Posts Tagged ‘Missing Persons’

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2013: Stephen B’s Picks

December 18, 2013

My name is Stephen Bank and I have been working in Wake County Public Libraries for over 12 years. My favorite genre is mysteries, but I also like Historical Nonfiction and sometimes human interest stories as you will see from the following 5 short blogs.

Snow in August by Pete Hamill
Having been raised in a multi-ethnic neighborhood in New York City, I have found no one who captures the essence of the Big City like Hamill. This touching story takes place in Brooklyn just after WWII, where an extraordinary relationship develops between 11 year old Michael Devlin and Rabbi Judah Hirsch, a Polish refugee. Michael’s Dad was killed in the war and he and his Mom are just surviving. The relationship between Michael and the Rabbi teaches us how all people can live together in all types of circumstances.   Read my full-length post here.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
It’s 1890 and Chicago politicians will do anything to bring the next World’s Fair to their city. As various factions battle against other sections of the United States for the Fair, something very diabolical is going on. Chicago wins the rights to the World’s Fair and now there will be the infighting from those factions who want to profit from producing the Fair. There is also a serial killer loose, but at first no one realizes that the dead women have not died of natural causes! We are really dealing with the two stories, the Fair and the murders.  Larson’s unbelievable research makes you feel like you are there, living in Chicago. And this is a true story!  Read my full-length post here.

The  Informationist  by Taylor Stevens
In this book you will meet one of fiction’s most interesting leading protagonists, Vanessa “Michael” Munroe.  Abandoned in darkest Africa by her missionary parents as a teenager, Vanessa has to learn every possible survival skill…which she does. As an adult, she is self-sufficient and capable of anything, including killing to save herself and her clients. She is not evil and she hires herself out to secure information for clients.  She is fascinating and if you become “hooked” as I did you will seek out Stevens’ two successive novels with ‘Michael’ as the main heroine. If you do some research on author Stevens and her background, it may become clearer to you how she arrived at this talent and the development of ‘ Michael ‘ as a leading character!  Read another review here.

Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo
This was a new discovery for me. This book is the first in a series of books where our main protagonist is Kate Burkholder, the chief of police of Painters Mill, Ohio. I always thought that the main Amish community was in Pennsylvania but there is a strong Amish community in Ohio. The Amish and English residents have lived besides each other for years but not entirely peacefully! Although they were peaceful, there always was some resentment of the Amish.  Kate was brought up in the Amish community but a series of brutal murders convinced her that she didn’t belong there.  Despite that, she returned to Painter’s Mill after some big city training to be the new Police Chief. A new murder and Kate is convinced she must find the culprit before there is another murder. Castillo has followed this initial story with several other books with Burkholder as her leading protagonist. Not only is this a solid read but you will learn some things about the Amish communities.

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield
This is the different selection, one I would not ordinarily select but it was suggested by a fellow librarian I trust. Samuel Lake is preacher, a good one but one who has alienated his parish enough that they don’t renew his contract. Now it is time for Samuel and his wife, Willadee and their three children to return to her family’s farm in south Arkansas and the annual reunion of the Moses’ family. And that is the catch…!  You will fall in love with Samuel and Willadee’s precocious eleven year old daughter, Swan. And as you get to meet and know the rest of the Moses clan, you will see the good and the bad. If you have an extended family as I do, you will understand their trials and tribulations.  Samuel has to face his own demons … why can’t he hold on to a congregation? Plus there certainly are members of the Moses’ clan that will present their own challenges. This book will touch your heart, I promise.


Best New Books of 2013: Pam W’s Picks

December 11, 2013

My reading tastes are kind of all over the map, but I especially enjoy mysteries and historical fiction.  This year my list is full of lots of new authors.  I’ve read and really liked many of the books that are at the top of the best seller’s lists, but here are five of my favorites that might be less well known.

The House Girl by Tara Conklin
Conkin’s novel alternates between the story of Josephine, a slave in Virginia during the 1850’s at a failing plantation; and Lina, a first year associate of a large corporate law firm in present day New York who is working on what her boss calls a history making case. Lina’s case requires her to find a descendant of a slave who would like to be a plaintiff in a case over who painted a series of famous paintings that have long been attributed to Lu Ann Bell, but now are believed to have been painted by her slave.  As Lina investigates the case, the novel switches back to tell Josephine’s story.  Josephine’s was the more riveting tale, but the modern story was interesting as well. I look forward to more by this author.

Bay of Fires by Poppy Gee
Bay of Fires, a wonderful debut novel by Poppy Gee, is set in a remote holiday town on the east coast of Tasmania. Sarah Avery has lost her job and is spending some time with her parents in the cabin they visit every summer.  Sarah is fishing when she finds the body of a young woman on her favorite beach.   Suddenly, Sarah’s family and friends become murder suspects.  I loved the unusual setting and the spooky atmosphere of this book.  The author does a wonderful job of describing the wild nature of Tasmania’s east coast, and the insular nature of a small, isolated community. Check out my full-length post here.

Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda
Pochoda’s novel starts off with two bored young girls on a slow, hot evening in Brooklyn.  The girls want to do exciting, something that will make their lives more interesting and prove they are more grown up.  Later that evening, one girl is found on the shore unconscious and the other is missing.  What happened, and who is responsible?  Is it the teacher who found the unconscious Val?  The young man who was known to be the last to speak to the girls? Pochoda’s focus is less on the police investigation than on the description of the neighborhood and its residents.  But this is the beauty of her book.  By the time I finished, I felt like had visited Red Hook, Brooklyn, and that her characters had become my neighbors.  I hated to leave them when the book ended.

Amity and Sorrow by Peggy Riley
Amity and Sorrow is a moving tale of a woman trying to undo a terrible mistake she made when she was young.  After losing her family, she took up with a charismatic man who took her to live in a remote area.  Years later, she is fleeing from him and the cult he has created. Amaranth is terrified that her husband will follow her to force her and her two daughters to return.  The girls are unable to imagine what their lives will be like outside of the family.  The older daughter, Sorrow, has no intention of leaving the only life she has ever known and is fighting her mother every step of the way.  The younger daughter, Amity, is caught between her mother and her sister.  Riley’s writing is spare but she is able to paint a vivid picture.  You will find yourself hoping for redemption for Amaranth and her family, no matter what she has done in the past. See my full-length post here.

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier
Honor Bright is from a Quaker community in England.  Jilted by her fiance, she decides to go with her sister to Ohio for her sister’s wedding.  Tragedy strikes, though, and when her sister dies, Honor doesn’t know what to do except finish the journey and bring the news to the man who was to be her brother-in-law.  Along the way, she is introduced to the issue of slavery and the return of escaped slaves in a frightening incident.  As a Quaker, Honor is firmly against slavery.  But the small community she has come to is in a difficult situation.  If they are seen to help the runaways, they risk losing their own lively hoods or more.  This dilemma is what Honor has to navigate in her new unexpected situation. She is dependent on the kindness of people she is not related to, and cannot upset them.  But she also wants to live according to her morals. Chevalier’s take on the issue of slavery is unique, and Honor was an engaging character.  Fans of historical fiction will really enjoy this one.

Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason

September 23, 2013

“The meek Jason Getty buries a body in the backyard. It haunts him daily. His anxiety expands exponentially when the landscapers uncover a body and then the police uncover yet another body. Here is the catch- neither of these are the body he buried. The police scrutiny is intense even though he is not at all a suspect. He has only lived in his home a few years, too recent based on the decomposition of the bodies. Being the scene of the crime requires the police to scour every inch of his home. Jason is beside himself wondering when they will uncover his buried secret.

Mason creates an intense sensory experience for the reader as she describes the cloying squish of decay, adrenaline filled chases in the darkest of nights and the hopelessly empty need for acceptance. At times I felt like I could taste the dirt, hear the blood pulsing in my ears and feel the desperation.

Told from the vantage point of several of the characters in almost a stream of consciousness style, the reader gets to see what motivates each character as they are connected to one another by the evil web of coincidence. Leah’s need to know what happened to her missing fiancé, Reid, morphs into something else. Jason’s desperate need for acceptance takes a bad turn. Boyd’s need for control violently bubbles through his tightly moral appearance. Fraught with delicately synchronized suspense, these worlds collide and their lives are changed forever.

 Jamie Mason artfully weaves a tale that would put Alfred Hitchcock on the edge of their seat. I can’t wait to read more from this debut author.”

Jamie Mason along with several other local authors will be at West Regional Library on September 24th, visit our website for more details.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

One Came Home by Amy Timberlake

June 26, 2013

One Came HomeIn 1871, Placid, Wisconsin is an untamed place. People mostly live off the land and trade with pioneers passing through. Passenger pigeons fly overhead in flocks so large they blot out the sky, followed by hunters eager to make their fortune from pigeon meat and feathers. Cougars prowl the roads. Counterfeiters hide in caves, far from the eyes of the law. And 13-year-old Georgie’s sister Agatha has left town without a farewell to anyone, following the pigeon hunters. When the sheriff finds a body that is decomposed beyond recognition, but wearing Agatha’s dress, her mother and grandfather fear the worst. But Georgie refuses to accept that her beloved sister could be gone. She sets out on her own to find out what really happened to Agatha – and finds more danger and surprises than she bargained for along the way.

One Came Home by Amy Timberlake successfully blends a lot of elements – a well-paced mystery that keeps readers guessing, a Wild West adventure, a coming of age story and an ode to the natural world. The latter is what really set this book apart from other adventure stories: the natural world is described with vivid language and interesting details. The sheer number of pigeons described in the flock over Placid seems unbelievable and exaggerated, but the author’s notes confirm that it is accurate. Georgie is also a great and relatable character. She’s practical and tough but also emotional and a risk taker. The reader can’t help but cheer her on all the way to the book’s satisfying conclusion!

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

The Book of Killowen by Erin Hart

March 18, 2013

Pathologist Nora Gavin and archeologist Cormac Maguire have been called by the police to a small farm in Killowen, Ireland to examine the remains of a body found in a bog. Like most bog bodies, this one has been in the ground for a long time.  What’s unusual is that this body was found in the trunk of a car. And when removed, a second body was found underneath it.  The first man turns out to have died 1000 years ago, while the second has been dead less than a year.  Both men, however, have been murdered.

Nora and Gavin stay at a local farm while they examine the bodies. The farm is an artist’s retreat, with many people living there on a long term basis, all contributing to the farm work while also practicing their art or craft.  As the investigation proceeds, Nora and Gavin identify the earlier victim as a monk who may have also been a scribe.  The police find that the most recent victim was Benedict Kavanagh, a prominent philosopher well known to the general public as the host of a national television program.  Kavanagh was fascinated by the ancient books produced in Ireland’s early monasteries and was searching for a long lost book of philosophy. The artists at the farm turn out to have known Benedict personally.  In addition, his wife frequently stayed on the farm.  Is it possible that Kavanagh’s murder was related to the bog man?  Can Nora and Gavin solve either murder before they become targets?

I love the idea of tying a current mystery to historical events, and Ireland is a wonderful setting for this.  The Book of Killowen is the most recent in a series of mysteries starring Nora and Cormac, and it was especially good.  But you may want to start with the first one, Haunted Ground.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Best New Books in 2012: Amy W.’s Picks

December 6, 2012

This year was a great year for books! I am pretty sure I say that every year. I read anything and sometimes everything. I don’t really have a favorite genre or type of book; however, there are a couple of qualities that make me a happy reader. I love a sassy character that can role with the punches. Many times these characters become my friends (ok, that is probably just a little sad) and I find myself reflecting on the fun times we had together. I also love books that are sparsely written in which every exacting word creates layers of meaning. These sentences are like tiny, savory poems read again and again until I am sated. My favorite books this year share at least one if not both of these qualities.
Drum roll please! Here are my favorite new books published in 2012:  — Amy W.

We Sinners by Hanna Pylväinen  
We Sinners follows each member of the twelve member Rovaniemi family in the day to day struggles with a life as part of the Laestadian sect of Lutheran Church. When two siblings fall prey to the temptations of popular culture, everyone reacts, and the author gives us each family member’s perspective. Delicately written, We Sinners explores the need to be at peace with the world, with our community, with our family and with ourselves.

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
Tiny Beautiful Things is a collection of letters written to the online advice column Dear Sugar. Look, these letters aren’t pretty; they are depressing and this book is tough to read cover to cover. What is beautiful is the advice Sugar (Cheryl Strayed) gives them. It is not enough to say her advice is from the heart, rather from the often dark depths of her also difficult life, artfully crafted into a gift.

Tell the Wolves I Am Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
It is 1987 and fourteen year old June grieves for her Uncle Finn, the only member of her family with whom she truly connected,  who passed away after a mysterious illness. Everyone is privately grieving for Finn. Left to her own devices, June sets out to discover the real Finn. What she discovers changes everything and changes nothing in this wonderful debut novel.

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
Myfanwy Thomas (pronounced Miffany, according to the author) wakes up in the rain surrounded by dead bodies and she has amnesia. No longer tethered to her former personality, Myfanwy cracks wise and tries to solve the mystery of her existence while defending Britannia from supernatural threats. The Rook is a fun genre-bending page turner! Don’t just take my word for it, though, see what my colleague Dan wrote about this debut novel earlier this year.

Where’d You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple
Bernadette Fox , the mysterious wife of a Microsoft elite engineer and mother to insightful 15 year old Bee, is missing. Bernadette is no longer able to meet demands of that life, in fact, unless you want a mud slide crashing through your house or to live in decrepitude while your living space is consumed by the earth, you should probably stay out of her way. This book is hilarious as Bernadette expounds on the absurdity of happy homemaker. Told through emails, letters and faxes, this is book is fun to read or to listen to as an audio book.

By the way, my absolute favorite book of 2012 is The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. It seems my co-workers agree with me – Pam W. and added it to her top 5 of 2012, and Janet L. reviewed it earlier this year. Great minds think, and read, alike!

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral

May 7, 2012

This book caught my eye immediately. The format is somewhere between a photographic coffee table book and a graphic novel; the story is told in words and pictures, but also through instant messages, you tube videos, and drawings. The result is a beautiful finished product to leaf through leisurely or to tackle as a quick read (I was able to plow through the entire book on my lunch break one day.)

The story starts with the main character, Glory, missing. She has escaped from a mental institution and hasn’t been heard from since. Rewind eighteen months, and the events leading up to her disappearance are revealed:

Glory is a teenaged piano prodigy about to embark on a worldwide tour. She’s known for her skill of mixing classical pieces with modern scores in a cohesive and innovative manner (think Bach alongside Madonna). Her father is demanding and her schedule grueling. Between lessons, practice, and keeping up with her schoolwork, Glory doesn’t have a lot of time to be a normal teenager. And then she meets Frank, and her whole world turns upside down.

Glory’s deteriorating mental state is shown through clipped articles, postcards to Frank from her tour, and other documents, placed together to form a sort of scrapbook. She becomes incapable of performing the pieces that she is known for (and expected to play) and instead only plays (you guessed it) Chopsticks.

For a peek at the type of imagery you’ll see throughout this book, check out the video preview of the book or take a peek inside the book online.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman

May 4, 2012

I have read more books than I would like centered on the disappearance of a woman. Several recent titles that leap to mind are The Fates Will Find Their Way, In Search of the Rose Notes, The False Friend, and Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter. The missing women in these books are almost certainly dead, but we don’t always find out.

So Much Pretty is also about a missing woman, although in this case we do find out what happened and it is not pretty. The woman in question is 19 year-old Wendy White. Born and raised in the rural town of Haeden, New York, where people know their neighbors and believe themselves safe from violence, Wendy is a cheerful, pretty girl who works at the neighborhood tavern.

Her disappearance and ultimate fate galvanizes two local women, reporter Stacy Flynn and high school student Alice Piper into action. They are both disturbed by Wendy’s fate, and even more disturbed by the town’s denial that someone from Haeden could be responsible; locals insist a stranger must have done this–even if the evidence says otherwise.

For me, what sets this book apart from the others is the underlying emotion of the story. It is not grief, or fear, or even anger. It is absolute fury. The kind of fury that reminds you the word was inspired by the avenging deities in Greek mythology who torment criminals. Avenging deities usually portrayed as female.

Cara Hoffman’s ability to harness that fury and not let it overwhelm the story bowled me over. Her writing is controlled and pointed and utterly merciless. For me, this was a tough and at times a painful read. Nevertheless, I haven’t stopped thinking about this book and I will remember it long past the time books usually fade in my memory.

Find and reserve this book in our online catalog.

Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indridason

April 12, 2012

Another example of the terrific crime novels coming out of the Scandnavian area (although strictly speaking, Iceland only sort of counts as Scandinavia). Detective Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson is called to the scene of some new home construction because a human bone, a rib, was found at the site. Because the site may have historical significance, a team of archaeologists is also summoned to aid in the excavation.

Erlendur calls in his chief detectives, Sigurdur, Oli & Elinborg to assist in the case and now they all must work with the archaeologists and geologists to undercover the rest of the skeleton. Meanwhile, Erlendur’s personal life is in shambles, his ex-wife Halldora refuses to even speak with him. His daughter, Eva Lind, has left the cryptic message “help me” on his cellphone. His son, Sindri, is out of the country and is of no assistance.

While following the lead of some of Eva Lind’s  friends, he discovers that his daughter has just miscarried her unborn daughter and is found bleeding and in a comatose state, near a hospital. After he gets her to the hospital and the doctors stabilize Eva, Erlendur realizes that it may be touch and go as to whether or not his daughter will survive. And yet, he must go back to the excavation site to help determine if the bone found is a part of a murder victim … and are we dealing with a recent murder or one from a half century before?

There are clues that his team must try to follow, and the trail seems to be leading back in history. If it is a murder, it may have occurred decades before. The author has cleverly woven the story of the present with the story of the past. At first it is a bit confusing, but as you begin to understand, the author fills in the past so that it can fit into the present and resolve the mystery.

The author lives in Reykjavik, Iceland, and has won a Glass Key Award for Best Nordic Crime Novel for both his earlier book Jar City and for Silence of the Grave, which also won the Gold Dagger Award. This is a truly fascinating read and I intend to go back and read the first in the series, Jar City.

Find and reserve this Icelandic crime novel in our catalog.

The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney

January 4, 2012

If Ray Lovell has learned anything as a private investigator, it’s that sometimes it’s better not to know.  Or as he muses after informing yet another hapless husband that yes, his wife is cheating on him, “Ignorance is bliss.  Knowledge is power.  Which would you prefer?”

Knowledge can also be dangerous, as Ray finds out first hand in this quirky mystery.  He’s been approached by Leon Wood, who wants to hire him to find out what happened to his daughter, Rose.  She disappeared years ago, after marrying into the Janko family and giving birth to a son.  Ray isn’t sure he wants to take this case.  He’s shied away from missing persons cases ever since he worked on the Georgia Millington case—which ended badly.

But Leon insists that no one else will do.  You see, Leon Wood is a Gypsy and so is Ray Lovell.  Or at least Ray is half Gypsy, on his father’s side.  And Leon would never hire a gorjio, or non-Romany.  A gorjio would never be able to get the Janko family to answer questions about Rose.  But a private investigator who’s also a Gypsy?  He might, just might, stand a chance.   So Ray takes the case and enters the world of English Gypsies in order to solve the riddle of what happened to Rose.

The story is told from two points of view—Ray’s and that of J.J. Janko, a teenage member of the clan Rose married into—which I found very effective.  The story has a great plot.  But what I found most fascinating was Penney’s portrait of the world of the Romany, a world invisible to most.  But just because it’s invisible doesn’t mean it’s harmless.  Ray Lovell is a man prodding at the secrets of a family and a people he doesn’t fully understand, and uncovering them will have shocking consequences. The author also has an interesting interview about this book available online.

Find and reserve this new book in our catalog.

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