Posted in General Fiction, Legal Fiction, Legal Mystery, Multi-Cultural Fiction, Murder Mystery, Mystery

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Publication Info: Published April 16th 2019 by Sarah Crichton Books. I listened to the audio edition. Other editions available.

Summary: For several families, hope lies in a blue hyperbaric chamber. The owner of the device, Pak Yoo, brought his wife and teenage daughter from South Korea in search of a better life. He promotes the hyperbaric chamber as a treatment for a variety of conditions ranging from autism to impotence.

When a deliberately set fire kills two of the children, suspicion initially falls on a group of protestors. But the police arrest Elizabeth, the mother of one of the victims. As the novel progresses, it is clear that the case isn’t quite as simple as the prosecution portrays.

Comments: Miracle Creek is an astonishingly complex and insightful novel. The author employs omnicient narration to peer deeply into the lives and motivations of everyone involved with the hyperbaric chamber. While the story line is centered around Elizabeth’s trial, the author skillfully weaves in the various events that lead to the fire. The reader’s sympathies and emotions are pulled in various directions as evidence unfolds.

Because the author is also a Korean immigrant, she is able to write with deep understanding about the experience the Yoo family had in coming to America. I found this part of the story particularly enlightening.

Highly recommended for readers of general fiction, multicultural fiction, legal fiction and mysteries.

My rating: 5 STARS

Posted in Best Sellers, Contemporary Fiction, General Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mid-Atlantic, USA, Murder Mystery, Realistic Fiction

Long Bright River by Liz Moore

Publication Info: Published January 27 by Riverhead Books. I read the hardback edition through my Book of the Month membership. Other editions available.

Summary: Two sisters, Mickey and Kacey, live in a distressed neighborhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They were raised by their over-extended and emotionally distant grandmother after their mother died from drugs and their father vanished. As young children, the siblings were very close, sharing a single bed and whispered secrets. But as they grew up, they grew apart and those secrets turned into silences that came between them.

Mickey rose out of the depths of her childhood experiences to become a cop and a single mother. She worked in her neighborhood and knew its dark corners all too well. Kensington was the place to go if you wanted opioids and heroin. Kacey turned to drugs and the streets, working as a prostitute to feed her habit. Mickey knew where Kacey’s corner was and kept an eye on her, although they didn’t speak to each other.

After discovering the body of a woman, Kacey realized the deceased wasn’t just another overdose. The woman had been strangled. She tried to get more information from her department head, but kept getting the brush off. She began to worry about her sister, as she hadn’t seen her in over a month. When more women turned up murdered, Kacey risked her career to find her sister and discover the identity of the murderer.

Comments: I know it’s only February, but Long Bright River is already on my top 10 list of most memorable books for 2020. This vivid, poignant novel of how drugs impact one family affected me deeply. The author created realistic and complex characters.

I have a family member who was hooked on opioids and heroin, so have first hand experience with the tragedy that ravages through communities and families throughout the country. From this painful knowledge, I can attest to the realistic depiction of addiction in Liz Moore’s novel.

Very highly recommended for readers of Literary Fiction, General Fiction and those who like novels with deep, authentic characters. The novel also has elements of a murder mystery, but while that drives the plot, the novel transcends that genre.

My Rating: 5 STARS +

Posted in Japan, Murder Mystery, Mystery

Zen Attitude by Sujata Massey (Rei Shimura #2)

Publication Info: Original publication date, 1998. Harper paperback edition published 2005. Other editions available.

Summary: American-born Rei Shimura is living in Japan, struggling to get her antiques business off the ground. She works as a broker, hunting down requested pieces for Japanese clients. She just received a request from the prominent Nana Mihori to find a particular tansu, a chest of drawers with very specific styling. Nana has a lot of influence in town and if Rei can pull this job off, she will have many referrals for future jobs.

She works out of her home, which she shares with her Scottish, international lawyer, boyfriend, Hugh. Her already cluttered home is invaded by Hugh’s carefree, careless and messy brother, Angus. This throws her life with Hugh into turmoil and begins to wear on their relationship.

Nana Mihori directs Rei to a particular shop where she said a friend saw a tansu like she is looking for. Once she gets there, Rei finds herself in a bidding war with another customer. She wins, but at great personal cost — after all, Nana hasn’t paid her yet.

After the tansu is delivered to her home, Rei finds previously unnoticed flaws and realizes this tansu is a fake. She tries to return it but the seller has vanished. Then he turns up dead. Evidence begins to pile up that sends Rei on the run with no one to turn to except people she doesn’t trust.

Comments: I’ve wanted to read more in this series for almost fifteen years. During the first incarnation of The Brown Bookloft, publicists sent me hard copies of books, usually surprises based on my genre preferences. In one batch was the first book in this series, The Salaryman’s Wife. It was one of those rare books that stuck with me, leaving me want to read more by Sujata Massey.

I admit I forgot about it until the author published the well-received book The Widows of Malabar Hill., which I read and liked very much. I began hunting through over a dozen used book stores in two states trying to find a copy of Zen Attitude. I finally purchased one online through Thrift Books.

Zen Attitude has a few rough edges, particularly in its characters. There was a lot of unnecessary angst and mercurial relationship swings, but the writing was rock solid. It was the quality of the writing and the setting in Japan that most appealed to me in The Salaryman’s Wife. I found that I enjoyed both of those just as much in book number 2. I have already ordered the third book, The Flower Master.

Recommended for Mystery readers and anyone who likes books set in modern Japan.

My rating: 3.75 STARS

Posted in Murder Mystery, Mystery, Uncategorized

The Track of the Cat by Nevada Barr (Anna Pigeon #1)

Publication Info: Published 1993 by Avon. I read the Kindle edition courtesy of my local library. Other editions available.

Summary: Forest ranger Anna Pigeon is hiking the wild Texas back country looking for signs of elusive mountain lions, when she stumbles across the dead body of one of her co-workers. Anna barely knew the dead woman, Sheila Drury, as the deceased had only been with the park service about seven months. Anna calls for help, but does some preliminary investigating while waiting. Initial evidence points to an attack by a mountain lion. There is scat at the site and teeth marks on the victim. But something niggles just beyond the edges of Anna’s conscious thought processes. She has a feeling that this is not a mountain lion attack and is determined to figure it out.

Anna is even more sure that human forces are behind Sheila’s death after two more incidents in the park, one of which almost leaves her dead.

Comments: After reading Nevada Barr’s What Rose Forgot, I decided to go back and read some of the author’s earlier books. I had read a few of the Anna Pigeon series many years ago, but at this point, I have no idea which ones, so I started at the beginning with The Track of the Cat.

I have to confess that I was very surprised at how well written this book was, despite the fact that it was only the author’s second published novel. But the biography on her webpage revealed that she had many years of writing experience before she published Bittersweet in 1983. That experience shows in Barr’s ability to delve deep into her character’s motivations and thoughts, as well as her descriptions of the environment. The author obviously has a deep understanding and love of the high desert. Being an east coast transplant to the arid west, it took me a while to see beyond hot, dry and dusty. Barr’s descriptions brought me back to my first astonishing views of the desert in bloom and the realization of the complexities of life in that biome.

As for the plot, I got a bit lost in the muddle of secondary characters, which left me feeling a bit let down by the ending. But as this is the first in a long, successful mystery series, I am confident that some of the rougher edges in plotting will smooth out over time.

Highly recommended for readers of Mysteries, particularly those that take place in the desert southwest.

My Rating: 4 STARS

Posted in Murder Mystery, suspense, Thrillers

Someone We Know by Shari Lapena

Publication Info: Published July 30, 2019 by Pamela Dorman Books. Hardcover edition courtesy of my local library. Other editions available.

Summary: After his wife doesn’t arrive home from a shopping weekend with a girlfriend, Robert Pierce files a missing person’s report with the police. During questioning, Robert insists that he has a happy marriage and that his wife couldn’t have left of her own accord.

A teenage boy, Raleigh Sharpe, who lives on the same street as Robert Pierce has been breaking into neighborhood homes and hacking into their computers for the fun of it. After a ill-timed text from a friend gives his activities away to his mother, Olivia, Raleigh is in deep trouble. He confesses to his crime, but downplays the extent of it. He tells her he only broke into two houses — the Pierce home and that of a new neighbor, who is a lonely, nosy widow. Feeling guilty for what her son did, Olivia types up anonymous apology notes and drops them in the mail slots of the two houses. This starts a cascade of unintended consequences.

Meanwhile, Robert Pierce’s wife is found dead. The police now take the case more seriously as they have a murder on their hands. As they start asking questions, they learn that several of the neighbors are much too friendly with each other and there are multiple motives for murder. But which one killed Amanda Pierce?

Comments: I couldn’t put this nail-biter of a thriller down. I read Someone We Know in a single day–almost a single sitting. (My husband insisted I stop to eat dinner with him–the nerve!) I just put the author’s other thrillers on my reading list. They will make perfect travel, beach or trapped inside on a snowy day books.

Highly recommended for readers of Thrillers, Suspense and Murder Mysteries.

My Rating: 5 STARS