Crime in foreign places

I usually read the article in the Sunday NYT’s Book Review section that gives a brief summary of the plots of new books.  Each week the focus is on another genre.  I, of course, always read this article when the author writes about new crime novels.

Last week the focus was on four crime novels with foreign settings.  This article complements the list that Nancy Russell recently compiled.  All four look like winners.

“The Other Child” by German author Charlotte Link is set in the English countryside.  The story centers on Fiona Swales, who during the war was one of the children evacuated to the English countryside in 1940.  The story picks up Fiona’s story in 2008.  She has relocated to Yorkshire and reconnects with a family she knew during the war.  Marily Stasio, the author of this article, calls this a psychological thriller.

Peter Lovesay’s new novel about his detective Peter Diamond is called “The Tooth Tattoo.”  Diamond works in the English city of  Bath.  Described as a well-written procedural murder mystery, “The Tooth Tattoo” deals with a Japanese music lover who comes to Bath to hear a celebrated string quartet.

Philip Kerr is back with another Bernie Gunther, no relation, mystery.  Gunther is a police detective in Germany during WWII.  I have read several of the novels in this series and found them to be well written mysteries with very interesting backstories dealing with Germany during the war.

Finally, D.A. Mishani has written his first mystery.  Set in Tel Aviv, Inspector Avraham Avraham is involved in a case dealing with a missing 16-year old.  Avraham is plagued with self doubt as he investigates this case.

A good mystery story set in a foreign locale–who could ask for anything more.

Captain Underpants makes the hit list

The “Captain Underpants” series by Dave Pilkey took the top spot in the American Library Association’s annual list of most challenged books.  The “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy received fewer complaints than the popular series about this superhero.

In an article last week in the “Bergen Record, ” several public and school librarian expressed surprise that this extremely popular series had received that dubious honor.  Obviously, potty humor has a great attractive to readers of a certain age.  Parents, reported on by these librarians, although not thrilled with the Captain Underpants obsession, have not asked to have it removed from their shelves.  Many parents, on the contrary, are happy that their reluctant readers are reading.

Several librarians feel that the popularity of this series, especially with boys, reflects a lack of “quality options” for the elementary age male population.

Dave Pilkey was quoted as saying, “It’s pretty exciting to be on a list that frequently features Mark Twain, Harper Lee, and Maya Angelou.”  He was worried that some parents will see the list and discourage their children from reading the books for themselves.He probably need not worry about that problem in this area because those librarians interviewed say that their greatest issue is having enough copies to meet the demand.

I checked our statistics for the series and the numbers are way up.

Earth Day for kids

In my school this week we read the play “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss. Other books I recommended (besides gardening books and  Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth”) include: biographies of Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey (we have 2 newish picture book bio’s of them), “On Meadowview Street” by Henry Cole JP, and there is also a new picture book biography of Rachel Carson. “One Year in Coal Harbor” by Polly Horvath is one you can recommend for a middle-schooler (the town is protesting the cutting down of trees in a Canadian town).

“Dork Diaries” series by Rachel Renee Russell

In late March there was an article highlighting the author of the popular ‘Dork Diaries’ series. This is a very popular series in my school. Compare it to ‘Wimpy Kid’ for girls. She has sold over 10 million copies in four years.  The author is a 53 year-old African-American, former bankruptcy lawyer.  She chose to make Nikki, her main character, white. She says that “black writers should not be typecast into having only black characters.”  Although her publisher likes to promote diversity, they say there is a  “perception that books with minority characters don’t sell well.”  Is that why there is no author picture included with the Dork books?

“Death of Yesterday”

As a fan of the BBC series “Hamish Macbeth,”  I was happy to see we had the newest in this series.  Written by M.C.Beaton, Hamish is a local officer in the northern Scotland town of Lochdubh.  In “Death of Yesterday” he must solve a series of murders that are occurring in and around his home base.  The murders, it appears, are being committed by a local, who although not very clever, is very lucky in eluding the long arm of the law.

Although there are several murders, the descriptions are not very graphic.  What moves this story along is the setting and the local characters.  Beaton has written more than 25 books in this series, so she knows her characters very well.  Unfortunately, the book gets almost silly towards the end which is not a good thing in a mystery novel.

Maybe I should read one of the earlier books in this series; starting at number 28 was not a good choice.