Great Reads

Winspear, Jacqueline. Maisie Dobbs.

Maisie Dobbs has a truly impressive history: housemaid, Cambridge student, wartime nurse and now, a private detective. With help from her former employer, Lady Rowan, Maisie's natural ambition, intelligence and empathy aid her in solving some complex mysteries.

In the first book of the series (the ninth book in the series will be released this Spring), Maisie is faced with the strange task of investigating a retreat for traumatized war veterans which turns out to be very close to home. She must draw upon her unique detective training, going beyond the facts in a case, using psychology instead, to come to conclusions; a truly new and fascinating method. What she discovers is closely linked to England's post-war culture; why society shuns the emotionally and phycially damaged and how those in power take advantage of these poor souls.

Maisie is a wonderful heroine who is sure to grab historical fiction and mystery fans alike.

Thompson, Craig. Habibi.

In this epic, illustrated love story, two young slaves who come to find one another against the harsh landscape of the Middle East, must struggle against overwhelming obstacles to be together. A mix of religious stories, mysticism and contemporary social commentary, Craig Thompson (author of Blankets) beautifully renders how a nine year-old Dodola and infant Zam escape slavery, grow into adulthood on an abandoned ship in the desert, and then are forced apart once more just as they begin to feel passion for one another as adults.

The complex plot follows both Zam and Dodola through their journeys apart while symultaneously telling the story of how they met and came to love each other. The magical saga is told through Thompson's outstanding illustrations that are able to convey both the lushness and barbarity of the characters' experiences and beliefs. Take a journey with Habibi and discover the power of love and fate.

 

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Lupton, Rosamund. Sister

 

Beatrice Hemmings is convinced that her younger sister Tess, a vibrant, life-loving artist, would never have committed suicide. But she is the only one who believes that; everyone else believes that  Tess was suffering from postpartum psychosis following the stillbirth of her child and took her own life in a fit of despair or hallucination.  Beatrice, determined to get to the truth, sets out to investigate her sister’s death, relating her progress in the form of an extended letter to her sister.  As her investigations proceed and everyone around her begins to believe that Beatrice, too, has been unhinged by grief, the reader will wonder the same thing. Was Tess murdered? Is Beatrice simply unable to accept the truth?  Not until the explosive and gripping conclusion will the answers to everyone’s questions become plain.

Literary, intelligent, and defying easy genre classification, Lupton’s debut is both a moving meditation on grief and also a gripping psychological thriller. Recommended.

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Anderson, Catherine. Star Bright

 

Fearing that her powerful, abusive husband is planning to murder her as she suspects he murdered his first two wives, Rainie Hall fakes her own death with the help of her friends and moves to Crystal Falls, Oregon, to start anew. She is hesitant about applying for the bookkeeper job she sees listed at a local horse ranch—what if her employer checks her references and discovers she’s using a fake identity?—but she has to work so she takes the risk. Parker Harrigan, her new employer, is a handsome, strong, intelligent man; at first angry when he discovers her deception, he also realizes that she’s most likely running for a good reason and keeps her on. Meanwhile, back in Seattle, Rainie’s husband has hired a private investigator to locate his runaway wife and he's getting closer and closer to finding her.  As Rainie’s danger grows, so too does the attraction and affection between herself and Parker.

A touching romance, as well as a novel that addresses the serious issues of domestic abuse and the long, fraught process of healing from the psychological trauma. 

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Penney, Stef. The Tenderness of Wolves

 

The icy chill of a 19th century Canadian winter is palpable throughout British author Penney’s accomplished debut.  Seventeen-year-old Francis Ross disappeared from the town of Dove River on the Georgian Bay the same day his mother discovers the scalped corpse of the boy’s friend Laurent Jammet, a fur trader and former employee of the all-powerful Hudson Bay Company. The sensational murder brings outsiders to the small community: young, earnest Company representative Donald Moody, who’s there to help investigate the crime; and aging former tracker and Native American sympathizer Thomas Sturrock, who hopes to recover a carved bit of bone that had been in the trapper’s possession and which might provide valuable archaeological proof of an ancient Native written language. Unfortunately for Mrs. Ross, there are no obvious suspects other than her missing son—until half-Native trapper William Parker is caught searching the dead man’s house. When Parker is released, Mrs. Ross enlists him to help her go after her son and whoever her son had followed into the wilderness, hoping to prove Francis innocent of the crime.

Atmospheric and complex, the intertwined stories of Penney’s vibrant cast of loners and outsiders are absorbing, and Penney’s choice of time and place is a perfect backdrop.

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