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June 11, 2009 Edition

Feathered Serpent, by Xu Xiaobin


Be prepared to work for your reward: readers may find Xu Xuaobin’s novel similar in tone, scope, and texture to those of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Spanning a century of the life of a family from one daughter’s point of view, this is mainly the story of Yushe and her life in China as an unloved, but dutiful, daughter caught in family drama and governmental change. Small vignettes and allegories wind together into a larger pastiche with political undercurrents, showing ordinary women’s lives with their highlights of birth, death, and love. A helpful list of characters along with a glossary of important historical information can be found at the end of the book, so don’t be daunted by the plethora of unfamiliar names that swirl through this sweeping story.

Sherlock Holmes in America, edited by Martin H. Greenberg, Jon L. Lellenberg, and Daniel Stashower


The authors in this collection of Holmes stories have managed to walk a fine line, keeping their own voices clear while evoking the spirit of Doyle in their homages to one of their favorite detectives. All of the stories here take place in the United States, which Holmes’ many fans know has long intrigued the great detective. Some mysteries involve notable characters from American history, such as Wyatt Earp, Harry Houdini, and Teddy Roosevelt. Others involve ordinary Americans plotting to deceive their parents, gain an inheritance, or regain a way of life lost to time. Following the fourteen short stories are two essays about Doyle and his alter-ego, Holmes, and the text of a speech given by Doyle on a speaking tour of the States titled “The Romance of America.” Altogether, this is a solid and delightful collection, whether you are a fan of Holmes or merely of mysteries.

The Memorist, by M.J. Rose


This companion to “The Reincarnationist” is set in the same world of fantasy and mystery as the first novel, but follows the life of Meer Logan, haunted since childhood by faint strains of music and visions of another place. She thought that she’d managed to excise the sad and sometimes scary visions from her life but when she sees a photograph of an elaborate box with connections to Beethoven that resembles one she drew repeatedly as a child, she realizes that all she’s managed to do is suppress them. Now Meer finds herself drawn into a thousand-year old mystery involving the secret of reincarnation and a magic flute with a song all its own. The treasure hunt is on, and there are many players – some of them dangerous.

Black Noir, edited by Otto Penzler


Fifteen crime and detective stories by fifteen African-American writers are collected here for your enjoyment. Some, like “House of Tears,” by Gary Phillips, could be about people of any race. Others, like “John Archer’s Nose,” by Rudolph Fisher, capture a time, place, and people so completely that they could only take place as written. There is quite a range of publishing dates: the oldest story in the collection was originally published in 1889, two of the stories are newly written for this book, and the remaining are scattered through time, giving readers a look at changing customs and society in the United States.

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