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The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova: "Readers who think the legend of Dracula has become a trite staple of schlock fiction will find this atmospheric page-turner by first-time author Kostova a bloodthirsty delight. A teenage American girl, living in1972 Amsterdam, comes across an ancient book in the library of her widower father, a former historian and now a diplomat. The book, blank save for an illustration of a dragon and the word Drakulya, contains a cache of faded letters all addressed to My dear and unfortunate reader. Thus begins a search for the truth behind the myth of Dracula, a search that crosses continents as well as generations." (Booklist Review)
If you enjoyed this book's mixture of history, mystery, and suspense, here are some other titles you may enjoy:
Angels & Demons by Dan Brown
The murder of a world-famous physicist raises fears that the Illuminati are operating again after centuries of silence, and religion professor Robert Langdon is called in to assist with the case. (worldcat.org)
The Chinese Bell Murders by Robert Van Gulik
In the spirit of ancient Chinese detective novels, Judge Dee is challenged by three cases. First, he must solve the mysterious murder of Pure Jade, a young girl living on Half Moon Street. All the evidence points to the guilt of her lover, but Judge Dee has his doubts. Dee also solves the mystery of a deserted temple and that of a group of monks' terrific success with a cure for barren women. (amazon.com)
Author Reginald Hill died January 12th, 2012, at the age of 75. Best known for his "Dalziel & Pascoe" series, he also wrote a number of stand alone novels. The Woodcutter is a fairy tale of a thriller set in the almost mythic Cumbrian countryside.
Hadda Wolf has been living Happily Ever After. The son of a Cumbrian woodcutter, he fulfills three tasks--getting an education, some social polish and amassing great fortune--to win the hand of an almost-princess, the daughter of the lord of the castle. Hadda and Imogen marry, have a daughter, and he truly feels he is living beyond his wildest dreams.
Life in Schongau, Bavaria in 1659 is pretty bleak. The town is rebuilding in the decade after the Great War - orphans abound, jobs are limited, and the townsfolk are quick to accuse each other of misdeeds. Although the rampant witch trials of the town's past have faded to a dim collective memory, it doesn't take much to start rumors of dark deeds swirling again. When a young orphan is found murdered and branded with a “witch’s mark,” a scapegoat is quickly located in Martha Stechlin, the town’s midwife who dabbles in herbs and encourages the orphans’ company. She is quickly taken into custody and it is up to Jacob Kuisl, the town’s hangman, to torture the truth out of her in The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch, translated by Lee Chadeayne.
Every town at this time has a hangman, who inherits his profession from his father. Although Jacob Kuisl is well-read and financially well-to-do, the townsfolk routinely shun him because hangmen are considered the lowest in the town’s social order. When Martha is jailed, Kuisl suspects that something is not right because he has worked with her for decades and knows her to be an honorable and gentle midwife. He secretly starts researching her case to prove her innocence, while publically fulfilling his job as her torturer.
In the early 15th-century Venice of The Fallen Blade, by Jon Courtenay Grimwood, no one is safe from the political ambitions of the ruling family--not even Giuliette, beautiful cousin of the Duke. She becomes a pawn in the schemes of her aunt and uncle who are regents for the simpleton Duke Marco. Meanwhile, Venice faces external threats from the Ottomans, the Byzantines and the German emperor. It is Atilo il Mauro's job as head of the Assassini to protect Venice and enforce the will of its ruling family while trying not to be destroyed by that family's internal power struggles.
In her stunning new novel, State of Wonder, Ann Patchett captures the claustrophobic nature of the dense jungle where danger--in the form of poisonous insects and snakes--is present at every turn and a person’s daily existence depends only upon a few bare essentials.
Dr. Annick Swenson has spent a major portion of her life in the Amazon researching potential medical cures. When she and her mentor discover a tribe whose women can regularly conceive children well into their seventies and beyond, Vogel Pharmaceuticals agrees to fund the ground-breaking study. But Dr. Swenson goes rogue, cutting off all communication with the company executives. To make matters infinitely worse, no outsider has the slightest idea where in the jungle the research compound is located.
Recently when I went to the beach I took Patient Zero with me to read. While I sat in stopped traffic, motorcyclists weaved in and out, roaring past us laughing. My first thought was, “That is SO illegal! I hate you!” But my next thought was, “They are going to get to the beach long before we do, and they are having more fun doing it this way.” If Jonathan Maberry's Patient Zero were a vehicle it would be one of those motorcycles roaring past the stopped cars. The action is fast and furious from the beginning to the very last page of the book.
Chapter One introduces Joe Ledge--a modern day Rambo.
When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week, then there’s either something wrong with your skills or something wrong with your world.
And there’s nothing wrong with my skills.
What if one pill gave you the ability to read four books in a single evening and remember every word? What if you could learn a language in an afternoon, or write a book in a week? Could you walk away from a drug that would basically give you superpowers? While some of us might ask ourselves these questions to make a traffic snarl less agonizing, in The Dark Fields, Alan Glynn constructs a captivating scenario in which they are anything but abstract.
Rupert Holmes’ Swing has more than a touch of noir—and its own soundtrack. Set in San Francisco in 1940, vagabond jazz musician Ray Sherwood has been made a very interesting proposition. A beautiful, young Berkley music student wants him in a most peculiar way. She’s won an international contest for composers, and her piece needs to premiere at the Golden Gate Exposition in just a few weeks. What she needs from Ray are his talents to orchestrate her music for many instruments. Ray is enchanted by Gail’s breezy joie de vivre and her snappy patter even as his own troubled past makes him hesitate. But the tenor veers from sweet romance to dangerous liaison when a lovely woman plunges to her death mere feet from the happy couple, changing this composition’s theme from serenade to police siren.
Berlin, 1931. A grim police station hallway, lined with photographs of unidentified victims of murder, accidental or unattended deaths. This is the Hall of the Unnamed Dead, and where crime reporter Hannah Vogel is horrified to discover a picture of her brother, Ernst. Delving into his murder, Hannah discovers that her cross-dressing, cabaret singer brother had a complicated and secret life involving high-level Nazis, stolen treasures – and a 5-year-old orphan who insists that Hannah is his mother.
A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell reads like a black and white movie, but explores every shade of gray. Trains and fog and endless cigarettes cast a pall of smoke over everything. It evokes the shifting loyalties, fears and grim weariness of every day Germans trying to keep their heads down as the Nazis rise to power.
As Hannah digs deeper into her brother's death, she is pulled into a web of lies, deceit, and deadly secrets.
I am a hopeless romantic, so of course I fell in love with Sarah Addison Allen’s charming books. She writes adult fairy tales where love is worth the risks. Pack her four novels in your beach bag and enjoy. The books are magical. The Peach Keeper, her latest work, is about what happens when secrets come out in the open. Walls of Water, North Carolina, has strange breezes that sound like whispers of secrets. Regret haunts the main characters and smells like lemons.
Twins Colin and Paxton Osgood, Willa Jackson, and Sebastian Rogers all went to high school together. They were known as the Princess, the Stick Man, the Joker and the Freak. Happiness has eluded all of them. Paxton Osgood is thirty years old, unmarried, and living at home, and president of the Women’s Society Club. Colin has run away from Walls of Water, his rigid ways, and his heritage. Willa has settled for a quiet life running a sporting goods store and doing laundry regularly every Friday night. Sebastian, now a dentist, has come back home but must face his difficult past.