Book Reviews – recent fiction
The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan. This is a fun book about a librarian who is made redundant. She decides it is time for a career change. In Nina’s case, she decides to buy a large van and open a book shop on wheels. She is from Birmingham but can’t find a place to park her van and so she moves to Scotland where she finds everyone is hungry for something good to read. This is a good book to show the importance of reading in everyday life. Jenny Colgan has written a number of books which are in the Dallas Public Library System.
The White Mirror by Elsa Hart. This is the 2nd novel featuring a former imperial librarian Li Du set in the early 1700’s. This time Li Du’s travels have taken him to the borderlands between China & Tibet. A dead monk on a bridge greets the caravan that Li Du is riding with on their way to an isolated valley. Over the next few days, Li Du has to unravel the mysterious visitors and their connection to the murdered monk. This is an excellent glimpse into an interesting time period in Chinese history.
Strip Tease by Carl Hiaasen. I had an opportunity to hear Carl Hiaasen at the Library of Congress Book Festival in Sept. He said he used newspaper headlines as inspiration for his novels about the crazy people who live in Florida. He claims that Florida attracts all of the crazy folks in the United States. After reading this novel, I think he does seem to have a point. This novel is about a stripper who is currently fighting for custody of her daughter. Her ex-husband steals wheel chairs for a living.
The novel begins in a strip club where a bachelor party gets out of control. The groom gets attached to a stripper and she is rescued by a drunken congressman who is in disguise. The groom is taken to a hospital in serious condition and his friends have to concoct a story about an attack at a synagogue. The police are trying to figure out who attacked the groom, the congressman’s handler is trying to cover up the story and primary funder of the congressman “Big Sugar” are just trying to keep their government subsidies. It is a hilarious look at Florida politics and what can go wrong if you venture into a strip club the night before your wedding.
A Noble Radiance by Donna Leon. In the 7th novel of Inspector Brunetti, a body is discovered in a field in North ern Italy. At first the identity of the body is in question until a signet ring is discovered. The ring confirms that the body is of a young man from a very rich family kidnapped from Venice a few years back.
When Commissario Brunetti begins the investigation, the simple story of a dead body begins to become more complicated. As he interviews the family and girlfriend of the deceased the number of suspects increases with each interview.
As always, this novel is as much a critic of Italy government and business practices as a murder mystery. The importance of family vs the truth is also a major theme.