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September 3, 2009 Edition

Sleepwalking in Daylight, by Elizabeth Flock

Sam despairs about her life – her adopted 17 year-old daughter, Cammy, has turned goth-ey and uncommunicative, her husband, Bob, has disconnected himself from the family, and Sam wants to know: what’s in this life for her? It seems like the only happy people are the 8 year-old twins. Through chapters that alternate between Sam and Cammy, Flock documents the affair that Sam starts with a guy she meets at Starbucks, the disintegration of her marriage, and Cammy’s escalating risky behaviors. Thought provoking, but don’t pick this up if you want a happy ending.

Blindspot, by Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore

When Stewart Jameson escapes his Scottish debtors by emigrating to the American colonies, he advertises for an apprentice to help him as he reestablishes his portraiture business. The “lad” who responds is really a lass: Fanny Easton, the fallen daughter of a leading family. Much to Jamie’s chagrin, he finds his new apprentice strangely attractive, even though the lad seems to be hiding something. The arrival of Jamie’s black friend muddles things further: though he holds three university degrees, Dr. Ignatius Alexander has been seized as a slave and is now hiding out in Jamie’s home. When a prominent politician is murdered and a black man is arrested, it is more than Alexander can bear – he vows to solve the mystery and clear the name of the accused. This bawdy historical novel based on a true crime is part mystery, part romance, and part social commentary, in a somewhat overblown but entertaining style.

Esther’s Inheritance, by Sandor Marai

Originally published in Hungarian in 1939, this story is a work of art even in translation. Esther’s former beau smooth-talked her out of her money before marrying her sister years ago. Lajos is a pathological liar who could charm the birds out of trees and who vanished from Esther’s life after her sister died. Now he’s telegrammed her to announce his imminent arrival, children in tow, for a visit, and it is with much delightful trepidation that Esther prepares for what she knows will be a mentally and physically exhausting day with the man whom, despite everything, she still loves.

Over and Under, by Todd Tucker

Andy and Tom have been best friends for as long as they can remember, but now, in the summer of 1979, the two twelve year olds are finding things changing. It’s never mattered before that Andy’s dad is in management at the Borden Casket Company, or that Tom’s dad is a union laborer, but suddenly, now it does. Interwoven with the boys’ story of their summer days spent exploring caves and practicing with their Scout rifles is the story of a town at war with itself, of sabotage and line-breaking, violence and friendships.

The Séance, by John Harwood

The strong tradition of Victorian gothic mysteries (think Wilkie Collins, Shirley Jackson, and Mary Shelley) forms the backbone of this compelling novel. Constance is the heir to both a decrepit mansion and a mystery in the form of a packet of old letters. Though warned by her solicitor to “burn the Hall and plough the earth with salt,” she has few other options (and after reading the letters) a great curiosity to see Wraxford Hall. Accompanied by an entourage from the Society for Psychical Research, who believe the Hall, with its legends of ghosts and paranormal phenomena, will allow them to prove or disprove their theories, Constance makes the journey and finds herself in a mystery of human devising.

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