M - N - O
listed by Elizabeth Brunner
Other Book List Pages: ABC
|MacDonald, Ann-Marie. Fall on Your
Knees, 1996. Complicated novel about five generations of
a Nova Scotia family and the dark secrets that pass from parents to daughters.
Well written with unexpected character choices. An Oprah Book Club selection.
|MacDougal, Bonnie. Angle of Impact,
1998. Attorney investigates helicopter accident at amusement park and suspicious
corporate manipulations. Good read.
|Malone, Michael. First Lady,
2001. Political intrigue set in a fictional North Carolina town that is
clearly a hybrid of Triangle communities. Complex and literate. Just wish
that I knew enough about the local scene to decipher which characters represented
|Mankell, Henning. The Return of
the Dancing Master, 1999. Wonderful Swedish author. Complex
mystery that juxtaposes a police detective diagnosed with tongue cancer
and the murder of a retired cop with Nazi connections in his past. Emotions
seem real throughout. The Fifth Woman,
1996, is part of the Kurt Wallender series. In a political atmosphere where
citizen vigilante groups are being formed, someone is taking revenge on
brutal men who live mild-mannered lives on the surface. The
Dogs of Riga, 1992, takes the detective to the Balkan nation
of Latvia, during a period of political upheaval and conspiracies. Firewall,
1998, begins with a power outage and leads to a cyberspace international
conspiracy. The White Lioness,
1993: complex and powerful political conspiracy to assassinate Nelson Mandel,
using Sweden as a training ground. Faceless
Killers, 1991, juxtaposes violent anti-foreigner uprising
against the death of a farmer. Not as exceptional as the other books in
series. Sidetracked, 1995, is
more like an American crime drama -- with a violent psychopath and less
the intellectual variety of detection. Before
the Frost, 2002, is fun because Kurt's daughter has become
an officer and takes over as main character in plot involving a dangerous
religious cult. One Step Behind,
1997, begins with the murder of a role-playing costumed group on Midsummer's
|Mapson, Jo-Ann. Hank & Chloe.
1993. Romance between an independent female horse trainer and a more sedate
professor. Fresh look at the courage required for love. Vivid, well-developed
|Margolin, Phillip. Gone, but Not
Forgotten, 1993. Interesting plot about women taking revenge
against a wealthy serial killer who escapes prosecution after his first
killing spree, but minimal character development and drab language. The
Associate, 2001, involves a young attorney who learns that
a pharmaceutical company might be selling a pregnancy drug that causes
severe birth defects and is then framed for murder.
|Maron, Margaret. Uncommon Clay,
2001. Excellent mystery series about a female judge in North Carolina.
In this episode, the judge investigates the suspicious deaths of family
members associated with a famous pottery. Bootleggers
Daughter, 1992, the first in the series. Excellence sense
of rural politics as a female attorney runs for judge while also investigating
a murder that happened eighteen years before. Southern
Discomfort, 1993, involves arsenic poisoning, the emotions
of teenage girls, and a woman-built house for a low-income family. Up
Jumps The Devil, 1996, addresses land use issues and the
fate of family farmers in a mystery about the murder of two rural landowners.
at Loons, 1994, explores environmental controversies in
coastal North Carolina as fishermen struggle to preserve their livelihood
in the face of tourist development. Slow Dollar,
2002, provides an inside look at traveling carnivals and new romance for
detective-Judge Deborah Kott. Storm Track,
2000, juxtaposes an approaching storm during hurricane season with the
murder of a married woman who was indiscriminate in her affairs. Home
Fires, 1998, involves the burning of African-American churches.
Always feels like cheating when the criminal dies before the legal justice
system can act, but a good read from a reliable author. Killer
Market, 1997, involves the annual international home furnishings
exhibitions in High Point, North Carolina, and the murder of a furniture
executive. High Country Fall,
2004, involves real estate deals in an affluent mountain resort community,
as well as marriage jitters for the engaged judge. Last
Lessons of Summer, 2003, involves childhood secrets resurrected
as a woman cleans out the ancestral home. Plot feels too familiar and the
clues are stumpled upon accidentally rather than the result of much brainwork.
Colors, 1995, involves a New York policeman involved first-hand
in a murder in the art world.
|Martel, Yann. Life of Pi,
2001. A fantastic parable about an Indian boy from a zookeeping family,
his quest for religious meaning, and his shipwreck adventure trapped on
a lifeboat with a tiger. Loved the first half and the narrative experimentation,
but neutral on the lengthy sea scenes.
|Martin, Steve. The Pleasure of My
Company, 2003. The comedian from Saturday Night Live portrays
the eccentric, restricted life of an obsessive-compulsive man who wins
a Most Average American essay contest and escapes loneliness.
|Martin, Steve. Shopgirl,
2000. Portrait of a sales clerk at the glove counter of Neiman Marcus whose
affair with a wealthy businessman leads to new possibilities. Written with
tenderness, irony, and some sadness.
|Martini, Steve. Compelling Evidence,
1992. First-rate legal thriller that involves the murder of a law partner
just before his nomination to the Supreme Court. The main character defends
the widow, a woman that he once had an affair with, and searches for the
real killer. Despite a fairly conventional plot framework, the legal action
is fascinating and the language better than usually expected from the genre.Undue
Influence, 1994, reads like the author rushed to publication,
with purple prose, mixed metaphors, and repetition damaging the first half.
But the conclusion builds with excitement as defense attorney Paul Madriani
defends his sister-in-law against accusations of murder while also tracking
two witnesses who are being chased by an assassin. The
Judge, 1995, begins when an atagonistic judge is caught
in a prostitution sting by a vice force facing corruption charges, followed
by the murder of the young woman who entrapped the judge. Attorney Madriani's
unethical behavior while defending the judge seems like cheating at plot
resolution, but an interesting legal case.
|Mason, Daniel. The Piano Tuner,
2002. Brilliant story of a piano tuner sent to Burma in the 1880s to assist
a music-loving military surgeon. Explores politics, escapism, values, and
loyalty with hypnotic language. Impressive that a young medical student
wrote this complex, well-researched first novel after a year studying malaria
in Southeast Asia.
|Maugham, W. Somerset. The Moon and
Sixpence, 1919. The narrator tries to understand the saga
of a proper banker who threw aside his family for the life of a painter,
moving from England to France and then Tahiti. The first three chapters
are dull, but then the characters become fascinating.
|Mawer, Simon. Mendel's Dwarf,
1988. Complex novel that combines gorgeous prose, fascinating scientific
concepts, and an ethical decision facing a geneticist who happens to be
a dwarf. Intellectually challenging but the footnoted technical descriptions
are as interesting as the plot. The Gospel
of Judas, 2001, involves a priest's research on an ancient
scroll that appears to tell an alternate version of the life of Jesus,
one that will shake his faith and disrupt the church. Less engrossing,
probably because the relationship with female characters feels one-dimensional.
|McBride, James. The Color of Water:
A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother, 1996. Son's memoirs
of the interracial marriages of his Jewish mother who raises twelve children
|McCammon, Robert. Speaks the Nightbird,
2002. In colonial Carolina during 1699, a magistrate and his clerk investigate
accusations of witchcraft against a beautiful Portugese widow. With beautiful
language and a vivid sense of history, this dense 700-page novel juxtaposes
reason and intellect with superstition and prejudice. Some graphic violence.
Definitely worth reading, although the pacing is too slow at points.
|McCorkle, Jill. July 7th.
1984. Darker than expected tale of a small North Carolina town and the
stranger who witnesses a murder. Long list of unattractive and unappealing
characters. The Cheerleader,
1984, from perfect teen to troubled college girl breakdown. Diary style
reflections in first half rings true.
|McCrumb, Sharyn. The Songcatcher,
2001. One of my favorite writers. This novel weaves together generations
of a family as a folksong moves from a Scottish island in 1759 to the colonies
and is preserved by Appalachian families. A folk singer searches for the
lyrics, even while trapped in a downed plane in the mountains. If
I'd Killed Him When I Met Him. 1995 mystery based in Virginia
with hysterical one-liners, plenty of eccentric characters, and brilliant
connections between historic crimes and current legal challenges. Holds
up well on a second reading. Missing
Susan, 1991, involves the bumbling attempt of a British
true-crime tour guide to commit a crime of his own. Funny portrait of the
most annoying breed of American tourists. The
PMS Outlaws, 2000, is not McCrumb's strongest work -- too
didactic about feminism, despite my agreement with her viewpoint. Recurring
character Elizabeth is voluntarily committed to a mental hospital as she
faces grief over her husband's disappearance, while a renegade female lawyer
and a female prisoner are taking an unusual form of revenge on lecherous
men. Highland Laddie Gone, 1986,
is a very funny account of the Americans who celebrate their ancestry at
Scottish Festivals, with universal claims for a royal lineage. Zombies
of the Gene Pool, 1992, is a fun mystery about the obsessive
fans of science fiction who gather as a time capsule is unearthed that
might contain unpublished works from now-famous authors. Sick
of Shadows, 1984, is the first mysery in the Elizabeth MacPherson
series, featuring the wedding of the mentally unstable daughter of a most
eccentric Southern family.
|McCracken, Elizabeth. The Giant's
House: A Romance. 1996. National Book Award finalist. Beautiful
and strange romance between an insular librarian and a young man with a
growth hormone disorder. Example of love that asks for very little in return.
|McCullers, Carson. The Member of
the Wedding, 1946. Southern classic about a 12-year old
girl coping with adolescence, the desire for independence, and her brother's
marriage. The emotional tone rings true throughout, especially the girl's
misinterpretation of a drunken soldier's intentions.
|McDermott, Alice. Child of My Heart,
2002. Lovely tale of a teenage babysitter working for wealthy summer residents
on Long Island. Gentle pace, realism, relationship-focused, and compelling
characters. Charming Billy,
1998, National Book Award Winner. Brilliant reflection on an alcoholic
Irishman's life, told by the guests who gather to remember him.
|McEwan, Ian. Atonement.
2001. When an adolescent girl misinterprets a scene of seduction and a
later scene of assault, her accusations tear a family apart. Eye-opening
scenes of nursing during World War II provide the background. Beautiful
language and emotional nuance. Amsterdam,
1998, winner of the Booker Prize. The death of a prominent woman forces
her former lovers to reflect on their lives and make a difficult moral
|McGarrity, Michael. Under The Color
of Law, 2001. Mystery series featuring Santa Fe police chief
Kevin Kerney. The murder of an ambassador's wife involves an FBI anti-terrorism
team, warfare in South America, and the training of assassins. Tularosa,
1996, is the author's first book and begins with the disappearance of a
young Native American soldier from the White Sands Missile Range in New
Mexico. The investigation involves smuggling of prices artifacts, a Mexican
casino, and a hunchback imposter. Well-written with a complex plot. Serpent
Gate, 1998, begins with the theft of valuable art from the
Governor's office and brings Kerney against an old foe from Mexico. Two
simultaneous cases involve rape and money laundering. The
Big Gamble, 2002, demonstrates the power of collaborative
police work to combat a vice network that has high-level political connections.
Dies, 2003, involves revenge attacks against Chief Kerney
and his pregnant wife. Seems like the writer is looking for a movie deal,
with superficial character development leaving room for gory violence.
|McGown, Jill. A Shred of Evidence,
1995. Excellent British mystery about the murder of a schoolgirl and the
handsome athlete who is a prime suspect. Adolescent crushes and the vulnerability
of men pursued by admiring teens are spotlighted. The romance between two
detectives is charming. Murder at the Old Vicarage,
1988, opens with the Christmas Eve murder of a wife-beater, who is the
son-in-law of the vicar. Plots and Errors,
1999, is structured like a play with acts and scenes, and woven through
with references to Hamlet. This device seems forced, but the convoluted
plot is solid - when a wealthy widow and her son are murdered, the suspects
are those with a chance at inheritance.
of Crime, 2001, incorporates a local theater group, the
murder of a doctor's life, a pornography ring, and a notorious burglar.
Unsafe, 1997, concludes with fuzzy motivations, but momentum
is sustained by the familiar police characters and the reader's emotional
involvement with the rape victims who have been brutalized. The
Murders of Mrs. Austin & Mrs. Beale, 1991, is a classic
puzzler involving the murder of two seemingly unconnected women and a couple
of suspects who begin confessing to protect each other.
|McKean, James. Quattrocento,
2002. Weak first novel that I mostly skimmed to see if the writing would
improve. A painting restorer magically time travels to the Italian Renaissance.
|McKillop, A.B. The Spinster and
The Prophet: H.G. Wells, Florence Deeks, and the Case of the Plagiarized
Text. 2000. True story of the amateur writer who accused
of the famous futuristic writer of stealing her text for his book The
Outline of History.
|McPhee, Martha. Gorgeous
Lies, 2002. As the family patriarch dies, his blended family
reflects on their turbulent emotional history, triggered by his anti-establishment
lifestyle and sexually-obsessed behavior. Slow moving in places, but pays
off with moment of true emotional complexity.
|Mercer, Judy. Double Take,
1997. Corporate intrigue, memory loss, mistaken identity, and family secrets
-- classic elements of mystery handled well.
|Meyers, Dr. Robin R. Morning Sun
on a White Piano: Simple Pleasures and the Sacramental Life.
1998. Loaned by a neighbor. Trite reflections; not my cup of tea.
|Michaels, Barbara. The Dancing Floor,
1997. The author's Ph.D. in Egyptology shows in the skillful mix of research,
historical facts, stubborn heroines, and contemporary suspense that characterize
most of her work -- the references in this novel involve the Renaissance
use of garden mazes. Vanish with the Rose,
1992, plays with romantic suspense conventions as a young attorney impersonates
a horticulturist to gain access to the old mansion where her brother disappeared
months before. Be Buried in the Rain,
1985, focuses on a cruel grandmother, an archaeological dig, and two skeletons
found in Deadman's Hollow. The Sea King's Daughter,
1975, connects a World War II betrayal with a marine archaeology discovery
on a Greek island. Search the Shadows,
1987, follows a young woman's hunt for her birth father to a Chicago mansion
where a dying millionaire hoards rare Egyptian artifacts. Smoke
and Mirrors, 1989, centers around behind-the-scenes sabotage
during a political campaign, with the expected romance for the young heroine.
in the House, 1981, focuses on a castle that was brought
stone by stone from England to Pennsylvania and appears to be haunted.
In The Grey Beginning, 1984,
a young widow travels to Florence to meet her Italian in-laws and discovers
a disturbed boy held prisoner. Into the Darkness,
1990, involves a jewelry heiress who receives threatening messages enscribed
within rings and must decide whether a relative or a business partner has
betrayed her. House of Many Shadows,
1974, is a fun ghost story with a liberated heroine who sees images from
a past crime and deciphers clues from an old embroidery sampler. Witch,
1973, is a classic haunted house tale set in a close-minded town dominated
by a strict religious sect and involving a teenage boy accused of violent
acts. Prince of Darkness, although
an earlier book from 1969, is Michaels at her best - with a haunted heiress,
suspicious man who arrives to investigate folklore, townsfolk experimenting
with black magic, and rumors of a tragic death.
|Miles, Jack. God: A Biography,
1995. Academic work that explores God as a literary character in the Bible.
Written by a former Jesuit priest.
|Milford, Nancy. Savage
Beauty, 2001. Biography of free-spirited but narcissistic
poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. Written with scholarly detail from the correspondence
and diaries of the poet, supplemented by interviews with family and friends.
Interesting but very long and too many passages seem extraneous.
|Milne, A.A. The Red House Mystery,
1922. Written by the creator of Winnie the Pooh, this amateur detective
yarn with a classic locked room plot is worth reading as a novelty, but
I confess to skimming the middle chapters.
|Mistry, Rohinton. A Fine Balance,
1995. Brilliant but tragic novel about India, written by an author originally
from Bombay. Follows the intersecting lives of an entrepreneurial widow,
two tailors, and a student who cope with political upheaval, caste violence,
and severe poverty. The author's immense talent has been compared to Dickens
|Mitchell, Gladys. Faintley Speaking,
1954. Republished by the Chivers Press Black Dagger Classic Crime Series
in 2001. Very British and very vintage. When a biology school teacher is
murdered, the crime evidently involves a code based on the latin names
|Monks of New Skete, How to Be Your
Dog's Best Friend, 2002. Reprint of the classic dog training
book by New York monks who breed German shepherds.
|Moody, Skye Kathleen. Wildcrafters,
1998. This should have been a mystery set in a Pacific Northwest wilderness
preserve and featuring a federal Fish and Wildlife Agent. The kindest adjective
would be cluttered -- a mess of undeveloped plot strings, vague
characters, and disparate settings. I kept plodding to the end just to
see what further narrative mess the author would create.
|Morgan, Robert. Gap Creek: The Story
of a Marriage, 1999. An Oprah Book Club selection. Gritty
novel of a mountain couple in the Appalachian high country.
|Morgan, Speer. The Freshour Cylinders,
1998. Brilliant novel set in Oklahoma and Arkansas during the 1930s. Follows
an attorney's attempt to unravel a mystery involving a pre-Columbian temple
mound, a lost Native American tribe, a bold female archaelogist, a corrupt
sheriff, and a crime boss. Literary, original, and insightful.
|Mosby, Katherine. The Season of
Lillian Dawes, 2002. In 1950s Manhattan, a teenage boy becomes
infatuated with a mysterious beauty. Full of emotional nuance.
|Moss, Barbara Robinette. Change
Me Into Zeus's Daughter: A Memoir, 2000. Reflections of
an impoverished Alabama girl growing up with a deformed face. Inconsistent
prose with some poignant moments. The last chapter is worth reading
as an essay on physical beauty.
|Mountford, B.J. Sea-Born Women,
2002. Mystery involving treasure hunters and National Park Service staff
on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Lots of flaws and false notes from
this first-time novelist but the overall plot kept me turning pages.
|Nasar, Sylvia. A Beautiful Mind:
The Life of Mathematical Genius and Nobel Laureate John Nash,
1998. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography and
made into a film. About the schizophrenic symptoms of a math scholar and
the academic community that tries to protect him. Beautifully written,
with a fascinating look at mathematical personalities and theories.
|Naumoff, Lawrence. Silk Hope, NC.
1994. Beautiful tale of an eccentric sister trying to save the family farm
while working at an underwear packing mill. Off-beat and poignant.
|Naylor, Grant. Better Than Life,
1990. Based on the TV series, this book is a sequel to humorous science
fiction paraody "Red Dwarf". This time, the characters are trapped in a
computer game that hooks directly into the imagination, a world where
each player can enjoy fabulous success with surprising ramifications. Not
my usual genre -- someone gave me the book.
|Nelson, Sara. So Many Books, So
Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading, 2003. Bibliophile
editor tracks the book-a-week read during a year, with reflections on fiction,
family, authors, and favorites. A kindred soul!
|Nicoloson, Adam. God's Secretaries:
The Making of the King James Bible, 2003. History in Jacobean
England as a grand new translation of the Bible is underway.
|Niffenegger, Audrey. The Time Traveler's
Wife, 2003. Brilliant! My fears about science fiction plus
romance made my ignore the recommendations of friends about this novel
for far too long. Surprisingly realistic look at how a life-long love would
be challenged by a medical disorder that makes a man involuntarily shift
through time. Complicated structure handled with grace, fascinating throughout.
|Nordan, Lewis. Wolf Whistle,
1993. Novel by a Mississippi native that fictionalizes the 1955 racial
murder of Emmett Till for whistling at a white woman. In the tradition
of comic horror with many surreal elements, the author explores the emotional
landscape of characters from both the black and white communities. Chosen
as a "community reads" selection by my local public library. Personally,
I would have been more impacted by an historically accurate analysis of
the tragic event.
|Nunez, Elizabeth. Bruised Hibiscus,
2000. Dark and violent look at relationships based on race, sex, and class
in Trinidad. Too dark for me.
|O'Connell, Carol. Shell Game,
1999. The most complex, intellectually-challenging mystery that I've read
in ages. New York City Homicide Detective Kathleen Mallory was a street
child, diagnosed as a sociopath, then taken in as a foster child by a loving
police officer. Her decision to follow his career is marked by brilliance,
turbulence, shifting ethics, and inner battles. In this mystery,
she connects the deaths of aging magicians to the murder of a young woman
during World War II. Mallory's Oracle,
1994, is the first in the series as the female detective tracks the killer
of her policeman foster father through a crime circle that includes a psychic
medium and a group of stock-trading grandmothers. The writer's cryptic
style leaves some unanswered questions if our minds fail to make leaps
as fast as the brilliant detective. In The
Man Who Cast Two Shadows, 1995, Kathleen Mallory uses her
unorthodox techniques to trap a murderer, a wife batterer, a damaged child,
and a crooked cop. This novel also reveals some secrets from Mallory's
own troubled childhood and provides clues about the magician's circle that
will resurface in later books. Killing Critics,
1996, connects the murder of art critics with the brutal dismemberment
slaying of an artist and a dancer twelve years earlier. At times, Mallory
seems to approach unrealistic superhuman status -- her speed at computer
hacking, her victory over an Olympic fencing champion -- but the character's
hidden vulnerabilities remain the most fascinating. In Stone
Angel, 1997, Mallory returns to her hometown in Louisiana
to resolve the mystery of her mother's death and confront an exploitative
religious sect. Important to read this novel after the earlier books, when
you are craving more information on Mallory's psychological development
and personal history. After initial disappointment that my only remaining
unread book by this author did not involve wonderful Mallory, I still enjoyed
Child, 1998. The mystery involves the disappearance of two
girls from an exclusive private school and forces the lead policeman and
the consulting forensic psychologist to confront their memories of a similar
crime during their own childhood. In Crime
School, 2002, Mallory investigates the ritualistic murder
of a prostitute who cared for her during a troubled childhood. As always,
the psyche of the detective is even more fascinating than deciphering the
clues. Dead Famous, 2003, involves
the grisly murders of jurors who acquitted a radio shock-jock. The twisted
psyche of the lead detective has become almost too cryptic to follow. I
found this book the least pleasurable of the series.
|O'Dell, Tawni. Back Roads,
2000. Well-written portrait of a young man trying to raise his three sisters
in the Pennsylvania backwoods, while becoming obsessed with an older woman
and exploring family secrets with a therapist.
|Orleans, Susan. The Orchid Thief:
A True Story of Beauty and Obsession, 1998. Fascinating
look at orchid collectors and the eccentric personalities of Florida. Rich