Thursday, September 27, 2007

Little Face by Sophie Hannah

Alice Fancourt is a new mom. She leaves her daughter alone with her husband, David, for the first time and when she returns home is stunned to discover that their baby has been switched with another. David doesn't agree. Is Alice suffering from a severe case of postpartum depression or lack of sleep? Or is something more sinister going on? Alice and David live with David's mother, Vivienne, who can be extremely controlling. Also, David's first wife, Laura, was murdered outside the family home, the Elms. The police don't really believe that a crime has been committed. Alice does have detective Simon Waterhouse on her side, but is his interest in Alice only job-related? Then, a week later, Alice and the baby go missing. Little Face is like Philippa Gregory's The Little House, a memorable psychological novel from ten years ago.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Unspoken by Mari Jungstedt

Alcoholic Henry Dahlstrom is found murdered in the basement of his apartment building. As a starting point in their investigation, Detective Superintendent Anders Knutas and his colleagues in Gotland, Sweden focus on Dahlstrom's friends and the large amount of money he had won recently on the horses. Then it appears that the murder might be connected with the disappearance of 14 year-old Fanny Jansson. Interspersed with the account of the police investigation is the story of Stockholm reporter Johan Berg, who has arranged to be on assignment in Gotland in order to see Emma Winarve, with whom he fell in love in the first book in the series, Unseen. Jungstedt's mysteries are for readers who enjoy Ake Edwardson and Helene Tursten.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen

Norris Marshall is training to be a doctor in 1830's Boston. He has resorted to helping steal bodies from local graveyards (most go to the medical school) to help pay for his education. Then a nurse is murdered on hospital grounds and he is the prime suspect. Norris' story is paired with that of Julia Hamill, who has just bought a home in present-era suburban Boston. She finds a skeleton in her backyard which is determined to be from before 1840. Julia's research into the bones leads the reader into Norris' tale. We also meet his medical colleagues (including Oliver Wendell Holmes) and a poor woman named Rose, who, along with Holmes, tried to help Norris solve the nurse's murder (and others). Gerritsen spares none of the gruesome details of life for the poor in Boston or the deaths that resulted from misguided medical care (surgeons did not wash their hands). While part of the story is set in contemporary times, most of the book is historical, which might disappoint some fans of Gerritsen's novels.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Songs Without Words by Ann Packer

Liz and Sarabeth, now in their 40's, have been friends since childhood. They became very close after Sarabeth's mother committed suicide when they were sixteen and Sarabeth moved in with Liz's family. Liz lives near San Francisco with her husband, Brody, and two children, Lauren and Joe. Sarabeth never married and works staging people's houses for sale and designing lampshades. Then Lauren has some deep personal problems, sending Liz's and Sarabeth's friendship into rocky waters, forcing them to question the nature and meaning of their bond. The novel explores how Liz, Sarabeth, Brody, and Lauren are affected by Lauren's actions (through their respective points of view). Songs Without Words reminded me of the writing of Jodi Picoult and Dani Shapiro, although more leisurely-paced and literary.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay

Cynthia Bigge was fourteen when she woke up one morning to find that her entire family-father, mother, and brother- had vanished. It’s now almost twenty-five years later and she’s married to high school teacher Terry Archer, and has a daughter, Grace. She still suffers from the scars of being left behind and the unanswered questions that remain. When Cynthia receives a couple of phone calls about her family, she hires a private detective. Soon, Cynthia, Terry, and Grace are plunged into danger in their search for the truth. No Time for Goodbye is a page turner that is similar to Harlan Coben’s recent novels, Jeff Abbott's Fear and Panic, and Jonnie Jacobs' largely unknown excellent thriller, The Only Suspect.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Godmother by Carrie Adams

Tessa King is the godmother to four of her friend’s children and is wondering if she’ll ever find Mr. Right. While in between jobs, she thinks about her future, especially since she’s been in love with her friend, Ben, for twenty years, but he’s married to someone else. At the same time, Tessa tries to be there for her friends: Francesca and Nick (who are having trouble with her teenage godson, Caspar), Claudia and Al (who have been trying to have a baby for many years), Helen (who has twin baby boys and an awful husband) and lastly, Billy (who is trying to make ends meet and has a sickly child, Cora, another of Tessa’s godchildren). Through her friends’ happiness and tragedies, Tessa finds the strength to do what’s right for herself and possibly be content. The Godmother is not chick-lit; it fits more in with the novels of Joanna Trollope.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Family Acts by Louise Shaffer

Katie Harder is a writer in New York for a soap opera on which her late mother, Rosalind, made her career. In Los Angeles, Randa Jennings lives with her eleven-year-old daughter, Susie, and is a manager for various actors. These two women’s lives intersect in the small southern town of Massonville Georgia when they inherit a theater called the Venable Opera House. The theater is in great disrepair and the women are not even sure why they are the ones being given the building. Katie and Randa both were raised by single parents and had no other family, so it’s entirely possible that they are somehow related. The novel traces the history of the theater to its beginnings in the late 1800’s up until the 1970’s when it closed. The flashbacks are interspersed with Katie's and Randa's story of trying to find out the mysteries behind the theater and whether they should keep it. Shaffer’s novel makes for an enjoyable and easy read.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Way Life Should Be by Christina Baker Kline

Thirty-three year old Angela Russo is an event planner at a contemporary art museum in New York. Her life is at a crossroads—she’s bored with her job and doesn’t have a boyfriend. In essence, her life lacks passion. Angela has always had fond thoughts of Maine even though she’s never been there, so when she meets a guy online from Maine she decides to relocate. Mount Desert Island, Maine is a quiet place in the off-season and not exactly what she expected, but slowly she finds her niche—making friends, getting a job, and maybe finding love. Angela uses the skills her Italian grandmother taught her—creating delicious food as a road to happiness. Christina Baker Kline is one of my favorite authors. It’s been far too long since her last novel (1999). Her descriptions of cooking and island life along with the memorable characters make this novel one of the best books about women’s lives that I’ve read all year.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Frozen Tracks by Ake Edwardson

Someone is attacking male college students in Gothenburg, Sweden. Detective Chief Inspector Erik Winter and his colleagues are on the case trying to find a connection between the victims. Then it appears that young children are being taken from their preschools for a short time without anyone noticing that they've gone missing. It isn't until the kids are home that they mention it to their parents. Now, DCI Winter has two weird sets of crimes to solve. Could they be in some way related? Although Frozen Tracks is very leisurely paced, I enjoyed the story and catching up with the detectives in this third entry in the series. An aside: the book is actually not the third book in the series, just the third to be published in English. Shame again on a publisher for doing this to a foreign author--the book refers to events than have happened in an untranslated book.