Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Nevermore: Be Frank, Into Oblivion, Fossum, Straley, Mercy Street

Reported by Jeanne

Nevermore opened with a debut novel, Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson.  Alice Whitley has been sent to the home of Mimi Banning, a legendary author who hasn’t written anything in years.  Now financial problems are driving Mimi to produce a new book and her publisher is anxious to keep her on track, so Alice is being sent to “help out”—and keep an eye on Mimi’s progress.  Alice soon finds herself assigned to look after Frank, Mimi’s nine year old son who is a sweet child but with the manner and dress of a 1930s movie star.   Alice finds herself wrapped up in all the oddities of the household and wondering just who is Frank’s father.  Our reader enjoyed this book, and felt it would appeal especially to those with a love for old Hollywood movies.

Arnaldur Indridason’s Into Oblivion was the next book discussed.  Our members have a penchant for “Nordic Noir,” and this thriller set in Iceland was a hit.  Junior detective Erlendur is juggling two different cases, one current and one set in the past.  Both plotlines were well done and our reader said this book was a lot of fun. She highly recommended it to others.

A second Scandinavian mystery was brought up in the same meeting.  Karin Fossum has many fans in the group, and her books almost always end up going home with a different Nevermore member after each meeting.  This week’s title was Black Seconds, in which Inspector Sejer investigates the disappearance of a nine year old girl.  Among the suspects is Emil, a mute man who lives by himself and is considered odd by the locals.  As usual, the book delves deep into the psychology of all concerned. Our reviewer found Black Seconds to be a very satisfying book.

The Woman Who Married a Bear by John Straley features hard drinking private eye and sometime poet Cecil Younger who is asked to investigate the motive behind the murder of a Native guide.  The presumed murderer is behind bars already, but the victim’s mother doesn’t believe the reason given for her son’s death.  Our reader praised the book for its use of the Alaskan setting, Native American myths and culture, and for being a good mystery.  She did add that it could a bit gruesome, but was that it was well-written.

The recent PBS series Mercy Street inspired one member to pick up the book Heroines of Mercy Street by Pamela Toler. While Florence Nightingale was pioneering women’s place in medicine in the Crimean War, her American counterparts took up the struggle during the Civil War.  All were met with hostility and resistance and not just from the doctors:  for example, at one point, the steward and cooks refused to give the women their allotted rations, sending meagre mounts or else food barely fit to eat.  This book centers on the nurses at Mansion House in Alexandria, Virginia and uses diaries, letters and other personal accounts to illuminate the lives of women such as Dorothea Dix, Hannah Ropes, and Mary Phinney von Olnhausen. Our reader found it enlightening.

The Nevermore Book Club meets every Tuesday at 11:00 am in the Frances E. Kegley Meeting Room.  Coffee is available as are doughnuts from the Blackbird Bakery. Anyone is welcome to join!

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