Death in the City of Light is the gripping, true story of a brutal serial killer who unleashed his own reign of terror in Nazi-Occupied Paris. As decapitated heads and dismembered body parts surfaced in the Seine, Commissaire Georges-Victor Massu was tasked with tracking down the elusive murderer in a twilight world of Gestapo, gangsters, resistance fighters, pimps, prostitutes, spies, and other shadowy figures of the Parisian underworld.
The main suspect was Dr. Marcel Petiot, a handsome, charming physician with remarkable charisma. He was the “People’s Doctor,” known for his many acts of kindness and generosity, not least in providing free medical care for the poor. Petiot, however, would soon be charged with 27 murders, though authorities suspected the total may have been as many as 150. Who was being slaughtered, and why? Was Petiot a sexual sadist, as the press suggested, killing for thrills? Was he allied with the Gestapo, or, on the contrary, the French Resistance? Or did he work for no one other than himself? Trying to solve the many mysteries of the case, Massu would unravel a plot of unspeakable deviousness.
Death in the City of Light is a brilliant evocation of Nazi-Occupied Paris and a harrowing exploration of murder, betrayal, and evil of staggering proportions. (description from publisher)
Looking for an author who is not only prolific but a dependably good storyteller? Michael Connelly has written over 21 books, and continues to create new characters and develop relationships between old characters.
In The Poet, written in 1996, reporter Jack McEvoy’s brother has apparently committed suicide. Jack can’t believe that his twin brother, a homicide cop, would have killed himself. To clear his brother’s name, he starts to investigate several anomalies. This leads Jack to research the deaths of homicide detectives around the country. Because he is a crime reporter for Denver newspaper, Jack can both write a story about the serial killings and find out what happened to his brother.
He ultimately combines forces with the FBI whose vast resources jump start the race to catch the Poet. McEvoy knew that there was a serial killer when he found out that the various suicide notes contained lines from Edgar Allan Poe poems. What the FBI uncovers about the killings is very disturbing for Jack as he gains more knowledge about how his brother died.
Connelly’s skill is in combining an absorbing plot and likable protagonists; a great go-to guy when you just need a good read.
Smilla’s Sense of Snow (based on a novel by Peter Hoeg) is another story that has a strong sense of northern atmosphere. The plot actually hangs on the study of ice crystals, and ends in a climactic chase on ice fields in Greenland. The cultural nuances among the Danish, Inuits and Greenlanders are a fascinating part of the story.
Smilla is a prickly character but cares deeply for a little boy in her apartment building in Copenhagen who falls to his death from the roof. She believes he has been murdered, due to the fact that he is afraid of heights and never would have played on the roof. Fans of conspiracy will love the complicated and multi-layered plot that reaches back into the distant past of Greenland.
The Bad Book Affair by Ian Sansom is a light, easy-read mystery is a novel choice for National Library Week. There’s a lot of dialog (maybe too much at times) but since it takes place in Northern Ireland, I guess it’s reasonable to espect a bit of blarney or wit-repartee. Enter Israel Armstrong, the primary character, now living in a converted chicken coop, and according to the first sentence is” possibly Ireland’s only English Jewish vegetarian mobile librarian.”
Israel is depressed; his girlfriend Gloria has just broken up with him, he’s about to turn 30, and he’s under suspicion in the disappearance of a local teenager. Some consider him responsible because (horror of horrors) he lent the girl a book from the library’s special “Unshelved” collection. Rather than be run out of town, he hops in the library van and does his own research, of sorts. Israel, in his frumpy cords and rather slovenly ways, is a very unlikely detective, but much of the humor comes from this self-effacing characterization. This is not classic literature, but book-lovers, especially, will find some good laughs.
An international best-selling thriller, The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson, transports us to present day Sweden where crime, corruption, and the little known world of human trafficking run rampant. Lisbeth Salander, a smart, tattooed, self-sufficient computer hacker, is the focus of a criminal investigation centered on the murder of two journalists who are close to exposing the international sex trade business. Mikael Blomkvist, a magazine publisher whose magazine was to eventually publish the expose, has a history of working with Salander and is intent on proving her innocence – if he can find her before the police do. On the run from authorities, Salander’s alarming past is revealed and she is intent on revenge.
The twists and turns in this book will keep you wondering if she is innocent or guilty and, most importantly, what is the motive for these murders if she is the culprit? Even though this book is the second in the Millennium series, it is easy to start with this book before reading the first book in the series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The final book in the series, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, will be published later this spring. Sadly, Stieg Larsson died in 2004 while working on his fourth book. This series will also hit the big screen with the first installment being released in 2010. This is an exciting book that combines contemporary Scandinavian culture with the elements of a little-known underworld of betrayal, deceit, murder and corruption.
Designer Knockoff by Ellen Byerrum is the latest Lacey Smithsonian mystery. As a fashion reporter for a second-rate Washington D.C. newspaper, she investigates the disappearances of two young women. Occurring decades apart, they begin to seem related as Lacey delves into the contemporary fortunes and World War II era history of the Bentley fashion empire.
Lacey’s Aunt Mimi left her a trunk of (now) vintage dresses, a “Bentley” suit, patterns, photos and letters from the 1940′s. These provide clues to the mysterious fate of a talented designer who worked for the Bentley plant during the war.
Lacey continues to develop as a character – and to wage her ongoing battle against the monochrome suits that are the norm in Washington. Her relationship with her co-workers and a bevy of eccentric friends are a plus, as is insight into the strict clothing regulations during the war.
Horror Week at Davenport Library wraps up today with this terrifying suggestion from Lynn. Read at your own risk!
“Handcarved Coffins” (in the book Music for Chameleons) is a piece of novelistic journalism; Capote’s spare and economical style makes the ever-increasing suspense immediate.
A state cop relates the stories of a series of horrific murders to Capote. The first are killed by rabid rattlesnakes that attack a couple as they open their car doors. The next die in a fire, trapped in their basement. The victims are sent a small, balsa coffin with a candid photograph of themselves. As the murders mount up, the recipients are more aware of their fate and suffer unique torture as they wonder how and when they will die.
The murders are impossible to anticipate and guard against, and, seemingly, have no connection to each other. Their very randomness and the generic small midwestern town setting give the murders a sense of universality – (this could happen to ME). The fact that the victims seem entirely innocent makes the evil more purely heinous. Because this is supposed to be a piece of reportage, Capote never switches perspective to the psychopath, as is so common now. This is a piece of simple, classic horror. And it may be true.
Now it’s your turn – what’s your favorite scary book or movie? Leave a comment!
The American Library Association (ALA) has designated September 26-October 3 as Banned Books Week in order to raise awareness of continuing threats against intellectual freedom. You may be surprised to find that even in this modern age of openess and equality, censorship remains a constant threat. Follow along with us this week as our librarians highlight their Favorite Banned Books.
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is the heartbreaking story of a family struggling with the sudden and unexplained loss of their oldest daughter. Told from the perspective of the murdered daughter as she watches her family and friends from “the other side”, Susie narrates what happened to her (raped and murdered by the neighbor), agonizes as her parents and siblings mourn, and struggles to come to terms with what her own life on earth meant. There is a lot of sadness in this book, but there is also a great deal of celebration, joy and enduring love.
This is the 11th in the Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery series, but the first one I’ve read. As a historical mystery, it makes for an interesting genre, but what I found even more intriguing was that the author, Charles Todd, is a pseudonym for a mother-son team who don’t even live in the same state! Even in this high-tech world, I still marvel at that kind of skill, but for now, let’s focus on the story.
A Matter of Justice takes place in 1920′s England, and the main character, Rutledge, is an inspector for Scotland Yard. He is called to the rural village of Somerset to investigate the brutal murder of a successful London financier, Harold Quarles. There are no shortages of suspects, as many of the villagers openly admit to totally despising the man. Even Quarles’ wife and the town’s police officer are under suspicion.
In what turns out to be a very effective technique, the reader is clued in to the real killer early on, and as the pages kept turning, I began to fear that Rutledge would arrest the wrong person or never literally bring the “matter to justice.” Another useful ploy was the voice of Hamish in Rutledge’s head. Hamish, a soldier who died under Rutledge’s command in the trenches of WWI, serves as a sort of guilty conscience for the inspector. This contributes greatly to making him a fully human character and not just some singular sleuth. Though some will find this similar to an Agatha Christie mystery, I found it refreshingly superior.
This great crime novel is translated from Swedish which adds a different flavor to the story. Certain things get added during translation or become more interesting when taken from slang. Sibylla the main character in Missing comes from a privleged background yet has chosen a life of the homeless in Stockholm. Brief snippets from Sibylla’s disturbing past help explain her modern day predicament. Her everyday struggle becomes almost unbearable after she is unjustly accused of a brutal murder. The story continues to pick up speed as Sibylla struggles to stay alive and hidden all the while trying to find the real killer with the help of a high school misfit. Great writer – I was easily transported into Sibylla’s world. The murder plot is well developed and unexpected.
Karin Alvtegen has received and been nominated for several literary awards. Interestingly she is the great-grand niece of the “Pippi Longstocking” series author, Astrid Lindgren.