Monday, December 31, 2012

Special Delivery before Midnight, 12/31/2012

I feel like a woman about to give birth, and it's not a comfortable sensation. I finished The Child's Child by Barbara Vine (the pen name Ruth Rendell uses for dark and complex psychological suspense), but this tale about Grace Easton, who becomes pregnant by her brother Andrew's lover and discovers an unpublished manuscript from 1951 that mirrors this triangular situation, is too sad to review on the last day of the year. I haven't quite finished Karen Englemann's delectable The Stockholm Octavo, in which seer Sofia Sparrow reads the cards and promises young Office of Customs and Excise bureaucrat Emil Larsson a golden path to love and connection in 1791 Stockholm. Rather than prolong my labor in writing a review, let me share some books I plan to read soon.

Snow White Must Die by Nele Neuhaus, translated by Steven T. Murray (Macmillan, January 2013). I want to revisit the Grimm's fairy tale refrain "White as snow, red as blood, black as ebony." In this multifaceted German police procedural, Altenhain cops Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein investigate the death of a woman whose son, Tobias Sartorius, was convicted 10 years earlier of murdering two teenage girls. The bodies were never found. Tobias has recently been released and moved back home. After more disappearances, townspeople are ready to take the law into their own hands. This is the fourth in a six-book series, and the only one published in English so far. What I've read about this police duo and the twisting plot of betrayal and revenge promises a great read.

Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov (Melville International Crime, 2001). Okay, you tell me how I can read the first sentence of a Kirkus review ("A writer is sucked gently into the evil new Ukrainian economy as his penguin flatmate watches.") and not scramble to read this book. Viktor Alekseyevich's life, in the dumps since his girlfriend left him, appears to be looking up. He's taken over the care of Misha, a "quiet and thoughtful" penguin de-accessioned from the Kiev zoo, and he's been hired by Capital News to write "pre-need" obituaries for underworld luminaries. Then Viktor realizes he's handing death sentences to these luminaries.

The Woman Who Wouldn't Die by Colin Cotterill (Random House, February 2013). It is now 1978, and Dr. Siri Paiboun is retired from his job as national coroner of Laos; however, a judge has asked Siri to look into a case involving the minister of agriculture's wife, who has hired the supposed-to-be-dead Madame Keui to lay rest the ghost of the minister's brother. Siri, who has a healthy regard for the supernatural, is the perfect man for the job. This is the ninth book in Cotterill's witty Dr. Siri Paiboun series. (Read Della Streetwise's review of the first book, The Coroner's Lunch, here.)

Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason (Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster, February 2013). “There is very little peace for a man with a body buried in his backyard.” Thus begins Mason's debut about an ordinary man named Jason Getty, who kills and buries a man behind his house. That is enough to disconcert Jason right there, but things become even more complicated when police dig up two bodies, and neither is the one that Jason buried. The publisher says this book is for fans of offbeat, black thrillers and the Coen brothers' movies––in other words, for me, and you, too?

Perfect Hatred by Leighton Gage (Soho Crime, February 2013). For a police procedural that combines terrific characterization, action, setting, and social issues, Della Streetwise, Maltese Condor (see her review here), and I read Leighton Gage's Chief Inspector Mario Silva series, set in modern Brazil. In the sixth book, Silva's team investigates a suicide bombing, the assassination of a gubernatorial candidate, and the revenge plot of a newly released felon who hates Silva. It's not necessary to read Gage's books in order, but these characters grow over time, and you'll want to follow them. The first book is 2007's Blood of the Wicked, in which Bishop Dom Felipe is assassinated when he visits the agricultural town of Cascatas do Pontal.

What about you? What's on your schedule for early 2013?

I'll be back later this week to tell you about Vine's The Child's Child and Engelmann's The Stockholm Octavo. I hope your festivities tonight will deliver a wonderful 2013 for you.

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