This installment: preteen girls come to grief in this psychological thriller (f); an impulsive teen on the coast in Mexico (f); a precious little town at odds (f); passionate readers share their joys (nf-J); Middle Eastern mysticism and adventure (f); and a cozy mystery set in Maine.
Before She Was Found by Heather Gudenkauf
A psychological thriller featuring a pre-teen girl stabbed near the railroad tracks. Their class got a weird assignment: act out an urban legend, and these three girls have researched an old story of a similar crime. Each has significant family tensions. I really thought I’d figured out the perpetrator but was gob-smacked by the denouement. A true page-turner; I had to put it down forcibly to get on with my day.
Sea Monsters by Chloe Aridjis
Imagine my surprise when I found the setting for this book was Zipolite, a wild and crazy beach in Mexico which I’ve been to. Impulsive Luisa, 17, leaves school in Mexico City for a hare-brained search. Where are those Ukrainian dwarves, also on the lam, that caught her imagination? She doesn’t find them after all but has many adventures along the way. One is a dalliance with a merman—well not exactly, as she finds out. Hallucinatory (and the 2nd novel with a merman I’ve come across recently). Note: the author was born in New York but considers herself Mexican-American, lived in the Netherlands, and now is based in London. She gets around…
The Wonder Garden by Lauren Acampora
Here’s one of those books that introduces you to a community through stories of its denizens so by the end you get the connections (and disconnections) from various viewpoints. I love this literary technique. We start with a house inspector—much of the actions swirls around real estate—and of course there’s rot beneath the slick surfaces. A metaphor for sure. Oh suburbia and what’s underneath the striving and spending. Very tasty.
A Velocity of Being
Subtitled Letters to a Young Reader and this amazing compendium features all sorts of folks extolling the joys of books. Many writers, for sure, but also artists, scientists, and even a surprising sprinkling of business execs. Each letter is illustrated by a different artist on the facing page. The words made my heart race, because for the most part they describe my life-long love affair with the printed word. Some are pretty sophisticated and though this is catalogued as a J book, I think it spans generations.
The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson
The author of the fascinating Alif the Unseen now tackles an ancient legend from the Middle East, The Conference of Birds. Young Fatima is the sultan’s concubine, but his realm is on its last legs as the Spaniards with their zealous Inquisition move in. She and her close friend, a map-maker named Hassan, flee. He has quite a gift: his maps can create portals and remake the terrain, and boy, do they need that skill. Turns out she has an amazing gift as well, but I won’t give that away. Very atmospheric, rich fantasy and feminist as well.
The Body in the Wake by Katherine Hall Page
A cozy mystery set in Maine. Faith keeps coming across corpses, all bearing the same creepy tattoo. A wedding in the offing is about to get derailed by the hitherto absent mother of the groom who finds the arrangements not up to her standards. A writing workshop at the island resort attracts an entertaining clutch of would-be authors. And opioids are in the wings. Recipes, too. Charming and atmospheric.
Back next week.