Books: 733

Birnam Wood
Eleanor Catton
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

A guerilla gardening group–or at least its leader, Mira, schemes to use of a farmland isolated by a landslide that has closed the Korowai Pass on New Zealand’s South Island. Mira is ruthless in her usurpation of other folks’ land to grow renegade crops, but is she up to facing American billionaire Robert Lemoine, a higher-degree sociopath who has designs on the same property to create his end-times retreat. That’s one story, of course the trove of rare earth metals hidden below may also be a factor. Catching Mira on “his” property, Lemoine determines to use her, as Mira seeks to use him. An intriguing psychological pas-de-deux, involving the wielding of power and desire to control that threads through all levels of human connections.

The Sewing Girl’s Tale: A Story of Crime and Consequences in Revolutionary America
John Woods Sweet

Lanah Sawyer, 17-year-old sewing girl, out for an evening’s stroll, was instead forced into a brothel and raped. Not unusual perhaps in lower Manhattan, then, but then was 1793 and Sawyer was the first working-woman to charge a gentleman with rape. In court, among other challenges she was asked earlier lawyer (1609-1676) Matthew Hale’s query, “Why didn’t she scream?” Sawyer lost, attempted suicide, but her canny stepfather John Callanan, a river branch pilot, known for nerve and skill, there was more. Callanan filed a “seduction” charge, winning a fabulous £1,800 for his loss of Sawyer’s income. Bedlow, now in debtor’s prison, hired Alexander Hamilton, whose unsavory (failed) tactics included a forged letter from Sawyer exonerating Bedlow. An extensively researched book, with numerous “plus ça change…” parallels.

Desert Deadline
Michel Craft
Questover Press

Craft’s compass holds steady through turbulent seas; murder never swamps humor, nor humor obscure romance, nor any of them deflect the scoundrelly low-lifes confronting Dante and Jazz. Dante O’Donnell, white, gay concierge at ritzy Palm Springs getaways; Jazz Friendly, black, divorced mom of Emma, four-year-old precocious artist. Tasked to shelter reclusive, writer’s-blocked romance novelist Maude Movay, isolating to produce the final tome of her Seven Sordid Sinns series on deadline or lose millions. Publicist and hunky assistant arrive but no living novelist. Just one permanently blocked corpse. Leitmotives include Jazz’s efforts to gain Emma’s sole custody, Dante’s alarm at boyfriend Isandro’s hints at marriage, both dwarfed by menace to little Emma. Craft’s rung the changes on mayhem for 19 novels, now. Relax; enjoy the ride.

Where Echoes Die
Courtney Gould
Wednesday Books

Beck Birsching and sister Riley are driving to meet their dad, his new wife and family in Texas, but stop in tiny Backravel, AZ, where their late mom, investigative reporter Ellery, was last seen. Post-funeral, Beck received a note in Ellery’s hand: “Come and find me,” and Beck went. Ensconced in the only rental unit available, the girls find Backravel eerily static. Town founder Ricky inhabits a citadel, giving life-extending “treatments” to townsfolk. There are no cars, no churches, graveyards, nothing that hints of a past–or future. Timeless, or is time running out? Riley shows signs of the local lassitude, and exit may be as impossible for them as it was for Ellery. Thriller, essay on trauma, you’ll read on to the explosive denouement.

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