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September 29, 2011 Edition

The Sojourn

Written by Andrew Krivak

Jozef Vinich is born to immigrant parents living in Colorado, but after his mother is killed in a freak accident, his father, Ondrej, abandons his dreams of making it in America. Taking the baby home to his native village in Austria-Hungary, he remarries and returns to the life of a shepherd, raising his son to follow in his footsteps. But by the time Jozef is in his teens, Austria is involved in World War I, and, having been taught to shoot by Ondrej, he enlists as a sharpshooter. By the time he is 21, he has seen much more of the world than he bargained for, learned to make peace with the ghosts of the men he’s killed, and returned to his home village to find there is nothing there for him. But Ondrej has left him a leather envelope that may hold the key to Jozef’s future – back in America.

The Rhetoric of Death

Written by Judith Rock

After helping his Protestant cousin escape France for the much more lenient Switzerland, former soldier and current Jesuit Charles du Luc expects harsh punishment. Thanks to the help of a powerful relative, though, he is merely exiled to Paris to teach rhetoric and dance at a Jesuit college for the privileged sons of powerful families. But in his first days there, he encounters a runaway student who then turns up dead and Charles finds himself under suspicion. To clear his name, Charles begins investigating the plots and intrigues that swirl around the college, but soon discovers that things are much more serious than he first believed. Readers of historical mysteries (especially, perhaps, Ariana Franklin’s forensic mysteries set in the Middle Ages), will find this 17th century who-dunnit absolutely impossible to put down.

Rule 34

Written by Charles Stross

Set in a future Edinburgh, where technology blends with reality to create virtual worlds accessible to those with the right equipment, this follows Detective Inspector Liz Kavanaugh, head of the Rule 34 unit, as she investigates a series of murders. Each death could be an accident, as various machines go overboard in their intended functions. But D.I. Kavanaugh is convinced that there is a connection between them. Somewhat rawer than Corey Doctorow, this dystopic novel will appeal to many of the same readers.

The Winters in Bloom

Written by Lisa Tucker

Michael is only in first grade, but he’s a smart kid and completely aware of his parent’s fears for him and their struggles to let him meet more people. He knows his mother is watching out the window when the stranger lady comes to his yard to take him to the beach, and to his five-year old mind, that means she approves. But in fact, his mother has looked away and is stunned by the suddenly empty yard. Both parents feel their own pasts are to blame for their precious son’s disappearance, and it is the unraveling and sharing of their previously hidden secrets that is at the heart of this life-affirming novel.

There but for the…

Written by Ali Smith

Quirky and engaging, this is the story of a man who gets up from a dinner party and locks himself in a room belonging to his hosts (who are “relieved the bedroom is ensuite”). Miles refuses to communicate with anyone except in writing, and two days into the ordeal, his hosts (who are excruciatingly aware of propriety and the 18th century furniture) have contacted “friends” based on information in Miles’ phone. But Miles’ “friends” barely know him and their attempts to help, as sincere as they may be, only emphasize Miles’ loneliness. Told from the varied perspectives of Anna, who traveled with Miles for two weeks when they were 17, Mark, who once tried to pick Miles up, May, who was comforted by Miles during a bad time, and Brooke, the precocious child from next door, this is a meditation on the power of fleeting connections.

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