This installment: naïve young travelers in Thailand (f); Dorsey’s latest (f); a crazed stalker (f); a charming kids’ novel (f-J); a kids’ bio of an iconic author (nf-J); and a camping trip gone awry (f-CD)
The Suspect by Fiona Barton
This writer has a winning formula: the story told in short segments though main characters: the Reporter, the Detective, and the Mother. (I met this reporter, Kate, in previous novels.) Two girls have disappeared in Thailand. Kate’s dispatched but as she discovers, their story intersects with her son’s, who’s been incommunicado in Southeast Asia for two years. We learn how easily things can go wrong for naïve young travelers. The denouement is murky, as is the scene in Thailand that precedes it. Suspenseful.
No Sunscreen for the Dead by Tim Dorsey
I’m hooked on this author and here’s the latest. It’s always over the top ridiculous: hyperactive Serge and his stoned, oafish sidekick, Coleman, raising havoc in Florida. Always on the Side of Justice but the means Serge employs are ingenious, appropriate and very messy. Here we have two themes: old folks and spy vs spy (the Cold War has long fingers…). Dorsey is patriotic (many of the geezers served in various wars) and exhaustive in the details of Florida’s history. A romp!
Looker by Laura Sims
A dark book in which a miserable NYC woman fixates on her “perfect” neighbor and family to the point of madness. She fantasizes to a fare-thee-well, filches memorabilia, and creates a shrine inside her apartment. She teaches poetry at a community college which adds another layer of complexity. Recently separated, she first resents, then bonds so deeply with her boyfriend’s cat that she refuses to give it back. Ever. It gave me the chills.
To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer
I’ve enjoyed Sloan’s other books for kids (one about stature, one about autism) and know Wolitzer as a fine writer for adults. Here they team to create a story about two 12 year old girls whose gay dads have connected, big time. One lives in NYC, the other in LA, but both girls meet, very reluctantly, at a camp midway while the fathers go off on a crazy trip to China. The girls are at first dead set against each other but end up making a deep bond. Predictably the dads’ trip ends badly—could that be the end of their nascent relationship? A charming tale.
The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown by Mac Barnett and Sarah Jacoby
An amazing biography for kids of this iconic children’s writer which manages to reflect Brown’s inimitable style. She did strange things, some not exactly fodder for children, but important enough to set down here because that’s what Brown put in her books. (I didn’t realize her work was banned by the NY Public Library because the head librarian thought it was garbage.) So much more here than Good Night Moon. Jaw-dropping!
The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore by Kim Fu
A kayak trip goes very wrong when the gung-ho but aged guide decides to press on for adventure and it veers into deep calamity. So one girl, Isobel, stays with the body (yes) and the other four try to find their way back to civilization. We know they made it because we get each of their stories into adulthood and how they’ve been shaped by the tragedy. Scary stuff overlaid with pre-teen concerns which creates a weird juxtaposition. I’d tried this once on the page but when the audio version fell into my hands, it clicked.
Back next week.