Have you ever opened a book and immediately knew that you wouldn’t put it down until you turned the last page?
That is exactly how I feel everytime that I open a book by Swedish author Henning Mankell. His Wallander series pulled me in first - though called ‘mysteries’, the books are really about social justice and life told through the eyes of passionate detective Kurt Wallander. At one point Wallander says he deplores that fact that police officers carry guns and use them. ‘Are we turning into a violent society?’, he wonders.
In Faceless Killers, when a dying woman whispers a word in his ear that sounds like 'foreigner', Wallander is angered by how quickly violent prejudice ( even in his own department) builds against migrant workers. But then he has to confront his own prejudice when his daughter Linda dates a Syrian doctor.
Mankell was also extremely interested in Africa, spending part of his life there. Several of his non-Wallander books are set there. One of my favorites, Kennedy's Brain, deals with the AIDs epidemic and those who take advantage of the misery of others.
I may never get to Africa or to Sweden, but because of Henning Mankell's books, I also can feel what it is like to also have one foot in the sand, one foot in the snow.
“I can’t tell you for certain. What I do know is that we do these things - and we have remained safe - so we keep doing them.”
As the sun fades away for its fourteen year hiatus, the residents of Bliss are frantic. Preparing their homes before leaving their island is an elaborate process guided by fear and myth. Houses are to be left “without stain”, all locks are removed from doors, and strict decor must be observed. The why behind such frenzy is unknown and not questioned.
- Marin is a young girl who has only known Bliss as her home. She has many questions, but gets few answers. Her secret puts everyone at risk.
- Kana is her twin brother. He's blind, but his vision improves as the darkness falls. As permanent night arrives his dreams have turned into horrific night terrors.
- Line, an orphan, is preoccupied with the care of his young brother. He has a lot on his mind as they prepare, including Marin.
As the boats arrive and night overtakes the island, someone goes missing. The ships are leaving in four hours. The choice between safety from the unknown and friendship has never been more difficult or life changing under the looming threat of what lies in the darkness.
What happens next? Check out Nightfall!
It was a hot day in Central Library. The air conditioner was busted, the doors were propped wide open, and, thanks to the latest forest fire out on the eastside, the air was about as smoky as the Virginia Cafe circa 1975. I thought about lighting up myself since it couldn’t make things much worse in here, but then I remembered that I quit smoking 20 years ago. Something bad was going to happen, I could feel it.
Mercifully, this is not the actual condition in the library at the moment! Everything is just fine. But if this scene appeals to you for some reason, maybe you should be reading more Portland crime fiction.
Did I leave something important off this list? Let me know!
I'm a sucker for stories that feature librarians. When I was a little kid, I turned my bookshelves into a library and made my sister and my stuffed animals check out books.
Right now, I'm in the middle of Erika Swyler’s The Book of Speculation. The narrator, Simon Watson, is a librarian living alone in his deteriorating family house on a cliff on the Long Island Sound. One day, a mysterious book is delivered to his doorstep, sent by an antiquarian bookseller. The ancient tome is a log written by the owner of a traveling carnival in the 1700’s. Oddly enough, Simon’s grandmother’s name is written in it but more disturbingly, Simon learns that the women in his family tend to drown young on the same date in July. As he has a younger sister who might be in danger of succumbing to the same drowning fate, Simon needs to use his librarianly research skills to figure out what the story is before that July date rolls around again.
The narrative switches between the present and the past. In the present, Simon deals with the messiness and drama of his life and works towards solving the mysteries of his family's past. In the past, the mysterious book reveals its secrets.
Oh, and there are circus mermaids too.