Monday, November 9, 2015

Historical Mysteries

In the mood for a mystery from history?  The following modern day mysteries can only be solved by uncovering secrets from the past; some as far as 40 years back and some not so old.  All books listed here are available in print and a few stories are also on the audio book shelves.  Whatever your preference, enjoy the suspense. 

Natchez Burning by Greg Iles (2014) is historical fiction set in the present, but reflects back to events in the 1960’s, especially those centered on the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi and a splinter group of the Ku Klux Klan called the Double Eagles.  The stage is set for conflict, and the action begins with an aging nurse, Viola Turner, who returns home to Natchez for a peaceful death, but ends up murdered.  The main suspect is the doctor she worked for forty years ago, Tom Cage, who is less active in his advanced age, but still practicing medicine.  He has his share of secrets from the 1960’s and must enlist the help of his son, the mayor and former prosecutor, to keep from going to jail.  The action is plentiful and the suspense builds right to the end of the book.

The Bone Tree (2015) is the second book in the Penn Cage series, taking up exactly where the first story ends.  Most of the characters stay the same, except for the ones who’ve been killed off.  However, there’s no love lost between readers and the villain from the first book - a ruthless old man who built his power by torturing and killing his enemies.  The second villain is even more sinister because he’s a corrupt cop in a trusted government position, aided by other corrupt officials profiting from the drug trade in Louisiana.  This story moves beyond the Viola Turner murder case to numerous hate crimes still unsolved from the Civil Rights era.  The bone tree is mentioned in the first book, but saves its secrets for the second volume.  The third installment of the Natchez Burning series, Unwritten Laws, will be released in 2016. 

The Secret Place by Tara French (2014) features a Dublin detective, Stephen Moran, and a new partner, Antoinette Conway, who end up working the same cold case - the murder of a 16 year-old boy that took place at a reputable girls boarding school the previous year.  A new clue has turned up, so the detective duo head for the school to interview two groups of roommates who rank high on the suspicion scale.  Both groups have alpha females and a group of very loyal friends, always watching out for each other.  As with any good mystery, the prime suspect changes often, keeping everyone guessing who the killer is.  The storyline switches back and forth between the present day and one year ago, letting the murder unfold in one chapter, and coming back to the present in the next, as the detectives interview each girl in turn to sort out the truth.
Part of the Dublin Murder Squad series, The Secret Place is fifth in the series, but was easy to follow as a separate novel.  The library has the whole series.  Since the story revolves around the lives of teenagers, it would also be interesting for high school students, who may recognize some of their friends' mannerisms and speech patterns in these characters.  It seems that teens are similar whether they live in the U.S. or Ireland.  These teens are just a little scarier because of the secrets they hide.

After The Storm by Linda Castillo (2015) continues the saga of Police Chief Kate Burkholder, former member of the Amish community, who returned to her hometown of Painters Mill, Ohio because of her knowledge of local customs and ability to converse with the Amish in archaic German a.k.a. Pennsylvania Dutch.  A tornado leaves behind the usual wreckage, along with evidence of a murder involving an Amish family with secrets from the past, a trademark of the Kate Burkholder series. 

To find what drives the police chief from within, read Breaking Silence (2011) where readers learn about Kate’s own family secrets, what made her leave her Amish roots, and why she is so rattled by a series of killings in Painters Mill.  Fellow detective, John Tomasetti, is introduced in this book as he first antagonizes, and then forms a relationship with Kate that continues into future stories.  There are seven books in this series, with an eighth mystery, Among the Wicked, coming out in July, 2016. 

--Lynette Suckow, Reference Desk

Monday, November 2, 2015

A few good reads

The Egyptian by Mika Waltari (2002 reprint)
Written shortly after World War II, the novel The Egyptian was an international best seller, authored by one of Finland’s most prolific and famous writers.  Waltari interweaves exhaustive research with themes close to heart, including man’s search for a lasting ideal greater than himself, the death of innocence and the nature of truth.  He also uses ancient religion and politics to illustrate the modern struggle between despotism and freedom and between humanistic idealism and cynical real politik.
     The Egyptian is set in the Amarna period of ancient Egypt during the reigns of the pharaohs Amunhotep III, Akhenaten, and Horemheb, encompassing the last years of the eighteenth dynasty (1386 – 1293 B.C.E.), which was an era of great religions and political upheaval.  At this time there came to power a pharaoh, Akhnaton, who sought to replace the old gods with a relatively unknown deity called the Aton. Akhenaten’s ancestors had invested great wealth and power in their godly sponsor, who was called Amun,  that the wealth and the power of the priests of Amun began to rival that of the pharaoh.  Some Egyptologists think that Akhenaten was trying to re-establish a balance of power between Amun and the throne.  However, no one knows for certain why Akhenaten sought to depose this ancient God and set up a new state divinity.  He could have been a religious mystic, a political reformer, or more probably, a little of both.

Dersu the Trapper: A True Account by V.K. Arseniev (1996 reprint)
Dersu the Trapper has earned a privileged place in Russian literature.  In this Russian counterpart to the Journals of Lewis and Clark and the novels of James Fenimore Cooper, Arseniev combines the precise observations of a naturalist with an exciting narrative of real life adventures.  Arseniev describes three explorations in the Ussurian taiga along the Sea of Japan above Vladivostok, beginning with his first encounter of the solitary aboriginal hunter nomad Dersu, a member of the Gold tribe, who then becomes his guide.  Each expedition is beset with hardship and danger.  Through blizzard and flood, these men forge an exceptional friendship in their mutual respect for the immense grandeur of the wilderness.  But the bridges across language, race and culture also have limitations, and the incursion of civilization exacts its toll.  Dersu the Trapper is written as a first person account of Russia’s last frontier and a poignant memoir of rare cross-cultural understanding.  Originally published in 1941, this English translation is reprinted in its entirety now for the first time.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley (2015)
He lived his life like clockwork until he met the watchmaker.  In 1883 Thaniel Steepleton returned home to his small London apartment to find a gold pocket watch on his pillow.  Six months later, the mysterious timepiece saved his life, drawing him away from a blast that destroyed Scotland Yard.  He set out to find the watchmaker, Keita Mori, a kind, lonely immigrant from Japan.  Although Mori seemed harmless, a chain of unexplainable events soon suggested he must be hiding something.  When Grace Carrow, an Oxford physicist, unwittingly interfered with the investigation, Thaniel was torn between opposing loyalties.  The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is a sweeping, atmospheric narrative that takes the reader on an unexpected journey between Victorian London and faraway Japan, as its civil war crumbles long-standing traditions. Blending historical events with dazzling flights of fancy, it opens doors to a strange and magical past.  This is Pulley’s first novel.

The Plover by Brian Doyle (2014)
Declan O’Donnell has sailed out of Oregon, deep into the vast wild ocean, having had enough of other people and their problems.  He decides to go it alone, be his own country, beholden to no one.  No man is an island, but then he thinks that he is that very man.  Soon the galaxy soon presents him with a string of odd, entertaining, and dangerous passengers, who become companions of every sort and stripe. The Plover is the story of their adventures and misadventures in the immense blue country one of their company calls Pacifica. Hounded by a mysterious enemy, reluctantly acquiring one new resident after another, O'Donnell's lonely boat is eventually crammed with humor, argument, tension, and a resident herring gull.  Brian Doyle's story is a sea novel, a maritime adventure, the story of a cold man melting, a compendium of small miracles, a watery quest, a battle at sea, and a rapturous, heartfelt celebration of life's surprising paths, planned and unplanned.

The Trigger by Tim Butcher (2014)
On a summer morning in Sarajevo almost a hundred years ago, a teenager took a pistol out of his pocket and fired not just the opening rounds of the First World War but the starting gun for modern history. By killing Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Gavrilo Princip, started a cycle of events that would leave 15 million dead from fighting between 1914 and 1918 and proved fatal for empires and a way of ruling that had held for centuries.
      The Trigger tells the story of a young man who changed the world forever. It focuses on the drama of the incident itself by following Prinip’s journey. By retracing his steps from the feudal frontier village of his birth, through the mountains of the northern Balkans to the great plain city of Belgrade and ultimately Sarajevo, Tim Butcher illuminates our understanding of Princip— the person and the place that shaped him—and makes discoveries about him that have eluded historians for a hundred years. Traveling through the Balkans on Princip’s trail, and drawing on his own experiences there as a war reporter during the 1990s, Butcher unravels this complex part of the world and its conflicts, and shows how the events that were sparked that day in June 1914 still have influence today. Published for the centenary of the assassination, The Trigger is a rich and timely work, part travelogue, part reportage, and part history.

--Stan Peterson, Head of Maintenance

Thursday, October 29, 2015


It’s hard to believe fall is here again. The time is perfect for hot apple cider, a warm slice of pie, Halloween candy and a great book. To get into the holiday spirit, here are some great books to get you in the spooky mood.

Severed, by Scott Snyder, Scott Tuft, and Attila Futaki

At the turn of the century, young Jack Garron runs away from home to find his father, a wayward minstrel. While riding the rails, he meets a charming traveling salesman whose smile hides a secret. Under the fake veneer, a mouth full of shape teeth hunger for human flesh. What will Jack do? Will anyone be able to save him? From comic book legend Scott Snyder, Eisner Award winning author of Batman and American Vampire, author Scott Tuft, and Hungarian artist Attila Futaki, of the Percy Jackson graphic novels, Severed is sure to keep you up at night.

The Haunted Season, by G. M. Malliet

If you’re in the mood for a spooky mystery, G. M. Malliet’s newest novel in the Max Tudor series, The Haunted Season, is the perfect fit. Max Tudor, a handsome cleric and former MI5 agent, lives and works in the sleepy English village of Nether Monkslip. When Lord and Lady Baaden-Boomethistle take up residence at Totleigh Hall, they hope to return their title and the manor to their former glory, bestowing good tidings on the village and its residents.  However, after a suspicious death on the grounds, it is up to Max Tudor to solve the mystery. From Agatha Award winning G. M. Malliet, this cozy mystery is great for readers who enjoy Louise Penny, Martha Grimes and Agatha Christie.

No One Gets Out Alive, by Adam Nevill

Seasoned English author Adam Nevill’s new horror story No One Gets Out Alive follows a young woman named Stephanie as she moves out on her own and rents a room in the Perry Bar neighborhood of Birmingham, England.  She doesn’t quite understand why the room she rented is called “The Cell,” the ceilings are high, the room is spacious, and the windows are large. However, the longer she stays in “the Cell,” the more bizarre her experience becomes. She begins to hear noises in the night, and objects in her room will move without warning. With a mischievous landlord and little financial resources, it is up to Stephanie to discover who haunts her room and how to rid herself of the terror.

A Head Full of Ghosts, by Paul Tremblay

Fans of Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, and Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist are sure to enjoy the latest novel from acclaimed author Paul Tremblay, A Head Full of Ghosts. On the outside, the Barretts seem like every other family in their New England community. However, when 14-year old Marjorie begins to act strangely, the family quickly believes it is demonic possession. Because of their financial situation, Marjorie’s parents agree to host a reality show documenting the everyday struggles and hunt for a cure to Marjorie’s possession. But is the possession real, or just the overactive imagination of a teenaged girl? Told from the perspective of a reporter recounting the events from Marjorie’s younger sister Merry, the narrative is unique and engaging.

Ghostly: A collection of ghost stories, edited by Audrey Niffenegger

There is no better way to get into the ghostly spirit than reading some great short stories. In Ghostly: A collection of ghost stories, Audrey Niffenegger, of The Time Traveler’s Wife fame, brings together contemporary and classical ghost stories. From Edgar Allen Poe to Neil Gaiman, Edith Wharton to Ray Bradburry, Ghostly is sure to have a story just for you. What is unique about this anthology is its historical retrospective, selecting stories from the beginning of the horror genre in the eighteenth century, to modern, techno-horror. The inclusion of original artwork by Niffenegger and an original story titled A Secret Life With Cats makes this a charming read.

American Ghost: A family’s haunted past in the Desert Southwest, by Hannah Nordhaus

In this personal search to uncover the truth behind a family legend, noted journalist Hannah Nordhaus investigates the alleged hauntings at La Posada, a grand hotel in Santa Fe. In the 1970s, odd, paranormal events started happening; fireplaces would turn on and off by themselves, vases would move on their own and in one room in particular, the bed would be ripped of its sheets, mysterious lights would appear, and the room would change temperatures without notice. The ghost allegedly haunting La Posada is Nordhaus’ great-great-grandmother, Julia Schuster Staab, who appears as a translucent figure in a black gown and dark eyes. Join the author in the spine-chilling book about family history, ghost hunters and lore. Available in print and as a CD Book.

--Tracy Boehm, Technical Services Librarian

Monday, October 26, 2015

More Supplementary Reading for One Book One Community

A few more books about books to prolong your enjoyment of the current community read.            

The 2015 One Book One Community program began October 1. Programming continues through October 20. Our 10th anniversary selection is Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. Print and audio copies of this book can be checked out of your library, inter-loaned from other libraries or purchased at local bookstores.

The beautifully illustrated History of the Book in 100 Books by Roderick Cave and Sara Ayad traces book technology from Egyptian times to the e-book. Readers discover that the history of the book and the printed word has undergone constant change since the first inscriptions made on cave walls. The author and visual artist have chosen 100 works from around the world to explain the role each has played in the development of books and writing and the expansion of literacy and knowledge. They start with cave paintings from 16,000 BCE, move through Apicus, "the earliest serious cookbook surviving," that was transcribed in Germany in 830 CE, and conclude with e-books (which are thought, by many, to have been prototyped by a school teacher in Spain in 1949), manga, and crowd- (and cloud-) sourced fiction.

Sitting on a milk crate in her grandfather’s butcher shop, reading voraciously, Cara Nicoletti realized how good books and good food make people happy. In Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks her way Through Great Books, readers are introduced to Nicoletti and her family, her reflections on a number of classic works and fifty recipes inspired by her favorite stories. Try brown butter crepes (Gone Girl) for breakfast, clam chowder (Moby-Dick, of course) for lunch, and gingerbread cake with blood orange syrup for an evening snack (Hansel and Gretel). All are charmingly presented by this essayist who is also a butcher and a cook.

Gutenberg’s Apprentice by Alix Christie is so enthralling that my husband and I listened to it during two car trips downstate this summer. The characters, the demanding efforts of the printers, and 15th-century Mainz society are so well depicted in this work of historical fiction that we felt we were in Gutenberg’s workshop, watching eagerly as a font was designed, molded and poured, as lines and pages of text were meticulously laid out, as page after page of Gutenberg’s Bible was finished in a race against church greed, jealous guilds, Elder politics, superstition, plague and the fall of Constantinople. (It’s a long book.) The story is anchored by Peter Schoeffer whose foster father, Johann Fust, apprenticed the young Paris scribe to the demanding Gutenberg to be his eyes in the workshop which he supported financially and to hurry along the evolving technology which Fust believed would revolutionize the publishing world.

Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair is a fun, jumbled, comic, fantasy, mystery tied in with time travel and romance. Set in a 1985 alternative England where people take their literature very seriously, Special Operative literary agent Thursday Next sets out to thwart the evil schemes of Acheron Hades, the world’s third most wanted villain. Hades steals a prose portal device that allows people to enter works of literature and begins kidnapping characters from their books. After Jane Eyre is taken, Thursday is assisted by Mr. Rochester in recovering Jane, catching Hades, destroying the portal and providing a satisfying end to the story.

Simon Watson is a librarian who lives alone in the family’s crumbling house above Long Island Sound. An antiquarian bookseller finds Simon’s grandmother’s name inside an old log kept by the owner of an 18th-century traveling circus and sends him the diary. Inside the log may be the clues Simon needs to solve the family curse. The women in his family, including his mother, were excellent swimmers and circus mermaids who all drown on July 24. Simon fears for his sister Enola, who returns home in June after running away to join a traveling show. Simon’s story alternates with those of the members of the 18th-centry troupe in Erika Swyler’s Book of Speculation.

Moored on the Seine, we discover Monsieur Perdu, the literary apothecary who runs a floating bookstore on a barge in Nina George’s The Little Paris Bookshop. Perdu dispenses books that mend the hearts and souls of his customers. Perdu’s own heart, however, remains broken ever since Manon, the love of his life, abruptly disappeared 21 years ago. Perdu has steadfastly refused to read the letter Manon mailed shortly after her departure.  When empty-handed Catherine moves into his apartment building she finds the letter in the drawer of a table Perdu gives her. At Catherine’s urging Perdu reads Manon’s letter then pulls up anchor to travel upriver to the south of France hoping to find forgiveness and healing.  Perdu is joined on his journey by Max, a young author running away from his fame, a woman they save when she falls in to the stormy river, and an Italian chef searching for his long-lost love.

New to the Reference shelves is Magill’s Literary Annual with essay-reviews of 200 outstanding books published in the United States during the previous year. Our subscription also provides free 24-hour online access to thousands of reviews which are helpful to students, book group participants and general readers. You may access this resource on our website,, under the Research tab. Happy reading whether it be in-person or remote, on paper, audio or digital.  

--Cathy Seblonka, Collection Development/Reference Librarian