Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye

The story takes place at the inception of the NYPD in 1845.  Timothy Wilde, a former bartender needing to take on a new profession, is recruited by newly formed police force.  One of his first cases is to investigate the murder of a young boy.  The body was mutilated, the spleen removed.  The cross like cut on the body points towards a religious crime, and with hatred of the Catholics, primarily Irish immigrants, heating up in the city, a resolution to the murder is of the utmost importance.

While the subject matter is quite disturbing – child prostitutes and murdered children – the author writes in a way that isn’t gory or disconcerting.  These children and their lives invoke empathy in both her detective and her readers.  Fans of the atmospheric historical mystery The Alienist by Caleb Carr will find a lot to like in Faye’s latest Gods of Gotham. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

The body of a graduate student researching the witch trials in Iceland is found dead at the college.  (Interesting Fact: the convicted witches in Iceland were almost all male.  Who knew?)  The dead student’s body has been mutilated and it looks like it could be ritualistic.  The student was the son of a wealthy German family and they have retained an investigator of sorts named Matthew.  Matthew speaks no Icelandic so he hires an Icelandic lawyer, Thora, to translate and aid him in his search for the killer.  The Icelandic police have a suspect in custody but the family is not convinced of his guilt.

I was in Iceland two months ago and I fell in love with the country.  It was great to return there, even under such dark circumstances.  It’s always neat when you recognize landmarks and street names in a novel.  While many people read books taking place in the area they are about to visit I recommend for peace of mind that you wait to read the thrillers and mysteries until you’re back home! 
Fated by Benedict Jacka

Fans of Jim Butcher take notice!  Alex Verus and Harry Dresden are made from the same mold.  Verus doesn’t advertise in the phone book, but he does run a magic shop in the heart of London.  A diviner he can see how the future will progress based on the choices he makes.  This skill makes him a hot commodity when a Precursor object of power comes to light and everyone in the mage community wants Verus on their side.

This is definitely a fantasy book.  There is magic (a lot of it), curses, elementals and mystical objects.  I especially like the way the author handles how Verus is able to see into the future and change his path – and if he is unable it makes sense why not!  This is accessible fantasy though.  If you’re willing to suspend your disbelief and go with it, it reads like a mystery. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton

Grace is at Sport’s Day at her son Adam’s school.  Her teenaged daughter Jenny is acting as the school nurse for the day on the third floor of the building.  A fire breaks out in the school.  Grace sees that Adam is safe then runs into the burning building to rescue her daughter.  She finds Jenny collapsed on the stairwell and reaches out to her just as the ceiling collapses.

I kept hearing this book compared to The Lovely Bones and I couldn’t figure out why.  Now I know.  And without giving anything away, I think I can tell you why.  Grace and Jenny meet again at the hospital.  Grace is in a coma and possibly brain dead.  Jenny is badly burned and her organs are failing.  Together they try to piece together what caused the fire.  I know what you’re thinking.  How?  It’s because Grace and Jenny are able to travel ghostlike from their bodies.  They can not affect the world but they can listen and watch and try to figure out the motive and perpetrator of the fire.

I was afraid that having Grace in her unusual state of being as a narrator wouldn’t work, but amazingly it did.  It was like having a semi-omniscient narrator with an agenda.  Grace could literally be the fly on the wall and eavesdrop on any conversation anywhere; an interesting way to write a mystery and reveal the clues multiple characters are discovering.  And a really good mystery – I kept changing my mind as to who did it and why and the answers to those questions…wow.
The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

Grace Winter just got married in London and is now returning to New York via ocean liner.  It’s been two years since the Titanic disaster so it is fresh in everyone’s minds yet no one actually thinks a disaster will occur.  Until it does…  There is an explosion aboard the ship and the lifeboats are launched.  Grace’s husband puts her on a lifeboat and she hasn’t seen him since.  Now she and her fellow forty or so lifeboat passengers must survive while awaiting rescue.

This is a great psychological study.  It’s fascinating to see the dynamics aboard the small vessel and the interactions between the passengers, as well as the alliances which form.  Even more fascinating, and disturbing, is imagining yourself as Grace and wondering what you would do in her place.
Live Wire by Harlan Coben

I have read almost all of Coben’s standalone thrillers, but have never read a Myron Bolitar mystery.  I figured it was about time I did! 

Myron is a sports and entertainment agent handling all the trials and tribulations of his client’s lives.  When former tennis champion Suzze T sashays into his office eight-months pregnant asking Myron to help find her missing rocker star husband he leaps to the rescue.  Things don’t go as he hoped.  It’s a complex plot, but easy to follow, and anything I say here is going to give too much away.  I wasn’t lost even though I knew nothing about the characters, but I can see how this book built on the ones before.

The most fun I’ve had listening to a book this year.  It was laugh out loud funny at times, and very serious at others.  I LOVED the New York and New Jersey accents -- over the top in a great way.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Unwanted by Kristina Ohlsson

A mother leaves her sleeping child on a delayed train while she steps onto the platform to place a phone call.  While the mother helps a woman in distress the train pulls away.  Frantic the mother has the train called and a conductor watches over the sleeping girl as the train continues to Stockholm.  A fight breaks out in another train car and he leaves the girl’s side for no more than three minutes.  During those three minutes the train pulls into the station.  When he returns to the girl’s seat she is gone.  But something doesn’t seem right.  No one remembers seeing the girl leave the train and her shoes were left behind.  Hours have passed and still no word of the girl. 

This dark Swedish police procedural has a refreshing main character.  She is an outcast detective, but not in any of the stereotypical ways (bad temper, antisocial, alcoholic, etc.).  No, Inspector Fredericka Bergman is an outcast because she is educated.  She hasn’t come up through the ranks, so her fellow investigators and boss feel that she’s missing that special “cop sense” that only time on the job will foster.  And boy do you root for her when her fresh look at the situation proves correct and the tried and true “rules” of policing prove very wrong.

Unlike some other Scandinavian mysteries this one felt like it could have taken place anywhere.  Not for the faint of heart, this book will appeal to fans of gritty serial killer thrillers.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Reviewed by Cassandra, Collection Management Librarian

Code Name Verity has been getting some high praise and after reading it this weekend I can honestly say it is one of the most unique young adult books I have read.  

The story is told in journal entries; to be specific, a confession.  Verity is being kept prisoner at the Gestapo headquarters and to buy herself time she convinces the Haupsturmfuhrer to let her write out her story.  The confession is a mix of past and present and sometimes Verity is cut off in the middle. Verity also tells her story from her best friend Maddie's point of view.  For a good portion of the book you don't even know who Verity really is but there are some clues that lead you to her identity. The second half of the book is told by Maddie, who is a much more reliable narrator.

Verity herself is amazing.  She's brave, strong, smart, kind, and funny.   Be sure to have a box of tissues handy. 
Summer Nights by Susan Mallery
Reviewed by Cassandra, Collection Management Librarian

The Fools Gold series is already on book 8! Summer Nights is the story of horse trainer Shane Stryker and the fiesty town librarian Annabelle Weiss. If you like romance and chick lit then this is the series for you! The plot is a bit silly at times but Mallery is such an excellent writer that you stay hooked regardless. This series is great if you enjoy romance or chick lit. I know I am looking forward to the next installment in the series.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Cooking Up a Mystery

This Mysterious Mornings group met yesterday and talked about their favorite culinary mysteries.  Here is the list of group favorites by author and sleuth:
  • Childs, Laura (Theodosia Browning)
  • Coyle, Cleo (Clare Cosi)
  • Crosby, Ellen (Lucie Montgomery)
  • Daheim, Mary (Judith McMonigle Flynn)
  • Fluke, Joanne (Hannah Swenson)
  • Hyzy, Julie (Olivia Paras)
  • Jaffarian, Sue Ann (Emma Whitecastle)
  • Lipperman, Liz (Clueless Cook Mysteries)
  • Loehfelm, Bill (Maureen Coughlin)
  • MacInerney, Karen (Natalie Barnes)
  • McKevett, G.A. (Savannah Reid)
Interested in joining a Mysterious Mornings discussion?  A list of suggested authors and titles are available at the Bridgewater Library and books will be on display about a month prior to the discussion.  (If you’re a voracious mystery reader you can read more than one!  Our next theme/subgenre is New England Mysteries.)

If it’s a mystery and it takes place in New England, hen it fits this month’s subgenre.  Just keep in mind how the location affects the mystery because that’ll be a major talking point at our discussion in July.  (The meeting will be on Wednesday, July 11th at 9:30am at the Bridgewater Library.)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Liver Let Die by Liz Lipperman

Jordan moves to Ranchero, Texas to work for a small town newspaper after leaving Dallas and her ex-fiancĂ© behind.  She wants to be a sports reporter, but she settles for running the personals desk.  Then disaster strikes.  The food columnist has a personal water craft incident and will be unable to review restaurants or publish recipes while she recuperates.  The editor offers Jordan the job (for no extra pay, but free meals and the satisfaction of seeing her name in print).  Jordan jumps at the opportunity and then freaks out a bit.  She is a fast food maven and can’t cook anything.  The art of making grilled cheese eludes her.  Yet, she’s headed out to a fancy restaurant to try her hand at being a foodie.

I was pleasantly surprised by this cozy mystery.  This is a mystery that is light-hearted yet not light on substance.  There are a few storylines going and while some things seem pretty straightforward the whodunit (and whydunit) are not obvious at all.  Jordan is a savvy reporter and balks at any situations that would put her in danger.  Her friends are great and quirky and I would like to return to Ranchero, Texas for the next installment.
Sunrise Point by Robyn Carr
Reviewed by Cassandra, Collection Management Librarian

Tom Cavanaugh thought he wanted to escape from his family's apple orchard business so he joined the Marines. After his two years, he decided the last thing he wanted to do was be anywhere else but home. Nora Crane has had a tough life to be so young but she is filled with determination and resolve to make the best of it for her two young daughters.

When the Cavanaughs posted a notice at the church for apple pickers, Nora jumped at the opportunity to have a pretty decent paying job for a change. Tom Cavanaugh took one look at her and turned her down. His grandmother, Maxie, intervenes and Nora is hired. And so begins the transformation of Tom and Nora's lives.

There is secondary story involving Luke and one of his former Army buddies, Hank Cooper, that had the makings of something pretty interesting but fell flat by the end of the book. I'm hoping that Hank will be resurrected in a future story but I was disappointed in this storyline.

Overall, this is a pretty solid addition to the series, even though it won't be in my top favorites. Nora and Tom are really likable characters, even though he could be rather dense at times. 

My worst subject in school was history.  I hated it.  I didn’t see the point.  I didn’t want to know.  Only now do I have an appreciation for history and a craving to know all those things I once found so pointless.  Needless to say my knowledge of Russian history pre-WWII was quite poor, practically non-existent.  After reading this book I feel pretty caught up with Russian and European history during the reign of Catherine the Great. 

While this truly is a portrait of Catherine, every person is molded by their era, surroundings and circumstances, all of which is detailed here.  This is a dense, detailed read.  And I don’t mean dense as a negative.  There is a lot of rich detail here which makes you want to read slowly so you don’t miss a thing. 

For all fans of history – there is something here to engage every reader.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Stay Close by Harlan Coben

If you’ve left your past in the past should the people in your present hold it against you?  Megan is living a comfortable upper-middle class life in suburban New Jersey.  She’s married to a wonderful man and has two wonderful boys.  One day, her past comes knocking.  Seventeen years ago Megan, then going by the name of Cassie, was an exotic dancer in Atlantic City.  It was a life she loved and misses, but she has moved on.  She had to.  She witnessed something the night she fled her former life that she has been running from ever since.  It has finally caught up to her.

While constructing an edge of your seat thriller Coben also addresses some interesting questions.  Can you ever leave your past behind you?  Does your past matter?  And do the people from your past mean as much to you as you do to them?  Scott Brick, one of my all time favorite audiobook narrators, does this one and he really makes the less glitzy part of Atlantic City come to life.
The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O’Melveny

Gabriella Mondini is not the typical 16th century Venetian.  She is following in her father’s footsteps, and has become a doctor, well regarded by her patients yet a concern for the practicing male doctors in the area.  Her father went off quite a few years ago to find more materials for his book regarding madness and cures and his correspondence has gotten more and more sporadic and disturbing.  Gabriella decides to not just adopt her father’s profession, but to literally follow in his footsteps by beginning a journey across Europe and into Africa to find the man she loves and admires more than any other.  For without his patronage she can no longer practice medicine in Venice.

This is a harrowing journey tale.  The land, the people and the disease which meet Gabriella and her two devoted servants in each city and country they traverse come to life through the author’s words.  This book reminded me of the quest novels of the fantasy genre the world was so foreign and new.  An atmospheric tale that truly transports you back in time.