Mrs. Mohr Goes Missing : A Zofia Turbotynska mystery by Maryla Szymicazkowa

Set in southern Poland at the turn of the century in 1890, Mrs. Mohr Goes Missing , is the first book in a new series by Maryla Szymiczkowa, a pseudonym for two Polish authors.  The book offers a  unique look at the culture, lifestyle and social climbing of the upper class society in Cracow, which comes alive through our heroine, Zofia Turbotynska.  Zofia is the  wife of a university medical professor who is looking to strengthen (and elevate) her social status with a variety of charitable endeavors but finds her true calling as a newly minted sleuth.

Her favorite organization of the moment, Helcel House, is a retirement home run by a bevy of nuns who she finds in panic one morning upon the disappearance of an elderly resident, Mrs. Mohr.  Mrs. Mohr is finally located dead in an attic room that would be impossible for her to reach in her immobile condition.  Zofia starts her own investigation after the police rule the death an accident.  Soon thereafter, another resident of Helcel House goes missing and then a third disappears and Zofia is confident that someone is targeting the elderly residents of the home.  Investigating the cases with only her cook and one inquisitive nun in her confidence, Zofia is able to solve the complex case near the end of the book while gathering all the parties together at the Helcel House for an unveiling of the real killer.

Its glimpse into the changing landscape of Poland is what initially caught my attention.  As mysteries are my genre of choice, the cultural context and hierarchy of their society was fascinating as well.  The author provides a nice summary at the beginning of the book that details the complex history of Poland during the 1800s, which includes being partitioned by the empires of Prussia, Russia and Austria.  If you like the feel of a cozy mystery with a rich historical glimpse into the past, Mrs. Mohr Goes Missing is a great choice.

Harleen by Stjepan Sejic

When I start something new, I have to start at the very beginning. Lately, I’ve been wanting to take a deep dive into the world of graphic novels, but I know I’d quickly get overwhelmed. However, Harleen might be the perfect fit to both start at the beginning and jump into an established universe. The new graphic novel from Stjepan Sejic tells the fall-from-grace origin story of Batman and Gotham City’s favorite antihero — Harley Quinn.

We meet a restless Dr. Harleen Quinzel looking for funding to develop a method for detecting stages of deteriorating empathy. What are the trigger points throughout a lifetime for creating a sociopath? After presenting her theory at a conference she encounters a classic Joker / Batman duel on the streets of Gotham City.

The outcome of this fight is:

  • a demoralized Gotham City Police Department and the rise of the Executioners, a group of masked officers taking justice into their own hands.
  • newly disfigured District Attorney Harvey Dent taking leadership of the Executioners and veering into his own villainous ways.
  • Joker in the Arkham Asylum as a subject of Dr. Quinzel’s study, newly funded by the Wayne Foundation.

When Dr. Quinzel meets her new patient, the Joker (Mr. Jay, she respectfully calls him), she becomes infatuated with him. As she reflects often, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Dr. Quinzel alternates between falling for his manipulation that he is the perfect candidate for her study, therefore an asset to her career, and believing she can cure the Joker from his mental illness.

Dent and the Executioners stage a breakout of the Arkham Asylum. In an effort to protect the Joker, Quinzel kills a security guard, falls into the arms of the Joker and is baptized Harley Quinn.

The characters are complex and intriguing. More than once, I found myself questioning if Harleen and the Joker were  manipulating other characters, themselves or me, the reader. Harleen and Harvey Dent struggle to keep a grasp on reality, while the Joker seems eager to get back to a world chaos and madness.

Clear flashbacks and subtle flash-forwards compel the story through a coherent timeline. There is so much set up for future stories, I’m looking forward to reading anything else that comes out of Sejic’s Harleen story and going further into this universe.

Virtual Book Club

Practice social distancing with us and join our Virtual Book Club that meets every Wednesday at 2pm! We meet to discuss a new book every week. Follow us on social media and our website to get the link for each Virtual Book Club.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, May 6th, we will be discussing Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. This 2017 novel has been made into a hit show recently released on Hulu in 2020 starring Reese Witherspoon, Kerry Washington, and Rosemarie DeWitt. We hope you join us to discuss this book!

Curious what Little Fires Everywhere is about? Check out the following blurb from the publisher!

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community. When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs. Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.

Acorn TV Mysteries!

Over the last month, I have had the chance (and frankly, the time)  to indulge in one of my favorite digital offerings at the Davenport Public Library, Acorn TV!  Since mysteries are my genre of choice, Acorn TV a great place to find both long running mystery series and shorter limited run series.  Acorn TV has many excellent dramas, comedies and documentaries as well.  Two recent mysteries that I have discovered, Mayday and Winter are both top notch mystery series.  Each series is just one season and contain five and six episodes respectively.  These are but two of the many great mystery series available on Acorn TV.  To access Acorn TV from home, go to www.davenportlibrary.com and click on “Digital Content” at the top of the page.  Then, follow the directions under Acorn TV to create an account.

 

Mayday – A small English village holds its annual Mayday festival and parade where a local teenage girl will be crowned as Mayday Queen.  But as the parade begins and the Queen’s float appears down main street, it is empty.  The Mayday Queen has disappeared mere moments before the parade is set to begin with only her abandoned bike found near the woods at the edge of town.  The locals quickly organize to look for her throughout the area.  As the search goes on it becomes clear that many in the village have a motive to do harm to the young girl.  We meet a cast of characters, including ex-police officer, her detective husband, a real estate developer, a society wife and a man with mysterious access to heaps of cash.  Many of the locals have their own dark secrets that they intend to keep at any cost.  The series not only highlights the intricacies of the police  investigation but how the villagers react to a suspect being one of their own.  Mayday if full of red herrings, shocks and surprises and I highly recommend it for mystery fans.

 

Winter – Australian detective Eve Winter is on a brief hiatus between cases when she is recruited to come back after the death of a young woman whose body was found at the bottom of a rocky cliff just north of Sydney.   Simultaneously, Eve learns of a young girl hospitalized after a hit and run accident.  It becomes apparent to Eve that these two cases have everything to do with each other and if she can get the young girl to trust her and talk may be the key to cracking the case.  Splitting her time between the murder investigation and gaining the young girl’s trust, Eve and her team discover that there are many powerful and influential residents who will cover the secrets in their past at any cost.  Winter is another great mystery series with all the twists, turns and secrets of the past that make the story so memorable and suspenseful.

Online Reading Challenge – May

Here we go, continuing with the Online Reading Challenge! This month our inspiration film is: Casino Royale!

That’s right – Bond, James Bond. Or anything about spies, real or imagined. Usually seen as super-cool and very secretive, they have been fodder for lots of great stories. Here are some titles and authors to get you started.

John le Carre has set the standard for writing excellent, intriguing spy stories. His most well-known book, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, considered a masterpiece, delves into the intricate, complicated world of spycraft at the height of the Cold War. Others by le Carre to read include Smiley’s People, Agent Running the in Field, The Constant Gardener and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.

Other authors that deliver lots of action and intrigue include the Jack Ryan series by Tom Clancy (starting with The Hunt for Red October taking place on nuclear submarine), The Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum (the first being The Bourne Identity where a CIA agent has lost of his memory).

The Cold War provided a huge amount of material for spy novels, what with the paranoia and secrecy and fear of that time, but wars have also been fertile ground. Ken Follet’s Eye of the Needle, about a German spy in World War II, is a favorite of many. Or read the excellent The Alice Network by Kate Quinn that details the exploits and sacrifices of women spies in World War I.

Other authors to consider include Alan Furst, Fredrick Forsyth, Vince Flynn and Daniel Silva. And, oh yes, Ian Fleming.

I am planning on reading Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon, based on the real-life story of Nancy Wake, a socialite who spied on the Nazi’s and became a deadly member of the French Resistance.

As of this writing, the library is still closed to the public. When we open again (soon, I hope!) there will be displays at each building with lots of titles to choose from. Also, be sure to look at our collection of e-books with Overdrive. You’ll find lots of titles about spies – simply type “spy novels” or “spies” in the search bar on Overdrive!

Ask a Librarian

Do you miss going into the library and talking to the librarians? Well, we miss talking to you! Join Stephanie, one of our Information Services Librarians, every Thursday at 2pm on Facebook where you can ask a librarian anything. Need book recommendations? Curious what a librarian does? Want to learn how to use different resources? Ask her anything!

If you have questions for your librarians, you can also call us at 563-326-7832, email us, or message us on social media. We are answering our phones Monday through Friday from 9 to 5pm. Leave a voicemail, send an email, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can!

Online Reading Challenge Wrap Up

So. That was quite a month, wasn’t it? How did you do with your Online Challenge reading? I have to admit, I haven’t been reading as much lately. With the extra time at home, I had thought I would get lots of reading done, but I’ve found that I get distracted easily. I think it has to do with this new normal that we are living through, adjusting and absorbing how life is now and wondering what it will be like in the future. What about you, are you having issues adjusting?

I did read a book for this month’s theme which was inspired by the film and television series Downton Abbey. I read A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd, the first in the Bess Crawford mystery series. While I enjoyed the book, I found it slow in parts and it didn’t grab my attention completely.

Bess Crawford is a nurse serving in the British army during World War I. She is injured when the hospital ship she is on, the HMHS Britannic, is sunk by a German mine (a true event) Home again in England to recuperate, she is haunted by a promise she made to Arthur Graham, a soldier she cared for who died in France, a promise that she has yet to fulfill. At her father’s urging she takes the time now while she is home to lay this promise to rest.

Traveling by train to Kent, Bess pays a visit to the Graham family estate and delivers Arthur’s cryptic message to his family. They are startling unimpressed and, while polite, seem to have no interest in pursuing the matter further. Delayed on her return, Bess stays with the Grahams a few extra days and discovers a complicated family dynamic with a mysterious brother hidden away in an insane asylum. Bess gets caught up in the dramas of the small local village (jumping in to help the local doctor in an emergency) and the mystery surrounding the Graham family.

There was a lot I liked about this book – the brave, level-headed Bess, the time period and the settings. The sinking of the HMHS Britannic at the beginning of the book was very interesting and exciting, but I found the pace of the rest of the book slowed and even dragged at times. It is the first of the series though and it will be worth trying more titles in this popular series in the future.

How was your reading this month? Did you read anything good? Let us know in the comments!

QC Life in the New Normal Writing Project

QC Life in the New Normal Writing Project ConversationWhy is the Davenport Library involved in trying to document life in this particular time? Either by writing or recording interviews?

For one thing, it’s therapeutic to write creatively and to analyze your own feelings and worries. For another, it’s important to document history while it’s happening.

In an article by Anna Momigliano in the New York Times, she describes the impetus of writers in Italy to write and publish right now:

Much like Sigmund Freud wrote down his dreams when he woke, before they faded, [author] Giordano sought to document, in real time, his experience of the pandemic. “Once the emergency is over, any temporary awareness will also disappear,” he writes. “I don’t want to lose what the epidemic is revealing about ourselves.” Doctors, novelists and other writers are exploring, as quickly as they can, the pandemic’s impact.

The first phase is a writing project, QC Life in the New Normal. Some writing prompts are:

What have I learned about myself and others in the last few weeks. How have I changed? What am I grateful for? What keeps me going? What does “coping” mean? How has my work life changed? What is the impact on my home life? How has the arc of change on my daily life affected my decision making? What is my decision-making process? Who have I come to admire, and why? (locally, nationally, world-wide)

The second part we’ve launched is QC Life in the Covid-19 Era Oral History Project

As part of the “In Your Own Words” oral history project, you can record an interview using free video conferencing software (video, or just audio).

Sample questions could include:

Describe how you keep active? (exercise or fitness routines)  How do you plan your day? How have you changed the way you relax? (reading, streaming, tv, technology, games, or hobbies) How have your school, work life, or medical appointments changed? Describe the first wave, and subsequent waves of change. How have your plans (vacation or travel) been impacted for the present and near future?

We are putting out the call to anyone who would like to record an interview. Are you, or do you know? Grocery store workers, nursing home staff or residents, social workers, parents of small children, students of any age, farmers, teachers, first responders, small business owners, military personnel, restaurant workers, and anyone and everyone – we all have an important story to tell.

If you’d like to make an appointment or for more information, contact us at specialcollections@davenportlibrary.com or through our website at www.davenportlibrary.com.

 

 

 

Let Us Entertain You

Have some spare time on your hands?  Looking for new diversions?  Look no further than your local library!

We are pleased to announce the addition of two RBdigital entertainment products to our fleet of online resources, IndieFlix and Qello Concerts.

IndieFlix provides access to over 7,000 high-quality shorts, features, documentaries, classic TV shows and Web series from 85 countries.  It includes independent films from major festivals all over the world, including Sundance, Cannes, Tribeca, and more.

Qello Concerts allows music lovers to view full-length performances, concert films, and music documentaries.  For example, shows by Queen, Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney, Aerosmith, Lady Gaga, Metallica, Eric Clapton, Nirvana, The Rolling Stones, Beyoncé, Bob Marley, Mumford & Sons, etc.

To get started with either product you first create an RBdigital account.  Enter your Davenport library card number, then fill out a form to provide your library, name, email, and create a password.  It’s that simple.

Your account provides you a 7-day license to stream unlimited content.  The next week, login again to check out another license.

Fair warning:  These products are addicting!

Vintage Roads Great and Small on Acorn TV

Tootling along in a bright blue vintage Morgan 4/4 roadster, Christopher Timothy and Peter Davison set out to explore some of the most iconic – and most beautiful – roads of Great Britain in this delightful series, Vintage Roads Great and Small.

Timothy and Davison are longtime friends, having met when they filmed the beloved series All Creatures Great and Small which aired for many years on local PBS stations. (Does anyone else remember the series? My Mother and I loved it and watched it every Sunday night. When we traveled to England one of our major goals was to visit the Yorkshire Dales where the series took place.) Based on the books by James Herriot, the series follows the story of a young veterinarian working in the remote Yorkshire Dales during the 1930s. The books and the series are filled with funny and heartbreaking stories about the animals and their people, many of whom are very eccentric characters. The Dales, while wild and unforgiving, are also breathtakingly beautiful. I recommend both the books and the series as great fun for everyone in the family.

Timothy (who played the young vet James Herriot) and Davison (who played Tristan Farnam) have a comfortable give and take, poking fun at each other and stopping whenever something catches their fancy which include vintage cars, British history and ancient (but not always passable) roads. Road trips have included a drive through the Scottish Highlands from Inverness to the Isle of Skye and a trip from London to the southern tip of England at Land’s End. Just like in the television series they became famous for, they tell stories (some a bit embellished!) and find interesting characters to chat with along the way.

Haven’t tried Acorn TV yet? It’s a streaming service that offers the best of British mysteries, dramas and documentaries and it’s free through the Davenport Library. Visit our Digital Content page and click on the Acorn TV logo to get started. All you’ll need is a (free) account with RBDigital and your library card number.

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