Conversations From the Cubicles: Old Favorites and New Gems
By Kris Wiley
and Betty J Roiger
Betty: Late summer is an especially great time to be a reader.
Kris: It sure is. Wait a minute. Why do you think so?
B: Because every August we’re pretty much guaranteed that Louise Penny will publish another mystery.
K: Ah-ha. I was going to say it’s because William Kent Krueger’s mysteries usually publish this time of the year.
B: Either way, a reader can’t go wrong.
K: Agreed. Both authors have become old favorites. What did you think of Penny’s latest?
B: I actually think “A Great Reckoning” was one of her best. It’s everything a reader expects: Three Pines, the hamlet that doesn’t appear on any map; compassionate and shrewd Gamache; the village cast: Clara, Myrna, Ruth and Rosa, Olivier and Gabri, and Gamache’s colleagues Jean-Guy and Isabelle. Oh! And a mystery! Remember when we heard Penny speak?
K: How could I forget?
B: She mentioned she always drops seeds of plot lines that take hold and grow in future books. There was something in this one but I can’t say. Anyway, this one explains so many things from characters’ pasts and also looks toward the future. So that’s a bummer.
K: What? I thought you liked it?
B: I loved it! But I read it the day it came out. Now I have to wait 12 months for the next one!
K: Ha! With “Manitou Canyon,” readers can expect another excellent entry in Krueger’s Cork O’Connor series. Cork doesn’t much care for November; it’s a month that has led to suffering and loss too many times. Yet Cork’s daughter Jenny has decided this November she will get married. Two weeks before the ceremony, an old friend of Cork’s goes missing, and when he enters the Boundary Waters to find him, Cork goes off the radar, too. The story alternates between Cork fighting the elements and his family desperately searching for him, and all of them are trying to solve the mystery of the missing friend. Will everything work out before the wedding?
B: Hmmm, I guess we have to read it to find out, yeah? So, that’s Krueger’s 15th novel in the O’Connor series, and Penny has written 12 Gamache books.
K: Hard to believe, but you bring up a good point. Readers should consider starting at the beginning with both series.
B: Absolutely. The characters evolve and situations build over the course of both series.
K: I would love to be reading them again for the first time.
B: As long as we’re talking old favorites, you have another one, right?
K: Yep. I’ve been a fan of Gayle Forman’s young adult novels since “If I Stay,” although my favorite is its companion, “Where She Went.” Forman excels at describing the emotions of loss, first love, and the big decisions of young adulthood. She translated that superbly to her first novel for adults, “Leave Me,” which is the story of Maribeth, a mother of twins who has a heart attack at 44. Overwhelmed by marriage and motherhood, Maribeth leaves her family and settles into Pittsburgh, from where she was adopted and now sets out to locate her birth mother. Maribeth and Jason, her husband, are sympathetic, and the secondary characters are interesting. If you’re a fan of Jojo Moyes, you might like “Leave Me.”
B: As long as you mentioned YA, I just finished “Never Missing, Never Found” by Amanda Panitch. Scarlett was abducted as a child (to work as slave labor, literally cleaning all the time), finally escapes, and returns home as a teen. Even though her sister dislikes her, her family life is stable, and she adores her younger brother. The day after she gets a job at an amusement park, another girl goes missing, which upsets everyone. Already unsure in the real world, once at the park, she falls for a boy and comes up against a really, really mean girl. Bad things continue to happen, and then.
K: And then?
B: You know I read a lot of fiction. All I can say is I’m pretty sure most people will not see the ending coming. It has a jaw-dropping, oh my gosh, what just happened moment.
K: I’m amazed that the author gotcha. I not only was surprised by “The Unseen World” by Liz Moore, I absolutely lost it while reading it, which basically is my highest recommendation. It?s about artificial intelligence; specifically, a computer that was created by David Sibelius and his team of computer scientists in 1980s Boston. It’s also “and mostly” about the relationship between David and his daughter, Ada. I thought it was a sweet story about how Ada would cope with her father’s Alzheimer’s. Then something was revealed, and suddenly I was completely invested in their lies and lives. It still was sweet, but it also was incredibly complex and emotional. Anything you want to close with?
B: I’m in the middle of one that, if it keeps on well, it might just be showing up in our next chat. And that’s all I’m saying.