Edie's Staff Favorites
I have been an Oregonian for over 19 years and at Annie Bloom's since 1999. Before that I lived for many years in Hawaii, where I grew up. Besides having 4 great kids, all grown, I have 3 grandchildren that I visit several times a year. My reading scope runs from mysteries to plays by Arthur Miller and of course, the newest books for kids are always of interest.
I'm always looking for a new mystery series and Luna has started one that I like a lot. Her first one, Two Girls Down, takes place in a small town in Pennsylvania. Two sisters have disappeared from a strip mall, and their family gets the runaround from the stressed-out police department. They hire bounty hunter turned private cop Alice Vega, an unorthodox, tough gal from California who has a reputation for finding the missing. She, in turn, hires locally disgraced cop Max Caplan to help her. They are a good team (if oddly matched) and get the job done. The second in the series, The Janes, is just out, and this time the FBI reluctantly ask for Alice Vega's help with identifying two women who are found dead along the border. Human trafficking is suspected and perhaps some inside help from the police. Vega and Caplan team up and go for it. I like that the themes are very contemporary, but the best parts are the backstories for both protagonists. Vega is close-mouthed and unapproachable, and Caplan has this great relationship with his teenage daughter. I'm looking forward to the next in the series, as more will be revealed, I'm sure.
Bhima, servant for many years to the upper class Dubush family, has been fired from her job. It was sudden and uncalled for (see The Space Between Us). Now, Bhima, who lives in abject poverty in the Mumbai slums, must find a way to support herself and her granddaughter, Maya. She forms a shaky partnership with the bitter woman Pavati (who has been selling 5 cauliflowers a day) to sell fruit and vegetables at the local market. They bond after many setbacks, learning about each other's lives and the wounds they have endured. It is a moving story of the of strength and respect that grows between two illiterate and desperately poor women who learn how to stand on their own and survive. This sequel by Umvigar evokes the world of modern day India so well and the dignity and richness of their friendship is a pleasure to experience.
What better way to banish the political woes than to drop yourself into a Victorian mystery novel? Finch has written a number of great stories about Charles Lenox, an amateur detective in the 1850s who drives Scotland Yard crazy by solving complicated problems. The first in the series was published in 2007 and they are delightful. This particular new mystery is the second prequel and takes us back to Lenox's first cases and sets you up for more. If you haven't tried them, start with this. Lenox has a neighbor, Lady Jane, who.....well, I won't spoil it. Lenox takes on a case of a missing painting, a vanished duke, and a shocking murder. He is helped by Graham, his valet, servant, devious assistant, and friend. Finch has a wonderful eye for period detail, which makes it all great fun to read. As Louise Penny says, "Bravo Mr. Finch, and keep them coming."
It is always a pleasure to find a new mystery series to introduce to our readers. Canadian writer Scott Thornley has three titles new to the the U.S. audience, and they are terrific. The first, Erasing Memory, finds Detective Superintendent MacNeice enmeshed in the murder of a violinist that stretches back to old Balkan hatreds. The Ambitious City and Raw Bone are equally as fine. MacNeice's team is interesting and well-developed, as is MacNeice himself, who is a widower and has a penchant for watching birds and drinking grappa. A thoughtful, quiet man, he reminds me a bit of Adam Dalgliesh. We have all three titles, so come on in!
Irenie and Brodis Lambey run a farm in the North Carolina mountains in the late 1930's He is an ex-logger who has become a fundamentalist preacher and Irenie and their son Matthew toil on the land. When a female USDA agent comes to town to teach new ways of housekeeping and farming, Irenie is fascinated by a look at a different way of life for herself and her son. As she changes, Brodis comes to believe the dark ways of the devil has taken over his wife and his anger at all things government put his faith to the test. The outcome is explosive. Franks has captured the tone and cadence of this time and place perfectly and I found myself both spellbound and disturbed.
This is the best I've read in several years. It will be a series, so don't miss out on the beginning of FBI agent Jane Hawk's life, as she goes rogue to solve a conspiracy. It is getting rave reviews and I add my name to the list!
The Late Show, introducing a NEW protagonist, Renee Ballard. She is a tough young detective who has filed a sexual harassment complaint against her supervisor and has therefore been punished by being assigned the night shift. Renee starts investigations but has to turn her cases over to the day shift. This doesn't fly with her and...well, you'll find out.
Those of us who like mysteries are always looking for a new series, and Nicholas Petrie has provided one. Last year he wrote The Drifter (now out in paper) about war veteran Peter Ash who has a bad case of 'white noise', a type of PTSD that keeps him mostly out of doors. He wanders and runs into people who need rescuing and picks up a few friends who help him out, all vets who don't fit into any mold. Just out is Burning Bright, the second Ash thriller. It covers everything from tree climbing in the redwoods to cyber warfare--with a fascinating red-head thrown into the mix. The writing is spare and moves at speed (you really want to sit and read it all at once, so be warned). I highly recommend both titles and I am not the only one. Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher series, says that Peter Ash is the real deal.
The small town of Macedonia, West Virginia in the year 1938 is full of quirky characters doing their best (or worst) to get through the Great Depression. The most beguiling is twelve year old Willa Romeyn who lives with her beloved Aunt Jottie and various odd relatives. Willa spends that sweltering summer trying to uncover the town's secrets while listening to gossip from her porch sitting, iced tea drinking kin and neighbors. Into this mix comes Layla Beck who has been sent to do a history of Macedonia by the WPA works. She finds lodging with the Romeyn family which makes everyone uncomfortable, especially when Layla finds there is more fiction to the history than fact and a long ago mystery comes to light. There are some lessons here about speaking the truth and keeping one's own council. Barrows evokes the charm and eccentricities of a small town very well.
The author of Mr. Pettigrew's Last Stand writes about the provincial town of Rye just before WWI. Agatha Hunt, whose husband is in the Foreign Office, risks her reputation by hiring a young woman(!) to be the Latin teacher in the nearby school. It is a shocking event for the entire town, and the fact that Beatrice Nash is also very pretty and well educated helps not at all. Soon rumors of war begin, and the gorgeous summer is beset with changes all around. The very small town lives have their limits tested, class barriers begin to fall, and the innocence of that time starts to unravel. The story takes a leisurely pace and there are wonderful characters throughout that make this a lovely read.
A grizzly bear, Glacier National Park, and a special agent for the Dept. of the Interior--what else would one need for an exciting suspense story? Ted Systead is sent to investigate a crime that recalls his own horrific experience with a grizzly at age fourteen. Now, a man has been bound to a tree and has been savaged by a Park grizzly, and none of the residents or Park staff are particularly helpful. The resentment between locals and outsiders (and he is considered very much an outsider) makes Ted's work nearly impossible. It is obvious that Carbo knows her setting very well, and Montana and Glacier are wonderful backdrops for dire doings.
Little Wing, Wisconsin is the quintessential small Midwestern town, and Butler drops the reader right into it with finesse. The story follows five friends who gather for a wedding about ten years after graduating from high school. There is Hank, the farmer who has stayed in town; Kip, the entrepreneur; Lee, the indie rock star; Ronny the has-been rodeo rider; and Beth, who has married Hank. Secrets that are of long standing are revealed, and friendships and loyalties are tested, as each character recalls the past and worries about the future. This nostalgic look at a particular time is a treat to digest. At the conclusion, you realize that the town has become one of the characters and is lovingly rendered. Don't let the title dissuade you from this pleasure!
Federal agents Ted Ingersoll and Ham Johnson are in Hobnob, Mississippi, when the river starts to flood--this is in 1927. Although their mission is to roust out bootleggers (you remember that this is Prohibition time, right?), they become embroiled in saving a baby's life; finding someone to care for it; solving murders; finding hidden stills; and controlling their panic as the river rises and rises. The story is told in the voices of two protagonists: Ingersoll and Dixie Clay Holliver, the tough woman they leave the baby with. Franklin has a wonderful ear for language, and the particular cadence of Mississippi and the characters he and Fennelly (his co-author wife) evoke sound true to the time and location. The backdrop of the historic flood is fascinating as is the mystery. And it is not a bad thing that this is also a love story. I do hope this writing couple tries it again.
Fascinating historical novel. Love it!
All the prerequisites for a good story are here--a young college woman falls in love with a man who is an Army helicopter pilot, marries him, and sends him off to Iraq where he is killed. This time, however, all of it is true. Henderson's memoir of her life with Miles and then her life without him is an unsentimental but moving look at the insides of Army life for the women left to cope. Her honest (sometimes to her own detriment) view of the loneliness of living within the military rules and regulations is poignant, unflinching, and feels very real. When she shares with the reader the letter that she receives from Miles after his death--a letter he knows she will read only if he does not come back--you know you have experienced an authentic love story. --Edie
If you want a crazy ride into a techno-thriller, this book is for you. Huston has a number of great stories out (Sleepless is one) but this one is mindblowing. Skinner is an asset protector who is the best in the business, but his CIA handlers have grown afraid of him and sent him away---but of course, when a cyborterrorist attack looms, who is needed? This is actually pretty scary, as many scenes could be straight out of today's newspaper. At the end, you end up wondering, "Who is watching?" - Edie
Yes, yes, this is a great love story. Everyone has said so and done it eloquently (Packer, Ford, etc.), but my favorite part of this really well written story is the relationship between father and daughter in a small town in Nebraska. It feels real, sounds real, and leaves a very nice feeling in one's heart. Do not miss the opportunity to enjoy every word in this book.