Fabulous Fiction Firsts #182

From the creator of CSI television series Anthony E. Zuiker come this sensational debut Level 26 : Dark Origins.

This is no ordinary crime thriller. In fact, it is the first digi-novel. It combines the book format, film, and interactive digital technologies into an intense storytelling experience.

Level 26 refers to law enforcement personnel's category of evil - with 25 being the most sadistic of torture-murderers. Now Steve Dark, the ultimate crime-scene tactician is on the trail of the most brutal of killers - one that they have invented a new level for. Code named "Sqweegel", this clever, twisted serial killer has been taunting the police and eluding capture for decades. His choice of victims appears to be random. Nobody is safe.

Readers will be able to log onto www.level26.com (special code and clues scattered through the text) to access digital movies featuring the characters, crime-scene details and more. It is an experience like no other.

Go ahead, double-check doors and windows and sleep with the lights on. I did. I drew the line on taking sharp objects to bed though.

Hidden Gems: Books Unjustly Dusty #5

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Readers of mysteries know that a good mystery writer is a rare find. Even though we’ll put up with mid-grade “who done its” to find out what happened in the end; the feeling left is similar to drinking flat ginger ale.

Philip Kerr a well known author of chidren’s books has also written a series of novels based in Berlin during the 1920's and 30's with a character named Bernard Gunther. Bernie is a former homicide inspector turned private detective trying to survive while the Nazis are taking over. Kerr is a master at intertwining a good story it into this fascinating, grim period. Try solving a crime when the biggest crime in world history is happening all around you.

The library has the Berlin Noir Trilogy: the first of which, March Violets published in 1989, won the Prix du Roman d'Aventures, The Pale Criminal published in 1990 and A German Requiem published in 1993.

Philip Kerr returned to writing more Bernie Gunther mysteries in the past few years but they are not Unjustly Dusty so you have to find out about them on your own!

My Soul to Take, a novel of Iceland

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If you’re like me and breezed through Arnaldur Indridason’s Reykjavik Murder Mysteries and are anxiously waiting for the next book to be translated into English (Hypothermia will be released at the end of the month, and the reviews are great), take a peek at Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s novels. As with many of Indridason’s books, they are also translated by Scudder, before his death. Thus far we have Last Rituals and the newest, My Soul to Take. The novels feature lawyer Thóra Gudmundsdóttir as an investigator helping solve random crimes she gets involved in. I am enchanted and awed once again at how well these Icelandic authors paint the Icelandic setting with such description that it becomes an important character in the books.

In My Soul To Take Thóra heads to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula to talk a frantic and spooked hotel owner out of the idea that his hotel is haunted by ghosts and that they are decreasing his property value. Of course while there a body washes up nearby, and she starts digging into the hotel’s history, the mysterious hauntings, and the history of the farms on the land the hotel now resides. Haunting, ethereal, lovely. Snaefellsnes is the perfect setting, as it has a history of its own magical and other worldly powers. This novel is an excellent whodunnit with a full cast of characters.

Teen Stuff: Being and Nothingness

In his 1943 essay, Being and Nothingness, Jean-Paul Sartre claims, "It is evident that non-being always appears within the limits of a human expectation." Sartre's awareness of the ability of death and/or absence to create meaning in life continues to resonate with authors and readers sixty years later. What has brought the authors below to reexamine this theme of loss and recovery? The sudden destruction of the WTC towers perhaps, or the disappearance of a viable American job market, or maybe something darker still.

Take Gregory Galloway's 2005 fiction, As Simple As Snow, a teen/adult crossover novel about a homogenized high school boy whose life suddenly becomes meaningful when his quirky, spontaneous girlfriend disappears the day before Valentine's Day. Or Carol Plum-Ucci's 2001 Printz Honor Book, The Body of Christopher Creed, where the titular character's mysterious absence casts a menacing shadow over a small town, eventually exposing the dark secrets of the people closest to him. And in John Green's 2006 Printz Award Winner, Looking for Alaska, Miles Halter's new life at Culver Creek boarding school is everything he could have hoped for in the "great perhaps" he was seeking, until tragedy gives his life new focus. Check out all of these novels from the AADL today.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #178

Ann Arbor author Harry Dolan's sensational debut Bad Things Happen* has garnered rave reviews everywhere.

Patrick Anderson of the The Washington Post thought it "Witty, sophisticated, suspenseful and endless fun -- a novel to be savored by people who know and love good crime fiction, and the best first novel I've read this year."

Marilyn Stasio of The New York Times praised Dolan's gift of storytelling.

Publishers Weekly liked that "Dolan gets everything right in his debut. . . . Pitch-perfect prose and sophisticated characterizations drive the noirish plot, which offers plenty of unexpected twists."

Equally enthusiastic in endorsing this newcomer to crime fiction are Nelson DeMille, Karin Slaughter and James Patterson.

And where would Dolan set this mystery? Where else?

* = Starred reviews

Youth Stuff: When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead

When You Reach MeWhen You Reach Me

When You Reach Me is Rebecca Stead’s follow up to the acclaimed First Light, and it’s a good one, worthy of the Newbery Medal Award buzz that surrounds it. Miranda is a 6th grader living in New York City in 1979 with her mother. Her best friend Sal stops talking to her one day, and then she starts receiving mysterious notes predicting the future. So on top of day to day city living, being a latch key kid of a single mom (who is trying out for The $20,000 Pyramid), squabbling with other girls in her class, and having a slight crush on a boy, she has to figure out who is sending these notes and why. She finds it soothing to carry around a beat up copy of A Wrinkle in Time, and eventually has a rather interesting conversation on time travel with the new kid on the block. In the end Miranda figures it all out.

I liked the nostalgia in this book. I liked the setting, a few of the characters, the laughing man, the bit of time travel involved. I do wonder about the idea of having A Wrinkle in Time play such an important role in the book, but at the same time I love how young Miranda finds a book so fantastic she has to read it over and over and carry it around with her.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #176

Utah Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Gerald Elias capitalizes on his musical background in his "witty and acerbic" debut Devil's Trill*. The title is borrowed from Giuseppe Tartini's famous Violin Sonata in G minor, known in musical circles as the Devil's Trill Sonata, for being extremely difficult and technically demanding.

The Grimsley Competition, held once every 13 years, open to child prodigies 13 and under, culminates at New York's Carnegie Hall with cash, concert appearances, and most coveted of all - for the winner the use of the world's only 3/4 sized Stradivarius, known simply as the Piccolino.

When this prized instrument is stolen, Daniel Jacobus, a former Grimsley contestant, now a blind, bitter recluse who cobbles together a livelihood by teaching, is accused of the theft. Suspicion mounts when the winner's teacher is murdered, who happens to be one of Daniel's old enemies.

This thoroughly engaging mystery, packed with violin and concert lore brings to mind the fabulous film The Red Violin . Fans of mystery with a musical theme should also consider The Rainaldi Quartet by Paul Adam; Voice of the Violin by Andrea Camilleri; and Canone Inverso by Paolo Maurensig. And along the way, enjoy some cinematic armchair traveling...

* = Starred Review

Dreaming New Orleans

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This week being the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I thought it would be timely to express my love for the city of New Orleans. After vacationing in The Big Easy, I found that my stay ended all too quickly. But until the day when I can become a permanent resident, I keep myself placated by reading all about the city and its rich history. However, there is also an abundance of fictional tales that keep New Orleans as a setting. Sure, one can always read anything by Anne Rice, but how about Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer or John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces? If you’re in the mood for a film, A Streetcar Named Desire or even Easy Rider might be good bets, too.

For some mystery stories that take place not exclusively in New Orleans but in southern Louisiana, you could check out the powerhouse writer James Lee Burke’s thriller series of Dave Robicheaux novels as well as the wildly popular Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris for some vampiric intrigue.

Don't forget to stop by the Downtown Library this Friday at 7:00 PM for a showing of Trouble the Water - the Academy Award nominated documentary about Hurricane Katrina. Information can be found here.

I’ll see you on the porch with beignets and café au lait.

The Millennium Trilogy

The Girl Who Played with Fire is a cerebral, refreshing thriller that is hard to put down. Not only does the plot remain consistently unpredictable, but it closely examines present day human rights violations as well as the intertwining relationship between the media, the police force, and organized crime. The best part of all is the continued development of the trilogy's heroine, Lisbeth Salander. This is not your typical kitschy protagonist. Lisbeth is a walking paradox of compassion and stoicism, routine and chaos, defenselessness and self reliance. Within a few pages of reading the ending, I almost don't want to finish it. Nothing on my hold list looks as fast-paced as this and the third is still pending U.S. release. Does anyone have a suggestion for a good mystery to read? Please share your ideas with us!

The Dame As A Detective

Enjoy a good murder mystery film but hate gore and wild camera work? Then AADL has what you are looking for. The library carries several DVD editions of Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, and Inspector Alleyn mysteries for those of us that prefer a more subdued approach. For the cream of the crop check out Dame Margaret Rutherford in the George Pollock directed Marple films. Rutherford portrayed a more comical, free-spirited Miss Marple than the traditional (but equally loved) version. AADL carries each of the four films: Murder She Said, Murder at the Gallop, Murder Most Foul, and Murder Ahoy.

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