Baldwin combines a breezy, easy to read writing style with years of classroom experiences to produce a well written work filled with short to a little longer sketches that offer a peek into the life of teachers and parents. While not every offering is meant to be humorous, the ones that are do bring a smile to the lips and giggles during the read.
I think it’s probably fair to say that Aaron Paul Lazar is one of the most readable of authors. His books are engaging, warm, and moving in a way that, if it’s a tad old-fashioned, still retains a modern sensibility and drama that comes from the real issues the work tends to address. I’ve been reading his mysteries for a long time now, and as someone who doesn’t tend to like genre novels, have always been drawn in by the way the plot is shaped by a deep sense of character development.
Without wishing it to sound anything like routine: another extraordinary novel from James Sallis.
This one, like many of his others, is hard to pin down exactly. Paranormal, science-fiction and metaphysical elements vie within a crime story a la Savage Night, about a hitman on his last job. Perhaps that catch-all label ‘slipstream’ will have to cover it.
Though solving the crime does certainly drive the narrative pace in The Lost Girls, this book is a rich, dense novel, that goes so much deeper than whodunit. As is almost always the case with Wendy James, her blockbuster, airport styled covers belie the fact that this is as much literary fiction as it is a crime novel, driven, above all, by character development and exquisite writing.
Kidd’s extensive historical research does much more than provide a backdrop to the story. The period details further the plot. For instance, the Grimke family acquires a state-of-the-art copper bathing tub on wheels, an innovation which allows a lying-down bath, and can be drained rather than dumped or bailed. When Sarah discovers Handful emerging from this tub in her room she feels, at first, that her privacy has been invaded. Then she realizes that “Handful had immersed herself in forbidden privileges, yes, but mostly in the belief that she was worthy of these privileges.
Hand in Glove is a different type of mystery that will make you wonder whether a comedy team such as Abbot and Costello wrote the script, acted it out in order to elicit the laughs readers will get when reading this book. The characters are quite different and yet all they want to do is solve the case but not before some other wild and zany things happen.
Heather Brittain Bergstrom’s novel is outstanding for its evocation of place. In a promotional interview, she notes that she was born and raised in Moses Lake, Washington, between two large Indian reservations, the Colville and the Yakama. Now living in northern California, she sometimes longs for the Pacific Northwest’s rugged, open landscapes, cowboys, Indians, wind, sage, large rivers, dams, and miles of “nothingness.”
Doucette heightens the suspense and tension with sinister details; for instance, Dietzhoff’s eyes are “compelling, dark at the centre, glittery like tacks”. A big scary bronze owl hangs just outside the window of Serena’s old room. A mysterious metal box is discovered by a workman who is searching for the septic tank cover.
It is not a conventional crime novel by any means, but then you wouldn’t expect convention from Sallis. The horrors are to be read, in part, in the voice: disconnected, spare, skittish, lambent, haunted. In part they’re there in the portrait of an alternative present or a credible near-future: a world where America has a black woman president, where acts of terrorism are common and the weather weirdly erratic.
Random Acts of Kindness is a road trip novel involving three forty-something high school friends, who live on the U.S. west coast. The novel opens with Jenna fleeing her Seattle home with some belongings thrown into a milk crate and her Chihuahua, Lucky, in the passenger seat. She turns up at the rural Oregon home of her high school classmate, Claire, whom she hasn’t seen in sixteen years. Claire, who has breast cancer, is longing for time-out from her ultra-helpful sisters and from an atmosphere of gloom (her mother and one sister died of the disease.)