The Man From Beijing, by Henning Mankell

A stand alone suspense thriller from the Swedish author that brought us the best-selling Kurt Wallander detective series. Book reviews (both good and bad) are popping up all over the place.

Henning Mankell’s latest epic, The Man From Beijing, begins in Sweden with a mass murder in a remote village. After local officials begin looking into it, Judge Birgitta Roslin learns she is connected to one of the victims and yearns to solve the mystery, which involves delving into her own past. The book cuts to 1863 where three Chinese brothers are kidnapped and forced into work. The connection between one of the brothers, the murder in Sweden years later, and the man from Beijing is quite interesting, and as Birgitta to tries to unravel the historical mess that is before her, she is unaware of the connection. Sweden, China, Africa, Colonialism, Mao, the Communist Party, and secret family diaries all help bridge gap.

Mankell weaves the stories in an enjoyable fashion. The reader gets lost in each era and works along with Birgitta to learn where that lone red ribbon that was found at the crime scene came from. It’s a great thriller, as far as thrillers go, but it’s no Kurt Wallander book. Mankell, we love you anyway, we don’t mind if you stick with more Wallander and less ground-breaking.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #200

In Danielle Trussoni's contemporary epic fantasy Angelology**, Sister Evangeline, a 23 year-old nun at the convent of the Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration in upstate New York is drawn into the 1000-year old conflict between the Society of Angelologists and the beautiful, powerful, and cruel, half-human-half-angel Nephilim when she comes across letters between philanthropist Abigail Rockefeller and the late mother superior, referring to "an ancient artifact" - an article the Nephilim are desperate to claim.

The imaginative multilayer plot; the circuitous unfolding of Evangeline's personal connections to the Angelologists; captivating characters real and imagined; scholarly blending of biblical and mythical lore; rich historical references; seductive imagery; treachery, mystery and adventure make for an engrossing and entertaining read.

Film rights to Sony Pictures with Will Smith's Overbrook Entertainment producing. Rumor has it that Trussoni is at work on a sequel. Can't get here soon enough for me. (I won't spoil it for you though).

Comparison to The Da Vinci Code is inevitable but more appropriately would be Katherine Neville's The Eight; and Kate Mosse's Labyrinth.

Coincidentally, Trussoni, a graduate of University of Wisconsin and the Iowa Writers' Workshop now resides in the Languedoc region (France) where Labyrinth is set. Her memoir Falling Through the Earth was named one of the Ten Best Books of 2006 by The New York Times.

** = Starred reviews

February Books to Film, Part 2

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The very popular The Lightning Thief: Percy Jackson & the Olympians, Book One by Rick Riordan is now a feature film (not yet rated).

This wildly popular series for young readers makes the leap to the big screen on February 12. Adapted from the first book in the series, the film is directed by Chris Columbus (who brought the first two Harry Potter books to the screen) and stars Logan Lerman as Percy Jackson.

It's the 21st century, the gods of Mount Olympus and assorted monsters have walked out of the pages of high school student Percy Jackson's Greek mythology texts and into his life. And they're not happy: Zeus's lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect. Even more troubling is the sudden disappearance of Percy's mother.

And FINALLY, the twice-delayed, Martin Scorsese-directed Shutter Island is to be released on February 19th (let's hope).

Shutter Island is an army facility turned hospital for the criminally insane. When a beautiful-and certifiably crazy-patient escapes, U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his partner, Chuck Aule, are called in to investigate. Embroiled in uncertainties and mystery, the two soon learn there's much more at stake than simply finding one missing woman.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, and Max von Sydow star in this thriller based on the bestseller by Dennis Lehane.

Celebrate the Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief Movie Party!

Hopefully you have read the books by Rick Riordan and are ready to see the movie based on the first book in the series, The lightning thief, that hits theaters on Friday, February 12. Come dressed as your favorite Olympian, and be ready to play some games, test your knowledge of Greek Mythology and the books. We'll have prizes and CUPCAKES from the Cupcake Station for snacks! If you haven't already be sure to read the rest of the books in the series The sea of monsters, The titan's curse, The battle of the Labyrinth and The Last Olympian.

Kids and Teens in GRADES 4-8 are invited on Thursday, February 11, 7:00-8:30 PM at the Traverwood Branch. This event is FREE, and does not require registration.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #194

Now that Lee Child's Gone Tomorrow has snatched the top honor in the Adrenaline category of the 2010 Reading List Award, Jack Reacher fans could hardly contain themselves. While they eagerly await the next Reacher scrape, we suggest The Bricklayer.

Pseudonym for a former FBI agent, Noah Boyd's debut (and projected series opener) features Steve Vail, a former agent turned bricklayer who is recruited to solve a brilliant and deadly extortion plot by a mysterious organization called the Rubaco Pentad. One thing is clear: someone who knows a little too much about the inner workings of the Bureau is very clever —and very angry—and will kill and kill again if it means he can disgrace the FBI.

While some reviewers find fault with it being "...highly formulaic", "predictably inclusive finish with a bit of romance", most would admit that it is "pulse-pounding", and "irresistible red meat for connoisseurs of action thrillers". (150,000 first printing)

You know you are going to read it. Might as well be first on the list.

World Fantasy Awards

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Created in the mid-1970s, the World Fantasy Awards, associated with the annual World Fantasy Conventions were established as a fantasy counterpart to the SF-oriented Hugo and Nebula Awards. If you enjoy reading/watching/writing fantasy or science fiction, the annual conventions are definitely for you! Think about attending the 2010 convention. It will be close by in Columbus, Ohio on the weekend of October 28-31. A great way to celebrate Halloween by dressing up as your favorite fantasy character- a Volturi anyone?

Here are the winners for best novel:

The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford: In the wake of a classmate's disappearance, a sixth grader and his older brother observe strange events in 1960s Long Island, including the appearance of a man in a large white car and the deteriorating mental state of the school librarian.

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan: A young woman who has endured unspeakable cruelties is magically granted a safe haven apart from the real world and allowed to raise her two daughters in this alternate reality, until the barrier between her world and the real one begins to break down.

Best Anthology:
Paper Cities: An Anthology of Urban Fantasy, by: Ekaterina Sedia, ed.
A collection of urban fantasy stories featuring cities--whether real or imaginary and throughout history--and how they affect the lives and experiences of their inhabitants.

Best Collection:
The Drowned Life by: Jeffrey Ford: In this mesmerizing blend of the familiar and the fantastic, multiple award-winning New York Times notable author Jeffrey Ford creates true wonders and infuses the mundane with magic.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #186

Seriously one of the best nordic crime fiction of the year, Anders Roslund's projected new series debut Box 21* is violent, horrific, and strangely gripping.

Over the course of a rainy summer's week in Stockholm, a Lithuanian prostitute viciously beaten close to death, three Stockholm police detectives investigating the case, sundry petty criminals, and a young doctor at the edge of despair cross path when one of them holds the the city hostage at gunpoint. While lives are lost, scores settled, secrets unearthed (Locker no. 21), friendship and honor severely tested, it is shame that drives the well-crafted thriller to its explosive and tragic conclusion.

Students of human nature and readers of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahlöo's Martin Beck series, Henning Mankell, and Karin Fossum - "Norway's Queen of Crime," will find this irresistible and affecting.

* = Starred reviews

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.

The Vanishing (1988)

Dutch couple Rex and Saskia are vacationing in France. After stopping at a busy gas station, Saskia goes inside to buy some drinks and never returns. Three years pass, and it is unknown whether or not she is dead or alive. Rex is still obsessed with finding Saskia and eventually begins to receive communication from the supposed abductor. Will Rex ever find out what happened to his lover? The chilling ending of this top-notch thriller shocked audiences all over the world (and me).

George Sluizer’s The Vanishing (Spoorloos) was inspired by Tim Krabbé’s 1984 novella titled “The Golden Egg” and was published as The Vanishing in English speaking countries. Krabbé also wrote the screenplay for the film. The film received the Golden Calf award for best feature film that year at the Netherlands Film Festival and the lovely Johanna ter Steege (Saskia) won a European Film Award for Best Supporting Actress. Sluizer directed an American remake of the film in 1993 that was not received as well as the original Dutch film, mainly because the ending was altered so drastically.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #177

10 years ago, rumors of human sacrifice, ghosts and magic were just that - until journalist Paul Seaton came face to face with unspeakable evil at the abandoned Fischer House and barely escaped with his life. Still haunted by his loss, he is asked to return to prevent the house from claiming more unsuspecting souls.

Riveting and seductive, The House of Lost Souls* is a brooding and sinister tale of supernatural horror that unfolds gradually, building up suspense, and drawing the readers in. Atmospheric and cinematic, rich with historic details, a complex plot, engaging narrative devices, nonstop chills and gore, this U.S. debut from British F.G. Cottam terrifies and entertains. Likely first of a projected series. Don't miss it.

For fans of horror master Stephen King's Duma Key*; and newcomer Christopher Ransom's spanking new The Birthing House* (another FFF); and of course, a perennial classic - The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

* = Starred reviews

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