As promised, there is no historical fiction this week, but I read some really great stuff! Summer is a time when I read a lot of thrillers, and if you’re like me, then these two should go to the top of your reading list. Here’s what I read this week:
This is the first book I’ve read by Sternbergh, but it will not be the last. For my teacher and parent friends – if you ever read the book Holes, by Louis Sachar, this reminded me of a grownup version of that book. The plot is not exactly the same, it’s more like the feeling and tone of the book.
In this story, scientists have developed a procedure that allows them to wipe out particular memories from a person’s mind. This was done with the intention of helping victims of trauma to erase the events that they had suffered through. However, it is now used on criminals, to erase memories of the crimes they have committed, as well as large portions of their former lives. Once the criminals’ memories are altered, they are sent to The Blinds, a remote town in Texas, where everyone has had this procedure, except for the sheriff and his deputies. The people living in this town are free to leave at any time, but if they do, they can never come back. Since no one remembers anything about their former life, or who in the outside world might wish them ill, everyone stays. A strange but close community is formed, where the citizens of the town know almost nothing about each other, but have to trust each other anyway. When the story begins, the town is in an uproar over two recent deaths; a suicide and a murder, both by gunshot. The thing is – there are no guns allowed in the blinds. The Sheriff and his deputies now have to figure out who has a gun and stop the person before anyone else dies.
This to me is the best kind of thriller, where you think you know what your reading about, until you don’t. The author has a way of dropping bombshell information in a completely casual way, so that you read something and then have to go back and reread it to be sure you read it correctly. The characters are complicated; all of them criminals, and yet some of them with many redeeming qualities. With their memories wiped out, the question becomes: can a person really change?
A former Marine and policeman, Roland Ford is now a private investigator, called in to help locate a young man missing from a mental health care facility in California, called Arcadia. The missing man, Clay, served in the air force in Iraq, and had difficulty returning to his life after his service. As Roland starts gathering background information on Clay he meets with the doctor who took care of him at Arcadia, as well as the owner and the head of security there. Roland figures out pretty quickly that something strange has been going on with Clay at Arcadia. Clay’s military records appear to have been altered, and everyone Roland speaks to has a different story about Clay’s behavior. As Roland learns more about Clay’s time in the military, and the things he saw and did there, he realizes that Clay’s in more danger than he thought. Roland needs to figure out how to find him, and then he needs to decide whether or not to return him to Arcadia, or to help him tell his story.
This was a well written, fast paced thriller. I wouldn’t call it a mystery, as you understand pretty quickly what Clay must have been through and why he escaped from Arcadia. I will say that this book is not for the faint of heart. There are several violent scenes, including the torture of Muslim prisoners by the U.S. military. I don’t know that the book’s ending is all that realistic, but realism isn’t really what I’m looking for in a summer thriller, so that’s okay with me.
This book comes out August 22nd. I received a free advance copy from Penguin First to Read and am happy to give an honest review.
Jean Perdu owns a floating bookshop in Paris. He can find exactly the right book for every customer, simply by talking to them for a few minutes and asking them some questions about themselves. Jean seems to know just what each person needs to read in order to be happy. But Jean hasn’t been happy himself for a long time. Twenty years ago, the woman he loves left him without a goodbye, just a letter in a sealed envelope that he has never opened. At the beginning of the story, after twenty years, Jean finally opens the letter to read his lover’s final words to him. What he reads makes him set off on a journey to the south of France in his book barge, looking for resolution to his past.
This is not really a book about a bookshop. It’s a book about grief and grieving, and loss, and heartbreak, and love, and friendship. It’s a book about a man who uses books to solve problems and deal with emotions and save people’s lives. I loved the writing, the book references, and the characters in this story. They are the kind of characters you wish were real people that you could invite over for dinner. Allow me to play Jean, the bookseller, for a moment and say that this is the book to read if you are grieving the loss of someone you love, if you are newly in love, if you’ve never been in love. This is a great book for anyone to read.
For those of you missing my usual historical fiction picks this week, rest assured there will be some next week. I’ve already started A Piece of the World, by Christina Baker Kline (author of The Orphan Train). Let me know what you’ve been reading lately by posting in the comments below. Happy reading!