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Check It Out

Courier Article by Lucy Clem
Sunday, March 11, 2007

Book Series Offer Imaginative Tales, Suspenseful Reading

As a librarian, I'm often asked for "the next book in the series." Discovering a great book and then finding there are more like it is better than finding a forgotten box of Girl Scout cookies.

After reading each of the following books, I couldn't wait to read the rest. A small warning: None of these books is the first in a series. If you're the orderly sort, you'll probably want to start at the beginning. The library can help you with that: Just give us a call.

The Glass Wall, a Superintendent Mike Yeadings Mystery, by Clare Curzon (St. Martin's Minotaur, 2006).

Frail, ancient Emily Withers is a woman of great wealth who lives in an art-filled penthouse with, yes, a glass wall, overlooking the town and the Chilterns.

Her round-the-clock caregivers include her devoted niece, Alyson. The peaceful routine of her days changes when Alyson returns from her job as a nurse to find that the day girl failed to appear. Is she the falling body that begins the story? An unidentified body, a mysterious Filipino, a shady insurance adjuster and various family members skulking around the art collection are among the elements that Superintendent Yeadings and his sergeant Rosemary Zycynski work to unravel. This is a complicated British mystery with a satisfying number of characters, clever red herrings, and a tidy and surprising ending.

The Boleyn Inheritance, by Phillippa Gregory (Simon & Schuster, 2006).

In this story of three women in a court ruled by the threat of the axe, Gregory highlights some lesser players in the drama of Henry VIII's court.

Anne of Cleves is portrayed as calm, level-headed and ultimately regal, rather than ugly and cowlike as history describes her. Gregory's characterization makes her seem like the best choice for a queen from among Henry's pitiful wives. Katherine Howard is painted as a silly, flirtatious child who was simply too self-centered and thoughtless to see what was happening. Jane Boleyn was apparently quite mad, and is as calculating a monster as her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk. And then there's Henry, in all his fat, stinking glory. His early doting on Katherine Howard earns him a little sympathy, but then we see how chillingly he wielded his power in the end. This is historical fiction at its best, and Henry's other wives get the same sensitive treatment in other volumes.

All Mortal Flesh, by Julia Spencer-Fleming (St. Martin's Minotaur, 2006).

The engaging heroine, Clare Fergusson, is an Episcopal priest in a small Maine town. Before being called to the cloth, she was a helicopter pilot.

In this episode, she has just broken off an adulterous affair with the town's police chief, Russ Van Allstyne.

When his wife is found brutally murdered, he's a suspect for the obvious reasons. The townspeople see the murder as proof that the whispers about the police chief and the priest are true. The church hierarchy sees a chance to control its unconventional priest.

The author strikes a nice balance between the suspense of the story and the quaint setting. Believable twists and turns, refreshing characters and a minimum of sex, blood and gore make this series a good escape from the evening news.

Paranoia, by Joseph Finder (St. Martin's Press, 2004).

Not a series in the strict sense of the word, Finder's business thrillers share a theme - the manipulative world of big business. Here, Adam Cassidy hates his job at a high-tech company and amuses himself by hacking into the company computers and ordering a $78,000 retirement party for a guy who works on the loading dock. Once caught, he's given a choice - go to jail for a long time, or use his creativity to spy on a rival company. Taking the obvious path, he's surprised to find he likes his new job, and, with a combination of luck and the information fed to him by his handlers, he quickly becomes assistant to the CEO.

His undercover job is to find out about a top-secret project and hand over the information, which puts him in every imaginable hair-raising situation.

Adam, like other Finder characters, is so likeable you can hardly bear to watch him get in trouble, and the Grishamlike ending twist comes as a welcome surprise.

Lucy Young Clem is the Tech Center Supervisor at Central Library, where she sandwiches reading book reviews between computer training sessions.