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April 3, 2005 Edition

The Unknown Soldier, by Gerald Seymour

Deep in the heart of the Middle East’s Empty Quarter, a man is trying to get back to his family after having been released from prison in Guantanamo. But his release is a mistake on the part of his captors, because Caleb is an excellent actor. And if he stays free and reunites with his family, then one day soon, Caleb will reappear in a major city with a suitcase bomb, only to disappear in a cloud of smoke and rubble, taking many others with him. A spy-thriller from one of the masters of the genre.

The Lost Mother, by Mary McGarry Morris

Twelve year-old Thomas and eight year-old Margaret find themselves shuffled from relative to tent to neighbor in this Depression-era novel set in Vermont. Their father, an itinerant butcher, travels daily in search of farmers who still have enough money to raise livestock. Their mother, the beautiful Irene, has left them. Those around them with the will to take the children don’t have the money, and the one family with the money has a horrible plan. In all the uncertainty and hardship, there is one thing that remains constant: their father’s love.

The Time of New Weather, by Sean Murphy

In an era where gravity fails every time there is a time storm and people are forced to stick themselves to the ground with Velcro, a boy is born with a miraculous gift: that of finding loose change and, when disinterested in the outcome, winning jackpots on slot machines. By the time Buddy grows up, the United States has been bought out by a corporation, he has joined a circus of freaks, and he’s missed meeting his soulmate and love of his life three times. This send-up of American foibles and twisted view of the future makes a funny, though somewhat disturbing, read.

Dillinger in Hollywood, by John Sayles

This is Sayles’ first collection of short stories in 25 years, and it is bursting at the seams with personalities. The title story takes place in a nursing home for Hollywood’s less talented dancers, stunt doubles, and stand-ins from the Golden Age, one of whom announces just before he dies that he is John Dillinger. In “Peeling,” six women sit around a table in Louisiana, peeling crawfish for a restaurant, talking about their lives and giving the reader brief flashes of other eras. Sayles relies on his command of local dialogue and ear for conversation to create vivid and memorable locations for each story.

Revolution no. 9, by Neil McMahon

When Dr. Carroll Monks is abducted at gunpoint, quite naturally, he fears for his life. He finds himself in an off-the-grid encampment full of guns, drugs, and revolutionaries ruled by a sociopath named Freeboot, whose four year-old son is gravely ill. Monks is caught between Freeboot’s psychotic distrust of hospitals and the knowledge that his own survival is linked to the boy’s life. In a race against time, weather, and madmen, he kidnaps the boy and makes a desperate run for a hospital, only to find that the revolution has already begun.

Stop that Girl! by Elizabeth McKenzie

Ann Ransom is only eight when we meet her, sent off to Europe with her eccentric grandmother, whom Ann calls Dr. Frost, while her half-sister is waiting to be born. Subsequent stories reveal Ann’s life piece by piece, as she struggles to seem normal to the outside world, yet not really unwilling to be part of her somewhat strange family. Dr. Frost appears in several stories, kidnapping Ann at 10, then appearing at Ann’s college to spoil Ann’s encounter with Alan Ginsberg. A strong feeling of family and love pervades this masterfully spun story collection.

The Witch in the Well, by Sharan Newman

Part engrossing mystery, part twelfth century historical novel, this is the tenth book in the Catherine LeVendeur mystery series. Catherine is summoned to her grandfather’s castle along with the rest of the extended family where the castle’s well is drying up. Legend says that if the well dries, the castle will fall, and her grandfather is wracked with fear over his home and family’s fate. It is up to Catherine to untangle the threads of legend and magic from the very real events taking place before it is too late.

The Great Indoors, by Sabine Durrant

Matty is a successful London businesswoman, with her own antiques store and a beautiful, well-furnished and impeccable flat. Then her step-father dies and she inherits a cat. Not even a pretty cat, but an old, bony, scruffy cat who doesn’t go with the furniture. Neither does the man who next appears in her life, nor do his kids, but before Matty knows it, she’s in the midst of the chaos of family life and finding she likes it in this light chick-lit romance.

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