We’re only a few weeks away from that cyclical swing, when the days reach their peak for sun and length, and things start to swing back toward the short and dark. It’s hard to say if some of this week’s books are hitting the shelves now because it is best to read them in these fulsome sunlit days or if publishing is already shifting to darker stuff.
Like, Tentacle Kitty’s first coloring book. “The Pink One,” as she is called by her devotees, isn’t as terrifying as she might seem. She’s actually very pleasant, but she’s lost. Cut off from her own tree-drenched planet by some weird space burp, The Pink One only wishes to find her way back to the land where all cats have tentacles. It seems like a reasonable story arc, right?
Actually, we were thinking of John Connolly’s new Charlie Parker novel, The Woman in the Woods. We like Connolly around here. Quite literary in his craft, but also quite capable of drenching the world with a supernatural shroud. Nothing is quite as it seems in a Charlie Parker novel, but it all has a “rational” explanation. The trick is how far out into the weeds you are willing to go for the sake of this explanation, and whether or not you can find your way back. In The Woman in the Woods, Parker has been hired to investigate a death and a birth. There was a woman who died, and her baby—born shortly before her death—has gone missing. Naturally, other folks are involved, and things get odd and strange and dark.
Of course, this time of year might be better spent luxuriating under a canopy of green instead of devouring a dark tome. In his book, Yoshifumi Miyazaki introduces us to Shinrin Yoku, the Japanese art of forest bathing. Which is to say: leaving your screens at home, and spending some time among the trees. Naturally, this book doesn’t spend two hundred pages telling you how to get out into the woods; rather, it talks about how to bring the woods home with you. And some of that is metaphysical and some of it is spiritual. But there are some practical bits as well.
And speaking of getting lost in the woods, James McLaughlin’s debut novel, Bearskin, is out this week. Folks like C. J. Box and Ace Atkins call it “visceral,” and “raw,” and an “intricately written thriller,” which is the sort of buzz we like to hear. McLaughlin’s story follows Rice Moore, who is hanging out in a Appalachian forest preserve, mostly to put some distance between himself and some bad dudes in a Mexican drug cartel, but also because, you know, healing powers of nature and all. Naturally, Moore tangles with the locals over their perceived rights to the animals in the area, and things get out of hand. In that visceral, raw, and intricately written sort of way.
And speaking of well-written mysteries, Martin Walker is back this week with a new Bruno novel. Bruno, as you may recall, is Chief of Police in the Dordogne region of France, a place known for its sumptuous landscapes, fabulous wines, and exquisite cuisine (all rendered in to-die-for detail by Walker). In A Taste for Vengeance, Bruno is called upon to investigate the death of a British woman and her traveling companion. Was it a double murder? A murder-suicide? Were state secrets involved? Will this investigation delay lunch? So many questions . . .
And in keeping with our concern about the coming darkness overhead, we have Jacqueline Carey’s new standalone fantasy novel, Starless. An epic tale about a world where the night sky is void of stars, Starless follows Khai—sworn shadow of a royal personage—and Zariya, a young woman who is key to understanding how and why the gods were thrown down from the heavens and bound to the earth. Carey is no stranger to epic world-building, and Starless is a grand tour across a delightfully well-crafted landscape.
And speaking of well-crafted landscapes, Laurie R. King’s adventures of Mary Russell and her well-known husband Sherlock Holmes continues with Island of the Mad. It’s 1925, and Mary is tasked with finding an eccentric aunt who has wandered off from Bedlam to places unknown. Well, it’s not all that unknown. More like “unsupervised.” Anyway, Aunt Viv is in Venice, which is handy for Sherlock because his brother, Mycroft, has asked that he look into reports of this new fad called “fascism,” along with the fellow Mussolini, who seems to be a big proponent. Expertly mixing historical facts and fabricated notions with dry wit and clever aplomb, King’s series about Mary continues to get better and better.
And speaking of clever ideas, Sabine Hossenfelder wants to talk about physics. In fact, what she really wants to talk about is how physics has gone astray. Much like daft Aunt Viv, physics research—in Dr. Hossenfelder’s opinion—has lost its grip on reality. In Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray, she argues that there’s a lot of googly-eyed nonsense about theoretical stuff that can’t actually be proven by today’s technology. Since we’ve gotten “oooh, it’s all so dreamy” in that Grey’s Anatomy marathon sort of way, we’ve neglected to get busy with actually verifying stuff. Dr. Hossenfelder would like us to get back to answering some questions that we can actually prove. More hard science and a little less “la la la” at the chalkboard, as it were.
We dig that the physicist who wrote “Particle Production in Time Dependent Gravitational Fields” for her Masters degree is leading the charge for more grounded science.
And speaking of grounding ourselves in reality, we also have Drew Sheneman’s Don’t Eat That, a whimiscal story about a hungry bear. Now, Bear has spent most of his life in the zoo, and when he’s suddenly dropped off in the woods, well, he’s not quite sure what to do when his stomach starts rumbling. Fortunately, a friendly Girl Scout who is working on her Wildlife Buddy merit badge volunteers to help Bear figure out what he shouldn’t eat (Girl Scouts, rocks) and what he should eat.
It’s kind of like the wave versus particle discussion in physics, but with better pictures and a clearer narrative risk.
And finally, we have The Color of Bee Larkham’s Murder by Sarah J. Harris. Somewhere along the color wheel near The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (red) and The Rosie Project (yellow), we have the story of Jasper Wishart, who is synaethestic, which is to say that his sensory perceptions include a rather dizzying degree of color. You know how marketing copy for all the fancy new phones talk about “millions of colors”? Well, Wishart can name them all, and because he is face-blind, this multitudinity of pastelization is how he keeps everyone straight. Which helps as he struggles to find out who murdered Bee Larkham, his idiosyncratic neighbor.
And lo and behold, as we started with darkness, we end with a prismatic spray of color. It’s almost like were doing some science experiment here or something. Ah, the magic of books. Keep on reading, devoted page-turners. We have Bingo cards at the front counter, and we want to know what you’ve been reading. In fact, we have another of our delightful Book Club meetings next week (Thursday), and it’s likely that we’ll actually be able to live up to the club’s name and have it outside, around the campfire.