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July 14, 2006 Edition

The Secret River, by Kate Grenville.

In Australia much of the land was settled by convicts and their families: one such convict was Will Thornhill. Convicted of stealing lumber in London in the late 1700s, Will, his wife, and their young son are sent to Sydney to build a new life. When his sentence is served, he is a free man with the right to claim land for himself. But what builds one community destroys another, and though the land appears untouched and unclaimed, Will soon discovers it is very much occupied. To keep what he thinks of as his part of this beautiful new world, he will have to decide where his sympathies lie. Winner of the Commonwealth Prize for 2006.

Sun Storm, by Asa Larsson

When Rebecka Martinsson hears on the radio that someone has been murdered in her hometown, she immediately knows who it must be and decides to stay away. But when her friend Sanna is charged with the murder, Rebecka can’t bring herself to refuse to help. Returning home, she finds that the town has become even stranger than it was when she left, and that motives for the murder range from business dealing to sexual intrigues. This amateur detective police procedural won the Best First Crime Novel Award in Sweden.

A Season of Fire and Ice, by Lloyd Zimpel

Farmer Gerhardt Praeger chronicles his life with his wife and seven sons on the plains of the Dakota Territory in the 1880s. He begins his entries in 1882 with the arrival of a new settler named Beidermann, and many of the entries concern Beidermann, who proves difficult. The community in which they live is small and tight-knit, and the families struggle against nature’s droughts, locusts, and blizzards by helping each other, but Beidermann tests the bonds with his astounding farm success and personal abrasiveness. No wild dramas here, but well-drawn and lively characters who will stay with you.

Sweetie’s Diamonds, by Raymond Benson

Lucy Luv was a porn star who disappeared off the screen in 1980 – rumor has it that she was murdered, but the rumors are wrong. Diane Boston is Teacher of the Year at her Boston high school when her 13-year old son watches his first adult video and thinks he recognizes the lead actress. As Diane struggles to hold her personal and professional lives together in the face of gossip, something much more deadly threatens her family. Lucy Luv, it seems, disappeared with someone else’s diamonds, and now that someone wants them back.

The Ghost Brigades, by John Scalzi

Set in the same universe as “Old Man’s War,” this is the story of Jared Dirac, a Special Forces clone created from a renegade scientist who has defected to the enemy. Dirac is the only one who can help the Colonial Defense Forces unravel the mystery of Boutin’s defection, but time’s running out in the battle against the alien races allied against humanity.

Penumbra, by Carolyn Haines

Unlike Haines’ previous lighthearted mysteries, this is a dark and tantalizing look at post-WWII life in a small town, where unspoken tensions between blacks and whites run deep. Jade, the unacknowledged half-black daughter of the white town socialite, is chilled to hear that her white half-sister has been raped and left for dead and her beloved young niece has disappeared. With the help of a white sheriff’s deputy, she works to find Suzanna before it’s too late, always aware of her tenuous place in society and her need to move carefully lest racial violence erupt.

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