Best New Books of 2012: Pam W.’s Picks

I am a big fan of mysteries, but I also like to read a little of everything else, especially if it is set in jolly old England. 2012 was a really good year for new books, I have to say.   There were so many good books that I found it hard to narrow it to a small list, but here are my five of my favorites from this year! — Pam W.

The Cutting Season by Attica Locke
Caren, the caretaker of a plantation in Louisiana, is the descendant of slaves who worked on the same plantation. Her mother was also once the cook for the family who own the plantation, so the family has several generations of complicated history with the house and the owners. When Caren finds a young migrant worker on the land who was murdered, the investigation becomes entwined with the murder of a former slave who was Caren’s ancestor 100 years ago. I found the double murder plot intriguing and the setting was very unusual. Locke’s spooky setting and eerie suspense make this novel more than a traditional mystery.

Beastly Things by Donna Leon
When the body of a disfigured man is found in a canal, the police wonder how to go about investigating his death. No one has been reported missing, and they can’t post a photograph to get an identification. The autopsy shows that the man had a rare disease that caused the disfiguration. This gives the police a name and leads them to a slaughterhouse where he worked as a veterinarian. But was the murderer someone he knew professionally or personally? This 21st book in the Commissario Guido Brunetti series is typical of Leon’s fine work. There are usually two or more investigations taking place at the same time, and each case tends to raise more issues than a simply murder mystery. In addition, the reader is given a glimpse into how an average Venetian lives through the life of Brunetti and his family. Start with the first book if you can, but this one is a good read by itself.

Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn
William Kuhn’s story is one I’m sure many folks have thought about in passing over the years. What is the Queen really like? Does she enjoy her life? Does she ever wish to be someone or somewhere else? In Mrs. Queen Takes the Train, the author imagines the answers to those questions. One day, the Queen finds herself outside of Buckingham Palace on her own. She begins to walk down the street and realizes she can slip away from all of her guards and staff for a while. Meanwhile, the palace staff race to find her before word leaks out that she is missing. I loved how Kuhn’s vision of the Queen makes her seem very human. I would recommend this book highly and I think fans of Downton Abbey and Upstairs/Downstairs will enjoy this modern version of what goes on behind the palace doors.

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey
In this updated version of Jane Eyre, Gemma Hardy is taken from Iceland to Scotland after the death of her parents to live with relatives, only to lose her beloved uncle soon after. Her aunt and cousins are not kind to Gemma, so she is happy when she finds they are sending her to boarding school. Unfortunately, she is little more than a servant in the school. Gemma is strong and resourceful, though, and survives the school long enough to get a position as a governess. The setting of Scotland in the 1950’s is interesting and Gemma is a very appealing character who I was pulling for from the beginning.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
Julia is only eleven when the earth’s rotation starts slowing down. At first no one knows what will happen in the future. Will the slowing wreak havoc, or will it simply mean a change in schedule? For Julia, life is simply weirder than it was. Everything had already begun to change for her because she went from elementary school to middle school. Her old friends are no longer interested in her and she suddenly has become a loner. Her parents seem suddenly to be different and less dependable than she always thought. The boy she has a crush on is friendly on some days but on others he ignores her. How is a young girl to make sense of her own life when the whole world is going crazy? Thompson’s novel is less a post-apocalyptic novel and more a coming of age story, but a very good one. Riveting and intense, you won’t forget this book easily.

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4 Responses to “Best New Books of 2012: Pam W.’s Picks”

  1. Lee Says:

    Would you recommend any of these books for my middle schooler and I to read together?

  2. William Kuhn Says:

    Thank you Pam W. Mrs Queen is also grateful!

  3. Lee Says:

    Thanks Pam….think I will read first this time. Lee

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