Friday, March 05, 2010

bookfinds @ Kittling: Books-- From the Poisoned Pen

I've mentioned before that I don't get many of my book recommendations from fellow book bloggers. That probably makes me sound like some sort of snob, and although that's far from the case, I don't have the time or inclination to worry about it. To me, finding the books I want to read is more important than how (or where) I find them.

This week all my recommendations but one are from the same source: the latest issue of The Poisoned Pen's Booknews. It comes out once per month in PDF form, and you can sign up for it on the Poisoned Pen's website. Since they don't limit themselves strictly to mysteries there, Booknews is a good source for upcoming books in several genres.

Want me to pipe down about the logistics and pipe up about the books? I thought so! If you'd like more information about a book, just click on the book cover.

The Mark by Jen Nadol is the only recommendation this week that came from someplace other than the Poisoned Pen. I read about this book on Beth Fish Reads. "Cassandra Renfield has always seen the mark—a glow around certain people reminiscent of candlelight. But the one time she mentioned it, it was dismissed as a trick of the light. Until the day she watches a man awash in the mark die. After searching her memories, Cassie realizes she can see a person’s imminent death. Not how or where, only when: today. Armed with a vague understanding of the light, Cassie begins to explore her 'gift,' seeking those marked for death and probing the line between decision and destiny."

The Secret Keeper by Paul Harris. "Sierra Leone's decades-long civil war and its tragic legacy of lost boy soldiers serve as the backdrop for Harris's debut. When Danny Kellerman, a British journalist in the midst of a flourishing career and a faltering marriage, receives an unexpected note pleading for help from Maria Tirado, a children's relief worker who was his lover during his brief assignment in Sierra Leone four years earlier, he does a Google search on her. To his horror, Danny learns that Maria was murdered before her note reached him in what authorities in Sierra Leone are sweeping under the carpet as a botched roadside robbery. Determined to learn the truth, Danny finagles his way back to West Africa, where he uncovers dangerous truths that suggest his government and his friends aren't the upstanding paragons he took them for.

Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian. "The morning after her baptism into the Rev. Stephen Drew's Vermont Baptist church, Alice Hayward and her abusive husband are found dead in their home, an apparent murder-suicide. Stephen, the novel's first narrator, is so racked with guilt over his failure to save Alice that he leaves town. Soon, he meets Heather Laurent, the author of a book about angels whose own parents' marriage also ended in tragedy. Stephen's deeply sympathetic narration is challenged by the next two narrators: deputy state attorney Catherine Benincasa, whose suspicions are aroused initially by Stephen's abrupt departure (and then by questions about his relationship with Alice), and Heather, who distances herself from Stephen for similar reasons and risks the trip into her dark past by seeking out Katie, the Haywards' now-orphaned 15-year-old daughter who puts into play the final pieces of the puzzle, setting things up for a touching twist."

The Devil's Paintbrush by Jake Arnott. "Paris, 1903. Major-General Sir Hector Macdonald, one of the greatest heroes of the British Empire whose career took him from the poverty of the Scottish highlands to becoming the military governor of Ceylon, faces ruin in a shocking homosexual scandal. When he meets the notorious occultist, Aleister Crowley, he finds himself setting out into the night on a wild journey through the sinful city, and the story of his tragedy begins to unfold -- with startling revelations both for the general and the aspiring magician.In a tale that ranges from the battlefields of Sudan and Afghanistan to the Boer Wars, Jake Arnott brings alive a fascinating, forgotten figure of history, and a world trembling on the brink of a brutal new era. Black magic, Kitchener and Islamic revolution are just some of the ingredients in this bold and exhilarating novel, which explores imperialism, sexuality and the very nature of belief with an immediacy that resonates into the present."

Revenge of the Saguaro by Tom Miller. "Tom Miller's Southwest is a vortex of cockfights and cantinas, of black velvet paintings and tacky bolo ties, of eco-militants, border-crossers, and eccentric characters whose outlook is as spare and elemental as the desert that surrounds them. This is Miller's turf. With wit and insight, he reveals how the clichés of romanticism and capitalism have run amuck in his homeland. When a saguaro cactus outside Phoenix kills its own assassin, it becomes clear that no other guide to the Southwest manifests such a clear moral vision while reveling in the joy of this magnificent land and its people. Originally published by National Geographic as Jack Ruby's Kitchen Sink, it received the Gold Award for Best Travel Book in 2000 from the Society of American Travel Writers."

Ruby's Spoon by Anna Lawrence Pietroni. "In 1933, Ruby Abel Tailor is 13 years old, growing up in the town of Cradle Cross, in the heart of England's coal-dusted Black Country. Ruby lives with her grandmother, works at a chip shop, and dreams of running away. One day, a mysterious stranger arrives: elegant, white-haired Isa Fly, who has come to town to fulfill her dying father's request that she find a long-lost half-sister. Eccentric Isa quickly draws the scorn of the townspeople, especially after she and Ruby befriend the owner of the town's main industry, Blick's Button Factory. As Blick's tips into a steep financial decline, prized possessions all over town go missing, and Ruby questions Isa's motives. If savored for character and atmosphere, fans of Hardy, Dickens, and, more recently, Michael Faber and Sarah Waters will find much to enjoy."

The Poisoner's Handbook by Deborah Blum. "Pulitzer Prize–winning science journalist Blum makes chemistry come alive in her enthralling account of two forensic pioneers in early 20th-century New York. Blum follows the often unglamorous but monumentally important careers of Dr. Charles Norris, Manhattan's first trained chief medical examiner, and Alexander Gettler, its first toxicologist. Moving chronologically from Norris's appointment in 1918 through his death in 1936, Blum cleverly divides her narrative by poison, providing not only a puzzling case for each noxious substance but the ingenious methods devised by the medical examiner's office to detect them. Before the advent of forensic toxicology, which made it possible for the first time to identify poisons in corpses, Gettler learned the telltale signs of everything from cyanide (it leaves a corrosive trail in the digestive system) to the bright pink flush that signals carbon monoxide poisoning. In a particularly illuminating section, Blum examines the dangers of bootleg liquor (commonly known as wood, or methyl, alcohol) produced during Prohibition. With the pacing and rich characterization of a first-rate suspense novelist, Blum makes science accessible and fascinating."

The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry. "Charles Unwin, a clerk who's toiled for years for the Pinkerton-like Agency, has meticulously catalogued the legendary cases of sleuth Travis Sivart. When Sivart disappears, Unwin, who's inexplicably promoted to the rank of detective, goes in search of him. While exploring the upper reaches of the Agency's labyrinthine headquarters, the paper pusher stumbles on a corpse. Aided by a narcoleptic assistant, he enters a surreal landscape where all the alarm clocks have been stolen. In the course of his inquiries, Unwin is shattered to realize that some of Sivart's greatest triumphs were empty ones, that his hero didn't always come up with the correct solution."

That's it for this week. Did any of these titles attract enough of your attention to warrant adding them to your own wish list? Or was it a book cover or two that spoke to you? Which ones? (You know how nosy I am!)


  1. Secrets of Eden is definitely on my wish list!

  2. I think you've seen my wish list. I have Secrets of Eden, Ruby's Spoon, and Poisoner's Handbook near the top of my TBR. They all look great. And I can't wait to finish up The Mark.

  3. Thanks for the recommendation of where to find good myseries!

  4. Kathy-- That one looks really good, doesn't it?

    Beth-- I swear I haven't been peeking at your TBR stack! LOL

    Harvee-- You're very welcome. Sources like this should never be secret!

    Sheila-- That seems to be the popular one in the batch this week! :)


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