Off the Shelf: Conversations from the Cubicles: The end of an era

Betty: As you know, readers who love the Penderwicks REALLY love them.

Kris: Yes, I’ve heard you raving about them.

B: My sister was eagerly awaiting the next book and tried to look online to find out about it. She was aghast when she ran across the title: “Die Penderwicks.”

K: What?! That seems harsh.

B: Just for a second. Then, having lived in a German community for a while, it occurred to me that she found the German version, which I promptly told her.

K: Whew! So “The Penderwicks at Last”?

B: Yay! The Penderwicks at last!!!

K: Does that mean it is the final book in the Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall?

B: Yes! Well worth the wait, it was both a heartfelt ending and heartbreaking to say goodbye to this family of endearing characters. The four original Penderwick sisters, Rosie, Skye, Jane and Batty, are all coming home for a wedding, to be held in a place special to the family. This time the story is told by the youngest Penderwick, 11-year-old Lydia, as she navigates the magical estate, Arundel, where her older sisters first met Jeffrey and his scary mother, Mrs.Tifton.

K: I think it’s important to note that this is another one of those junior series that has become a beloved adult favorite.

B: You’re right. I smiled a lot, got choked up and laughed out loud. Charming is the best word I can find to describe these books. Charming and wonderful. What have you gotten into?

K: Just a couple of fast-paced mystery-thrillers.

B: Those are the best kind.

K: Absolutely. The first is “Force of Nature,” the follow-up to Jane Harper’s outstanding debut, “The Dry.” Our hero, Australian Federal Agent Aaron Falk, is back, this time with a partner who may become more than a partner. They land on a missing persons investigation when their informant goes missing while hiking with four other women on a team-building weekend.

B: Those never go well, at least in books.

K: Yeah, I don’t think I could go on one of those, especially after reading this book. Anyway, Falk is flawed, which I knew after reading “The Dry,” and I enjoyed learning more about him. Also, he investigates financial crimes, yet he has a knack for getting entangled in murder, which is a cool twist.

B: I really liked it as well. Now I sort of stalk Jane Harper so I know when a new book comes out. I think I’ve stumbled on a new series myself. “The Echo Killing” is a complete mystery, but on the last page Christi Daugherty leaves the door open for a sequel. I was ecstatic because I was not finished with Harper McClain. I want more.

K: Do tell.

B: Harper is a crime reporter in Savannah with her partner, Miles, who is a photographer. Harper has been drawn to crime (and friends with cops) since she was 12 and found her mother in a pool of blood. So when she and Miles cover a murder that is eerily similar to her mother’s, Harper starts to investigate it herself, burning bridges as she goes. Harper is unconventional, the other characters are engaging and the writing was very visual: “Ahead, swirling blue lights lit up the street like a deadly disco.” I thought it was the complete package: a really enjoyable mystery. 

K: My other book is a thrill-a-minute ride that reminded me of watching a TV show. “Need to Know” by Karen Cleveland features Vivian Miller, a CIA analyst who hacks into a file that reveals the people connected with a Russian sleeper cell in the U.S. Including her husband.

B: You’re giving away the good stuff.

K: No way. What I described is just the first 30 pages. There is so much more. And then there is the ending, which read like an awesome, season-ending cliffhanger.

B: And speaking of endings …

K: This is our final Conversations From the Cubicles because I’m leaving the library for a new adventure. There are many things I’ll miss about New Ulm, and our Conversations column ranks high.

B: I have to say that it has been really fun writing these with you (and that’s all I will say other than bon voyage because Conversations has always been about funny repartee, not sob fests). One thing I know for sure: We’ll both still be reading and talking books even if it isn’t in a cubicle anymore.