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Notable books

Notable Books | Four books about lies, secrets, and corruption reviewed by Susan Olasky

Issue: "Cities of God and Man," March 27, 2010

Staying True

Jenny Sanford portrays her former husband as a man who assumed adult responsibility when still in his teens, after his father's death. From that grew his notorious stinginess, which she details. She also portrays him as a man with both firm principles and an underlying restlessness. She describes candidly their years in politics and their boisterous family life with sons. As she found satisfaction in their family, he fed his restlessness: one more campaign, one more adventure trip. Gradually he became unmoored from his principles. He sacrificed honor, a 20-year marriage, and four sons for the sake of a chick-flick view of love. It's a sad story, a cautionary tale, and an honest appraisal of a husband's strengths and failings to leave for her sons.

My Bangs Look Good & Other Lies I Tell Myself

Susanna Foth Aughtmon takes Satan seriously. He's presented in this book as the LIAR, the one who cheers when we believe lies we tell ourselves-lies like "I need to be good so that God will love me" or "God doesn't know me." She covers 23 lies and presents the truth that the lies distort. The book is full of wisdom presented in a breezy, humorous style with Aughtmon making her points with anecdotes from her own life as a pastor's wife, perfectionist, and mom of three. Many of these lies are subtle ones; that's why they have power. The book does an excellent job of pointing the reader away from her own strengths and weaknesses and toward Christ.

The Red Door

I'm late to the Charles Todd fan club. The Red Door is Todd's (Todd is the pseudonym for a mother/son writing team) 12th novel in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series set after World War I in London. Rutledge, a Scotland Yard detective, still suffers psychologically from his war experiences and guilt over leading his men to their deaths. He's called into a case involving the disappearance of a man from a prominent family. When the man turns up, it is clear that his family is keeping secrets. Several deaths follow his reappearance, including the murder of a woman up in Lancashire. The book is more than a whodunnit. Todd's characters are well-wrought, his settings evocative, and the book a pleasure to read.

The Devil's Star

Nesbø, one of Europe's best-selling crime novelists, is less well-known in the States, but his recent Edgar Award nomination will change that. His novels feature tortured detective Harry Hole, who combines integrity and brilliance in his work with a tortured private life, made worse by alcoholism. In The Devil's Star, Hole surfaces from an alcoholic binge to track down a serial killer and fight a corrupt cop who tempts Harry to join him. Superb plotting leaves the reader on edge, but strong graphic content will make Nesbø's gritty examination of good and evil off-limits to many readers.


"I was introduced to a lot of great fantasy at an early age (Lewis, Tolkien, etc.), but I was a kid running through wheat fields in Idaho, playing baseball, and climbing around in barns." That's what N.D. Wilson told me about the origin of his 100 Cupboards trilogy, recently in the news because Al Roker of the Today show chose 100 Cupboards as the latest "Al's Book Club" pick. The Chestnut King, the last book in the trilogy, is now in stores. Wilson-son of pastor-author Doug Wilson, the Johnny Appleseed of the classical Christian school movement-says he "wanted to connect the elements of classic fantasy and mythology to American kids," so his trilogy "is about baseball, and barbecues, and big red barns (and prophets and wizards and magic and the ancient, universal struggle between good and evil)."


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