David Carlson’s The Hunting Accident: A True Story of Crime and Poetry

The Hunting Accident

Charlie Rizzo has spent his life thinking his father was blinded in a hunting accident as a child. Not that it has stopped his dad from living his life or enjoying one of his greatest hobbies — studying poetic masterpieces of world literature. It’s an unusual hobby to have in their 1960s working-class Chicago neighborhood, but Charlie never suspects anything out-of-the-ordinary with his dad. That is, until Charlie finds himself in trouble with the law. He then learns that his mild-mannered father was blinded in a botched robbery and did time for it in the Illinois State Penitentiary, where he was cellmates with Nathan Leopold. As in, Nathan Leopold of Leopold and Loeb thrill-killing infamy.

I had this book (a nonfiction graphic novel that combines true crime and poetry appreciation) recommended to me recently by one of my undergraduate English professors. I always enjoyed the books I read in her classes, so her suggestions are ones I always try to follow up on. And I was not disappointed. Thanks so much for the great suggestion, Leslie!

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Gabrielle Zevin’s Young Jane Young

Young Jane Young

Aviva has a seemingly bright future ahead of her, circa 1999/2000. She’s doing well in her classes at the University of Miami, working toward a degree in political science and Spanish, and has recently been promoted from her position as an unpaid intern to a paid job working for her local congressman. It’s all going so well — until her affair with said congressman is made public. Aviva quickly finds herself with no job, no friends, and no prospects. Years later, she has made a life for herself, far away in Maine under a new name, working as an event planner, when she decides to run for mayor. But in the online age, her old scandal is just a Google search away. . . .

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Agatha Christie’s A Holiday for Murder

Hercule Poirot's Christmas

For those looking for a prolific writer whose works are always in season, Agatha Christie should be on the top of your list. You won’t run out of books to read quickly — they are fun to revisit even if you have read them some time ago, and she even has a holiday tale. . . .

Known by several titles since its original publication in 1938, Agatha Christie’s A Holiday for Murder (aka Hercule Poirot’s Christmas or Murder for Christmas) has been delighting fans of classic murder mysteries for decades.

Simeon Lee is an unpleasant old man. He is also a very rich old man, which might explain why his timid son Alfred and Alfred’s long-suffering wife Lydia tolerate his meanness. They’ve lived with Simeon for years, despite his cruelty and the savage way he treated his late wife.

The rest of the family long ago figured out their own escape, whether it was fleeing to London for a political career like stingy George, becoming an artist and renouncing all family ties like the sensitive David, running away to Spain to get married like free-spirited Jennifer, or just absconding to parts unknown like the family’s wild child Harry.

But for Christmas, Simeon has summoned all of his sons (and their wives) back home, as well as the late Jennifer’s daughter Pilar. Also popping in is the son of his former business partner back in South Africa. It almost looks like the old man wants to make amends for the holidays, but anyone who assumes that just doesn’t know Simeon very well. . . .

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Sam Quinones’ Dreamland (2015)

Dreamland

Last week, I wrote jokingly about non-professional authors trying their hand at writing a book. This week, we’re looking at an excellent book written by a professional journalist about a very serious (and timely) topic: the opioid crisis.

A few weeks ago, Mary-Esther suggested Sam Quinones’ Dreamland to me. As I suppose is true of many people, I have been following the news about the opioid crisis, but I must confess, that it’s something I knew relatively little about. (Thanks for the wonderful suggestion, Mary Esther!)

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Leo Marks’s Between Silk and Cyanide

Between Silk and Cyanide

Since we’re focusing on letting the light shine on long-held secrets this month, I have a soon-to-no-longer-be secret secret confession: I love reading nonfiction about WWII-era espionage and cryptography. I blame this love on J.C. Masterman’s The Double-Cross System in the War of 1939 to 1945. It’s not in our library system, but it’s well worth requesting through ILL if you also like reading about history and/or espionage. In it, Masterman meticulously and matter-of-factly details the espionage system he ran for British intelligence in turning German agents in Britain into British double agents.

It’s a fascinating book, but it also permanently ruined espionage thrillers for me. I’ve never found a spy novel (or movie, for that matter) that captures the sheer boredom punctuated with sheer terror and the anxiety of the spy life that lurks between the lines of Masterman’s book.

That is, I hadn’t encountered it until I read Leo Marks’s insightful, hilarious memoir Between Silk and Cyanide.

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Maria Parr’s Adventures with Waffles

Adventures with Waffles

Keeping to the theme of going back to school, here’s a review of a book meant for those still having to find their desks quickly once that bell rings!

For the most part, nine year-old Trille has an idyllic childhood in rural Norway. His life is a series of never-ending adventures with his neighbor and best friend Lena. She’s far more daring and impulsive, but that doesn’t stop Trille from joining in on the fun. From snarfing down waffles to pretending to be spies to using, ahem, creative license in crafting a bonfire decoration to sledding with a chicken, they never lack for a good time. Trille can’t imagine life without Lena causing mayhem and mischief at every turn. Still, Trille harbors a disheartening suspicion that Lena is far more indifferent to him. She is his best friend, but is he her best friend?

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David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon

Killers of the Flower Moon

In the 1920s, the Osage tribe of Oklahoma were the wealthiest people per capita in the world after oil was found on their land in the early 1900s. That statistic belies the reality of the situation, though, in which many of the Osage who owned valuable headrights had to have a white guardian to control their money and financial affairs. Nonetheless, much was made of the wealth that was on the reservation.

And in 1921, wealthy tribe members started disappearing and turning up dead. Still others succumbed to suspicious instances of alcoholic poisoning and a mysterious “wasting disease.” People who began investigating the deaths also started disappearing and dying. Within a few years, over two dozen people had died under suspicious circumstances. Eventually, the FBI under a newly appointed director named J. Edgar Hoover were brought in to investigate.

As someone who is interested in the 1920s, true crime, and Native American history, I was really surprised that I had never heard of the Osage “Reign of Terror” when this book was released earlier this year.

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