A smart whodunit with precise timing and alarmingly clever curveballs, The Devotion of Suspect X matches the murderous progression of a mathematics teA smart whodunit with precise timing and alarmingly clever curveballs, The Devotion of Suspect X matches the murderous progression of a mathematics teacher's proof against a physicist's logic and a detective's intuition. Despite knowing what really happened from the first chapter, this book will have you quickly thumbing pages, eager to figure out the end.
When Yasuko and her daughter Misato strangle Yasuko's brutal ex-husband Togashi after a threatening encounter in their apartment, their quiet neighbor Ishigamo unexpectedly steps in to help, taking care of the body's disposal and carefully crafting the women's responses to the police questions sure to follow. As the formal investigation progresses, it seems that Ishigamo, a genius math scholar currently teaching at a local high school, has thought of everything. Kusanagi, the detective in charge of the inquiry, finds the facts flimsy and turns to his former classmate, Yukawa, a brilliant physicist with a predilection for amateur sleuthing and Ishigamo's erstwhile competitor. Adding Yukawa to the equation is a factor that even Ishigamo and his legendary logic hadn't considered, but will it matter in the end?
Normally, murder mysteries fall slightly outside my diameter of preferred reading materials. Perhaps due to a youthful overdose of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys novels. Mysteries fell off my radar entirely when I could guess endings or characters felt too shallowly developed, or, unfortunately, both. Higashino's novel avoids both pitfalls with ease.
Be warned that it may take a few chapters for the unfamiliar names to read easily and some trite phrasing plagues the translation from Japanese —or it might also have plagued the original —, but overall the book's unique premise and foreign culture add drama to Higashino's already charged pacing.
If you crave an unsolvable mystery, you'll find The Devotion of Suspect X rife with pretzeling facts and one mathematician's murky motives....more
A two-sided tale of girlhood that lurches clumsily into womanhood from the perspectives of oddly matched "birthday sisters." Two women born in a smallA two-sided tale of girlhood that lurches clumsily into womanhood from the perspectives of oddly matched "birthday sisters." Two women born in a small town hospital on the same day, Dana and Ruth couldn't be more dissimilar.
Wrapped in the Plank family's farm life, Ruth's life is driven by the seasons, dependable, regular. Taller and thinner with a strong artistic bend, Ruth struggles to fit in with her four practical sisters and gain the approval of her often-dour mother, Connie. The sunspot in her life is father Edwin, whose love of plant life is only overshadowed by his love for his girls. Connie often chastisement Ruth using Dana as a guidepost, hoping Ruth might better mirror her birthday sister. Edwin quietly buffers Ruth against Connie's aversion with his stolid support, ambling about the property with her in tow, spending time with her more than with his other daughters, encouraging her interest in art.
Stuck in a life as predictable as a hailstorm, Dana organizes her family's bills, pays their rent and covers other practicalities that her parents don't seem to recognize as important. While her father, George, follows his next big idea down disappearing trailheads, awaiting paydays that never come. Dana's mother Valerie paints in her studio to the point of ignoring the rest of her life, existing rather vacantly on the outskirts of motherhood. Left on their own, Dana and her older brother Ray, a sensitive soul who excels at everything he tries, dream of leaving home.
It's Connie Plank who names Ruth and Dana as "birthday sisters," insisting they maintain a close-knit relationship for that reason alone, despite their divergent interests. The Planks only vacation each year is a quick visit to the Dickerson home, wherever that might be, and in return the Dickersons visit the Plank family farm stand each summer, around the girls' July birthdays.
Remarkably, it's on one of these farm visits that Edwin Plank takes an interest in Dana Dickerson as an unofficial understudy, sharing his farming know-how built up from six generations, which leads to Dana's burgeoning interest in farming herself, and, ultimately, connects her to Ruth in a way their shared birthday never did.
A tender, compelling read, Maynard has interwoven the girls' stories beautifully. Two heartfelt portrayals of the outsider that will be easily enjoyed — even by readers who aren't — and embraced by book clubs everywhere....more
The Lost Symbol is another fast-moving tale starring Brown's now-famed, both inside and outside of the book, symbologist Robert Langdon. This time, BrThe Lost Symbol is another fast-moving tale starring Brown's now-famed, both inside and outside of the book, symbologist Robert Langdon. This time, Brown marries science and religion in an unforeseen twist, with the part of reluctance played — inexplicably — by Robert Langdon. The action occurs here in the states as Robert is lured to Washington D.C. under false pretenses with a friend's carefully sealed, decades old package, one left in Langdon's care more than a decade ago, and quickly finds himself delving into the leends and symbols of the Masons. What's inside the package proves an intriguing twist. Flanked by a scientist, with helpful and explanatory cameos by several Masonic brothers, Langdon's soon racing through national monuments, interpreting the clues on an ancient artifact.
Within Langdon's interactions and dialog, Brown effectively apologizes and explains his alleged defamation of church history, while twining in an extensively spiritual (and inciting) plot, propelled by the requisite madman. History buffs will appreciate the lists of Mason information, including historial figures, dates and events that meld seamlessly into the story and add the heft of truth to Brown's fictitious tale. Yes, the story lags in places, with long descriptions of artifacts and settings, but thrillers are all about pacing. Quit complaining and turn the page.
Well researched and solidly assembled, The Lost Symbol is a page turner with plenty of twists. Dan Brown doesn't disappoint....more
When Autumn, the mysterious shaman of Avening, solicits written entries from local women vying for a position as her apprentice, she's searching for hWhen Autumn, the mysterious shaman of Avening, solicits written entries from local women vying for a position as her apprentice, she's searching for her own replacement. But what, exactly, does Autumn do? the townspeople question. No one knows. Intuitively, everyone knows Autumn corrals magic. And so, one by one, curious letters arrive in Autumn's mailbox, each with a different woman's perspective on the job in question, what it might entail, and why she wants it.
In When Autumn Leaves, Amy Foster permits guarded entrance into Autumn's magical world, where women are trained to harness different magical gifts only to separate, and even less insight into the true purpose of the enchanted world she's envisioned. Leaving room for a sequel? A distinct possibility, though Foster's lack of clarity here may hurt the future of the franchise.
Will Autumn choose Sylvie, who recently lost her mother? Ana, a teacher in love with a married man? Ellie the invisible researcher? Stella, a healer who captures lightning in a bottle? Or another. The letters continue to arrive and, as each applicant's story twines into Autumn's, the story grows taut with suspense.
Foster creates an amorphously lovely town, one that strong women find curiously inviting for no singular reason. Slightly muddled and frumpy, though beloved, Foster's characters shine with crisp edges and clear purpose. If only the plotline could stand up to her character development.
A fun fall read with finely-tuned focus on the strength of women, though the real feat here is that, despite a tightly-wrapped ending, you'll wish there was more....more
Long a fan of the Time Traveler's Wife (yes, despite its maddening plot issues), I hesitated to pick up Audrey Niffenegger's new book, Her Fearful SymLong a fan of the Time Traveler's Wife (yes, despite its maddening plot issues), I hesitated to pick up Audrey Niffenegger's new book, Her Fearful Symmetry, because, as a rule, I do not like ghost stories. I quite dislike them, in fact. Science fiction, yes; ghost stories, no. Now you know. But it haunted me in that way books will when you quite enjoyed their predecessors, and so I eventually succombed.
The concept of mirror twins, one twin per set perfectly reversed in body, including organ placement, added to the curiosity those of us born singular will always have for twins. Two sets of mirror twins form the book's core. Elspeth and Edie have been estranged since Edie's twin daughters, Valentine and Julia, were three years old. Layered atop the curious dual dualities is a thick swath of fairy dust in the form of the girls' estranged aunt Elspeth. Following her death to cancer, Elspeth leaves her London and a substantial sum of money to the twins, Valentina and Julie, with the meager request that the they live in a flat for one year. Robert, Elspeth's mourning boyfriend and aspiring historian of the cemetery they're soon to live alongside, is named a guide for the twins' London life. As usual, Niffenegger draws a sumptuous setting for her pivotal characters, living in the flat adjunct a posh historical cemetary called Highgate, and the story builds from that connectivity between the living and the dead.
The delicate side story of OCD-suffering Martin, a crossword puzzle composer, and his patient, harrowed wife Marijke is used to waylay the book's major plot, though it deserves its own book with detailed treatment instead.
Niffenegger writes the way most people breathe, the prose simply falls away from the page as you're reading. If you're anything like me, you'll be gaga over the plot and characters, drowning in the beauty of the scene and overall interestingness until midway through the book. The dialog and the nuanced characters, all is spot on. Which is why it's so frustrating when it all goes to shit.
Without ruining the plot's major surprises, Niffenegger appears to confuse even herself with the mirror twin idea, complete with a flimsy bait-and-switch plan that might lose you brain cells sleuthing for rational motivation. Niffenegger ignores several key points. First, she hints, through Robert, that ghosts are missing an integral component of humanity, suggesting a sinister intent. This is one-off line that doesn't play through to later portrayals — though it should have — that whispers a more cohesive direction for the plot. Second, there should have been more to the idea of mirror twins than a simple plot twist. It feels affectatious, and I'm angry at being manipulated by it and at Niffenegger for letting that lone concept skew the story.
What I've written here may be more confusing than helpful, as a review goes. It isn't that I don't recommend this book. It isn't even that I dislike it. Instead I feel disappointed in a motherly sort of way, like my baby won't learn to walk, dammit, despite being ohsoclose.
In the end, much of the Niffenegger's descriptive detail is wasted, imperiled later by the crippling and rapidly deflating twin epicenter. Her conclusions fail several of the characters and the book's lush setting, but also feel unfinished, shortsighted. ...more
Part curious history and part quirky parable, Groff's ode to her hometown is anything but overwrought. Her charming prose and thick, overlapping plotlPart curious history and part quirky parable, Groff's ode to her hometown is anything but overwrought. Her charming prose and thick, overlapping plotlines weave an engaging history of Templeton.
Twentysomething Wilhelmina wanders home to regroup from a failed relationship and its resulting pregnancy, surprised and saddened to find the enormous corpse of the town's monster being craned out of the lake. Adding to her worries, Willie's mother admits to purposefully bumbling the facts of her parentage, tasking Willie with an ancestral scavenger hunt through the centuries of the historical flotsam her forebears, the town's founding family, donated to the local museum. Willie's sleuthing changes her ancestry with shocking regularity, drawing a creative, often vicious, backstory. She has only eight weeks to discover the identity of her father, someone her mother admits still lives there in town, someone she probably knows.
An admirably juggled mix of narrative, letters, folklore, and gossip, alongside Willie's mounting personal concerns, warm the tale of a young woman's search for belonging, her drive to find the weight of attachment that accompanies family. Something even the monster knows about.
From the monster whose pale corpse floats atop the lake to the slew of repurposed Cooper characters that pop up delightfully throughout, Groff directs a lively cast with a ringmaster's flair. As surreal and unexpected a story as your grandparents might have made up at bedtime, Groff's concoction is oddly comforting, radiating warmth and density suffused with pure imagination. ...more