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Notable Books | Four mysteries/thrillers reviewed by Susan Olasky

Issue: "On the rails," Oct. 9, 2010

The Silent Spirit

Margaret Coel's Arapaho mysteries feature an Arapaho lawyer whose partner wants to handle big cases involving tribal mineral rights and land claims. She is drawn to cases involving little guys-the no-good son of a friend or the ex-con grandson of a tribal elder, for instance. She is often in conflict with her partner and in agreement with Father John, the mission priest, with whom she shares an unfulfilled attraction. Fans of Tony Hillerman will appreciate Coel's respectful depiction of Native American culture and her ability to illumine tensions between Native and broader American cultures. I've read three books in the series-all had clean language, but a 2008 novel featuring investigative journalist Catherine McLeod did not.

Moscow Stings

In this engaging and fast-paced thriller, Russians, Americans, and Brits all want to find former KGB colonel Anna Resnikov, who disappears after the Russians assassinate her husband, a former British spy. She's particularly valuable because her husband controlled Mikhail, a Russian mole-and she knows Mikhail's identity. In the background is Vladimir Putin, who controls Moscow's levers of power and has helped his cronies become billionaires. Meanwhile, in the United States, private intelligence agencies compete with the CIA to control information, sources, and government contracts. Dryden's spies are an amoral lot, with shifting loyalties and a willingness to do just about anything to get a contract, make money, or consolidate power. Sometimes they rise above the intrigue to pursue love or protect a child.

Know You Anywhere

Eliza Benedict was only 15 when she was kidnapped for 39 days by a man who had already killed several girls. Now, more than 20 years have passed and the man is on death row, awaiting his execution date for the murder of another girl. He sees a picture of Eliza in the newspaper and writes a letter to her, opening up memories and threatening the safe and stable existence she has established with her husband and two children. Lippman's skillful storytelling shows the psychological power the bad guy had over his teenage victims, and how even 20 years later he is still hoping to manipulate his way out of the death chamber. The book has a few crudities and mild sexual references.


Barr's series protagonist, National Park Service ranger Anna Pigeon, is on leave for post-traumatic stress after she killed a man in her last novel. She and her husband of a year, sheriff and Episcopal priest Paul Davidson, decide to take a rafting trip in Big Bend Park on the Texas-Mexico border. Four college students and a guide make up the rest of the party. What is supposed to be a five-day float down the river turns into a struggle for survival, and Barr is a master at describing villainy in wild places. Pigeon's marriage to an Episcopal priest makes her prone to speculate on the nature of man and the existence or nonexistence of God more than she did in earlier books.


Every week I receive unsolicited copies of self-published books and emails recommending that I review others. Most newspapers and magazines don't review books from these publishers, but I have done so occasionally-and it seems wrong to have a blanket policy against the books, even though many of them are poorly written and edited.

Since I have a very small apartment, limited space for books, and limited time, I am instituting a new policy. I will only look at self-published books by subscribers to the magazine. They should be sent to WORLD's Asheville offices. (The mailing address for packages is in the front of the magazine.) Our associate there will collect the books and send them to me twice a year. I will look through them and choose the best for mention or review on our book pages. I will not be able to respond personally to emails. Thanks for understanding.


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