In Leighton Gage’s EVERY BITTER THING, Chief Inspector Mario Silva of Brazil’s Federal Police is called in when Juan Rivas, the son of Venezuelan foreign minister Jorge Rivas, is found shot and brutally beaten. This “would be a killing with political implications, the kind of case he hated above all others.” When Silva finds out that Rivas is not the only victim–the national database shows that four other men were slain in exactly the same manner–his next step is to figure out why these particular people were targeted. Knowing the motive, Mario hopes, will quickly lead to a suspect.
I loved THREE JUNES by Julia Glass and her newest novel, THE WIDOWER’S TALE, has much the same wonderful flavor about it. This languid story of a family dealing with their relationships with one another and the instrusions of the outside world delights the senses. The central character is Percival Darling, widowed for the last thirty-two years, and a somewhat crusty, cynical and reclusive personality.
Ora is a fiftyish Israeli woman thinking about her younger son, Ofer, who has not merely left home, but done so in a way that fills her with fear. On the day of his discharge from military service, when he is already on leave at home, he volunteers to join the forces fighting some unspecified action in Southern Lebanon, signing up for a further month. Terrified that at any moment a notification team will turn up at her house to inform her of Ofer’s death, Ora flees to the Galilee mountains, beyond the reach of any news. As her husband Ilan has left her several months before, taking with him their eldest son, Ora is all alone. On impulse, she calls on Avram, a former lover who has fallen on hard times, seeking his company, his listening ear, and perhaps his restoration to mental and physical health, along with her own. The whole novel is essentially her “Month of Magical Thinking,” in which the past combines with the present, folding her personal history and that of her country into an almost mystical union.
Susan Hill’s THE SHADOWS IN THE STREET is her fifth Simon Serrallier mystery. Hill continues to engage us with fresh characters and intriguing story lines. Simon does not even appear in the early chapters, since he is vacationing on a remote Scottish island, “where people did not hurry and there was little noise other than the sounds of nature.” Back in Lafferton, Simon’s twin sister, Dr. Cat Deerborn, is worried about her oldest child, Sam, who is upset but stubbornly uncommunicative, “an oyster, closed up tight.” The most compelling aspect of this novel is its frank depiction of young women who walk the streets trying to earn quick money.
David Vannâ€™s LEGEND OF A SUICIDE consists of a novella and short stories that are semi-autobiographical. Vann spent his early years in Ketchikan, Alaska where his father had a dental practice. His father sold the practice and bought a fishing boat that he hoped would provide a living. His father invested unwisely and lost a lot of money. On top of that, the IRS was after him for some investments he made in other countries. Vannâ€™s parents divorced when Vann was about five years old because his father was unfaithful. Vann was witness to some horrific fights between his parents. His father was mercurial of mood, likely with manic-depression that appears to have been undiagnosed. After his parentâ€™s divorce, Vann moved to California with his mother and sister. When Vann was thirteen years old, his father asked him to spend a year in Alaska with him. Vann declined. Two weeks later, his father shot himself. This book is Vannâ€™s attempt to get his head around his fatherâ€™s suicide, along with his own feelings of guilt, shame, anger, denial and fears.
Without much ado, let me state that I think this book is brilliant. It took my breath away and grabbed me by my heart from the first page till its stunning coda. Without being maudlin or histrionic, Ayelet Waldman’s RED HOOK ROAD examines the impact of loss and grief on two families, each as different as day and night. In the first chapter of the book, the reader is spectator to a profound tragedy. A young couple, married for about one hour, die in a car accident on the way to their own wedding reception.