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from Selected Letters by Henry James

Reader's Link - February 2010 Staff Picks Archive

Carnaby Street crime

Send a Fax to the Kasbah

Title: Send a Fax to the Kasbah
By: Dorothy Dunnett

Read this before all of our Johnson Johnson mysteries disappear from our shelves -- and then hunt down the others. Better known for her bestselling historical fiction, Dunnett relaxed between sagas by producing seven witty mysteries that a perceptive reader characterized as "pure Carnaby Street." (Think Britain, Beatles, miniskirts...) Send a fax to the Kasbah (UK title: Moroccan traffic) is the final entry in the series, but a delicious entrée. See this Wikipedia article for a chronological list of the series, including both UK and US titles.

View similarly tagged posts: mystery
Posted by curious on Feb. 22, 2010 at 3:34 p.m.

This House of Sky

This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind

Title: This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind
By: Ivan Doig

Doig captures a dramatic time in the history of his people settling the wilds of Montana, where growing up, he coped with the death of his mother and relied upon the hard-scrabble genius of his father. "My father had a humor unusual in a tense man, a casual gift of storying which paid no attention to the nerves twanging away in him. This may account for the way people sometimes have talked to me of him as if Charlie Doig were two separate men." The storyteller and the rancher were just two pieces of him. Doig saw his father so clearly that he and the world around him jump off the page, "...I somehow see my father in different sizes at once--the box-jawed man so far above me as a boy, the banty of a fellow beside me when I had grown." The relationships that grew here and the people that shaped the country and this author who grew up to teach and write are shaped with brilliant word pictures, so alive they beg to be sketched.

View similarly tagged posts: non-fiction,history,biography
Posted by calln on Feb. 14, 2010 at 4 p.m.

Icelandic Clashes

Arctic Chill

Title: Arctic Chill
By: Arnaldur Indridason

Arctic Chill opens with the stabbing death of Elias, a half-Thai and half-Icelandic boy of ten. Paralleled with Elias’ death is the murder case of a new wife by her unfaithful husband. Unlike his previous four mysteries, Arnaldur’s fifth book is haunted by a series of polemic clashes. Apart from the ongoing generation gap between protagonist Erlendur and his two children, there are opposing viewpoints toward family and adoption by young detective Sigurdur Oli and his wife who desperately tries in vain to have children of their own, and increasing cultural clashes between Icelanders and new immigrants, especially among the younger generation, either born in Iceland or in their native countries. Such clashes are amplified to an even greater degree in a country with a homogeneous population of around just 300,000. Another huge obstacle faced by Southeast Asian immigrants currently settling down in Iceland is to learn the Icelandic language, particularly its difficult pronunciation and grammar. Last but not least is the insurmountable hardship for newcomers from tropical Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam, to be forced to endure the long frozen winter in the chill Arctic, despite the fact that “Iceland is not as cold as most places so far north. The Gulf Stream ocean current warms most of Iceland’s coast.” (The World Book Encyclopedia (2009), v. I, p.20)

What makes Arctic Chill warm is a surprising similarity: two older brothers have both lost their younger brothers: Niran, Elias’ half brother, and Erlendur who suffers from lifelong guilt over the loss of his eight-year-old brother in a blizzard. Beyond facial and other superficial dissimilarities, there is a common yearning for better opportunities among new immigrants, and for an ultimate understanding among all peoples, whether it is in relatively homogeneous Iceland or in the culturally diversified United States.

View similarly tagged posts: fiction,mystery
Posted by Hui-Lan on Feb. 5, 2010 at 8:32 a.m.

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