THE DESCENT OF MAN by Kevin Desinger

THE DESCENT OF MAN could be used as Exhibit A in how to write a taut plot-driven story. The story catches you from the opening line and just never lets you go. If you’re looking for a fast beach read, look no further.

Jim Sandusky is an everyman holding down a steady job when one day, he looks out the window of his house and sees thieves trying to get away with his car. He tells his wife to stay away from the window and call the police, while he goes down to investigate. Instead of leaving the police to take care of the thieves, in a split second, Jim gets into the thieves’ truck and drives it away. What’s worse, he abandons the truck a short distance away and totally bashes it in.

June 22, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Debut Novel, Mystery/Suspense, Thriller/Spy/Caper


THE COFFINS OF LITTLE HOPE by Timothy Schaffert is a small gem. Its multi-plotted story takes place in a small Nebraska town with characters who make this novel special. The town is peopled by a lot of old folks. Essie, the protagonist, is 83 and the novel is told in first person from her point of view. “We were all of us quite old, we death merchants – the town’s undertaker (seventy-eight), his organist (sixty-seven)…the florist (her freezer overgrown with lilies, eighty-one). The cemetery’s caretaker, who procured for the goth high schoolers who partied among the tombstones, was the enfant terrible among us (at an immature fifty-six.”

May 1, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Family Matters, Reading Guide, US Midwest

AN UNFINISHED SCORE by Elise Blackwell

Classical music, and the games of evasion and deception we play with the ones we love, create the engine that drives this lyrical, well-crafted story by acclaimed author Elise Blackwell. The premise is simple but compelling: Career violist Suzanne hears over the radio about the death of her lover, orchestral conductor Alex Elling, in a plane crash. She can only grieve secretly amid the members of her household, which include emotionally-distant husband Ben, irreverent best friend and fellow musician Petra and her young, deaf daughter. Suzanne soldiers on, rehearsing with her string quartet, playing second mother to Petra’s daughter, until a phone call from her former lover’s widow changes her life a second time. Suzanne and Alex’s secret affair was no secret, in the end, and now his widow extorts a favor from Suzanne: to finish the viola concerto started by her deceased husband. Desperate to keep the affair secret, even now, Suzanne reluctantly agrees.

September 23, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Literary

THE SINGER’S GUN by Emily St. John Mandel

Emily St. John Mandel, the author of the taut and well-written novel, THE SINGER’S GUN, is a regular on one of my favorite book blogs, The Millions. Understanding the reason for why authors write the way they do is often difficult—especially because one doesn’t have ready access to their insights. This is why St. John Mandel’s wonderful essay about writing, The Trojan Horse Problem: Thoughts on Structure, which was published by The Millions, is particularly valuable.

After reading the essay, you are convinced that her novel is going to do away with excess. This is going to be one lean, mean, plot-driven machine. And this is precisely what THE SINGER’S GUN is.

May 5, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: 2010 Favorites, Literary, New York City, Thriller/Spy/Caper