Saturday, February 3, 2018


Force of Nature (Aaron Falk #2) by Jane Harper
This looks to be another hit by new Australian writer, Jane Harper, author of last year's break out hit, on everyone's Best-of-2017 list, un-put-downable mystery The Dry. I was a huge fan of her first, and Force of Nature proves once again that Harper can write. This is a solid police mystery, returning her main character, Aaron Falk, who she fleshes out even more in his attempt to discover a missing executive off on a corporate team-building adventure in the Australian mountains, an area shadowed by tales of a past serial killer. Harper slowly builds the tension, as Falk and his female partner interview each woman who hiked with Alice: the sister of the company president, the co-worker who knew Alice as teenagers, and the twins, one with a dark past and the other with a self-protective need to separate herself from her twin. Wrapped up in this mystery is also the reason why Falk must find Alice; she is his main witness to the financial crime hidden within her company - no Alice, no convictions. In any one else's hands, this would be a basic detective story. Yet in Harper's hands, it is extraordinarily well-written, with an ability to fully develop not only a creative plot line, but the characters as well. Falk is complex, puzzling, endearing, thoughtful, and ceaselessly curious; he has become one of my favorite leads in a mystery series. Sadly, sometimes the number two book after a huge hit can be disappointing; luckily, this is not the case with Force of Nature. Happy reading:)

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
For those of you who follow my book blog Laurie's Lit Picks, you know I have spent a bit of time over the last couple years reading non-fiction about prison reform (ie Just Mercy and The New Jim Crow) and the need for true justice in America. In a powerful new novel, acclaimed author Tayari Jones brings us a fiction book that explores what happens to a young marriage when it is ripped apart by injustice. Roy and Celestial, a young married couple who are living the American Dream in Atlanta, journey home to Louisiana to visit Roy's parents; a night at a motel leads to a false accusation of rape against Roy and the subsequent conviction and incarceration in a state prison. Told through the voices of Roy and Celestial, and eventually Andre, Celestial's childhood friend and third cog in the romantic triangle of tragedy, this book blew me away. It is a deep character study of how mass incarceration impacts individuals; we see the toll it takes on a young marriage, on Roy's parents, on Celestial's relationship with her friends, family, and her young husband, and most importantly, on Roy's own life as he watches his career, his home, his reputation, his very essence slip away. Told through three powerful voices, this is a compelling profound read on today's justice system and the impact mass incarceration has on black America. I highly recommend this book for book clubs and individuals; it will provide a great deal of provocative material to digest.

A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America by T. Christian Miller, Ken Armstrong
This is a powerful book that chronicles an incredible travesty of justice: a young girl reports a rape, police charge her with false reporting, and years later the rapist is caught in a different state. It sounds like a bad made-for-television movie, yet it is a true story. Well-researched and written by two outstanding journalists, Miller and Armstrong begin their story in Lynnwood, WA where a young girl, just aged out of foster care, experiences a horrifying rape, made more tragic by the investigation into the belief that she is lying. This timeline follows the victim's struggles, the aftermath and public humiliation of being accused of a false report, and the consequences of her 'crime.' Juxtaposed with this story is the opposite tale of the Colorado investigation where police work with other detectives in neighboring jurisdictions, follow leads, and never give up to find justice for the victims. A False Report is an important book to add to the library of 'must-reads' when it comes to justice, sexism, and crimes against women, and most importantly, how our justice system can do better.

Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik
This is a unique book, set in the beauty of pre-revolutionary Iran, that explores the life of famous poet and movie director, Forugh Farrokhzhad. Always the rebellious daughter, the story begins with Forugh's forbidden teenage crush, giving the reader the first insight into the role of women in mid 20th century Iran, before the advent of Sharia law, during the time of the Shahs, the outpouring of literature and film, yet still a time when women were subjugated and forced into a box created by society's sexist rules. This book takes us back to a time when a young girl, found with her crush, is forced to marry him, a time when wearing modern clothes is a statement on your sexual proclivities, and a time when a woman choosing a career outside motherhood will get her talked about in the press. Forugh chooses a life few women would in Iran in the 1950's and 60's, leading to abandonment of her child, time in a mental institution, and torrid love affairs with questionable men. The description of Iran is breathtakingly, achingly beautiful, describing a country that has since been stolen by religious zealots and hidden behind a government-run press. My one complain was the shallowness of Forugh's character; I never quite got the true sense of who she was and what drove her, but perhaps that was the author's point. This was a woman who stepped out from the metaphorical harem walls, to live a life without boundaries.

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