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Posts Tagged ‘Chris Bohjalian’

sleepwalkerWho knew sleep sex was a thing? Actually, it’s part of the sleep disorder that afflicts wife and mother Annalee Ahlberg in Chris Bohjalian’s The Sleepwalker (Knopf Doubleday, digital galley), which will keep you up all night flipping pages. When Annalee vanishes into the Vermont night while husband Warren is away on a business trip, her elder daughter Lianna fears Annalee’s parasomnia has again led her to the nearby river. But it’s not just the river hiding the secrets to Annalee’s disappearance, as Lianna discovers when she begins questioning her father, her teenage sister Paige, her mom’s closest friends, her therapist, and one detective who knows all too much about Annalee’s history. Bohjalians’ plotting is so clever that I didn’t see the ending coming.

hockadayInspired by true events, Susan Rivers’ first novel, The Second Mrs. Hockaday (Algonquin, digital galley), is a fascinating collage of Civil War history and mystery told through letters and diary entries. Placidia — Dia — is 17 when she marries Confederate major Gryffth Hockaday after a brief acquaintance. Two days later, he is recalled to battle and Dia is left to run his South Carolina farm and care for his young son from his first marriage. Two years later, Gryffth returns to the scandalous news that his wife has given birth and the child has died. Accused of adultery and murder, Dia refuses to explain her actions, which are gradually revealed, along with long-held family secrets. Rivers doesn’t skirt the everyday brutality against women and slaves, nor does she sensationalize it. Dia, Gryffth, the slave Achilles, little Charles — all come across as complex, credible characters.

thedryThe small Australian town of Kiewarra bakes in the sun, parched by a long drought, its family farms teetering on bankruptcy. It’s enough to drive a man crazy, which is why the townspeople think the shocking shotgun deaths of Luke Hadler, his school aide wife Karen and their 10-year-old son Billy are a murder-suicide. But in Jane Harper’s evocative novel of crimes past and present, The Dry (Flatiron Books, digital galley), Luke’s father asks federal agent Aaron Falk to investigate when he returns to his hometown for the funeral of his best childhood mate. Aaron’s reluctant, but he owes Luke and his family. Back in high school, they alibied one another in the suspicious drowning death of classmate Ellie Deacon. Harper uses flashbacks to illuminate the town’s secrets, and her shifting narrative takes on an urgency as hostilities reach fever pitch. Most of the revelations┬ádon’t come as a surprise, but the detailed atmosphere keeps things interesting.

strangetideIn addition to reading the three stand-alones above, I checked out new entries in several series over the holidays. Boston investigator and junk food lover Fina Ludlow returns for the fourth time in Duplicity (Putnam Penguin, digital galley), looking into an evangelical church’s cult-like hold on its members and again contending with her black sheep older brother. You’ll appreciate the story more if you’ve read the previous books, especially 2015’s Brutality. Val McDermid’s stellar Out of Bounds (Grove Atlantic, digital galley) marks the third book featuring Scottish cold case detective Karen Pirie, and pivots on the surprising results of a DNA test on an accident victim. And speaking of Scotland, Ian Rankin’s Rather Be the Devil (Little, Brown, digital galley) finds veteran Edinburgh copper John Rebus drawn out of semi-retirement to work a 1978 cold case that also involves his nemesis/frenemy, Big Ger Cafferty. The 21st book in the award-winning series will be published the end of the month. And it’s lucky 13 for the Peculiar Crimes Unit in Christopher Fowler’s Bryant and May: Strange Tide (Ballantine/Random House, digital galley), even if it looks as if ancient Arthur Fowler is losing his mind trying to solve the mysterious drowning of a young woman in the Thames. A fiendishly fun puzzle.

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lightruinsWhat do you mean school starts this week?! Not that I’m going, but summer’s not over, and I have a towering TBR list to prove it. But before I can get to Marisha Pessl’s Night Film, which is as twisted as Twin Peaks, or to Samantha Shannon’s futuristic The Bone Season, which she wrote when she was a 19-year-old Oxford student, I need to catch up on assorted other books read but not yet blogged.
Love and revenge play out in Chris Bohjalian’s absorbing The Light in the Ruins (Knopf/Doubleday, digital galley), part WWII saga, part police procedural. In 1943 Tuscany, the aristocratic Rosatis are coerced into welcoming a German archaelogist and Nazi soldiers to the family villa. But that’s just the half of it. Ten years later, Florence police detective Seraphina Bettini follows a serial killer targeting the surviving Rosatis, and the trail leads her back to the war and her own past as a young partisan. I’m not much on the interspersed short chapters from the bloodthirsty killer’s point-of-view. Not only are they redundant, but they also give away the assassin’s identity.
butterflysisterAmy Gail Hansen spins an intriguing, coincidence-studded first novel, The Butterfly Sister (Morrow, digital galley). Ruby Rousseau mistakenly receives a suitcase belonging to her former Tarble College classmate Beth Richards, then learns that Beth has gone missing. A copy of a Virginia Woolf book among Beth’s possessions suggests to Ruby that Beth was entangled with campus lothario and professor Mark Suter, who broke Ruby’s heart and led to her attempting suicide. Returning to the women’s college near Chicago for a convenient reunion, Ruby, supposedly on assignment for a small newspaper, finds that another student has been hospitalized because of an aborted suicide. Complications ensue, encompassing campus politics, plagiarism and sexual harassment, as well as the shades of Woolf, Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Sylvia Plath. Then again, Ruby may not be the most reliable narrator.
skyeJessica Brockmole skirts sentimentality with Letters from Skye (Random House, digital galley), a novel of love and war told entirely in letters. The first correspondents are Scottish poet Elspeth Grant and American student David Graham. He sends her a fan letter in 1912, and the ensuing exchange charts their relationship through the first World War, as Elspeth’s young husband goes off to the front lines and David becomes an ambulance driver in France. Do their paths ever intersect? Years later, Elspeth’s daughter Margaret writes to her estranged uncle and her fiance about her quest to find out more about her father, whom Elspeth wouldn’t talk about. You might think you know where the story is going, but Brockmole surprises with her missives, scattering clues here and there. Read between the lines.
spearWhat are the chances of two authors, each taking a break from an established series, setting their new novels in the same exotic locale? We’re off to 1920s Kenya with disgraced socialite Delilah Drummond in Deanna Raybourn’s A Spear of Summer Grass (Harlequin, digital galley). The dissolute expat milieu would seem to be the perfect place for vain Delilah, but her romance with the dashing Ryder White and her experiences with the Kikuyu tribe show her to made of stronger stuff as she pursues a new life.
willigThere’s also romance, adventure and scandal in Lauren Willig’s The Ashford Affair (St. Martin’s, review ARC), which intertwines the story of Manhattan attorney Clemmie with that of her 99-year-old grandmother Addie. Addie’s tale, which reaches back to World War I London and then post-war Kenya, is the more interesting, tied as it is to her rich cousin Bea’s exploits and affairs. Clemmie’s research of the family tree yields secrets and surprises.

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