This is a review I recently submitted to Library Journal. One advantage of listening to books is to hear the author’s name pronounced. It’s Michael SH...moreThis is a review I recently submitted to Library Journal. One advantage of listening to books is to hear the author’s name pronounced. It’s Michael SHA-bn, not Michael Cha-BONE, as I’d mistakenly guessed.
Things are falling apart for Meyer Landsman, a drunken cop in the imaginary noir Jewish settlement of Sitka, Alaska. The wife who recently divorced him has just become his boss. An addict chess prodigy from his hotel has been found murdered, and Landsman’s been told to forget about investigating it. His jurisdiction ends, soon, anyway, as the control of Sitka is about to revert to the state, leaving the Jews there (‘the frozen Chosen") homeless again, and mostly unwelcome.
Michael Chabon’s insanely ambitious story takes off from there, incorporating Orthodox gangsters, chess problems, and a possible Messiah, punctuated by the litany, "It’s a strange time to be a Jew." Peter Riegert’s world-weary reading perfectly captures Chabon’s Chandleresque characters. Chabon can dazzle you with his dialogue, his characters, his prose, or the details of his world-building. An engaging and enlightening interview with the author follows the novel. This is an easy call–an excellent performance of a good (maybe great) writer at the top of his game. Get it. --John
I’m currently reading the new Charles Todd mystery, The Red Door, which is the latest in the Inspector Rutledge series. As I read it, I have a picture...moreI’m currently reading the new Charles Todd mystery, The Red Door, which is the latest in the Inspector Rutledge series. As I read it, I have a picture in mind of what Rutledge looks like…it’s this guy, the actor Anthony Howell. Some of you may recognize him as Sgt. Milner from the BBC show Foyle’s War. I’m not exactly sure how he got into my mind as Rutledge, but it probably has something to do with both of them just being back from a war, both being a bit wounded physically and psychologically, and they’re both somewhat quiet, introspective, and very good investigators. Regardless of how or why, he is etched into my mind as Rutledge.
There are others, too…Guido Brunetti, from the books by Donna Leon, looks amazingly like Jean Reno, at least in my head he does, and that’s a pretty good thing. Aimee Leduc, from the Cara Black books, is a younger, redder-haired Annie Potts (maybe from her Pretty In Pink days). I read The Forgery of Venus a while ago, and the main character, Chaz Wilmot, was totally this guy from the tv show Oz. No idea why, because the characters are fairly dissimilar, to say the least.
I usually develop an image of a character pretty easily, but there is one that I just can’t picture. Nic Costa, from the mysteries by David Hewson, is a blank. Well, not quite…Scott Baio kind of comes to mind, but I refuse to go there, and if anyone has any suggestions I’d appreciate them. And if you’ve got any of your own mental images of book characters, feel free to share them! --Candice(less)
I thoroughly enjoyed La’s Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith, however, not all reviewers did. The novel is a stand-alone and while th...moreI thoroughly enjoyed La’s Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith, however, not all reviewers did. The novel is a stand-alone and while the protagonist does solve a mystery, it is quite different from McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency or the Sunday Philosophy Club series. I found the story to be an evocative read.
The majority of the story takes place in rural Suffolk during World War II, where La, (short for Lavender) Stone, retreats after her marriage fails and assault on London begins in earnest. La joins the Women’s Land Army and begins to her integration into the rural neighborhood. La starts an orchestra drawing from townsfolk and the nearby airbase.
If you enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society I think you would like La’s Orchestra too. --Maeve
Down in the Flood by Kenneth Abel is a real page turner. Danny Chaisson is a New Orleans attorney helping his receptionist’s relative, an engineer wor...moreDown in the Flood by Kenneth Abel is a real page turner. Danny Chaisson is a New Orleans attorney helping his receptionist’s relative, an engineer working for a concrete company, who the feds are pressuring to give evidence of cut corners and sub-par work against his boss. The boss in turn is getting pressure from a mobster to whom he owes a large gambling debt. These are the players when a little storm named Katrina comes to town. The engineer has disappeared on the eve of grand jury testimony and Danny refuses to evacuate as he races the storm to save his client.
Danny is an appealing character. He is a former informant still remembered by many as a traitor. His moral code does not allow him to abandon a client even though his wife, an ATF agent, is assigned to remain in the City, begs him to take their daughter and leave town. He grew up in the Ninth Ward and as the waters rise he sees the best and worst his City has to offer. I’m going back to the beginning and intend the read the earlier two titles in this series. --Susan
Step aside Nancy Drew and Harriet the Spy, eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce is on the case! It’s 1950 and aspiring chemist, Flavia de Luce, is living in...moreStep aside Nancy Drew and Harriet the Spy, eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce is on the case! It’s 1950 and aspiring chemist, Flavia de Luce, is living in an old English estate with her father and two sisters. One day Flavia’s life is turned upside-down. Her sisters are taunting her and a dead man appears in the vegetable garden. She has to make a plan. First on the list … revenge. She whips up a concoction of poison ivy lipstick and smuggles it into her sister’s lipstick case. Second on the list … solve the murder and exonerate her father. Flavia has her work cut out for her!
With a cast of lovable characters, Flavia’s determination, and a solid mystery plot, Alan Bradley has created a wonderful story that keeps the reader guessing. Plus – it is a 2010 American Library Association Alex Award nominee. Watch for the next installment of the Flavia de Luce mystery series, The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag, in early March 2010. ~~Enjoy~~ --Kara
Sometimes I just go to the Fiction new book shelf and choose something because it catches my eye. Alone: a Valentino mystery by Loren Estleman is one...moreSometimes I just go to the Fiction new book shelf and choose something because it catches my eye. Alone: a Valentino mystery by Loren Estleman is one of the books I selected on Monday and it turned out to be a good pick. The cover of the book grabbed my interest - it shows the profile of a woman dressed in fashion of the 1930s. And the cover also had the added detail of the sentence: A letter from Garbo is the kiss of death.
Valentino in the subtitle refers to UCLA film archivist who is restoring a Los Angeles film palace, or at least trying to restore it and not the early film actor, although the actor does play a small part in the story. The story revolves around the theater, a wealthy donor whose wife had a “relationship” with Greta Garbo and a murder. The mystery’s pacing is good and keeps the reading quickly turning the pages. What I found most enjoyable about the read were all of the references to film history and restoration. The final segment of the book – Closing Credits was a lovely bonus. It is a bibliography of books on Garbo, theaters – both the early grand ones and grand ones now built for the very wealthy in their homes, books on film quotations and film guides and other books on film and film history. All-in-all, it was a lot of fun and now I will go back and read the first Valentino mystery Frames and hope I enjoy it as much. --Maeve
Voices by Arnaldur Indridason is the third mystery in a series starring Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson and it is set in Reykjavik. In the midst of holid...moreVoices by Arnaldur Indridason is the third mystery in a series starring Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson and it is set in Reykjavik. In the midst of holiday festivities the doorman at an upscale hotel who plays Santa Claus is found stabbed — in his costume with his pants around his knees. This is not a “cozy” mystery. Erlendur is a dour loner, concerned over his drug-addicted daughter, bothered by memories of his brother’s death, and ignoring well-meaning co-workers who are trying to make holiday plans for him. He discovers the victim was once a child singing star, but his life changed when his voice did and he has long been estranged from his family.
The cover of Voices calls this book a thriller, I would call it a dark psychological study with a significant depression level evident in most of those involved -– more Iowa Winter reading than sunny beach reading. If you like Ian Rankin or Henning Mankell I think you’ll like this book. --Susan(less)
An absorbing mystery set in 1995 rural Norway. As Inspectors Sejer and Skarre investigate the murder of a teenage girl, everyone from her handball coa...moreAn absorbing mystery set in 1995 rural Norway. As Inspectors Sejer and Skarre investigate the murder of a teenage girl, everyone from her handball coach to her boyfriend come under suspicion. Earlier deaths, ruled accidental, need re-investigating as do the motives and actions of many in this tiny village. The two detectives interact well, not only in solving crime, but also as the young Skarre brings the gruff Sejer out of his shell a little. Multiple points of view add to the levels of both suspicion of and sympathy for each character. The everyday details of village life add a great deal to establishing the mood. --Andrea(less)
The introductory novel in the mystery series featuring servant turned nurse turned private detective Maisie Dobbs in London 1929. The central case is...moreThe introductory novel in the mystery series featuring servant turned nurse turned private detective Maisie Dobbs in London 1929. The central case is related to the tragedies of World War I and their lingering effects on both British society and Maisie Dobbs. Rather than a straight-forward mystery, the middle of the book focuses on providing the background information about Maisie and Britain before and during WWI that is central to the series. The era comes alive through Winspear's engaging descriptions of Britain on the cusp of major social change, particularly the portrayal of Maisie Dobbs' rise from servant to professional.
Psychology is as important as physical evidence in her detecting. There are similarities to Precious Ramotswe (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith) and Maisie Dobbs' approach to solving crime -- their shared goal is finding a resolution for each client that helps the client move forward rather than just know "whodunit."
The sequel, Birds of a Feather, featuring another WWI-related crime in 1929, is equally engaging. --Andrea(less)