Posts Tagged ‘investigative’

Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace

November 7, 2012

Author:  Kate Summerscale

Title:  Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady

Genre:  Biography

Publication Date:  2012

Number of Pages:  291

Geographical Setting:  Scotland and England

Time Period:  Victorian Era, 1850-1859

Plot Summary:  Isabella Robinson was a 31 year-old widow with a young child when she met and married Henry Robinson in 1844.  The Robinsons subsequently had two children of their own, and the family became firmly ensconced in upper middle class society in Scotland and England.   Isabella ultimately grew unhappy with her aloof husband, and spent more and more of her time in the company of family friends and academics whom she admired.  After stumbling upon and reading Isabella’s private diary in 1857, Henry Robinson promptly sued his wife for divorce in the English courts on charges of adultery.   The resulting divorce hearings and trial erupted into in a scandal of massive proportion when The London Times printed a series of unedited excerpts from Isabella’s diary in which she described, in lurid detail, a series of intimate encounters with Edward Lane, a respected London doctor and friend to the Robinson family.  Was Isabella really a bold, unrepentant adulteress or simply a discontented wife who wrote unashamedly about her sexual frustrations and fantasies?  Why was Isabella subject to public scorn, while Dr. Lane was afforded greater sympathy?  Summerscale provides readers with a moving portrait of Isabella’s life, details of her relationship with Edward Lane and his family, and an informative look at the moral and cultural influences of the Victorian era.  This well-researched work includes excerpts from Isabella’s diary and letters, relevant court transcripts and news reports of the day, and excerpts from the personal letters of historical figures such as Charles Darwin and controversial phrenologist George Combe, both of whom were patients of Dr. Lane’s, and acquaintances of Isabella’s.  Overall, this work offers a fascinating examination of the role of women in the Victorian era, and the inequalities afforded them by society and the courts.

Subject Headings:  Robinson, Isabella (1813-1887)—Diaries;  Middle class women—Scotland—Edinburgh—Diaries;  Edinburgh—Scotland—Social life and customs—19th century;  Divorce—England—19th century

Appeal:  compelling, densely written, stately, atmospheric, dramatic, introspective, sophisticated, thoughtful, detailed, evocative, insightful, sympathetic characters, authentic, details of the Victorian era, complex, investigative, rich and famous, accessible, colorful, engaging, informative, journalistic, polished, well-researched

Three Appeal Terms that Best Describe this Book:  compelling, insightful, well-researched

Three Fiction Read-alikes:

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

In Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, Isabella Robinson is aware of the scandal surrounding the publication of Madame Bovary in France in 1856, and the charges of obscenity which prevented its publication in Scotland and England.  Did the tale of Emma Bovary’s discontent and adultery influence Isabella’s behavior or simply spark her imagination?  Flaubert’s classic novel mirrors Isabella’s life with its theme of a passionate woman dissatisfied with her marriage and way of life.

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Readers of Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace interested in its examination of the effects a scandalous affair can have on a woman’s reputation may also enjoy this fictionalized account of the relationship between architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his mistress of many years, Mameh Cheney.  Horan’s award-winning novel focuses on the impact their long-time affair had on Wright’s wife and family, and the public derision Cheney endured after she left her husband and children to make a new life with Wright.

Clara Callan by Richard Bruce Wright

Readers of Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace who enjoyed learning about societal expectations impacting women in a bygone era may also enjoy Wright’s novel about two sisters pursuing separate dreams against the backdrop of the political and social upheaval of the 1930’s.  Written as a series of letters and diary entries, Wright’s novel offers a vivid portrait of the lives of the two women, one pursuing a career in glamorous New York City, while the other struggles with the limitations of a more traditional life in her small Canadian town.  Interwoven throughout the story are real world events that shaped the era, including the effects of the Great Depression and the rising political tensions in pre-WWII Europe.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works:

Marriage, Feminism, and the Law in Victorian England, 1850-1895 by Mary Lyndon Shanley

In Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, Isabella Robinson found herself a victim of society’s attitudes toward the role of women in Victorian era England, as well as antiquated and discriminatory divorce laws which afforded women few rights when a marriage was dissolved.  Out of the struggles of married women like Isabella, a feminist movement was born.  Shanley’s title examines the Victorian feminists’ battle for fundamental reforms to marriage law that ultimately transformed both the legal and social status of married women.

Hydotherapy:  Simple Treatments for Common Ailments by Clarence Dail and Charles Thomas

Edward Lane, the doctor who was the object of Isabella Robinson’s passion in Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, was the proprietor of a popular health retreat that specialized in hydrotherapy, a relatively new and fairly provocative medical treatment at the time.  In addition to Isabella, his patients included upper class members of society, celebrities of the era, and historical figures such as Charles Darwin.  This title by Dail and Thomas examines modern-day beliefs surrounding the healing powers of water.

 Darwin:  Portrait of a Genius by Paul Johnson

As one of many famous patients to take treatment at Dr. Lane’s health retreat throughout the 1850’s, influential scientist Charles Darwin makes several appearances in Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, with his opinion regarding the scandal surrounding Dr. Lane and Isabella reflected in his writings of the time.   Readers interested in learning more about Darwin will find much to enjoy in Johnson’s new biography, which details the life and times of the celebrated scientist, whose groundbreaking work Origin of the Species was published in 1859, just as the Robinson divorce case was reaching its conclusion.

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

October 31, 2012

Author: Ira Levin

Title: Rosemary’s Baby

Genre: Horror

Publication Date: 1967

Number of Pages: 218

Geographical Setting: New York

Time Period: 1960s

Plot Summary: Do you like reading books that have been made into movies? Then check this one out. Rosemary Woodhouse and her husband Guy Woodhouse moved into a famous apartment building in New York. A close friend of there’s feared that due to many incidents in the building’s past, there was something wrong with the building and they should not have moved there. This story progresses through Rosemary’s painful pregnancy and surprising birth of a child. Unfortunately, Rosemary’s friend hinted within a book that he left her before his death, that something was wrong with her neighbors. Could her neighbors be a coven of witches? Is her husband aware of this problem? Do the witches desire to take her baby? Has Rosemary gone insane? If you are a fan of literary fiction and want just a taste of horror, then try this book.

Sequel: Son of Rosemary

Subject Headings: Pregnancy, Witches, Witch Coven, Devil Worship

Appeal terms: leisurely paced, unhurried, bleak, melancholy, bittersweet, quirky, eccentric, tragic, investigative, classic, character centered, descriptive

Three appeal terms: tragic, character centered, quirky

Similar Authors and Works:

Fiction-

The servants of twilight by Dean Koontz: This is a tale of a cult that is targeting a child because he may be the Antichrist. It was one of Koontz’s best works.

The Crucible by Arthur Miller: This is a classic play about the Salem Witch Trials.

The Witching Hour by Anne Rice: This book is part of the “Lives of the Mayfair Witches” series. It tells the tale of four centuries of witchcraft.

Non-Fiction-

In the Devil’s Snare: the Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 by Mary Beth Norton: This is a book about the history of the Salem Witchcraft trials of 1692.

The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England by Carol F. Karlsen: This is a history of witchcraft accusations in New England. The author wrote about the social, religious, and economic reasons for accusing people of being witches.

Wicca for Beginners: fundamentals of philosophy & practice by Thea Sabin: This is a book about the philosophy, culture, and beliefs of Wiccan religion, a modern day version of a witchcraft based spirituality.

Name: Rachel Fischer

In the Woods

October 17, 2012

Author: Tana French

Title: In the Woods

Genre: Psychological  Suspense

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 429

Geographical Setting: Dublin, Ireland and Knocknaree, Ireland

Time Period: Modern times; 2007, also flashbacks to mid-1980s

Plot Summary: On a beautiful summer day in 1984, three young children mysteriously disappear into the woods near their home. While initially unalarmed, their parents eventually head out to search for the three kids. One is found, clutching a tree, covered in blood and unable to speak. The other two are never found. In modern times, detective Rob Ryan and his partner Cassie Maddox are assigned to a terrible case of a young girl who is murdered and left on an ancient ceremonial stone in the same area where the two youngsters disappeared back in 1984. As the two detectives work tirelessly to uncover the young girl’s killer, detective Ryan must grapple with his own demons and try to make sense of a murder that seems unsolvable, and an old, haunting case that seems more and more to be connected. Will the two detectives be able to solve the case, and the old case, before they go cold?

Subject Headings: Murder victims, child murder, detectives, cold cases, criminal investigations, murder investigations, crimes against children, police, Dublin, Ireland, detective and mystery stories

Appeal: Character driven, Disturbing, Compelling, Lyrical, Moody, Detailed, Investigative, Builds in intensity, Suspenseful, Creepy, Series (Characters), Engrossing, Flashbacks,

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Investigative, Creepy, Moody

Similar fiction authors and works:

Abbott, Megan E. The End of Everything

 

Evie and Lizzie are neighbors and best friends; they spend all of their time together and could never imagine being apart or keeping a secret. When Evie suddenly disappears, Lizzie is bombarded with questions about her best friend and her whereabouts. As she searches for the truth, Lizzie comes across a series of secrets that make her question how well she really knew her best friend.

Roy, Lori. Bent Road

When Arthur Scott moves his family back to his small hometown in Kansas, his wife and children struggle to adjust to their new life. To make matters worse, a young girl disappears in the town, drudging up old memories of Arthur’s sister, who also mysteriously disappeared never to be found. This richly detailed, creepy novel will delight readers who enjoyed the tone and atmosphere, as well as the suspense aspects, of In The Woods.

Eriksson, Kjell. The Princess of Burundi

When a jogger stumbles onto the body of a local small town crook, the homicide detective team works to uncover the multiple angles of who might have killed him. Though eventually discovered, this psychological mystery is a compelling and gritty read.

Similar nonfiction authors and works:

Cohen, Lisa R. After Etan: the missing child case that held America captive

While often when children go missing, they are eventually found, this is the true tale of a young boy who disappeared 30 years ago and is still missing. Filled with disturbing details, this will be an enjoyable read for anyone who liked the aspect of a cold case of missing children and the gritty details surrounding that.

Kottler, Jeffrey A. Lust for Blood

This book examines the ongoing fascination with crime, murder, and violence in the world. Filled with interviews of both consumers of the morbid, and those who perpetrate these crimes, this book is an interesting look into the public’s twisted fascination with the macabre.

Stern, Jessica. Denial: A Memoir of Terror

This story discusses the trauma of post traumatic stress as a result of sexual abuse and other forms of physical and mental abuse. Written from the viewpoint of a scientist and former abuse victim, this haunting investigation will entice readers who were interested in the sexual abuse and psychological trauma angles of In the Woods.

Devil in a Blue Dress

October 17, 2012


Title: Devil in a Blue Dress

Author: Mosley, Walter

Genre: Mystery, Historical Mystery, African American Fiction

Publication Date: 1990

Number of Pages: 215

Geographical Setting: Los Angeles, California

Time Period: 1948, Post WWII

Series: Easy Rawlins

Plot Summary: Set in Los Angeles in 1948, this gritty novel follows Ezekiel Rawlins who goes by Easy.  An African-American WWII veteran, Easy just wants to enjoy his life and hold onto the house he worked so hard to get but he has just lost his factory job.  Easy tries to forget his troubles at his friend Joppy’s bar when he is offered money by the mysterious, white gentleman DeWitt Albright.  All he has to do is track down French beauty Daphne Monet, a lady who is said to frequent black jazz clubs, and he will have enough money to pay this month’s mortgage.  But what starts out as a straightforward mission leads to increasing danger and threats to his life.  With bodies piling up and the police eager to pin the crimes on him, Easy must find Daphne and solve this mystery in order to stay alive.  Winner of the Shamus best P.I. novel award and the first in the Easy Rawlins series, this book introduces a complex and engaging protagonist who goes from reluctant to empowered private investigator while also dealing with racial tensions during the 1940’s Los Angeles.  Mystery lovers can enjoy this private investigator novel that looks at social issues while also delivering an atmospheric, evocative story that has the feel of a film noir.  They can also watch the movie version of this starring Denzel Washington and Jennifer Beals.

Subject Headings: African-American Fiction, Mystery Fiction, Los Angeles, California, Private Investigators, Race Relations, Rawlins, Easy, African American Men, Organized Crime, Missing persons investigation, The Forties (20th century), Gangsters, Political Corruption

Appeal: Builds in intensity Pacing, Edgy, Character-driven, Suspenseful, Intriguing Characters, Well-drawn Characters, Gritty, Historical Details, Issue-oriented, Stark, Investigative, Thought-provoking, Strong Language, Time period dialect, Atmospheric, Evocative

Three Most Relevant Appeal Terms: Gritty, Historical details, Investigative

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

A Dangerous Road by Kris Nelscott

Set against the racially tense backdrop of Memphis in 1968, this historical mystery follows the activities of African-American private investigator Smokey Dalton.  He finds out that he is the recipient of $10,000 through rich,white Chicago heiress Laura Hathaway’s mother’s will.  Laura wants to know why Smokey was named the beneficiary, as does Smokey.  This search for answers leads to danger and mysteries for Smokey.  Another historical mystery novel that features an engaging African-American private detective narrator, while also offering an atmospheric story that deals with racial issues.

L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy

In this noir fiction set in the Los Angeles of the 1950s, the story follows three troubled LAPD officers Ed Exley, Bud White and Jack “Trashcan” Vincennes as they deal with crime, corruption and violence over a 10-year period.  Enjoy this mystery novel that deals with corruption and violence during a similar time period.  Like Devil in a Blue Dress, this was made into a movie.

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

In this classic noir novel, San Francisco detective Sam Spade must deal with his partner being killed in a stakeout, a valuable statue of a falcon being wanted, the appearance and disappearance of a mysterious redhead and enemies demanding a payoff that Sam does not have.  The stakes are high and Sam must figure out how to get out of this mess and get some answers.  Here is the go-to novel for a gritty, noir detective story.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

The Invisible Line: A Secret History of Race in America by Daniel J. Sharfstein

If you want to delve a bit deeper into some of the racial issues explored in Devil in a Blue Dress, try this book that explores three American families whose self-identified race shifted from black to white over the years.

L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City by John Buntin

Delve even deeper into the seedy underworld of Los Angeles from the1920s through the 1960s.  It dives into the world of crime, corruption, and violence along with the racial tensions of the city.  This book is suggested for those who wanted more details regarding the historical setting presented in Devil in a Blue Dress.

The Film Noir Encyclopedia by Alan Silver, Elizabeth Ward, James Ursini and Robert Porfirio

Did you enjoy the book as well as the movie?  Then try this encyclopedia that covers film noirs in detail.  It explores the themes and motifs of the genre, while featuring pictures and stills of the movies and their stars.

Name: Margita Lidaka

Breakdown

October 17, 2012

Author:  Sara Paretsky

Title:  Breakdown

Genre:  Mystery

Publication Date:  2012

Number of Pages:  431

Geographical Setting:  Chicago, Illinois

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series:  The V.I. Warshawski Series (#16)

Plot Summary:  Chicago private detective V.I. Warshawski investigates the potential involvement of a group of preteen girls interested in the Supernatural in the grisly vampire-style murder of a local private detective.  Meanwhile, a polarizing cable TV news host ratchets up his attempts to smear a candidate for the U.S. Senate by digging up dirt on wealthy businessman Chaim Salanter, an elderly Jewish supporter of the candidate and the grandfather of one of the girls discovered at the scene of the murder.  Plotlines converge at breakneck speed when Salanter’s granddaughter is kidnapped.  With the girl’s life hanging in the balance, Warshawski races to determine how the original murder and Salanter’s well-kept secrets are related to the kidnapping, a vicious attack on an old friend, and the death of an orderly at a state mental facility.  As the plot twists and turns, it seems clear that someone is willing to go to great lengths to make sure events of the past stay buried. 

Subject Headings:  Warshawski, V.I. (Ficticious Character)—Fiction; Women Private Investigators—Illinois—Chicago—Fiction;  Murder—Investigation—Fiction; Rich People—Fiction; Political Campaigns—Fiction;  Chicago (Ill.)—Fiction

Appeal:  fast-paced, compelling, suspenseful, dangerous, dark, gritty, sarcastic, engaging, series characters, intricately plotted, multiple plotlines, plot twists, investigative, rich and famous, contemporary, urban, political, details of Chicago, candid, earthy, straight-forward

Three Appeal Terms that Best Describe Book:  fast-paced, intricately plotted, suspenseful

Fiction Read-alikes:

A Trouble of Fools by Linda Barnes

Fans of Sara Paretsky’s tough, female private investigator V.I. Warshawski may also enjoy getting to know Carlotta Carlyle, the smart, hard-nosed female P.I. at the heart of Linda Barnes’ fast-paced mysteries, which are set against the gritty urban landscape of Boston. In this first title of the series, Carlotta’s investigation into the disappearance of a missing cab driver soon draws her into intrigue involving the IRA, a major drug ring, the FBI, and a member of the Mob.

The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Readers who enjoyed following the nasty political campaign and related media tie-ins at the heart of Breakdown may also enjoy this suspenseful and intricately plotted mystery involving murder and sleazy politicians.  Plotlines converge as Detective Jake Brogan investigates a series of murders of young women in Boston, while disgraced reporter Jane Ryland covers a seemingly-unrelated sex scandal involving a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

The Chicago Way by Michael T. Harvey

Readers of the V.I. Warshawski series who enjoy its gritty Chicago setting may also enjoy this first title in Harvey’s series about ex-Chicago cop and private detective, Michael Kelly.  At the request of his former partner, Kelly agrees to investigate a cold case involving a violent rape committed 8 years ago.  After his partner is found dead the next day, Kelly’s investigation soon points to the possibility that a serial killer/rapist is currently on the loose.  In this fast-paced mystery, the body count mounts as Kelly races to expose a cover-up related to the original crime.

Related Non-Fiction:

Politics on Demand: The Effects of 24-Hour News on American Politics by Alison Dagnes

A major plotline in Breakdown revolves around the efforts of a popular, politically polarizing host of a major cable TV news program to influence the outcome of a campaign for the U.S. Senate.  This book examines the proliferation of the 24-hour news cycle perpetuated by cable news stations, and the resulting shift in coverage away from substantive treatment of political issues to opinion-based reporting.   Also discussed is the impact this type of coverage has had on Americans’ understanding of politics and government, changes in the ways in which news organizations use politicians, and vice versa.

The Last Days of the Jerusalem of Lithuania: Chronicles from the Vilna Ghetto and the Camps, 1939-1944 by Herman Kruk

A significant plotline in Breakdown involves an investigation into a major character’s experience as a youth living in the Jewish Ghetto of Vilna, Lithuania during WWII.  This book is a translation of a diary kept by Herman Kruk, a Polish Jew who lived in the Vilna Ghetto, who ultimately perished in a labor camp in Estonia.  The diary provides a heartbreaking account of the conditions, violence, and cruelty that marked everyday life in the Ghetto.

Vampires, Zombies, and Shape-shifters (Secrets of the Supernatural)  by Rebecca Stefoff

Secret rituals surrounding membership in a book club for a (fictitious) popular series of books about vampires and shape-shifters inadvertently connects a group of preteen girls to a dangerous murder plot in Breakdown.  This book provides a review of the legend and folklore surrounding the enduring myth of vampires, zombies, and shape-shifters (e.g., werewolves).

Becky King

Love You More

October 3, 2012

Author: Lisa Gardner

Title: Love You More

Genre: Mystery, Suspense

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 412

Geographical Setting: Boston, Massachusetts

Plot Summary: In this fifth book of the Detective D.D. Warren series, the veteran detective pairs up with former lover Bobby Dodge to solve what seems at first to be an open-and-shut case. State police trooper Tessa Leoni appears to have shot and killed her husband Brian Darby in self-defense, and she has the bruises to prove it. However, what happened to their six-year-old daughter Sophie? There’s more than meets the eye in this compelling, fast-paced tale, where plot twists abound, suspense constantly builds, and secrets shock as they are unraveled. D.D. and Bobby have their hands full trying to understand the motives behind Brian’s death and the little girl’s disappearance; meanwhile, readers are exposed to Tessa’s stories as told from her point-of-view. At the same time the detectives get closer to solving the case, readers begin to approach their own understanding of what’s really going on through Tessa’s unfolding tales.

Subject Headings: Warren, D.D. (Fictitious character) – Fiction. Police – Massachusetts – Boston—Fiction. Boston(Mass.) – Fiction. Mystery fiction.

Appeal: Fast-paced, suspenseful, multiple points of view, flashbacks, plot twists, investigative, compelling, series (characters), chilling, layered, psychological, flawed characters, engrossing, plot-driven, intricate

Three appeal terms:  Suspenseful, plot twists, investigative

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Down the Darkest Road by Tami Hoag

Down the Darkest Road is a crime novel that is suspenseful, compelling, and fast-paced – all the same appeal as Love You More. Engrossing and plot-driven, this book keeps readers on their toes and unable to put the book as they follow the outcomes of the disturbing case. Lauren’s 16-year-old daughter went missing, her husband killed himself, and now she has only her younger daughter, Leah, and the desire for a fresh start to keep her going. Lauren takes her daughter and moves them to the safe haven of Oak Knoll, but soon she finds out she’s not the only one who has relocated to this peaceful town…

Survivor in death by J.D. Robb

This is another fast-paced mystery book bursting with thrills and suspense, with a little romance thrown into the mix. Lieutenant Eve Duncan is on the case of the murder of the Swisher family in New York City, and brings in her partner Peabody and her husband Roarke to help investigate. Meanwhile, she’s guarding the family’s only survivor – a nine year-old girl named Nixie. Readers who enjoyed Love You More will likely enjoy the appeal of familiar characters working together in to solve a crime in an urban setting, but might also like the more emotional aspects present in this book.

Fallen by Karin Slaughter

Fans of suspenseful thrillers will find plenty of edge-of-your-seat twists and turns in Karin Slaughter’s Fallen. Police officer Faith Mitchell seeks the help of her partner, Will Trent, and trauma doctor Sara Linton after walking into a deadly hostage situation in her mother’s home. As Faith tries to find answers and locate her missing mother, she goes on a whirlwind journey to uncover the truth behind what happened and save her mother (and herself) from a deadly fate.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

A Cold Case by Philip Gourevitch

Almost thirty years after an unresolved case of a brutal double homicide in New York, determined investigator Philip Goeurevitch revisits the case, focusing less on the murders themselves and more on the lives and minds of the killers. The investigative appeal that readers enjoyed in Love You More is present here in Geourevitch’s book, only in a different type of murder case. In Love You More, the detectives spend time pondering the whys of murder to understand Tessa’s reasoning and motives. What could drive her to kill her six-year-old child? In A Cold Case, Gourevitch questions what can drive one man to kill and another to hunt murderers.

If Looks Could Kill by M. William Phelps

Fact is often stranger than fiction, which is one reason why fans of Love You More might be drawn to this suspenseful true story. In 2001, Jeff Zack was murdered execution-style in Akron, Ohio, and former beauty queen Cynthia George was implicated in the crime. This non-fiction thriller packs anticipation as the saga unfolds and builds up to the final verdict. An editorial review on Amazon.com says the book “reads like a well-plotted crime novel,” and will likely please readers who enjoyed the suspenseful, crime-solving aspects of Love You More.

Skyjack: the hunt for D.B. Cooper by Geoffrey Gray

This is a fast-paced, compelling true crime story about the search for a hijacker named D.B. Cooper, who vanished after parachuting from a plane in 1971. Cooper was carrying $200,000 in ransom money with him when he disappeared, and was never to be found again. The story includes elements of mystery and suspense, as well as fast-paced storytelling and intriguing characters, making it a relevant readalike for Love You More.

Before I Wake

October 3, 2012

Cover Before I Wake Author:  Dee Henderson

 Title:  Before I Wake

 Genre: Christian Fiction & Romantic Suspense

 Publication Date:  2006

 Number of Pages:  381

 Geographical Setting:  Justice, Illinois

 Time Period:  Contemporary

 Series:  N/A

Plot Summary:  Haunted by the death of a colleague in a botched undercover investigation, former FBI agent Rae Gabriella is looking for a change in career, as well as scenery.  Taking her ex-fiancé, Bruce Campbell, up on his offer to join his Private Investigation firm, she looks forward to settling into a less stressful life in the small town of Justice, Illinois.  The ideal of small-town life is soon shattered when two unrelated young women visiting Justice are found dead in their hotel rooms within a week; both having died in their sleep.  Are their deaths an unfortunate coincidence or the result of something much more sinister?  Sheriff Nathan Justice asks Rae and Bruce for help in getting to the bottom of the mysterious deaths, unwittingly setting Rae up as a potential victim.  Rae must deal with a personal crisis in faith, as well as growing romantic feelings for both Bruce and Nathan, as she races to pursue leads that indicate a killer is on the loose.

Subject Headings:  Women Private Investigators — Illinois — Fiction;  Women Travelers —Fiction; Tourists — Crimes Against — Fiction; Illinois – Fiction

Appeal:   fast-paced, compelling, atmospheric, dangerous, suspenseful, romantic, well-developed characters, introspective, inspirational, investigative, multiple plot lines, plot-driven, open-ended, contemporary, small-town, dramatic

Three Appeal Terms that Best Describe Book:  fast-paced, suspenseful, small-town

Fiction Read-alikes:

Fatal Judgment by Irene Hannon

Against his wishes, U.S. Marshall Jake Taylor is assigned to protect the life of his best friend’s widow, Federal Judge Liz Michaels, whom Jake blames for his friend’s suicide.  This is the first volume in the Guardians of Justice series, and Hannon is a Christy Award winning author.  Like Before I Wake, this book is a fast-paced, compelling Christian Romantic Suspense title with a law-enforcement theme, where the main female character becomes a potential victim of an unknown predator.

Hideaway by Hannah Alexander

Dr. Cheyenne Allison withdraws to a small Missouri town to escape feelings of guilt over her sister’s tragic death.  When vandalism in town leads to serious violence and injuries, Cheyenne finds her loyalties divided between the town’s mayor and a charismatic neighbor.  This is the first book in the Hideaway series and is a Christy Award winning title.  Like Before I Wake, this book is a fast-paced, Christian Romantic Suspense title where a smart, professional woman seeks a new start in life in a small town, but is soon drawn into danger in her new surroundings.

I Heard that Song Before by Mary Higgins Clark

A new wife doubts her husband’s innocence when he becomes a suspect in an investigation into the death of his first wife four years earlier, as well as the disappearance of a neighbor over 20 years ago.  Clark is known for writing suspense stories and mysteries that are considered gentle reads, and the lack of sex, excessive violence, and strong language may have extra appeal to readers of Christian fiction.  This fast-paced, plot-driven suspense title by Clark won the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Mystery & Suspense in 2007, so may also satisfy fans of Romantic Suspense.

Related Non-fiction:

There is Power in a Union: The Epic Story of Labor in America by Philip Dray

A strike by unionized workers at the local tile factory and the ongoing negotiations with management provide a major subplot in Before I Wake.  Dray’s book provides a history of organized labor in the United States, an examination of the social, political, economic, and cultural impact unions have had over the years, and a discussion of the level of influence unions maintain in today’s troubled economy.

Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town by Nick Reding

In Before I Wake, a clandestine meth lab figures prominently in the rash of serious crime affecting Justice, Illinois; with recognition of the ruinous impact the drug trade can have on small-town America.  Reding’s book presents a study of the devastating effects of meth production on a small, agricultural town in  Iowa, the lives ruined by the drug, and the socioeconomic fallout associated with the meth culture.

Detectives Don’t Wear Seat Belts: True Adventures of a Female P.I. by Cici McNair

The fictional character of Rae Gabriella in Before I Wake is an ex-cop and former FBI agent who is just starting out as a private investigator.  This title is an entertaining and candid memoir by Cici McNair, a successful female private investigator in New York City.  McNair describes her early life, the effort required to break into the male-dominated P.I. profession, and the many cases, adventures, and colorful characters that filled her days.

Becky King

Where the River Runs

September 26, 2012

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Author: Richard S. Wheeler

Title: Where the River Runs

Genre: Western

Publication Date: 1990

Number of Pages: 180

Geographical Setting: The West (United States)

Time Period: 1840s

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: Jedediah (Jed) Owen leads a group of twelve men on a mission to bring peace to the Indian nations. After leaving from Fort Leavenworth and traveling through the Missouri River to Fort Union on the American Fur Company steamboat, they disappear. Jed’s journey in the wilderness includes viewing the deaths of all of the other members of his group, surviving the trip and dealing with Indians along the way. Several months pass by; not hearing from Jedd, his fiancée Susannah St. George goes on a mission to find him. Susannah hires Jean Gallant, who works for the American Fur Company; to help find her fiancée. She knows that he is somewhere out there. The book explores the journeys of Jedd and Susannah in this book about love in the Wild West.

Subject Headings: missing persons; wilderness survival; Indians of North American; scouting (reconnaissance), Piegan Indians; pioneer women; the forties (19th century); nineteenth century

Appeal: colloquial, descriptive, detailed setting, dramatic, fast-paced, homespun, investigative, menacing atmosphere, multiple points of view, nostalgic, romantic, rural

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: menacing atmosphere; nostalgic; romantic

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

-De Voto, Bernard Augustine, 1897-1955, Across the Wide Missouri (fur trade in middle 1800s, information on the American Fur Company)

-Dary, David, The Oregon Trail: an American saga (describes the difficult travels and lives of groups of people traveling through the Wild   West)

-DeLay, Brain 1971- War of a thousand deserts: Indian raids and the U.S.-Mexican War (describes tension between Americans and Indians in 1840s, explains the economic and societal state U.S. in 1840s)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

-Zollinger, Norman, Meridian: A Novel of Kit’s Carson’s West (set in 1840s, conquest of the west)

-Blevins, Winfred, So wild a dream (adventure to the west in frontier west)

-Compton, Ralph, The Shadow of a noose (brothers have mission looking for sister, brothers get into trouble on the way)

Name: Samantha Biegel

The Proving Trail

September 26, 2012

Author: Louis L’Amour

Title: The Proving Trail

Genre: Western

Publication Date: 1978

Number of Pages: 215

Geographical Setting: The main character travels through multiple states, including Texas, Colorado, and Kansas.

Time Period: Late 1800s

Plot Summary:  This is a suspenseful tale of crime and corruption in the American West. Kearney McRaven was only a teenager when his father was killed after he had won a lot of money while gambling. He was determined to solve his father’s murder and keep his father’s winnings. This lead McRaven on a cross-country journey of self-discovery to search for information related to his family history and why it seemed like his father was previously running from someone that had attempted to kill him.  Through out this journey Kearney McRaven had to learn to stay alive while out running these same outlaws that had murdered his father.

Subject Headings: Western stories, Outlaws, Murder

Appeal terms:  action-oriented, investigative, menacing atmosphere, fast-paced, chilling, gritty, plot-centered, explicitly violent, tragic, foreboding, details of frontier life, well-crafted

Three appeal terms: action-oriented, investigative, menacing atmosphere

Similar Authors and Works:

Fiction:

West Texas Kill by Johny D. Boggs: This work is about fighting outlaws and corruption in Texas.

Hard Luck Money by J.A. Johnstone: This is a tale about solving a murder and fighting outlaws.

The Badger’s Revenge by Larry D. Sweazy: This story questions why outlaws want to seek revenge against the main character while he tries to stay alive.

Non-Fiction:

Big Trouble: a Murder in a Small Western Town Sets Off a Struggle for the Soul of America by J. Anthony Lukas: This is a non-fiction book about a real murder in America’s west.

Sacagawea’s Nickname: Essays on the American West by Larry McMurtry: This is a non-fiction book of essays written by a well-known author of Western fiction.

Gunfighter Nation: the Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth Century America by Richard Slotkin: This is a non-fiction book that examines the influence of the frontier myth on American culture and politics.

 Name: Rachel Fischer

Night Work

August 13, 2012

Author: Laurie R King

Title: Night Work

Genre: Mystery, GLBTQ

Publication Date: 2000

Number of Pages: 416

Geographical Setting: San Francisco, CA

Time Period: Present

Series (If applicable): Kate Martinelli

Plot Summary: 

Kate and her partner Al get called in to two similar murder scenes, for men who appear to have nothing in common except a history of hurting women.  It comes to light that there is a group of female vigilantes in town, exacting their own form of justice, and the suspect list begins to hit close to home for Kate.   Interwoven with spirituality, feminist politics, and personal relationships this is a smart and fast-paced mystery.

Subject Headings:

Lesbian detectives; Man-hating; Martinelli, Kate; Policewomen; Revenge; Serial murderers; Vigilantes; Violence against women; Women detectives

Appeal:

Compelling; Character-driven; fast-paced; dramatic; Builds in intensity; impassioned; issue oriented storyline; investigative; resolved ending; urban; strong secondary characters; well-drawn characters

3 terms that best describe this book:

fast-paced; character-driven; impassioned

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Gay Religion by Scott Thumma

This book presents the spiritual lives of those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.  It may appeal to those who were interested in the religious discussions in Night Work.

Children of Kali: through India in Search of Bandits, the Thug Cult, and the British Raj by Kevin Rushby

This book provides an insight into the history of a religious cult that worships the goddess Kali.  This goddess was referenced throughout Night Work and some readers may be interested in learning more about her.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo

This work is the story of families living and struggling in modern-day India.  Readers who were interested in Pramilla’s case in Night Work may like this look into India.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen

A female heart surgeon is being terrorized by a killer using the same MO as her rapist.  The detective on the case is Jane Rizzoli, the sole female homicide detective.  This work features strong female characters, like those in Night Work, and is investigating crimes against women.

The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid

Detective Carol Jordan is investigating a string of murders, that involves sexually torturing male victims, and due to a lack of suspects profiler Tony Hill is brought in on the case.  A gritty and disturbing mystery, this book may appeal to those who liked the fast-paced and suspenseful story in Night Work.

Deaths of Jocasta by J.M. Redmann

The second book in the Micky Knight Mystery Series has Micky investigating a dead body that turns up at an event she is running the security for.  In the course of the investigation more dead bodies turn up and the suspect is a former love interest.  A character driven mystery this may appeal to those who liked the GLBTQ aspect of Night Work as well as the cases connection with the main detective’s personal life.

Name: Lisa Anne Fisherkeller Barefield