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Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson
In the heart of London in ’26, Nellie and her large family provide post-war relief via a handful of nightclubs. Some are posh, others raw, but all have crooked underpinnings and rivals ready to take over. Young girls have gone missing. Chief Inspector Frobisher suspects the clubs’ involvement but needs a spy onsite. He enlists the mysterious Miss Keller who arrives in town with her own hidden agenda. Many colorful characters, Dickensian plotting, and atmosphere galore make for a diverting read.
Easy Beauty by Chloe Cooper Jones
The author was born with a disability that makes her appearance diametrically opposed to conventional standards of beauty. She overcomes this by doing well in school and finding internal strategies to deal with almost constant pain, including retreating to a “neutral room” inside her head when it all gets too much. So how does she end up in so many challenging places, including a sold-out stadium concert with no accommodations for her needs? Because she wants to explore societal attitudes toward beauty, including her own internalized assumptions. She’s an academic as well as a mother (big surprise—the doctors said she could never get pregnant). I found some of her philosophical excursions pretty dense but loved getting to know this gutsy, brilliant, original person who gives us a different take on beauty—definitely not dependent on classical proportions.
They're Going to Love You by Meg Howrey
Carlisle’s illustrious father Robert lives with his partner in a charming Greenwich Village brownstone. She’s also a dancer but has been estranged after a long-ago summer with them in which she caused considerable hurt. Now he’s dying and she must face the music, as it were. One more complication: who gets the house? I’m fascinated by the cutthroat world of dance and by interpersonal tangles, so I found this book especially intriguing. Note: the author was a dancer which adds to the verisimilitude.
The Murder Rule by Dervla McTiernan
The book cover proclaims “no one is innocent in this story” so I had to find out more. Young Hannah joins the Innocence Project. Yes, she’s a crusader for justice, but it’s her own version and she has a very serious personal claim to settle by disrupting the process while appearing to be on their side. Pretty tricky. She’s very clever, manipulative, and determined. I had to suspend disbelief periodically and sometimes found the writing a little clunky, but I ended up reading late into the night to find out what happened which is why I’m sharing it here.