A - B - C
listed by Elizabeth Brunner
Other Book List Pages: ABC
|Ablow, Keith. Compulsion,
2002. A forensic psychiatrist investigates the dysfunction of a wealthy
family, after their infant is murdered. Interesting insight into therapeutic
techniques, although I predicted the ending.
|Acker, Kathy. Don Quixote,
1986. Lesbian author who has received critical acclaim for surreal gender-bending,
subversion, and punk sensibility. Seemed ugly, self-indulgent, and incoherent
|Akunin, Boris. The Winter Queen,
2003. Blockbuster series in Russia. Historical mystery set in Tsarist era.
Complex conspiracies, punctuated by humor, like a cross between Charles
Dickins and Thomas Pynchon. Wonderful discovery! Murder
on the Leviathan, 2004, is a disappointment in comparison,
with bland passengers on an international ship voyage.
|Allen, Charlotte Vale. Fresh Air,
2003. A reclusive house-bound woman has her heart and life opened by chance
encounter with an energetic girl. Lovely and inspirational with realistic
|Amis, Martin. Night Train,
1997. Less a mystery about an apparent suicide than a psychological examination
of a female police officer. Reflection takes precedence over plot. Postmodern
|Armstrong, Charlotte. The Witch's
House, 1963, involves a woman's hunt for her professor husband,
scientific theft, a pair of calculating twins, a father-son police team,
and an old woman driven insane by the gas chamber execution of her son.
1963, is terrifying novella about a disturbed babysitter, a nine year old
girl, and the guests in nearby hotel rooms who must decide whether to intervene.
Armstrong has a gift for stylized language, insight into complex motivations,
and a distinctive narrative voice. The Dream
Walker, 1955, has a twisting plot and innovative narrative
structure that documents a con job where an actress appears to dream in
one city while appearing in front of witnesses elsewhere in the nation.
|Axelsson, Majgull. April Witch,
2002. Swedish bestseller in translation. Magical story of the bond between
three foster sisters, one of whom is institutionalized in a near-vegetative
state. Emotionally powerful and beautifully written.
|Baker, Nicholson. Vox,
1993. Telephone conversation between a man and woman who meet through a
chat-service, both humorous and erotic as true sexual experiences and fantasies
|Banks, Russell. Affliction.
1989. Tragic saga of a small town well digger and part-time policeman,
afflicted by a history of family violence. Very talented writer who kept
me reading despite the depressing plot and sadly macho character.
|Bannister, Jo. The Lazarus Hotel,
1996. Northern Ireland writer. Fun read with a vintage feel using the locked-room
formula. A group of Londoners are invited to a group therapy retreat in
a penthouse suite only to discover that they are linked by a recent suicide
victim. The telephones and elevators die, trapping the group at the top
floor of a high-rise, as suspicious accidents begin to claim one participant
after another. No Birds Sing,
1996. Excellent portrayal of three very different police officers with
essential decency and human flaws. When an officer is raped by a serial
rapist, the portrayal of the crime, the resulting emotions, and the reactions
of loved one are eye opening. As a rape survivor myself, I was touched
and inspired by the author's sensitivity and surprisingly original perspective.
of Lies, 2001, involves a solitary schoolteacher and amateur
astronomer Daniel Hood who is tortured and left for dead, but has no idea
why and is determined to find out. The book introduces the strong female
character of Brodie Farrell, an amateur sleuth who finds things ranging
from a certain pattern of tea cup to movie props. In True
Witness, 2002, Daniel witnesses an attack on a teenage boy
but refuses to state that the lead suspect pursued by the police was the
culprit. Explores the nature of conscience, ethics, and courage. Very compelling
mystery with unusual and richly-described characters. The
Hireling's Tale, 2001, involves a hired assassin in the
unlikely location of Castlemere after an international sales conference.
2000, involves blackmail against the entire town of Castlemere with threats
of product tampering and biomedical agents. In Reflections,
2003, Daniel Hood agrees to tutor two adolescent girls after their mother
is murdered. A Taste for Burning,
1995: In Castlemere, the chief's photographer son is among the arson suspects
after a series of suspicious fires. Broken
Lines, 1998: Sergeant Donovan rescues the young driver of
a get-away van from an explosive crash, only to be later scapegoated by
a local crime family.
|Baricco, Alessandro. Silk,
1997. Translated from Italian by Guido Waldman. Gorgeous novella that can
be read in an hour. Set in 1861, the spare plot follows a French purveyor
of silkworms to Japan in his quest for their rare eggs. The gentleman becomes
entranced with a Japanese beauty who never speaks. Compressed, stylized,
|Barnes, Linda. Flashpoint,
1999. Easy read about wisecracking female detective Carlotta Carlyle and
her eccentric sidekicks. When an elderly woman in a rent-controlled apartment
is murdered, the possible motives range from real estate development to
art masterpieces. Coyote, 1990,
involves the exploitation of illegal immigrants in a sweatshop factory.
Snapshot, 1993, begins with the suspicious death of a child during hospital
treatment. Cities of The Dead,
1986. Who murdered a chef in New Orleans?
|Barnhardt, Wilton. Show World,
1998. Inside look at legislative wranglings is fascinating. But reality
is strained, especially by the recreational drug use, as two college friends
seek career success.
|Barr, Nevada. Hunting Season,
2002. Mystery series featuring park ranger Anna Pigeon, this time working
along Mississippi's Natchez Trace. The case involves a middle-aged corpse
found in a historic plantation, violent poachers, and historical research
about a slave cemetery. In Firestorm,
1996, the mystery occurs while a fire crew is trapped on a mountaintop
battling the elements. Deep South,
2000, portrays the female ranger's struggles as the supervisor of a resentful
male crew while investigating a murder with racial overtones.
|Bennis, Warren and Patricia Ward Biederman. Organizing
Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration, 1997. The
famous business professor from my alma mater, the University of Southern
California, explores how collaboration by the most talented employees led
some businesses and organizations to great success.
|Berg, Elizabeth. Joy School,
1997. About a thirteen year old girl finding friends when she moves to
a new school and falling in love for the first time.
|Blanchard, Alice. Darkness Peering,
1999. A female detective realizes that her current homicide investigation
parallels the circumstances that drove her police officer father to suicide
two decades below. Explores the nature of disability and loyalty to family.
Well-written, emotionally rich, and cleverly plotted with genuine surprises
|Bloom, Amy. Love Invents Us,
1997. Realistic portrait of an awkward adolescent girl who is seduced by
older men before falling in love despite interracial barriers. Powerful
descriptions of teenage desire.
|Blume, Judy. Summer Sisters,
1998. Follows the different life paths of two friends from adolescence,
with one from a life of privilege. This basic plot has been explored endlessly,
but I enjoyed the references to pop culture from my own generation -- from
Abba's Disco Queen through the preppy look of college and the carefree
sexual promiscuity before AIDS emerged.
|Blunt, Giles. Forty Words for Sorrow,
2001. Mystery series set in northern Canada. Detectives race to save the
latest victim held by a pair of serial killers. As with the best crime
stories, the most important element is the relationship between detectives
and the struggle of officers to handle the emotional toll.
|Bohjalian, Chris. The Law of Similars,
1999. Wonderful novel about a widower who is raising his young daughter
alone and then falls in love with a homeopathic practitioner. When the
healer is suspected of malpractice leading to a local death, the widower
- who is also a state prosecutor - must face issues of ethics, science,
loneliness, and love. Compassionate and gentle perspective on characters
in crisis. Midwives, 1997 (an
Oprah Book Club selection), explores similar themes, as a teenage girl
copes with her mother's trial as a midwife accused of killing a mother
with an emergency cesarean section. In Trans-Sister
Radio, 2000, a female schoolteacher falls in love with a
male professor, before learning that he will soon begin a transsexual transformation.
With sensitivity and dignity, the novel probes the connection between love,
gender, sexuality, and identity. The Buffalo
Soldier, 2002, involves a couple whose twin daughters drown
in a flood but then extend their love to a foster son. Before
You Know Kindness, 1995: The accidental shooting of a vegan
animal activist by his pre-teen daughter strains family relationships.
Realistic portrait of adolescent angst and tough parenting choices.
|Bowen, Elizabeth. The House in Paris,
1935. Modernist and somewhat cryptic tale of two children waiting in Paris,
the boy to meet his unknown birth mother and the girl to catch a train.
Backstory involves a love triangle and jealousy.
|Bragg, Rick. Ava's Man,
2001. Brilliant memoir of his poor Southern grandparents by a Pulitzer
prize winning journalist. Records life in the Appalachian foothills along
the Georgia and Alabama border during the Great Depression. All
Over but the Shoutin', 1997, was the first book chosen by
my new book group. Disappointing in comparison to the later book, which
I read out of sequence. About the author's housebound mother and alcoholic
father, interspersed with tales from his own journalistic careers. Feels
self-indulgent and poorly edited.
|Brown, Carrie. Rose's Garden,
1998. Prose is so beautiful that character and plot are trapped beneath
the weight. Shame given the author's abundant talent. A grieving widower
in a small town sees a ghost and tells the local newspaper, leading to
a lesson in reaching out to others. Lovely descriptions of homing pigeons
|Brown, Dan. The Da Vinci Code,
2003. The bestseller Catholic conspiracy novel is a surprisingly mediocre
example of the genre with dreadful writing, especially in the middle third.
Decent plot and pacing, but the clues are transparent and the codes hardly
seem challenging enough for a Harvard professor and professional cryptologist
to decipher. The premise that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, based
partially on a Da Vinci painting, is interesting and has some academic
support, but the evidence is not adequate in this novel. Worth reading
because of the popularity, but a disappointment compared to works by Umberto
Eco, for example.
|Brownrigg, Sylvia. Pages for You,
2001. Undergraduate begins passionate lesbian affair with a grad student,
while mentored about literature, scholarship, and hipness. Realistic and
|Bugliosi, Vincent. With Bruce B. Henderson. And
the Sea Will Tell. 1991. The attorney-author gained prominence
for prosecuting Charles Manson and writing the book HelterSkelter.
This true crime saga about an island murder is weighed down with irrelevant
detail and the narrative voice that lacks drama.
|Bultman, Bethany. Redneck Heaven:
Portrait of a Vanishing Culture, 1996. Often amusing but
ultimately empathetic documentary-style look at the redneck lifestyle.
|Burke, Jan. Bones,
1999. Page-turner about journalist Irene Kelly and her police officer husband.
While recovering the remains of victims murdered by a serial killer, Irene
faces danger in a remote mountain region and is later stalked until the
killer and his accomplice can be trapped. Liar,
1998, involves the same pair investigating the hit & run death of Irene's
aunt and the stalking of her storyteller cousin, leading deep into family
secrets with hobo codes as a primary clue. Flight,
2001, is much more complex than Burke's other work, with a plot involving
a detective who disappeared ten years earlier and was blamed for the death
of a teenage witness. Nine,
2002, is unfortunately much darker and more violent, involving serial murders
of the fugitives on the FBI's most wanted list.
|Butler, Octavia. Kindred.
Unusual time travel adventure about an African-American woman who is drawn
into the past to intervene in her ancestors' lives on a Southern plantation.
|Butler, Robert Olen. They Whisper,
1994. Dominating man comes to terms with his mortality, relationships,
and life choices. Unappealing characters.
|Caldwell, Erskine. Godís Little
Acre, 1933. Poor family in rural Georgia disintegrates while
digging up their farm land in the quest for gold. Sad and disturbing. Best-seller
|Caldwell, Ian & Thomason, Dustin. The
Rule of Four, 2004. Undergraduates decode the mysteries
of a Renaissance text, triggering old jealousies of other scholars and
a series of murders. Insight into elite universities by two recent Ivy
League graduates. Fascinating and erudite analysis of the text through
references to other obscure documents.
|Camilleri, Andrea. The Shape of
Water. 1994. Translation from Italian. First of the Inspector
Montalbano mysteries set in Sicily. Bestselling series in Europe. Dark
and minimalism with slow start, but I was hooked about halfway through.
|Camus, Albert. The Fall,
1956. Confessions of a corrupt Parisian attorney. Forced myself to finish
but found the narrative style annoying.
|Canin, Ethan. The Palace Thief,
1994. Four stories about mid-life crisis and the struggle to understand
our own life choices. A talented writer. Vivid characterization.
|Carcaterra, Lorenzo. Sleepers,
1995. Well-written true story of four boys from Hell's Kitchen who end
up incarcerated and abused in a juvenile prison. Years later, they take
their revenge against the guards. Slow build-up in first half of the book,
with sentimental memories of growing up in the New York neighborhood.
|Card, Orson Scott. Treasure Box,
1996. Speculative fiction about a software millionaire who meets the woman
of his dreams, after a reclusive period, only to learn that his new wife
is the creation of a witch. Credibly realistic characters confront the
supernatural, with surprising plots twists concluding each chapter and
an amusing light-touch throughout. Like A Wrinkle in Time or the
Potter series for grown-ups.
|Carey, Lisa. Love in the Asylum,
2004. Authentic romance between a manic-depressive and an addict, while
in a recovery institution. Subplot involves letters written by a former
Native American patient who had a healing touch. Strong novel on every
|Carlon, Patricia. Hush, It's a Game,
1967. Great fun to discover this reprint of a vintage Australian mystery.
A little girl in trapped in the kitchen of a high-rise apartment during
Christmas while other residents, staying alone during the holidays, misinterpret
her pleas for help as friendly overtures. Fun, stylized read.
|Carr, Caleb. The Alienist.
1994. Excellent historical detective fiction, set in turn-of-the-century
New York and using the emerging sciences of psychology and forensics. The
plot is dark, involving boy-transvestite prostitutes and gang violence.
But the depth of research for historical accuracy and the imaginative language
provide ample motivation to read 500 pages.
|Carter, William "Buddy". Billy Carter:
A Journey Through The Shadows, 1999. Beautifully written
memoir of Billy Carter by his son. Feels like an honest assessment of Mr.
Carter's troubles -- alcoholism, the Libya scandal, coping with a presidential
brother -- while also portraying the charm, loyalty, and wit of a Southern
man. Since moving to southwest Georgia, just ten miles from the Carter
family hometown of Plains, I'm become fascinated with the family. Billy:
Billy Carter's Reflections on his Struggle with Fame, Alcoholism, and Cancer,
1989, by Billy and Sybil Carter with Ken Estes. Autobiographical reflections
are interspersed with the voices of family members and friends to tell
the story of a rural man's struggle with alcoholism and notoriety.
|Carter, Stephen L. The Emperor of
Ocean Park, 2002. A Yale law professor wrote this excellent
suspense novel about an affluent African American family and the mystery
left behind by the late patriarch, a controversial judge. Also inside look
at law school politics. 653 pages.
|Case, John. The Genesis Code,
1997. Good example of an international conspiracy thriller, with intellectual
detective work more important than brute strength or high-tech gadgets.
Involves the Catholic church and an infertility clinic.
|Chandler, Raymond. Pearls are a
Nuisance, 1958. Short story collection includes the title
story, "Finger Man," and "The King in Yellow," plus Chandler's reflections
on writing detective fiction in "The Simple Act of Murder." Example sampler
of the hard-boiled genre.
|Chevalier, Tracy. Girl with a Pearl
Earring. 2000. Fictional speculation on the young woman
in Vermeer's famous painting. Interesting look at the laborious life of
a Dutch maid in the seventeenth century with some insight into the artistic
eye. But the language is bland and the storyline too simple.
|Christie, Agatha. By the Pricking
of My Thumbs, 1968. Tommy and Tuppence investigate suspicious
activity at a nursing home, which leads the retirees to an insular small
town and an abandoned house. Refreshing to be in the hands of a master
from the very first page. Cozy genre of mystery but stylish and well-paced.
Pocket Full of Rye, 1953. Suspicious poisonings of a fractured
family connects with a practical joke based on the old rhyme. Satisfying,
quick read. The Moving Finger,
1942. Villagers receive threatening letters and then Miss Marple arrives
to halt the violence that follows. Enjoyable brother and sister from the
city find unlikely romance at the same time. Passenger
to Frankfurt, 1970, begins with an identity swap at an airport
and leads into a political conspiracy. Seems dated and strained. The
Secret of Chimneys, 1925, follows intrigue of jewels and
scandalous memoirs from a troubled Balkan country to an English estate.
|Clapp, Nicholas. The Road to Ubar:
Finding the Atlantis of the Sands. 1998. True story of an
archaelogical investigation to find a lost city under the sands of ancient
|Clark, Martin. The Many Aspects
of Mobile Home Living, 2000. Strange adventures of a disillusioned
district judge in rural North Carolina, his hard-living buddies, and a
beautiful woman who cries alabaster tears. Highly entertaining and original,
although more booze and pot than most fiction that I read.
|Clark, Nancy. The Hills at Home,
2003. Beautifully written portrait of an extended family returning to home
occupied by an elderly maiden aunt during the economic downsizing of the
late 1980s. Each family takes a turn as narrator, revealing their personality
quirks and emotional motivations. Funny and true.
|Coburn, Andrew. Widow's Walk,
1984. In a New Hampshire resort community, the police chief must determine
who murdered three men and resolve his own attraction to several of the
|Collins, Paul. Sixpence House: Lost
in a Town of Books, 2003. An American family moves to a
small Welsh town famous for forty bookstores and eccentric book lovers.
|Connell, Evan S. Mrs. Bridges,
1959. Realistic and poignant character study of an affluent 1950s housewife,
who is both repressed by country-club society and imposes narrow-minded
standards on her family.
|Connelly, Michael. The Concrete
Blonde, 1994. Detective Harry Bosch is on trial accused
of excessive force in killing a serial killer, when a new victim
is found who fits the same pattern. The police suspect an insider. Trustworthy
realism from a journalist on the Los Angeles crime beat. Blood
Work, 1998, begins with a retired FBI agent learning that
the organ donated for his heart transplant came from a murder victim. The
complex plot is a brainteaser of the highest quality. Angel's
Flight, 1999, opens with the murder of a civil rights attorney
famous for lawsuits against the Los Angeles Police Department and homicide
investigators are pushed to suspect a cop as rioting begins. In Trunk
Music, Detective Bosch must decide whether a murdered B-movie
producer was killed by the mob, his widow, or one of the other potential
suspects. In City of Bones,
2002, investigates a cold case of a murdered child, whose multiple broken
bones indictes many years of abuse. This writer plays fair, with the evidence
carefelly examined and the reader given an equal chance to solve the case
|Connolly, John. Every Dead Thing,
1999. The author, an Irish journalist, has a gift for lyrical prose. But
the convoluted cast of characters in multiple locations, and layers of
subplots becomes difficult to follow. A detective tracks the killer of
his wife and daughter, from the East Coast to Louisiana.
|Conniff, Richard. Spineless Wonders:
Strange Tales from the Invertebrate World, 1996. Amusing
and detailed look at such creatures as tarantulas, flies, dragonflies,
and squid. But the best parts are the affectionate portraits of the obsessive
scientists who study the invertebrates.
|Coughlin, William J. The Court,
1999, Solid legal novel about how the nomination of a Supreme Court judge
will impact diverse legislation and policies. Interesting character analysis
and a tough ethical decision at the conclusion. In
The Presence of Enemies, 1989, is less strong. In inexperienced
lawyer defends the widow of a wealthy banker in probate court, while heirs
and corporate rivals battle over control of the bank itself. The
Judgment, 1997, involves an attorney, recovering from alcoholism,
is two cases -- the murder of children who are wrapped in plastic and left
in the snow, with accusations of embezzlement against a deputy police chief
who has angered the powerful murder. Strong character development.
|Craft, Hannah. The Bondwoman's Narrative,
written in th 1850s, edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr., 2002. The Harvard
scholar discovered this autobiographical manuscript about slavery, perhaps
the first novel written by a Black woman. The introduction is fascinating,
as Professor Gates describes his efforts to track the history of the author
and verify the authenticity. The story itself uses melodramatic and gothic
literary devices to describe the brutality of slavery.
|Crichton, Michael. State of Fear,
2004. Extreme environmentalist determined to raise alarms about global
warning by using advanced technology to stimulate "natural" disasters.
An attorney, skeptical academic with government connections, and wealthy
philanthropist race to stop the eco-terrorism. Fast-paced action lets the
author voice evidence -- complete with footnotes -- about the manipulation
of scientific evidence by environmental organizations and the media.
|Crombie, Deborah. Leave The Grave
Green, 1995. American author writing a Scotland Yard mystery
series featuring Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Sergeant Gemma James.
This domestic case involves the Opera and artistic circles after a drowning.
But the best part is the romance between the detectives and relationship
between the suspects.