Long Gone, the new thriller from Alafair Burke, is a suspenseful roller coaster of a novel where everything appears one way but, in reality, is completely the opposite.  Recently fired from her job at a prestigious art museum in New York, Alice Humphrey is thrilled to be approached by a complete stranger, Drew Campbell, during an art gallery opening.  Drew offers her a fabulous proposition – a dream job of managing an up-and-coming art gallery funded by an anonymous, wealthy patron.  After a few initial doubts, Alice accepts the offer and begins to make her mark on the art world.

After the initial flurry of a successful opening, Alice begins to enjoy her new career until one morning a few weeks later.  She opens the gallery and discovers the space is completely empty and the body of Drew Campbell is on the gallery floor.  Quickly, the evidence begins to mount against her and the police believe that she killed the man who she thought to be Drew Campbell, but has been identified as someone else.  Knowing that she has been set up, Alice desperately sets out on a quest to clear her name and find out the truth.  While searching for answers along the way, Alice discovers even more hidden secrets involving her own family’s past.

Long Gone is a page-turning mystery with an intense and intricately woven storyline.   Highly recommended!

At the start of A Quiet Death, Hannah Ives is riding the Washington D.C. metro when her train crashes. Though injured herself, she tries to help a fellow passenger who is very badly hurt. In the confusion, she ends up with a shopping bag he was carrying. Eventually she reads the letters it contains in order to return the bag to him.

I picked up the book because I was interested in the Washington D.C. setting and that promise was fulfilled. Marcia Talley does well in portraying a city that revolves around the government – for example, the subtleties of how prestigious a restaurant is  – based on the level of the bureaucrats who frequent it.

The mystery itself, however, seemed a bit contrived. Instead of checking with transit or police officials who may be able to locate the mystery passenger, Hannah decides to find him herself, relying on simple google searches. Nothing very intriguing there. Security is also lax at Fox, I mean Lynx, News where Hannah drops in to interview their news anchor, whom she’s never met.

A pleasant read, but not a real page turner.

I recently listened to the audiobook version of Irish author Tana French’s debut mystery, In The Woods.  French thrusts the reader into a dual storyline – one past and one present – both inextricably linked by one man, Inspector Rob Ryan of the Dublin Murder Squad.  Twenty years before, Rob and his two young school chums made headlines when all three disappeared and Rob was later found alone exiting the woods without any recollection of what had happened to his friends –  the case has remained unsolved. 

In the current case, Rob and his partner Cassie Maddox are assigned to a case involving the murder of a young ballet dancer, Katy Develin – a crime that was committed in the exact same spot as Detective Ryan’s incident twenty years prior (he changed his name from Adam Ryan due to the publicity of his case).  Katy’s family begins to exhibit odd and baffling behavior and it peaks the interest of the detectives.  Ryan and Maddox realize that someone close to the victim may be involved – but which family member knows more about Katy’s murder than they are admitting?  

I am a big fan of mysteries and the ending of In The Woods was a shocker- I highly recommend it.

One of my all-time favorite shows that was canceled too soon, Veronica Mars deserved to go on much longer than three seasons.  The show is about high school student Veronica Mars, who juggles classes with working at Mars Investigations, her father Keith’s private detective agency.    Keith Mars used to be the sheriff of Neptune, California until scandal hit the small town: Veronica’s best friend, rich and beautiful Lily Kane, was murdered.  After Keith accused Lily’s father, powerful businessman Jake Kane, Keith was removed from office and he and Veronica became the town outcasts.  Veronica and her dad work together to solve a different mystery every week at Mars Investigations, but the two work all season long to discover what really happened to Lily Kane and bring the killer to justice.

If you like mystery, drama, and intrigue, you’ll love this show.  Yes it’s about high school, but it has a film noir feel to it and is pretty serious as opposed to a typical teen show.  There is, however, plenty of humor involved; Veronica has a very snarky sense of humor that really appeals to me.  And of course, there’s a love story, as Veronica used to date Lily’s brother Duncan until he mysteriously broke up with her before Lily’s murder.  But one of my favorite things about the show was the relationship between Veronica and her dad.  It was just the two of them after Veronica’s mom skipped town, and they have one of those amazing father-daughter relationships that every viewer has to be jealous of.  I highly recommend giving this show a try, it really has something for everyone!  Stop by the library today to pick up seasons one, two, and three.

The bestselling author of Sarah’s Key, Tatina de Rosnay, has written another winner.  A Secret Kept literally keeps the reader in suspense, wondering if the secret will ever be totally revealed.

Antoine takes his sister Melanie on a 40th birthday trip to  Noirmoutier Island, a lovely place where they had spent several enjoyable summers as children.   But something about the island also brings back troubling memories for Melanie.  On the return trip home, just as Melanie is about to reveal her fears to Antoine, she loses control of the car.  The book opens with Antoine waiting anxiously in a hospital waiting room, wondering if Melanie will even survive.

Antoine finds himself confronting not only his past, but his present family relationships as well.  Unhappy since his divorce just a year ago, he has difficulty communicating with his children and he has always felt distanced from his father.  He senses the secret revolves around his mother, and he wonders about her sudden death so many years ago.

I really enjoyed this book.  The tension is kept sufficiently tight, and the character development, realistic.  Plus, if you’re a francophile, you’ll appreciate some of the many French references! Incidentally, the author was recently named one of the top ten fiction writers in Europe.

What’s with all the numbers lately?  Recent releases by several popular authors all feature numbers in their titles, as evidenced here:  

          

Connelly’s newest is actually the fourth in this series, which began with The Lincoln Lawyer.  Movie-goes may have seen the recently released film (same title)  with Matthew McConaghey playing the lead role of lawyer Mickey Haller.  Haller’s reputation comes from managing his L.A. criminal defense practice out of his Lincoln Town Car. 

Baldacci’s newest book stars characters Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, both former Secret Service agents who are now security consultants for hire.  As in the other books in this series — the first being Split Second — there’s lots of dialogue and fast-paced action.  The investigators seem to be constantly on the move, seldom sleeping or eating, yet still able to ward off professionally hired assailants with maximum efficiency. 

Patterson’s 10th Anniversary is his tenth novel in the Women’s Murder Club series, which began with 1st to Die.  If you haven’t read any of them,  perhaps you caught some of the made-for-TV-movies featuring Angie Harmon in the lead role of Lindsay Boxer, a tough San Francisco detective who works alongside other professional women (an attorney, a coroner and a journalist) to solve high-profile murder cases.  The books are quick, easy reads with short chapters.  

All of the above make great choices for summer reading, so come check out some  — by the numbers!

I don’t read a lot of mysteries, but at the suggestion of a good friend I picked up The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, the first in a series by Alan Bradley starring wannabe detective Flavia de Luce.  Flavia is one of the most unique protagonists I have seen lately:  she’s smart, inquisitive, resourceful, and witty.  She has an obsession with chemistry, especially poisons.  Oh, and did I mention that she’s eleven years old?

In The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, we are introduced to Flavia and her family, who are living in an estate called Buckshaw in England in the 1950s.  Her mother disappeared when she was a baby, so Flavia is left with her distant father, her antagonistic older sisters, and man-about-the-house Dogger.  Things are boring as usual at Buckshaw when Flavia discovers a dead man in their cucumber patch in the middle of the night.  When Flavia’s father is taken into custody as the prime suspect, Flavia gets on the case to find out who really did it and prove her father’s innocence.  Flavia follows a series of initially puzzling clues (including an antique postage stamp and a dead bird) that lead to the identity of the killer, making for an exciting and surprising climax.  I listened to the audiobook and it’s very enjoyable; the reader manages to capture Flavia’s spirit very well and make it an exciting listen.

After finishing this book I had to immediately go out and pick up a copy of the second in the series, called The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag.  Flavia meets a traveling puppet show team whose car has broken down, and so they elect to do a series of shows in Bishop’s Lacey while they are waiting for the repairs.  When the star of the show is murdered, of course Flavia is the first one on the case.  I’m in the middle of it right now and I’m glad to say that Flavia has kept her cheek and tenacity fully intact.  The third book in the series, A Red Herring Without Mustard, just came out a couple months ago to rave reviews, and it’s certainly next on my “To Read” list.  If you like mysteries with a strong female protagonist, the charming setting of England, or mysteries that really keep you guessing right up to the end, this series will not disappoint.  Even if you don’t usually read mysteries, I recommend checking out this series, because I’m sure you’ll enjoy getting to know Flavia de Luce.

April 10-16 is National Library Week!  What a perfect time to check out some materials featuring libraries and/or librarians.

Here are a few of my favorites, and even though technically the main characters aren’t librarians, they definitely do spend a lot of time in libraries.  First off is The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason.  When they wrote this, they were fresh out of college, so their descriptions of academic life at Princeton really hit the nail on the head.  Also, the book’s plot reminded me of The Da Vinci Code, as the two main characters are close to solving the mysteries of an ancient Renaissance text that has confused scholars for centuries.  It’s fast-paced and there’s lots of code-breaking going on.

Another favorite is The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.  This is a lengthy Draculian tome, so it’s catalogued in the Horror section.  The book begins with a young woman exploring her father’s library when she discovers an ancient book with letters all addressed to “My dear and unfortunate successor.”  Generations of researchers have risked their lives and their reputations trying to learn the truth about Vlad the Impaler, and to uncover this source of darkness and rid the world of it powers.  Now this young woman must decide whether to take up her father’s quest; her journey takes her from  Ivy League libraries to archives in Istanbul and Eastern Europe.  I don’t usually read Horror, but I couldn’t put it down.

Just think about it.  Celebrate National Library Week! And find the answers to your quest at your Davenport Public Library!

Whoosh! That’s the sound of 2010 racing past. With 2011 nearly here, let’s take some time to remember our favorite books of the past year. Follow us this week as our Blogging Librarians once again give us their personal Best Book and why. These books weren’t necessarily written in 2010, just read this year. You’re sure to find some great titles to add to your list!

Lynn gets things started with her favorite : “The last (sadly) book in the Izzy Spellman series is The Spellmans Strike Again by Lisa Lutz. All the members of the Spellman family are eccentric, and uniquely eccentric. They pursue their own ends aggressively and obsessively but ultimately act in the best interests of the family and the family-owned private investigation business. It’s one of those books that is truly hard to put down once you start.” Read Lynn’s full description here.

Tana‘s pick is one of the biggest books of 2010 : “My favorite book for the year was The Help by Kathryn Stockett. (Ann blogged about this book here) I thought the author did an excellent job of evoking time and place, ie, Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960’s. I think I also enjoyed it from a personal perspective. Since I still have aunts who live in the South, I have memories of visiting them when they all had “help” of their own.”

November 2

Toy Story 3 – Animated

As Andy prepares to leave for college, his loyal toys find they have been donated to the Sunnyside Daycare, where untamed tots with their sticky little fingers do not play nice. So it’s all for one and one for all as they join Barbie’s counterpart Ken, a thespian hedgehog named Mr. Pricklepants, and a pink, strawberry-scented teddy bear called Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear to plan their great escape and ensure that no toy gets left behind

November 9

Charlie St. Cloud – Zac Efron, Amanda Crew

Charlie St. Cloud is a small-town hero and an accomplished sailor who has it all: the adoration of his mother and younger brother and a Stanford scholarship. His bright future is cut short when tragedy strikes and takes his dreams with it. Now Charlie is torn between honoring a promise he made years ago and pursuing his newfound love with a former high school classmate.

Scott Pilgrim vs the World – Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead

Meet charming and jobless Scott Pilgrim. A bass guitarist for garage band Sex Bob-omb, the 22-year-old has just met the girl of his dreams, literally. The only catch to winning Ramona Flowers? Her seven evil exes are coming to kill him. As Scott gets closer to Ramona, he must face an increasingly vicious rogues’ gallery from her past, from infamous skateboarders to vegan rock stars and fearsome identical twins. If he hopes to win his true love, he must vanquish them all.

Ramona and Beezus – Selena Gomez, Joey King

Ramona is a little girl with a very big imagination and a nose for mischief. Her playful antics keep everyone in her loving family on their toes, including her older sister Beezus, who’s just trying to survive her first year of high school. Through all the ups and downs of childhood, Ramona and Beezus learn that anything’s possible when you believe in yourself and rely on each other

November 16

The Kids Are All Right – Annette Bening, Julianne Moore

Nic and Jules are in a long-term, committed, loving, but by no means perfect relationship. Nic, a physician, needs to wield what she believes is control, whereas Jules, under that control, is less self-assured. They have two teenaged children, Joni, who is Nic’s biological child, and Laser, who is Jules’ biological child. A big-hearted, sexy, and uproariously funny movie that combines comedic surprise with poignant emotional truth.

The Last Airbender – Noah Ringer

Join Aang, an extraordinary boy with incredible ‘bending’ powers, as he journeys through an exotic land filled with magical creatures and powerful friends. As the Avatar, he is the only one who can end the age-old conflict between the four nations, Air, Water, Earth, and Fire.

November 23

Eat Pray Love – Julia Roberts, Javier Bandem

A happily married woman who is trying to get pregnant realizes that her life needs to go in a new direction. After a very painful divorce, she risks everything and embarks on a journey around the world that becomes a quest for self-discovery.

The Expendables – Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis

The Expendables are a tight-knit team of skilled combat vets turned mercenaries. Hired by a powerful covert operator, the team jets off to a small South American country to overthrow a ruthless dictator. Once there, they find themselves caught in a deadly web of deceit and betrayal. Using every weapon at their disposal, they set out to save the innocent and punish the guilty in this blistering action-packed thriller.

November 30

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – Nicolas Cage

The Expendables are a tight-knit team of skilled combat vets turned mercenaries. Hired by a powerful covert operator, the team jets off to a small South American country to overthrow a ruthless dictator. Once there, they find themselves caught in a deadly web of deceit and betrayal. Using every weapon at their disposal, they set out to save the innocent and punish the guilty in this blistering action-packed thriller.