Tuesday, April 8, 2014

What happened to Judge Crater?


http://alisweb.org/record=b12076890The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon
Inspired by a real-life unsolved mystery, Lawhon’s first novel is a fascinating look at the politics and social milieu of the 1930’s.

Joseph Force Crater, a 41-year-old New York City Supreme Court justice, vanished while out on a night on the town in August of 1930.  No one was ever charged with any crime. His body was never found. 

Ariel Lawhon has taken these facts and woven an intricate story of three women in his life. The book begins with Crater’s wife Stella, tired of his affair with his mistress Sally Lou Ritz, slamming the car door on his hand. The Judge leaves for New York City to see his mistress and within a day has disappeared. 

The Crater’s maid, Maria, is a very attractive Castillian.  She is married to Jude Simon, the lead detective assigned to investigate the disappearance of Judge Crater. The main suspect, the infamous gangster Owney Madden, owns Club Abbey, and uses his power to influence politics and politicians.

Lawhon intersperses the story of Stella, Sally Lou Ritz and Maria to tell the story of how she imagines the judge disappeared. The reader is left to conjecture who really was responsible and how and why they did it.  As a reader, I couldn’t wait for the conclusion. Although I think the ending was a little less believable than I would have liked, I really enjoyed each of the women’s stories and especially enjoyed all the historical facts included in the book. The author is adept at bringing you into the story and really feeling what it was like to live at that time. Recommended!



Monday, February 3, 2014

Come and Gone

http://alisweb.org/record=b12036262
Imagine if your only son had drowned on his eighth birthday, over forty years ago. You and your spouse would have mourned and eventually gotten on with your lives. Now, how would you react if your boy came back today, eight years old and ready to resume his life. And he isn’t alone; dead people are returning all over the world to the people and places that they loved. This is the premise of the novel The Returned by Jason Mott.

At first these returnees are greeted with delight, but as more and more people appear, a tipping point for space and supplies causes forced incarceration and rationing. Interned in a prison camp, Jacob the eight year old returnee, is joined by his living father who watches over him, as wave after wave of the departed fight for cots and food. The living are pitted against the newly living and both begin behaving badly. In the end, this incident will bring out the best and the worst of humankind.

This is a thought provoking novel for anyone who has yearned to be reunited just one last time with a relative or a friend who has died. It explores what might happen if this should become a reality, and recalls the old warning “be careful what you wish for.” The Returned is also the basis of a television series, “Resurrection” that debuts in March.

If The Returned interests you, also try The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta. This book is almost the reverse of Mott’s novel as, instead of the dead returning to life, some of the living one day just disappear. Perrotta explores how a small town has coped with this major disruption three years later and how no resident has been left untouched.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Thrills and Chills

Here are some books to keep you up at night:

Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman


A cold and snowy winter morning in the Adirondack Mountains brings devastation to Nora Hamilton’s life when she finds her Police Officer husband hanging from a frayed rope, an apparent suicide.  Disturbed that she had no idea he was suicidal, Nora starts to ask questions hoping to shed some light on the tragedy.   Surprisingly his co-workers and family seem intent on keeping her from finding answers and Nora discovers that some small towns will go to great lengths to keep past secrets buried.


Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Journalist Scott McGrath destroyed his career and family when he made unfounded accusations about cult-horror-film director Stanislas Cordova.  Convinced that the reclusive filmmaker is involved in something sinister, McGrath decides to investigate when Cordova’s daughter apparently commits suicide.  As he goes deeper and deeper into Cordova’s creepy world McGrath finds that nothing is quite how it seems.


NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

Charles Manx is no ordinary serial killer as most people think.  Instead of killing the children he kidnaps he takes them in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with a NOS4A2 vanity plate to a terrifying place called “Christmasland,” a place not part of the real world.  After escaping from prison Manx goes after Vic McQueen who sent him there as a child.  Vic, who has an extraordinary ability of her own, now finds that it is up to her to stop Manx from taking her own son to “Christmasland.”



Saturday, December 7, 2013

An Oldie But Most Certainly A Goodie!

SHADOW OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruiz Zafón


http://alisweb.org/record=b12010289
Every so often you come across a book that draws you in so completely that you don’t want to leave the characters or setting. Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth and its two sequels entranced me; Jean Auel’s Earth’s children series beginning with the Clan of the Cave Bear likewise was enthralling.

And now Shadow of the Wind has taken its place as one of my favorite books. The New York Times review "Gabriel García Márquez meets Umberto Eco meets Jorge Luis Borges for a sprawling magic show” only begins to hint at all the intrigue, the wonderful language and the richness of the novel.

In 1950’s Barcelona, Daniel Sempere is 10 years old when he is taken by his bookseller father to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a massive sanctuary where books are guarded from oblivion. Daniel is allowed to have one book to protect; he selects The Shadow of the Wind, by Julian Carax. He reads it, loves it, and soon learns it is both very valuable and very much in danger because someone is determinedly burning every copy of every book written by the obscure Carax.

The story will move back and forth from Julian Carax’ own history years before and that of Daniel. Many parallels weave their threads between the two stories, each as thrilling and fascinating as the other.

There are many totally original and unforgettable characters that will remain with you long after you have closed the book. And, if you have been to Barcelona or have planned to go there, the author enriches the book further at the end with a guided tour of all the places in the novel. 

Highly, highly recommended!