On my reading list
THE SOMNAMBULIST, Jonathan Barnes, Wm. Morrow. $24.95
This first novel (published in the UK last year) is set in Victorian England and introduces Edward Moon, a conjurer who was the toast of society, but whose tricks no longer inspire the awe they once did. When an actor meets his end in a bizarre and terrible fashion, the baffled police turn to Edward Moon who has in the past been able to unravel perplexing
puzzles for them. And Moon welcomes the assignment. In fact he leads the police to the
murderer quickly. Perhaps too quickly.
THE FOURTH MAN, K.O. Dahl, St. Martin's Minotaur. $22.95
In the course of a routine police raid, Detective Inspector Frank Frolich of the Oslo Police saves Elizabeth Faremo from getting inadvertently caught in a crossfire. They meet again and become lovers, but by the time Frohlich learns who she is, it is already too late and
he soon finds himself a prime murder suspect under the watch of his colleagues. This marks the US debut of one of Norway's premier crime writers, and this classic crime noir in a modern setting is getting all kinds of raves.
THE AMATEUR SPY, Dan Fesperman, Knopf. $23.95
Burned out by years of humanitarian aid work, Freeman and Mila Lockhart retreat to a tranquil Greek island. But on the first night they are surprised by three intruders who seem to know everything about Freeman - including a terrible secret he has kept from Mila, which they use to recruit him to spy on an old Palestinian friend in Jordan. Meanwhile, a prosperous Arab-American couple, Abba and Aliyah Rahim, are grieving the death of their daughter. Aliyah fears her husband is leaning toward radicalism and, she too, will find herself in Jordan where her path will cross Freeman's. Post 9/11 intrigue from Fesperman, who is becoming the new master of the thriller.
THE BETTER ANGELS, Charles McCarry, Overlook Press. $25.95
When this was published almost thirty years ago, one reviewer lamented that the premise
- that terrorists would use passenger-filled airliners as tools of terror - was so incredible as to be an obstacle to the reader's suspension of disbelief. Just one of the novel's facets that would prove to be prophetic. It is an election year and the principal threat to the country comes from Islamic terrorists who are impossible to track down and who are desperate to acquire nuclear bombs to use against Israel or American cities. A timely reprint!
THE BIBLE OF CLAY, Julia Navarro, Bantam. $24.00
Beginning in the tense months that preceded the current war in Iraq, moving back to ancient Mesopotamia, and forward to the atrocities of the last century, Navarro follows an upstart archaeologist and a murderous group of conspirators as they vie for a treasure
that will rewrite history - an explosive account of the world's creation recorded millennia ago by a humble scribe. Navarro wrote The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud, a thriller that seemed to get lost among the Da Vinci Code clones of the past couple of years.
THE SECRET ADVENTURES OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE, Laura Joh
Rowland, Overlook Press. $24.95
Well, doesn't this look interesting? Rowland, whose San Ichiro novels are set in ancient Japan, now turns her attention to Victorian England. Upon learning that she has been falsely accused of plagiarism, the normally mild-mannered Charlotte Bronte sets off for London to clear her name. But when she witnesses a murder, she finds herself embroiled in a mystery that threatens not only her own safety but also that of her country. With the help of her sisters, Emily and Anne, Charlotte travels from the Yorkshire moors to London to the opium-clouded ports of Canton in China. A romp through Victorian history!
DEAD TIME, Stephen White, Dutton. $25.95
Psychologist Alan Gregory is struggling to deal with a newly adopted son and a shaky marriage. But then his ex-wife, Meredith, reappears and asks him to help her locate the missing surrogate mother of her soon-to-be-born child. This is White's sixteenth novel and I've never become devoted to the series because I've always assumed I have to read all the novels, in order, to make sense of Gregory's life. I'm assured I can read all of them as stand alones and I might just do that after Kill Me, which I thought was one of the best books of the year when it was published in 2006.
LOVE AND NIGHT, Cornell Woolrich, Dennis McMillan. $35.00
This isn't just on my reading list - it's on my collecting list! McMillan Publications has received permission from the Woolrich estate to re-publish the works of this brilliant and troubled author. This first volume in the series contains 15 stories first published between 1926 and 1939 and never reprinted since. These are not the crime stories for which Woolrich became so well known (The Bride Wore Black, Rear Window, etc.) but for completists, that makes this volume a must. Introduction by Woolrich scholar, Francis M. Nevins. Collect them all!