Books

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The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Copenhagen’s Department Q, led by detective Carl Morck, specializes in very cold cases: this one is 20 years cold with a confessed perpetrator already doing time in prison. The crime: the brutal murder of two teenage siblings in a summer cottage. The suspects: rich and successful members of Denmark’s elite who met in private school and formed a secret rampaging gang inspired by the movie “A Clockwork Orange”. This Nordic crime series has it all—interesting characters, twisty suspense, and plenty of quirky humor.

The People of Forever Are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu

Yael, Avishag and Lea are typical teens coming of age in an atypical environment—a country in a state of continual hostility with its neighbors and ever-present fear of attacks on civilians. It is modern Israel. The three friends are drafted into the Israeli Defense Force and fulfill their two years of service training shooters, monitoring border checkpoints, flirting with boys, remembering their girlhoods in a tiny village on the Lebanese border, and wondering about the future.

Swimming Home by Deborah Levy

This deliciously short novel recounts the experiences of a war correspondent, her philandering poet husband, their teenage daughter, and two family friends on holiday in the hills above Nice. Just as they arrive they discover a young women, naked, in the swimming pool. For reasons not immediately obvious, the stranger is invited to stay with them in the villa. The characters in this story have interesting dimensions and their complicated relationships with each are deftly explored. Shortlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2012.

The Extinction Club by Jeffrey Moore

This funny, dark, literary crime novel, marketed as a "neo-noir thriller" is loads of fun. The protaginst, Nile Nightingale, is on the run and hiding out in Quebec's remote Laurentian mountains when he witnesses a bloody christmas package dropped into a frozen bog. Inside the package he discovers a teenage animal rights activist who he gradually nurses back to health while poachers and corrupt accomplices circle.

Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

Twin sisters Kate and Violet have taken separate paths in life: Kate is happily married with two small children; Violet is a bit of a drifter still unattached and making a living as a medium. Then Violet publicly predicts that a major earthquake will hit St. Louis MO on a specific date, just after a smaller earthquake hits the area. Years ago, Kate “disabled” her own psychic abilities by choice and now must confront her sister’s sudden celebrity status, her scientist husband’s skepticism, and her unexpected attraction to a fellow stay-at-home dad.

Sparta by Roxana Robinson

It’s 2006 and Conrad Farrell has just returned home after four years in Iraq as an officer in the Marines. While his parents and siblings welcome him back warmly, and his girlfriend welcomes him more cautiously, Conrad finds that re-entering the world he left behind is nothing like he thought it would be. As he corresponds with men he served with—some still at war and some back home--flashes back on painful scenes from Iraq, he finds himself confused, angry, and frustrated, with little help forthcoming from the VA.

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell

A loving but dysfunctional Irish English family converges at the family homestead in London during the legendary British heatwave of 1976 when the dad goes out for the morning paper and never returns.  As abandoned wife Gretta worries about her husband’s whereabouts, son Michael Francis (two kids, failing marriage) shows up to help, and favorite daughter Monica (failed marriage, shaky second marriage with two dreadful stepdaughters) also drops by.

Heft by Liz Moore

Arthur Opp weights 550 pounds and hasn't left his Brooklyn Brownstone in many years. Kel Keller lives 20 miles north on the Hudson and is the poor kid in the rich school dreaming about a future as a professional baseball player. They are connected by Kel's mother, a former student of Arthur's. There are a lot of sad stories in this engaging novel, but it is not a sad book. Liz Moore adeptly spins the tale of the commonalities that bring disparate people together (and includes a serious dose of addiciton to keep it from getting too light).

A Conspiracy of Faith by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Another entry in the crowded Nordic noir field—but this one actually has some humor (black humor, anyway). Detective Carl Morck is in charge of the cold case department in Copenhagen. In the midst of coping with various bureaucratic office crises, he receives a years-old message in a bottle (written in blood)—passed along by Scottish colleagues after being found along their coastline—that appears to be from a boy in life-threatening danger somewhere on the Danish coast.

Connectome by Sebastian Seung

There is a forest in our heads – soaring trunks and twining branches composing an entire interconnected system. A spark, a pulse, and the branches lit up as the message speeds past in less than a microsecond. This network of nerves, dendrites, axons, and somas make up our connectome. Similar to the genome, this new concept stems from the research of Dr. Sebastian Seung of MIT’s Brain and Cognitive Science Department. He has started an ambitious project to map all the connections between neurons – the nerve cells that are responsible for our every movement and thought.

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© 2011 Thomas Crane Public Library

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