Defective Detective Departments

What happens when cranky, poorly motivated or seemingly-incompetent individuals are all sidelined together into a single work unit? They end up solving the mysteries that no one else could, of course. Or, at least, in fiction they do. These books are all the first in series that find professional pariahs taking care of business.

The Keeper of Lost Causes
by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Chief Detective Carl Morck has always been difficult to get along with, but he was tolerated because he was good at his job. Sidelined after a shooting left him injured and his partner paralyzed, Carl finds himself dubiously in charge of Department Q, responsible for cold cases. With just a lackluster assistant, Assad, Carl starts investigating the 5-year-old disappearance of politician Merete Lynggaard. The reader knows Lynggaard is still alive; can Carl and Assad find her? While darkly humorous, this novel shares elements with other Scandinavian Noir mysteries such as Steig Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, including some violence and a more somber undertone. Continue reading “Defective Detective Departments”

Three Views of Seattle

Seeing your city through different eyes can be revelatory, bringing to the fore details you may not have noticed. Whether you’ve lived here your whole life, just moved in, or are somewhere in between, pick up one of these books for a new lens on Seattle.

Seattle Walk Report
Exploring 23 Seattle neighborhoods, Seattle Walk Report uses charming comic book-style illustrations to highlight landmarks, history, and the quirky people, places and things she’s seen on her walks since 2017. How many people did she see jaywalking in Ballard? What did she observe in the span of five minutes on the corner of 8th Ave S. and S. King St.? Who is Ernestine Anderson? What are the top three poses you can strike in front of the Gum Wall? Read this book and you’ll know.
— The artist behind Seattle Walk Report will be in conversation with Paul Constant (co-founder of Seattle Review of Books) at the Central Library Tuesday, Aug. 13 at 7pm. Continue reading “Three Views of Seattle”

Get Out of the Lake!

The lake is where you want to be on a beautiful August day, unless you’re a character in a mystery novel. I’m here to tell you that, in my experience as an avid mystery reader, an idyllic remote lake can often double as the scene of a crime. Which is why these mysteries are wonderful choices for atmospheric lakeside (or backyard or park) reads.

Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman: Baltimore in the 1960s is the setting for this noir-inspired stand-alone novel from Lippman. Maddie Schwartz leaves her husband and son and pursues her dream of being a journalist. She’s obsessed with two murders and her involvement by happenstance in the first one helps her land a job at a reporter. The second murder is the LADY IN THE LAKE, a tale that has all sorts of urban lore around the case. Lippman, in my opinion, is one of the finest crime fiction writers today and I eagerly anticipate each new book from her, and this one delivered. Booklist said in a review: “This is a superb character study, a terrific newspaper novel, and a fascinating look at urban life and racial discrimination in the ’60s.” This is a Peak Pick, too! Take it to the lake, but don’t stay in the water too long … Continue reading “Get Out of the Lake!”

Three on a Theme: There’s a Rabbit on Your Book

Two new novels and one of last year’s fiction gems have an obvious link with a distinct long-eared creature on the cover. What these books really have in common, however, is within their pages of bitingly funny fiction.

Rabbits for Food by Binnie Kirshenbaum (May 2019)
It’s been ten years since we’ve been treated to a novel by the hilarious Kirshenbaum, and this new one is worthy of a celebration. In Rabbits for Food, Bunny, a novelist, heads into a clinical depression as she waits for a therapy dog that never arrives. How could this possibly be funny? Well, Continue reading “Three on a Theme: There’s a Rabbit on Your Book”

Historical fantasy – the best of both worlds!

I appreciate the way genre designations can make books easier to find, but I confess that I love the bleeding edges where books shade from one genre into another; my current bailiwick is historical fantasy. I find that it brings the best elements of historical fiction – a strong sense of time, place, and culture – and melds it with the fantastical elements that make anything possible. Here are a few recent titles that I’ve been thrilled to find.

Book cover image for The Bird KingThe Bird King by G. Willow Wilson – In 1491, Granada, the last remaining vestige of Muslim Spain, has been surrounded and besieged by the Catholic Spanish forces of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. When a delegation comes inside the walled city to negotiate, young concubine Fatima is charged with welcoming the female delegates, including a member of the Spanish Inquisition. After Fatima accidentally reveals that her friend Hassan, the court’s mapmaker, can draw places he’s never seen and reshape reality, she realizes she has put him in danger. Aided by jinn, Fatima and Hassan flee the city. Continue reading “Historical fantasy – the best of both worlds!”