Thursday, March 23, 2017

Rather Be the Devil

Energized. For a retired detective with health issues, John Rebus seems highly energized as he’s back on the job, of sorts, in the twenty-first novel in this series by Ian Rankin. In the book titled, Rather Be the Devil, Rebus reopens a cold case and issues from the past converge through multiple plot lines with lots of criminal action in the present. Big Ger Cafferty is back as well, along with detectives Clarke and Fox. Cafferty is no more retired than Rebus, and the spring in Big Ger’s step may lead to more adventures. Fans of character-driven crime fiction are those most likely to enjoy reading this entertaining novel and the entire series. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Rather Be the Devil from

Norse Mythology

Hammer. I think the only time I’ve read Norse myths was in my childhood in comic books. The image of Thor’s hammer on the cover of Neil Gaiman’s book titled, Norse Mythology, bore no resemblance to the comic versions. These tales did match some from my youth, and each story that Gaiman presents brought great satisfaction, especially the ones that I remembered more about that I expected. These myths are terrific stories, and Gaiman’s version will appeal to any reader who enjoys fine story telling. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Norse Mythology from

Bright, Precious Days

Loss. Fans of Jay McInerney’s novels will be pleased that he has reprised protagonists Corrine and Russell Calloway in a new novel titled, Bright, Precious Days. The Calloway marriage has been under strain since 9/11 and the financial crisis upends their lives. A sense of loss permeates their lives alongside their deep love for New York City. The city is changing and touchstones that kept them steady can no longer be relied upon. Even their summer rental in the Hamptons is changing. Through all these losses, there’s still love and humor, some of it slapstick. McInerney loves NYC and these characters who fit into the city one way or another, no matter how seriously they take themselves, and how little the city could care. McInerney’s prose captures his observations with fine language and presents these characters, their story, and the city in ways that will please many readers, especially those who love New York. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Bright Precious Days from

The Believer

Suspense. I expected to read an escapist thriller when I opened Joakim Zander’s novel titled, The Believer. Instead of escaping from the daily headlines, I found myself reading about characters dealing with global current events in ways both individual and communal. Zander offers the perspective of three main characters. Fadi is a young Swede who became radicalized and joins the Isis forces in Syria. His sister, Yasmine, works in New York for a company that helps spot trends and exploit them for clients. Zander reprises Kara Waldeen from an earlier novel. She now works as a researcher for a human rights organization. Zander draws us into the current and backstories of these characters and pulls us into a world in which manipulators are nudging consequential actions. I enjoyed the suspense and the ways in which Zander brings topics of terror and manipulation into human relationships. Readers who like thrillers are those most likely to enjoy reading this novel. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Believer from

The Vanished

Twists. I find winter to be an ideal time to be entertained by Scandinavian crime fiction. I picked up a novel titled, The Vanished, by Lotte and Soren Hammer, and was delighted by the plot twists and depth of character development. Detective Chief Superintendent Konrad Simonsen gets a new case when he returns to work following recovery from a heart attack. The pace of the novel may be more plodding than crime readers are accustomed to, but that rhythm gives readers ample time to get to know the protagonist and see his complexity. The mystery is interesting and involves enough twists to satisfy most crime fiction readers. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Vanished from

The Glorious Heresies

Salvific. The debut novel titled, The Glorious Heresies, by Lisa McInerney, packs a wallop. Set in Ireland after the financial meltdown, she presents the dark lives of troubled characters sorely in need of redemption. The ways in which characters use each other while rationalizing that they do what they do for those others, can define dysfunction. The feelings of remorse and guilt are often misplaced, whether about drugs, sex or violence, all of which are on frequent display. The motif of flames burning out the abuses of the past is offered with skill and precision, arising at just the right point in the narrative. Salvation for the main characters comes from unlikely places, and the bonds of family are strained from the beginning of the novel to the end. Readers who enjoy superb writing are those most likely to enjoy this unusual, quirky, and finely written novel. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase The Glorious Heresies from

Where My Heart Used to Beat

Loneliness. Robert Hendricks, the protagonist and narrator of Sebastian Faulks’ novel titled, Where My Heart Used to Beat, fought in World War II and at age 60 has reached a time when he wants to reflect on the meaning of his life and come to grips with his loneliness. He accepts an invitation from an elderly man who knew Hendricks’ father in World War I, and their conversations provide the bulk of the narrative. Faulks explores the scars of war, mental health and the ways in which love and memory endure. How do the wounds from atrocities heal? Faulks explores that question and others in this finely written novel. Readers who enjoy psychological fiction are those most likely to enjoy this novel. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Where My Heart Used to Beat from