Off the Shelf: Conversations from the Cubicles: That’s a wrap

Off the Shelf

Kris: Slow down. All I know is that you are waving your arms and muttering “escalator.”

Betty: I. Just. Read. A. Book. That took off as if I stepped onto an escalator that’s going 40 miles an hour and there’s nothing to hold on to and you can’t stop.

K: Wow. That sounds intense.

B: Rachel Caine’s “Stillhouse Lake” is intense, and dark. Turning in toward her house, Gina sees flashing lights and emergency vehicles. A drunk driver has plowed into her garage. The police ask her to step out of her car, cuff her even as she is protesting, and take her to look at the scene, where she sees a full-sized doll hanging in the garage. She starts screaming when she realizes it isn’t a doll.

K: Whoa. Serial killer?

B: Unbeknownst to her, her husband is a killer, and the cops think she is, too. His followers think she turned him in, so she takes her kids and goes on the run. Thing is, I just took you up to page eight.

K: That is a headlong plunge.

B: I know: I’m exhausted. This one wraps up and is a complete read, but there will be more to the story. The next book comes out this month, and I don’t know if I’ll be ready to read it right away.

K: Hmm, let me consult my crystal ball: All signs point to you reading it. (Laughter)

B: I know. Anything you are gung ho about?

K: Always. Specifically, “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” a memoir by Sherman Alexie.

B: Didn’t he write “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian”? Whew, that’s a mouthful.

K: That’s right. “Diary” was young adult fiction; Alexie’s memoir was written after the death of his mother in 2015. Their relationship was fraught, and the intensity of Alexie’s grief was overwhelming at times. I listened to him read the book, and then I picked up the physical book because I wanted to sit with some of his poems.

B: I thought you said it was a memoir. Now you’re saying it was poetry?

K: That’s why I had to get the book, so I could see the structure. It’s a wonderful mashup of poetry and prose and one of those books I’ll be thinking about for a long time.

B: You’re reading books to savor, and I’m reading page-turners. I couldn’t put down Sharon Bolton’s “Dead Woman Walking,” either. It starts with a hot air balloon ride over Scotland when the passengers witness a man killing a woman. As the passengers yell to their pilot to take them higher, the man with the gun looks up, takes aim and fires. This one was called a nail-biter in a review. If I had nails, I would have bitten them. All I know is that I couldn’t stop reading it.

K: Talk about a claustrophobic situation. Nowhere to go; nowhere to hide.

B: Exactly. Dead woman walking refers to one of the passengers trying to flee with the killer hot on her heels. There are plenty of twists, and I liked that a group of nuns features in the story. The nuns, who watch “CSI,” are avid armchair detectives, and several times they supply helpful input, which added a light touch.

K: I read a detective story, too, but of a different variety. “The Shadow District” by Arnaldur Indridason is classic Nordic Noir, one of those dark, brooding mysteries set in Iceland. There are two sets of detectives, one in 1944 and one in present day. The murders are connected, of course, and the author does a great job of weaving together the plotlines. The best part is this is the first book in a new series by Indridason. While readers wait for the next title, they should consider reading his Inspector Erlendur series for more fantastic Nordic Noir.

B: A brooding mystery set in the cold sounds perfect for stay inside winter reading. I read so many good books in 2017 it was tough to choose when you asked for our top 10 this year.

K: We loved a lot of books that didn’t make it into our articles. For many more recommendations, check out the library’s Facebook page that features best-of-the-year picks from the library staff. Happy holidays, and happy reading!

B: We’d have to take over the newspaper if we wrote about everything we read. The one I’m reading now …

K: Wait! Hold that thought. We’ll be back with more conversations in 2018!