|ICED, not hot, tea|
Karen Russell: Swamplandia! (2011). Nominated for the Pulitzer last year, it's not a mystery, but a lot of fun. Ava Bigtree, the 13-year-old narrator, is a member of an alligator-wrestling dynasty. Her oddball family owns Swamplandia!, a theme-park island in the Florida Everglades. It's the area's No. 1 tourist attraction until Ava's mother, the park's headliner attraction, dies, and a newfangled competitor, The World of Darkness, opens. Suddenly, Ava is catapulted into the role of heroine to save her family. Original characters in a captivating coming-of-age story.
Aleksandar Hemon: The Lazarus Project (2008). In 1908, Lazarus Averbuch was shot and killed by George Shippy, Chicago's chief of police. Shippy claimed that the 19-year-old Averbuch was a Serbian or Sicilian anarchist who wanted to kill him because Shippy had banned "Red" Emma Goldman, a famous Jewish anarchist, from speaking in Chicago. A century later, Bosnian-American writer Vladimir Brik, whose misidentification as a Muslim makes him empathize with the murdered Averbuch, wins a grant to investigate Averbuch's killing. Brik and Rora, a photographer of wartime Bosnia-Herzegovina, travel to eastern Europe where they learn as much about themselves as Averbuch, the man they're investigating. Flashbacks of the real-life Averbuch's death, a journey into colorful places, and Hemon's tender and witty writing make Averbuch's and Brik's lives weave together and this book special. For fans of Paul Auster, Salman Rushdie, and Vladimir Nabokov.
Tom Piccirilli: The Last Kind Words (2012). Five years ago on Long Island, Collie Rand let himself be dragged into "the underneath" and went on a night's killing spree that left a family and several others dead. He's scheduled to die by lethal injection in a week. His brother, Terrier, with whom he has a love/hate relationship, abandoned a fiancée after Collie's spree and moved out West. Now Collie has asked Terry to come home. He insists that he didn't kill one of the victims who died that night, and he wants Terry to investigate. For generations, the close-knit Rand family has handed down names of dog breeds to their kids and a tradition of grift and thievery, but no one has used a gun or killed like this before. Terry's extended family members still live in their huge house, and his former fiancée is married and raising a daughter. Terry is unsure whether to believe Collie and is full of angst. This is a book of very noirish rumination and one of mysterydom's more memorable families.
Richard Ford: Canada (2012). Ford's first novel in six years is narrated by retiring teacher Dell Parsons, who looks back at his life fifty years ago. Bev and Neeva, the middle-class parents of 15-year-old twins Berner and Dell, make hapless criminals. They are caught robbing a bank in Great Falls, Montana, and are imprisoned. Before the authorities can intervene, Berner runs away to San Francisco with her boyfriend. The naive Dell ends up at a hunting lodge in Saskatchewan, Canada, with a violent American ex-patriate named Remlinger. Dell's examination of how he built a sense of self and a philosophy of life makes great reading.
I'm currently enjoying Jess Walter's stunning 2012 book, Beautiful Ruins. What about you? Can you share any great summer reading discoveries?