This is a view into a very unsavory part of Scotland’s near history in the towns that sit beside closed mining pits where no one has a job and no one has a purpose. Young Shuggie Bain is left with the responsibility of keeping his mother going as she battles alcoholism and they both battle grinding poverty. Agnes Bain is beautiful and that is a currency that can be spent to feed both their needs and her addictions. It can also work against her as she cannot skim through the world unseen, nor does she want to be invisible. Every day brings challenges Shuggie must face. Shuggie believes that if he just loves her enough, she will be happy and their life will magically transform into something safe. You will cheer for their successes and you will want to console them as they encounter new obstacles. You will not forget them.
I’m glad that Scott Turow quit practicing law and became a legal thriller writer because he has given me hours and hours of entertainment through his exceedingly well written books. The latest is The Last Trial. Alejandro “Sandy” Stern is in his 80’s and has taken on a murder and fraud case for a close friend. The fact that the defendant is a dear friend who may have saved his life plus the fact that it is most likely Sandy’s last case help ratchet up the stakes. This novel is amazingly relevant to what is happening in the news now due to the alleged fraud being associated with a vaccine trial. Keep in mind that novels released in May 2020, as this was, are finished by the author at least a year before. Turow had no idea that America would be getting an education on vaccine trials and all that entails. Pacing is where Turow’s mastery shines. Pacing is paramount in thriller novels. The author must keep us engaged and move us forward to the climax. This is a legal thriller so there are potential dead spots where the action is in a courtroom but he pulls us forward even when we wonder how he is going to make FDA regulations interesting. The beginning of this novel is heart-stopping and he races us through to the climax leaving us feeling very satisfied.
In the mood for a ghost story? A mystery? The story of a hoarder that may have treasure in the midst of his trash? This is the book for you. This novel is all those things but more. Jess Kidd imbues her characters with so much personality that they explode off the page. This is a delightful story that has an enormous amount of heart and a host of underdogs that call for us to cheer them on.
Heller’s background as an adventure writer shows in this thriller in which the landscape is a main character. A simple story of that canoe trip would have been enjoyable but when Heller ratcheted the action up with two college kids trying to rescue a badly injured woman while navigating a wild river, a fast-moving wildfire and the woman’s attacker on their heels, I held on for the wild ride and I’m glad I did.
The Bird King is set at the end of Muslim rule in Granada with a magical mapmaker, a concubine with the heart of a queen, an evil Spanish nun and a terrifying, charismatic Jinn. This tale of transformation reads like a fairy tale with a morality plays’ take on how power is defined and used for destruction or as a redemptive flame for freedom. Each beautifully written character strives for righteousness and to be their truest self.
Vargas may be the best mystery writer you’ve never heard of. Her Commissaire Adamsberg is stationed in the 15th Arr. of Paris but is often in far flung areas of France. His means of detection are non-traditional; His staffare delightful misfits with a talent for finding murderers. Vargas is equally non-traditional, as seen in this tale which features a series of murders caused by the bite of brown recluse spiders.
An isolated house in Scotland that is part top of the line Smart Home and part Gothic mansion features strongly in this creepy mystery. A nanny with something to hide starts work in a mansion where nothing can be hidden. Why do the nannies keep leaving? What’s behind the locked door? Can technology keep us safe? Ware keeps us on the edge of our seat as she spins this Gothic yarn with a contemporary twist.
After a nearly fatal accident, Virgil is no longer himself. He still lives on the shore of Lake Superior and operates the movie theater but there is a disconnect from the man that he was. Enger invites us to this downtrodden town and brings its citizens to life with soaring and evocative language that reminds us we have the capacity to surprise even ourselves.
Connolly is a very rare thing, a literary genre writer. His writing and characters are as compelling as the mystery of what happened to the woman found buried in the woods. The Woman in the Woods is a stellar supernatural story that follows a network of people designed to help women fleeing danger. Who is the ancient being that is stalking them and the book of fairy tales she left behind?
Ware continues to hone her craft as she introduces us to Hal, a tarot card reader on the Brighton pier. Hal receives a letter that leads her into what she believes will be a harmless fraud against the upper class but quickly builds into a mystery that goes to the core of who Hal really is and why her mother seems to have lied about nearly everything. Reminiscent of the country-house mysteries of the golden age.