The Madman of Bergerac by Georges Simenon

The Madman of Bergerac by Georges Simenon (2007)
It’s France in the 1930s, Inspector Maigret has been shot, and incredibly he solves the case never having left his hospital bed. It’s easy to read the Maigret series because the stories are short and can be read in one day.

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin (2007)
A novel that succeeds as both historical fiction and crime-thriller, the story contains fascinating details of historical forensic medicine, entertaining notes on women in science (the medical school at Salerno is not fictional) and a wonderful plot with lots of twists.

Four children have been found dead and mutilated. The Jews of Cambridge have been blamed for the murders, the most prominent Jewish moneylender and his wife have been killed by a mob, and the rest of the Jewish community is shut up in the castle under the protection of the sheriff.

King Henry I is invested in their fate because without the taxes received from Jewish merchants, his treasuries would go bankrupt. Hoping to exonerate the Jews, he appeals to his cousin, the king of Sicily, to send his best master of the art of death: a doctor skilled in “reading” bodies. Enter Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar, 25, the best mistress of death that the medical school at Salerno has ever produced. Adelia, along with Simon of Naples (a Jew) and Mansur (a Moor), must find the murderer before he can kill again.

The Good German by Joseph Kanon

The Good German by Joseph Kanon (2001)
An American journalist in post-war Berlin tracks down the whereabouts of a former Nazi. Check out the 2007 movie adaptation featuring George Clooney.

Midnight at the Dragon Café by Judy Fong Bates

Midnight at the Dragon Café by Judy Fong Bates (2004)
This coming of age novel is a wonderfully written, unique and imaginative, first novel. Set in the 1960s, this is the story of a young girl, the daughter of a small Ontario town’s solitary Chinese family, over the course of a summer.

Told through Su-Jen’s eyes, the hard life behind the scenes at the Dragon Café unfolds. Su-Jen’s elderly father and beautiful young mother are unhappy in their marriage. Su-Jen’s mother is miserable in this new small town.

Su-Jen is rapidly adapting to life in Canada and goes through all the ups and downs of a typical 1960s childhood. She develops a friendship with Charlotte, a spirited girl who behaves in a way that is older than her years. There is also tragedy, foreshadowed, yet still a shock when it finally occurs.

The first and last paragraphs of Midnight at the Dragon Café are poignant and are Su-Jen’s reflections on a fate she thinks should have been hers.

Dream When You’re Feeling Blue by Elizabeth Berg

Dream When You’re Feeling Blue by Elizabeth Berg (2007)
This novel tells the story of how a loving Chicago Irish family copes with WWII back home in the big city. The book centers around the three daughters who wait for their beaus and fiancées to return home safely from the war. A warm and well-researched depiction of life at home during the war.

Dream When You're Feeling Blue is the 2008 Big Read selection for Indian Prairie and nine other libraries. Check out all of the programs at area libraries in March and April -- you can listen to radio broadcasts, watch movies, learn to swing dance, and see WWII-era personalities come to life. The Big Read culminates with "An Evening with Elizabeth Berg" at Ashton Place on May 8.  

For more information on The Big Read, contact the library at 630-887-8760, visit our website, or read the February 20 Doings article.

Widow of the South by Robert Hicks

Widow of the South by Robert Hicks (2005)
Carrie McGavock has her plantation home turned into a hospital during the Battle of Franklin. When the field of battle might be plowed under for planting, Carrie turns her own yard into a cemetery for the re-burial of the dead.

The Serpent’s Daughter by Suzanne Arruda

The Serpent’s Daughter: A Jade del Cameron Mystery by Suzanne Arruda (2008)
This is the third entry in the Jade del Cameron mysteries. Jade grew up on a ranch in New Mexico and served as an ambulance driver during WWI. Her abilities to survive in extreme circumstances serve her well as her adventures take her to Colonial East Africa. In The Mark of the Lion, she searches for the murderer of her dead fiancé’s father and in Stalking Ivory, she tracks down elephant poachers. Her latest adventure takes her to Morocco where she is to meet her mother before heading off to Spain to buy a stallion for the family ranch. When Jade’s mother is kidnapped, Jade chases after Tangier to Marrakesh. These charming books are part mystery, part Saturday afternoon matinee adventure.

Check out the author's blog for information on Jade and the time period in which she lives.

City of Shadows by Ariana Franklin

City of Shadows by Ariana Franklin (2006)
The mysterious origins of Anna Anderson, who for sixty years proclaimed herself Anastasia, only survivor of the massacre of Czar Nicholas II’s family, are entwined with the rise of the Nazi party in 1920s and 1930s Berlin.

All the Way Home by Ann Tatlock

All the Way Home by Ann Tatlock (2002) This is the story of a young girl who finds a friend and a family with the Japanese American Hatsunes; however, they lose touch when World War II breaks out and the Hatsunes are interned. Years later she is reunited with her friend while working for the civil rights movement. The story is a clever juxtaposition of the social issues—the civil rights struggle of the 1960s and the incarceration of Japanese Americans in the 1940s.

The Legend of Fire Horse Woman by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston

The Legend of Fire Horse Woman by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston (2003)
Sayo, born under the disastrous sign of the Fire Horse, comes to California from Japan for an arranged marriage and years later during World War II is imprisoned with her family in a Japanese internment camp. A story which skillfully re-creates the limitations and loneliness of life in the Manzanar camp.

The March by E. L. Doctorow

The March by E. L. Doctorow (2005)
Characters as diverse as freed slaves, Confederate and Union soldiers, a Southern lady, German-born Union surgeon and General Sherman himself populate this very unromantic view of Sherman’s march through the South.

Doctorow was awarded the 2007 Chicago Tribune Literary Prize for lifetime achievement. The Tribune features an October 28 profile article of the author, a 2005 review of The March, and archived articles. Doctorow was presented with the award on November 4 at the Chicago Humanities Festival. You can also listen to an NPR interview about the book.

Tug of War by Barbara Cleverly

Tug of War by Barbara Cleverly (2007)
Joe Sandilands, a WWI vet working for Scotland Yard, is sent to France to see if a mute former soldier suffering from amnesia might actually be English. The soldier is claimed by several different families as their long lost son or husband, and Joe must wade through each story, some motivated by despair, some by greed, to find the identity of the damaged soldier.

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn (2007)
In 1886, Lady Julia Grey sees her husband collapse and die in the middle of a party at their London townhouse. Julia believes her husband died of natural causes, but, “not so” says Nicholas Brisbane, the mysterious and attractive private detective Julia’s husband had hired because he feared for his life. A charming, romantic book of suspense.

Zugzwang by Ronan Bennett

ZugzwangZugzwang by Ronan Bennett (2007)
In German, zugzwang is a term used in chess to describe a position in which a player is reduced to a state of utter helplessness. The action is set in pre-Revolutionary Russia: St. Petersburg, 1914. Dr. Otto Spethmann is a psychiatrist who is drawn into a murderous intrigue and an intriguing romance. It’s a deadly game, but good read.

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen

Her Royal SpynessHer Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen (2007)
In 1930, Lady Georgine is 34th in line for the English throne. Even though she is penniless, royalty just do not get jobs. Georgine starts a specialized maid service, opening and dusting the London townhouses of the landed gentry before they come up to town. However, Georgine’s only employee is herself. As a maid, invisible to people of the upper classes, Georgine finds herself in awkward positions, overhearing conversations and actually stumbling onto a dead body in this fun mystery.