Tuesday, June 9, 2015

June-July 2015 Preview: Part Five

There are quite a few exciting books on the horizon for bountiful summer reading.

One that caught my eye is the first in a new series from the husband-wife writing team of Win and Meredith Blevins, The Darkness Rolling (Forge, June 2).
I was itchy. Tingling. My skin felt like foaming surf breaking on sand, and my brain was buzz-busy, just like the soldiers who had decided to stay in San Diego after the war. Possibilities. Worlds of them. I felt them, too.

Women who'd traded their love for gasoline and stockings walked the singing sidewalks. High heels clicked, and the sun raised their red lipstick to a promise. Happy to have their young men back home. High times.
These are the opening words of Yazzie Goldman, a half-Navajo, half-Jewish soldier who has put his military life and World War II behind him. He has just returned to Arizona because his grandfather had a stroke. He had settled nicely in San Diego and he wasn't sure he would be happy down in Monument Valley now that he had seen Paree.

His trading post home has become a shambles during his long absence and he is glad to accept an offer of work as a bodyguard to the leading lady in a John Ford film being shot nearby. Yazzie quickly responds to the siren's lures but he is distracted by the appearance of a mysterious stranger with vengeance on his mind. This is a wonderful escape from the mundane with lyrical prose enticing the reader into Hillerman territory of the ancient sacred lands of Navajo myth.

If you have been wishing in vain that Janwillem van de Wetering or A. C. Baantjer had something you have yet to read, I recommend the next best thing––or maybe even a better thing––From Bruges with Love (Open Road, July 7), by Pieter Aspe.

This is the third in his series featuring Asst. Commissioner Pieter Van In. Things are looking up for Pieter in his personal life. While he could best be described as a caustic alcoholic in the past, Pieter is now mellowed by a happy marriage with the first little Van In on the way. But he is disturbed by the news that a skeleton has been unearthed by Tine Vermast at the family's farmhouse. This discovery is rapidly followed by the appearance of a fresh corpse and then another one. The kicker is that the land once belonged to a right-wing charity, which has a great deal of money, but seemingly no expenses or investments.

Van In finds himself in the middle of a labyrinthine maze that has connections to high-level officials, local law enforcement and common crooks. The Van In chronicles have sold more than a million copies in Europe. The stories have intricate plots and bursts of humor that leaven the sometimes noir aspect of these novels.

From across the pond comes another gripping police procedural that may keep your attention, Graham Ison's Exit Stage Left: A Brock and Poole Mystery (Severn, June 1). This is the 14th in a lengthy series featuring Detective Chief Inspector Harry Brock and his associate, Detective Sgt. Dave Poole. It is also a chance to better get to know Kate Ebdon, an Australian-born detective inspector.

As the Bard pointed out, all the world's a stage, and there is something fascinating about mysteries and murders that involve acting and actors. As stage actor Lancelot Foley is toddling off to visit his current lover on a snowy evening, someone sneaks up behind him and kills him in a dramatic fashion.

Foley is not only a Casanova, he is also true to nobody in his fashion. He has left a long list of people who might want to put a period to his existence, particularly his wife Debra, who has been counting on a warm inheritance. Somehow or another, a number of the lovelies whom Foley romanced had gotten the idea that his personal fortune might have her name on it.

Scorned lovers may be at the top of the list, but further down are even darker and more sinister suspects from Foley's past. Police procedurals are always satisfying, because the threads of the story are always wrapped in a neat skein, and they make for a pleasant summer read.

Here's another series debut, Codename Xenophon (Dedalus, June 1), by Leo Kanaris. This is the first in a projected quartet, which takes place in Athens, Greece. Greece is unique in that while it is steeped in noble antiquity, it is mired down in modern ills like its financial crises, civil disquiet and unrest. Our hero is private investigator George Zafiris, who blames former Prime Minister Papandreou, who created the "most bloated, obstructive bureaucracy on the planet."

Zafiris is eking out a living, taking small cases in which he is constantly hamstrung by corrupt and arrogant police, while he suffers personally from the antics of an unfaithful wife, whom he still loves. But what's worse is that while he struggles to preserve his self-respect, he is disgusted by those who glory in Greece's past but avoid present-day responsibilities.

His latest case is the murder of a Greek scholar. You'd think that this man would have few enemies. Zafiris finds himself in a morass of governmental corruption, vicious criminals and immorality of all sorts. What keeps Zafiris going is the fact that he believes in the spirit that made Greece great and strong for thousands of years. I can't wait to get a copy of this intense work to read while lolling around a pool––not while babysitting, of course!

There is something special about that feeling you get last day of school before summer vacation, and I feel it vicariously every June when the school buses vanish. I can picture how it was for Zack Lightman as he was daydreaming through a tedious math class in Ernest Kline's Armada (Crown, July 14).

Zack's got a month to go before graduation, and he is trying to stay out of trouble. But as he glances out of the classroom window, he thinks he sees a flying saucer. At first he thinks he's going nuts, but after a double take, he realizes the UFO he's staring at is straight out of the video game he plays every night––a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada, in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.
I tried to keep my cool. I tried to remain skeptical. I reminded myself that I was a man of science, even if I did usually get a C in it.
Zack might have seen The Last Starfighter, a movie that came out in 1984, long before he was born, because as he begins to realize what he is seeing is very real, he figures out that his skills—and those of gamers all over the world—are going to be needed to save the earth.

Kline's second novel is a classic coming-of-age adventure that is exciting, romantic, and perfect for a summer read. The movie rights have already been picked up. I look forward to it.

1 comment:

  1. ARMADA! This has been on my wish list for so long now. I'm so glad it's almost here!