Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April Books

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
Do you like a good mystery?  How about history?  How about heroic FBI agents, twisted nasty bad guys, and an honorable tribal culture cheated out of both money and their lives?  The latest book by the best-selling author of The Lost City of Z will not let you down. This was an intriguing time in American history, one of which I had never heard about in either school or the media.  At the inception of a national department of investigation, soon to be known as the FBI, a new young director by the name of J. Edgar Hoover had a pile of crap laid in his lap:  in 1925, down in the Oklahoma area called the Osage hill country, Osage natives were being murdered.  The local and state law enforcement was too enmeshed with the suspects, thus a federal investigative team was needed.  Enter ex-Texas Ranger Tom White to save the day, and what an investigation it was.  The murder of Mollie Burkhart, and subsequently her sister and mother begins this tale of a dark time in our history, of a native tribe whose reservation sat on the richest oilfields in the world, of money stolen from the Osage, of family members, neighbors, friends, and lawyers willing to literally do anything to get their hands on the head rights of these fields, of lawmen who risked and lost their lives to uncover the insidious dark crime against these natives, and even the author, who uncovers hidden truths about new culprits decades after the trials.  I read voraciously, finishing in less than 24 hours, completely engrossed in this true-life crime of passion, prejudice, and broken family trust.  Even when you think it is all solved and what is left to be uncovered, you will find your mouth hanging open at the latest revelations.  This is what I call a 'humdinger' of a book!

The Widow of Wall Street by Randy Susan Meyers
While I can kinda/sorta read a balance sheet, the financial world is not my forte.  Thus, when the Bernie Madoff scandal hit a few years back, I was horrified by the people who lost their entire life's savings, yet also not completely clear about how something like this could happen.  Randy Susan Meyers (Accidents of Marriage -reviewed Dec. 2014 - excellent book) has fictionalized the Madoff saga, with a greater emphasis on the wife.  We meet Phoebe as a headstrong fifteen year old, born and raised in 1960's Brooklyn, daughter of a loving yet interfering mother, and infatuated with Jake, the boy who dreams big but lies and manipulates to get his way.  As Phoebe's life unfolds, and poor decisions commence, her marriage to Jake takes precedent to all else.  As the decades go by, we see the slow march towards unconscionable wealth, families persuaded to join the 'Club', Jake's special investment fund, Phoebe's involvement with a charitable organization, and the ultimate uncovering of a despicable lie.  Meyers knows how to tell a story, unspooling the lies slowly yet insidiously, grabbing at one's emotions through ideas of loyalty, sexual intimacy, and deep familial bonds, and making one turn pages late into the night.  This book was fascinating to me, a Pacific Northwest resident with little knowledge or attraction to the New York financial world, and the depth of the characters and tension of the story made it extremely hard to put this book down.  Definite winner!

If We Were Villains
 by M.L. Rio
For all you lovers of Shakespeare, teachers of the Bard, and attendees of festivals, this book is for you.  The premise is deliciously different from many other 'thrillers' of today.  Setting the plot at a prestigious arts institute, with the focus on the seven fourth-year actors, debut author M.L. Rio shows off her chops...and this woman knows her Shakespeare!  The story begins when Oliver is just finishing up his decade in prison and the policeman who put him there arrives to make a deal - 'Tell me the real story of that night and I can retire in peace.'  Thus the tale begins of these seven students, their last year together before graduation, the complicated ties amongst both students and teachers, the staging of Julius Caesar,  Macbeth, King Lear, Romeo and Juliet and all the ways these plays interact within their lives.  Of course, it is a tragedy so a dead body and some mystery is involved, but Rio does a masterful job of fully developing each of these seven actors, as well as what motivates their behavior.  Sprinkled generously throughout the book are lines from the Bard's many plays; as a former literature teacher, I loved recognizing some lines, but did not feel bereft if I was stymied.  I do not think you need a thorough grounding in Shakespeare but I do feel you will delight in this book more fully if you also enjoy a bit of the Bard.

The Cutaway by Christina Kovac
Combine a news director, a previous love affair with the head investigator, a scheming law firm, and the mysterious disappearance of a young woman, and a thriller is born.  Debut author Christina Kovac has created a tense, page-turner of a book in her first time out.  She highlights today's struggle to put out factual news and still keep the ratings up through lead character Virginia Knightley who chooses to ignore the management's directions and continues to investigate the disappearance and subsequent murder of a young Georgetown attorney.  Is the attorney's ex-military husband involved, as he struggles with PTSD?  How about the U.S. attorney, rumored to be having an affair with the young woman?  How is Knightley's ex-boyfriend involved, as he runs the investigation?  Is there something more than friendship with the lead anchor? And what is with the law firm where the victim worked?  Kovac forces you to furiously turn pages as you attempt to answer all these questions, giving you a few red herrings to chase down along the way as well as some complicated relationships among the characters to decipher.

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