#5Books: Book recs and Michael Connelly

Big name authors don’t come to suburbia when in Australia. They usually stick to the city, and sometimes only do lunches that cost $100 to attend, so there’s no way I can rationalise that. So to say that I was surprised that Michael Connelly was doing a talk at Castle Hill — 13 minutes from me by car according to Google Maps, for the princely sum of $15, I was there with bells on.

The first thing I realised about Connelly is that his voice is the kind of ridiculous smooth you find in narrators, except he’s got it in real life, which makes listening to him such a pleasure. He’s also very much a journalist still — he embellishes only when it calls for it, sticks to questions and doesn’t let answers or threads take him away from what he is talking about.

His most famous character is obviously, Harry Bosch, who took a long time to be born — 15 years from thinking of him in university to getting published. That’s the other thing about Connelly — he always wanted to be a crime writer, and being a crime journalist was the method he used to get the experience he needed to be a good crime writer.

However, it’s Renee Ballard that has my attention more: one, because she introduced to me to Connelly, because Harry has been around, ageing in real time, from 1992 and it’s damn  intimidating trying to figure out where to start. But Renee, now working with Harry in Connelly’s most recent books, also introduced me to Connelly’s biggest hero and to figure out where to start with his work about Harry. And, I liked that she was a way to get his daughter interested in reading his books!

But why do I still stan Renee more? Because she’s based on one woman: Mitzi Roberts. She is part of Connelly’s group of cops who helps on his work, but as he got to know her more, Renee came to be. Roberts has been part of the biggest cases in LA over the past 5/6 years, but most recently, Roberts and her partner caught Samuel Little, USA’s most prolific serial killer. Connelly’s next podcast next year will be about her, and this case and I cannot wait!

There was a ton more, but that’s what resonated with me the most.

In other news, here are the books that are catching my eye.

Bloomland

Bloomland opens during finals week at a fictional southern university, when a student walks into the library with his roommate’s semi-automatic rifle and opens fire. When he stops shooting, twelve people are dead.

In this richly textured debut, John Englehardt explores how the origin and aftermath of the shooting impacts the lives of three characters: a disillusioned student, a grieving professor, and a young man whose valuation of fear and disconnection funnels him into the role of the aggressor. As the community wrestles with the fallout, Bloomland interrogates social and cultural dysfunction in a nation where mass violence has become all too familiar

Sadly, I don’t think books like this will ever stop being relevant.

Secret Service

To those who don’t really know her, Kate Henderson’s life must seem exceedingly ordinary. Civil servant, wife, parent of two teenagers, daughter of an Alzheimer’s-stricken mother … But she’s also a senior MI6 officer, and right now she is nursing the political equivalent of a nuclear bomb.

Kate’s mission to bug an oligarch’s super-yacht in Istanbul has yielded the startling intelligence that the British Prime Minister has prostate cancer – and that one of the leading candidates to replace him may be a Russian agent of influence.

Is this ‘intelligence’ reliable – or is it an attempt to create chaos within the British hierarchy? Kate’s bosses have their doubts. But when the PM suddenly announces his resignation, the hunt for the spy begins in earnest. It’s a nightmarish task, made infinitely worse by the revelation that there may be another mole – codename Viper – at the heart of the Establishment.

As the tension mounts, an operation that looked as if it might cost Kate her sanity appears poised to do much, much more than that …

The description of Kate is what attracted me to this — that a woman, who seems to mundane and normal — could change the world. And what is the operation that could cost Kate everything?

And in something completely different, and yet the same…

Takes One to Know One

Just a few years ago, Corie Geller was busting terrorists as an agent for the FBI. But at thirty-five, she traded in her badge for the stability of marriage and motherhood. Now Corie is married to the brilliant and remarkably handsome Judge Josh Geller and is the adoptive mother of his lovely 14-year-old daughter. Between cooking meals and playing chauffeur, Corie scouts Arabic fiction for a few literary agencies and, on Wednesdays, has lunch with her fellow Shorehaven freelancers at a so-so French restaurant. Life is, as they say, fine.

But at her weekly lunches, Corie senses that something’s off. Pete Delaney, a milquetoast package designer, always shows up early, sits in the same spot (often with a different phone in hand), and keeps one eye on the Jeep he parks in the lot across the street. Corie intuitively feels that Pete is hiding something–and as someone who is accustomed to keeping her FBI past from her new neighbors, she should know. But does Pete really have a shady alternate life, or is Corie just imagining things, desperate to add some spark to her humdrum suburban existence? She decides that the only way to find out is to dust off her FBI toolkit and take a deep dive into Pete Delaney’s affairs.

Always sassy, smart, and wickedly witty, Susan Isaacs is at her formidable best in a novel that is both bitingly wry and ominously thrilling.

Ominous is right I think. And coupled with the title, I have to wonder what Pete is hiding, and what Corie has gotten herself in to. I like the difference with Secret Service above — here is a woman who has chosen a mundane life, and yet she still can’t let go of her past. Two very different women and two very interesting stories!

Heart Of Junk

A hilarious debut novel about an eclectic group of merchants at a Kansas antique mall who become implicated in the kidnapping of a local beauty pageant star.

The city of Wichita, Kansas, is wracked with panic over the abduction of toddler pageant princess Lindy Bobo. However, the dealers at The Heart of America Antique Mall are too preoccupied by their own neurotic compulsions to take much notice. Postcards, perfume bottles, Barbies, vinyl records, kitschy neon beer signs—they collect and sell it all.

Rather than focus on Lindy, this colorful cast of characters is consumed by another drama: the impending arrival of Mark and Grant from the famed antiques television show Pickin’ Fortunes, who are planning to film an episode at The Heart of America and secretly may be the last best hope of saving the mall from bankruptcy. Yet the mall and the missing beauty queen have more to do with each other than these vendors might think, and before long, the group sets in motion a series of events that lead to surprising revelations about Lindy’s whereabouts. As the mall becomes implicated in her disappearance, will Mark and Grant be scared away from all of the drama or will they arrive in time to save The Heart of America from going under?

Equally comical and suspenseful, Heart of Junk is also a biting commentary on our current Marie Kondo era. It examines why certain objects resonate with us so deeply, rebukes Kondo’s philosophy of wholesale purging, and argues that “junk” can have great value—connecting us not only to our personal pasts but to our shared human history. As author Luke Geddes writes: “A collection was a record of a life lived, maybe not well or happily but at least with attention and passion. It was autobiography made whole.”

This has got to be the craziest blurb I’ve read in a long time, and it reads more than a little like a commentary on the heart of America  — shopping, money and capitalism. The addition of Marie Kondo threw me though — especially as I just finished reading a manga based on her and her philosophies. So, yes, I am very curious as to how capitalism in the Heart of America rebukes Kondo and her philosophies. 

Gone

Four strangers are missing. Left at their last-known locations are birthday cards that read:

YOUR GIFT IS THE GAME.
DARE TO PLAY?

The police aren’t worried – it’s just a game. But the families are frantic. As psychologist and private detective Dr Augusta Bloom delves into the lives of the missing people, she finds something that binds them all. Four strangers are missing. Left at their last-known locations are birthday cards that read:

YOUR GIFT IS THE GAME.
DARE TO PLAY?

The police aren’t worried – it’s just a game. But the families are frantic. As psychologist and private detective Dr Augusta Bloom delves into the lives of the missing people, she finds something that binds them all.

And that something makes them very dangerous indeed.

As more disappearances are reported and new birthday cards uncovered, Dr Bloom races to unravel the mystery and find the missing people.

But what if, this time, they are the ones she should fear?

So, I didn’t expect the ending to this blurb — how and why are the missing people to be feared? After that, I went to look at the cover again and the tag line actually registered and YES, I need to know why and what these four people are up to.

That’s it for me. What are you looking forward to this week?!

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