Magical Realism, beyond Latin America.

image of mistress of spices book coverAuthors such as Isabel Allende and Gabriel García Márquez are well known for their wonderful stories rich in metaphor and infused with a sense of magic. The titles below are similar in style, but are written by authors from cultures other than those of Central and South America.

  • The Cloud Atlas by Liam Callanan. Louis Belk remembers his bomb disposal assignment in Alaska during World War II and the ethereal Japanese balloon bombs he was sent to find and disable. He finds instead a lovely and mysterious landscape rich with culture and impossible to leave.
  • Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. Marco Polo converses with and elderly Kublai Khan about the essential natures of each of the cities in his magnificent empire, describing each in metaphor and poetry to capture Continue reading “Magical Realism, beyond Latin America.”
  • Cool women, hot mysteries

    curse-of-the-spellmans.jpgThe one thing these mysteries have in common: smart, independent, funny and resourceful women. These are today’s detectives — a little younger and a lot hipper than many of the sleuths you’ve met in long-running mystery series (you know, those series that have initials or numbers in their titles). If you’re looking for romantic suspense, look elsewhere. These women have crimes to solve.

    Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz
    P.I. Izzy Spellman’s newest obsession is unraveling the secrets of her next door neighbor (a.k.a. Subject) whose landscape business is certainly a cover for darker intrigue. Witty and oh-so-cool in San Francisco. Get to know Izzy in The Spellman Files, the first book in the series.

    Christietown by Susan Kandel
    Cece Caruso, an L.A. biographer of famous mystery authors, stages a Miss Marple play that brings down the house — and the leading lady. Great authentic tie-ins to Agatha Christie (and her real-life 11-day disappearance), just like Kandel wove Dashiell Hammett and Nancy Drew’s legacy into her earlier mysteries.

    Dead Ex by Harley Jane Kozak
    Artist Wollie Shellie takes a silly job on a TV talk show called SoapDirt, and soon gets tangled in Continue reading “Cool women, hot mysteries”

    Medieval Mysteries of Britain.

    absolution-by murder book coverIf you find secret corridors and hemlock poison more interesting than gunfire, you may enjoy this collection of mysteries set in medieval England, Scotland and Ireland. Each of the books listed below is one of a series that revolves around a particularly engaging sleuth for whom the plagues, politics, and superstitions of the medieval world are normal facts of life and the best tools available for solving crimes are a keen intellect and a strong understanding of human nature.

    Absolution by Murder by Peter Tremayne

    The 17 books in the Sister Fidelma mystery series begin with this tale of murder investigated by our heroine Fidelma, who is both a nun and a “dlaigh,” or “advocate,” permitted to practice law in the Irish courts. The religious divisions, political climate and surprising degree of gender equality found in seventh-century Ireland shine in the background as our clever and diplomatic detective unlocks secrets and saves the day.

    Monk’s Hood: The Third Chronicle of Brother Cadfael by Ellis Peters

    Much-loved sleuth Brother Cadfael brings his skills as an herbalist to bear when a visitor to Shrewsbury Abbey exhibits symptoms of a dangerous poison. Though this third Brother Cadfael mystery is set in a monastery, others take place in exotic settings and in the days before Cadfael took his vows. Nearly two dozen books lie in store for the Cadfael fan.

    The Prioress’ Tale by Margaret Frazer

    Misery sweeps the abbey in the wake of domineering Domina Alys’s ascension to Prioress, as her unfair rules and unwise decisions threaten ruin to the nuns and their beloved home. When a family feud leads to murder, Continue reading “Medieval Mysteries of Britain.”

    The War in Fiction, part 3: The Pacific


    A war is not one story, but many.

    Here are some novels that view the war through many eyes, reflecting the diverse experiences of civilians and soldiers around the world whose lives were drawn into the Second World War.

    When Louis Belk is deployed to Alaska to head off and diffuse a barrage of dreaded Japanese balloon bombs, he could not have imagined the strange, haunting freight drifting towards him across an ocean of air.

    As the world stumbles blinking into the light of peace, Aldred Leith feels the chill of war’s long shadow as he surveys a devastated Japan, wondering how human warmth and dignity can flare forth from the ashes. Continue reading “The War in Fiction, part 3: The Pacific”

    The New Gothics: less romance, more horror

    the-keep-by-jennifer-egan.jpgPopular in the 1970s, gothic romance was defined by Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca: dark and stormy night, castle or manor house with frightened fleeing maiden in a nightgown on the book cover. Other popular authors in this genre included Anya Seton, Phyllis Whitney, Dorothy Eden and Victoria Holt. For the past two decades, fewer gothics have been written —until now. The new gothics are similar to the old ones — with less romance and more horror.

    The River Wife by Jonis Agee
    In 1930, when she arrives in the remote Missouri boot heel, the newest DuCharme wife, young Hedi, discovers a legacy of piracy, illicit love, murder and deceit and faces her own trials when it seems her new husband is carrying on the family tradition. Continue reading “The New Gothics: less romance, more horror”