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Cold Wind by C. J. Box (2011)

coldwindC. J. Box does allegories as well as any author; in Cold Wind, we have consistent characters portraying Vengeance, justice, evil conniving, integrity, family loyalty, weakness, and corruption. See if you can tell who they are as you read this gripping tale of game warden Joe Pickett’s family living through troubling times of murder, accusation, and the temptations of wealth. His mother-in-law is accused and often appears pitiful in the proceedings, but Joe is not misled as he tries to do the right thing. Also, you’ll get a view of how government support may make wind energy a principal source in our environmentally focused economy and whether this is the right path.

The Muse by Jessie Burton (2016)

museAlternating between 1930s Spain and 1960s London, The Muse is a compelling story with its threads tied together by a painting and its artist. In the months leading up to the Spanish Civil War, teenager Olive Schloss struggles with identity, relationships, and artistry. In 1967 England, Trinidadian writer Odelle faces similar challenges. Early on in Jessie Burton's sophomore novel (after The Miniaturist), it's obvious that a mystery in the plots of the parallel narratives will be resolved; the surprise (and joy) is in how Burton accomplishes it.

This novel is for fans of historical fiction and art-related novels such as The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes, The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro, and That Summer by Lauren Willig. Plus, check out our book list featuring Art & Artists.

Spotlight on Horror Novels to Read This October: Part 2

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
headfullofghostsReality TV is perhaps one of the most simultaneously loved and hated forms of entertainment to ever exist. Many of us feel a sense of intrigue and fascination in having a fly on the wall perspective of lives that we ourselves will never experience, yet many of us find the idea of peering into the lives of other people to be disturbing. A Head Full of Ghosts takes the idea of reality television and crosses it with one of the most exploited genres in all of horror: demonic possession.

Set in New England, the Barret family's happy life is torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins showing signs of schizophrenia. Her outbursts and bizarre behavior are nothing short of terrifying, causing her parents to scramble her from doctor to doctor, until they meet a priest named Father Wanderly, who believes that Marjorie is in dire need of an exorcism--but not before he contacts a couple of television producers and tells them of the Barret family's plight. A Head Full of Ghosts takes place fifteen years after the reality TV show The Possession first aired, and the then eight-year-old Merry is the novel's narrator as she recounts her memories of the filming process to a present day writer that is attempting to find the truth beyond what the cameras on the TV show portrayed.

A Head Full of Ghosts evolves into a whirlwind of horror, satire, and mystery  with an unreliable narrator that grabbed my attention and wouldn't let go. By the end, I was left with a pit in my stomach as I reflected on the true horror of what I had read.

Revival by Stephen King
revivalWidely considered to be the greatest horror author of all time, Stephen King continues to write stories just as chilling and traumatizing as when he first started his career.

Young Jamie Morton is enamored with Charles Jacobs, the new minister that has just moved to his small Maine town with his beautiful wife. Almost as soon as their friendship begins to blossom, tragedy strikes the Jacobs family and Charles loses his faith in God, leading to his banishment from the small town. Several years later, Jamie and Charles cross paths again. With Charles claiming to now be a traveling faith healing minister, he recruits Jamie to travel with him and heal the believers across America. While Charles' abilities seem to be legitimate, it's clear to Jamie that what he does to cure those who are sick ends up leaving them a lot worse after Charles is done with them. Jamie takes it upon himself to discover how it is that Charles is “healing” people and whether or not it should continue.

Revival spans over five decades of Jamie's life and his run-ins with Charles Jacobs. Over this length of time, King is truly able to develop his characters and show how they grow and change over time, for better or worse. Revival may be Stephen King's clearest attempt at writing a story in the genre that is commonly referred to as “Lovecraftian Horror,” and marks one of his greatest achievements.

Want more horror recommendations? Check out Part 1 of this spotlight for 3 more titles.

New Tricks. Seasons 1-12 (2003-2015)

newtricksIf you enjoy British mysteries with a bit of humor, try New Tricks. Follow the quirky team of retired policemen lead by a female superintendent as they help solve cold cases.

Each of the cast of characters is unique, and you will find yourself getting involved in their lives and rooting for them in their crime solving. I especially loved the actors who were in the first seven seasons.

If you enjoy this show, also check out the series Death in Paradise.

The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny (2015)

naturebeastAlthough Louise Penny again returns to Three Pines, Quebec, for her latest mystery, she introduces new characters to interact with Inspector Gamache (now retired), his son-in-law Guy, the poet Ruth, and other regulars. This story gives insight into how Ruth becomes the unusual character and poet she is. To start the story, a nine-year-old boy tells such outlandish tales that no one believes anything he says, but then he actually finds something extraordinary in the woods, and then goes missing to the great distress of his parents. Some of the residents plan to perform a play but most of the actors back out when they learn of the terrible nature of the writer.

Could there be some connection among the missing boy, the rejected play, and the extraordinary evil in the forest? In the author’s note, we learn The Nature of the Beast is based on an actual occurrence at the Canadian-U.S. border and thus fits nicely with the location of Three Pines and its fictional characters.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (2006)

13thtaleDiane Setterfield masterfully weaves together a gothic tale of suspense, mystery, and loss. The novel follows the story of two women, one a reclusive author, Vida Winter, who has weaved together so many stories about her life no one knows the truth and the other a young biographer, Margaret Lea, who has been chosen by Winter to take down her true story before Winter succumbs to old age and various ailments plaguing her.

Winter’s tale unfolds mainly in flashback, recounting her eccentric upbringing and the tragedy that tore her family apart. The reader is left to figure out which character Winter is in her tale. Meanwhile, Lea is forced to look to her own past, the loss of her twin and the resulting withdrawal from day-to-day life of her mother. She tries to examine how it has shaped who she is and how she can move forward with her own life. Themes explored include identity, loss, reconciliation, death, and twins.

The Thirteenth Tale was originally released in Australia as an adult novel, but subsequently was released in the United States as a novel targeted to young adults. In 2007, it won an Alex Award, which is annually given to ten books written for adults that have a special appeal to young adults.

The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney (2015)

longfarawayIn 1986 in Oklahoma City, the employees of a movie theater are murdered during a robbery. Wyatt, now a private investigator in Las Vegas, was the only survivor. When asked by a friend to travel to Oklahoma City and find out who's been harassing the new owner of a local rock club, he finds himself revisiting the scene of the massacre, as well as unearthing long dormant memories.

Another crime in 1986, although not connected, was the disappearance of Julianna's older sister, Genevieve, at the Oklahoma State Fair. Julianna has been in an emotional fog since, desperate to know what happened to her sister. Both Wyatt and Julianna explore their pasts, finding new clues that will hopefully bring them both some closure. The Long and Faraway Gone is a character-centered novel reminiscent of Dennis Lehane. Lou Berney’s mystery won an Edgar award for Best Paperback Original, deservedly so.

Blood on the Water (2014) and Corridors of the Night (2015) by Anne Perry

These two Anne Perry novels feature the Monk family – William, his wife Hester, adopted son Scuff, and street urchin Worm – all working together to solve the current crime.

Ibloodwatern Blood on the Water, Commander William Monk of the River Police is on patrol when the Princess Mary explodes, sending nearly 200 passengers to their death. Soon after Monk begins his investigation, the case is transferred to the Metropolitan Police due to its “international implications.” But Monk and his family cannot leave the case alone: Hester attends the trial of the captured suspect, son Scuff (who spent his young years on the waterfront as an orphan) questions waterfront denizens like Worm to get first-hand information, and Monk continues to follow the case. After a rapid trial and conviction, Monk raises questions of guilt and the river corridorspolice is reassigned the case. Motive, access, and high level involvement are unclear as the Monk family pursues the truth.

In Corridors of the Night, Nurse Hester Monk becomes the protector of two small children who are being used to supply blood to a very ill man undergoing an experimental treatment. The scientist conducting the treatment has little regard for the children or Hester such that Monk and Scuff need to rescue her from what is a near kidnapping.

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty (2013)

husbandssecretThe title intrigued me and I was not disappointed. Although Liane Moriarty cleverly interweaves the stories of three women, the husband's secret is the thread that ties them all together. Cecilia accidentally found the letter her husband wrote to be read after his death. John-Paul didn't die, but Cecilia's decision to open it anyway set into motion a series of events that profoundly affect the lives of three families in the St. Angela's School community in Sydney.

In The Husband’s Secret, twists and turns in the plot and characters' reactions leave the reader questioning the outcome until the very end.

Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman (2016)

wildelakeWhen Lu Brant is elected the first female state's attorney of a county outside Baltimore, it should be the pinnacle of her career, but when she decides to try a murder case against homeless Rudy Drysdale, she's forced to confront buried memories of her own childhood. Lu's brother A.J. was involved at 18 in an incident where he broke his arm and another man died. Lu was ten at the time, enamored of popular A.J. and his group of friends. No charges were ever brought against anyone, but as Lu proceeds in her case, she finds that Drysdale was two years behind A.J. in school and that they might have known each other. Lu also reflects on being raised by her father, also a state's attorney, after her mother died while Lu was very young.

Wilde Lake is a novel that transports you to 1970s and 1980s suburban Baltimore and fully immerses the reader in a world of childhood and family secrets. Like Laura Lippman's best novels, Wilde Lake is a book that stay with you even after the last page is turned.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie and Hotspur by Rita Mae Brown (2014 and 2002)

sleepingdogsSister Jane Arnold, Master of Foxhounds with the Jefferson Hunt, would never return with a fox tail flying from her horse’s mane, but rather puts out treats (some with embedded worm medicine) to keep her clever red-furred friends in fine form for the next chase. These two novels give an engaging overview of the Virginia foxhunting scene as well as good murder mysteries, literally dug up after decades under the earth.hotspur

On occasion, author Rita Mae Brown allows the foxes, horses, and foxhounds to tell parts of the story from their own viewpoints to better help the reader understand the finer points of the hunt. Thus the reader can gently learn of foxhunting traditions while following the unfolding mysteries of both Let Sleeping Dogs Lie and Hotspur.

Broken Promise by Linwood Barclay (2015)

brokenpromiseDavid Harwood is the main character in Linwood Barclay’s latest novel. He is a down-on-your-luck guy, a widower and father of a young boy. The newspaper he worked for has gone out of business, and he and his son live with his parents in Promise Falls, New York. A cousin he is close to has recently been accused of kidnapping a baby and killing his mother.

Since David has a lot of time on his hands, he sets out to prove his cousin’s innocence. In the meantime, there are several strange occurrences happening in Promise Falls, and the police are scrambling to find answers. Broken Promise is a good novel filled with suspense. The author left the ending open with several unanswered questions. Maybe there will be a Promise Falls sequel?

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (1892)

sherlockArthur Conan Doyle’s unique mysteries are cleverly written and entertaining. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (comprised of twelve short stories) was a tremendous re-read for me.

For similar titles, check out our list of Classic Tales of Mystery & Suspense.

Come Hell or Highball by Maia Chance (2015)

hellorhighballThis book hits all the right notes of humor, setting, and character. In 1923, Lola Woodby, a New York society matron in her early 30s, is now a penniless widow with a dog, a Swedish cook, and a serious addiction to cinnamon buns and highballs. Talking like George Raft, if George Raft were actually talking in 1923, Lola and cook Berta go about wheedling their way into high society weekends, speakeasies, and shady businesses in order to retrieve a missing reel of film, and make the dough to pay the rent on their seedy apartment. I look forward to Lola's next adventure.

Check out Maia Chance’s Come Hell or Highball today.

Endangered by C. J. Box (2015)

endangeredAre men what their mothers make them? C. J. Box’s Endangered may make you think so. Here is a family living remotely, but none would want them as neighbors. Except Joe Pickett’s daughter, April, takes up with Dallas, the rodeo star son of the family, until she is found badly beaten and unconscious in a road-side ditch. Joe (local game warden) is determined to see that justice is done even if it must be western style. Joe's friend, Nate, has just been released from prison on a deal with the feds about catching a bad guy of great importance. It’s not clear why Nate was in prison, but he does say, “I never did kill anyone who didn’t need killing.” Brenda, mother of Dallas and two other sons, goes all out to make sure her son is cleared of any suspicion involving April. Brenda’s sons say “she covers all the bases.” The ending is a surprise and somewhat incredible, but Joe is satisfied that justice is done.