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Book Nook - 16-03-2015

Monday, March 16, 2015

There are Lit Fests taking place all over the country, but the community of readers is dwindling. Still, passionate book lovers would like to know what others like themselves are reading. This Book Nook suggests some books, but would also like to connect with serious readers, or even casual airport book browsers. Do write in about books you have loved or hated and why. The best entries will be shared on this page. Please send your recommendations to adc.booknook@gmail.com.

Super Sniper
It is an unwritten rule of the thriller: when an elaborate meal is cooked, it won’t be eaten; if a holiday has been planned with great effort, it will be cancelled. If a character has a birthday, the day will be wrecked.

 All of the above happen to Dr Kay Scarpetta, Patricia Cornwell’s gusty forensic investigator heroine, when she is in the mood for romance with her husband, Benton Wesley of the FBI, in her 22nd novel in this series. Dr Scarpetta first appeared in the rather obviously titled Post Mortem in 1990, and hasn’t stopped since.

 While she is lovingly whipping up an exotic meal, and getting set to leave for a Florida vacation to celebrate her birthday, she notices seven pennies on a wall behind their Cambridge house. They are copper coins all dated 1981 and shining like new. She remembers receiving a weirdly sinister poem by a person who has the Twitter handle, Copperhead.

As she ponders over this, her colleague, Detective Pete Marino calls to tell of her of the murder of a school teacher nearby, by a sniper. Nobody saw anything; the man was unloading groceries from his car when he simply fell down dead.

Marino suspects that this murder connects two others with a similar modus operandi and a common factor—special copper bullets. There is seemingly no connection between the three victims, so there is no pattern to be discerned.  There is no way of predicting where the sniper will strike next, though Dr Scarpetta suspects her family is on the killer’s radar.

Her holiday is cancelled, husband and niece Lucy (who happens to be gay, and yes, that is a clue) get involved in the pursuit of the sniper—Lucy being the super efficient ex-FBI operative, whose skills with helicopters, guns and computers are unparalleled.

Then, a teenager is found dead in the pool of a senator’s empty mansion, a creepy insurance investigator pops up, the latest victim’s wife is hiding something. And to make matters – and traffic—worse, President Obama is about to visit the town, and there is tension all around. This is soon after the Boston marathon bombings and racist feelings run high—so there could be a terrorist or vigilante angle to the last killing.

Cornwell spreads around a lot of police and forensic procedures and red herrings. It takes some stretching of the  imagination to connect the dots, and think like the unhinged killer, who plays mind games with Dr Scarpetta and the others working on the case.

Dr Scarpetta keeps having hunches and feelings in the pit of her stomach, while Lucy hacks away into the depths of the internet to get impossible-to-find information.

There are many dry pages of ‘how-it’s-done’ and the gruesome autopsy passages that are not for the squeamish—but then why would they pick up a book about a forensics expert?
 

  • Flesh And Blood

By Patricia Cornwell
Publiser: William Morrow
Pages: 369

Excerpt: Flesh and Blood
COPPER FLASHES LIKE SHARDS of aventurine glass on top of the old brick wall behind our house. I envision ancient pastel stucco workshops with red tile roofs along the Rio dei Vetrai canal, and fiery furnaces and blowpipes as maestros shape molten glass on marvers. Careful not to spill, I carry two espressos sweetened with agave nectar.

I hold the delicate curved handles of the mouth-blown cristallo cups, simple and rock crystal clear, the memory of finding them on the Venetian island of Murano a happy one. The aromas of garlic and charred peppers follow me outside as the screen door shuts with a soft thud. I detect the aromatic bright scent of fresh basil leaves I tore with my bare hands. It’s the best of mornings. It couldn’t be better.

My special salad has been mixed, the juices, herbs and spices mingling and saturating chunks of mantovana I baked on a stone days earlier. The olive oil bread is best slightly stale when used in panzanella, which like pizza was once the food of the poor whose ingenuity and resourcefulness transformed scraps of focaccia and vegetables into un’abbondanza. Imaginative savory dishes invite and reward improvisation, and this morning I added the thinly sliced core of fennel, kosher salt and coarsely ground pepper. I used sweet onions instead of red ones and added a hint of mint from the sunporch where I grow herbs in large terra-cotta olive jars I found years ago in France.

Pausing on the patio, I check the grill. Rising heat wavers, the lighter fluid and bag of briquettes a cautious distance away. My FBI husband Benton isn’t much of a cook but he knows how to light a good fire and is meticulous about safety. The neat pile of smoldering orange coals is coated in white ash.

The swordfish filets can go on soon. Then my hedonistic preoccupations are abruptly interrupted as my attention snaps back to the wall.

I realize what I’m seeing is pennies. I try to recall if they were there earlier when it was barely dawn and I took out our greyhound, Sock. He was stubborn and clingy and I was unusually distracted. My mind was racing in multiple directions, powered by a euphoric anticipation of a Tuscan brunch before boarding a plane in Boston, and a sensual fog was burning off after an indulgent mindless rousing from bed where all that mattered was pleasure. I hardly remember taking out our dog. I hardly re- member any details about being with him in the dimly lit dewy backyard.

So it’s entirely possible I wouldn’t have noticed the bright copper coins or anything else that might indicate an uninvited visitor has been on our property. I feel a chill at the edge of my thoughts, a dark shadow that’s unsettling. I’m reminded of what I don’t want to think about.

You’ve already left for vacation while you’re still here. And you know better.

My thoughts return to the kitchen, to the blue steel Rohrbaugh 9 mm in its pocket holster on the counter by the stove. Lightweight with laser grips, the pistol goes where I do even when Benton is home. But I’ve not had a single thought about guns or security this morning. I’ve freed my mind from micromanaging the deliveries to my headquarters throughout the night, discreetly pouched in black and transported in my windowless white trucks, five dead patients silently awaiting their appointments with the last physicians who will ever touch them on this earth.

I’ve avoided the usual dangerous, tragic, morbid realities and I know better.

Dammit.

Then I argue it away. Someone is playing a game with pennies. That’s all.

A light piece of chick lit from Saran Addison Allen, the second about the Waverly family of the town of Bascom in North Carolina.

The Waverly women have special gifts, which do not necessarily make life easier for them. And they have an eccentric, almost human apple tree, that blooms in winter and chucks apples at people it doesn’t like.

Claire Waverley’s gift is her culinary expertise—she has just started manufacturing candy that has special powers, due to increasing dedmand. The business is successful, but it takes her attention away from her family and what she loves doing—cooking.

Her sister Sydney Waverley’s gift is working with hair, but she is desperately trying to have a child with her second husband Henry, who is a loving father to his stepdaughter Bay.

Bay is a pariah in her school and mocked for wearing her heart on her sleeve for rich guy Josh, because she believes her gift is knowing who belongs with whom, and impossible as it may seem to other, she knows she belongs with Josh.

Then, a mysterious, grey-suited stranger shows up and tries to stir up trouble. The Waverly women and their men come together to battle this threat. The way characters are introduced and blended into the story—like an elderly cousin whose gift is giving the right object to people just when they need it—there is always scope for more books in this series. The first was Garden Spells, and there’s more magic where that came from.

First Frost
By Sarah Addison Allen
Publisher: St.Martin’s Press
Pages: 304

Excerpt: First Frost
Maybe it was Bay’s imagination, but the house always seemed to preen a little when she entered, the dim windows shining a little brighter, the quilts straightening themselves on the backs of couches. Bay’s mother said that Bay loved this place too much, that she was a lot like her great-grandmother Mary that way. Bay had never met her great-grandmother Mary, but all the same, she knew that her mother wasn’t giving her a compliment. Her mother had never truly felt at home growing up here.

Trying to catch her breath from her autumn dash, Bay walked through the foyer, past the sitting room decorated with the same old furniture from when her great-grandmother Mary ran a boardinghouse here, and into the large renovated commercial kitchen. Her sneakers, almost covered by the frayed hems of her baggy jeans, squeaked against the polished floor.

ALSO RECEIVED:
Know Thyself is the first in the series of three books by Gian Kumar, which answer spiritual questions.  Self-help and inspirational books are very popular with readers, and the more lucidly written they are the better.  In the print version of a spiritual discourse that many people find soothing in these stressed time, Gian Kumar shares his thoughts and clears the many doubts that could arise in the minds of people who want guidance but don’t know where to turn in order to get it.

 Kumar’s book is a “an amalgam of Science, Spirituality and Philosophy. He Believes that once we discover our true selves, our lives can be fred from stress, depression and misery. The core of this series is based upon the absolute reality of life - Oneness between the Self and the Universe.

Knowing oneself is the most challenging task. It involves accepting our alter ego or shadow-self. When we understand and accept who we really are, in totality. We have a better chance of achieving what we want from our lives.

Know Thyself - herein lies the key to sucess happiness and fulfillment.”

Know Thyself
By Gian Kumar
Publisher: Leadstart
Pages: 337
 

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