MY SOUL TO TAKE by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir

February 16, 2015

Thora Gudmundsdottir Novels of Iceland

Thóra Gudmundsdóttir isn’t averse to cases that are a bit weird, but her latest might be hard to defend. A client intent on opening a wellness spa claims that his recently purchased land is haunted. This supposed haunting is bad for his business’s mojo and he believes the previous owners had to have been aware of it. Even his employees talk as though it’s been a long-time subject of local gossip.

Thóra is definitely skeptical but the promise of some R&R and spa treatments convinces her to at least take a look. Things become complicated, however, when her client’s architect turns up dead the same day Thóra arrives. Now, what should have been a weekend interview and a few formalities has become a murder investigation with Thóra’s client as the prime suspect.

I really enjoy this series, particularly thanks to the incorporation of Icelandic history and folklore in the plot. In this instance, it’s WWII history and the folktales of Jón Árnason. So far there’s a nice supernatural leaning to each of the books as well, something that’s promised to continue in the subsequent titles (there are currently four books available in the series with the fifth set to hit shelves shortly).

There’s lots of great development as far as Thóra is concerned, what with her relationship and her children, and I’m thoroughly enjoying following her character. As for the mystery itself, this second of the series wasn’t quite as tightly plotted as its predecessor, Last Rituals, but was still pretty enthralling overall.

2/15 Becky LeJeune

MY SOUL TO TAKE by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir. William Morrow (February 3, 2015). ISBN: 978-0062330260. 352p.

THE GHOST SHIFT by John Gapper

January 26, 2015

Click to purchase

John Gapper’s first novel is a riveting express paced book taking us into the world of modern day China.

Song Mei is a young woman who has been taken into the government Commission for Discipline Inspection and been in training to probe political corruption. She is considered a member with a bright future. Out of the blue she is taken to the scene of a police investigation of the death of a young woman and is jolted by the dead girl.

The woman is the exact replica of Song Mei, both in features and body form. Song immediately comes to the inescapable conclusion that the dead girl is related to her since any other explanation would not be creditable. Her superiors tell her to not attempt any investigation of the crime but Song’s every thought is to find out about her and what were the factors causing her death.

The novel takes us into the higher echelons of the party, a connection with the American CIA, the finding of Song’s parents and identifying the dead girl. Action involves a trip to the United States, the investigation of a Chinese manufacturer of electronic control boards and the discovery of an international conspiracy to spy on key figures in both the US and China.

Gapper has created a fascinating young lady about whom another book should be written following her adventures and providing more sleepless nights for his readers. A very well done book by a very promising author.

1/15 Paul Lane

THE GHOST SHIFT by John Gapper. Ballantine Books (January 20, 2015). ISBN: 978-0345527929. 320p.

THE THIRD TARGET by Joel C. Rosenberg

January 11, 2015

Click to purchase

Rosenberg ties in a brilliant novel of conflict and terror in the Middle East with a story about two crusading foreign correspondents. These are men that live to get that story and will do anything to be first on the scene, scooping the competition and delivering the news as quickly as possible to the readers of the services they work for.

The first reporter we meet is A. B. Collins, who had been granted an interview with the King of Jordan forty years previously. He is a reporter working for the Associated Press and goes to the place where the King has agreed to meet him. Events ensue preventing the meeting but allowing A. B. a major scoop.

In the next segment, J.B. Collins, grandson of A.B. and a foreign correspondent for the New York Times, manages a meeting with a jailed officer of ISIS and learns of their plan to launch an attack on a third country. The terrorist’s insinuation is that ISIS has obtained weapons of mass destruction, quite possibly poison gas which they will use in their attack on the country they have in mind.

Action accelerates, J.B. meets and begins a love affair with a beautiful agent of the Israeli Mossad. He then manages to arrange a meeting with the actual head of ISIS held in a Jordanian prison and is advised that the terror group does have poison gas. In a well executed escape from the prison by the Terrorists, J.B. is forced to view the killing by the gas of several members of the prison’s authorities.

Next on J.B.’s list of events is to witness and write about a high level meeting in Jordan of the U.S. president, the King of Jordan, the prime minister of Israel and the head of the Palestinian people living next to Israel. The events of the meeting’s organization and what happens there are realistically described by Rosenberg, who in several prior books, has proven himself a master of events that took place and are taking place in the volatile Middle East.

The ending is a well executed cliff hanger that is obviously page one of the next book, in what should be more than one, possibly more novels utilizing the author’s prodigious knowledge of what is really happening in the Middle East.

1/15 Paul Lane

THE THIRD TARGET by Joel C. Rosenberg. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (January 6, 2015). ISBN: 978-1414336275. 448p.

ASYLUM CITY by Liad Shoham

December 10, 2014

Click to Purchase

Tel Aviv police officer Anat Nachmias gets her first murder case when a young woman is found dead in her apartment. The victim is Michal Poleg, who worked helping African refugees settle into Israel.

One of the refugees she helped was Gabriel, who had emigrated along with his sister, but she was kidnapped, and he doesn’t even know if she’s alive. Then Gabriel comes forward and confesses that he killed Michal, but his story doesn’t jive with the evidence.

Nachmias’s bosses just want the case closed, and she angers her co-workers and superiors when she continues to investigate. Michal’s boss, Itai, also doesn’t believe Gabriel and he works with Nachmias to try to figure out who really killed Michal and why Gabriel is taking the fall.

This in depth look at the immigration crisis in Tel Aviv somewhat mirrors the problems, both political and real, in the U.S., and adds some complexity to this thriller. A strong sense of foreboding runs throughout the book and makes this a real page-turner.

Shoham is one of the bestselling thriller writers in Israel, and this is his second book, after the excellent Line Up, that has been published in the U.S.

Copyright ©2014 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association.

12/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

ASYLUM CITY by Liad Shoham. Harper (December 9, 2014). ISBN 978-0062237538. 352p.

THE BETRAYERS by David Bezmozgis

October 8, 2014

Click to purchase

This short novel by Bezmozgis is about one day in the life of Baruch Kotler a dissident Israeli politician that had emigrated from the Soviet Union years ago.  His views on the Israeli West Bank settlements run contrary to the popular view of his contemporaries.

As a result, they attempt to ruin him and his reputation by exposing an affair he is having with a  woman much younger than he is.  In order to escape the notoriety the two escape to Yalta, the Crimean resort that Baruch is familiar with from his youth.

By a coincidence, they accept lodgings in the home of a man that had lied about Baruch years ago and caused him to be sent to the Gulag at that time. Kotler had spent years plotting a revenge against the man if they ever ran into each other again.

Bezmozgis brings us into the thoughts and emotions of both men when they meet after so many years. His doing so is a masterpiece of literary creation.  They become alive in the author’s hand as do his enemy’s wife as well as the young lady traveling with Kotler.

Four people, with all the weaknesses and strengths that they have are brought to life and provide us with a brilliant picture of human emotion and reaction.  Very well done.

10/14 Paul Lane

Little, Brown and Company (September 23, 2014). ISBN 978-0316284332. 240p.

THE BOOK OF YOU by Claire Kendal

June 14, 2014

Click to purchase

What began as a blur of an evening and a one-night-stand has become all out terror for Clarissa. She was recently single when she attended Rafe’s book signing. A few glasses of wine and one thing led to another, but Clarissa was never really interested in things going further. Unfortunately for her, Rafe isn’t willing to take no for an answer. He’s everywhere – outside her house in the morning, hanging around her office at work… He leaves her gifts and constantly pursues her. It’s gotten to the point that Clarissa is afraid to leave her home.

When Clarissa is chosen for jury duty on a long- term trial, she’s relieved. Some time off from work and a change in routine might finally mean a break from Rafe’s unwanted attention. She couldn’t be more wrong. As the stalking escalates, Clarrisa becomes certain Rafe will not stop until she gives in. But the case she’s sitting on hits close to home and Clarissa isn’t sure anyone can help.

Claire Kendal’s debut is an intense psychological thriller similar in theme to Elizabeth Haynes’s Into the Darkest Corner. It’s also a quite emotional read – Clarissa’s frustration at her situation and the authorities’ response were maddening. The violence is quite graphic (again akin to Haynes’s work), and I wouldn’t recommend The Book of You to readers who may be sensitive to explicit detail in that regard. Fans of Karin Slaughter and – as mentioned – Elizabeth Haynes, however, will not want to miss Kendal’s first release.

6/14 Becky Lejeune

THE BOOK OF YOU by Claire Kendal. Harper; First Edition edition (May 6, 2014). ISBN 978-0062297600. 368p.


June 8, 2014

Click to purchase

Marcus Goldman’s debut made him a star in the literary world, but that fame has also left him in the maddening grip of writer’s block. Unable to produce a new book, his publisher has begun rumbling about lawsuits and his agent has all but given up on him. When his mentor, acclaimed author Harry Quebert, invites him to visit, offering him a distraction-free chance to relax and concentrate on his writing, Marcus heartily agrees. But still, inspiration doesn’t come. Desperate, Marcus begins a hunt for Harry’s own original manuscript but makes a startling discovery instead: in 1975, Harry met and fell in love with a fifteen-year-old girl named Nola. That same year, Nola disappeared without a trace.

As his time with Harry draws to an end and his deadline comes ever nearer, Marcus is no closer to finishing his book. But upon his return to New York, he receives news that Harry has been arrested for murder. A body – the body of Nola Kellergan – has been discovered on his land and Harry is the prime suspect. Marcus believes his mentor is guilty only of having loved the young girl and vows to prove his innocence. In the process, he also begins to write again.

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair is one of a handful of books I’ve been looking forward to with great anticipation this year. Fortunately for me it lived up to – and possibly even exceeded – my every expectation. It’s a wonderful mystery and a perfect homage to everything bookish.

The tale is tightly plotted and plays out at the perfect pace, which is fortunate for anyone who may be antsy about a 600+ page debut. Even if the size is somewhat intimidating, I found it to be quite a quick read.


6/14 Becky Lejeune

THE TRUTH ABOUT THE HARRY QUEBERT AFFAIR by Joël Dicker.  Penguin Books; First Edition edition (May 27, 2014). ISBN 978-0143126683. 656p.