The Angel’s Game
by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
A stylish, suspenseful read. Ruiz Zafon’s cinematic writing style evokes a gothic, Modernist Barcelona that both intrigues and frightens.
It All Started with a Dog
by Leigh Somerville McMillan
The Little Stranger
by Sarah Waters
This phenomenal haunted house story called to mind the best work of Daphne DuMaurier, Shirley Jackson, and Patrick McGrath.
Undress Me in the Temple of Heavenn
by Susan Jane Gilman
Ignore the ridiculous book cover and title and check out this gripping description of a trip to China gone horribly, horribly wrong.
The Thirteenth Tale
by Diane Setterfield
The author is obviously well-read in Victorian literature. This may first seem to be a booklover’s book but its gothic feel would also appeal to adventure readers.
Margaret Lea, the daughter of a book dealer, is invited to visit the well-known elderly author Vida Winter in order to write Miss Winter’s final “true” biography. This is odd that Margaret was chosen over existing authors or journalists, as Margaret has never read any of her books. Prior to her interview, Margaret decides to read The Thirteenth Tale which her father has in the safe with other rare books. The original book only had twelve tales when first published resulting in a corrected reissue as The Twelfth Tale.
The unfolding story of Margaret’s stay with Miss Winters has a taste of the writing of Bronte, Eyre, The Arabian Nights with a little DuMaurier as well. There is a continuing puzzle that is always missing a piece and this reader just knew what the missing piece was and yet… it is the twist at the end that gives this tale its mastery.
Million Dollar Baby
by Amy Patricia Meade
Let’s welcome another mystery writer who takes us back to 1935, the time of Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. You can visualize the movie version of this book with the dapper millionaire Creighton Ashcroft III coming to this small Connecticut village in his Rolls Royce impressing all the women except published mystery writer Miss Marjorie McClelland. Add one suicide of the past owner of Kensington House, the bones of the gardener, Park Avenue society plus a drop-dead gorgeous detective (pardon the term) and you have a rollicking tale that keeps you enthralled wondering who “done them in” and who gets the girl. You will be eagerly awaiting the next Marjorie McClelland mystery.
The Mayor of Lexington Avenue
by James Sheehan
This is a first novel for the author but you would never guess it. Sheehan offers a legal thriller with nostalgia, values, and the spice of a little romance. The mayor of Lexington Ave. is attorney Jack Tobin who, years later, repays his childhood best friend Mikey for protecting him when they were young. Mikey’s son is on death row, framed for murdering a woman 10 years before. While there is some predictability in the outcome of this novel, there are still a few surprises. It will keep you reading and guessing.
The Spellman Files
by Lisa Lutz
Lisa Lutz obviously has loved mysteries since childhood. This debut novel from a screenwriter has glimpses of Chandler’s noir, Nancy Drew’s female intuition, Janet Evanovich’s family dynamics and boyfriend woes, and last but not least, TV’s Get Smart.
Isabel Spellman’s family runs a detective agency out of their home. The oldest child, David, is the perfect child so he is the only one who is not in the family business. He is a lawyer. However, the rest of the family does not know how to socialize without interrogating.There is the boozing and gambling Uncle Ray who saw the light once he earlier survived cancer after having lived a pure life. There is the youngest preteen, Rae (yes, named after Uncle Ray) who started snooping almost as soon as she could walk. Izzy was not an ace student in high school, can’t keep a boyfriend even though her mother keeps trying with lawyer first dates supplied by David, the perfect brother, and is not very athletic. Yet, she is a natural for the family business with her investigative skills. When she meets Mr. Right, a dentist, she can’t tell him what her family does. (It’s not the Mafia!) However, the family spies on her and soon her scam (ruse) is revealed. Izzy realizes that she must give up the business to keep the man.
Couldn’t help but be a PI = environment & genetics.
The World Below
by Sue Miller
Angle of Repose
by Wallace Stegner
Both of these novels have parallel stories as a result of found histories from earlier generations. Both middle aged main characters are drifting in their lives at the start of the novels.
In The World Below, twice divorced Catherine Hubbard goes to Vermont to clear out the home that her deceased grandmother, Georgia Rice, left her. Catherine intends to sell the place to the tenant who rents it. However when she finds her grandmother’s diary, her resolve to sell quickly melts as she reads it. She discovers that her outwardly calm grandmother had a difficult childhood as the oldest child responsible for the running of the household when her mother died. It was tuberculosis that “saved” her by her being forced to rest and eat good food at a sanatorium. Catherine learns of the young man that Georgia first loved; marrying instead the older local doctor who had her placed in the sanatorium. Catherine reads in her grandmother’s journals of the independence that she achieved as a confident older sister, her tragic passion for her terminally ill first love, her growing love and appreciation for her husband and the pain of the suicide of Catherine’s mother. Catherine is awakened to her own relationship with her own daughter by going back in time with her grandmother.
Angle of Repose tells a story from the perspective of Lyman Ward’s pioneer spirited grandmother, Susan Ward, as told through her correspondence to her family and friends back East. Though pieced with anecdotes and descriptions of her marriage and the mining homes in which they lived, it is what is painfully left out of the letters that speaks to Lyman. She supports the family with the magazine articles that she writes but this adds to the sullenness of her husband Oliver as he wants to be the breadwinner. He is an inventor but is not rewarded for his ingenuity and instead seems to “bet on the wrong horse” as far as companies and funding. Their life was difficult but they had each other with each new venture of Oliver’s. But Oliver turned bitter toward Susan when he suspected her of an affair and their daughter died from an accident. This all helps to explain the temperament of the older man as his grandfather that Lyman remembers. Lyman is in a wheelchair, divorced, resentful that his ex-wife and son want to put him in a nursing home. Does he want to live out the rest of the many years ahead of him with the same bitterness?
Each epistolary gives just one side of a personal journey. In both of these novels a voice from the past links the past to the present giving encouragement to their grandchildren to find their way and purpose using the written history that has been left to them. When life gives you lemons you can choose whether you want to make lemonade.
Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio
by Jeffrey Kluger
Ok, how interesting can a book on researching a cure for polio, a non-threat in this century, be? Very! This is a thriller even though you know the ending. The first chapter starts with an expose by Walter Winchell talking about all the white coffins that will be needed for all the children that the new polio vaccine will kill. Dr. Salk stays focused on his mission: to inoculate as many brave “polio pioneers” as he can before the next outbreak.
As any hero he has his foibles. His family and marriage suffer with all the time spent in the lab trying to be the first to come up with the cure. When he does get recognition, his academy speech does not mention his brilliant and dedicated staff. Every chapter starts with a picture from the medical archives of this terrifying period in the 40’s and 50’s. Anyone who grew up during this time knew of someone who had had polio and what an iron lung looked like. This true story is even a better read than a Robin Cook novel.
The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls
This is non-fiction that trumps any fiction story of survival. Jeannette Wall became a successful gossip columnist in New York while managing to hide her childhood story. It is her telling of overcoming such abject poverty along with her brother and sisters, that startles the reader with its impossible truth. Jeannette’s parents were selfish or immature in their choices and addictions, yet they were extraordinarily creative in providing their view of the world as adventure for their children. One Christmas, the father took each child out separately to pick out the star that they wanted. What a special moment. There are many incidences of horror, laughter, and compassion for this family. It begs the question, what would have happened if Human Services had stepped in?