Been a while

Spring became summer, summer is yeilding to fall, and it’s been ages since I updated here.

My only excuse is that the spring was very uninteresting and the summer was very busy. We had over 530 kids registered in summer reading, which means I was exhausted every night, and it carried right through every weekend.

To get things flowing again, here’s something a little different. Our new Adult Services librarian wants to do a Staff Pick thing. We’re to pick a few books, and write a… well, something longer than a blurb, but shorter than a review about it.

Since I have all that thinking and writing already done, why not post it here as well? Links to Amazon are affiliate referrals, and MCLS links are to the Monroe County Library System’s online catalog.

Brucew Reads: Thrillers

The Son by Jo Nesbø

MCLS   Amazon

Jo Nesbø is the current king of Scandinavian noir. Stepping away from his series with detective Harry Hole, this standalone novel is an excellent introduction to both the genre and the author.

Set in present day Oslo, Norway, The Son traces the effects of a single crime into the next generation, and explores the questions of who is really the hero, and who is really the villain?

Sonny is a quiet young man in an Oslo prison who willingly confesses to crimes he didn’t commit—for a price. Want a get-out-of-jail-free card? Good, because Sonny wants a stay-in-jail card. When his world is upset, he escapes and while evading capture, begins his own investigation into the crime that ruined his young life.

The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

MCLS   Amazon

Does the dictionary record the common usage of words, or does it nail down definitions permanently?

What if you own the dictionary? Or all of them? Do you get to define—and redefine—all the words? Coin new ones and delete old ones?

And just for kicks, when our computers and electronics are linked to our brains, what happens when a computer virus jumps to the meatware?

Alena Graedon begins with these questions then deftly weaves a thriller around them. Set in a not-too-distant dystopian future, where iPhone-like devices are linked directly to the brain, it’s told in 26 chapters, titled A through Z, and voiced in turns by different characters.

The story begins with the disappearance of the editor of the last independently-published dictionary. Trying to find her father, Anana stumbles upon strange happenings in the basement of the publishing firm. Shortly after, the last independent dictionary sells out, then people start talking funny.

Contrived? Certainly. Nerdy? Uh huh. Enjoyable? Oh, yeah.

Watching You by Michael Robotham

MCLS   Amazon

What’s the difference between a voyeur and a stalker? When is a voyeur or a stalker a psychopath, and when is he… well, something else entirely?

For all her life, someone has been watching Marnie Logan. And unbeknownst to her, they’ve been “fixing” things along the way. Her life really needs fixing now.

Her husband has inexplicably disappeared, her money has run out, and without proof of death or evidence of foul play, she can’t access his bank accounts, get the life insurance payout, or even cancel automatic payments. Worse, a loan shark is trying to collect on her husband’s gambling debts.

When she begins working for the loan shark, her life gets “fixed” again. By whom? And for what purpose? Just when I thought I had it figured out, it twists and I went “Whoa!”

The Secret Place by Tana French

MCLS   Amazon

Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad books read together well, and, due to their ensemble cast, stand alone equally well.

A cold case detective gets a note, “I know who killed Chris Harper”. Working with a detective from Murder Squad, the investigation takes them to an all-girls boarding school where last year, someone killed Chris, a popular, energetic young man from a neighboring all-boys boarding school.

Together, they need to work through teenage angst, awkwardness, posturing, cliques, gossip and the school’s matron. Told in alternating chapters first following the investigation, then the events leading up to the crime, the book really drew me in. Particularly when it describes Chris doing teenage boy things, then says, “And he has five months, three weeks and a day left to live.” Sucks the air right out of my lungs.

Worth reading if only for the dialog and sense of place—always French’s long suit. But coupled with the storyline, it’s unbeatable.

Brucew Reads: A Literary Thriller?

Orfeo by Richard Powers

MCLS   Amazon

If a song is poetry set to music, then Orfeo is music set to prose.

When professor and classical music composer Peter Els looks for a retirement hobby, he doesn’t take up gardening or stamp collecting. No, he sticks with composing, but now codes his music in synthetic DNA. In his perfectly legal home microbiology lab, he inserts his compositions into the harmless bacteria that make my shower curtain turn orangey-pink in the summer. He likes that his music literally takes on a life of its own, will grow and evolve.

Then through a comedy of errors, Homeland Security deems him a national security threat, and poor Professor Els finds himself on the run from the authorities, labeled the “Bioterrorist Bach”. The main line of the story is then told in backstory, how through the years Els has found his art in unlikely places and through unlikely circumstances and inspirations. As it builds towards the finale it seems perfectly in character when Els turns the manhunt into his final composition. Art, music, created from life.

Throughout, turns of a phrase delight, and depictions of scenes and actions take on a musical character. Although I’m not a classical music fan, and am completely unfamiliar with most of the references, I still felt the power of the music from within the prose. It’s not cliché to say the book is a stunning, virtuoso performance.

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