Thursday, April 20, 2017

Highly Recommended Reading: News of the World by Paulett Jiles

News of the World is a terrific novel by Paulette Jiles. Set in the year 1870, it is the story of a 400-mile journey through dangerous Texas territory by 71-year-old Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd to deliver a 10-year-old girl to her family.

The girl, Johanna Leonberger, had been a captured by a band of Kiowa in a raid in which her parents and sister were killed. Johanna lived with the Kiowa for four years and fully assimilated into the band. She was returned by the Kiowa under pressure from US Army, but to the great dismay of her Kiowa mother.

They brought her in and sold her for fifteen Hudson's Bay four-stripe blankets and a set of silver dinnerware. German coin silver. They'll beat it up into bracelets. It was Aperian Crow's band brought her in. Her mother cut her arms to pieces and you could hear her crying for a mile. 
Her Indian mother. 
Yes. . . .


The U.S. Army subsequently determined who Johanna was and where her surviving blood relatives lived. Those relatives, an aunt and uncle, paid fifty dollars in gold to have their niece returned to them. Kidd accepts the commission to do the job as it fits into his world. He makes a living traveling to small, isolated Texas towns where he holds one-hour salons during which he reads various news and feature stories from the newspapers to folks who pay a dime to listen. But he also takes the commission because he is the father of two daughters, a good and honorable man, and sympathetic to Johanna who, at just age 10, had already lost two mothers, two families.

This pair of travelers face adventure and danger, growing closer as their experiences build trust and their companionship eases the loneliness that both feel.  News of the World is a very satisfying read set during a turbulent time in a dangerous place. I enjoyed every bit of this book. It is highly recommended reading.



Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A loss for fans of great writing: Robert B. Silvers Dies at 87

Robert B. Silvers was a founding editor of The New York Review of Books. As editor, he shaped the NYRB into a publication offering great writing on important issues. Here is a link to his obituary in the New York Times.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Recommended Reading: The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay

The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay is an exciting and unusual novel. The book consists of three lightly-linked story lines, told in alternating chapters. The story lines take place in 1) Vegas in 2003, 2) Venice Beach, California, in 1958, and 3) Venice, Italy, in 1592. I'm not going to try and summarize the plot (the author notes that it took him five years to write the book), beyond mentioning that there are gamblers, thugs, shootings, murders, planned kidnappings, hopped-up hippies and more. The NYT's review of The Mirror Thief called it "mystical literary fiction with a hard edge." All I can say is, it's quite the book and I really enjoyed it. And I cried at the end!

One suggestion: The Mirror Thief is very long. If you can read an electronic, that might make sense.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Highly Recommended Reading: Ann Cleeves's Shetland Island Mysteries

I'm totally hooked on reading the Shetland Island mysteries by Ann Cleeves. I've churned through the first three in the series and have been highly entertained, and completely surprised, by each book. The protagonist in the books is Inspector Jimmy Perez. Perez is a native of the islands, which are part of the U.K. and celebrate cultural influences from both Scotland and Scandinavia. Cleeves neatly shows us the uniqueness of the Shetland Islands without letting that background dominate the story; and the story here is murder.

The three books in the series that I've read thus far are Raven Black, White Nights, and Red Bones. All three have great atmosphere, the right balance of suspense and character development, and characters to care about. If you like books by Louise Penny or Martha Grimes, I suspect you'll like these books, too. If you've never heard of Penny or Grimes, but enjoy reading a cozy-style mystery where the featured police detective uses his unique skills to puzzle through a murder, then you will likely enjoy these books as well. Great winter reading. Check 'em out!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Recommended Reading: The Trespasser by Tana French

What is it that I think I know? And, am I right?

These are the questions Dublin Murder Squad Detective Antoinette Conway must ask as she and her partner, Steve Moran, investigate when a woman is found dead in an apartment, surrounded by all the elements for hosting a cozy dinner party for two. Conway and Moran work the night shift where they catch an endless series of cases in which one spouse murders the other; domestic cases which, as their boss knows, make Conway mad, and which, professionally speaking, are not particularly challenging to investigate. Now their boss - the gaffer in Dublin speak - has handed them this case, one that appears to be yet another "slam-dunk domestic." But is it?

In addition to the case, the gaffer also gives Conway and Moran backup, an experienced murder squad detective named Breslin. The two partners dislike the implication that they need help to clear the case. And Conway has additional concerns. She wonders if Breslin is on board as part of an effort to get her kicked out of the Murder Squad, a place that has not made her feel welcome or comfortable.

By the time I made it onto the squad, something had changed. . .  I came in at the wrong time, and I got of on the wrong foot. 
. . .
Deep down, though, it wasn't about me being a woman. That was just their in; that was just the thing that they thought would or should, make it easy for them to push me around. Deep down, this was simpler. This was about the exact same thing as primary school, when Ireland was still lily-white and I was the only brownish kid around, and my first ever nickname was Shiteface. It was about the same thing as everything else humans have done to each other since before history began: power. It was deciding about who would be the alpha dogs and who would be at the bottom of the pile. 
I went in expecting that. Every squad hazes the newbie . . . and Murder was already growing a rep for doing it that bit harder, fewer laughs, more edge. But just because I expected it, that didn't mean I was gonna take it. If I learned one thing in school, it's this: you never let them get you on the bottom of the pile. If you do, you might never get up again.
Fighting office politics colors Conway's investigation. Her work has been sabotaged before. But she is determined that it will not happen here, on what may be her last case. And where this dogged determination leads her is an engaging and surprising story.

What does Conway know? And is she right?

The Trespasser is another great read from Tana French.





Friday, December 2, 2016