David R. Gillham says City of Women came about from his “desire to write about history and about ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances.” What I found was less of an historical novel with ordinary people becoming heroes, and more of a thriller with action stars, set in World War II Berlin. I found myself quickly captivated!
It is 1943 and Sigrid Schroder is a model German soldier’s wife, living in an apartment with her mother in law, and working at a patent office. One evening, Sigrid goes to the movies, takes a lover in the back row of the theater, and through an ensuing series of decisions that seem only to be opportunities in “extraordinary times,” joins an underground network of Germans hiding and transporting Jewish people to freedom. Once Sigrid becomes involved–through one decision to cover for a girl from her apartment building– there is no escaping the network.
There is a level of grit and harshness to the novel that I had to accept as necessary to the story (as in the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy.) If you can get past it, City of Women is an exciting and worthy page turner.
Ah yes, another one of my guilty pleasures! For my thoughts on books in series please refer to my post on Kathy Reichs’ book “Bones are Forever”. Tess Gerritsen is another author with a series that I follow on a consistent basis. In this outing, Tess Gerritsen, a Maine author, has Rizzoli and Isles mostly going in different directions underscoring the current awkwardness in their friendship. As the book opens, Rizzoli is called to a horrific scene, an entire family in a wealthy section of Boston has been murdered, including small children. Only one member survived, the adopted son and he is so traumatized that he won’t talk. As Jane investigates the crime she connects it with similar crimes in New York and New Hampshire where two other families were virtually decimated in the past year, in each instance leaving a child as the sole survivor. Although Jane’s team members don’t believe there is a connection, Jane’s maternal instinct tells her that the three surviving children may still be in grave danger, even though they are all thought to be “safely” tucked away at Evensong, a school located in the remote wilderness of Maine, surrounded by a state of the art security system.
At the same time that Jane is investigating her Boston homicide, Maura Isles leaves for her planned vacation with Julian Perkins, the teenager Maura became close with after surviving a near death experience in the Rizzoli & Isle book “Ice Cold”. Jane and Maura’s paths converge, as Julian now resides at Evensong, the same school the three homicide survivors now live. How safe is Evensong-Really?
If you are a Rizzoli & Isles fan you will be satisfied with this book and Gerritsen’s extravagant writing style, although I really missed the way Jane and Maura worked together and wasn’t sure having them apart worked as well. Time will tell if Gerritsen plans to thaw the slight frost that has cooled their friendship. If you have never read any Tess Gerritsen and like police procedural/forensics best to start at the beginning and pick up the first in this series, “The Surgeon”. These books are also the basis for the Rizzoli & Isles television show on TNT.
Portland Stage Company kicks off its Affiliate Artists Events for the season with an evening featuring Monica Wood and her new memoir When We Were the Kennedys this Monday, October 1st at 7 p.m. Portland Stage Company actors will perform theatrical readings from the book. Admission is by donation ($5 suggested). For more information, contact Portland Stage Company.
“The Other Woman” grabbed me right from the beginning and I found it hard to put down. Jane Ryland, a rising television star, is disgraced when she refuses to reveal a source. Jane, subsequently sued and fired, finds herself back to newspaper reporting , relegated to political puff pieces. However, it is not long before Jane find herself tracking down a prominent Senate candidate’s secret mistress instead of interviewing his suddenly reclusive wife, as she has been asked to do.
At the same time, Detective Jack Brogan, Jane’s love interest, is investigating a possible serial killer after two women’s bodies have been found under similar circumstances. As the body count rises and the election gets closer it becomes apparent that Jane and Detective Brogan’s cases are connected.
“The Other Woman” is a compelling intricate plotted political mystery/thriller that has multiple story lines and intrigues all racing right up to some twists at the end. This book is the first in a new series featuring Jane Ryland and Jack Brogan from author Hank Phillippi Ryan who has a background in investigative reporting. This background in investigative reporting really makes the writing come alive and feel authentic. If you want a book with a good mix of everything and will make you want to ignore your “to do” list-pick up “The Other Woman” by Hank Phillippi Ryan.
Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures by Emma Straub…I discovered this quiet gem on the Library’s processing shelf, and then noticed it appear on a couple of lists of upcoming fall reads. Billed as a book for readers who loved The Paris Wife and Loving Frank sent it to the top of my to read pile.
Laura Lamont is a fictional Golden Age actress born Elsa Emerson to a midwestern family running a theater. Early in the book, one of her older sisters commits suicide and Elsa finds her. Predictably, young Elsa soon marries an actor from their theater company for her ticket to Hollywood, and then later marries a director who helps her become Laura Lamont and rise to fame. Younger stars inevitably come along to replace her, and Laura, unable to pull a Meryl Streep, moves to once famous starlet status. She struggles, she survives. An unoriginal story, retold daily in Hollywood. You may think, what is the draw? The story is predictable, but Laura herself is not, and the strength of this first novel is the way Straub sets up the “Hollywood” sterotype and then reveals unexpected truths in characters who are not only what you see at first.
I wished through the first half of the book that Laura Lamont was a real star. One benefit of fictional biographies is that we readers have some basis for the character before we open the book. We know them, we know about their lives, but expect the deeper details. Laura Lamont isn’t any one particular star, so I had to count on an amalgam of older Hollywood actresses rather than one specific diva. Several reviewers point to the real life models for supporting characters, but I didn’t see those connections as I read.
Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures is a nice read, not a page turner but a book that holds your attention, with characters you’ll keep thinking about. It doesn’t come with a reader’s guide for book groups for a reason, but is certainly a book for movie buffs and readers of fictional biographies. Enjoy it as you would a good movie.
In my quest to read mysteries out of my comfort zone and on the recommendation of Andi, I picked up Colin Cotterill’s “The Coroner’s Lunch”. This mystery is set in Laos the year after the end of a long civil war that resulted in a Soviet-backed communist government that is the backdrop for this mystery. One of the most refreshing aspects of this book was reading about everyday life under the communist rule and how people made their lives bearable with small acts of personal rebellion. Siri Paiboun, the main character, is the country’s only coroner and at 72 wants nothing more than a peaceful retirement. Siri is joined by a wonderful, quirky staff-Drui, who reads outdated and banned gossip magazines and Mr. Geung, a man considered by many to be dumb, when in fact he is a high functioning Down’s Syndrome person. Cotterill’s depiction of the relationship between these three main characters is one of the books’ strongest and most enjoyable points.
There are two main mysteries Siri is faced with solving-one is Mrs. Nitnoy, the wife of a high-ranking government official, who arrives at the morgue having died mysteriously while having lunch with friends and the other is the case of three men’s bodies that have been found at the bottom of the sea tied to heavy weights. Siri is driven to solve both of these deaths at whatever cost to himself against formidable adversaries. Both mysteries are solved at the end of the book in a very satisfying way and left me wanting to read more about this exotic local and the coroner who sees the restless spirits of his clients. If you have read and liked Alexander McCall Smith’s mysteries and liked them you might try Colin Cotterill’s series for a very satisfying meal.