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Staff Picks: Books

Another great Sally Spencer mystery!

A young mother is found dead, one of her children is missing. DCI Monika Paniatowski has just returned to work after maternity leave. Her nurturing disposition makes her vulnerable and the plight of the children sends her in directions she wouldn’t normally go.


Thicker than Water is another great mystery by Sally Spencer. Monika has become as likable as Inspector Woodend once was. The story is engaging and suspenseful. I couldn’t put it down. 


Mr. Splitfoot

As I neared the end of Samantha Hunt’s novel Mr. Splitfoot, I became upset to realize that I would soon finish it. I love this book; it encompasses everything that makes a great novel: flesh-and-blood characters, atmosphere, page-turning plot, and—most important to me—a literary tinge with incisive writing. I’m still sad I finished it.

One of the blurbs on the back of Mr. Splitfoot comes from Charlotte Bronte, speaking through a medium: “It’s intriguing because a person will know there’s something two-sided.” Bronte is right; this book is about duality. At the core are the relationships between life and death, mother and daughter, community and isolation, mainstream society and the fringes, earth and space. It’s a dark, gothic novel, a ghost story, set in the backwoods and small towns of New York. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes weird books that are both thrilling and multifaceted.


Tricky Twenty Two

I just finished Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich. If you like an easy read with comedy infused, this series is a good one. Stephanie Plum is a Bounty Hunter, a rather incompetent one, who finds her skip more by luck than skill. She hangs with Lula a retired hooker, who you do not want to call fat (she hates that and will sit on you). Stephanie has two men in her life, Joe Morelli, who she grew up with, and Ranger. Morelli was a “bad boy” growing up and is now a police man. Ranger is Cuban-American and runs a very successful security service. Ranger is mysterious, drop dead gorgeous, can open any lock, and has a fleet of black vehicles. This is especially helpful for Stephanie, as in each and every book her car somehow gets destroyed, usually in a huge fireball.

In Tricky Twenty-Two Morelli tells Stephanie that he is breaking up with her, that he wants to find a different line of work, one that is less stressful. This is odd because being a cop defines Morelli, so what is really going on. Of course Morelli, like so many men, keeps it all to himself and does not communicate with Stephanie. Ranger is a man of few words but he packs in so much meaning. He can say “Babe” and it can mean so many different things. Both men have deep feelings for Stephanie. Ranger is not the marrying type so we all know that eventually Stephanie and Morelli will get hitched. In Tricky Twenty-two we are aghast that Morelli breaks it off with Stephanie and we know that they will get back together and it will probably take the whole book to do it and it does. During a marriage ceremony, there is the lighting of the candle. The soon to be wed each have a candle and they symbolically light a single candle together, signifying that they are now one. Having personally been married 36 years, communication is paramount. If Morelli would have just shared his thoughts and fears with Stephanie as he should then this the book would be a lot shorter.

You should start with book one “One for the Money” although you could read them in any order. I prefer to read them in order and grow with them. It’s kind of a formula read, Grandma Mazur will always be attending funerals, possibly trying to pry open a closed casket to peek inside. These are humorous books, even the funerals are fun events. Grandma and Lula both will be carrying huge caliber guns that they freely fire off and hit everything except what they are aiming for. Lula’s outfits are usually 2 sizes two small and the coloring is blinding at best. Stephanie has a pet named Rex, but you are going to have to read the books to find out what type of pet he is, and when you read the books you will find out where Stephanie hides her gun. Stephanie is described as cute, perky, adorable, short etc. If you turn the book over and look at the picture of Janet Evanovich on the jacket, I think Janet Evanovich is describing herself. Check it out at KPL.


The Crooked House

Something horrible happened to 14-year-old Esme and her family one night in the crooked house that stood alone on the outskirts of her town. It was a trauma that burned so deep that when she left her muddy little hamlet, she changed her name to Alison and never came back. For 13 years, she led an isolated life, enjoying the anonymity that living in London gave her. When she’s invited to a wedding that happens to be in her home town, she reluctantly heads back and finds that the events of that horrible night so long ago might not have been what they seemed.

The Crooked House
is a captivating, atmospheric novel, one that the bridges a gap between mystery and literary fiction. It’s been compared to Daphne Du Maurier’s novel Rebecca, and I would agree that fans of Rebecca would enjoy this suspenseful novel.


Author Henning Mankell

One of my favorite mystery authors is Henning Mankell who penned a great many international best-sellers, and is considered to be one of the leading proponents of the Nordic noir novel. Twenty-six of his books featured the policeman character Kurt Wallander and some took place in both Sweden and Mozambique. My favorites include The Fifth Woman, The White Lioness, Sidetracked and The Troubled Man.

His Wallander character was played on BBC television by Kenneth Branagh. Quite a few of his novels also featured Wallander’s daughter Linda, and explore the issue of racism.

If you haven’t read any of his works, do yourself a favor and check a title or two out from KPL’s Central location. His books are intriguing and you might find yourself totally immersed in his characters, locale, and details. They are that good!

Although he was born in Sweden in 1948, Mankell also spent considerable time in Mozambique.
Sad for all of us who love his work, he died of cancer on Oct 5, 2015 at the age of 67.


Little Black Lies

I admit to not knowing much about the Falkland Islands, the setting for the novel Little Black Lies. But the Falklands are a strong presence in this suspenseful story by S.J. Bolton, and I certainly feel as though I have a stronger sense now of the islands.

In the story, three children have gone missing in this wild and beautiful place, over a period of several years. Most of the islanders feel that accidents claimed the children- perhaps a fall, or swept away by a strong tide. As events unfold and the main characters and motives are revealed, it becomes apparent that certainly not all of the disappearances can be explained away by accidents.

Strong characters, a fast paced story, and a fascinating setting make Little Black Lies a winner. It was recommended to me by a co-worker, who said he feels it’s one of the best books he’s read all year, and I agree.


The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place

 This is sort of a fun read for those who may be looking for a bit of a darker read but aren’t really ready for something scary.  The head mistress of a ladies’ finishing school and her brother are poisoned and rather than report the crime to the local police the seven students decide to hide it in an effort to avoid being sent home and separated from each other.  Disgraceful Mary Jane, Sly Kitty, and Stout Alice (each girl has a moniker) haphazardly cobble together a cover up while Pocked Louise sets her sights on finding the killer.  The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is an interesting read for anyone who enjoys murder mysteries with female protagonists.

 


As chimney sweepers come to dust: a Flavia de Luce novel

I was delighted to hear that author Alan Bradley had a new book. As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust: a Flavia de Luce Novel features twelve year old Flavia’s adventures in Canada in the 1950’s, where she has been sent to boarding school. It is a gloomy and mysterious place, and almost immediately, Flavia discovers a mummified body in the chimney of her room.

If you have not made Flavia’s acquaintance before, she is definitely worth discovering. She has been compared to a cross between Harriet the Spy and Sherlock Holmes, and that is an apt description. If you are new to the series, it’s probably best to begin with The Sweetness at the bottom of the Pie, which is the first of Flavia’s adventures.


Top Secret Twenty One

Janet Evanovich latest book Top Secret Twenty One has Stephanie Plum at it again. Stephanine Plum is a bounty hunter but not what you would think of as a typical bounty hunter. She gets by on being cute and lots of luck. In Top Secret Twenty One she is looking for Jimmy Poletti who is out on bail and has missed his court date. While hunting him down she keeps finding his poker buddies, one after the other, dead. She is also helping Ranger who has an old Russian enemy trying to kill him. As usual, Stephanie bumbles about and defies death a few times. You know how some hotels have a parking garage attached and there is a walkway from the hotel to the garage, well Stephanie finds herself on top of this walkway with a bad guy forcing her to cross it. Mix in 10 Chihuahuas and you have yourself another Stephanie Plum humorous bounty hunt. I have been reading Janet Evanovich for years, this is my first time listening to one of her books on audio downloaded from KPL’s overdrive. I love audio books but since I have been reading about Stephanie, Lulu, Ranger etc I have these characters in my head. Hearing a voice for Lulu that was not what my head envisioned bothered me. I and others had similar issues when the movie One for the Money came out. It was a good movie but each of us had preconceived impressions of how these people looked and talked. I think this is the highest praise we can give an author, Janet Evanovich has written her books so well that we have made these fictional characters real in our heads. I love the Stephanie Plum series although I keep thinking my goodness how inept can you be.Come on down to KPL and check it out.

 


Invisible

Invisible by James Patterson. Emmy Dockery is a research assistant for the FBI and thinks she has discovered a serial killer who uses arson to cover his tracks. The problem for Emmy is that the killer is very good at making these house fires look accidental. Also unfortunately for Emmy one of the victims was her twin sister so everyone discounts her theory thinking she is just mourning her sister. She enlists the aid of her ex finance, who is also ex FBI to look into the fires. They eventually find evidence and the hunt is on. The story is eerie and you feel Emmy’s frustrations. The author also lets us hear from the killer. The killer narrates the Graham Chronicles where we hear what the killer is thinking and what happens to a victim. This lets us the reader be on both sides on story, we watch Emmy track and try and hunt the killer down, we also hear from the killer and we are shared insight into the killers thoughts and actions. I downloaded this book from KPL as an mp3 and listened to the story. When the killer was talking, it sounded very pompously and full of self-importance. I took an instant dislike to the killer, but to be fair I wasn’t all that crazy about Emmy. Emmy was not a team player, she ignored Book’s commands and just did whatever she wanted even if that meant she might have endangered fellow agents. I was glad when Bookman finally got fed up with her and denounced her. That was almost more satisfying than them catching the killer. Come on down to KPL and check it out.