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I was at the American Library Association conference in Orlando last weekend and had a chance to exchange a few (very few) words with some of my author and illustrator idols:

They were all charming, of course. So, now for their latest books:

I’ll tell you that I love the books by these authors (except that I haven’t yet read anything by Laura Ruby but Bone Gap is on my reading list). The Margaret A. Edwards award (contributions to young adult literature) winner Anderson writes about current issues in Impossible Knife of Memory, Wintergirls and Speak. Readers can’t put her books down. Ashes is the third book in her Seeds of America trilogy about the Revolutionary War. She is truly impassioned about her subjects.

Jerry Pinkney is a marvelous award winning illustrator who has done wondrous things with his fairy tales The Lion and the Mouse, The Tortoise and the Hare and Grasshopper and the Ants. Children and adults alike will smile as they read these books. He promised to continue as there are so many more fairy tales to tell.

Jordan Sonnenblick uses humor to discuss serious topics such as strokes, old age and cancer in Falling Over Sideways, Notes from a Midnight Driver, and After Ever After. The topics he writes about are ones you don’t see in young adult literature all that often.

Morgan Matson and Emery Lord are the masters of the summer romance (watch out Sarah Dessen!). Matson’s Unexpected Everything (review to come), Since You’ve Been Gone and Second Chance Summer are the perfect beach reads. (For some reason I’ve bought Matson’s last two books at Northshire Books in Saratoga Springs, NY…I’m not from there! Is this a trend?) Lord’s spin on romance and characters is unique in When We Collided (Vivi is such a great character) (review to come) and Open Road Summer. So get your reading chair, beach umbrella and SPF 50 ready.

You’ll have to wait until I read Bone Gap to know what that one’s all about. But if it is a Michael Printz Award winner, it can’t be all bad.

These six authors provide any kind of reading you want (serious, humorous, romantic, illustrious, mythical) to take you through the summer, into the fall and beyond. Happy Reading!

 

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Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner

Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner picks up where her debut novel Missing, Presumed leaves off. Manon Bradshaw has adopted twelve year old Fly (from the previous book) and moved back to Huntingdon, living with her sister and nephew Solly. When a finance executive is stabbed to death in a local park, Fly is charged with the murder, even though there is no evidence to support the charge. He was seen walking in the park at the time of the murder and his footprint was found in some blood on the ground.

Manon, five months pregnant, is obviously beside herself, bemoaning the move which was theoretically to benefit Fly by getting him out of his old neighborhood. Barred from participating in the murder investigation, she of course, does so anyway, along with hired attorney Mark Talbot.

There are a lot (a lot) of twists and turns in Persons Unknown, that’s for sure. And it is a good read. However, it is short on solving the mystery and long on Manon’s bemoaning her fate: single, pregnant, tired, not keeping Fly safe in his new environment…and the list goes on. So, here you have the plusses and minuses. Do what you will.

Trace by Archer Mayor

In Mayor’s 28th outing in the Joe Gunther series (the previous book being Presumption of Guilt, which apparently I didn’t review), Joe actually takes a back seat to the rest of his small crew: Lester Spinney, Sam Martens and Will Kunkle. Each is responsible for his/her own case–Lester follows up on a cold case (actually a case which seemed cut and dried previously which now has developed some wrinkles), Sam investigates the murder of a friend of Rachel Hillstrom (the daughter of medical examiner and Joe’s par amour Beverly Hillstrom) and Willie chases the possible sabotage of a supplier of U.S. military equipment. Joe, meanwhile, it out of town in Louisiana with his mother who is in a rehab center, having contracted a rare form of Lyme disease.

There are different types of families. There are those that get together quite often, love each other and are animated and there are those who get together once a year and that’s just fine. I’m finding the Joe Gunther family is falling into the latter category. While Trace was interesting, there was no spice to it. It’s tough writing a 28 episode series and keeping it young and fresh. Possibly some new characters are in order. Maybe a little more action. Whatever the missing ingredient, Trace is a lackluster entry into Mayor’s long running series.

Glass Houses by Louise Penny

Cobrador del frac: men in black frock coats who, without speaking, name and shame debtors into paying their debts. That is the modern day version. The original cobrador, according to Louise Penny’s latest (the 14th) Gamache mystery, Glass Houses (after A Great Reckoning), was a conscience and went after those who has not been punished for a serious offense. When a version of that, dating back to the 1300s appears in Three Pines everyone gets nervous. Regardless of the fact that he stood there day in, day out, there was nothing that could be done. Even Gamache, head of the Surete, could not find a way to have him move on.  When Katie Evans, a visitor to the B&B is found dead, speculation increases.

Simultaneously, Gamache and the Surete are trying to eliminate the burgeoning drug/opioid trade that is taking hold in Montreal.

The story in Glass Houses, is told in the current time as Gamache testifies at the trial of the murderer and in the original time period of the events unfolding. Penny handles the back and forth with ease.

With Louise Penny, you get what you expect. All the residents of Three Pines are back in their idiosyncratic way. There is thought, action, unpredictable (and yet predictable) outcomes. The characters are endearing. She keeps it interesting, a hard thing to do. And she keeps us wanting more.

If you’re a Gamache fan, you’ll love this book. If you haven’t read Louise Penny, you should. You can start with the current book or start at the beginning with Still Life, from 2005.

Darren Mathews has been suspended as a Texas Ranger pending the results of an inquiry regarding his allegedly lying to a grand jury. Yet his FBI friend Greg Heglund, knowing that his interest would be piqued by it, told him of two murders in a small Texas town, the first a Black man from Chicago and second a local white girl. The local sheriff was making the former into a robbery/death and the latter into a domestic dispute of some sort. Knowing however, that the Aryan Brotherhood has a strong hold in the town, made for curiosity.

Mathews, despite having to turn in his badge, figures out he has about a day to drive, take a look and return. What he finds reeks of something other than a robbery gone awry. It is a town where everyone knows everyone else and everyone else’s business, where half the town is related to the other half, regardless of skin color and where secrets abound. Being a Black man nosing around, regardless of his law enforcement status, can be dangerous and even deadly.

I’d never read Attica Locke before, despite her book Black Water Rising being nominated for an Edgar Award. I’m sorry I waited so long. Bluebird, Bluebird is filled with musical references, something I love. It’s got colorful characters, both Black and white, many descendants of either slaves or slave owners…sometimes both. Geneva is the Black woman who, having experienced heartache, still mother’s everyone. Wally is the landed gentry whose family homestead dates back to the 1800s and who thinks he runs the town. (He might.)

There is the usual repartee between the rogue cop (Mathews) and his boss, the unheeded warnings and the rebukes. There is the credit starved FBI friend. There is the romance gone south. There’s drugs and beatings and racial tension of the south. In other words, all the ingredients of a good mystery. Bluebird, Bluebird, exceeding my high expectations.

 

Blood Truth by Matt Coyle

When P.I. Rick Cahill’s ex-girlfriend, Kim, comes to him with a problem, he cannot deny her request for help because he’s still in love with her. She fears her husband is cheating on her and she trusts no one but Cahill whose forte happens to be tailing wayward spouses. What he sees appears to be philandering, but as Cahill digs deeper, it becomes something more complicated, especially when a “solid citizen” with a notorious past enters the picture.

Simultaneously, Cahill receives a phone call from a contractor who found a hidden safe while demolishing Cahill’s boyhood home. Upon opening it, Cahill finds a gun, $15,000 in cash and safe deposit box key. His father, a dishonored La Jolla policeman who died a broken man after years of ostracism and alcohol, was rumored to be on the mob payroll, but Rick, who idolized his father, always held out hope that the rumors were false. Could this be evidence that they indeed were true?

BloodTruth.jpg

This fourth entry in the Rick Cahill series, after Dark Fissures, provides readers with a lot of action. Cahill does take his share of knocks. The plot moves along quickly. Cahill’s part time partner, Moira, a true curmudgeon, provides the smart repartee exhibited by many crime novel sidekicks.

Cahill’s antagonistic relationship with the local police, carried forward from previous books, continues unabated. A little more background, while alluded to, would have been nice, although its absence doesn’t really hinder enjoyment of this solid book. My only other criticism is that Coyle keeps harping on the rumors and demise and Cahill’s idolizing of his father. It was made crystal clear a few pages into the book and there was no need for the constant repetition. All in all, though, Blood Truth was a good read and  while I’d read more books in the series, I wouldn’t necessarily go specifically looking for them.

The Child by Fiona Barton

Kate Waters, a reporter, needs a good story. In this online world, this seasoned reporter is relegated to editing other reporters’ stories. The laurels of her previous great story wore off years ago.

TheChild

Angela Irving wants to know what happened to her newborn daughter. Leaving her in her crib in her hospital room after visiting hours and going off to shower, she returned to find the bassinet empty. That was 1975.

Emma Massingham????? is afraid the police will find out what she did and arrest her.

So, when a newborn baby’s bones are found under an urn on a concrete patio that is being demolished, everyone has an interest. Forensics determines that the bones are around 40 years old but the detritus around the body suggest it was buried 10 years later. Where could it have been for those 10 years?

The Child by Fiona Barton, author of The Widow (like those 2 word titles?) is a good read. It’s got an interesting premise. It’s populated with good, solid characters and it keeps the action flowing. Kate Waters also plays a role in The Widow and she’s a good character to build a series around. She’s the female equivalent of Bruce DeSilva’s Liam Mulligan, a reporter lamenting the fate of the newspaper industry, hard driving and undeterred.

If you want a good mystery that will keep you guessing, The Child is a good place to start.

 

 

The Cornell Woolrich Omnibus

Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler may be the architects and set the unbeaten standards of the tough but caring detective, it is clearly Cornell Woolrich who has set the standard for the psychological thriller. He was a mainstay of the Mystery/Thriller pulp magazines of the 1930s and 1940s.

According to Wikipedia (which I hate to quote), “His biographer, Francis Nevins Jr. [a respected pulp writer in his own right], rated Woolrich the fourth best crime writer of his day, behind Dashiell Hammett, Erle Stanley Gardner and Raymond Chandler. A check of film titles reveals that more film noir screenplays were adapted from works by Woolrich than any other crime novelist, and many of his stories were adapted during the 1940s for Suspense and other dramatic radio programs.” And while I’d consider him a ‘crime writer’, his writing was in a class by itself…Hammett and Chandler on one branch of a Mystery Tree and Woolrich on another branch.

The Cornell Woolrich Omnibus contains Rear Window (which lacks the romantic aspect of the movie version) and other short stories as well as two novels, I Married a Dead Man and Waltz into Darkness and it is in these novels where his talent shines.

He is a master at allowing his protagonists to get what they desire but, the question is, at what cost? Woolrich is an artist who paints a scene, then another and then another, all the while moving the story forward, inch by sometimes excruciating inch. In Waltz into Darkness, particularly, I didn’t know whether to root for the main characters, Lou and Julie/Bonny Durant, love them or hate them or feel sorry for them. My feelings changed by the page and at one point I was tempted to read the last page to see how the story ended. But I”m glad I didn’t, because it would have ruined the suspense.

The two novels take place in two different times, I Married a Dead Man in the 1940s when the story was written, and Waltz into Darkness in 1880s New Orleans and he does each time period justice. In the latter, readers feel like they are in New Orleans, he sets the stage so well.

I’ve read various Cornell Woolrich stories and novels (Rendezvous in Black) and I haven’t cracked the surface of his works. There are definitely going to be more in my future.

If you are into reading the best of a genre, then Cornell Woolrich is a must read for every mystery fan. His works are well written and suspenseful.

P.S. A biography of Woolrich might be in order as well, as his life would have made a great Woolrich story.