Monday, June 14, 2010

May Books

Forensic psychiatrict Jo Beckett is asked to do a psychological autopsy when a high-profile district attorney drives her car off a bridge in a very public suicide. Jo discovers that the attorney isn't the only recent death, and they all seem to be linked to a shadowy group called the Dirty Secrets Club. What secrets were the members keeping--and who is using those secrets to drive members to their deaths? And what will Jo do when her investigation leads someone to dig into her own deepest secret? Great thriller, fast read, recommended for summertime.

THIS BODY OF DEATH/Elizabeth George/A

Inspector Lynley is back in London after the death of his wife and Acting Superintendent Isabelle Ardery wants him on her team when a woman is found murdered in a London cemetery. The kind of story I love, with multiple strands that seem unrelated at first but begin to weave together into a powerful sense of unavoidable tragedy. There isn't a character in here that is simplistic or wasted and I would have paid the full price of the book just for the scene of Lynley's former partner, Barbara Havers, turning to a pre-teen for fashion advice. The only reason this A doesn't have a plus sign on the end is that I was disappointed in Lynley at the end of the book. Don't start here--give yourself a treat and pick up the first Lynley book and work your way through the series.

In 1966, Sandra Laing made international news as a nine-year-old schoolgirl in South Africa. Although born to white Boer parents, Sandra at nine was classified by the apartheid government as colored and forced to leave her segregated school. Her father fought back, but by the time he got the government to reconsider the case, the teenage Sandra had made her own choice for her future by eloping with a black man. The book follows Sandra's life from her early memories of playing with black children to the pain of ostracism, both public and private. Showcases the absolute insanity of the apartheid government, but also hits upon the personal mistakes that divide families.

Picking up just minutes after the close of last year's THE LANGUAGE OF BEES, this is Mary Russell at her absolute best. With her husband, Sherlock Holmes, protecting an injured man who's wanted by the police, Mary is left to safeguard a child who seems to be the target of a madman. But Mary could never have guessed the helpers she would collect--a WWI daredevil pilot and a woodsman who has more in common with a fairytale legend than a man of the 1920s. King delivers surprise after shock after twist and hands over an ending that is not only satisfying but raises some interesting questions for relationships in future books. Start with THE BEEKEEPER'S APPRENTICE and work your way forward. You won't regret it.

I liked this better than the first in the trilogy (THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO), probably because I knew to expect the language the occasional throw-away sex scene. Beyond that, this is a tight and intriguing mystery set in the upper classes of Swedish society. Lisbeth Salander is accused of murder, but her magazine publisher friend, Mikael Blomkvist, isn't convinced. They come at the investigation from different angles, but both are surprised by what they find. The book ends with a classic cliffhanger that makes it next to impossible not to dive for the third book at once.

Katherine Swynford came to popular culture in the 1960s romance by Anya Seton, KATHERINE. But Weir, my favorite biographer, gives the real story, or at least as much as can be reasonably construed for a woman of the 14th century. Katherine Swynford was raised at the English court and married well to a knight of John of Gaunt's household. But when her husband died young, Katherine embarked on a notorious and long-lived affair with Prince John that eventually ended in their marriage. Princes did not marry their mistresses. Ever. But not only did John marry Katherine, but he went all the way to the Pope to have their children legitimized. Thus was born the Beaufort clan, that would lead England into the War of the Roses. Not a bad legacy for a woman of no particular name or family.

An odd book, very literary, about 13-year-old Caroline who lives in a forested Portland park with her father. At first I thought it would be simply a narrative about their lives in the semi-wilderness, but there is a story here and it gets stranger and more poignant the farther you read. What happens when you take a child away from her home? What happens when her father doesn't prove as trustworthy and invincible as she's always thought him? What choices will the girl have? It's worth reading to find out, even if (like me) you disagree with a choice or two along the way.

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