The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession by Charles Lovett
Ooh...for all your book lovers, English teachers, and connoisseurs of fine books, this is the book for you. It has every ingredient needed for an obsessive read: suspense, intrigue, danger, history, even a little romance. Just the title itself was like a siren call to a book lover like myself. The main character, Peter, is a true loner, anxiety-ridden bibliophile and antiquarian - in other words, he sells old books. However, his melancholy life in the small English village as he tries to recover from his wife's death is interrupted when he is asked to look at some books in an old man's library. He discovers a book that could possibly be the 'Holy Grail' of booksellers - a book that changes the way we look at literature. Lovett handles changes in time seamlessly, as he goes back to Peter's life with his girlfriend-soon-to-be-wife, as well as through English history as we visit Shakespeare's time, the Age of Enlightenment, and even the Victorians. I loved all the quirky references to literature, and learned quite a bit along the way. This is just a rollicking good read if you're looking for one that you cannot put down:)
The Baker Street Translation by Michael Robertson
If you are a Sherlockian and you haven't read these delightful books, you have missed out on some fun reads. This is the third one in the series, but you can pick them up at any place. Our two fine brothers, Nigel and Reggie Heath, are once again mixed up in some odd mysterious happenings. They are required to respond to all letters addressed to Sherlock Holmes, since they occupy his offices at 221B Baker Street. The quirkiest letter so far reveals itself in this book...an old woman from Texas has left her entire fortune to Sherlock Holmes, and the response she receives is that since Holmes cannot accept money, she should leave all her money to Reginald Heath. Thus...the chase begins for who wrote the response; the identity of the kidnapper of Sir Buxton, Reggie's rival for Laura, the beautiful super model; and the terrorist who writes incorrect nursery rhymes and plans on obliterating the royal family one at a time. I know...sounds rather ridiculous, but Robertson weaves a tale in his dry, very British tone that makes one chuckle at these two wickedly book-smart and life-stupid brothers. A nice short book (whew...what a relief after the Game of Thrones series), and a light funny read to end the summer of reading. Loved it!
The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood
This was a deliciously dark book, read in a perfect British accent on audible.com. The story begins when two girls, Belle and Jade, are convicted in the murder of a four year old girl. Belle and Jade themselves are just eleven when the crime occurs and the public backlash for these wicked crimes set these two on a course for which their lives cannot be turned. Fast-forward to the present, and we meet Amber Gordon, a 37 year old woman who lives with a slimy boyfriend, in a seaside English town, where she runs the boardwalk carnival and discovers a murdered woman one night. Kirsty Lindsay, a freelance journalist, college graduate, wife and mother of two, is sent to cover the story as more murders occur and Weymouth town is seen as the home of a serial killer. However, these two women have their own secret lives, engulfed in the murder of little Chloe of long ago. Marwood weaves the story of long ago in with the murders of today, creating an engrossing tale of how the press can twist and destroy a person's life, how hidden pasts always reveal themselves at the most inconvenient times, and ponders the question of who is redeemable and who is lost. This would be a tremendous book club read, as the life choices that are made time and again are questionable and debatable - highly recommend.
Cemetery Girl by David Bell
This is what I would call a bit of a beach book - okay, rather dark for a beach book but a quick read. Part mystery, part family psycho-drama, it is an engrossing story of what happens when a family falls apart. The narrator is Tom Stuart, the father of Caitlin, who disappeared four years ago when walking their family dog. A typical sassy, rebellious young teenager, police ultimately assume she ran away and parents are haunted by guilt and self-doubt. The father, who quite frankly is a bit of an ass, becomes obsessed with finding Caitlin, searching down every fake clue and crazy person who thinks she has seen his daughter. His wife, on the other hand, buries herself in her church, forming a rather 'close' relationship to the pastor of the 'big-box' church. So of course what happens? You guessed it...daughter returns. Traumatized and refusing to help in the search of her kidnapper who she 'loves,' we watch as the family tries to return to being the family they used to be, as we the reader knows that they never will be that suburban, cookie-cutter family again. Not poorly written, yet not brilliantly written either, it is definitely a page turner, though I had a few issues with some plot-holes. However, I'm picky when it comes to mysteries.
Cockroaches by Jo Nesbo
Speaking of good mysteries, one never goes wrong with our Norwegian writer Jo Nesbo and my favorite, tortured Oslo detective, Harry Hole (Ho-lay). While Nesbo has written ten Harry Hole novels, you can literally pick up any one, in any order, and you're good to go. This one begins with Harry, drunk in a bar, the mysterious death of the Norwegian ambassador in Bangkok, and the chief of police requiring Harry to head to Thailand to figure out what happened. Bangkok is not shown in a pretty light in this book; it reeks of death, drugs, prostitution and slave trafficking, you name it. It comes across as the Chicago of the 1920's - not a place for a vacation. The ambassador has a knife in his chest, his freaky daughter shows up uninvited to Harry's hotel, the Thai lead detective is a bold American woman with no hair, and on top of all this, Harry has decided to jump on the wagon to keep his head clear. This is a page-turning, suspenseful, tightly-written mystery where Nesbo leads you into deadends on 'who dunnit' until the very last chaper. If you like a good mystery, this is it.
The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson
From the title and cover alone, one can already tell this is a quirky, different book, and it does not disappoint. Written by a Swedish writer who killed it internationally with his first book The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window (this man likes his funky titles!), I saw it all over the place in Europe and heard about it from two different people on our travels through Croatia and Amsterdam. First, you just have to suspend reality. Seriously. Second, if you ever read and loved Catch 22, then your brain will recognize this hilariously written farce that makes some rather pointed statements and forces you to look at life in a variety of ways. The heroine is Nombeko, a young black girl who cleans latrines in Soweto township thirty years ago. And the hero? Well, that's Holger Two, the twin that doesn't exist. Confused? So is he...but that's the fun of it. We watch as Nombeko's life goes from latrine manager, to head cleaning lady at South Africa's nuclear bomb-building plant, to an abandoned apartment building in Sweden, to a potato farm outside of Stockholm. Her life is an uproariously funny, unpredictable, unrealistic romp through Jonasson's quirky brain. This book is very different from most trade books out there today, and well worth the read, in my opinion. I look forward to our book club discussion on it in September; I suspect some will hate it, seeing it as silly, while others will find it provoking, while still others will wonder what is the sense of it? That's the beauty of literature - never the same reaction:)