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Five picks each month from Leslie, our fiction selector.
March Fiction 5 – Scandinavian Crime Fiction
Blaze Me a Sun: a novel about crime by Christoffer Carlsson
February 1986, the Halland police receive a call from a man who claims to have attacked his first victim. I’m going to do it again, he says before the line cuts off. By the time police officer Sven Jörgensson reaches the crime scene, the woman is taking her last breath. For Sven, this will prove a decisive moment. On the same night, Sweden plunges into a state of shock after the murder of the prime minister. Could there possibly be a connection? As Sven becomes obsessed with the case, two more fall victim. For years, Sven remains haunted by the murders he cannot solve, fearing the killer will strike again. Having failed to catch him, Sven retires from the police, passing his obsession to his son, who has joined the force to be closer to his father. Decades later, the case unexpectedly resurfaces when a novelist returns home to Halland amid a failed marriage and a sputtering career.
The Shadow Murders by Jussi Adler-Olsen (Department Q v. 9)
On her sixtieth birthday, a woman takes her own life. When the case lands on Detective Carl Mørck’s desk, he can’t imagine what this has to do with Department Q, Copenhagen’s cold cases division since the cause of death seems apparent. However, his superior, Marcus Jacobsen, is convinced that this is related to an unsolved case that has been plaguing him since 1988. At Marcus's behest, Carl and the Department Q gang—Rose, Assad, and Gordon—reluctantly begin to investigate. And they quickly discover that Marcus is onto something: Every two years for the past three decades, there have been unusual, impeccably timed deaths with connections between them that cannot be ignored, including mysterious piles of salt at the scenes. As the investigation goes deeper, it emerges that these "accidents" are in fact part of a sinister murder scheme. Faced with their toughest case yet, made only more difficult by COVID-19 restrictions and the challenges of their personal lives, the Department Q team must race to find the culprit before the next murder is committed, as it is becoming increasingly clear that the killer is far from finished.
The Harbor by Katrine Engberg (Korner and Werner v. 3)
When fifteen-year-old Oscar Dreyer-Hoff disappears the police assume he’s simply a runaway—a typically overlooked middle child doing what teenagers do all around the world. But his frantic family is certain that something terrible has happened. After all, what runaway would leave behind a note that reads: He looked around and saw the knife that had stabbed Basil Hallward. He had cleaned it many times, till there was no stain left upon it. It was bright and glistened. As it had killed the painter, so it would kill the painter’s work, and all that that meant. It would kill the past, and when that was dead, he would be free. It’s not much to go on, but it’s all that detectives Jeppe Kørner and Anette Werner have. And with every passing hour, as the odds of finding a missing person grow dimmer, it will have to be enough.
Geiger by Gustaf Skordeman
It's early summer in Stockholm. Agneta and Stellan Broman have just waved off their daughters and grandchildren when the landline phone rings. The caller says just one word: "Geiger." Agneta hangs up, finds her old pistol, kills her husband of fifty years and then disappears from their home without a trace. Sara Nowak, a police officer in the prostitution unit, is called by a colleague who is investigating the murder. Stellan was a widely loved former television presenter, and Sara grew up next door to the Bromans, spending much of her childhood in their grand house. Both the victim's daughters and Sara are devastated by the killing, and going against all regulations, Sara gets involved in the investigation. It is the beginning of a dark journey, leading back to the Cold War and fatal ideologies, and the truth about Sara's own childhood. Exciting, compelling, and full of twists you'll never see coming, Geiger is Gustaf Skördeman's incredible debut thriller.
Outside by Ragnar Jonasson
Four friends. One night. Not everyone will come out alive . . .When a deadly snowstorm strikes the Icelandic highlands, four friends seek shelter in a small, abandoned hunting lodge. It is in the middle of nowhere and there's no way of communicating with the outside world. They are isolated, but they are not alone . . . As the night darkens, and fears intensify, an old tragedy gradually surfaces - one that forever changed the course of their friendship. Those dark memories could hold the key to the mystery the friends now find themselves in, and whether they will survive until morning . . .
FEB 2023: Award winners of 2022
The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka
Winner of the 2022 Booker Prize The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is a searing satire set amid the mayhem of the Sri Lankan civil war. Colombo, 1990. Maali Almeida—war photographer, gambler, and closet queen—has woken up dead in what seems like a celestial visa office. His dismembered body is sinking in the serene Beira Lake and he has no idea who killed him. In a country where scores are settled by death squads, suicide bombers, and hired goons, the list of suspects is depressingly long, as the ghouls and ghosts with grudges who cluster round can attest. But even in the afterlife, time is running out for Maali. He has seven moons to contact the man and woman he loves most and lead them to the photos that will rock Sri Lanka. Ten years after his prize-winning novel Chinaman established him as one of Sri Lanka’s foremost authors, Shehan Karunatilaka is back with a “thrilling satire” (Economist) and rip-roaring state-of-the-nation epic that offers equal parts mordant wit and disturbing, profound truths.
The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty
National Book Award for Fiction winner 2022• The automobile industry has abandoned Vacca Vale, Indiana, leaving the residents behind, too. In a run-down apartment building on the edge of town, commonly known as the Rabbit Hutch, a number of people now reside quietly, looking for ways to live in a dying city. Ethereally beautiful and formidably intelligent, Blandine shares her apartment with three teenage boys she neither likes nor understands, all, like her, now aged out of the state foster care system that has repeatedly failed them, all searching for meaning in their lives. Set over one sweltering week in July and culminating in a bizarre act of violence that finally changes everything, The Rabbit Hutch is a savagely beautiful and bitingly funny snapshot of contemporary America, a gorgeous and provocative tale of loneliness and longing, entrapment and, ultimately, freedom.
The Netanyahus by Joshua Cohen
Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner 2022 Corbin College, not quite upstate New York, winter 1959–1960: Ruben Blum, a Jewish historian—but not an historian of the Jews—is co-opted onto a hiring committee to review the application of an exiled Israeli scholar specializing in the Spanish Inquisition. When Benzion Netanyahu shows up for an interview, family unexpectedly in tow, Blum plays the reluctant host to guests who proceed to lay waste to his American complacencies. Mixing fiction with nonfiction, the campus novel with the lecture, The Netanyahus is a wildly inventive, genre-bending comedy of blending, identity, and politics that finds Joshua Cohen at the height of his powers.
A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine
Winner of the 2022 Hugo Award for Best Novel A Desolation Called Peace is the spectacular space opera sequel to Arkady Martine's genre-reinventing, Hugo Award-winning debut, A Memory Called Empire. An alien armada lurks on the edges of Teixcalaanli space. No one can communicate with it, no one can destroy it, and Fleet Captain Nine Hibiscus is running out of options. In a desperate attempt at diplomacy with the mysterious invaders, the fleet captain has sent for a diplomatic envoy. Now Mahit Dzmare and Three Seagrass—still reeling from the recent upheaval in the Empire—face the impossible task of trying to communicate with a hostile entity. Their failure will guarantee millions of deaths in an endless war. Their success might prevent Teixcalaan’s destruction—and allow the empire to continue its rapacious expansion. Or it might create something far stranger.
The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka
Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction winner 2023 The swimmers are unknown to one another except through their private routines (slow lane, medium lane, fast lane) and the solace each takes in their morning or afternoon laps. But when a crack appears at the bottom of the pool, they are cast out into an unforgiving world without comfort or relief. One of these swimmers is Alice, who is slowly losing her memory. For Alice, the pool was a final stand against the darkness of her encroaching dementia. Without the fellowship of other swimmers and the routine of her daily laps she is plunged into dislocation and chaos, swept into memories of her childhood and the Japanese American incarceration camp in which she spent the war. Alice's estranged daughter, reentering her mother's life too late, witnesses her stark and devastating decline. This searing, intimate story of mothers and daughters—and the sorrows of implacable loss—is the most commanding and unforgettable work yet from a modern master.
A sampling of the best books of 2022
The Candy House by Jennifer Egan
From one of the most celebrated writers of our time, a literary figure with cult status, a "sibling novel" to her Pulitzer Prize- and NBCC Award-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad --an electrifying, deeply moving novel about the quest for authenticity and meaning in a world where memories and identities are no longer private.
Intellectually dazzling and extraordinarily moving, The Candy House is a bold, brilliant imagining of a world that is moments away. With a focus on social media, gaming, and alternate worlds, you can almost experience moving among dimensions in a role-playing game. Egan delivers a fierce and exhilarating testament to the tenacity and transcendence of human longing for real connection, love, family, privacy, and redemption.
Vladimir by Julia May Jonas
A provocative, razor-sharp, and timely debut novel about a beloved English professor facing a slew of accusations against her professor husband by former students--a situation that becomes more complicated when she herself develops an obsession of her own.
With this bold, edgy, and uncommonly assured debut, author Julia May Jonas takes us into charged territory, where the boundaries of morality bump up against the impulses of the human heart. Propulsive, darkly funny, and wildly entertaining, Vladimir perfectly captures the personal and political minefield of our current moment, exposing the nuances and the grey area between power and desire.
Night of the Living Rez by Morgan Talty
In twelve striking, luminescent stories, author Morgan Talty--with searing humor, abiding compassion, and deep insight--breathes life into tales of family and a community as they struggle with a painful past and an uncertain future. A boy unearths a jar that holds an old curse, which sets into motion his family's unraveling; a man, while trying to swindle some pot from a dealer, discovers a friend passed out in the woods, his hair frozen into the snow; a grandmother suffering from Alzheimer's projects the past onto her grandson; and two friends, inspired by Antiques Roadshow, attempt to rob the tribal museum for valuable root clubs.
A collection that examines the consequences and merits of inheritance, Night of the Living Rez is an unforgettable portrayal of an Indigenous community and marks the arrival of a standout talent in contemporary fiction.
The Furrows by Namwali Serpell
How do you grieve an absence? A brilliantly inventive novel about loss and belonging, from the award-winning author of The Old Drift.
Namwali Serpell's remarkable new novel captures the uncanny experience of grief, the way the past breaks over the present like waves in the sea. The Furrows is a bold exploration of memory and mourning that twists unexpectedly into a story of mistaken identity, double consciousness, and the wishful--and sometimes willful--longing for reunion with those we've lost.
Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez
A blazing talent debuts with the tale of a status-driven wedding planner grappling with her social ambitions, absent mother, and Puerto Rican roots--all in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
Set against the backdrop of New York City in the months surrounding the most devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico's history, Xochitl Gonzalez's Olga Dies Dreaming is a story that examines political corruption, familial strife, and the very notion of the American dream--all while asking what it really means to weather a storm.