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Grandad, There’s a Head on the Beach by Colin Cotterill (2012)

Like all of Colin Cotterill’s mystery novels, Grandad, There’s a Head on the Beach is laugh-out-loud funny with an underlying seriousness. It is a tightly plotted mystery involving corrupt cops, slavery, and some self-serving charities!

This is the second in the series with Jimm Juree, an unemployed crime reporter, and her eccentric Thai family. In a rural village on the coast of Southern Thailand (where her family has purchased a run-down resort), Jimm finds a severed human head washed up on the beach. Of course, she must follow her crime reporter instincts and solve the mystery! The plot, as it turns out, centers on a topic which has gotten some attention in America of late: the exploitation of Burmese refugees in Thailand.

A Cold Day in Paradise by Steve Hamilton (1998)

I love a good mystery series and this book entranced me with the awkward characters who are flawed in loveable ways. Set in the upper peninsula of Michigan, usually in winter, the twisted plot vibrates with suspense. I was so taken with the first book, I immediately checked out Winter of the Wolf Moon (2000). What really impressed me is the subtle changes in relationships from book one to book two. Read A Cold Day in Paradise by Steve Hamilton today.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton (2012)

In England, sixteen-year-old Laurel witnesses a shocking crime during a summer house party. Fifty years later, Laurel is a successful actress living in London. As the family gathers at the ancestral house for her mother’s 90th birthday, Laurel tries to discover what really happened so many years ago.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton goes back and forth from the present to WWII London following the life of her mother and two other people. A VERY satisfying ending. I cannot stop thinking about it.

For other books where the past impacts the present, check out our bibliography.
 
 

A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd (2011)

Bess Crawford is a nursing sister in France during World War I, but she finds time during leave in England to become immersed with the secretive Ellis family and to take it upon herself to help solve a murder or two when she isn't tracking down a child who looks suspiciously like the long-deceased Ellis daughter.

Read A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd today.

Creole Belle by James Lee Burke (2012)

Gritty and graphic, James Lee Burke again deftly perpetuates his Dave Robicheaux series. Creole Belle explores the darkest corners of crime in Louisiana. Burke's true gift lies in his lyrical style. You can see the Spanish moss and smell the rotting bodies. His main characters are flawed creatures but, oh so interesting. Once I started reading, I savored the excitement and the over the top plot, which is Burke's signature style.

 

Size 12 and Ready to Rock by Meg Cabot (2012

After a five year wait, Heather Wells finally returns in Size 12 and Ready to Rock, the latest installment of this chick lit mystery series by Meg Cabot. Don’t worry if you haven’t read the previous three books – or, like me, you don’t remember the specifics – it’s easy to jump back into Heather’s zany life.

At 15, Heather Wells was a famous pop star who traveled the globe. At 30, she’s the assistant residence hall director at Fischer Hall (aka “Death Dorm”) in NYC. There’s another dead body and another mystery to solve, but more importantly, plenty of humor. I think I had a smile on my face for much of the novel. Escape for a few hours with this entertaining and engaging story.

To see how it all began, check out my review of Size 12 is Not Fat. And for more chick lit, check out our book list.

Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick (2012)

Robert Goolrick, author of A Reliable Wife, just keeps getting better. This Gothic novel, set in a tiny village in Virginia in 1948, reveals the dark obsessive love of the town's strange newcomer for the wife of the town's richest and nastiest man. Off stage, but still caught up in this story, is an eleven-year-old boy, who takes a lifetime to understand what happened.

Goolrick captures the hypocrisy of the town's churchmen and their power over the people. All the characters become entangled in the dilemma. More importantly Goolrick intrigues us with intricate and hypnotic delineation of his characters, making us wonder, "How much control do we really have in our lives?"

Check out Heading Out to Wonderful today.

An Isolated Incident by Susan R. Sloan (1998)

Interesting page turner set in the Pacific Northwest - a popular high school teacher is arrested for the murder of one of his students. Police have worked for months to catch a suspect, but do they have the right man? This novel explores how quickly hatred and bigotry can destroy a person's life. A good mystery.

Check out An Isolated Incident by Susan R. Sloan.

Defending Jacob by William Landay (2012)

Many staff members at the library were reading this novel, so I could not wait to get my hands on a copy! It's a great novel with a surprise twist thrown in at the end.

Andy Barber, a desperate father who works for the District Attorney's office, tries his best to help his son after he is accused of murdering a fellow classmate. This book is one of those gems that will keep you up long into the night turning pages.

Read Defending Jacob by William Landay today.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012)

How well do you know the person you love? This becomes the central question during the disappearance of Amy, the wife of Nick Dunne. Nick and Amy are two writers that met and fell in love in New York. After economy tanks, they both lose their jobs and move back to Nick’s childhood home in Missouri. Financial worries put a strain on their already troubled marriage.

Then, on their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy disappears and Nick is the prime suspect with the evidence mounting against him. As the story moves through the days after the disappearance, you begin to question the truth as its being told from Nick and Amy’s perspective. This psychological thriller is a must read.

Read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn today and check back next month for Laura’s take on the book!

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (2008)

The White Tiger is a dark and funny novel which plunges the reader deep into the underbelly of modern India, a place where people are still very much prisoners to their own caste. The story unfolds as a series of letters to a Chinese official, and it is this device which brings the main character to life, revealing his wit, his flaws, and his deepest inner thoughts. We follow Balram through his daily life which is so oppressively frightening on the one hand but presented in such absurd scenarios that I actually laughed out loud.

Well written, and exploding with symbolism, the story is really about Balram’s struggle for freedom—freedom from “the Darkness” where most people live in subhuman conditions. It is a quick read, and after the first chapter, you won’t be able to put it down.

And since it’s such a quick read, those of you in your 20s and 30s should read it this weekend and join our GenLit Book Discussion Group on Monday, July 16 at 6:30 at Taste of India in Willowbrook. Get your copy of The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga today.

Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James (2011)

P. D. James helps the reader by beginning with an introduction to the Bennetts of Longbourg, the family of Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice. For those of us who struggled through that earlier work, this introduction was essential. I enjoyed this mystery about this family set in the early 19th century with strong values of duty, honor and family integrity (as well as some outright scoundrels).

Unlike James’ other novels, there is no keen detective work; the reader must seek the solution from testimony (some incomplete or misleading) at inquest, trial and later statements made by the players. I was surprised to learn who the real killer was and like one of the principals (Darcy), very happy to see the troublemaker off to America.

Pick up a copy of Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James today.

 
 

The Mysterium by P.C. Doherty (2012)

History, mixed with sinister mystery and, well plotted too, is like a jewel in the crown. Hugh Corbett in the King Edward's I service is forcibly retained to solve a series of brutal murders. The streets of Medieval London reek with bloody minded gangs and high born assassins. You do not have to read the other books in the series to appreciate The Mysterium, but you may want to after reading this.

Read The Mysterium by P.C. Doherty.

Defending Jacob by William Landay (2012)

An unforgettable page-turner with surprising plot twists and well-developed, complex characters. Anyone who enjoys reading mysteries or legal thrillers will want to read this book. It takes you on a suspenseful and emotional roller coaster ride that touches on many family and social issues, and gives you a lot to think about. This would be a great choice for book clubs as well!

Check out Defending Jacob by William Landay.
 

Unwanted by Kristina Ohlsson (2012)

Kristina Ohlsson joins the ranks of Scandinavian authors who delve into the dark, sick side of the human condition. Her main character, Fredrika Bergman, is an enigmatic woman trying to find her niche in the male dominated world of police work.

The story starts with a report of a missing child taken from a train. At first, the case does not send any evil vibrations, but then events escalate. Another child is taken and then another. Fredricka intuits that her team is on the wrong track. As the case expands, Ohlsson reveals the inner turmoil and personal problems of her characters, thus pulling the reader more deeply into the story.

Although this book received starred reviews and the author limits the graphic descriptions to a minimum, the dark side is still out there.

One word of caution: the subject matter traces the path of a psychopath and his quirky, ugly reactions to being an abused child, and not everyone is comfortable with this type of material.

Read Unwanted today and share your thoughts on the book here.