Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Nevermore: Guilty One, Anthill, Street Cat Named Bob, Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Silenced

One of the first books mentioned in this meeting was actually a title several members had read last year:  The Guilty One by Lisa Ballantyne, but no one could recall author or title at the time.  It was a debut novel about a British lawyer with a troubled past who is called upon to defend a boy accused of murder.  The book certainly made a strong impression on our members, even as they read the similarly themed The Child Who by Simon Lelic and Defending Jacob by William Landay. All three books are highly recommended.

Anthill by E.O. Wilson was praised for its good character development but our reader was uncertain about a direction the book was taking.  Wilson is a professor of entomology at Harvard and a noted expert on ants.  In this book, the reader starts following the adventures of a boy, but then the narrative turns to another world entirely:  that of the ants, though the parallels with human society are obvious.  Readers and critics alike have been divided on this book, the first novel from the noted non-fiction author.  Wilson’s appreciation for the natural world is reflected in his finely observed descriptions, even as he declines to Disneyfy it.

Foggy Mountain Breakdown is a collection of short stories by Sharyn McCrumb.  While some of the stories are set in her native Appalachia, some travel farther afield. Our reader suggested that Jeanne read "Nine Lives to Kill," which (surprise, surprise!) is about a cat, or rather, a man who becomes a cat which brings some unexpected cat-like tendencies and preoccupations.  The tone varies, including some amusing stories along with the poignant.  McCrumb is an excellent storyteller, and most of the stories in this collection showcase that gift.

Silenced by Kristina Ohlsson is a Nordic Noir set in Sweden where a special crimes unit begins to investigate some seemingly unrelated crimes:  the apparent murder-suicide of a clergyman and his wife, and a hit and run death.   Ohlsson provides excellent characterization of the members of the unit, including their personal trials, as well as a good plot which deals in part with the problems of immigration.  This is the second book in the series to be translated into English and our reviewer encourages anyone who enjoys books set in Scandanavia to give Ohlsson a try.

Finally, one reader mentioned how much she enjoyed A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen, the true story of a drug-addicted busker in London who saved a stray cat.  Bob the cat recovered and became so attached to James that he followed him to the street corners where James played music for tips.  Inspired by his need to care for Bob, James was able to end his drug dependency. Honest and heartwarming, the book has spent weeks on the best seller list around the world.  A second book, The World According to Bob, is out in the UK, with a children’s book to follow.

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