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.

Icelander by Dustin Long

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The main character in Icelander is known only as Our Heroine. Set in an alternate universe, this postmodern tale starts out with Shirley MacGuffin found murdered the day before the town’s annual celebration of Our Heroine’s mother, the famous sleuth, Emily Bean. Our Heroine has no interest in following in her mother’s footsteps and running around town solving cases, but she gets wrapped up in “the facts” and is thrown into a wild predicament which takes her places she never imagined.

Told from multiple points of view, Icelander is an intense, confusing, absurd, wacky, and magical adventure, akin to The crying of Lot 49, with Nabokovian influences, only laced with Norse mythology. The book is a treat, if you’re up for falling into a rabbit hole. A friend gave me this McSweeney’s book as a gift, and it ended up being quite a delightful surprise. You’ll find yourself either loving or hating this book.

If you still have questions after reading the book, I recommend the following Q&A with the author, and also this author interview.

The Girl Who We Love To Read About

As was suggested by the intriguing blog entry Fabulous Fiction Firsts #127, I picked up a copy of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. The first book in Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy was a realistic, eloquent introduction to the Scandinavian cultural setting used as a backdrop to the issues broached by the books. It is truly a tragedy that we only have two more of Larsson's books to anticipate. Both The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest are to be released in the future, with the former title released tomorrow. Be sure to read this series!

Travel to Cabot Cove!

Has is been a while since you've ventured to Cabot Cove? Have you missed watching Jessica, Sheriff Mort Metzger, and Dr. Seth Hazlitt in action? If so, you might want to take advantage of our recently acquired seasons of Murder, She Wrote. AADL now has the first four seasons of Murder, She Wrote. For those of you unfamiliar with the series, Murder, She Wrote, was a murder mystery television series starring Angela Lansbury. This long time running series (1984-1996) features former substitute English teacher and famed mystery writer Jessica Fletcher using her talent and unfailing ability to be where murders occur, to solve mysteries. Get your Jessica Fletcher fix today!

What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn

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The Costa Award winning What Was Lost begins in 1984 and tells the story of a young girl named Kate. She has read up on how to be a detective (Kate would have enjoyed this book) and spends her days in a local mall “looking for suspects” and recording notes in her precious detective’s notebook, while sitting alongside her assistant, who is a stuffed monkey. At the mall she befriends 21yr old Aidan, and they compare notes and discuss things like chocolate and movies. When Kate goes missing Aidan becomes a prime suspect. Flash forward to the mall in 2004, where we meet record shop manager Lisa and a security guard named Kurt. As we begin to understand the connections between all the characters, the past and present are intertwined and it all comes into focus by the end.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane is great for a summer read. Prepare yourself for a bit of mystery spiked with history:

Connie, a Harvard student working to earn her Ph.D, is pressured by her hippy mother into restoring her grandmother's house to sell in the upcoming year. What sounds like a grueling task on top of her already demanding research schedule turns into a summer of intrigue as Connie begins to unravel the truth about her ancestry as well as discover new aspects of colonial American history. The main focus of the book is the Salem Witch Trials as several of the characters are based on actual accusers and victims of the time. This book is an interesting approach to the subject of witchcraft as well as a fun read. The cheesy romance between two of the characters offers a bit of guilty pleasure to offset the darker aspects of the plot.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #170

In Romance novelist Linda Castillo's chilling mystery debut Sworn to Silence*, Kate Burkholder is a "gun-toting, cursing, female chief of police" at Painters Mill, (Ohio) an idyllic Amish community that prides itself in distancing from the complication of modern life, that is, until a serial killer resurfaces to terrorize the town. The current victims all sport the killer's signature - Roman numerals ritualistically carved into their abdomens.

Kate has good reason to worry - well above her duty to protect and defend - as she is a surviving victim of torture and rape 16 years ago. What transpired estranged her from her family and her faith, and left her totally isolated with a secret she is desperate to keep.

"Deeply flawed characters in a distinctive setting make this a crackling good series opener, recommended for fans of T. Jefferson Parker and Robert Ellis, whose books take place in very un-Amish settings but who generate the same kind of chills and suspense.”

* = Starred reviews

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