Asa Larsson’s The Second Deadly Sin may be the best Swedish mystery I’ve read in years. Larsson brings in the isolation and environment of northern Sweden as well as the history of the area being a mining company town. She entraps the reader with stories of bears hunting dogs and people in a remote area, and follows it with the death of an elderly neighbor of prosecutor Rebecka Martinsson.
Martinsson initiates the investigation into the murder but finds the family circumstances of the victims strange. The victim’s son was killed in a hit and run 3 years ago. Her father was accidentally killed in the woods a couple of months ago. Her grandmother was killed when her father was an infant. So much murder and bad luck in one family seems unlikely and Martinsson feels in her gut that there must be a connection. When she’s kicked off the case, she refuses the let it go.
There are a lot of twists and turns. The relationships between Martinsson and her neighbors and coworkers shows the depth of friendships that can exist with minimal conversation and a sauna. The level of human indifference shown opposed to those that do care is dramatic. I can’t tell more about this book and why I liked it so much without telling too many details. Theres several layers of societal flaws wrapped up in one family’s tragic history.
Great read! Great social commentary mixed in with a mystery.
Read October 2019
In Reykjavik Nights, Arnaldur Indridason introduces us to Inspector Erlendur before he becomes Inspector. He’s just a beat cop noticing patterns and following up on crimes that are written off as an accident. Working nights, he meets plenty of drunks and wife-beaters, but its the missing that captivate his interest.
Having met and helping a drunk several times on his watch, he’s bothered by the accidental drowning death a short time after a fire. The pieces aren’t connecting and he investigates on his own until clues start fitting together.
This is a slow paced book, where Indridson reveals so many details that can be put together for a murder that no one else even realized had happened. Its interesting to see how an Inspector starts out before they become experienced.
Read March 2019
Grace Lin’s Starry River of the Sky incorporates many Chinese myths into the story of a young boy traveling on his own. Through stories we learn about how the mountain was moved, the Magistrate tricked the emperor, the many suns were shot out of the sky, and how sun and the moon love one another.
I listened to this on CD in the car while traveling with my kids. They loved it, I loved it, and we were bummed when it was over. There were so many myths that I’ve never heard of interspersed in this novel that I felt I was also learning a little about Chinese culture.
Read July 2018.
Hakan Nesser allows us insight into the murderer’s mind in the Hour of the Wolf when we see the first accidental murder and the following cover-ups to hide the crime. Alongside the murderer, we follow the investigation led by Chief Inspector Reinhart, Van Veeteren’s successor. When Van Veeteren’s son turns up murdered and left in a ditch, the whole team must work tirelessly to find their mentor’s son’s killer.
The murdered confounds the police since the crimes are not decisively connected. The first murder seems completely unrelated but is the key to understanding what happened and what will happen. Van Veeteren must also come to terms with his son’s past and how it connected to his murder. The key to understanding the crime comes from him with his ability to look into a criminal’s thought process to deduce the reasoning behind the crimes.
Read October 2017
Madeleine L’Engle’s novel A Wrinkle in Time was originally published in 1962. Hope Larsen adapted and illustrated this novel and published in 2012. I’ve not yet read the original, but I believe the text is comparable and the illustrations add another layer to the story.
This is a novel that I requested for my 8 year-old son to read. I recommend this to him and he read it in less than a day. Instead of waiting to get the original novel, I read the graphic novel in order to talk to him about it.
This novel follows a group of children who have to travel through time and space to save their father. Meg Murry is an ordinary child with an extraordinary brother Charlie. Their father has been missing for awhile and no one knows if he’ll return. Charlie befriends their strange neighbors and another schoolmate of Megs, all of which have strange abilities that help them communicate with other people. Its some sort of telepathy and ability to see the future combined with extreme empathy and the ability to hop through the wrinkles in space and time. The other world that they find themselves is a negative utopia with mind control and order being the goal.
Having been written in the 1960’s, there’s probably a glimpse into communism and the Cold War that I didn’t put much thought into while reading it. Its also a little similar to religions with one being knowing whats best for everyone, but I really read it with my 8 year-old in mind.
This was a fun, interesting read with a strong moral lesson that we need to stand up for what’s right and we all have the power to do that. I plan on reading the non-graphic novel after it comes, and I may put more effort into the symbolism at that point. Or maybe, I’ll just enjoy the read…
Read August 2017
The Orchardist is an amazing story about William Talmadge, a quiet man living an isolated life in a Washington orchard until one day 2 pregnant girls start stealing food from him. Its very clear that these girls are terrified but need someone’s help and Talmadge can’t turn them out. He slowly cares for them and gets them help with their pregnancies. The girls never warm to him, but when Talmadge learns of their past, he understands their reluctance and accepts what they are able to offer. Their life is turned upside down when someone from their past comes to collect them. Decisions are made that affect the rest of their lives. We’re able to follow most of the characters throughout their entire lives and see how these decisions impacted their futures.
The setting adds an interesting element to the story. The isolation allows a self awareness to the characters and a coldness to their interactions. But the love between many of them is felt on a level that most families cannot experience. A simple hand on the passing shoulder screams volumes that are never spoken. The style reminds me of much older novels and this work has been compared to works by Steinbeck and I understand why.
This tragic story is filled with the love and care true families have for one another. Regardless of proximity or blood.
Great novel! It’ll be interesting to read additional works by Coplin to see if she can continue in this style. She based this novel on an area that she grew up with and types of people she knew. I’d love to see her do it again.
Read June 2017
Laura Lippman delivers a very questionable heroine in and when she was good. Heloise Lewis grew up unwanted and average, the daughter of a man’s second unwanted family. There was always someone or something better than her and her mother.
We meet her about 20 years later as she’s trying to keep her world from falling apart. As a suburban madam and escort, she’s built an incredibly lucrative career with a silent partner that is currently in jail. We are slowly immersed into her strange dealings with the johns, her employees, and her former pimp. The story is intertwined with learning about her history and how she became a 38 year old suburban mom running a discrete business.
Trust is incredibly important in her world and while many people need to trust Heloise, there are few that she can trust to prevent her worlds from colliding. When other madams start dying, Heloise knows its time to get out of the business and escape from her silent partner. But secrets have a way of coming out hiding and some of them are worth killing for.
Read December 2016