Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Great summertime reading can always be found @ your library

The Sound of Broken Glass (Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James Series #15) by Deborah Crombie

Kirkus Reviews –

Friendships go seriously awry. When DS Melody Talbot spends the night with guitarist Andy Monahan, a witness and possibly even a suspect in a murder case, she can't decide which is worse: having to confess her indiscretion to her boss, Acting DCI Gemma James, or to her good mate Doug Cullen, a copper laid up with a bad leg. Andy had argued with barrister Vincent Arnott, the victim, between sets at a pub in the Crystal Palace area. Could the musician have followed Arnott to the sleazy Belvedere Hotel, plied him with drugs, stripped him naked, trussed him up, then strangled him with a scarf that left threads embedded in his neck? With an assist from her husband, Duncan Kincaid, now on leave from his Scotland Yard purview to take care of little orphan Charlotte, whom they hope to adopt, Gemma interviews Andy's manager, a record producer hoping to pair Andy with new sensation Poppy, band members and kin. When another barrister, Shaun Francis, is murdered in identical fashion, the only link between the two dead men seems to be Andy. It is not until Duncan listens to a tale of a 13-year-old's betrayal that tawdry gossip and legal shenanigans come to light, implicating a widowed French teacher and a much-bullied boy nursing grievances that cry out for revenge. Another solid outing for the reliable Crombie (No Mark Upon Her, 2012, etc.), who turns a judicious eye on secrets that can overwhelm what they're meant to protect despite the best intentions.

Speaking from among the Bones (Flavia de Luce Series #5) by Alan Bradley

Kirkus Reviews –

Irrepressible Flavia de Luce, the self-taught whiz kid who adores cyanide and has a soft spot for strychnine, confronts lead poisoning. To celebrate St. Tancred's quincentennial, the vicar has asked permission from the diocese to open the holy man's tomb and have his remains present at the feast. Naturally, 11-year-old Flavia, who loves corpses the way other girls her age love butterflies and unicorns, mounts her bicycle, Gladys, and races to the church to be first in line to see the remains. The vicar, the diggers and Flavia are aghast when the first corpse they come upon belongs to Mr. Collicutt, the church organist, who died with a gas mask on and a bit of ruffle at his throat. Inspector Hewitt is at a loss, but Flavia has stepped up to crime-solving before (I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, 2011, etc.). Despite the distressing news that the debts of her father, the colonel, so exceed his income that Buckshaw, the family home, must be put on the market, Flavia conscientiously collects blood dabs; discovers love rivals in the Ladies Altar Guild; meets Magistrate Ridley-Smith's son, locked away in the upper reaches of Bogmore Hall, who mistakes Flavia for her long-gone mother, Harriet; discovers a tunnel leading from the cemetery to St. Tancred's crypt; and consults with private eye Adam Sowerby, who knows that some Latin marginalia in an ancient text and plant lore gleaned from herbalist Mad Meg are important clues. Then there's nothing more to do than call Inspector Hewitt into the study and explain everything to him. But can young Flavia, who can deal with even grand-scale mayhem, cope with her father's pronouncement on the very last page? The Flavia bandwagon rolls on: Not only will she star in five more novels, but she'll also shine in several made-for-television films.

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

Kirkus Reviews –

A baker enlists a Nazi hunter to entrap a nonagenarian who may have brutalized her grandmother in Picoult's ambitious latest. Sage, who works in a bakery attached to a New Hampshire retreat center, prefers the overnight hours bakers keep. Her face is scarred (from a trauma not immediately revealed), and she is mourning her mother's recent death. Having abandoned her Jewish faith, Sage is estranged from her two sisters, but she is still close to her grandmother, Minka, a Holocaust survivor. Josef, a much respected 95-year-old retired German teacher, confesses to Sage that he is a former SS officer, real name Reiner, who once was an Auschwitz guard. Sage calls in Leo, a Washington, D.C.–based FBI agent who specializes in tracking down Nazi fugitives. Leo asks her to elicit Minka's story, never before told, in hopes of finding an eyewitness to Josef's atrocities. Reiner's and Minka's wartime experiences form the bulk of the novel. Reiner, a bully recruited early by the Hitler Youth and later by the SS, is soon inured to slaughter by presiding over mass killings of Jews in Poland. Later assigned to Auschwitz along with his (comparatively speaking) gentler and more sensitive brother Franz, Reiner distinguishes himself as a particularly brutal overseer of the women's camp. Franz, meanwhile, keeps his hands relatively blood-free by supervising the camp's accounting office. Minka's story takes her from an idyllic childhood as a baker's daughter to the misery of the Polish ghetto and imprisonment in Auschwitz. Readers will see the final twist coming far in advance due to unwieldy plot contrivances which only serve to emphasize what they are intended to conceal. Still, a fictional testament as horrifying as it is suspenseful.

The Striker by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott

Kirkus Reviews –

Cussler and company add to his fifth series, following the handsome young investigator Isaac Bell as he goes solo for the first time on a case for the Van Dorn Detective Agency. The year is 1902, and Bell is undercover in West Virginia investigating sabotage in a mine owned by ruthless John "Black Jack" Gleason, owner of the Gleason Consolidated Coal & Coke Company. The tall, blond-haired Bell stands out among hard-worn immigrant mining crews, all the more so since he is nearly killed while attempting to stop a runaway train of tipple cars. Cussler and Scott dig up interesting historical scene-setting factoids, including references to esoteric classic automobiles, Pittsburgh's posh Duquesne Club, and the history of massacres and brutal strikebreaking as unions begin to organize. The action shifts from the dangerous depths of a coal mine to Wall Street, to a confrontation in a tunnel being dug for the New York subway and to a riverboat battle between two paddle-wheelers. There are deft characterizations--Bell's detective crew, Kisley and Fulton, explosives and muscle; Wish Clarke, a "crack sleuth" occasionally in the bottle; Bell's nemesis, Henry Clay, illegitimate offspring of a bohemian artist, rejected Van Dorn protégé and now an amoral double agent; Jim Higgins, pacifist union organizer, and his beautiful, firebrand radical sister, Mary; and Archibald Angel Abbott IV, master of disguise--and the requisite hard-boiled dialogue like, "[You'll] be waiting in Hell for the next batch to come down and tell you who was laughing. Drop 'em and elevate!" Clay morphs into Claggart, agent provocateur allied with nefarious monopolist manipulator Judge James Congdon, and Bell ricochets from West Virginia to Pittsburgh, New York City and Cincinnati, leaving in his wake gun battles, knife fights and explosions--it helps that he's heir to a Boston banking fortune, has friends with private railcars and need not rely on expense accounting--working to prevent Clay-Claggart-Congdon from instigating a war that will wipe out striking miners and their families. Classic Cussler, offering action in an interesting setting.

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