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Notable Books

Notable Books | Four recent crime novels

Issue: "Praying for rain," Aug. 11, 2012

Northwest Angle

Retired sheriff Cork O'Connor decides a vacation will help bring happiness to his family, still mourning the death of his wife. A violent storm, called a derecho, sweeps through the northern Minnesota lake area, separating family members and stranding Cork's daughter on an island where she finds an abandoned baby and the body of the baby's murdered mother. A cat-and-mouse chase between the girl and the murderer ensues. O'Connor's mysteries combine a deep appreciation for the Minnesota wilderness and Indian culture, which he blends with a strong Catholic sensibility. In this novel, that sensibility manifests itself in the way characters risk their lives to protect the baby, who has a cleft palate. The book contains some obscenities.

An Unmarked Grave

As Spanish influenza spreads across France, British battlefield nurse Bess Crawford tends the World War I sick and wounded. An orderly shows her a suspicious body hidden among the dead, but Bess falls ill with the flu before she can investigate. Back in England to recover, she remembers the body and learns that the orderly apparently hanged himself. As Bess tries to figure out what's going on, an unknown assailant puts her life-and the lives of those she talks with-in danger. Bess is a fun protagonist: skilled at her job, compassionate, and brave. Todd's historically detailed settings provide a vivid backdrop for the story. Readers looking for clean stories with historical interest will enjoy this book-even if its author cheats a little in the mystery's resolution.

Beastly Things

For years Donna Leon has been writing mystery novels featuring Guido Brunetti, Commissario di Polizia of Venice. Venetian politics, culture, and food play starring roles in all her mysteries. In this latest outing, pollution fouls the canals, tourists cram the streets, and new businesses crowd out the old and familiar. Even Brunetti seems weary as he seeks to solve the murder of an unidentified corpse. Once he discovers the victim's identity, Brunetti follows the trail to a veterinarian clinic and slaughterhouse. Wistfulness for the past permeates the book, weighing down the plot and sapping Brunetti of the vitality that made him such a fun character in the past.

The Expats

Kate Moore leaves her job at the CIA and heads to Luxembourg with her children and husband, who has a new job there. The expat life, consisting of rounds of school meetings, lunches, and cocktail parties, couldn't be more different than her previous, secret life that she carefully hid from her husband. He also has secrets, and gradually she uncovers some of them. A new couple arrives in Luxembourg, behaving in ways that threaten Kate's new identity. Humor flows from the juxtaposition of Kate's dual identities-mother and spy. Energized by twists and double-crosses, the plot involves large sums of money, computer hackery, and deception. Some obscenities and violence.


In Ann Weisgarber's haunting story, The Personal History of Rachel DuPree (Penguin, 2011), an African-American woman falls in love with her employer's son, Isaac DuPree, a proud man with ambition. Together they stake a land claim in the Dakota Badlands, many hours away from any other black family. Fourteen years later, it's 1917 and Rachel is hugely pregnant with their eighth child, as the land suffers a terrible drought. The book opens as Rachel watches her husband lower their screaming 6-year-old into the dark, dry well to scoop the last cupsful of muddy water into buckets. Isaac's ambition-his willingness to sacrifice anything to hold onto the land-used to make Rachel proud. That changes and a rift develops between them as Rachel's hope withers, making it hard for her to see beyond the parched land and loneliness. -Susan Olasky


Listen to Susan Olasky discuss these crime novels on WORLD’s radio news magazine The World and Everything in It.

Susan Olasky
Susan Olasky

Susan pens book reviews and other articles for WORLD as a senior writer and has authored eight historical novels for children. Susan and her husband Marvin live in Asheville, N.C. Follow Susan on Twitter @susanolasky.


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