Monday, July 28, 2014

Good Summer Reads

by Holly West

As much as I love it, I'm a slow reader. That means my "To Be Read" pile is about 100 times longer than I'll ever have the time to get to. Nevertheless, I've read a few good books this summer that I want to bring to your attention.

1) The Black Hour by Lori-Rader Day

I learned about this book at Left Coast Crime, when Lori moderated a panel I was on. The concept intrigued me: Chicago sociology professor Amelia Emmett is shot by a student she's never met; he then turns the gun on himself. She returns to campus ten months later with a cane and a determination to find out why this happened to her, even if the search for truth prevents her from the return to normalcy she so desperately wants.

This is just the sort of crime novel I like most. It's well-plotted and a fascinating character study of a survivor of a violent crime and its aftermath. Amelia Emmett is not always likable, but it's impossible not to sympathize with her. As her body is working to heal itself, she's working to come to terms with what she's lost. It was, truthfully, a hard book to put down and I look forward to reading Lori's future books.

2) The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine

This novel is a re-telling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairytale, and while it doesn't exactly read like one, it does have a sort of mystical quality that runs throughout its pages. It's the first non-crime novel I've read in awhile and it reminded me I need to get out of my genre comfort zone a little more often.

Set in the 1920s, it tells the story of twelve sisters who, after the death of their mother, are kept in captivity by their rich father in New York City townhouse. The eldest, Jo, teaches the others to dance, and each night they all escape to the Kingfisher Club and other speakeasies, captivating the club-goers with their beauty, talent, and mysterious identities.

It's a beautifully written novel and though it might sound cliche, I didn't want it to end.

3) A Small Sacrifice by Dana King

I met Dana at Bouchercon in Albany last year and subsequently got to know him better online. When my first novel, Mistress of Fortune, came out, he interviewed me for his blog, and recently, I returned the favor.

His self-published novel, A Small Sacrifice, is a 2013 PWA Shamus Award-nominee. While I love all kinds of crime fiction, PI novels remain a favorite and King's protagonist, Nick Forte, is just the kind I like: a bit rough around the edges but a good guy at heart, with a unique voice despite the constraints of the genre.

The premise is compelling: When Shirley Mitchell wants to hire Nick Forte to investigate the murder of her granddaughter, he's hesitant to take the case. Her son is the prime suspect in the killing--despite a lack of evidence--and she wants Nick to clear his name. She appeals to him as a parent and he agrees to do it, but he soon finds himself embroiled in a mess that just might lead to his own death.

It's no surprise that A Small Sacrifice has been nominated for a Shamus award. I look forward to seeing Dana at the award ceremony in November so I can shake his hand in person and congratulate him on a job well done.

There you have it--my favorite books so far this summer. I hope you read one of all of them.

Holly West is a crime fiction writer based in Los Angeles. She’s the author of the Mistress of Fortune series, set in late 17th London and featuring amateur sleuth Isabel Wilde, a mistress to King Charles II who secretly makes her living as a fortuneteller. The first in the series, Mistress of Fortune, was published by Harlequin’s Carina Press in February 2014 and its sequel, Mistress of Lies, is forthcoming in Fall 2014. Find her online at hollywest.comtwitter, and facebook.


Peter Hogenkamp said...

Holly, thanks for the tips. I am going to add all of them to my "To Read" list, which looks a lot like the Eiffel Tower. (Why do my kids always expect me to parent them?)

Holly West said...

And why does Liz expect us to actually write books instead of just read them?

Susan Clayton-Goldner said...

Thanks, Holly. I'm ordering all three of them for my Kindle.