Dennis Lehane: Small Mercies

Dennis Lehane writes like an angel.  His prose, while not flashy, is still beautiful, even while he writes about racial hatred, drug addiction, beat downs and murders.  Through his compelling way of creating character, he reaches in and gives your heart a squeeze, and I think he writes better than anyone about the highways of grief, loss and heartbreak.  It’s one of those miracles of empathy that only the most powerful of writers possess.

While this story is a simple one, in one way, it’s also full of complicated layers and wrong turns. It’s very basically the story of a worried mother looking for her missing daughter.  The mother, the tough as nails Mary Pat Fennessy, lives in South Boston in 1974, just as school busing is about to break the city into riots and protests.  The kids from Southie will be bussed into the black area of Roxbury, and vice versa.  Mary Pat’s 17 year old daughter, Jules, is scheduled to be on the first bus. read more

Jacqueline Winspear: The White Lady

Jacqueline Winspear’s The White Lady spans two wars. Despite this epic scope, the book has the feel of an intimate character study.  Luckily, the character at the center of the novel, Elinor White, is well worth a look.  As a little girl in Belgium with an British mother and a Belgian father, the book opens as the war begins and little Lini’s father is gone.  Somehow, even as a 10 year old, Elinor knows she will never see her father again, so she, her mother, and her older sister, Ceci, form a tight unit, a unit that becomes much tighter during the German occupation of their little village. When a strange woman asks them to help out, the two girls become a part of the resistance. read more

Anthony Horowitz: The Twist of a Knife

Anthony Horowitz, one of the finest practitioners of the traditional detective novel, brings us a new installment in his series where Anthony Horowitz himself is the detective.  Or rather, he’s the writer who solves crimes with an actual detective named Hawthorne, and then writes books about their investigations.  It’s a very meta concept and it only took me a minute to adjust to it.  In this alternate world where Horowitz the author is Horowitz the character, he’s written a play.

The play is being produced, starting out in smaller cities and at last – moving to London.  As the book opens, Anthony has told Hawthorne he doesn’t plan to write any more books; and he’s very much looking forward to opening night of his play.  It’s a small cast and all of them head out to celebrate afterwards at a party thrown by the producer, and the cast and Anthony end up back at the theater’s green room waiting on reviews.  One comes in early, and it’s a nasty one.  The cast trickles out, in shock. read more