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Summer Book Review (2015)

This is a book review that I wrote this summer, but never published it due to all of the unexpected deaths of my friends and colleagues. I found great comfort in reading and re-reading, and thank my friends for their recommendations.

I was so glad that Charlotte Burrage, an astute observer of American history, recommended Isabel Wilkerson’s marvelous “The Warmth of Other Sons.” I won’t take the time to discuss the merits of this book, but I really do recommend it.

Renee Knight’s “Disclaimer” is the most exciting mystery debut I’ve read in the last ten years and one of the few European novelists, along with those from Norway, that really have made vivid contributions to psychological noir.

The edition I’m reading has very little information about the author, other than saying she has made valuable contributions to the BBC in London. In so many scenes of the book, which deals with the passing of time, we wish to condemn characters who she later exonerates. Whether we feel one of these characters has outrageous behavior, or perhaps more evil intents, this author’s suspense fabric kept me fascinated. When we know who the guilty party is, Ms. Knight majestically shows us one heroic deed he commits before his untimely death. Ms. Knight allows the reader plenty of time to appreciate the transfers of guilt, the grief of the principle characters, and she plays honor, forgiveness, a major thrust of this probing book.

“Bradstreet Gate” by Robin Kirman (who resides partly in Israel) has written a very decent novel which recounts three college students enrolled at Harvard. One is beautiful and curious, one is shy and enterprising, and the last bipolar and a master of disguise. The plot can be exhilarating as we follow their careers and view their reaction to a murder in Cambridge. SJ Watson’s “Second Life” published after “Before I go to Sleep” is marvelous. Having read this shortly after Renee Knight’s hit, I found the writing didn’t really distinguish itself particularly during the first 100 pages. The novel certainly has a nice pace, but I missed the interior dialogues that the heroine could reveal to the readers. Some of the shocks seem manipulated, although I was severely jolted by an unexpected one on page 270. This book is never boring. Leah Stewart is a marvelous writer; she recounts adventures that take place in a small town two hours north of Nashville in “The New Neighbor.” The main character is a 90-year-old lady who looks out of her window almost to the extent that James Stewart did in Cornell Woolrich’s “Rear Window.” She is a rather kindly voyeur, while surveying her neighbor from her country cottage. Those of us who may require faster action and accelerated speed may be put off by the novel’s leisurely pace and numerous flashbacks. But the mysteries are quiet and many of the characters develop rather serenely.

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