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Guernica by David Boling

Guernica by David Boling (2008)
David Boling’s first novel is the tale of Justo Ansotegui, the strongest man in Guernica and a successful farmer; and Miguel Navarro, a fisherman's son too prone to seasickness to be of much use on a boat. In a broader sense, it's about Guernica during the Spanish Civil War and beginning of World War II, and the Basque who proudly held onto their traditions at a time when their language and customs were outlawed by the Spanish government.

Boling tells the story of Guernica and her people while telling the story of human suffering, heroism, and amazing fortitude. He draws a wonderful picture of the Basque culture and describes the countryside of Spain so well that you can see, hear, taste, and smell it. The bombing of Guernica on the eve of World War II was a devastating experiment in total warfare by the German Luftwaffe. Boling, along with many historians, sees the bombing of Guernica as an act of terrorism. Perhaps, as I did, you will make a connection between that long-ago atrocity and the modern world. And perhaps as I did, you will finish this novel with a sense of hope.

Learn more about the bombing of Guernica at PBS.org. Visit the author's website for reviews and his bio.

The Matchmaker of Perigord by Julia Stuart

The Matchmaker of Perigord by Julia Stuart (2008)
When all of his regular customers are going bald or deserting him for a snazzy new barber in the next town, Guillaume Ladoucette gives up barbering for matchmaking. Trying to pair up his friends and neighbors, though, turns out to be harder than Guillaume imagined. Especially when he can't even manage his own love life. A charming story set in a magical town and chock full of good French food and eccentrics.

Read an interview with the author and explore the publisher's reading guide for this title.

The Waterworks by E. L. Doctorow

The Waterworks by E. L. Doctorow (1994)
Setting is Manhattan after Civil War. This suspenseful story takes place in 1871 and the descriptions of life in New York City with the corrupt Tweed government are a good reminder that all was not well for people in historical times. A good mystery thriller for those who like the true grit of Doctorow's writing. Easy, enjoyable reading with a good tied together ending.

Learn more about the author and his writings at BookBrowse and read reviews at Amazon.com.

A Cure for Night by Justin Peacock

A Cure for Night by Justin Peacock (2008)
This novel will jar your perspective of legalese, presenting new twists and turns. Peacock invents a plausible plot that takes place mostly in the seediest part of Brooklyn. The story unfolds through the eyes of a young male attorney. He is mentored by a young female attorney, who plunges him into her high profile murder case. Wow. Step by step, the reader follows the process of the preparation for trial, the trial, and the aftermath of the trial. The conclusion is the final twist of ironic justice.

Read an inteview with the author and view reviews at Amazon.com.

Final Theory by Mark Alpert

Final Theory by Mark Alpert (2008)
Albert Einstein’s colleagues are being killed by someone trying to discover his long-hidden theory. A science historian receives a key from one of the dying men. To unlock the key, he encounters one puzzle, which leads him to another puzzle. He’s trying to solve the mystery while running for his life. This suspenseful novel is a good read-alike for people who like The Da Vinci Code.

View the author's YouTube video about his book and read the New York Times review.

Winter in Madrid by C. J. Sansom

Winter in Madrid by C. J. Sansom (2008)
Set in 1940-41, this is a political novel in the very best sense. It offers a taste of the hardship and fear gripping Madrid under its new Fascist dictator, Francisco Franco. It is a novel that thoughtfully considers what can happen to an ordinarily decent man in wartime. Harry Brett, Sandy Forsyth and Bernie Piper who were together at school are the players. The underlying question of Spain’s neutrality has the British worried. While Spain considers its options Harry Brett is recruited by British intelligence to discover if Sandy Forsyth has found gold reserves that will strengthen Franco’s hand. Bernie Piper vanished on the bloody battlefields of the Jarama. An attempt to rescue him becomes a dangerous game which draws the strands of this saga together. A first rate thriller.

Check out the book discussion and read reviews at Amazon.com.

Murder Inside the Beltway by Margaret Truman

Murder Inside the Beltway by Margaret Truman (2008)
A typical Margaret Truman mystery. I love the way she weaves the local color of Washington, D.C. in the book. It had some interesting twists and turns. Two of the main characters are intriguing blends of current political figures.

Check out other titles in the Capitol Crimes mystery series, and read a review of this book on Amazon.com.

The Minotaur by Barbara Vine

The Minotaur by Barbara Vine (2005)
The Minotaur is classic Barbara Vine – an enthralling gothic-creepy tale. It has a 1960s family living in an ancient house with mysterious rooms and neurotic relatives. Set in rural Essex, it is the story of the dysfunctional Cosway family, who are locked in a power struggle. The story is narrated by the young Swedish nurse hired to care for the only son, John who suffers from what we now know as autism. True to her style, Vine tells the story in flashback, which has a dramatic impact.

Preview the book before you visit the library and read a review at Mystery Ink.com.

The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson

The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson (2008)
I was completely enthralled from the first page. Historical mystery based on historical fact. Two intertwining stories of Julia in modern-day Cornwall and Catherine in 17 century Cornwall mix together for an engaging story within a story. The detailed descriptions of the actualities of the Barbary Pirate slave trade and the exotic environment of Morocco then and now leap off the page, allowing you to feel as if you are there. Both women are connected by their gift of embroidery, which plays a key role.

Visit the author's website and find reviews at Amazon.com.

March by Geraldine Brooks

March by Geraldine Brooks (2004)
The father in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women was a chaplain with the Union troops during the first part of that book. This is his story, a committed abolitionist who joined the war effort as a moral cause.

Listen to an excerpt from the book, visit the author's website, and check out the reading guide.

Undertow by Sydney Bauer

Undertow by Sydney Bauer (2008)
From start to finish, Bauer hooks the reader with her compelling first novel of political intrigue. Characters, dialogue and plot meld together to produce such a fast pace that you’ll be breathless at the end.

Visit the author's website to learn more about the author and her other books.

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway (2008)
It’s a really touching story that makes you feel like you are in Sarajevo during the 1992 siege. You become very closely involved with four individuals and their high points and low points. Expected human nature is sometimes not there. At other times, individuals participate in unimaginable acts of kindness.

Listen to Joseph Planta's interview with the author and read more about the book at RandomHouse.ca.

Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy

Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy (2001)
Slow, leisurely reading book for travelers. It's easy to pick up and put down due to being divided into 12 months of one year. Set in contemporary Ireland; the novel follows two people who begin a catering business. The story develops around the families and friends of Cathy and Tom.

Preview the book before you visit the library and read reviews of the book at Amazon.com.

Spotlight: Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine

Spotlight: Ruth Rendell and Barbara VineRuth Rendell, who also writes under the name Barbara Vine, is an English bestselling mystery and psychological crime writer. Her Ruth Rendell novels are about police detective Chief Inspector Wexford, guardian of fictional south of England town, Kingsmarkham or about individual psychological suspense thrillers, with no detective and no recurring characters. She specializes in examining the inner darkness of her characters, whether they are ordinary or alarmingly aberrant. Try Murder Being Once Done, a Chief Inspector Wexford title, for a taste of this fine series.

Writing as Barbara Vine, she crafts psychological crime novels (such as A Dark Adapted Eye) which explore the minds of people who commit murder, often through obsession or social inadequacy. The Vine books maintain the theme of relationships between families by delving back into the past, which set them apart from the Rendell work.

Under either name, her novels are complex in character development and precise in sense of place. Always suspenseful and viscerally compelling, I highly recommend them.

Check back next month to read Sally’s review of The Minotaur by Barbara Vine.

Angel’s Tip by Alafair Burke

Angel’s Tip by Alafair Burke (2008)
As a huge fan of James Lee Burke, I picked an Alafair Burke (his daughter) book more out of curiosity than anything. She has inherited her dad's gift for writing. Angel's Tip is a compelling mystery, with enough twists and turns to make it interesting, but not so many that the plot becomes unlikely. New York detective Ellie Hatcher is an interesting character, struggling with a painful family history and the old boys' club in the police department. Burke has written a strong woman character, who has grown and developed in just two books. She first appeared in Dead Connection.

Browse the book online and visit the author's blog.