The Whistler by John Grisham (2016)

In The Whistler (that is whistleblower), John Grisham introduces us to the Florida Board of Judicial Conduct’s investigation of the most corrupt judge in Florida’s history. An elusive character named Mix or Myers or maybe something else lodges a complaint with the board in hopes of an award for himself and his undisclosed client. Thus Lacy Stoltz and her colleague Hugo become involved in the most dangerous and compelling investigation of their board career. Their adventures cross paths with the coastal mafia and corruption at the casino run by the Tappacola Native American tribe. Lacy persists with the investigation even after Hugo is killed and she is terribly injured in an unlikely accident that suggests murder. With the FBI’s help, Lacy unravels this corrupt maze of hidden wealth, obscure identities and a convict on death row who should not be there.

Check out a review from The New York Times.

Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies by Ross King (2016)

In this engagingly readable mix of art, history, and biography, author Ross King details the later years of Claude Monet’s life. Set against the backdrop of WWI, Mad Enchantment documents Monet’s work on paintings both large and small as well as his life in Giverny, France (and his relationships with other artists such as Renoir and Rodin). The prolific artist, although hindered by grief and failing eyesight, produced the massive paintings found in l’Orangerie in Paris.

The Art Institute of Chicago plays a role in the book, too. Did you know its representatives tried to purchase the paintings that ended up in l’Orangerie? At least we have many other Monet works in Chicago. Whether you’re planning a trip to Paris or Chicago, or just want to learn more about one of the greats (who was not always admired during his lifetime), I recommend this book—I lost track of the number of times I thought, “I didn’t know that.”

 

The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar (2014)

Although this is not a fast-paced, action-packed book, I found it to be a page-turner due to the interesting, believable characters and how their lives and relationships are exposed throughout the story. The Story Hour touches on a number of issues, such as arranged marriage, infidelity, deception, betrayal, friendship, and secrets. Thrity Umrigar’s story is told from alternating perspectives: Lakshmi, who immigrates to America from India following an arranged marriage; and Maggie, a clinical psychologist, who starts to treat Lakshmi after her attempted suicide. An unlikely friendship unfolds, with unexpected twists and turns that kept me engaged til the end.

Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani (2003)

Most readers know Adriana Trigiani from her Big Stone Gap series, but she also writes great standalone novels. One of her most popular titles is Lucia, Lucia. In 1950s New York City, Lucia Sartori is a young apprentice to a new fashion designer. Lucia is engaged to be married, but her fiancé’s family doesn’t approve of her working. Forced to choose between marriage and career, she chooses her dream job. When a handsome stranger captures her heart, she believes in his dreams.

The world of the New York fashion scene is richly detailed. Readers who love stories about family, fashion, and New York will enjoy this book.

Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf (2017)

Amelia Winn is a well-respected nurse with a wonderful life. However, following a tragic accident, she is left deaf, falls into a deep depression, and turns to alcohol. She ends up losing all that is most important to her: her husband, her stepdaughter, and her job.

Two years later, Amelia is finally getting her life back together with a lot of help from Stitch, her best friend and service dog. One morning, while kayaking on the river, Amelia discovers the body of a former friend and coworker. Amelia becomes part of a very disturbing mystery that threatens to destroy her newly reconstructed life.

Not a Sound is a great thriller by Heather Gudenkauf, who just keeps getting better and better with each novel she writes. Very entertaining!

The Fisherman by John Langan (2016)

Two men have endured through the tragedy of what it means to become a widower. By being there for one another and bonding over their passion of fishing, they are able to slowly come to terms with their grief. However, upon discovery of a small body of water known as Dutchman’s Creek, they come across an age-old legend that may hold the secret to bringing their wives back from the dead. The book tells two stories: one of the two widowers and one of the titular Fisherman and the legend of how he cursed an entire town with his black magic.

The Fisherman is a horror story of human grief that transcends into fear at a much more cosmic scale. John Langan doesn’t shy away from his nightmarish portrayal of the afterlife and what it truly means in his world when someone is brought back from beyond. This novel takes realistic and grounded characters and introduces them to a world of horror that goes far beyond human comprehension. The Fisherman is a mature book for anyone that enjoys scary imagery and the fear of what may be lurking underneath our very feet.

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline (2017)

An interesting fictional memoir of the subject of the famous Andrew Wyeth painting: Christina’s World. Christina Olson lived her whole life on her family’s ancestral farm in Maine. Determined, hardworking, and stubborn, Christina never gave in to her crippling disease as it progressed throughout her lifetime. Andrew “Andy” Wyeth used the Olson house as his studio for many summers, befriending and immortalizing Christina.

In A Piece of the World, Christina Baker Kline (who wrote Orphan Train) makes readers wonder if the real Christina Olson was as endearing as this well-developed character. For more behind the scenes information, check out the Museum of Modern Art and Mental Floss.

The Red Box by Rex Stout (1937)

This story, published in the year of my birth, is still available as an eBook through IPPL. I enjoyed visiting with Nero Wolf and Archie again as they investigate the death of several persons, one by poison in Wolf’s office. This victim first asks Wolf to be his executor and notes the importance of the red box among the items in his estate but dies before he can reveal its whereabouts. The search for the box brings forth adventures for Archie and the police, but in the end, Wolf produces what appears to be the box and solves the mystery. The Red Box by Rex Stout is a good read about the eccentric Wolf in which he actually leaves his office on one unusual occasion.

Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane (2017)

What could have led Rachel, a journalist, to shoot her husband? In Since We Fell, the reader learns that Rachel has major trust issues after her mother passed away without revealing who Rachel’s father is. Rachel also suffers from post-traumatic stress after witnessing horrible events while reporting in Haiti. When Rachel begins to suspect that her husband has not been entirely truthful to her, her investigative instincts go into overdrive and lead her down a path she couldn’t possibly have imagined.

While the Dennis Lehane book begins slowly and is leisurely-paced for at least the first third, soon you are engrossed in Rachel’s story and can’t put it down. The relationship between Rachel and her husband is very reminiscent of the marriage in Gone Girl and readers of the novels of Peter Swanson will find much to love here.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (2017)

I dare you not to fall in love with the delightfully quirky Eleanor Oliphant. She is charming, logical, and socially awkward. In her early 30s, Eleanor struggles with falling in love, making friends, and connecting with colleagues—and it is slowly revealed that Eleanor’s dark childhood may have stunted her social development.

A cross between The Language of Flowers and The Rosie Project, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine will tug at your heartstrings. Gail Honeyman’s debut novel is set in Scotland, which will be immediately apparent if you listen to the audiobook (the narration by Scottish actress Cathleen McCarron is spot on). You’ll laugh and cry as Eleanor’s orderly solitary life is turned upside down.