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December 13, 2012 Edition
These two collections are part of a series (we own many, but not all – use “series” to look up “Akashic noir” to find out which we own) which collects short mysteries and crime fiction set in the title’s locale. None of the series’ stories have been previously published, and the majority are excellent (some of the internationally-themed misses might be due to a difference in story-telling style). Most of the stories are written by natives to the area, and armchair travelers will get a real sense of the geography and culture of the place along with their (often) bloody thrills. Look for international spots, like Copenhagen, Haiti, and Mumbai, and more familiar American locations, including Texas, Seattle, and New Jersey.
When Shutov returns to St. Petersburg after twenty years as a writer in Paris, he hopes the Motherland will rejuvenate him and give him a new outlook on life. He wants to find out what it means to be, as he tells his Parisian girlfriend, “Soviet and not Russian,” but he discovers that the people have brushed “Soviet” off and hurried, post-perestroika, to become Russian again. Shutov looks up an old girlfriend from his youth and finds, not the fireplug-shaped babushka he expected, but a svelte and cosmopolitan woman. Lost in the new St. Petersburg, he stays with her and becomes acquainted with the war veteran she is about to evict. As he learns Volsky’s life story, Shutov sees with new clarity the paucity of his own life and in the lives of the new Russians around him. Makine writes beautifully, drawing both from his own experiences as an émigré and from classic Russian authors to highlight life in the new Russia.
The fifth in Giorello’s Christian mystery series featuring Special Agent Raleigh Harmon, this takes Raleigh undercover to the races, where races are being fixed and thoroughbred horses are dying. Unsure how far she can trust her contact, SA Jack Stephanson, Raleigh feels alone, unable to contact her mother who has been institutionalized after a mental break, until her fiancé contacts her. Bad news: he’s feeling alone, too, and seems unwilling to put off their marriage any longer, even though she’s supposed to be undercover. Suddenly, juggling a job that could turn deadly with a mother who doesn’t want to see her and a boyfriend who wants too much is all… too much.
Charles “Shake” Bouchon has finally realized his long-held dream of getting out of the criminal life (he was a great getaway driver) and owning his own restaurant in Belize: life is great. But to get to this point, he borrowed money from Baby Jesus, a vicious drug lord. Now, after Shake thwarts an assassination, his restaurant has been burned to the ground and he’s got a furious Baby Jesus, two assassins, and an FBI agent all hot on Shake’s heels. He’s got no one to turn to except the object of the foiled hit, a mysterious man named Quinn. After he hooks up with Quinn, though, things definitely go from bad to worse. Reminiscent of Carl Hiaasen’s quirky comedic thrillers (but without the environmental spin), this is fast-paced and satisfying.
|Grace L. Dillon|
Read this for the stories or read it for an astute examination of the Native voice in contemporary literature, but if you’re at all interested in either science fiction or indigenous writers, do read it. Dillon is an Associate Professor in Portland State University’s Indigenous Nations Studies program. She analyses nuances of the genre such as “slipstream,” where multiverses and non-linear time infuse stories with traditional native outlooks. Dillon includes indigenous writers from around the world, including Eden Robinson (Haisla/Heiltsuk), Nalo Hopkinson (Taino-Arawak), and Robert Sullivan (Maori). Not everything here is a complete story – Dillon includes excerpts from long works too. Look for widely-published authors like Sherman Alexie, William Sanders, and Leslie Marmon Silko and find tucked between them, authors you’ll be happy to discover.