Commonwealth by Ann Patchett is a lyrical and sprawling book about how a single action rebounds and spreads out over time. Here, an impulsive romantic action between two married (to other) people leads to tons of unexpected consequences, the shattering and then blending of two different families, and an unflinching look at how that action unfolds and ricochets over time. Patchett is a master of deep, thoughtful characters, and this look at domestic complications should not only satisfy fans of her previous books that include Bel Canto and State of Wonder but should pull in new fans as well.
I’m a HUGE fan of James Ellroy’s famous LA Quintet of books that include classics of mid-century hardboiled noir like The Black Dahlia and L.A. Confidential. That early Ellroy feel is all over Darktown by Thomas Mullen, set in a freshly-integrated Atlanta police department just after WWII. Two sets of cops, one black and the other white, must overcome racism, political corruption, and their own fears to seek justice for a murdered woman. The writing is gritty and magnetic and Mullen puts us into the minds of police officers who have the entire city watching them, even if that city is on the edge of tearing itself apart. Even if you’re not a hardboiled sort of reader, this is well worth checking out.
The Secrets of Wishtide by Kate Saunders is an absolute delight. Set in Victorian London, the story centers around newly-widowed Laeticia Rodd, the sister of a famous barrister, who turns to her amateur sleuthing skills to pay the bills. Rodd’s cheerful good humor, tenacity, and quick wit serves her well as she goes undercover as a governess to a politician’s family to solve a crime. This one has elements of Agatha Christie’s traditional British mystery but with Charles Dickens’ colorful cast of characters in a well-developed setting. This should please a wide range of patrons, especially those who prefer their crime with a cup of Earl Grey than a shot of cheap rye.
Another Fall standout is local writer Candice Millard’s account of Winston Churchill’s time serving in the Boer War, Hero of the Empire. Just like she did with her previous books like The River of Doubt and Destiny of the Republic, Millard shows herself to be a meticulous researcher but presents her history in an engaging way, bringing it fully to life, and like her others, I’m betting this effort will be included on several year-end best-of lists. Here, a young Winston Churchill sees the war against the South African Boers as a way to measure himself in dash and bravery, since those opportunities avoided him in other colonial war theaters like India and Sudan. After a capture, he must escape and travel a long distance in hostile territory to get back to the British forces. This is the fire that forges the man who will become the statesman, and his experiences here propel him toward his destiny decades down the line. This is a sure best-seller and is an absorbing read, both for fans of Millard and of history itself.
Take a look at Louise Penny’s A Great Reckoning, the twelfth in the Inspector Gamache series. Penny is a great recommendation for mystery lovers, as her novels are a bit of a genre blend – smartly-written and full of twists, they can be classified both as a cozy and as a thriller and can be enjoyed by a broad collection of readers. The stories, centered in the small town of Three Pines, Canada, are always built on a strong foundation of personal relationships between richly-developed characters. Here, Gamache is drawn out of retirement to lead a police academy, where he hopes to shape the future generation of police. However, corruption and crime within the ranks lead him back to Three Pines, and suspicion is cast on Gamache himself.
Happy reading, everyone! Have a great month, and be sure to rate what you’re reading in the library catalog – or even post a comment - so that the rest of the community knows what you think.