Often a title catches my eye on the new books display at the Public Library. Conversion got my attention and the cover blurb was intriguing. The story alternates between Salem Village in 1706 and Danvers, Massachusetts. The main character in the 1706 segments is one of the young girls, Ann, who accused the women who were executed as witches in the Salem Witch trials of 1692 and 1693. Ann is confessing to Reverend Green her part in bearing false witness against the "witches", 14 women and 6 men, all but one were killed by hanging.
The Danvers sections in 2012 occur among an elite population of girls in St. Joan's high school. The story follows four friends and their trials- boyfriend angst, competition for marks and the stress associated with being accepted by an Ivy League school. Suddenly, three senior girls, all part of the same clique, fall ill with puzzling symptoms. Clara, their leader has some sort of seizure, another loses her ability to walk, and a third's hair falls out. The Mystery Illness spreads and parallels between Salem Village and St. Joan's appear. The suspense builds as no one knows what is happening to the girls whose affected number reaches 60+. Katherine Howe is direct descendant of three of the women accused of witchcraft in Salem. One of them was hanged. Who better to write a book like Conversion?
Todd Babiak introduced us to Christopher Kruze and his wife and daughter in Come Barbarians. His family was killed in this initial political intrigue and in Son of France we catch up to a damaged and morose Kruze who (with his security company) has been hired to protect the mayor of Paris. Kruze does his job and by tackling the mayor, saves his life in a grenade attack in the Jewish quarter. Not everyone is as lucky and an up-and-coming politician dies, along with a number of others. It is a terrorist attack and through a series of twists, Kruze and Tvzi, his partner, are hired to assassinate the leader of the terrorist group. Except they are led to kill the wrong man and evil though he is, repercussions from his murder, put Cruze in danger, cost Tvzi his arm and threaten a woman and child he has come to care for. There are sub-plots galore and twists and blind alleys. If you enjoy political intrigue and graphic thrillers with a good solid literary base, Son of France is for you. I expect to see more of Christopher Kruze; he seems doomed to live through more intrigue and never find the peace he yearns for.
It's always exciting to find a new author. Obviously, since this is from 2008 and Thomas H. Cook has over 20 other novels and non-fiction books to his credit, his work is new only to me.
Master of the Delta looks at small town life in Sheonoba County, Mississippi. Jack Branch comes back to Great Oaks, his father's antebellum estate and takes a teaching position at Lakeland High School. We would call Branch's class which he has titled Evil, an option and he is free to set his own curriculum. His lectures draw from famous criminals like Jack the Ripper to dictators like Hitler to fictional characters for his examples. There are only 12 students and most are not great scholars or very motivated. Some of them come from the Bridges, the truly disadvantaged section of town. The rich sons, like Jack, himself, go off to boarding schools rather than attend the local, lowly public offering. Jack Branch is 24, it is the 1950's and he has fire in his belly. He is going to take some unfortunate under his wing and change his life. When he assigns a paper, his candidate is revealed. Eddie Miller is the son of the Coed Murderer, the evil man of Delta and after Branch's suggestion, decides to write about his own father. The research takes on a life of its own and digs into murky places from the past best left there. The novel switches from the 24-year-old Branch in the 50's to the present day and the dark secrets are revealed a little at a time. Thomas H. Cook has a reputation as one of the most literary of psychological-suspense authors and this book lives up to the claim. I'll be seeking out more of his books.
Jon Krakauer has woven an exploration of the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan into the story of Pat Tillman who was killed by friendly fire in an isolated gorge in southeastern Afghanistan on April 22, 2004.
Tillman had a promising career in the NFL. He walked away from it, May 22, 2002. The 9/11 terrorist attack compelled him to join the Army to do his part to fight the threat to America. He had no idea what he had signed himself up for and even though he and his brother, Kevin, who joined at the same time, were disappointed and disillusioned, they persevered and made it into the elite Army Rangers. They deployed together first to Saudi Arabia and then to Afghanistan. Pat left Marie, his wife of 18 days and his family to fight in a conflict that was destined to fail. He was involved in the rescue of Jessica Lynch, an earlier victim of friendly fire. When he was pinned down on that hill in Afghanistan, there was no rescue for him. Tillman died when his own unit fired on him and two fellow soldiers, one an Afghan. What followed was more horrifying than his actual death which was terrible. The Army and the chain of command all the way to the White House, Dick Cheney and the Commander in Chief, President George Bush, maintained the bald lie that Pat Tillman had been killed by the Taliban in a heroic battle. A third of the book is devoted to the duplicity of the Army, their reluctance to tell the truth about Tillman's death and the lengths his mother and family had to go to to get to the truth. This is an American tragedy.
"...21 percent of the casualties in World War 11 were attributable to friendly fire, 39 percent of the casualties in Vietnam, and 52 percent of the casualties in the first Gulf War." page 343- Where Men Win Glory.
"Her interest in handbags was contagious, grave, and exuberant, but eventually I found that her true obsession was the soul. "What is the soul?" asks Rumi, the poet. "I cannot stop asking. If I could taste one sip of an answer, I could break out of this prison for drunks."
Shaya Neige is the narrator and the speaker quoting Rumi is Ingrid-Simone. They are employees of Theodora's Fine Consignment Clothing store. One of the mysteries is how they keep their jobs and how the owner Florine makes enough money to keep the establishment open. Because they have a lot of time to talk, Shaya Neige tries to determine and understand Ingrid-Simone, her junior by fifteen years. How does she know so many poets? How can she quote them so easily and what about her other literary references?
Shaya is a doctoral candidate who has retreated from academic life and abandoned her dissertation. Both she and Ingrid-Simone are lost souls floundering through an Edmonton winter. It takes until near the end of the book for Shaya to discover why Ingrid-Simone is so obsessed with the soul and red handbags.
This is not a quick or easy read, despite its economic 140 pages. There are so many references and quotes from literature and poetry. For a long time, it seems there is not point to the narrative, other than the exploration of the lives of two eccentric women with elegant prose. When the secret is revealed, it is a shock. Be patient.
Aloysius X. L. Pendergast and Constance Green are America's answer to Britain's Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. In the ongoing serious, Special Agent for the FBI, Aloysius Pendergast is drawn into what seems like a clever theft of priceless wine from a private collection. Then, in true thriller fashion, "the game is afoot" and the body count begins. Crimson Shore has something for everyone, a a mystery within a mystery as murder victims are carved with the word, TYBANE, which leads Constance Green to investigate the dark history of Exmouth. An ancient colony of witches, a ship lost on Skull Crusher Rocks with no surviving evidence of crew, cargo or wreckage. The salt marshes harbour a number of deadly secrets with a good measure of the supernatural thrown in.
Crimson Shore provides plenty of plot twists and turns right until the last page. Aloysius is missing, an intruder threatens Constance in her own home and a trusted servant dies. The conclusion to this series??? I think not. If you enjoy a thriller, try any of the Pendergast series.
I am an avid reader and like to share some of my "finds" with others.