Sloan, Robin. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.

NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2012.

This marvelous book is the nerdiest, geekiest thing I’ve read in ages. It reminds me strongly of Neal Stephenson’s masterpiece, Cryptonomicon — not in subject matter but in its attitudes and in its apparent desire to cram in every subject from computerized cryptography, library ladders, and the early history of printing to the visual analysis of sweaterized breasts, scale model cities, and anthropomorphic knitting needles. Actually, I’ll bet Neal has read this book. And I’ll bet he loved it.


Published in: on 21 March 2018 at 8:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Penny, Louise. The Nature of the Beast.

NY: St. Martin, 2015.

This is number eleven in the series featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Quebec Surete, one of the most recognizable cops in Canada (he’s often in the papers) and now retired to the tiny, off-the-map village of Three Pines, down near the Vermont border. And this one includes a large swath of genuine history that most people, even most Canadians, have never heard of before.


Gallagher, Stephen. The Bedlam Detective.

NY: Crown, 2012.

I kind of hate to admit that I’ve never heard of this author, since this is his fifteenth novel, and I confess I picked it up mostly because of the title, but I definitely lucked out. It’s a very original sort of murder mystery, with adroitly painted characters and a thoroughly believable setting. It’s the fall of 1912 in the southwest of England and Sebastian Becker is on a case. He used to be a homicide detective in London, and then went to America, where he became a Pinkerton undercover agent (and learned how to use a pistol because “they’re all gunslingers over there”) and also met and married Elisabeth, a Philadelphia girl. Nowadays, he’s an investigator for Sir James, the Lord Chancellor’s Visitor in Lunacy, who takes an official interest in any man of property whose sanity begins to appear questionable.


Penny, Louise. The Long Way Home.

NY: St. Martin, 2014.

For the past couple of books in this stellar series, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, head of the Quebec Surete’s homicide division, has been struggling to save both his job and the Surete itself. And it all ended with the arrest of the premier of the province and with Gamache being forced to personally kill his boss. It was all just too much and though Gamache won, finally, he also retired to a cottage in the almost Brigadoon-like village of Three Pines, where most of the series has been set.


Sawyer, Robert J. End of an Era.

NY: Tor, 1994.

Sawyer is the best-known Canadian author of science fiction — one of the most successful Canadian authors of any kind, actually — but I’ve always found his books rather uneven. Some are absorbing while others (like the “WWW” trilogy) are almost unreadable. This early effort is right in the middle of the pack.


Penny, Louise. How the Light Gets In.

NY: St. Martin, 2013

This is the ninth in the author’s award-winning series about Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Quebec Surete. I had been reading my way straight through them, and mostly enjoying the experience, but when I first embarked on this one a couple of years ago, I found I had to stop a third of the way into it, put it down very carefully, and just walk away. Penny seemed to be tearing her principal characters to shreds and I couldn’t deal with that. I was too invested in the series.


Published in: on 23 February 2018 at 8:19 am  Leave a Comment  
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Wilson, Robert Charles. Last Year.

NY: Tor, 2016.

I’ve always been a sucker for a good time travel yarn and this is one of the best I’ve read in some time, with a highly innovative plotline and writing of very high quality. Wilson isn’t a terribly prolific writer but everything he turns out seems either to win a major award or at least be shortlisted for one.


Grafton, Sue. Y Is for Yesterday.

NY: Putnam, 2017.

I read a lot of mystery series but this one is the longest I’ve ever committed myself to by a significant margin — beginning back in 1982, when A Is For Alibi came out. And I’ve managed to stick with it, even though I came close to quitting in annoyance more than once. So this is volume 25 and, as usual, there are two main plot lines, one of which more or less continues from the previous two volumes.


Published in: on 17 February 2018 at 9:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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Jemisin, N. K. The Kingdom of Gods.

NY: Orbit, 2011.

The most common pattern for a fiction trilogy is for a good deal of action and the introduction of strong characters in the first volume (to hook the reader), extended plot development and a relative lull in action in the second volume (the “bridge”), and a wrapping-up of everything in the third volume. Jemisin declines to follow that well-worn path, though.


Cohen, Gabriel. Red Hook.

NY: Open Road, 2001.

I’d never heard of this author, even though he’s been around for nearly two decades, but I followed the recommendation of a friend and I’m glad I did. This was Cohen’s first book and it’s not only a very good mystery novel, it’s a first-rate book, period. Brooklyn police detective Jack Leightner, a native of the blue-collar Red Hook community, is fifty years old and he’s beginning to wonder where his life has gone.