Friday, July 13, 2012

Great stories for Friday the 13th.... to miss these would be many years bad luck!

The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection by Alexander McCall Smith

Kirkus Reviews –

Three relatively ordinary cases for Botswana's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency are complicated by an altogether-extraordinary meeting. Mma Silvia Potokwane, the traditionally built matron of the orphan farm, tells Precious Ramotswe that there's something not quite right about board member Ditso Ditso, the well-known businessman who's insisted on building a central kitchen for the facility that will make food preparation and delivery more efficient but less loving. Soon enough, however, the matron has bigger problems to worry about: At the instance of Rra Ditso, she's fired from the job she thought she'd have forever. While Mma Ramotswe is digesting this sad news, she learns that Fanwell, the more industrious apprentice at her husband J.L.B. Matekoni's Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, has been arrested for doing illicit (and unwitting) mechanical work on stolen cars. There's even skullduggery afoot in the construction of the new home furniture dealer Phuti Radiphuti is building associate detective Grace Makutsi, whom he married at the end of The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party (2011). All this might well be overwhelming even for Mma Ramotswe, who's also headed for a rare adventure outside Gaborone, if she weren't fortified by support and wise counsel from Clovis Andersen. And not just from Andersen's tome The Principles of Private Detection, her own professional scripture, but from the author himself, who turns up in her office just in time to offer help as sententious and self-effacing as it is effective. Longer but not better than the 12 earlier accounts of the Agency. Few fans, however, will want to miss the byplay between Mma Ramotswe and her revered mentor.

The Lost Years by Mary Higgins Clark

Kirkus Reviews –

Tempers discreetly fray and corpses mount around a parchment that just might be the only surviving letter from Jesus Christ. Even though she has a serious case of Alzheimer's, the Bergen County police are certain that Kathleen Lyons is the person who shot her beloved husband Jonathan, a retired professor, in their home in Mahwah, N.J. After all, she was clearly in the house with him at the time; there was no sign of forced entry; her fingerprints were on the murder weapon; and she had a beaut of a motive, ever since her discovery that Jonathan hadn't waited till she was institutionalized and beyond knowing or caring to divorce her and take up with Prof. Lillian Stewart, the colleague he'd come to love. Unbeknownst to Detectives Simon Benet and Rita Rodriguez, there are at least two other motives for killing Jonathan. He'd just sent Lily on her way with regretful firmness, and he'd hinted around that he was holding a letter from Jesus to Joseph of Arimathea stolen from the Vatican Library years ago. So the suspects include not only the newly spurned Lily but the four amateur archeologists who'd joined Jonathan's last excavations and heard about the letter: biblical scholar Prof. Richard Callahan, irascible Prof. Charles Michaelson, quiet Prof. Albert West and computer-software millionaire Greg Pearson. It's up to Jonathan's old friends Alvirah and Willy Meehan (I'll Walk Alone, 2011, etc.) to help out the Bergen County force before one of this nondescript crew can swoop down on Jonathan's daughter Mariah, a financial officer who's this season's designated victim. Not much nourishment here for fans of The Da Vinci Code, but nothing to trouble Clark's gargantuan fan base either, as long as they don't mind all those felonies, all those criminals and all those coyly conspiratorial phone calls with Mr. Anonymous at the other end.

The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani

Kirkus Reviews –

Despite its girth, Trigiani's latest saga of Italian life lies flat on the page. A portrait of early 20th-century Italian immigration, the story starts with two children in the Italian Alps. In one mountain village, serious, hardworking Enza lives with her large family; in another, rascal Ciro and his brother Eduardo are orphans at the convent. When 16-year-old Ciro travels to Enza's village to dig the grave of her little sister, the two meet for the first time, and Enza falls in love. But soon after, Ciro is sent to America (he caught the priest kissing a girl) to apprentice as a shoemaker. Trigiani's novels often bask in Italian culture, and this latest is no exception, taking place during the great wave of Italian immigration. New York's Little Italy is a joyous place, and handsome, outgoing Ciro fits right in. A few years later, Enza and her father go to America (just to make enough money to dig their family out of poverty), and Ciro and Enza briefly meet again. Enza, a talented seamstress, first works in a factory, and then finds her way to becoming a costumer at the Metropolitan Opera House. Life at the Met is a dream for Enza as she works for the great Caruso. Meanwhile, World War I has begun and Ciro leaves behind his comfortable life at the shop (and all the beauties) on Mulberry Street to enlist. In the trenches, he dreams about Enza (though why he never bothered with her before is unclear) while she is getting ready to marry another. Love wins out as Ciro and Enza marry then move to Minnesota to start a business and a family. Much more happens, but Trigiani's wide rush of plot hardly makes up for a dull heroine and a novel filled with workaday prose. A long list of life events, without the emotional depth to draw readers in.

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