This installment: survival and beekeeping (nf); dirty doings in Dallas (f); Penny’s latest (f); a send-up of the art scene (f); and a rural cult that comes to grief (f).
Editor’s Note: The titles and links below will direct you to print when available, with occasional notes made of digital eBook and eAudiobook availability.
The Honey Bus by Meredith May
Subtitled A Memoir of Loss, Courage and a Girl Saved by Bees. A crazy mother in a bad marriage were the template for her earlier years. Then an abrupt move to Carmel Valley where the mother took to her bed and the grandparents took over raising Meredith and her younger brother. Grandma was efficient and cold but Grandpa was the saving grace. He grew up in Big Sur, a plumber by trade but now a beekeeper. Meredith learned about bees at his side and became passionate about and well-versed in the life and needs of these fascinating creatures. She now keeps bees in an SF garden. The subtitle tells it like it is.
The Dime by Kathleen Kent
Betty is a very tall redheaded lesbian police detective from Brooklyn. What’s she doing in Dallas? Her partner needed to be closer to family. When a big prospective drug bust goes south, Betty is led into a very strange detour—not the Mexican cartel she’d been pursuing. Also challenging is the good ol’ boy mentality in her department, though she has a few staunch allies there. Her St. Michael’s medal and communing with her dead policeman grandfather who was her inspiration bolster her courage and her smarts. Much needed when she’s trapped by a sweet-talking psychopath who has bizarre plans for her. Suspenseful, good characterizations.
All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny
This time Gamache is in Paris, awaiting the birth of his daughter Annie’s second child. He’s also looking forward to reconnecting with his godfather, Stephen Horowitz, but that’s cut short when a van runs Horowitz down and many mysterious happenings come to light. Gamache’s older son Daniel, perpetually angry at his father, is working for a multinational corporation and layer upon layer of bad business emerges. Who to trust? As in other books in this series, it takes patience to get familiar with all the complexities, but when the dust finally clears, we’re in for a fabulous ride. Here Paris shines in all its glory. Penny’s style is sui generis: those one or two sentence paragraphs, the liberal sprinkling of French words, and that combination of high emotion and intricate plotting all add up to a great read.
Adrianne Geffel by David Hadju
This mock memoir is so “well-documented” that it starts with the dictionary definition of the verb geffel. The subject heard music in her head as a small child— very original and emotionally expressive. No one knew what to do with her. She managed to get to Juilliard, had a breakdown, met an artist of sorts in the bin, played at her gallery opening, and became a sensation. Until she reconnected with her girlhood friend—now lover— and her music changed radically since she was happy at last. There went her brief rise to fame and it ended perhaps badly. (The author gives a number of potential scenarios.) We hear from her very square but well-meaning parents, teachers, pompous musicologists (god help me), sycophants and exploiters. Real people are interwoven, as in the composer Philip Glass who once installed toilets for a living and gets work for Geffel’s handy lover. A send-up of the artistic “scene .“ Sly but sad as well.
The Ash Family by Molly Dektar
I had to suspend disbelief from the beginning but got absorbed with horror-fascination at this tale of yet another cult and its victims. Berle doesn’t even arrive at college; she turns around, takes a Greyhound to a small North Carolina town, and gets recruited by Bay to join The Family. A remote farm with about 25 members and an intense leader, Dice. She gets a new name, wears clothes from the communal bin, works very hard, and tries to release her sense of self. The group plans actions to cripple environmental threats but she doesn’t get to participate yet because she still might have attachments to the Fake World out there. The mountainous region is magnificent, many of the farm activities and denizens fill her with joy and satisfaction, but dreadful things happen as well. Visceral, sometimes lyrical but what an ill-conceived mess of ideals gone awry.
Back next week.