Summer’s here and it’s time to chill out. Set aside those heavy, brain-challenging books, and pick up something entertaining and escapist.
Here’s a few books for your consideration:
- The Elementals by Michael McDowell. This is a haunted house story that takes place in summer at the beach. McDowell is a literate writer and a master teller of tales who will make you want to stay far, far away from houses and their shadowy secrets this summer.
- A Curve in the Road by Julianne MacLean. Driving home from a Sunday afternoon and dinner with her mother, Abbie MacIntyre’s car is struck by a car driven by a drunk driver that crosses the centerline of the road. Abbie doesn’t appear to be hurt, but the shockwaves reverberate for a year when she discovers the other driver not only was her husband, he was headed to meet a woman Abbie knew from high school. The losses and betrayals just keep coming at Abbie, forcing her to redesign her life. But never fear, MacLean is a romance writer so Abbie ends up happy, in love and living a life that is better than ever.
- The Widow by Fiona Barton. This is an ingenious mystery that flips back and forth in time starting about four years after the central crime of this novel occurred. As a reader, you are 99% certain who the guilty party is, but prosecutors just can’t make the charge stick. Then you start rethinking the possibilities. The suspense is a killer.
- I Will Have Vengeance; the Winter of Commissario Ricciardi (2012) by Maurizio de Giovanni. This book introduces the dour Commissario Ricciardi, who has the mystical ability to see the last moments of a dead person’s life. Despite having wealth and a title, he has chosen to bring justice to the world. Here, he is searching for the killer of renowned tenor Arnoldo Vezzi, found dead inside his locked dressing room. This is the first book of a series that takes place as the Facists rise to power in Italy before World War II. Not only is each book in the series fascinating, de Giovanni does a great job of carrying Ricciardi’s back story forward through the series. The second book is Blood Curse; The Springtime of Commissario Ricciardi.
- The English Teacher by Yiftach Reicher-Atir. This is the story of how terribly wrong things can go when a spy can’t maintain the walls between her personal longings and her public persona. A fascinating look at day-to-day activities in the life of a spy, this book was written by the one-time director of the Israeli Army’s special operations directorate. Suspense runs high as the main character, Rachel Brooks, goes rogue after retiring from active service and leaves death in her wake.
- The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza. This winter tale will at least keep your brain cold. A blizzard sweeps London as Detective Chief Inspector Erika Foster starts a new job. It’s even worse luck that her first case is the murder of the daughter of a wealthy high tech entrepreneur and his socialite wife. The murdered girl is found frozen in the ice of a boat house in a park. Erika’s boss is a political animal, more concerned with good spin than good policing in this case.
- A Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang, MD. This story is set in New York during the Gilded Age. It deals with both the glitter of high society families and the darkness of poverty and servitude for those on the lowest rungs of society. Written by a physician, this novel has interesting passages describing Bellevue Hospital and its morgue.
- The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian. The victims, the perpetrator and the detective in this haunting book have all been touched by World War II, which ended 10 years before the novel opens. Bohjalian does a wonderful job of portraying how the war affects a family and their once-beautiful villa and estate. The detective, Serafina Bettini, is an intriguing character.
- The Redbreast: A Harry Hole Novel by Jo Nesbø. Like The Light in the Ruins, this mystery goes back and forth between contemporary times and World War II. Inspector Harry Hole has been assigned a deadend job with the Norwegian Security Service after being involved in a diplomatically embarrassing accidental shooting. Sorting through old reports, Hole discovers that shells typical of a rare, expensive gun used by assassins appeared at a crime scene in an out-of-the-way Norwegian town. Like a terrier with a bone, he wants to know why. His superiors want him to focus on neo-Nazi skin heads targeting Muslim immigrants.
- Sugar Skull by Denise Hamilton. This is one a series of mysteries featuring Los Angeles Times reporter Eve Diamond. In this book, she’s delving into the disappearance of 15-year-old Isabel. The book has a great L.A. setting with an interesting plot.