This second book featuring Laos’ reluctant national coroner Dr. Siri Paiboun maintains the charm and fascinating insights into the 1970s Laotian culture that Colin Cotterill demonstrated in The Coroner’s Lunch. In Thirty-Three Teeth, Paiboun uses his forensic and psychic skills to unravel several mysteries plaguing the Laotian capitol of Vientiane.
Riley MacPherson is the protagonist in this story. She is a young woman in her mid-twenties who has the unpleasant and depressing job of clearing out her childhood home after her father passes away. She discovers that her family kept many secrets during the time she was growing up, including a really huge one concerning her older sister. Very enjoyable!
Former FBI Special Agent Sloane Burbank still struggles with her career-ending hand injury. When her consultant gig brings her to the attention of her childhood friend’s parents, Sloane knows the chances of finding the long-missing Penny are remote. Reluctantly partnering with ex-flame Derek Parker, Sloane follows a bizarre trail of evidence suggesting that Penny isn’t the only missing woman – and that Sloane might be at the center of it all.
In Brunswick Gardens, Anne Perry presents a good mystery that brings in social issues of the 19th century that are still in play today – women’s rights and evolution versus creationism. The characters reveal their feelings to these issues in a believable and interesting way. The “who-dun-it” part is enjoyable too with many subtle hints and clues from the characters.
Katie’s restaurant has been doing really well, but it no longer feels like hers with all of her original staff gone. Looking for a new adventure, she plans on opening a second restaurant, but things are moving pretty slowly and she keeps wondering if she should have chosen somewhere else to build. When one of the waitresses in her current restaurant is badly injured, Katie is visited by the resident house spirit, who gives her the power to restart her day and give her a second chance. The rules are simple: 1. Write your mistake, 2. Ingest a mushroom, 3. Go to sleep, 4. Wake anew. The spirit gave Katie only one mushroom, but when she finds more beneath the floorboards, she tries to reset all her mistakes, including her restaurant location and her last break-up, but things get out of hand quickly.
The art in Seconds is adorably unique and fun, with lots of dynamic and entertaining characters. I greatly enjoyed Katie’s story and the mythology behind the house spirits and their connection to space-time, giving this book both a supernatural and science fiction feel. Readers of Brian Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series should also look closely – there’s a few Easter eggs hidden in the panels for them!
Bird by Bird is Anne Lamott’s book on writing. She covers a wide variety on life and writing including chapters called “Sh**ty First Drafts,” “Jealousy,” and “Writer’s Block.” She begins with a simple example from 30 years ago of her then 10-year-old brother struggling with a report on birds that was due the next day. He didn’t have any idea on how to even begin. Their father came to comfort him and said that he all he needed to do to complete the report was to take it “bird by bird.” It is a simple and touching beginning that summarizes the entire book. This book is inspiring and hopeful to all writers and artists who are struggling to complete their writing goals. I recommend it to anyone who likes to create.
An esteemed college professor at Harvard, Alice Howland, who is at the height of her career, starts noticing she is forgetting things. When she receives the devastating diagnosis that she has early onset Alzheimer’s disease, Alice struggles to continue working. Still Alice by Lisa Genova is an inspiring and heartbreaking book. I am looking forward to seeing the Oscar-nominated movie!
This is the quirky and charming story of Laurelfield, a grand estate north of Chicago. Rebecca Makkai unfolds the history of the century old house in reverse order starting with Zee and Doug, a young couple struggling to find their place in the world of academia. At Laurefield, they encounter locked attics, Y2K fears, jealousy and plenty of ghosts. As the past is revealed in the subsequent chapters, you begin to understand that everything is connected in a mysterious way. I loved this unconventional story and you will want to read The Hundred-Year House again as soon as you finish.
For writers of historical espionage set during World War II, Alan Furst is hard to beat. Dark Voyage introduces Dutch Merchant Marine Captain Eric DeHaan and his hardscrabble crew. When the Dutch naval intelligence recruits DeHaan and his ship, DeHaan reluctantly embarks on a dangerous secret mission. Risking his life and that of his crew and passengers, DeHaan must outwit spies, smugglers, and the German Navy.
For other gritty mysteries, check out our list.
The horrors of Nazi-occupied Europe are told through the eyes of Marie-Louise and Werner. They are on opposing sides, yet they are both just innocent teenagers caught up in a no-win situation. In another time and place, they could have been soulmates. Their intelligent and gentle natures bleed through some of the travesty.
Marie-Louise escapes war-torn Paris as her father tries to hide her away in a family home in St. Malo, but the war catches up with them. Her father, as an employee of the National History Museum, is hiding a special stone with legendary stories attached to it. The stone and its legends add a touch of mysterious appeal to All the Light We Cannot See.
Werner is an electronic genius and an orphan who gets caught up into the Nazi plan at a much younger age than necessary. Superiors lie about his age to take advantage of his radio expertise on the front lines. Werner’s sister is part of the underground German resistance movement and adds an interesting element to the story.
Anthony Doerr alternates between Werner and Marie-Louise’s voices and magically creates a haunting story readers will not soon forget.
For more novels of WWII, check out our list.