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Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (2012)

bernadetteSomething snapped in Bernadette a long time ago. No one knows for sure. She quit her job at the peak of her architectural career. She had several miscarriages. Now she is a recluse who tries to hold it together for the sake of her brilliant daughter Bee. She thinks she has found the answer with the help of a virtual assistant, but everything goes wrong when the family is about to embark on a trip to Antarctica.

Check out Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette along with other stories told through letters, emails, diaries, etc. in our list of Epistolary Novels.

The Ways of the World by Robert Goddard (2015)

waysworld"Max" Maxted is a WWI veteran and former POW who plans to open a flight school on the family property. When his father dies under mysterious circumstances in Paris at the peace talks, Max is determined to get to the bottom of it. Although by the end of the book many questions are answered, more have arisen to make us early anticipate book two of this trilogy. What was Max's father really raising money for? What is the secret of Max's birth? Will his pill of a brother and sister-in-law get their comeuppance?

The Ways of the World by Robert Goddard is a throwback to those 1930s and early forties movies, often, but not always by Hitchcock, where an innocent man gets pulled into a web of espionage and hidden societies. Think The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, or Ministry of Fear.

Missing Reels by Farran Smith Nehme (2014)

missingreelsCeinwen Reilly is a transplant to the Big Apple where her minimum wage job at a vintage clothing shop funds her classic movie habit and her propensity for dressing like a 1920s film star. When she gets wind of a long missing silent movie directed by a mysterious, long forgotten German director and starring her elderly downstairs neighbor, Ceinwin becomes determined to track down the missing reels.

If you love old movies and romances with Englishmen named Matthew, this is the book for you. If not, many of the allusions to old movies might leave you bewildered. Interested? Find a copy of Missing Reels by Farran Smith Nehme today.

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (2014)

3bodyproblemCixin Liu's The Three-Body Problem begins with a top secret Chinese project just after the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and on into the future, Earth tries to (and perhaps does) make contact with the civilizations of Trisolaris, a planet several light years away. Trisolaris, dominated by three suns, has eons of stable, then chaotic seasons in which culture flourishes then crashes with disastrous results. Inhabitants dehydrate their bodies to survive. Scientific efforts to predict gravitational motion in a three body system have perplexed physicists on Trisolaris (and Earth) for ages. Only a few on Earth know of these extra-terrestrial efforts begun by the Chinese and later appearing in strange video games.

If the Trisolarians migrate to our solar system to escape the certain destruction of their planet, should Earth welcome them as superior beings or fight an invading enemy?

Check back in a few weeks to check out my review of the second book in the series: The Dark Forest.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

missfisherDo you love the Phryne Fisher mysteries by Kerry Greenwood? You’re in luck; there’s a television adaptation! Once Phryne has caught the trail on an investigation, it’s impossible to keep her out of it (no matter how much Detective Jack tries to do so). With the help of Mr. Butler, Cec, Bert, and Dorothy, nothing stands in Miss Fisher’s way of catching the latest murderer on the scene.

Check out Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, set in 1920s Australia, today.

And Then She Was Gone by Rosalind Noonan (2014)

shegoneSet in Oregon, And Then She Was Gone focuses on Lauren O’Neil. At age 11, she was kidnapped on her way home from school. For six long years, her frantic parents search for her, never giving up hope she will be found. Finally, they get the call they’ve been waiting for, only to discover their beloved daughter has been transformed into a polite stranger afraid to come home.

Through the process of reunification, the O’Neil family must learn to become complete again. This novel is written with much sensitivity. Author Rosalind Noonan explores the very complex relationship that develops between child abductors and their victims.

Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight (2015)

wheretheyfoundherThis novel begins with a tragedy in the small affluent college town of Ridgedale, New Jersey: the body of a newborn girl is found buried in the woods near the university.

Molly Sanderson is a journalist, new to town, assigned to cover the sad story. It’s a real challenge for her, as she is suffering from a severe depression following the loss of her own baby. As Molly continues her investigation, she uncovers secrets that have been hidden for decades and comes to the realization that Ridgedale is not the idyllic place that its residents make it out to be.

Where They Found Her has good characters and some surprising twists. I hope Kimberly McCreight plans on writing more novels!

Gray Mountain by John Grisham (2014)

graymountainThe 2008 economic downturn affected even New York lawyers like Samantha who thought she was on a fast track to partner but was abruptly put on furlough. In order to grasp a questionable volunteer opportunity, she retreats to Brady, Virginia, and becomes an intern at the Mountain Legal Aid Clinic, run by Mattie, a local lawyer. On the way, Samantha is arrested and taken to jail for speeding, but is soon released with the help of Donovan (Mattie’s nephew), a lawyer representing coal workers in large disability claims against their employers. Samantha’s adventures in rural Virginia lets her see the coarse tactics of the coal companies, the reliance on guns to solve problems, drug use by the locals, and the satisfaction that comes from helping someone really in need.

Samantha is not without capable contacts—her father was a high-income, personal injury lawyer focusing on airline crashes before he was disbarred, and now runs a consulting company advising other law firms. Her mother (divorced from her father) has a high level position in the Justice Department. Samantha finds Donovan alluring and he even offers her a position, but she sees a lot of similarities between him and her father so she must decide what type of lawyer she wants to be. After all of the trials and adventures in Gray Mountain, there are enough loose ends remaining for John Grisham to write another story about Samantha.

The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro (2012)

artforgerClaire Roth is a starving young artist who suddenly finds herself in the midst of an international art theft. The plot develops with a little romance, a little suspense, and a debate over what is innocent reproduction and what is a crime. The background of the unsolved 1990 Gardner Heist is explained, but the letters and insights into Isabella Gardner in the 19th century adds a pinch of history to this contemporary novel.

Check out B. A. Shapiro’s novel The Art Forger today.

Double Indemnity by James Cain (1936)

doubleindemnityI love the film noir Double Indemnity, one of the American Film Institute’s Greatest American Films. This taut and sparely written novella differs in a few ways but retains the power of the classic film. Greed and lust in 1930s Los Angeles, depicted by insurance agent Walter Neff and femme fatale Phyllis Dietrichson, result in a memorable denouement.

Check out James Cain’s novella Double Indemnity today.

Signal by Patrick Lee (2015)

signalWith a device that can't be explained by logic or reality, power hungry villains, and a secret government project, Signal is another fast-paced futuristic thrilling adventure. Once I got over my disappointment that we wouldn't be seeing more of Rachel, I became engrossed in Sam's next escapade. Brought in by his old colleague Claire, Sam must race against the clock to battle a sightless enemy with a constant advantage.

Just like the first in the series (Runner), you'll need to suspend your disbelief. A lot of crazy stuff is going to happen, but you'll be frantically flipping the pages to discover what comes next in Patrick Lee’s latest conspiracy novel.

The Ghost Writer by John Harwood (2004)

ghostwriterA young Australian boy searches out the mysterious past of his mother in postwar England based on the clues revealed in the ghost stories composed by his great-grandmother. A few of the ghost stories are included, and it becomes increasingly hard to discern if art is following life, or life is following art in John Harwood’s The Ghost Writer.

The Burning Room by Michael Connelly (2014)

burningroomHarry Bosch is near retirement and is assigned to cold cases with a young but very bright partner who has received favorable publicity from her last assignment. He and his young partner find themselves investigating two unusual cases simultaneously. The first involves the recent death of a victim shot 10 years before and the second case, the death of children in a fire from which his partner, as a child, survived. The cases would appear unrelated except for an anonymous phone call (placed by Harry?) on the department tip line.

The young partner and the reader have the benefit of Harry’s experience on a fast-paced tour involving a grisly autopsy, an arrest of a loner survivalist, political and departmental pressure, along with lots of sound but risky police investigation. At the end, could there be penance and redemption for a wrongdoer, and does Harry keep his job for yet another case?

Check out Michael Connelly’s latest Harry Bosch novel The Burning Room (for another take, check out The New York Times review). And if you enjoy the adventures of Harry Bosch, check out our list of other popular mystery and suspense series.

The Long Way Home by Louise Penny (2014)

louisepennyFormer Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has retired from the Quebec police and is enjoying a peaceful retirement with his wife Reine-Marie in Three Pines. Life is serene with good food, company of friends, and social gatherings. But Clara and Peter Morrow have had a riff, agreeing to separate for one year and meet again to assess their relationship. After that one year Peter fails to return and Clara, in distress, seeks help from the good inspector.

Gamache and his prior associate Guy Beauvoir join with Clara and her friend Myrna in the search. They trace Peter’s journey from Quebec to Scotland then return to visit Peter’s art professor and family in Canada and end with a stormy voyage along the St. Lawrence. Strange paintings Peter left with a young relative may be important to resolve the mystery. Jealousies, danger, and storms plague the investigators throughout the search in Louise Penny’s The Long Way Home.

Nero Wolfe. Seasons 1 & 2 (2001-2002)

nerowolfeWith Maury Chaykin as Nero Wolfe (the brilliant detective) and Timothy Hutton as Archie Goodwin (his leg man), this A&E television series is one of the best.

The TV series is based on the original stories by Rex Stout written between 1934 and 1958. It is beautifully shot with set design and costuming that reflects the time period of each story.

All of the episodes of Nero Wolfe include a climactic meeting of the suspects in Wolfe's office at his luxurious brownstone as he discloses the identity of the murderer, a classic mystery story devise; however in this series, it becomes a scene full of color, wit, and charm.

An unusual aspect of these Nero Wolfe shows is its reuse of supporting actors and actresses for different roles in the tradition of a repertory theater.