Posts filed under ‘Mystery’

Shine by Lauren Myracle

Pub Date: May 2011

Fiction (Young Adult)

350 pgs.

I’ll admit, this book first came up on my radar due to the controversy over the National Book Awards. (Condensed version: in October, Shine was mistakenly listed as a National Book Award finalist for Young Adult Literature.  Myracle was initially told her book could stay among the ranking titles, but then was abruptly asked to withdraw.)  As it turns out, Myracle may reap many unexpected rewards of the National Book Awards Board’s gaffe.   After learning of the book’s premise, I, for one, was intrigued, and I know I’m not alone.

Patrick, a gay teenager in a “back-woods” Southern town, is brutally attacked one night, and left for dead, strung up with a gas nozzle at a local gas station.  Cat, his lifelong best friend until she withdrew from their friendship three years ago for reasons inexplicable to Patrick, is devastated by the hate crime and sets off on her own to uncover the perpetrator.

Myracle, until now best known for her “Internet Girls” book series (TTYL, TTFN, L8rG8r), takes a decidedly darker turn with Shine, lacing her tale with brutal realism and conflicted characters.  Cat’s ventures into the underbelly of her town bring to mind Daniel Woodrell’s starkly beautiful Winter’s Bone (see my review of Woodrell’s book).  Her town is teeming with abuse of all kinds: sexual, drug-related, physical.   As you might expect, there is also a strong undercurrent of homophobia.

I have to say, while I was very admiring of both the premise of the book and the descriptions of the characters, not to mention the lovely cover, Shine took a while, longer than I expected, to grab me.  However as I read more, I became more invested in Cat and members of her close-knit community.  Two thirds of the way through, this book reached true “un-put-downable” status for me.  I do have my quibbles:  while Cat and most of the other characters were well-drawn, I wish we could have had more insight into the life of Patrick himself.  The mystery was satisfying, but the ending was a bit puzzling and “convenient.”  I don’t want to give too much away, though: powerful and affecting,  Shine is definitely worth a read.



December 6, 2011 at 12:21 am Leave a comment

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Pub Date: April 2004

Fiction (Adult)

486 pgs.

Bibliophiles, rejoice! If you’re unfamiliar with  Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind, and you’re looking for the next book to get wrapped up in, look no further.  Ruiz’s thoughtful, well-plotted novel encompasses adventure, romance, and a mystery that literally unfolds in the middle of a vast landscape of books.

When he is a small boy, Daniel Sempere’s widowed father takes his only child to a mysterious “cemetery of forgotten books,” located behind a storefront in 1950s Barcelona.  Daniel is instructed to choose a title from the voluminous stacks.  The title he chooses will stay with him for the rest of his life, Daniel’s father tells him.  And it does…in an unexpected way.

Soon, Daniel’s life is consumed by his chosen book, called The Shadow of the Wind, and by its mysterious author, a man called Julian Carax.  Daniel makes it one of his life’s missions to track down more work by Carax, but he finds the titles being systematically destroyed, by an individual who has named himself after the villain in Carax’s own book.

What follows is a delicious journey into the heart of Carax’s novel.  Accompanied by a new love and a boisterous sidekick, the reader follows Daniel as he comes of age in mid-century Barcelona, and explores the mystery of Julian Carax.  The Shadow of the Wind benefits most from Ruiz’s ability to invoke a strong sense of place in the sultry, misty Spanish streets, memorable characters, and at its core, a deep love of the printed word.  This would not be my first choice to read on a Kindle–but if you have a couch, a mug of something hot and delicious, and a free weekend, The Shadow of the Wind is the perfect companion.


March 11, 2011 at 9:55 pm 1 comment

Featured Genre/Contributor Friday: Mystery

Those of you who know Amanda at the circulation desk know that she is always ready with a good book recommendation.  Here she waxes poetic about a fun series in a genre that this blog has not yet covered: mystery.

An Ode to a Viking Vampire

The Sookie Stackhouse Series by Charlaine Harris

10 books (Dead Until Dark, Living Dead in Dallas, Club Dead, etc)

Fiction (Adult)

The mystery novel can be many things to many people and it can take place anywhere, at any time. However, there is always one constant. A mystery novel must have a detective, professional or amateur, and there must always be a mystery to solve.  At the Topsfield Library the Mystery genre gets its very own room in the original lobby of the building. In this elegant little room with its large windows overlooking the common and the comfortable leather backed chairs, you could certainly get lost for an hour or two. It is a forgotten space that gets little foot traffic but deserves so much more….

It is officially November and Halloween is now over.  If Halloween is your favorite holiday and you are starting to pine away for your next chance to spook or haunt, may I suggest an alternative to moping around the house in your old Dracula costume: how about a good mystery series?

Charlaine Harris has currently written 10 books and several short stories comprising the Sookie Stackhouse series. The first one, Dead Until Dark, was originally published in May of 2001. In 2008, HBO adapted this first book into the television series True Blood and it has since been followed by 4 more seasons and counting. The Sookie Stackhouse series is one I would have never dreamed of picking up before the premiere of True Blood on HBO.  In its tiny paperback incarnation, Dead Until Dark looks like just another tacky romance novel and if you’ve seen the television show you could assume it might be.

For Louisiana waitress Sookie Stackhouse, the world was never quite the same for her as it was for her neighbors and classmates.  She was born telepathic but was raised to believe she had an unnamed disability and was treated like an outcast by her small community of Bon Temps, Louisiana. When the “Great Revelation” reveals that Vampires are not myth and legend but in fact real life, Sookie’s world gradually starts to change. Not only are the vampires real in Sookie’s world, but so are werewolves, witches, goblins, fairies, and shape-shifters. Once her disability is deemed a talent by the supernatural community, she embarks on a series of adventures.  These adventures make up the ten Sookie Stackhouse novels. The series takes Sookie to some unusual destinations and puts her in some very unusual situations. One of the most endearing aspects of this series is that Ms. Harris chooses not to ignore Hurricane Katrina and its impact on Louisiana. Starting with the 7th book in the series, All Together Dead, Hurricane Katrina becomes an event with a lingering domino effect on the human and supernatural communities, which triggers various plot lines and sub-plots in the following novels.

Although I enjoy the True Blood television series, it has diverged greatly from the books Charlaine Harris wrote, robbing the characters of their genuine appeal and authenticity. These novels contain engaging characters, like Sookie herself who is brave, kind, and generous. Or the Viking vampire Eric Northman, who is calculating, handsome, and frank.  If I could love any vampire, it would be Eric Northman.

This is a charming and addictive series of mysteries with a core that is far more human and real than it would first appear. –Amanda

November 5, 2010 at 2:02 pm Leave a comment

The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard

Pub Date: May 2010

Fiction (Adult)

336 pgs.

This moody, atmospheric mystery by Edgar Award winner Pickard is the perfect thing to curl up with during, what else, a rain and lightning storm.  The first sentence grabbed me: “Until she was 26 years old, Jody Linder had been suspicious of happiness.”  It was Memorial Day weekend, I had a long car ride, and I was in the mood for an intriguing, twisty story that would transport me; I was not disappointed.

Twenty-three years ago, Jody Linder”s father, Hugh-Jay, had been found murdered, and her mother, Laurie, vanished the same night.  Jody, a new schoolteacher,  has recently returned to her hometown of Rose, Kansas, a tiny town where everyone knows each other, for better or for worse.  The man convicted for the murder, ranch hand Billy Crosby, is a sometime employee of Hugh-Jay’s parents, Hugh Sr. and Annabelle Linder.  Billy is widely considered to be a ne’er do well wife-beater, alcoholic, and all-around bad person.  If the trial that led to Billy’s twenty-three year incarceration was a bit sloppy and hasty, well, the town agreed that he should and would be locked up anyway, sooner or later.  But in 2009, Billy’s son Collin, now a lawyer, is determined to get his father released from jail.  Collin’s investigation dredges up old doubts about the trial, and Jody and her family must confront what happened that stormy night in 1986.

Pickard excells at character portraits of the Linder family, particularly of the self-centered Laurie, the upstanding Hugh-Jay, and the rest of the Linder family. Hugh Sr. and Annabelle are the wealthiest ranchers in town but also the most beloved; their other children Chase, Bobby and Belle all have their quirks.  I don’t read many mysteries, but the mystery itself in this story was delicious for me–it kept me guessing until the very end.  Highly recommended.

June 4, 2010 at 3:45 pm 1 comment

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