The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
Kirkus Reviews –
Schwalbe (co-author: , 2007) chronicles his book-related conversations with his mother after she was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer. Books provided the author with much-needed ballast during the chaos and upheaval of his mother's terminal illness. While they waited together through interminable doctor visits, hospital stays and chemotherapy sessions, they discussed what they had been reading. This became the beginning of the "End of Your Life Book Club." As Schwalbe points out, the name was appropriate not just because his mother was dying, but because any book could be your last. Books provided an avenue for the author and his mother to explore important topics that made them uneasy. As his mother told him, "That's one of the things books do. They help us talk. But they also give us something we all can talk about when we don't want to talk about ourselves." They discussed books not as a sick or healthy person but as "a mother and a son entering new worlds together." Their reading list was diverse and cut across genres, generations and borders. Some of the books included , and , and the authors included Dennis Lehane, E.M. Forster and Thomas Pynchon. Schwalbe, who served as the editor in chief of Hyperion Books, introduces each of the authors with the insight of a veteran editor, highlighting their styles and strengths. Each chapter holds a subtle message fleshed out through their readings and discussions, and themes include gratitude, loneliness, feminism, faith, communication, trust and grief. In a heartfelt tribute to his mother, Schwalbe illustrates the power of the written word to expand our knowledge of ourselves and others.
Kirkus Reviews –
The Little Detective Agency can't afford to turn down a case, because financial problems continue to dog them. Bernie Little may be a clever detective, but he can't handle money and has a bad habit of destroying Porsches. Chet, a canine school dropout, is a loyal partner who thinks Bernie is the greatest. Luckily, Bernie and Chet are just picking out their latest used Porsche when they're offered a new job. The mayor's office of their small California town hires the pair to keep watch over Thad Perry, the star of a locally made movie that the mayor hopes will turn the area into a little Hollywood. Thad has a wild-child reputation, a drug habit and a bodyguard who's as loyal as Chet but a lot bigger. Before Bernie's reporter girlfriend, Suzie, moves to Washington, D.C., for a new job, she passes on a rumor that Thad has a history in the area. When people start to die, Bernie starts digging into the past to determine whether Thad is involved in crimes past or present. Dealing with three murders, blackmail, drugs, crooked cops and the need to keep Thad showing up for work every day is more than enough work for the clever pair, but they must end the carnival of crime as well. Chet, who continues as narrator in this exciting fifth installment of the series (, 2011, etc.), often struggles to understand what the humans are up to but always gets it right in the end.
Garment of Shadows: A novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes by Laurie R. King
Kirkus Reviews –
More international intrigue awaits Sherlock Holmes and his wife, omnicompetent and unflappable Mary Russell, in 1924 Morocco. Since T.E. Lawrence has been occupied elsewhere, the French and Spanish forces who've occupied Morocco since World War I have achieved nothing but an expensive standoff. Now along comes a new complication. A pair of rebels, Mohammed bin Abd-el-Krim and his military strategist brother (actually his cousin) M'hammed, have declared the Mohammed Emir of the Rifi Republic and defied Morocco's Resident General, Maréchal Louis Hubert Gonzalve Lyautey. If you're King (, 2006, etc.), this volatile true-life situation demands the steady hand of Sherlock Holmes, whom Ali Hazr, a spy for His Majesty, wants to accompany Lyautey to a sit-down with the two Rifi leaders to talk peace. Holmes, naturally, thinks Russell, who's been doing some acting nearby for filmmaker Randolph Fflytte, would be an ideal interpreter for this mission. As the tale begins, however, Russell awakens from what was pretty clearly her abduction with no idea of where or who she is. Even after a generous round of adventures reunites her with Holmes, she's slow to recognize him or remember anything about their life together. That's just as well, because most of what follows is more derring-do, leading to a sequence in which Russell and Holmes are chained in the Mequinez dungeon Habs Qara; virtually all the mystification and detection, not to mention all the surprises, are saved for the final chapters, whose torrent of revelations is more dizzying than anything that's led up to them. Both Holmes and Russell are muffled, and the story requires a good deal of potted history. More likely to appeal to lovers of Morocco than lovers of Sherlock Holmes.