Saturday, February 26, 2022

#21-- 2021 into 2022: Seven Months of Really Good Reading

So, besides hiking, biking, tennis and racquetball, I've enjoyed a good seven months of reading and wanted to share what's really Stuff to Read. Kicking off the list is an old mystery that I've had for about 20 years and re-discovered when I bought the author's latest from 2017, the fifth in a series that began with River of Darkness:: A Novel of Suspense in the Shadow of World War l (1999). This book introduced Inspector John Madden who is a very damaged person after his experiences in the trenches in France during WW l and the deaths of his wife and daughter to the flu epidemic that followed. Madden's 1924-based superiors at Scotland Yard assign him to a multiple murders case in Surrey that appears to be a gang burglary of a country house gone wrong. But Madden doesn't agree after seeing the wounds on the bodies during the autopsy. They appear to be caused by one person using a wartime bayonet. While Madden pursues the killer with the help of the local doctor, a beautiful woman, we are given alternating chapters as the actual murderer prepares his next venture. We are given his history and insight into why he's following the River of Darkness very much in the style of Harris' Silence of the Lambs..

Next in line is Naomi Hirahara's latest, Clark & Division.  Set in 1944 in Chicago's northside, the novel introduces 20 year old Aki Ito and her family who have been released from California's Manzanar camp following Pearl Harbor to live in a Japanese-American community in Chicago with her older sister, Rose. But just as the Ito family is traveling to Chicago, they get word that Rose died when she fell onto the subway tracks .Furthermore, Rose was pregnant and Aki doesn't buy the accident story. The novel carefully presents life in the very segregated community as WW 2 rages and tempers run hot.

Thomas Perry, author of the Butcher's Boy an EDGAR awardwinner in 1983, has a knack for exploring the workings of prison escapes, hired killers and now, The Burglar(2019).Elle Stowell is a young woman with an unconventional profession: burglary. But Elle is no petty thief―with just the right combination of smarts, looks, and skills, she can easily stroll through ritzy Bel Air neighborhoods and pick out the perfect home for plucking the most valuable items. This is how Elle has always gotten by―she is good at it, and she thrives on the thrill. But after stumbling upon a grisly triple homicide while stealing from the home of a wealthy art dealer, Elle discovers that she is no longer the only one sneaking around. Somebody is searching for her. As Elle realizes that her knowledge of the high-profile murder has made her a target, she races to solve the case before becoming the next casualty, using her breaking-and-entering skills to uncover the truth about exactly who the victims were and why someone might have wanted them dead.

Colson Whitehead, author of The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys authored another great novel last year with The Harlem Shuffle. Ray Carney, a Black man and furniture store owner in 1959-1964 Harlem strives to support his growing family, maybe raise himself in his father-in-laws eyes, and try to turn his crime inclined cousin around. But Ray also is known to take the occasional piece of jewelry, tv, or fancy houseware in "trade" and move it along to a local fence. All is going reasonably well in Ray's life until his cousin joins a gang wanting to knock over the Hotel Theresa-- the Waldorf of Harlem-- and the wrong stuff gets stolen. Ray must use all his skills to avoid the real mafia and corrupt cops as the story moves along. 

Wm. Kent Krueger's 18th novel in his Cork O'Connor series is almost a stand alone as Krueger works the territory he so successfully opened in his novels Ordinary Grace (a 2014 EDGAR award winner) and This Tender Land (2019), another award winning bestseller. Lightning Strike is the prequel to the Cork O'Connor series as Cork, a 12 year old in 1963 Aurora MN, finds the body of one of his heroes hanging from a tree in the deep forest near Iron Lake. Cork's father, the sheriff, is expected to agree with the view that the death of the Ojibwe leader was suicide. But Cork and his dad aren't easily led so they work independently and together to get to the truth. BTW-- Krueger will finally be coming to Loveland on Monday, April 11 for a Loveland Loves 2 Read program on the three mentioned books and his career in writing.

Silvia Garcia-Moreno, best selling author of Mexican Gothic, has produced a novel viewing the 1970s student protests and government crushing of revolt in Velvet was the Night. Maite, a 30 something secretary in a Mexico City law firm, lives lonely and carless in an apartment with her mother's constant criticism and only the latest issue of Secret Romance magazine to give her any relief. El Elvis is a 20 something escapee from rural poverty working as a thug for El Mago and his Hawks who are a government supported group sent to break up demonstrations and deliver bodily damage to the student demonstrators. Their paths move in parallel as Leonora, a neighbor of Maite, leaves her cat and a key to her apartment and disappears. Leonora, has a roll of undeveloped film of the Hawks and police beating students and many parties would like access to it. Elvis follows Maite and discovers that they have a lot in common, hence the title.

Finally, for my post-holiday, non-fiction reading, my daughter gifted me a copy of the 1619 Project, edited by Nikole Hannah-Jones. Like last year's Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, this book is big, 624 pages and it deals with the painful  discussion of slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Jim Crow era and life into the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The 1619 book is eighteen chapters, each researched, footnoted and written by a different scholar on subjects like politics, music, sugar industry, diet, traffic, and citizenship to capitalism, religion, and our democracy itself. The book is a clear, connected review of US History in the many chapters, stories, poems and photos that reveal the past and present pain that originated in this country when that first ship carrying slaves from Africa landed in Virginia.