Friday, November 14, 2014

Stop by the Devereaux Library and pick up one of these new bestsellers.

The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory

Gregory adds to her Cousins’ War series (after The White Princess) an illuminating portrait of historical figure Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, whose royal Plantagenet lineage was both a blessing and a curse. Gregory’s carefully researched story line begins in 1499 with Margaret in mourning for her brother Teddy, who was beheaded by King Henry VII because he was a rival for the throne. Margaret has already been “stuffed into obscurity,” married to an ordinary knight with whom she’s had five children. When Prince Arthur, the King’s son and heir, marries Katherine of Aragon, Margaret becomes lady-in-waiting to the Spanish princess. When Arthur dies, Margaret loses her position; not long afterward, she is widowed and struggles financially. Matters temporarily improve for Margaret with the ascension of the new king, Henry VIII, who appoints Margaret governess to his daughter Mary. But the moody and volatile ruler also forces Margaret and her family to jockey for favor at court. Gregory moves confidently through a tangle of intrigue, revenge, and tyranny toward a shocking betrayal that brings Margaret face-to-face with the king’s ire.




The Long Way Home (Armand Gamache Series #10) by Louise Penny

Armand Gamache, former chief inspector of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec, is settling into retirement in the idyllic village of Three Pines—but Gamache understands better than most that danger never strays far from home.

With the help of friends and chocolate croissants and the protection of the village’s massive pines, Gamache is healing. His hands don’t shake as they used to; you might just mistake him and his wife, Reine-Marie, for an ordinary middle-age couple oblivious to the world’s horrors. But Gamache still grapples with a “sin-sick soul”—he can’t forget what lurks just beyond his shelter of trees. It’s his good friend Clara Morrow who breaks his fragile state of peace when she asks for help: Peter, Clara’s husband, is missing. After a year of separation, Peter was scheduled to return home; Clara needs to know why he didn’t. This means going out there, where the truth awaits—but are Clara and Gamache ready for the darkness they might encounter? The usual cast of characters is here: observant bookseller Myrna; Gamache’s second in command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir; even the bitter old poet, Ruth, is willing to lend a hand to find Peter, an artist who’s lost his way. The search takes them across Quebec to the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, toward another sin-sick soul, one fighting to claw his way out of jealousy’s grasp. Penny develops the story behind Peter’s disappearance at a slow, masterful pace, revealing each layer of the mystery alongside an introspective glance at Gamache and his comrades, who can all sympathize with Peter’s search for purpose. The emotional depth accessed here is both a wonder and a joy to uncover; if only the different legs of Peter’s physical journey were connected as thoughtfully as his emotional one.

Gamache’s 10th outing (How the Light Gets In, 2013, etc.) culminates in one breathless encounter, and readers may feel they weren’t prepared for this story to end. The residents of Three Pines will be back, no doubt, as they’ll have new wounds to mend.




The Monogram Murders: The New Hercule Poirot Mystery by Sophie Hannah and Agatha Christie

Hercule Poirot, last spotted in Charles Osborne’s novelization Black Coffee (1998), returns from retirement to investigate a triple poisoning in 1929 London.

It doesn’t take long for Poirot to realize why the woman he encounters in Pleasant’s Coffee House is all in a dither. She’s afraid that she’s about to be killed, and she can’t bring herself to run from her killer, since death is no more than she deserves. She flees before he can pin her down to specifics, but he soon links her to three deaths at the nearby Bloxham Hotel.

 So Poirot attaches himself to the case, uncovering evidence about the victims’ shared past in a village scandal 16 years ago, alternately lecturing and hectoring Catchpool, and sounding very little like Agatha Christie’s legendary sleuth except for the obligatory French tags. Hannah, a specialist in psychological suspense (The Orphan Choir, 2014, etc.), would seem an odd choice for the job of resurrecting Poirot. The main strengths she brings to her task are a formidable ingenuity and a boundless appetite for reviewing the same evidence over and over again. The herrings-within-herrings denouement, which goes on for 100 pages, hovers between tour de force and unintentional farce.

Despite the names and dates, this authorized sequel will remind you less of Christie, whose strengths are very different from Hannah’s, than of the dozens of other pastiches of golden age detective fiction among which it takes its place.




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