Delightfully, we open this week with news that Helen Macdonald's new book, Vesper Flights, is on our shelves. Previously, Macdonald enchanted us with her memoir H is for Hawk, and this time around, she's gathered many handfuls of essays for Vesper Flights.
We're not spoiling anything when we say that if these essays don't get you out of the house and into the wild, you must be, well, nailed to your sofa or something.
Don't be nailed to your sofa. One: it's not very comfortable, and two: it's awkward when you have—oh, look at the time! Why aren't you outside already?
Hello and welcome to the five year anniversary of A Good Book newsletter. According to Math, this is the week, but we know we had trouble counting sequentially here and there, so whatever. Five years it is. So many books. Let's talk about some more, shall we?
Kevin Hearne is returning to his Iron Druid world this week with Ink & Sigil. Now, it's not exactly an Iron Druid book, in that old pal Atticus O'Sullivan isn't the protagonist in this one. No, that falls to Al MacBharrais, a "sigil agent" for the Fae, who has some peculiar locution issues, as well as a nasty curse which is—well, more entertaining than nasty, really. If you know Hearne at all, then you know this is going to be a light-hearted, spirited, and fun romp through the urban fantasy landscape. Word is that Hearne has already turned in the second one in this series, so there won't be a long wait until we find out what happens next.
Meanwhile, Richard Kadrey continues to find ways for Sandman Slim to annoy the stuffing out of everyone. Ballistic Kiss is the hundred and fourth—no, wait, the eleventh—novel in the tales of one James Stark, who has, yet again, escaped from certain death to return to a Los Angeles that is about to be turned into a magma-infused landscape or something or other.
Kadrey writes these as long narrative, without any real breaks (what the rest of us would call "chapters"), and it's always been an interesting conceit. It certainly makes the books hard to put down, but at the same time, it does seem a really long story. Either way, word is that this is the penultimate Sandman Slim tale. Which sorta makes us feel like we should get caught up NOW because the next book is going to be on fire when it arrives.
And speaking of things on fire, Carl Hiassen is back this week with another absurdist crime novel set in always headline-ready Florida. This time around, we've got a highly placed nincompoop who is code-named "Mastadon," a gaggle of martini-swilling society women, a giant python, and a "wildlife relocation expert," who all attempt to solve the mystery of a missing member of the martini-swillers. Now, these big brains can't wrap their heads around the idea that their missing member might be that large lump in the middle of the python, and they decide that their pal has been abducted by aliens.
Seriously. It, uh, gets stranger from there, and weirdly enough, it reads like a giant metaphor for something. But maybe it's just a crime novel. You should decide for yourself. But don't drink while reading. You will snort stuff out your nose. It's Hiassen, after all. You should know better by now.
Speaking of stories about wild animals, here's Kodi, the story of a gentle Kodiak bear who makes a new friend, and then misses her terribly when she returns to Seattle. What's a bear to do? Well, a bear going on an adventure is what a bear does. Jared Cullum's art makes this YA graphic novel a real treat. Don't miss it!
And since it is the last week of the month, we get a new batch of cosy mysteries.
Here's Killer Kung Pao, the latest in the Noodle Shop Mysteries series by Vivien Chien. What starts as a pair of divas competing for attention in the restaurant turns to murder when one of the two ends up dead, having been electrocuted in a foot bath. It's up to Lana Lee, noodle shop manager and amateur sleuth to piece together the clues before someone else ends up boiled and fried.
And then there's Dough or Die by Winnie Archer. Business is about to explode for Yeast of Eden, an artisan bakeshop, when the reality TV people come calling. The locals are excited for the exposure. So excited in fact, that one of them ends up dead, and it's up to amateur sleuth and apprentice bread maker Ivy Culpepper to solve the crime before someone else gets burned . . .
Oh, and here's Thread and Dead by Elizabeth Penney. This time around, the story revolves around a vintage apron shop owner, who is—wait for it—also an amateur sleuth. When an ambitious teaching assistant is found murdered, it's up to Iris Buckley to find out who did the deed.
One more! This one is Gourd to Death, a Pie Town Mystery by Kirsten Weiss. Our amateur sleuth works in the local pie shop, and she's got to juggle judging the pie making contest and vicious criminal behavior if this fall is going to be preserved.
There's a squash joke on the cover, but we're against squash, so we're opted for that canning joke instead. It's not completely on brand, but squash are never on brand, in our opinion, so . . .
Meanwhile, here's Winter Counts, a smart and atmospheric debut by David Heska Wandbli Weiden. Virgil Wounded Horse is the fist of South Dakota's Rosebud Indian Reservation. It's his job to fix things when the tribal council or the American legal system fail to do the job. It's not the best job, but he's good at it. And then heroin finds its way onto the res, and that's when Virgil discovers there's the job and there's the job. Can he save his people from themselves and a world that doesn't care about them? This one is going to drag you with it. Wear heavy pants, you know?
We bet you didn't know you needed a new history of the Vikings, did you? Neither did we, but Neil Price's Children of Ash and Elm is calling to us from over there on the shelf. Price has spent a long time thinking and researching about the ancient Scandinavian cultures, and we're lucky that he's put all of those thoughts and notes in one elegant and nuanced collection.
And finally, we're going to note that you'll have to get your own copy of the new Tarot book from Taschen's Library of Esoterica, because, no, you can't borrow Mark's. It's big, it's gorgeous, and it traces many, many threads of the wonderful and strange history of these esoteric cards.