Reader's Link - April 2009 Staff Picks Archive

Cathedrals, Fog and Gothic Suspense

The Unburied

Title: The Unburied
By: Charles Palliser

If your brain is ready for a workout, you might want to try this intricately plotted atmospheric thriller set in Victorian England. It is a framed story--a mystery within a mystery wrapped in yet another mystery. And it has all of the elements you might expect in this genre: missing manuscripts, political intrigue, dark, dank streets, shadowy characters, and even a ghost or two.

The narrative moves back and forth in time and place. While the main plot focuses on Dr. Edward Courtine, a medieval scholar who has been invited to stay with an estranged old friend, it is paralleled by the telling of another mystery--one that unfolded in the town's cathedral back in the 17th century. An Editor's Foreword (and Afterword) provide the framework for everything in between, tantalizing the reader at first and then pulling some of the pieces together at the end.

Set aside a few foggy nights for this book--once the story takes hold you'll find yourself turning back to reread sections again and again in an attempt to put all of the clues together.

View similarly tagged posts: fiction,mystery
Posted on April 29, 2009 at 7:27 a.m.

Six Degrees of Separation in London

London Bridges

Title: London Bridges
By: Jane Stevenson

An affectionate homage to the classic English detective story, London Bridges is set in 1990s London. Its plot centers on a treasure lost in the Blitz and newly discovered by an unscrupulous lawyer, who is tempted by greed into a series of crimes leading to murder. A diverse cast of characters assembles to confound him, including a charming and flamboyant gay classicist in hot pursuit of a sixth-century homoerotic poem he hopes will revive his flagging career, a young Indian lawyer fighting British prejudices of race and class, and a very nice dog named Alice. The main character, lovingly depicted, is London itself, in all its rich variety. Among the novel's themes are the rewards of friendship and community, the imperatives of both preservation and change, and the intertwining, with unexpected effects, of lives in a great city.

View similarly tagged posts: fiction
Posted on April 27, 2009 at 4:15 a.m.

Perfect Book for a Long Flight

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Title: Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
By: Dai Sijie

This is a lovely funny book which can easily transport you from a cramped seat in economy to an elegantly constructed world in China. Set in the Chinese countryside during the Cultural Revolution, Sijie tells us the story of two city boys sent to be re-educated by poor peasants in the mountains of rural China. Their city perspective meets the rural view of the village headman, the local tailor, and the tailor's daughter.

Along the way we have the opportunity to contemplate the intellectual life vs. the laborer's life, outsider vs. insider, and even the influence of Western thought on Chinese values. The story is at the same time moving and funny, gently told by a man who, himself, was re-educated in the seventies according to Mao's edict.

The last sweet turn of events will leave you smiling as you close the cover on this wise little tale and prepare for landing.

View similarly tagged posts: fiction
Posted on April 6, 2009 at 10:32 a.m.

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