Neshama’s Choices for April 4th

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All Her Little Secrets

Ellice is the only Black person and the only other woman in this corporate Atlanta law office. She’d followed her married white lover there from their previous employment. Now he's found murdered and she’s immediately promoted to his position—obviously something’s fishy. In addition, no one knows about her murky past, or so she hopes. Her wild-card brother, whom she’s been looking out for, is somehow involved and it looks dire for both of them. The firm’s dirty doings eventually come out but at great price. Chilling depiction of racism among good ol’ Southern boys, very thinly veiled. 

The Last Chance Library

June’s mother was the librarian extraordinaire in this small town.  When she died, shy June’s life shrinks further. She’s terrified of public speaking, including being pressed into story time in a pinch, though she does well with eccentric, needy patrons. Then her library is threatened with closure and it looks very grim. But she channels her inner Mathilda (childhood storybook heroine) and bands together with furious citizens for action. English setting, a cozy read with many flashes of gentle humor.  

Everyone Knows your Mother Is A Witch

Katherina is an outspoken and independent woman. Her son is that heretical astronomer, Johannes Kepler. Bad luck spreads through the small village. Katherina is illiterate but skilled in herbal healing, however people those days died like flies. Locals accuse Katherina of being in league with the Devil; court transcripts reveal their distorted analyses, hysteria, and downright lies. It doesn’t help that Katherina sued them for slander which makes her plight worse. (How dare she!) Vivid, atmospheric, and a grim reflection on the way hypocrisy and horrors have been championed “in the name of God.” 

As the Wicked Watch

Jordan’s a Chicago newscaster, not a detective.  But when the police deem yet another dead Black girl a runaway for three weeks until her mutilated body is found in a rundown park, she knows she must investigate it herself.  Conflicts face her constantly, like the need for grabbing the story before other stations arrive versus following up on a hot lead. Also, she also realizes she’s getting too emotionally close to the victim’s family. Who are the wicked? Well in addition to the perpetrator, there are lackluster officers, a community rabblerouser who seems to be in the right camp, and various lawyers. The author knows whereof she speaks; she has a lively TV presence. This is a first of a series and I look forward to more from Jordan soon. Her voice is fresh, direct, and conveys important messages without rhetoric. 

Mercy Street

An ironic title for sure.  The clinic there is a locus for women’s health afflictions, and protesters make it difficult for those who need abortions.  The protagonist, Claudia, works there.  She’s dedicated and exhausted. Weed helps her relax, as does sporadic sex with a guy she’s not attached to.  We get to know a few of the protesters with their weird motivation and lives; one is a “prepper” (apocalyptic survivalist). Boston setting, often bleak. Haigh is an extraordinary writer, by which I mean I felt so deeply embedded in the story I wasn’t even aware of the craft. Finally a totally satisfying novel!