Thursday, March 24, 2011

Comfort Reads: New Books by Favorite Authors

Over the last several months my fiction selections have been mostly by new authors (The Metropolis Case, by Matthew Gallaway) or authors new to me (Three Stages of Amazement, by Carol Edgarian, Sea Change, by Jeremy Page). As enriching as it is to introduce myself to new voices, it is also comforting to return to familiar ones, and I look forward to curling up with these new releases from favorite authors.

When The Killing’s Done, by T.C. Boyle
This one I’ve already snapped up. Boyle returns to the environmental themes of several earlier novels and story collections in his portrayal of a years-long conflict between an animal rights activist and a biologist dedicated to preserving the fragile ecosystems of California’s Channel Islands. The islands’ history is explored in two episodes that connect two of the present-day characters to the events surrounding the introduction of invasive species earlier in the last century. Nothing is black and white in this taut, well-paced novel that crackles with Boyle’s uncanny ability to enter the minds of his characters and speak with their distinct voices.

The Complaints, by Ian Rankin
Ian Rankin’s series of gritty police procedurals set in Edinburgh, Scotland and featuring Inspector John Rebus did for crime thrillers what Scott Turow’s Kindle County books did for courtroom dramas – raised the literary bar of the genre. I’m sure many readers were as sorry as I to see Rebus retire in 2008’s Exit Music . But enter now Malcom Fox, a maverick cop in Scotland’s version of the internal affairs division, “the Complaints.” I don’t read the blurbs for books like this (I don’t want to spoil my enjoyment by knowing what’s coming) but if Rankin manages to wrap his new character in his signature combination of suspense, complex characterization, and moral ambiguity, his readers can look forward to years of post-Rebus enjoyment.

Started Early, Took My Dog, by Kate Atkinson
Atkinson’s first Jackson Brodie book, Case Histories, recounted from the perspectives of those involved a trio of apparently unrelated and unsolved crimes, and tied them together unexpectedly (to me, anyway) in the last part. Two more books (One Good Turn and When Will There Be Good News?) embroiled private detective Brodie in similarly disjointed story lines that came together at breakneck speed, and were set, like Rankin’s, in Edinburgh. Now, in Started Early, Took My Dog, Atkinson continues the series in Yorkshire, England. (And that’s all I want to know before I read it.)

Land of Painted Caves, by Jean Auel
Not a favorite of mine, but certainly of note: Coming out March 29th is the sixth and final installment in Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children series, which began with Clan of the Cave Bear in 1980. The Ice Age adventures of prehistoric superwoman Ayla and mate Jondalar have given a whole new meaning to the term “historical fiction.” I stopped reading after the third, but for those who persisted, the release of The Land of Painted Caves is a much anticipated event.

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