Andrew Vachss tells the story of a little town in Oregon with a huge secret.  Dolly, a retired nurse, and Dell, a former mercenary with the French Foreign Legion, have retired to the coast of Oregon.  Teens like to hang out there, as Dolly is very motherly.  Then Mary Lou, one of the girls, shoots the most popular boy in town. She’s arrested and jailed but refuses to disclose the reason.  Dolly knows there is one and asks Dell to find out what it is.  His delving uncovers a shocking town secret.  Some of Dell’s methods are a little over the top for my taste, very vigilante.

I understand this is the beginning of a new series for Vachss.  His others are “Burke” and “Cross.”  He is an attorney and only represents children and youth.  He is extremely active in the area of child abuse and is the founder of Protect: the National Association to Protect Children.

“Careless in Red” by Elizabeth George- audio

This is an older George title in her Inspector Lynley series. Although I’ve read most of George’s mysteries, I missed this one. This is one of the first books I listened to on Overdrive after downloading the book to my iPhone. I had trouble getting it onto my older MP3 player, but it worked on the iPhone. After Thomas’ pregnant wife is murdered, he wanders off from his job at Scotland Yard not caring where he goes or where he ends up. Of course, in his ramblings he comes across a dead body. A young boy is found dead at the bottom of a cove apparently fallen from an accidental rock climbing jaunt. Except it wasn’t an accident. George is at her best describing the residents of the seaside village taking the reader (listener) back decades to when the murderer was wronged and set out to get revenge. The narrator was excellent. I wish there were more of her books I’d missed.

“Villa Triste”

It is always fun when you come upon a book that you haven’t heard or read about, and it turns out to be a winner.  In my opinion, “Villa Triste” by Lucretia Grindle, on a scale of 1 to 10, scores a solid 9.  Set in present-day Florence, Italy, it centers around the deaths of three men who were heroes of the Italian resistance during World War II.  The story alternates between the investigation of these murders and the lives of a family in Florence during the war. 

Grindle vividly portrays what it was like to live in Italy during the war.  The deprivation, danger and sacrifices made by the Italian people, especially those who were partisans, forms the historical backdrop of this story.  Two sisters, one a nurse and the other a student, become deeply invovled in spying on the Germans and helping Allied soldiers and Jewish families eescape.  Their lives are changed forever by their actions.

This is definitely a page turner.  The author keeps you guessing about the murders of the three men and what eventually happens to the sisters.  The mystery component could almost stand alone, but coupled with the historical context of the story, it makes “Villa Triste” a double winner.


“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”

In 2010, Rebecca Skloot’s book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” was on bestseller lists was a very long time.  The author told the very moving story of a poor black woman living in the South who developed cervical cancer.  Skloot really did her research speaking to almost every member of Henrietta’s extended family.  As tragic as her life and death were, what followed was even more disturbing.

During her treatment at Johns Hopkins, doctors took samples of her cells without informing her or her family.  It was discovered that these cells, known as HeLa cells, could survive in a lab setting.  There was no record of this ever happening before.  It is believed that more than 74,000 cancer studies have used these cells.

Because of a recent agreement between the NIH and the Lacks’ family, they will now become more involved with how these cells will be used for scientific purposes.

Here is another example of the power of the written word.  I doubt that many people outside the medical community had ever heard of Henrietta Lacks before this book was written.  Because of Skloot’s work a national discussion has resulted which will result in new agreements between families and those involved in medical research.