Time for another installment of What’s on My Shelf?
(Aside from Tiny, who isn’t so tiny anymore. Her nickname is becoming ironic much sooner than expected.)
I have a review coming up soon in The Dallas Morning News of a novel from Austin writer Mary Helen Specht called Migratory Animals. I don’t want to give away too much, but I will say the book is well worth your time.
Another book I can recommend wholeheartedly is Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson, which made The New York Times list of notable non-fiction books of the year. Stevenson, a lawyer, has worked to free innocent people from death row and battled the practice of executing the mentally disabled and juveniles. The book was so compelling I read it in one sitting.
I’m slightly less enthusiastic (but only slightly) about The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters. Set in London after World War I, it’s the story of a well-bred young woman and her widowed mother forced by economic circumstances to take in lodgers. The only thing I didn’t like about this psychological thriller was its ending, which I thought was just a little too tidy.
One of my Christmas presents was The Distance, by Helen Giltrow. It’s a contemporary thriller set in London (no, I’m not purposely on a London jag) featuring Charlotte Alton, whose job involves making desperate people disappear. I’ve always loved Thomas Perry’s Jane Whitefield novels — the idea of someone who makes people disappear appeals to me. A hit man Charlotte helped in the past resurfaces, and they’re embroiled in a mystery involving an experimental prison colony. It reminded me a bit of a Jack Reacher book: If I stopped and thought about it, I would probably bog down in the story’s improbabilities. But I never stopped! I just rocketed along.
These kinds of recommendations are trite, but I’m going to say it anyway: If you loved Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, you have to read The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. The protagonist, Rachel, rides the same commuter train back and forth to London (I know) every day, watching life play out in the houses she passes. The book has many of the same elements that made Gone Girl such a creepy but great read: a missing woman, unreliable narrators, rot beneath perfect suburban exteriors. It’s not as dark, though, which means you might not hate quite as many characters by the end.
Now, what have you been reading? What’s on your shelf?
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