- Under the Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer
- The Home-Wreckers, Mary Kay Andrews
- Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
- How Lucky, Will Leitch
- The Lost Girls, Sarah Painter
- Another Time, Another Place, Jodi Taylor
- Road of Bones, Christopher Golden
- The Family Plot, Megan Collins
- A Blizzard of Polar Bears, Alice Henderson
- Witchmark, CL Polk
- The Match, Harlan Coben
Jon Krakauer is my favorite non-fiction writer. Under the Banner of Heaven is subtitled “A Story of Violent Faith,” and it certainly is. Krakauer enters his study of today’s Mormon splinter groups by means of a murder committed by the Lafferty brothers, Dan and Ron. While explaining how this crime developed, Krakauer gives us a history of the Mormon faith and explores some of its most secretive (and illegal both to the church and to the state) practitioners. It’s fascinating.
The Home-Wreckers is the latest and very successful novel by my friend Mary Kay Andrews. Hattie Kavanaugh, a young widow, is in the home renovation business with her former father in law. When she’s challenged to film making a beach home out of a decrepit shack, Hattie’s determined to make good – but the house contains not only dry rot but clues to a very old murder. This is a book you just gobble down.
Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go is startlingly original and shocking. The three protagonists are at an English school called Hailsham. The narrative meanders between the three in the past and present. In the end, we find Hailsham is not only a school for English children, but something else entirely.
How Lucky was nominated for an Edgar award this year, a recognition it thoroughly deserved. It’s a detective story, all right, but the protagonist can’t move or speak without his wheelchair. Daniel is struggling to live his life as independently as he can, until one morning he witnesses the abduction of a college student. At that moment, Daniel’s life changes forever.
Sarah Painter’s The Lost Girls is set in Edinburgh, where student Rose MacLeod has been losing time. She’ll come back to herself while she’s walking to class, or meeting her friend. Rose has no idea where the time is going. But she’s about to find out . . . and it’s not good news. Just as engaging as the rest of Painter’s novels.
If you’ve been reading this column for the past few years, you’ll know already that I’m a Jodi Taylor fan through and through. Her latest St. Mary’s book, Another Place, Another Time is as wonderful as the others. Sad things happen, and amazing things happen, and Max always stands up for herself and St. Mary’s.
Road of Bones, the latest by my friend Christopher Golden, will freeze you to your – well, to your bones. The Kolyma Highway in Siberia is cold, lonely, and difficult to drive at the best of times. It’s also a graveyard for dissidents. A documentary producer plans to make a reality series about Kolyma, but from the start things go wrong. Have some hot chocolate and a blanket on hand, because despite the fact it’s summer, you’re going to shiver.
Megan Collins’ The Family Plot is the twisted story of Dahlia Lighthouse, who returns to her family home when her father dies. Dahlia’s entire upbringing was centered around her parents’ obsession with serial killers, and her twin brother, Andy, who vanished at sixteen. Her return is marked with discoveries about her family, including a gruesome find in the family graveyard.
Alice Henderson writes what I think of as ecological mysteries. In A Blizzard of Polar Bears Alex Carter, wildlife biologist, lands a job studying polar bears in the Canadian arctic. It’s a dream job for Alex, but right away things begin to go wrong. Lab samples disappear, a reliable pilot quits, and finally, Alex is in danger of becoming prey to the very bears she’s been studying.
Witchmark (C.L. Polk) has some original world building and a lot of troubles for its hero, Miles Singer. He’s returned from the war and gone to work as a doctor, He dreads his family discovering his whereabouts. Of course, they do, and the results are just as bad as Miles feared. He must give up his life to serve his family . . . or else. And the “else” is pretty awful.
The Match is Harlan Coben’s newest thriller, so you can bet you’ll see it on Netflix. I realized recently that Harlan is Netflix’s main man. Slow of me! It’ll be interesting to see what they make of this story. A loner finds his father on one of those ancestry websites, but when he actually meets the man, he realizes something is very, very off. Throughout this excellent thriller, the tension mounts and characters react in ways you can see are reasonable . . . at the moment.
I don’t really have the heart to blog about something light-hearted. Too many children have died, and too many people are adamant they will not give up their “god-given” right to have assault weapons. I’m not abandoning hope, but I’m skeptical about our chances for change.
I hope I’m wrong.