Mailbox Monday is a fun meme hosted by Marcia of The Printed Page. If you'd like to see what others have received in their mailboxes within the past week, just click on that redhead over on the left, and you'll be taken right to the heart of the action.
Between Christmas and January 24 is a period of time that I think of as Binge Month. I savor books given to me at Christmas; I wallow in the wealth of gift cards I've been given; I seek out good deals on the books that have languished on my wish lists. And I chortle with glee when the boxes arrive. I may indulge once or twice more over the course of the year, but this is my main binge time.
I did manage to send 5 books to new Paperback Swap (PBS) foster homes last week, but I received 15 from various sources. Here's the rundown:
- The Box by Richard Matheson (PBS). "Both longtime fans and readers who have never encountered horror and suspense author Matheson should enjoy this collection of a dozen stories originally published in the 1950s and 1960s. In the standout title story, later adapted as a Twilight Zone episode, a discontented husband and wife are presented with a device and told they will get $50,000 every time they press its button. The catch is that every push will cause someone else's death. Many of the other tales pack a similar punch. The collection also includes The Creeping Terror, a vicious parody of the author's home state of California. The inventive plots and spare but convincing portraits of the ordinary men and women caught up by forces beyond their control demonstrate why Stephen King has called Matheson his most significant influence."
- Gone to Ground by John Harvey (Book Depository). "Stephen Bryan, a gay academic specializing in film studies, has been bludgeoned to death in his shower. Cambridge Det. Insp. Will Grayson and Det. Sgt. Helen Walker soon focus on Bryan's spurned lover, Mark McKusick, but the theft of one of Bryan's manuscripts, which deals with a 1950s film star whose great-niece is now one of the bad girls of British cinema, leads the detectives to wonder whether the professor's digging into the past led to his murder."
- Murder in the Marais by Cara Black (PBS). "The initial installment of a projected series of mysteries set in Paris, this standout first novel introduces dauntless private investigator Aimée Leduc. The French-American, whose specialty is computer forensics, is confronted with a seemingly mundane task: to decipher an encrypted photograph from the '40s and deliver it to an old woman in the Marais (the historic Jewish quarter of Paris). When Aimée arrives at the home of Lili Stein to present the photo, however, she finds the woman dead, a swastika carved into her forehead. Thus begins a thrilling, quick-paced chase involving neo-Nazis, corrupt government officials and fierce anti-Semitism."
- Avalanche by Patrick F. McManus (Book Closeouts). "The second Bo Tully whodunit sends the Blight County, Idaho, sheriff into the mountains after local woman Blanche Wilson reports her husband, Mike, missing from the upscale wilderness lodge the couple run. Tully heads into the field to investigate with his father (and predecessor as local lawman), a trip almost cut fatally short by an avalanche. Suspicious of the timing of that apparently natural event, Tully soon finds the corpse of Mike Wilson's business partner and a whopping motive for Blanche to have done away with them both: a multimillion-dollar insurance policy.
- Death in the Truffle Wood by Pierre Magnan (Book Closeouts). "First published in 1978, this delightful mystery from French crime writer Magnan brings to life the quirky, earthy peasant culture of the Provence region. One November evening, Roseline, an enormous, truffle-sniffing pig, escapes from her owner, Alyre Morelon, leading him into the woods, where an unseen figure injures the sow and then runs off. When Superintendent Laviolette arrives from Marseille to investigate the disappearance of five young people, Alyre demands his assistance in identifying Roseline's attacker. The overall humorous tone contrasts with a number of grisly incidents, including the discovery of a body in a freezer and a throat-slitting. The author treats village politics as well as the quarrels and liaisons of his marvelous characters with sly wit and compassion."
- Hell Hole by Chris Grabenstein (Book Closeouts). "John Ceepak and his rookie sidekick, Danny Boyle, of the Sea Haven, N.J., police force look into the apparent suicide of Cpl. Shareef Smith, an Iraqi war vet whose body is discovered in a men's room at a Garden State Parkway rest stop. The loose plot involves a group of local-yokel thieves, a major drug dealer, a squad of soldiers fresh from the Iraqi battlefields and a blowhard senator who's running for president. As ever, the fun derives chiefly from the comic byplay between Danny, who's young, inexperienced and interested in girls and beer, and Ceepak, a straight-shooter who speaks like a robot and adheres to a strict moral code."
- Red Bones by Ann Cleeves (Book Depository). "In Cleeves's excellent third Shetland Island thriller, Insp. Jimmy Perez investigates the shooting death of Mima Wilson, the grandmother of Perez's bumbling if well-meaning underling, Sandy Wilson. While some believe Sandy's cousin Ronald accidentally shot Mima late one night near her croft on Whalsay, a small Shetland island, Perez has his doubts. Mima's land is the site of an archeological excavation led by eager Ph.D. student Hattie James, who recently uncovered a skeleton of indeterminate origin. When another body turns up near the dig site, Perez becomes more suspicious, even though the second death is an apparent suicide. With Sandy's help, he begins to unravel a knot of tall tales and family betrayals that stretches back to a WWII resistance movement known as the Shetland Bus."
- The Star by David Skibbins (Book Closeouts). "Believed killed in an explosion in 1970, Ritter has only recently resurfaced from a life on the run and learned of the existence of his daughter, Fran Wilkins. Now, Fran turns to her long-lost dad for help when her abusive husband, Orrin, a Santa Cruz policeman, declares her unfit because she suffers from bipolar disorder, and moves out with their five-month-old son. Fran steals her baby back from her husband's strict fundamentalist parents, but then lands in the hospital under police guard—rescued from attempted suicide and suspected of murdering her husband."
- Daphne by Justine Picardie (Book Closeouts). "In the late 1950s, du Maurier, determined to establish herself as a serious writer, researched and wrote a biography of Branwell Brontë, the often-overlooked real-life brother of sisters Emily and Charlotte. Flash forward to the present, in which a nameless graduate student seeks out lost secrets about the relationship between du Maurier and John Alexander Symington, the Brontë expert and curator to whom du Maurier dedicated her eventual Brontë book."
- Shadow of the Raven by David Sundstrand (Book Closeouts). "Bureau of Land Management officer Frank Flynn goes looking for bighorn sheep, but finds the bloated corpse of a poacher, left to die without shoes or water, in Sundstrand's well-crafted debut set in the Mojave Desert. Frank teams with reporter Linda Reyes to investigate. Their search for the murderer parallels that of the victim's brothers—Roy, Hickey and Jason Miller—a trio of unrepentant, unwashed misfits whose detecting methods leave a trail of death and destruction. Roy and company mistake Flynn for an illegal guide and force him to lead them into the canyon to hunt down the wealthy trophy hunter likely responsible for their brother's demise. Sundstrand's rugged half Irish, half Native American protagonist as well as the unforgiving desert setting will appeal to fans of western mysteries like Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon series and C.J. Box's Joe Picket novels."
- The Devil's Staircase by Helen Fitzgerald (Book Depository). "Bronny, a young Australian, finds herself down and out in London. She's a sweet girl who has spent her teenage years in a fearful, cautious bubble. She's never taken drugs, had sex or killed anyone. Within six weeks she's done all three. A group of backpackers break into an abandoned London townhouse seeking a rent-free life of debauchery. They don't realise someone's already there: a terrified woman bound and gagged in the basement. "The Devil's Staircase" combines a chick-lit voice and a dark crime noir environment. Not for the faint-hearted, "The Devil's Staircase" is funny, sexy and disturbing."
- Six Suspects by Vikas Swarup (Book Closeouts). "Journalist Arun Advani sets the scene by describing the circumstances of the killing of industrialist Vicky Rai, shot to death at his farmhouse near Delhi, at a party celebrating his acquittal for a particularly callous murder. In the crime's immediate aftermath, the authorities find six guests with firearms among the more than 300 in attendance. They include a Bollywood megastar, a corrupt former politician who may be possessed by the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi, and Larry Page, an unbelievably stupid American constantly mistaken for his more famous namesake (the cocreator of Google). Alternating flashbacks among the six suspects build to multiple false endings."
- Blind Eye by Stuart MacBride (Book Closeouts). "Det. Sgt. Logan McRae investigates a series of brutal attacks on Polish immigrants. A local xenophobe, bitter about the influx of Polish workers, appears to be the culprit, but when one of the city's local crime bosses is assaulted, McRae begins to wonder if the violence is the result of a brewing turf war between Scottish crime figures and encroaching Eastern European thugs. Meanwhile, McRae and foul-mouthed Det. Insp. Roberta Steele are stuck babysitting Rory Simpson, a pedophile who becomes an inadvertent—but key—witness. MacBride's liberal use of humor, especially in the often slapstick rapport between McRae and the crusty Steele, never detracts from the action. A lesser writer would have fumbled such a complexly layered plot, but MacBride is in his element the more dark and twisted the story—and characters—become."
- The Ice Princess by Camilla Läckberg (Book Closeouts). "Returning to her hometown of Fjallbacka, Sweden, after the funeral of her parents, writer Erica Falck finds a community on the brink of tragedy. The death of her childhood friend, Alex, is just the beginning. Her wrists slashed, her body frozen in an ice-cold bath, it seems that she has taken her own life. Erica conceives a book about the beautiful but remote Alex, one that will answer questions about their own shared past. While her interest grows into an obsession, local detective Patrik Hedstrom is following his own suspicions about the case. But it is only when they start working together that the truth begins to emerge about a small town with a deeply disturbing past."
- Addie Clawson, Appalachian Mail Carrier by Julia Taylor Ebel (Book Depository). "Never mind that Addie Clawson didn't own a car. She didn't even know how to drive one when the U.S. Postal Service hired her to deliver the mail through the mountains in Boone, North Carolina. That was on Friday. By Monday, she had a plan. Never mind that in 1936 only men delivered the mail, and women didn't do that sort of work. Never mind that the rough roads, blizzards, and floods made the life of rural mail carriers difficult. Against all odds, Miss Addie was determined to deliver the mail. For 30 years, that's just what she did. Here is the story of one pioneering woman's courage, dedication, and kindness."