This installment: race and murder in Brooklyn (f); race and murder in 19th century London (f); surviving a plane crash and coming to terms (f); meddling wreaks havoc (f); and Mayan gods appear among us (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.
Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
Mary, now 16, was convicted of murdering baby Alyssa when she was nine. Her mother was the babysitter but the evidence pointed to Mary who remained mute during the trial. Now desire for justice is stirring inside her and a pro bono lawyer gets involved. Mary is extremely smart, has been preparing to take the SATs, but then gets pregnant. She’s been living in a group home—very brutal. All sorts of twists and turns with a staggering denouement. Race in important factor: Mary and mother are Black, Alyssa and family white. This is a teen book but don’t let that stop you. Riveting.
The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins
1826 in London, where the protagonist awaits trial for shocking killings. She grew up in Jamaica where she learned to read and write, and had been helping her master with grisly experiments on the nature of racial differences. Then she was brought overseas and given to a new family; though slaves were free in England by then, she was essentially stuck. The wife in this household was a seductive wild card and became Frannie’s lover. She was doomed from the start by her race, her gender, and the times. The tragic events that unfold are chillingly predictable. Atmospheric and thought-provoking.
The Falling Woman by Richard Farrell
Erin, doomed by pancreatic cancer, is on her way to a retreat in California when the plane goes down. Somehow she survives, still strapped in her seat, crashing through a barn roof in Kansas. Radford, part of the investigative team, becomes the point person to locate her. She’d managed to contact her lover who took her to his cabin in the woods. Radford finds her but honors her wish to disappear until she dies. During the fraught period in which he’s trying to keep her under the radar, both take deep dives into their flawed lives and arrive at what’s really important to them. I often had to suspend disbelief (though there is evidence that others have survived such events) but I found the story intriguing and really liked the message.
Friends and Strangers by J. Courtney Sullivan
I was ready to sink into an easy read—domestic dysfunction —when my inner critique muttered “white people’s problems.” But I stuck with it and discovered (of course) there were inner depths—whew. Elizabeth misses her life in Brooklyn and is chafing with boredom in this suburban college town despite her charming baby, Gil. Husband Andrew, an “inventor,” has not exactly taken hold. Her student nanny, Sam, becomes her new preoccupation and she ends up meddling with the best intentions. There were many “don’t do it” moments but the messes that ensued had valuable lessons in them. The underpinnings: assumptions and class differences can wreak havoc. A satisfying read.
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
I love mythology that leaks into “our” world. Here the Mayan god of death (no less) is unwittingly resurrected by feisty Casiopea who unlocks her uncle’s chest. The bones reconstitute and become a good-looking guy who takes her along on his quest to retrieve missing parts and retake dominion of the underworld from his brother. It’s the 1920’s and we travel throughout Mexico and even into El Paso on this fascinating journey. The element that really grabbed me was the contrast of mortal sensibilities with the chilly perspective of deities. (The two end up sharing attributes of both.) Atmospheric and delightful.
See you next week.