Sweetbitter

Stephanie Danler

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Labeled one of those ‘books to watch’ in 2016, Sweetbitter clearly needs to make quite an impression, to live up to the hype that precedes it. And as a portrait of the personnel behind a successful Manhattan restaurant (easily recognizable as the beloved Union Square Café where Danler worked for a while), the novel does successfully conjure up a world. Thankfully, it delivers no horror stories of behind the scenes activity, although there are some nasty flies and a repulsive drain [Read more...] in Reviews

May Crime Round-Up

N. J. Cooper

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

Melanie Raabe’s agoraphobic heroine has not left her house for years or had any contact with her family or old friends. She is a successful novelist, who refuses all requests for interviews or appearances at festivals. Having made lots of money from her writing, she can afford an excellent assistant and every comfort. Her house is divine. But, informing everything she does, is the dreadful memory of her sister’s murder – and her own glimpse of the killer [Read more...] in Reviews

The Sun King Conspiracy

Yves Jégo and Denis Lépée

Reviewed by Shirley Whiteside

At times, Jégo and Lépée’s story reads like a Dan Brown novel set in the seventeenth century, with obscure clues and baffling mysteries to be unravelled. There is a raid by a mysterious religious group searching for incriminating papers in the possession of Cardinal Mazarin, Chief Minister of France. Mazarin has been guiding Louis XIV throughout his kingship but now Mazarin is dying and all around the court men are jostling for position, keen to succeed him. The cardinal and the king’s mother, Anne of Austria, will go to any lengths to protect Louis from factions trying to prove that the king is the cardinal’s son and not the offspring of Louis XIII. If that rumour were to be believed, France would be plunged into disarray [Read more...] in Reviews

Eligible

Curtis Sittenfeld

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

While the timeless perfection of the original creates the rock-solid foundation for ​Eligible, this modern version of the Bennet family story, set in Cincinnati, is a clever and diverting revision, substituting CrossFit training, IVF and reality television shows for Austen’s periodisms. Indeed one dimension of Eligible’s charm is in observing Sittenfeld’s choices of contemporary tropes, alongside what she chose to jettison in the cause of twenty-first century plausibility [Read more...] in Reviews

Sometimes a River Song

Avril Joy

Reviewed by Alison Coles

Aiyana, called after the Wild Plum in bloom at her birth, is one of three children of Floyd Weir, a white man with the menace and strength of will to dominate not just his entire family, but his community of river people. His character is the epitome of abuse and repression. His family fear him and can do little against his beatings of them, nor his sexual abuse of his daughter Hetty. So insidiously toxic is this fear that their need for safety overrides, temporarily, what it is their spirits want. They are imprisoned [Read more...] in Reviews

April Crime Round-Up

N.J. Cooper

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

Hanington’s description [ in A Dying Breed] of Patrick’s terrified journey across Afghanistan and delivery into the hands of the notoriously brutal General Doushki is magnificent. Altogether this is a beautifully written account of myriad deceptions and mortal dangers in a country that has been at war with itself and the outside world for generations. And in the end there is gentleness here too. This is a terrific novel [Read more...] in Reviews

Miller's Valley

Anna Quindlen

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Quindlen brings such devotion, such insightful restraint and expert lucidity to her storytelling that the book is wholly engrossing. The threads of Mimi’s self-sacrificing struggle, set against the larger family’s tale and the valley dwellers’ efforts to resist the loss of their land to a dam project are sweetly dovetailed and the whole reading experience is as simply satisfying as a wedge of warm pie [Read more...] in Reviews