective of Trey who they think is worth more than the reputation her family has due to her worthless father.  Can the murder be solved before more death visits the village?  This book is recommended for mystery readers.