McManus, Karen. One of Us Is Lying.

NY: Delacorte, 2017.

It’s unusual to find a YA romance that also succeeds so well as a murder mystery, but McManus pulls it off nicely. Five San Diego high school seniors get detention for having forbidden cell phones in class and are cooped up together one fall afternoon. Four of them represent quite a spread of types — but then there’s the fourth one.

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Cleeves, Ann. Wild Fire.

NY: St. Martin, 2018.

This is the eighth and officially the last of Cleeves’s deservedly very popular murder mystery series set in the Shetland Islands, north of Scotland. DI Jimmy Perez (yeah, not a very Scottish name) runs the police operation in the islands, though he has to make way for the experts from the mainland when they have an actual homicide. The case this time involves the murder of a young nanny from the Orkneys who has worked for years for a local MD in a community that’s remote even by Shetlands standards.

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Feiffer, Jules. Kill My Mother: A Graphic Novel.

NY: Liveright, 2014.

Feiffer is an amazing cartoonist with amazing longevity. He started drawing for publication shortly after World War II, became Will Eisner’s assistant at the age of seventeen, and his work was showing up in New Yorker, Esquire, and Playboy while Eisenhower was still in the White House. He won every artistic award there is, including an Academy Award, and then branched out into novels, stage plays, and screenplays.

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Larsson, Stieg. The Girl Who Played with Fire.

NY: Knopf, 2009.

More than a decade ago, I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the first in Larsson’s best-selling posthumous trilogy set in Sweden, and I loved it. A very complex, multi-plotted murder mystery with involving and highly original characters — especially Lisbeth Salander, the near-genius hacker with a decidedly warped view of the world (with good reason) and a very strong sense of justice. But for a variety of reasons, I never got around to reading the two subsequent books.

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Carlson, David L. & Landis Blair. The Hunting Accident: A True Story of Crime and Poetry.

NY: First Second, 2017.

If you’re in the market for a really involving graphic novel that will keep you absorbed for hours and have you hunting up background material so you can learn more, I strongly recommend this one. It’s the winter of 1959 in Chicago and ten-year-old Charlie Rizzo has just returned to live with his father following his divorced mother’s death in California. He doesn’t really know his father that well, except that he’s blind and writes poetry, but his mother and grandmother had felt the need to “save” Charlie from him five years earlier.

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Ingolfsson, Viktor Arnar. Daybreak.

Las Vegas: AmazonCrossing, 2013 (first published 2005 in Icelandic).

I don’t know what it is about Scandinavian mystery writers, and about Icelandic writers in particular, but they’re both very similar to and very different from the classic Anglo-American police procedural. And Ingofsson is one of the best of them, so it’s a puzzle why this one had to wait eight years to be published in translation.

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Published in: on 11 September 2018 at 10:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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Wells, Martha. All Systems Red.

NY: Tor, 2017.

Wells has written mostly fantasy novels of a type that just doesn’t appeal to me, so I was only slightly aware of her work. But this one is straight-up, hardcore science fiction, and it’s quite good. The narrator is nameless because he’s a construct — more than an “enhanced human,” less than a full machine, designed to be hired out for security work. But “SecUnit,” as the humans for whom he works sometimes call him, has hacked his own governor module, making him a free agent, and because of his often bloody professional past he has come to think of himself as “Murderbot.”

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Fuller, David. Sundance.

NY: Riverhead Books, 2014.

Among other things, I’ve been a more or less professional genealogist for more than fifty years (an obvious interest for a big-city librarian with several history degrees), and because I have an interest in the so-called Old West, I’ve spent some time researching some of the better-known Good Guys and Bad Guys thereof. That includes Robert Parker and Harry Longbaugh, better known to most Americans as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Both were killed by the Bolivian army in 1908 — right?

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Hamilton, Peter F. Manhattan in Reverse and Other Stories.

NY: Ballantine, 2012.

Hamilton is best known for the “Void” trilogy and a number of other works about the Confederation and the Commonwealth universe, but his short fiction is much less well known — perhaps because he has written relatively little of it. This collection is only his second, containing the six short stories he created since 1998, plus the title story, written especially for this volume.

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Quammen, David. The Soul of Viktor Tronko.

Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1987.

I first read this marvelous Cold War spy story when it was first published, but I recently came across it via Kindle Unlimited and enjoyed it all over again. John Le Carre is still the best there is at this stuff, but Quammen comes a close second. But where Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was inspired by Kim Philby and is a very British take on the period, the character of Claude Sparrow is clearly a version of James Jesus Angleton, who nearly destroyed the CIA with his hyper-paranoia (and did, in real life, destroy the careers of a number of more or less innocent agents).

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