Monday, November 30, 2020

 Dear Great Book Guru, Now that we are into December, I really need a good book to help with the darkness of winter - something that will keep me distracted. I do love mysteries!                         Deep in December Doldrums

 Dear Deep in December Doldrums, The book I’m recommending this week is admittedly dark, but definitely distracting: THE ABSTAINER by Ian McGuire. The story opens in Manchester, England 1867 with the hanging of three Irish loyalists - members of the Fenian Brotherhood. The abstainer of the title is James O’Connor, a police official who has recently arrived from Ireland. He is getting over the death of his wife and a serious drinking problem. Manchester is an industrial powerhouse replete with pollution, corruption, and violence. O’Connor talks of the fog, bleak homes, and a downtrodden people that contrast with the bucolic land he left behind. What is not left behind is the hatred the Irish rebels feel for English oppression. As the only Irishman on the police force, he is trusted by neither side and his attempts at peacemaking are resented by all. When Fenian sympathizer Stephen Doyle arrives from America, O’Connor is confronted with an enemy he both fears and respects. The conflict between the two men becomes unbearably tense and the reader is hard-pressed not to see issues that resonate today: divided loyalties, political corruption, and police neutrality. Highly recommended!

Monday, November 23, 2020


Dear Great Book Guru, With our Thanksgiving weekend plans pretty much limited to long walks and time at home, there is lots of time for a good book.  I would love a mystery – one with an interesting locale and characters - always a number one choice of mine.  Any recommendations? Holiday Weekender

 Dear Holiday Weekender, One of my favorite mystery writers, Tana French, just came out with a new book: THE SEARCHER. As usual, French sets the story in present-day Ireland.  Cal Hooper has moved into a farmhouse that has been abandoned for over twenty years. Cal is a retired Chicago police detective who is trying to build a new life far from the tensions of his job and ex-wife Donna.  His daughter Alyssa is his only connection to his former life and theirs is a troubled relationship.  Shortly after moving in, Cal finds the quiet serenity of his rural homestead disrupted by a young child. Trey is in desperate search of a missing brother Brendan - a charismatic nineteen-year-old who left home a few weeks before.  Everyone assures Cal there is nothing mysterious about this disappearance. As so many before Brendan, he has left home  to escape the boredom of small village life. Cal soon finds there is much more about life in this village than he thought, and his detective skills prove very, very useful.  A captivating look into life in the Irish countryside replete with colorful characters - sinister and otherwise…. Recommended!

Saturday, November 14, 2020


Dear Great Book Guru, With the election over, I find myself less distracted by cable news and political updates so now I have lots of time to read a good book. I would like something historical and fast reading - I’m still a bit distracted.  Recommendations?  Energized Following Election

 Dear Energized Following Election, I recently reread an engrossing book, A SPY AMONG FRIENDS: KIM PHILBY AND THE GREAT BETRAYAL by Ben Macintyre. I have always been fascinated by the Cambridge Five - a group of notorious post World War II spies who all graduated from Cambridge University, and this book is an amazing account of one of the most nefarious of the Five.  Kim Philby was born shortly after the end of World War I into an eccentric, aristocratic British family. His life’s trajectory began when, after expressing to family friends an interest in government service, he was immediately offered a position in Britain’s elite spy service - MI6. Thus began his parallel existence as a double agent. While there have been many books written about Philby and his Cambridge Five cohorts, this book focuses on Philby’s betrayal of not only his country but also his friends. George Elliot was the closest of these friends - colleague, drinking partner, roommate, constant defender, and finally the person who most likely arranged his escape to Moscow. E.M. Forester, renowned British writer, has said “If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friends, I hope I should betray my country.” Philby betrayed both and his story is an amazing tale of intrigue and deception - highly recommended!