Books Read, 2009

Books read in 2009:

(previous lists: 2004, 2003, 2002)

January

Scarpetta (2008) by Patricia Cornwell. Forensic crime fiction.  Excellent.

Offshore (1979) by Penelope Fitzgerald. For bookgroup. Won Booker Prize. Not sure why …

February

Before the Frost (2004) by Henning Mankell. Police procedural/thriller set in parts of Sweden and in Copenhagen, Denmark. Begins with the killings at Jonestown, Guyana. Good.

Jesus’ Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount (1996) by Richard Rohr. Some quibbles, but in all, I liked it and found it inspirational.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (2007) by Barbara Kingsolver. Tedious, amusing, informative, interesting, irritating, engaging, by turns. She makes lots of arguments for eating locally, sustainably, and humanely grown everything, including animals.

The Oldie Annual 2009 (2008). Hardbound collection of essays and articles from The Oldie magazine. Mostly LOL hilarious, sometimes poignant, occasionally baffling.

One Step Behind (1997; transl. 2002) by Henning Mankell, a Kurt Wallander crime novel, set mostly in Sweden. Liked it, found it very engaging (read it in three days), though in some ways it was too similar to his only Linda Wallander crime novel, which I read earlier in the month.

March

Firewall (1998; transl. 2002) by Henning Mankell, a Kurt Wallander crime novel, set mostly in Sweden, and a bit in Angola. Again, there were plot aspects in this novel that were similar to bits in the other two novels of his that I’ve read. And as in the other two, the killers’ pov is offered at times.

Lethal Legacy (2009), 11th in the Alex Cooper series, set in NYC, by Linda Fairstein. So-so. I like the tone and ambiance of this series, but often there’s too much historical information packed in, awkwardly.  This one was about rare books and maps, rare map and book collecting,  and the history of the New York Public Library.

The Man Who Smiled (1994; transl. 2005) by Henning Mankell. Another in the Wallander series. First one I’ve read in the series that didn’t include the killer’s pov.

The Fifth Woman (1996; transl. 2000) by Henning Mankell, in the Wallander series. This one includes killer’s pov. Motive is revenge for others’ sakes, or for the sake of ‘justice.’  Besides the murder plot, there is a small sidebar on vigilante justice and citizens’ militias in the face of perceived police ineffectiveness and rising societal violence.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940), the classic by Carson McCullers. I liked it. Set in the poor South in the late 1930s, it’s a bit dismal and it also seems true.

Scattered Graves (2009) by Beverly Connor in the Diane Fallon series.  Set in Georgia. As usual, the constant level of action that Fallon is involved in without actually being killed (or even breaking a bone) requires major suspension of disbelief, but I like the series. This one focused on cybercrime.

April

Donna Leon’s The Girl of His Dreams (2008), in the Commissario Guido Brunetti series. This is the second I’ve read in the series and as with the first, I just couldn’t get into it.  Kind of boring, the mysteries not complex or satisfying,  the dialogue only OK. I do like the talk of food and the regular references to the leisurely pace of eating in Italy. This one was about political corruption and ethnic tensions, particularly between the Venetians and the Gypsies (Romanies) living in Venice.  Doubt I will read another.

Still Waters (2007) by Nigel McCrery, apparently the first in a new series set in the UK and featuring DCI Mark Lapslie, who has synaesthesia — he tastes sounds.  The plot focused on a traumatised child who grew into a (seemingly friendly and harmless) psychopathic serial killer.  (Think Miss Marple if she had turned to a life of committing crime instead of a life solving it.) I liked it, though two or three times I found it melodramatic and too obvious.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2008) by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows is probably best described as a romance novel. Our bookgroup is reading it this month (casting about for something light and quick after The Heart is  a Lonely Hunter) , and like many popular bookgroup reads, it’s pretty bad.  It’s an epistolary novel, set in 1946 in the immediate aftermath of the 5-year Nazi occupation of Guernsey, an English island among the Channel Islands between the UK and France. It’s very obvious very early on how it will end and it’s a bit of a slog to get there. The letters are charming, the heroines exceptionally kind and brave, and the plot boring as can be.

Mind’s Eye (published as The Wide-Meshed Net in Sweden, 1993; transl. 2008) by Håkan Nesser,  an Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery, set some place in northern Europe, in a city called Maardam (which Wikipedia says is “in a country which is never named but resembles Sweden, the Netherlands, Poland and Germany. The names however are mostly Dutch.”) First in the series. Felt unbalanced, with most of the book taken up in abstraction, leaving the plot condensed and almost limited to the last few pages. Sometimes people weren’t named, so the reader has to guess whose pov we’re getting, or whose actions are being described.

The Glass Devil (2003; transl. English 2007) by Helene Tursten, apparently the second in the Irene Huss series, set in Göteborg,  Sweden. I liked it a lot. This one concerned Satanism, Christian religion and child pornography, and was set both in Sweden and in London (and briefly in Edinburgh).

The Torso (2000; transl. English 2006) by Helene Tursten, third in the Irene Huss Swedish police procedural series. Set in Göteborg, Sweden and in Copenhagen, Denmark.  Excellent, if very graphic and dark, as you might expect with sadistic necrophilia as its focus.  The characterisation in this series is strong,  and the plotting elements are tight. My only major annoyance with this book was that I knew who did it 100 pages before the police figured it out.  I wondered if they ever would.

All the Colours of Darkness (2008) by Peter Robinson, the 18th in the Alan Banks police procedural series, set in Eastvale (Yorkshire) and London.  I was 3 months on the library waiting list for this! Always worth the wait; Robinson is one of the best crime fiction writers, and Alan Banks and Annie Cabot are sympathetic figures. This one took its cues from Othello, with its successful incitement of jealous rages, with some M16 thrown in for good conspiracy measure.

Ladder of Years (1995) by Anne Tyler. A re-read, for bookgroup. Lovely fiction, set in Baltimore (Roland Park) and the Eastern Shore. My favourite of hers.

May

Detective Inspector Huss (1998; transl. English 2003) by Helene Tursten, first in the Irene Huss Swedish police procedural series. Set in Göteborg, Sweden. My least fav. of the three in this series so far available in English.  Involved Hell’s Angels, skinheads, drug dealing, and a wealthy family and their associates. Set at Advent.

Sidetracked (1995; transl. 1999) by Henning Mankell, a early entry in the Wallender police procedural series. Set in Sweden, mostly in Ystad and Malmo, in summer. Killer’s pov included; motive is avenging injustice done to others via sacrificing the unjust as propitiation.  Other plot aspects include relationships between parents and children, and political corruption and trafficking of under-age prostitutes from South America to Europe.  And betting on World Cup soccer.

Faceless Killers (1991; transl. 1997) by Henning Mankell, the first the Kurt Wallender series. No killer pov. His least dark book, imo, but one that evokes a sense of sadness, grief, loss. Focus on asylum-seekers and the tension between liberal immigration policies and racism. Set from January to early fall, in Ystad, Malmo, Lunnarp, Kristianstad.

Borkmann’s Point (1994; transl. 2006) by Håkan Nesser,  an Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery, set some place in northern Europe, in a town called Kaalbringen. Excellent plot, deft writing. As with so many of these books (crime novels? Swedish/Northern European crime novels?), the motive is ostensibly to avenge another of a perceived injustice.

He Who Fears the Wolf (1997; transl. 2003) 3rd in the Sejer/Skarre series in Norway. An elderly widow in a small village is killed, and the troubled boy who finds the body also reports seeing recently escaped (and roundly feared) mental patient Errki Johrma in the area. Then Johrma turns up as the hostage in a bank robbery, and he’s taken by the robber to hide out in a cabin.

Don’t Look Back (2002; transl. 2002) by Karin Fossum, an Inspector Sejer mystery, set someplace in Norway.  Very readable,with good balance of interior monologue, dialogue, plot activity, atmosphere, etc. Plot OK though stretched believability in spots (especially at the end). Character development, oddly, seemed stronger for the deceased than for the police (Sejer and sidekick Skarre) — unusual in a police procedural series! Children and teens prominent in the book.

Winter Study (2008) by Nevada Barr in the Anna Pigeon National Parks series. This one is set in winter at Isle Royale in Lake Superior, as was Barr’s Superior Death (1994).  Fast-paced, lots of plot and lots of setting. Some animal-on-animal killing and human-on-animal killing, as well as the usual interhuman crimes.  What I like about this series is primarily Anna — her dark humour, her no-frills ‘yes you can!’ approach, her psychic damage, her innate humaneness coupled with an edge that’s both anxious and cynical.

The Indian Bride (2005; aka Calling Out For You), by Karin Fossum in the Inspector Sejer series. Exploration of small-town relationships: gossip, adulteries, repressions, observations from the shadows, whispers, broken friendships, etc.  Though someone is charged with murder, it’s all left rather open-ended whether he’s actually guilty, whether someone else in town did it.  Pet dogs are also a bit of a sidebar. Rather a sweet book, really.

Back When We Were Grownups (2001) by Anne Tyler. Another lovely book. Tyler’s writing is so perceptive, funny, compassionate, down-to-earth honest. When I read her books, I feel that I am really inhabiting the world of the story. This is the story of a widow, a young grandmother who is the step-mother of three daughters and mother of another, who feels in her 50s that she is living a false life, so she gets in touch with a jilted college boyfriend to try to find her true life.

The Return (1995, transl. 2007) by Håkan Nesser,  an Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery, set in fictional Maardam in northern Europe, in which the police return to two old murders, for which a man who has now himself been murdered was convicted on very little evidence. Morally, a particularly interesting ending.  In this case, none of the murders was committed to avenge another.

The Clock Winder (1972) by Anne Tyler. I read this about 15 years ago and much of it came back to me as I re-read it. It’s a novel about a somewhat aimless, passive, agreeable young woman who is terrified that she will inflict permanent damage to others if she acts decisively. She gets a job as a handyman for an older widow in Baltimore’s Roland Park and becomes enmeshed in the woman’s family.

Earthly Possessions (1977) by Anne Tyler. Sort of a variation on, or a rehearsal of, Ladder of Years. In this one, the disaffected woman is kidnapped instead of making a definite choice to leave. I sympathise with her desire to remove clutter.  This book is not set in Baltimore. It’s a road trip to Florida.

June

Sun and Shadow (1999; transl. 2003) by Åke Edwardson, an Erik Winter police procedural novel set in Gothenburg, Sweden. Quite a lot about Winter and his personal life (his father dies, his girlfriend becomes pregnant and moves in). The mystery plot was OK; I felt that the ending was rushed and unsatisfying, and there seems to have been a huge red herring, but I’d have to go back and reread to make sure of that.

Never End (2000; transl. 2006) by Åke Edwardson, an Erik Winter police procedural novel set in Gothenburg, Sweden.  Involves rape and murder. The ending didn’t feel so abrupt in this one as Sun and Shadow but it still wasn’t very convincing. I felt there were lots of threads left hanging. The writing is pleasant to read, though.

Black Seconds (2002; transl. 2007) by Karin Fossum, in the Inspector Sejer series, set in Norway.  Again, children and teens prominent, and again, someone with a developmental disability and/or autism a focal point. Plotting felt good to me. Ending not a big surprise, made sense. Sejer and Skarre are likable characters.

Jar City (2000, transl. 2004, aka Tainted Blood) by Arnaldur Indriðason, the first (in English) in the Inspector Erlendur police procedural series. (The cover blurb calls it a ‘thriller’ but it’s not.) Set in Iceland, mostly in Reykjavik. Not bad. Plotting elements: rape, genetics, parent-child relationships.

Woman with Birthmark (1996, transl. 2009) by Håkan Nesser,  an Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery, set in fictional Maardam in northern Europe.  Killer is avenging wrong done to her mother by systematically killing the men involved. Not much story beyond the plot, which is a little slow.

The Draining Lake (2004, transl. 2007 ) by Arnaldur Indriðason, the fifth (in English) in the Inspector Erlendur police procedural series. Set in Iceland, mostly in Reykjavik, and in East Germany (Leipzig) in the late 1950s. Strong emphasis on socialism and how far from its ideals it strayed in Eastern bloc countries after WWII. Could be considered a reservoir noir novel; although a town isn’t uncovered, a long-dead body is when an Icelandic lake is suddenly drained of water due to an earthquake. Another theme in the book is coincidence.

Voices (2003, transl. 2006) by Arnaldur Indriðason, the fourth (in English)  in the Inspector Erlendur police procedural series. Set in Iceland, mostly at a hotel. There are two plots, one the murder of a middle-aged hotel doorman who had once been a choirboy with an amazing voice, and the other the court case of a boy who seems to have been abused by his father. Much of Erlendur’s interior monologue concerns a pivotal incident from his own childhood.

Olive Kitteridge (2008) by Elizabeth Strout, a Pulitzer Prize winner, read for bookgroup. Not a novel but a series of short stories set mostly in Maine, some of  which focus on Olive Kitteridge, a former math teacher with a strong personality, and some of which simply mention her in passing.  Very quick read. A bit disappointing. The idea is that the reader would see Olive from various angles and perspectives (her son’s, her husband’s, her former students, other people in town, her own sense of herself) but I felt that that was told to us rather than shown to us in most cases. Still, lovely slice-of-life writing, with some insight and humour.

The Princess of Burundi (2006) by Kjell Eriksson, a debut novel that won the Swedish Crime Academy’s award for best crime novel. Set in Uppsala, focuses on the torture and murder of a family man, tropical fish hobbyish, and small-time criminal. I sort of lost the plot somewhere but the writing is good and I look forward to learning  more about some of the police officers.

July

Missing (2000, transl. 2003) by Karin Alvtegen won the Best Nordic Crime Novel in 2000. It’s about a woman on the margins of society who is wanted for brutal murders she hasn’t committed. This is not a police procedural, and in fact police are rarely mentioned other than as faceless dangers to be avoided, because they and the media, sure that this woman is guilty, are relentlessly trying to track her down.  Not so much a crime novel as a thriller, I’d say. Strong development of the primary character (including through flashbacks of her oppressive childhood), good pacing, somewhat disappointing denoument.

Frozen Tracks (2001; transl. 2007) by Åke Edwardson, an Erik Winter police procedural novel set in Gothenburg, Sweden.  No actual murder takes place. This is very much a ‘sins of the fathers’ sort of novel, in which damage done by dads to sons is instrumental in perpetuating further damage in the larger world, with other children and teens as prominent victims. The ending was abrupt again (though the reader has known for a while who the main perpetrator is).  What I particularly enjoy about the series is the rather dark viewpoint of Winters and other cops, and the camaraderie among them.

Awakening (2009) by SJ Bolton. I liked her first book, Sacrifice, and this one was even better. It features Clara, a wild animal vet with a disfiguring scar on her face, and a plague of snakes in a small Dorset village. Clara’s character is interesting, complex, and sympathetically drawn, and the minor characters are also realistically portrayed. The plot is also complex — perhaps a little too. I enjoyed reading it and didn’t want the book to end.

After the Flood (2002) by Peter Turnbull, a British police procedural featuring DCI George Hennessey and DS Yellich, set in Yorkshire. The editing and printing by Severn House were sloppy and distracting  — several typos, and the large font is clunky.  The dialogue was a bit strange in places — again, distracting, though I’m not sure why. I didn’t get a good sense of either Hennessey or Yellich – don’t think I can tell them apart. The mystery plot was solid and satisfying, so I will try another one.  A blurb on a more recent book in the series said that if you like Peter Robinson’s Banks series, you’d like this, but so far that seems quite a stretch: Robinson’s writing and character development is far superior.

Dark Secrets (2002) by Peter Turnbull, a British police procedural featuring DCI George Hennessey and DS Yellich, set mostly in Yorkshire and a bit in London. Better than the previous one I read (After the Flood), though there was one glaring error: the battlefield at Gettysburg was sited in Virginia! Another problem with the series is that too much backstory is repeated from one book to the next, as though each were read as a standalone and the reader needed filling in. This is done more elegantly in other series I read regularly. Even within this particular plot, one observation was repeated at least four times, which just feels like sloppy editing. Otherwise, the mystery was well-plotted and -paced, and I did feel I got to know (and appreciate) both main characters better.

Suite Française (2006) by Irène Némirovsky, a novel written during the German occupation of France in WWII. Actually, it’s just the first two pieces of what Némirovsky envisioned as a 5-part novel; she was arrested and died in a concentration camp in the summer of 1942, before she could finish writing it. The heart of the novel as it exists — which covers the 2-3-week mass exodus from Paris on the eve of the Germans’ occupation of the city in 1940 and the occupation of the provincial villages by the Germans for months afterward (1940-1941) — is the lives of ordinary humans living in extraordinary times, and it is a witness both to the extreme demands made on people of all classes and to their varying abilities to acclimate to the unthinkable — and to maintain the strong boundaries of class distinction while doing it! It was a bit of a slog, especially the second section, but it was also witty, insightful and above all humane throughout. Reading the appendix, letters, and preface to the French edition, which includes a short bio of Némirovsky (whose family had fled Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917), adds depth to the story.

The Cruel Stars of the Night (2007) by Kjell Eriksson, in the series featuring Inspector and single mother Ann Lindell and the others on the Uppsala violent crimes squad. The novel follows Ann at work and home (her young son, dating) as well as the alternately ruthless and befuddled serial killer they’re searching for, whose relationship with her parents  has been complex and unhappy (to say the least) and who feels she has been “abused by words” all her life.  Well-plotted, with characters, even minor ones, who feel real.

August

The Spider’s Web (1998) by Nigel McCrery, one of the ‘Silent Witness’ series featuring Cambridge (England) pathologist Sam(antha) Ryan and Serial Crimes Unit Superintendent Tom Adams.  Set in the small fictitious village  of  Sowerby in Norfolk (not the real one in Yorkshire), the clever plot starts slow and builds momentum as it goes.  Unfortunately, Sam is yet another career-driven and lonely woman (she seems to have only one female friend, whom she doesn’t have time to see socially) who is desperate for the wrong man, a type seen all too often in crime fiction. Besides the atrocious editing of St. Martin’s Press — I counted more than 10 typos and other errors —  the other distraction was that much of the plot centers on ‘the Net’ as they apparently called it in 1998, and the lingo and processes related to ‘the Net’ are dated. This book offered an interesting puzzle and kept me reading well into the night, but I like his newer series better.

The Pure in Heart (2005) by Susan Hill, second in a police procedural series featuring DCI Simon Serrailler and DS Nathan Coates, set in the fictional cathedral town of Lafferton, England.  This one focuses on families: the kidnapping of a child and the disintegration of the family involved, the unpleasantness of an ex-con’s sister and her family, Serrailler’s own family-of-origin dynamics before and after the death of his sister Martha and the birth of his new nephew, Felix.  The plot is really secondary to relationship dynamics and character development in this novel.

The Risk of Darkness (2005) by Susan Hill, third in a police procedural series featuring DCI Simon Serrailler. This one follows directly on the heels of The Pure in Heart and solves the case. Rather a sad novel: much death, people leaving and destroying relationships, leaving jobs, a pervading sense of ‘the damage done. ‘

Our Lady of Pain (2008) by Elena Forbes, a Barnes Murder Squad Mystery, featuring DI Mark Tartaglia and DS Sam Donovan (female), set near London. Sexual deviation (S&M, bondage, incest), cruelty disguised by an angelic face and body, secrets and lies, the poet Swinburne, and the blurred jagged line between love and hate are elements of this story about the murders, about a year apart, of two young women.  Well-written, with characters I cared about and an interesting plot.

Die with Me (2007) by Elena Forbes, the first in the Barnes Murder Squad Mystery, featuring DI Mark Tartaglia and DS Sam Donovan (female), set near London. This one was referred to from time to time in Our Lady of Pain, so I already knew some of the plot and outcome — about a serial killer who preys on vulnerable, depressed, lonely women and girls and involves them in suicide pacts that are not as mutual as they seem — when I started the book.  The motive given for the killer’s actions is twofold: his pathetic childhood and his (perhaps) innate urge to kill, which he likens to an urge to eat when one is hungry. Side plots involve the creepy and apparently charming criminal profiler brought in on the case, the aftermath of Mark’s affair with a pathologist, and adjusting to a new DCI brought in to head the murder team.

Blackwater (1993, transl. 1995) by Kerstin Ekman, is more novel than it is crime fiction. Set in a remote area of Sweden and Norway, mainly at  Midsummer’s Eve in 1974, and then 18 years later.  The pov and times blend together, and the characters interact over time in changing configurations, so I was utterly confused for about 50 pages.  But the writing is compelling and wondrously strange, and the book is complex: long-held secrets and beliefs turn out to be illusions; many events converge as one and a single event disperses itself into many (as in life); the landscape and flora and fauna, and all the six senses, are key elements; the story weaves into itself philosophical views of politics (particularly pertaining to clear-cutting), sex, educational theory, communal living, etc. There is a police officer on the case, at least at first, but in the end it’s the doctor who is really the investigator. . Moody, atmospheric, tense, and at times very dark and primitive, like the smell of woodland soil, a dank well, a thick and ancient eel.

The Zookeeper’s Wife (2007) by Diane Ackerman, a non-fiction book about the Zabinskis, a Polish couple who, horrified by the Nazis and their actions, act humanely and courageously during the unspeakably tragic and harrowing ghetto-ising, liquidation and bombing of their city of Warsaw by the Germans in WWII. Though their zoo is destroyed early on — most of the animals bombed, shot or plundered — the Zabinskis manage, with humor and grace, to care for hundreds of Jews seeking temporary refuge, as well as for a number of pets both wild and domestic.  With threads detailing Nazi SS hunting machismso, eugenics theory and the desire to recreate extinct ancient animal breeds, the Polish Underground, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, zoology, the Polish forest primeval of Białowieża, the constant conflict, danger and risk assessment inherent in living in a war-torn country, the charming ways that wild animals adapted to the household, and the bravery it takes to maintain a “spirit of affection and humor” through 5+ years of strife and upheaval, this should have been a much better book. Instead it felt like a quilt constructed by a novice seamstress in a hurry. It just didn’t hang together. Most of the chapters were somehow boring and meandering, and those that weren’t vividly depicted awful things happening to animals while offering little in the way of insight or charm (though there was some, which is why I wished so ardently for more).  The book was marred too by the author’s repeated conjectures as to what the characters would likely have done, where they would likely have shopped, what they would surely have eaten; the book is pieced together from diaries, interviews, photographs, and other records, and Ackerman is scrupulous about reminding the reader when the absolute veracity of facts is in doubt, in a way that I found very distracting and detrimental to the flow of the story.  One scene that did capture my imagination was that of some of the zoo animals, released late in 1939 from their cages by sortie bombing, fleeing through the city of Warsaw, side of jowl with each other and the town’s people: “Seals waddled along the banks of the Vistula, camels and llamas wandered down alleyways, hooves skidding on cobblestone, ostriches and antelopes trotted beside foxes and wolves, anteaters called out … as they scuttled over bricks. Locals saw blurs of fur and hide bolting past factories and apartment houses, racing to outlying fields of oats, buckwheat, and flax, scrambling into creeks, hiding in stairwells and sheds.”

Unspoken (2004, transl. 2007) by Mari Jungstedt, police procedural featuring Det. Superintendent Anders Knutas and DI Karin Jacobsson, set mostly in the town of Visby on the  Swedish island of Gotland, and also in Stockholm. A 14-year-old girl goes missing and an alcoholic photographer is brutally murdered. Side story involves a woman trying to decide whether to stay with her husband and kids or leave them for a Stockholm-based TV journalist.  Writing, plotting, and character development are all serviceable, even strong in places.  The setting isn’t as primary as in many Swedish crime novels.

What Never Happens (2004, transl. 2008) by Anne Holt, a Norwegian police procedural set mostly in Oslo, including killer’s pov. About 1/3 of the book is taken up with the family life of detective Adam Stubo and his wife, Johanne Vik, who is a profiler. They have a 10-year-old daughter with severe impulse-control issues, as well as a newborn. The couple’s relationship is at times contentious, at times tender in a way that bewilders me but might be true for some relationships. The plot is solid and intriguing, the writing on the prosaic side but thoughtful and pleasing. I like the treatment of some of the larger issues, such as the way a murder investigation has a ripple effect (generally, a damaging one) on even those peripherally involved. Also the focus on boredom, or desire to feel life more strongly, as a motivator for crime.

September

Cheating at Solitaire (2008) by Jane Haddam, a Gregor Demarkian crime novel set in Margaret’s Harbor (thinly veiled Martha’s Vineyard) in winter and featuring lots of vapid movies stars. Demarkian is a sort of consultant on high-profile crimes. The crime plot was so-so and some major events are left unexplained. This is my first in the Demarkian  series and the narrative (non-dialog, non-plot) writing struck me as overdone. There’s just too much pondering the same topics — mostly, how stupid or uneducated people feel devalued by and resentful of others, and how smart or educated people think that others are shallow — over and over again. (I’ve just begun another in the series, Living Witness, and am finding the same acres of writing about the same topic!)  There’s also way too much about Demarkian’s personal life: his engagement, the extravagant wedding plans, the community of Armenian women in the Philadelphia neighbourhood he grew up in, etc. Many of the characters are likable, though, and I do appreciate some of the narrative and philosophising, especially when it’s more subtle, which is why I’m reading another one.

Living Witness (2009) by Jane Haddam, another in the Demarkian series. This time he’s in Snow Hill, a rural community outside of Philadelphia, where a battle has long been enjoined between the forces of secularism and the forces of conservative Christianity, this time in the context of the place of evolution and  ‘Intelligent Design’ in the public schools, and to a lesser extent, of ‘town’ folk vs. ‘development people’ — the small-town people who have always lived there and the new, educated, wealthier people who are viewed as infiltrators. The Christians  — with two notable exceptions — are almost all depicted as extremely narrow-minded and ignorant (if not downright stupid), and proud of their ignorance and stupidity; the secularists (some townies, some development people) are depicted as either contemptuous of the Christians or completely unaware of them.  As in Cheating at Solitaire, the primary tension — even beyond evolution/Creationism, secularism/religion, and old town/new development — is between people who value a liberal education and those who don’t. The plot has a nice twist at the end but the book is a bit hard to read because the hateful, spiteful thoughts of many of the characters are repeated over and over, with the result that the novel feels largely populated by hardened and extremist positions instead of actual people.

The Water’s Edge (2007; transl. 2009) by Karin Fossum, in the Inspector Sejer series, set in Norway.  Yet again, children and teens prominent as victims and perpetrators, as well as pedophiles, teachers, and mothers who’ve lost children or who haven’t had children they’ve wanted. The book is short by modern crime fiction standards (227 pp) and felt short and rather spare, economical, in the way it managed multiple related threads. Didn’t learn much more about Sejer and Skarre but the thoughts and feelings of the mothers were explored at some length.

The Headmaster’s Wife (2005) by Jane Haddam: I liked this one better than the later two  I read (Cheating at Solitaire and Living Witness). It has by far the better title, referencing the central mimetic figure of the story who [spoiler alert] ends up having little to do with the crimes being investigated. Demarkian is at a private boarding school in Massachusetts at the request of a 16-year-old family friend who seems to be losing his mind and whose roommate  has just seemingly committed suicide.  There are certainly caricaturish rivalries in this story, as in her others, but the treatment here is a bit more subtle, and very little of Demarkian’s private life intrudes. (Usually, I like reading about the detective’s private life but not in this series.)  I want the series to be more police procedural but instead they remind me most of Carolyn Hart’s Annie Darling series, with short chapters expressing the varied viewpoints of the suspects interspersed with narrative about Demarkian’s activities.

October

Silence of the Grave (2001, transl. 2005 ) by Arnaldur Indriðason, the second  (in English) in the Inspector Erlendur police procedural series. Set in Iceland, the emotional action of this crime plot is set mainly during WWII and involves graphic descriptions of domestic abuse and its terrors. The contemporary emotional center involves Erlendur and his drug-addicted daughter, who’s pregnant. Harrowing and excellent.

When the Devil Holds the Candle (1998; trans. 2004) by Karin Fossum, in the Sejer/Skarre series set somewhere in Norway. Equally told from the first-person pov of a woman implicated in the disappearance of a teenage boy  who comes to her home to try to rob her, and narrated as a mystery. Though Sejer and Skarre are police, the books aren’t really police procedurals. In this book, two teens, their relationship, and their activities drive the plot, as well as the actions and inactions of the unusual older woman who tells her side of things. Though three non-natural deaths take place (and another is mentioned), there is only one murder and it may not be the worst of the crimes committed.  This book is very much about responsibility and complicity, and it asks the question: Can we watch someone else die, and do nothing to help, without being in some respect their killer? Sejer’s and Sara’s relationship is also explored further; they seem to be a case of extremes attracting.

What Is Mine (2001; transl. 2006) by Anne Holt, the first in the Johanne Vik and Adam Stubo series.  Vik is a former FBI profiler, Stubo a police detective in Oslo. They meet in this book. Most of the story is set within a few hours of Oslo, though Vik takes a short trip to Cape Cod, MA.  I thought this book was better written and better plotted than the third in the series (What Never Happens, which I read earlier this year). The plot is complex and solid; it’s actually two distinct plots that eventually weave together convincingly. The first involves young children abducted and killed by someone taking revenge for what’s been lost in his own life.  The second concerns an old case in which a man was wrongly imprisoned for murder.

No Trace (2004) by Barry Maitland, a David Brock and Kathy Kolla police procedural set in the ultra-modern art world of London. It’s been a few years since I read one of his books, which always feature a little non-fiction learnin’. This time the focus was modern art of the scandalous and mimetic variety, particularly art modelled on and in conversation with that of Henry Fuseli. Brock and Kolla are investigating the disappearance of three young girls, including an artist’s daughter, Tracey. Her father makes her disappearance the basis of a new art installation, as he did with his wife’s suicide 5 years previously. Within a couple of weeks, two more people with ties to the artist are murdered and the the investigation begins to focus on the artist, his girlfriend, his in-laws, and his neighbours.

Midnight Fugue (2009) by Reginald Hill, in the Dalziel and Pascoe series — but this one is almost all Dalziel, which means it’s mad funny. Andy is still trying to adjust to his new role in the force, after having been recuperating from his injuries for many months and two books. All the action in this one takes place over 16 hours (a sort of mysterious Yorkshire-set Mrs Dalloway :-)), with cameo appearances, set pieces of farce, memories and past events pulled in from various directions, and a number of characters, including Andy, slipping in and out of fugue states.  As usual, there are some priceless turns of phrase and imagery, and the plotting is fast-paced and elegant. This is a series you read once for the mystery and a second time for the sheer enjoyment of the language and thematic connections.

November

Careless in Red (2008) by Elizabeth George, in the Lynley/Havers police procedural series set in England. I had stopped reading the series about 6 years ago, partly because I couldn’t stomach Lynley’s girlfriend (eventually wife), Helen. So I missed With No One As Witness (2005), in which Helen is  murdered by a 12-year-old boy, and its follow-up prequel, What Came Before He Shot Her (2005). I was desperate for a book recently and decided to take a chance on this one. It’s fabulous, one of the best novels I’ve read in a long time. It’s also long, almost 700 pages, but I didn’t want it to end. The setting is Cornwall, the plots are complicated and involve rock climbing and surfing, neither of which interests me, and the writing and weaving together of various plot lines is masterful. It starts out with Lynley sort of on auto-pilot in the aftermath of Helen’s murder, walking the South-West Coast Path in Cornwall in a daze and sleeping rough as he goes, when he comes upon the body of a young man. Characters include a female veterinarian with something to hide, a completely dysfunctional family whose father is a classic enabler and whose mother is a bottomless pit of sexual need, a female DI and her estranged husband (also a cop), some teens and young people trying to figure out what to do with their lives even as their parents are disdainful, contemptuous and fearful of their choices; and of course Barbara Havers comes down from London to pitch in and try to help Tommy get back on his feet. This book could easily be read as a standalone and I recommend it.

The Cruelest Month (2007) by Louise Penny, set in the fictional village of Three Pines in Quebec, Canada, is a hybrid mystery, one part police procedural and two parts village cosy. Three Pines is peopled by quirky B&B and cafe owners, artists, poets, herbalists, etc.  It’s not my normal fare, and it did feel like a somewhat insubstantial read, but it was also well-written, by turns amusing and philosophical, and I could see reading another one.

Necessary As Blood (2009) by Deborah Crombie, part of the Kincaid/James Scotland Yard police procedural series.  The crime plot, which occupies about half the book in total, centers geographically on London’s East End/Brick Lane area and involves Bangladeshi immigrants, an elite private club, and some sordid activities involving children; the rest of the book, weaving in and out of the crime plot, is novelistic, a story about Gemma and Duncan’s home life and their kids and friends, their halted wedding plans, Gemma’s mother’s cancer and treatment,  and subplots concerning the personal lives of two sargeants, Doug Cullen and Melody Talbot. The intersection is found among Gemma and Duncan’s friends Hazel and Tim, and in 3-year-old Charlotte, the de facto orphaned daughter of a mixed race couple, one of whom disappeared several months ago and the other of whom (Tim’s friend) has turned up murdered.  One aspect of the book that I especially admire is Gemma’s ongoing struggle to balance the competing needs, desires and dysfunctions of those around her. She is very much duty-bound, she wants to save the world, and yet even she, with her almost superhuman energy and drive, can’t save all those who need saving and can’t do her duty (or what she believes to be her duty) to everyone at once, and it’s often her friends who help her see more clearly.

Arctic Chill (2005; first US ed. 2009) by Arnaldur Indriðason, is part of the Inspector Erlendur police procedural series, set in Iceland. A Thai immigrant boy is killed and a woman is missing; the cases aren’t related but they intertwine with each other through mysterious calls to Erlender’s cell phone.  The central concern of the book is the reaction of Icelanders to Asian (Thai, Vietnamese, Filipino) immigrants and mixed marriages. Erlendur’s ambiguously named friend and former boss, Marion Bream, dies in this book and the conceit concerning Marion’s gender is maintained except for an apparent slip on page 157 (Minotaur Books ed.).  The book is a bit dark, as usual.

The Little Stranger (2009) by Sarah Waters.  “A chilling and vividly rendered ghost story set in postwar Britain.” At 450 pages, it felt to me like an inexorable, too predictable, and somewhat tiresome  progression towards an inevitable ending — and maybe that was the idea. The central figures are a country doctor with a chip on his shoulder about his low birth (he’s the narrator), and a mother and her unmarried daughter and war-wounded son who own a large and now decaying Georgian house and estate called Hundreds Hall, which they can’t afford; but the main character in the book is undoubtedly the house.  At the end, it’s up to the reader to determine whether something supernatural has taken place or whether it’s a matter of psychology, a shadow-self or ‘little stranger’ whose thwarted negative energy finds its outlet. Reminds me of many other stories, including Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” and Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House.

December

The Scarpetta Factor (2009) by Patricia Cornwell: I think I’m addicted to this series. The plot, which concerns the murder of one woman and the disappearance of another — harkens strongly back to Point of Origin, which ended with Benton’s murder — or so it seemed, as we learned in Blow Fly that he had ‘merely’ assumed another identity for 6 years.  The emotions from that time run high in this book, reawakened by events and the resurfacing of people from the past. In fact, not just for Kay and Benton, but for Lucy and Marino as well, past actions and experiences play a strong role in their present. I appreciate the series’ recent focus on Lucy and Jaime Berger. My main complaint is that I couldn’t keep all the ancillary characters straight and had a hard time figuring out what some of them had to do with the plot or the other characters for quite a while; I don’t know if I missed a key sentence early on or if this was Cornwell’s intention. Another reviewer notes that Cornwell has “developed an enjoyable way of beginning novels in the middle of a story, letting her audience watch the characters carry out conversations and actions which they don’t yet understand” — so perhaps it is intentional, but if like me you read about 20 or 30 pages before bed each night, it’s easy to think you’ve missed something. Finally, the ‘communion’ at the end felt a little like it was tacked on to bring all the cast together again in a rare happy(if not sappy) moment. That said, I like the core cast, which is what keeps me returning to the series, even when the crime plot is not the main feature.

That Old Cape Magic (2009) by Richard Russo,  fiction about a middle-aged man, Griffin, and his conflictual relationships with his snobbish academic parents, whose only respite from the hated Midwest was a yearly family vacation on Cape Cod (never the same rental twice), his wife Joy, and to a lesser extent, his grown daughter, Laura, and his screenwriting business partner, Tommy. The narrative, spanning a year and interspersed with memories, gets its emotional energy from a short story Griffin writes about one summer with his parents on the Cape, and is framed by two weddings, his daughter’s and his daughter’s longtime friend.  It’s the first novel of  Russo’s I’ve read and I thought it was similar to Anne Tyler’s writing, with some amusing lines and situations (Griffins spends most of the novel with one or both parents’ ashes in urns in his trunk) and insight into human relationships, though (unlike Tyler) some of Russo’s depictions didn’t ring true for me.

Still Life (2005) by Louise Penny, the first in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series — part police procedural, mostly cozy —  set in fictional Three Pines, a rural village south of Montreal. I figured out who did it pretty early on, partly because I had read a later book in the series already and knew who hadn’t done it — this is a problem with village cozy series, with their limited number of characters  The title is a good one, as the emotional heart of the book concerns lives that are stuck, and a central aspect of the plot is a painting, which, though not technically a still life, captures scenes and people at one point in their lives. Another central theme is blindness, with a hunting blind as a metaphor for other blindness.

Crime Fiction Book List: Disabled isn’t Unable

This crime fiction book list includes books and series featuring a character whose physical, emotional or mental limitations figure in the plot or character development of the stories or series. The character may be disabled in some way but is still able to solve, or perhaps commit, crimes.

The list was compiled with the help of the Fiction-L listserv in March 2009. It’s sorted by author’s last name. Additions always welcome; just email me.

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Jane A. Adams. Naomi Blake series. Blake is a blind ex-policewoman in the Midlands of England.

  1. Mourning the Little Dead (2002)
  2. Touching the Dark (2003)
  3. Heatwave (2005)
  4. Killing a Stranger (2006)
  5. Legacy of Lies (2007)

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Rennie Airth. Inspector John Madden series. Madden, a Scotland Yard detective, is a shell-shocked veteran of World War I.

  1. River Of Darkness (1999)
  2. The Blood-Dimmed Tide (2003)
  3. The Dead of Winter (2009)

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Bruce Alexander (aka Bruce Cook). London Magistrate Sir John Fielding historical mystery series, based on the real-life 18th-century magistrate who created London’s original police force, the Bow Street Runners. Fielding, half-brother of novelist Henry Fielding, was blind.

  1. Blind Justice (1994)
  2. Murder in Grub Street (1995)
  3. Watery Grave (1996)
  4. Person or Persons Unknown (1997)
  5. Jack, Knave, and Fool (1998)
  6. Death of a Colonial (1999)
  7. The Color of Death (2000)
  8. Smuggler’s Moon (2001)
  9. An Experiment in Treason (2002)
  10. The Price of Murder (2003)
  11. Rules of Engagement (2005), posthumously published

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Brigitte Aubert. The ‘Death From’ books featuring 36-year-old French cinema owner Elise Andrioli, who was left quadriplegic, mute, and blind by a Belfast (Ireland) car bomb attack.

    Death from the Woods (2001)
    Death from the Snows (2001)

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Vicars Bell. Dr. Douglas Baynes series. Baynes is an entomologist who lost a leg in World War II.

  1. Death Under the Stars (1949)
  2. Death Has Two Doors (1950)
  3. Two by Day and One by Night (1950)
  4. Death and the Night Watches (1955)
  5. Death Walks by the River (1959)
  6. Death Darkens Council (1952)

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Paul Bishop. Chapel of the Ravens (1991). Chapel is “a former world class soccer player from Britain who becomes an editor for Los Angeles-based Sporting Press magazine after he loses an eye.

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Ernest Bramah. Max Carrados series. Carrados is a blind British detective.

  1. Max Carrados (1914)
  2. The Eyes of Max Carrados (1923), which “opens with a somewhat defensive essay which chronicles astonishing feats of the blind”
  3. Max Carrados Mysteries (1927)
  4. The Bravo of London (1934)

Also, some short stories featuring Carrados are online.

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Marshall Browne. Inspector Anders series. Anders is an Italian policeman who lost a leg battling anarchist terrorism.

  1. The Wooden Leg of Inspector Anders (1999)
  2. Inspector Anders and the Ship of Fools (2001)
  3. Inspector Anders and the Blood Vendetta (2006)

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Melvin Jules Bukiet. Strange Fire (2002). A Middle East political thriller featuring Nathan Kazakov as “a blind ex-POW, Russian immigrant, former poet, Lebanon invasion veteran, semicloseted homosexual and now speechwriter.”

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Patricia Carlon. The Whispering Wall (1969). Confined to her bed by a stroke, believed to be comatose, and surrounded by greedy relatives, a woman overhears a murder plot.

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George Chesbro. Mongo series. Robert ‘Mongo’ Fredrickson is a dwarf criminology professor, private eye, and former circus gymnast in NYC. The series is a blend of mystery, suspense, science fiction, and the supernatural.

  1. Shadow of a Broken Man (1977)
  2. City of Whispering Stone (1978)
  3. An Affair of Sorcerers (1979)
  4. The Beasts of Valhalla (1985)
  5. Two Songs This Archangel Sings (1987)
  6. The Cold Smell of Sacred Stone (1988)
  7. Second Horseman Out of Eden (1989)
  8. The Language of Cannibals (1990)
  9. In the House of Secret Enemies (1990)
  10. The Fear in Yesterday’s Rings (1991)
  11. Dark Chant in a Crimson Key (1992)
  12. An Incident at Bloodtide (1993)
  13. Bleeding in the Eye of a Brainstorm (1995)
  14. Dream of a Falling Eagle (1996)
  15. Lord of Ice and Loneliness (2006)

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Jeffrey Cohen. Aaron Tucker humourous mystery series. Aaron’s son has Asperger’s Syndrome and it’s part of the stories.

  1. For Whom the Minivan Rolls (2002)
  2. A Farewell to Legs (2003)
  3. As Dog Is My Witness (2005) – in this book, the young man accused of the crime has Asperger’s Syndrome.

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Michael Collins (aka Dennis Lynds). Dan Fortune novels of suspense, featuring amputee Dan Fortune, a gruff Polish-Lithuanian New York detective with one arm.

  1. Act Of Fear (1967)
  2. The Brass Rainbow (1969)
  3. Night Of The Toads (1970)
  4. Walk A Black Wind (1971)
  5. Shadow Of A Tiger (1972)
  6. The Silent Scream (1973)
  7. Blue Death (1975)
  8. The Blood-Red Dream (1976)
  9. The Nightrunners (1978)
  10. The Slasher (1980)
  11. Freak (1983)
  12. Minnesota Strip (1987)
  13. Red Rosa (1988)
  14. Castrato (1989)
  15. Chasing Eights (1990)
  16. The Irishman’s Horse (1991)
  17. Cassandra In Red (1992)
  18. Resurrection (1992)
  19. The Cadillac Cowboy (1995)

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Wilkie Collins. Hide and Seek (1854).  Blyth and his disabled wife Lavinia adopt a deaf girl from a country circus. “In Madonna Blyth, Collins wanted to represent ‘the character of a “Deaf Mute” as literally as possible according to nature,’ in contrast to the deaf characters featured in nineteenth-century stage melodramas.”

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Elizabeth Cosin. Zen Moses series. Zenara Moses is a cancer survivor (lost a lung), former sports journalist, and private investigator in Santa Monica, California.

  1. Zen and the Art of Murder (1998)
  2. Zen and City of Angels (1999)
  3. Zen Justice (2001)

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Philip R. Craig. Jeff Jackson series. Jackson has shrapnel in his leg (Vietnam) and a bullet lodged in his spine (from his days as a Boston police officer). Set on Martha’s Vineyard, MA.

  1. A Beautiful Place To Die (1989)
  2. The Woman Who Walked Into the Sea (1991)
  3. The Double-Minded Men (1992)
  4. Cliff Hanger (1993)
  5. Off Season (1994).
  6. A Case Of Vineyard Poison (1995)
  7. Death on a Vineyard Beach (1996)
  8. A Deadly Vineyard Holiday (1997)
  9. A Shoot on Martha’s Vineyard (1998)
  10. A Fatal Vineyard Season (1999)
  11. Vineyard Blues (2000)
  12. Vineyard Shadows (2001)
  13. First Flight (2001; with William Tapply’s Brady Coyne) .
  14. Vineyard Enigma (2002).
  15. A Vineyard Killing (2003).
  16. Murder at a Vineyard Mansion (2004)
  17. Second Sight (2005; with William Tapply’s Brady Coyne)
  18. Vineyard Prey (2005)
  19. Dead in Vineyard Sand (2006)
  20. Vineyard Stalker (2007)
  21. Third Strike: (2007; with William Tapply’s Brady Coyne)
  22. Vineyard Chill (2008)

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Jeffrey Deaver: Lincoln Rhyme series. Rhyme, ex-head of NYPD forensics, is a quadriplegic detective — he can move one finger — based in New York City (one novel set in North Carolina). His partner in crime-solving is Amelia Sachs.

  1. The Bone Collector (1997)
  2. The Coffin Dancer (1998)
  3. The Empty Chair (2000)
  4. The Stone Monkey (2002)
  5. The Vanished Man (2003)
  6. The Twelfth Card (2005)
  7. The Cold Moon (2006)
  8. The Broken Window (2008)

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Mark De Castrique. Sam Blackman series. Blackman is a former U.S. Chief Warrant Officer who lost part of his leg in Iraq. Set in Asheville, NC.

  1. Blackman’s Coffin (2008)
  2. The Fitzgerald Ruse (2009)

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Barbara Delinsky. An Accidental Woman (2003). Romance with a mystery. A woman who is confined to a wheelchair (paraplegic) since a snowmobile accident tries to exonerate her friend from a charge of murder. Set Lake Henry, NH.

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Peter Dickinson. One Foot in the Grave (1979) in the James Pibble series. British detective Pibble is in a nursing home, prematurely feeble. In his despair, seeking to end his life, he stumbles on the body of someone whose life has already ended. Some Deaths Before Dying (1999): A 90-year woman, paralyzed from the neck down, finds an intriguing puzzle.

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Howard Engel: Memory Book (2005) in the Benny Cooperman detective series. After author Engel suffered a stroke, his PI Cooperman also suffered a head injury in this book, which results in alexia sine agraphia.

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Penelope Evans. Freezing (1997). Stewart Park, who stutters, works in the London morgue as a photographer.

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Tony Fennelly. Matt Sinclair series. Sinclair is a gay epileptic aristocratic DA turned store owner. Sometimes his epilepsy causes amnesia. Set in New Orleans.

  1. The Glory Hole Murders (1985)
  2. The Closet Hanging (1987)
  3. Kiss Yourself Goodbye (1989)

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Dick Francis. Sid Halley series. Ex-jockey private investigator Halley has a damaged left hand due to a racing accident.

  • Odds Against (1965)
  • Whip Hand (1979)
  • Come to Grief (1995)
  • Under Orders (2006)

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Elizabeth George’s 5th Inspector Linley title, For the Sake of Elena (1992), involving the murder of a young deaf woman and requiring Linley and Havers to enter “her world.”

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Lee Goldberg. Adrian Monk series. Monk is an obsessive-compulsive police detective, in San Francisco, California. Books based on the TV series.

  1. Mr. Monk Goes to the Fire House (2006)
  2. Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii (2006)
  3. Mr. Monk and The Blue Flu (2007)
  4. Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants (2007)
  5. Mr. Monk in Outer Space (2007)
  6. Mr. Monk Goes to Germany (2008)
  7. Mr. Monk Is Miserable (2008)
  8. Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop (2009)
  9. Mr. Monk in Trouble (2009)

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George Dawes Green. The Caveman’s Valentine (1995).  Romulus Ledbetter, a Juilliard graduate, husband and father, and paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave, becomes a detective to solve his friend’s murder.

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Ken Grissom. John Rodrigue series. Rodrigue is a one-eyed diver and salvager, working out of Galveston, TX.

  1. Drop-Off (1988)
  2. Big Fish (1991)
  3. Drowned Man’s Key (1992)

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Charlaine Harris. Harper Connelly paranormal mystery series. Connelly survived a zap from a lightning bolt, and since then she suffers physical pain — and she can find dead people and experience their last moments.

  1. Grave Sight (2006)
  2. Grave Surprise (2007)
  3. An Ice Cold Grave (2008)
  4. Grave Secret (October 2009)

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Daniel Hecht. Skull Session (1998). Features Paul Skoglund, a talented craftsman with Tourette’s syndrome, for which he takes haloperidol daily. Library Journal calls it “a  marvelous mix of modern Gothic horror and romance, with a generous helping of bioscience.” Interestingly, Hecht was a guitarist (appears on the Windham Hill label) who turned to writing after a hand ailment.

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David Hunt (aka William Bayer)’s two books featuring Kay Farrow, a color-blind photojournalist in San Francisco, California:

  • The Magician’s Tale (1997)
  • Trick of Light (1998)

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Hialeah Jackson (aka Polly Whitney)’s books featuring Annabelle Hardy-Maratos, who is the deaf president of a large Miami security firm, and Dave the Monkeyman, her partner and ASL signer. Set in Miami, Florida.

  • The Alligator’s Farewell (1998)
  • Farewell, Conch Republic (1999)

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Sue Anne Jaffarian. Odelia Grey humourous mystery series. Grey, a middle-aged, plus-sized woman, is a lawyer and an amateur detective in California. Her boyfriend (later, husband), Greg Stevens, is in a wheelchair.

  1. Too Big to Miss (2001)
  2. The Curse of the Holy Pail (2003)
  3. Thugs and Kisses (2008)
  4. Booby Trap (2009)

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Stuart M. Kaminsky’s Toby Peters series, featuring Gunther Wherthman, a Swiss translator and dwarf who assists Hollywood private investigator Toby Peters.

  1. Bullet for A Star (1977)
  2. Murder on the Yellow Brick Road (1977)
  3. You Bet Your Life (1978)
  4. The Howard Hughes Affair (1979)
  5. Never Cross a Vampire (1980)
  6. High Midnight (1981)
  7. Catch A Falling Clown (1981)
  8. He Done Her Wrong (1983)
  9. The Fala Factor (1984)
  10. Down for the Count (1985)
  11. The Man Who Shot Lewis Vance (1986)
  12. Smart Moves (1986)
  13. Think Fast, Mr. Peters (1987)
  14. Buried Caesars (1989)
  15. Poor Butterfly (1990)
  16. The Melting Clock (1991)
  17. The Devil Met A Lady (1993)
  18. Tomorrow is Another Day (1995)
  19. Dancing in the Dark (1996)
  20. A Fatal Glass of Beer (1997)
  21. A Few Minutes Past Midnight (2001)
  22. To Catch a Spy (2002)
  23. Mildred Pierced (2003)
  24. Now You See It (2004)

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Larry Karp’s The Midnight Special (2001), featuring Dr. Thomas Purdue, a music box aficionado, neurologist and amateur sleuth. Purdue deals with a thief with synesthesia and an assault on a bipolar antiques dealer. Set in New York City.

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Baynard Kendrick: Duncan Maclain series. Maclain, a former World War I captain, is wealthy, dashing and blind (blinded by gas in WWI). Set in New York City.

  1. The Last Express (1937), filmed with same name (1938)
  2. The Whistling Hangman (1937)
  3. Odor of Violets (1941), filmed as Eyes in the Night (1942)
  4. Blind Man’s Bluff (1943)
  5. Death Knell (1945)
  6. Out of Control (1945)
  7. You Diet Today (1952; apa You Die Today)
  8. Blind Allies (1954)
  9. Reservations for Death (1957)
  10. Clear and Present Danger (1958)
  11. The Aluminum Turtle (1960; apa The Spear Gun Murders)
  12. Frankincense and Murder (1961)

The film The Hidden Eye (1945) was based on characters created by Kendrick, with Eddie Arnold as Maclain.

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Mary Kittredge’s Charlotte Kent series features Kent as a single, sharp-witted freelance writer and magazine editor who adopts a 16-year old paraplegic son, Joey  The series moves from Medocino, CA to New Haven, CT.  Though Joey is neither sleuth nor criminal, readers note that the relationship between Charlotte and Joey is important to the stories and ‘interestingly complicated.’

  1. Murder in Mendocino (1987)
  2. Dead and Gone (1989)
  3. Poison Pen (1990)

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Frederick Knott. Wait Until Dark (1966), a play — and in 1967, a film — featuring a blind Greenwich Village housewife who becomes the target of thugs searching for heroin hidden in a doll.

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Jonathan Lethem. Motherless Brooklyn (1999):  Lionel Essrog, who has Tourette’s Syndrome, narrates the book as he works to solve the murder of friend and mentor. “The compulsions of Tourette’s become a kind of kaleidoscopic metaphor, ultimately (and somewhat paradoxically) reflecting the fundamental ethos of the mystery genre itself: the compulsion to restore order and rightness to a world thrown temporarily out of joint.” (Salon)

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Gilliam Linscott.  Murder, I Presume (1986). Historical mystery set in Victorian London. Rival  expeditions explore the source of the Nile while Peter Pentland, who lost a leg while on an earlier joint expedition, remains in London and ends up working with Inspector Middleham to solve a murder.

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Jack Livingston (aka James L. Nusser). Joe Binney series. Binney is a hard-boiled, hard drinking, hearing-impaired private investigator in NYC. He lost his hearing working as a Navy diver.

  1. A Piece of the Silence (1982)
  2. Die Again, Macready (1984)
  3. The Nightmare File (1986)
  4. Hell-Bent for Election (1987)

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William F. Love. Bishop Francis X. Regan and Davey Goldman series. Bishop Regan is an intellectual paraplegic, wheelchair-bound since an assassination attempt.

  • The Chartreuse Clue (1990)
  • The Fundamentals of Murder (1991; apa The Ruby Red Clue)
  • Bloody Ten (1992)
  • Bishop’s Revenge (1993)

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Carlo Lucarelli’s Almost Blue (2001), a  noir thriller which features a blind witness to a crime. Set in Bologna’s post-punk underground. First in the Inspector Negro series.

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John Lutz. Fred Carver series. Florida P.I. Fred Carver has a shattered knee and walks with a cane.

  1. Tropical Heat (1986)
  2. Scorcher (1987)
  3. Kiss (1988)
  4. Flame (1990)
  5. Bloodfire (1991)
  6. Hot (1992)
  7. Spark (1993)
  8. Torch (1994)
  9. Burn (1995)
  10. Lightning (1996)

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Claire Matturro. Lilly Cleary humourous legal thriller series, featuring a Florida DA with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

  1. Skinny-Dipping (2004)
  2. Wildcat Wine (2005)
  3. Bone Valley (2006)

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Ed McBain (aka Evan Hunter, born as Salvatore Lombino): Some of the 87th Precinct novels, set in and around New York City (aka Isola), include Teddy, Steve Carella’s wife, who is deaf and mute. In the early 1960s, there was a TV series based on the novels, with Gena Rowlands portraying Teddy. Teddy appears significantly in at least these titles of the more than 50 in the series (she probably appears in some way in most, being Steve’s wife):

  • Cop Hater (1956), first in the series; movie of same title (1958)
  • The Pusher (1956), with movie of same name (1960)
  • The Con Man (1957)
  • The Heckler (1960)
  • Lullaby (1989)
  • Widows (1991)

and she appears in these movies based on McBain’s novels in the series:

  • Fuzz (1972)
  • Lightning (1995)
  • Ice (1996)
  • Heatwave (1997)

The same series features a criminal mastermind called The Deaf Man, who is not deaf, though he “wears a hearing aid, and uses odd pseudonyms referring to deafness.” He appears in these titles:

  • The Heckler (1960)
  • Fuzz (1968)
  • Let’s Hear it for the Deaf Man! (1972)
  • Eight Black Horses (1985)
  • Mischief (1993)
  • Hark! (2004)

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Thomas McCall. Nora Callum series. Nora is a one-legged single mother and Chicago police lieutenant.

    A Wide and Capable Revenge (1993)
    Beyond Ice, Beyond Death (1995)

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Nigel McCrery’s Still Waters (2008), starring Detective Chief Inspector Mark Lapslie, who has synesthesia. (With his form, he tastes sounds, which makes it very hard to be around people’s voices or music.)

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John Milne. Jimmy Jenner series. Jenner is a pensioned-off London cop who lost his leg and part of his hearing in a terrorist bombing. He works in the Stoke Newington section of London, England.

  1. Daddy’s Girl (1982)
  2. Dead Birds (1986)
  3. Shadow Play (1987; aka The Moody Man)
  4. Alive and Kicking (1998)

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Harker Moore. Sakura series. NYPD homicide detective Sakura has a Zen-like detachment and a Japanese wife who is blind but gifted with a spiritual vision. She plays a larger role in the first book.

    A Cruel Season for Dying (2003)
    A Mourning in Autumn (2004)

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Amy Myers. Peter and Georgia Marsh series. Peter Marsh is wheelchair-bound after a shooting incident in his former police career. He works solving murders with his daughter, Georgia, in Kent, England.

  1. The Wickenham Murders (2004)
  2. Murder in Friday Street (2005)
  3. Murder in Hell’s Corner (2006)
  4. Murder and the Golden Goblet (2007)
  5. Murder in a Mist (2008)
  6. Murder Takes the Stage (2009)

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Abigail Padgett. Bo Bradley series, featuring a child abuse investigator for Child Protective Services in San Diego county who has bipolar illness.

  1. Child of Silence (1993)
  2. Strawgirl (1994)
  3. Turtle Baby (1995)
  4. Moonbird Boy (1996)
  5. The Dollmaker’s Daughters (1997)

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Jake Page. “Mo” Bowdre series. T. Moore Bowdre is a blind sculptor in Santa Fe, NM.

  1. The Stolen Gods (1993)
  2. The Deadly Canyon (1994)
  3. The Knotted Strings (1995)
  4. The Lethal Partner (1996)
  5. A Certain Malice (1998)

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Michael Palmer’s The Second Opinion (2009) features Dr. Thea Sperelakis, a doctor with Asperger’s Syndrome who tries to solve a mystery.

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T. Jefferson Parker’s Silent Joe (2001), featuring Joe Trona, who has a facial disfigurement from childhood trauma and who tries to track down his adoptive father’s killer.

Parker’s The Fallen (2006) features Robbie Brownlaw, a San Diego homicide detective who has synesthesia. (In his case, other people’s emotions are colours.)

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Anne Perry (aka Juliet Hulme). William Monk series. Monk, a detective with the police in London of 1856, has amnesia after a serious accident in a carriage.

  1. The Face of a Stranger (1990)
  2. A Dangerous Mourning (1991)
  3. Defend and Betray (1992)
  4. A Sudden, Fearful Death (1993)
  5. The Sins of the Wolf (1994)
  6. Cain His Brother (1995)
  7. Weighed in the Balance (1996)
  8. The Silent Cry (1997)
  9. A Breach of Promise (alt. title: Whited Sepulcres) (1997)
  10. The Twisted Root (1999)
  11. Slaves of Obsession (alt. title: Slaves and Obsession) (2000)
  12. Funeral in Blue (2001)
  13. Death of a Stranger (2002)
  14. The Shifting Tide (2004)
  15. The Dark Assassin (2006)
  16. Execution Dock (2009)

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W.R. Philbrick. J. D. Hawkins series. Hawkins is a paraplegic mystery writer who uses a wheelchair. Set in Boston.

  1. Shadow Kills (1986)
  2. Ice for the Eskimo (1987)
  3. Paint It Black (1989)
  4. Walk on the Water (1991)

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R. Page Reese’s Don’t Move: While Rolling in Terror (1994) apparently involves a magician and a quadraplegic young lady trying to solve a murder. (Not much available about it online.)

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Simon Ritchie’s Jantarro character. (Ritchie is pseudonym for Simon Fodden.) John Kenneth Galbraith Jantarro is a one-armed Toronto insurance investigator.  He lost his left hand and part of his arm to sadistic prison guards. Jantarro appears in two of Ritchie’s books:

  • The Hollow Woman (1986)
  • Work for a Dead Man (1989)

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Candace Robb. Owen Archer series. Archer is a one-eyed spy and Captain of Archbishop Thoresby’s guard in late 14th-century Britain.

  1. The Apothecary Rose (1993)
  2. The Lady Chapel (1994)
  3. The Nun’s Tale (1995)
  4. The King’s Bishop (1996)
  5. The Riddle of St. Leonard’s (1997)
  6. A Gift of Sanctuary (1998)
  7. A Spy for the Redeemer (2002)
  8. The Cross-Legged Knight (2002)
  9. The Guilt of Innocents (2007)
  10. A Vigil of Spies (2008)

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Kevin Robinson. Stick Foster series. Foster is a paraplegic journalist in Florida, who uses a wheelchair since he fell off a roof  in 1986.

  1. Split Seconds (1991)
  2. Mall Rats (1992)
  3. A Matter of Perspective (1993)

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Caroline Roe (aka Medora Sale). Chronicles of Isaac of Girona series. Isaac is a blind physician, who with his partner Bishop Berenguer solves crimes in 1350s Girona, Spain.

  1. Remedy for Treason (1998)
  2. Cure For a Charlatan (1999)
  3. An Antidote For Avarice (1999)
  4. Solace for a Sinner (2000)
  5. A Potion for a Widow (2001)
  6. A Draught for a Dead Man (2002)
  7. A Poultice for a Healer (2003)
  8. A Consolation for an Exile (2004)

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Barnaby Ross (aka Ellery Queen, aka cousins Manfred B. Lee and Frederic Dannay). Four novels about Drury Lane, a deaf retired Shakespearean actor who lives on the Hudson River (NY) and does amateur detecting. Lane lip-reads.

  1. The Tragedy of X (1932)
  2. The Tragedy of Y (1932)
  3. The Tragedy of Z (1933)
  4. Drury Lane’s Last Case (1933)

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Mary Scott’s Murder On Wheels (2000). Bryan Greyshott was paralyzed in a freak hang-gliding accident and now lives in a wheelchair in a North London suburb. When a spate of crimes breaks him out of his monotony, he decides to try to find the perpetrator, all the more s after he’s found next to a dead body holding a crutch and becomes a suspect.

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Sarah Smith. Perdita Halley and Alexander Von Reisden series. Halley is a legally blind pianist and Von Reisden, an Austrian baron and chemist, is an amnesiac with gaps in his childhood memories. The books are set in turn of the century Boston and pre World War I Paris.

  1. The Vanished Child (1992)
  2. The Knowledge of Water (1996)
  3. A Citizen of the Country (2000)

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Annie Solomon’s Blind Curve (2005), romantic suspense featuring an undercover cop, Danny Sinofsky, who suddenly goes blind during a gun battle.

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Clinton Stagg. Thornley Colton, a blind detective, features in two books:

  • Silver Sandals (1916; apa Thornley Colton, Blind Reader of Hearts)
  • Thornley Colton, Blind Detective (1923; short stories)

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Rupert Thomson. The Insult (1997). Psychological thriller featuring Martin Blom, who was blinded by a shot to the head in a supermarket parking lot but who learns one night that he can actually see. Is it a delusion?

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Charles Todd (aka Charles and Caroline Todd, a mother and son team).  Ian Rutledge series. Rutledge is a shell-shocked World War I veteran returning to his job on 1914 at London’s Scotland Yard. He hears the voice of a young Scottish man he killed in the war.

  1. A Test of Wills (1996)
  2. Wings of Fire (1998)
  3. Search the Dark (1999)
  4. Legacy of the Dead (2000)
  5. Watchers of Time (2001)
  6. A Fearsome Doubt (2002)
  7. A Cold Treachery (2005)
  8. A Long Shadow (2006)
  9. A False Mirror (2007)
  10. A Pale Horse (2008)
  11. A Matter of Justice (2009)
  12. The Red Door (2010)

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Peter Tremayne’s  Sister Fidelma series book #5, The Spider’s Web (1997), set in 7th- century Ireland. ” The case involves a deaf and blind man who is is accused of killing the local ruler and his sister.

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John Trench’s Docken Dead (1953), “a highly-regarded biblio-mystery introducing the ‘dishevelled, one-armed‘  amateur sleuth, archaeologist Martin Cotterell.”

_________________________________________________________

Barry Unsworth’s Morality Play (1995), set in 14th-century England. A young deaf woman is accused of murder.

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Louise Ure’s Fault Tree (2008). Female auto mechanic Cadence Moran is targeted by a killer who thinks she can identify his getaway car — not knowing that she was blinded 8 years prior in a horrific car accident. Set in Arizona.

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Barbara Vine’s The Blood Doctor (2002), an historic novel set in Victorian times, with many mysteries,  revolving around hemophilia.

_________________________________________________________

Ray Vukcevich. The Man of Maybe Half A Dozen Faces (2000).  Brian Dobson/Skylight Howells, a private investigator based in Eugene, OR, has multiple personalities, or is he just a master of disguise?

_________________________________________________________

Penny Warner. Connor Westphal series, set in Flat Skunk, California, featuring newspaper publisher Connor Westphal, who was deafened by meningitis when she was four years old.

  1. Dead Body Language (1997)
  2. Signs of Foul Play (1998)
  3. Right to Remain Silent (1998)
  4. A Quiet Undertaking (1999)
  5. Blind Side (2001)
  6. Silence Is Golden (2003)
  7. Dead Man’s Hand (2007)

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Henri Weiner’s Crime on the Cuff (1936), featuring one-armed sleuth John Brass, a former Secret Service man who is also a popular cartoonist.

_________________________________________________________

Carolyn Wheat’s Troubled Waters (1997), 5th in the series featuring Brooklyn attorney Cass Jameson. In this one, she defends her brother Ron, a quadraplegic Vietnam veteran charged with murder.

_________________________________________________________

Cornell Woolrich’s noir novel The Black Curtain (1941) features Frank Townsend,  an amnesiac investigating a blank period in his history, and there’s also a paralyzed man who communicates key information via eye blinks

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R.D. Zimmerman (aka Robert Alexander).  Maddy and Alex Phillips series. Maddy is a blind paraplegic forensic psychiatrist, Alex is a technical writer. Set on an island in Lake Michigan.

  1. Death Trance (1992)
  2. Blood Trance (1993)
  3. Red Trance (1994)

Fiction (and Film) Set at the World’s Fairs and Expositions

This booklist of mostly fiction titles — for children, young adults, and adults — and a few films, all with World’s Fair settings, was developed in 2008 with help from Fiction-L list members. It’s arranged chronologically by Fair, then by date of publication. Additions and corrections welcomed.

A list of many nonfiction titles related to World’s Fairs from 1851-1951 is available online at ‘International Exhibitions, Expositions Universelles and World’s Fairs, 1851-1951: A Bibliography,’ by Alexander C.T. Geppert, Jean Coffey and Tammy Lau. (Also available here in pdf.)

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1876 PHILADELPHIA Exposition

Fiction

Light From Arcturus (1935) by Mildred Walker: Novel about a bored and restless Nebraska woman who “stepped beyond sacrifice and duty, impressed herself on a larger scene, fed her spirit, and grew in dignity. Grounded in memorable events, this novel illustrates the significance of the period’s great world’s fairs to the early settlers. The milestones in Julia’s progress are trips to the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876 and to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 and in 1933. ”

What Happened to Emily Goode After the Great Exhibition ( 1978 ) by Raylyn Moore: Time displacement fantasy set at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. 188 pp.

Twice Upon A Time: A Novel ( 1988 ) by Allen Appel: In the Alex Balfour series. Alex, an historian, is transported back in time to the Philadelphia Exposition of 1876, where he becomes involved with a group converging at Little Big Horn.

Dazzled (1994) by Catherine Hart: Romance. In 1876, as Philadelphia hosts its Centennial Exposition, the companion to a wealthy matron resorts to thievery in an effort to ransom her nephew from his vile father.

The Black Maria (Mystery of Old Philadelphia) (2000) by Mark Graham: As the whole world is celebrating a glorious future at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, city detective Wilton McCleary comes across the butchered body of a girl in the nearby labyrinth of festering streets called Shantyville, with its opium dens, criminals, and freak shows.

Young Adult Fiction

The Philadelphia Adventure (1990) by Lloyd Alexander: In 1876, on the eve of the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, twenty-year-old Vesper Holly and her friends clash yet again with the archfiend Dr. Helvitius, whose evil schemes plunge them into danger in the wild Pennsylvania countryside.

Film

Centennial Summer (1946): Directed by Otto Preminger. In 1876 Philadelphia, two sisters vie for the affections of a Frenchman in town to prepare the French pavilion for the Centennial Exposition. Starred Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Cornel Wilde,  Walter Brennan.

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1889 PARIS International Exposition (L’Exposition Universelle de 1889)

Fiction

So Long at the Fair (1947) by Anthony Thorne: On which the film was based.

Murder on the Eiffel Tower ( 2008 ) by Claude Izner: Crime fiction set in Paris in 1889, with the Paris Exposition as the scene.  The Eiffel Tower is new, and people flock to see this technological wonder.  While on such a visit, a young woman collapses and dies, apparently as the result of a bee sting, and bookseller Victor Legris becomes involved in the investigation of her murder.

The Paris Enigma ( 2008 ) by Pablo de Santis: Crime fiction, winner of the first Casa de las Americas prize for best Latin American novel. The “12 Detectives” meet for the first time in Paris, at the 1889 World’s Fair, and soon have their own mystery to detect when Paris detective Louis Darbon falls to his death from the Eiffel Tower shortly before the fair’s opening.

To Capture What we Cannot Keep (2016) by Bernice Colin: Romantic novel, set against the construction of the Eiffel Tower for the 1889 World’s Fair, this novel follows “the relationship between a young Scottish widow and a French engineer who, despite constraints of class and wealth, fall in love” (after meeting in a hot air balloon).

Children’s Books

Rosemary in Paris (2001) by Barbara Robertson: Rosemary Rita’s magical hourglass takes her to the Paris Exposition of 1889, where she meets her great-great-grandmother Gracie, also aged ten, and together with a friend they set out to catch the boy who steals Gracie’s locket.

Night of the New Magicians (2006) by Mary Pope Osborne:  In the Magic Treehouse series. Jack and Annie visit the Paris World’s Fair of 1889 in an effort to protect four scientific pioneers from an evil sorcerer.

Film

So Long at the Fair (1950): Thriller. Vicky Barton and her brother, Johnny, take a trip to the 1889 Paris Exhibition. They sleep in separate rooms in a hotel. When Vicky wakes up, she finds that her brother and his room have disappeared and no one will even acknowledge that he was ever there. Starring Jean Simmons, Dirk Bogarde, Cathleen Nesbitt, Honor Blackman and David Tomlinson.

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1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in CHICAGO

More info on this fair at World Columbian Expedition: Idea, Experience, Aftermath.

Non Fiction

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America (2003) by Erik Larson: Set around 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, the stories of two men, one the architect responsible for the fair’s construction, the other a serial killer masquerading as a doctor.

Fiction

Samantha at the World’s Fair (1893) by Marietta Holley: Account of the Chicago fair written in a fictional style with black-and-white illustrations. 475 pp.

The Adventures of Uncle Jeremiah and Family at the Great Fair (1893) by Quondam (pseud.): Fictional account of the World’s Columbian Exposition. with 4 photos. 237 pp.

Light From Arcturus (1935) by Mildred Walker: Novel about a bored and restless Nebraska woman who “stepped beyond sacrifice and duty, impressed herself on a larger scene, fed her spirit, and grew in dignity. Grounded in memorable events, this novel illustrates the significance of the period’s great world’s fairs to the early settlers. The milestones in Julia’s progress are trips to the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876 and to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 and in 1933.”

American Gothic (1974) by Robert Bloch: Thriller based on the murderous career of Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who stalked Chicago victims during the World”s Fair of 1893.

Chicago Girls (1985) by Edith Freund: A novel of Chicago in the time of the Columbian Exposition.

The Scarlet Mansion (1985) by Allan W. Eckert: Based on the life of Herman Mudgett, alias Dr. Henry Holmes, the notorious serial killer.

Fairground Fiction: Detective Stories of the World’s Columbian Exposition (1992) by Donald K. Hartman. Contains reprints of Emma Murdoch Van Deventer’s ‘Against Odds’ and John Harvey Whitson’s ‘Chicago Charlie, the Columbian detective.’ 450 pp.

Coming Up Roses (2002) by Alice Duncan: Set at the Chicago World’s Fair, featuring Rose Ellen Gilhooley and the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. First in the Meet Me at the Fair series.

Just North of Bliss (2002) by Alice Duncan: Historical romance. Causing scandal by accepting a position as a nanny, Belle Monroe contemplates further ruin by allowing a dashing stranger at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago to take her portrait, which leads to unexpected love and passion between the proper Southern beauty and the bold photographer from the North. Second in the Meet Me at the Fair series.

A Bicycle Built for Two (2002) by Alice Duncan: Historical romance. Kate Finney, a savvy fortune teller and hootchy-kootchy dancer at the Chicago World Fair who doesn’t believe in love, finds her life forever changed by Alex English, a dashing city slicker who will stop at nothing to win her heart – forever. Third in the Meet Me at the Fair series.

The White City (2004) by Alec Michod: In 1893, as the glitter and glamour of the World’s Fair commences in Chicago, ‘The White City’ is terrorized by a gruesome killer dubbed The Husker, a fear that escalates when the son of prominent architect William Rockland is abducted.

City for Ransom (2005) by Robert W. Walker: First in Inspector Alastair Ransom mysteries. As thousands flock to Chicago for the Great Exposition of 1893, a maniacal killer sets out to turn the streets into his own personal hunting ground, and it is up to Inspector Alastair Ransom to find the bloodthirsty murderer amid the glitter and turmoil of the World’s Fair, before he becomes the next victim.

‘A Fair to Remember’ series by Carol Cox: Ticket to Tomorrow (2006), Fair Game (2007), and A Bride So Fair (2008): Slightly suspenseful Christian romances, all set at the 1893 Fair.

A Proper Pursuit (2007) by Lynn Austin: Christian fiction. Violet Hayes ventures to Chicago during the World’s Fair in search of her mother, who has been missing from her life since she was nine.

What the Lady Wants: A Novel of Marshall Field and the Gilded Age (2014) by Renée Rosen: Both the Great Fire of 1871 and the Colombian Exposition feature in this romantic novel about the opulence, scandal, and heartbreak of socialites and robber barons, including Marshall Field, his friends, and his love, Delia, who “as their love deepens, … stand together despite disgrace and ostracism, through an age of devastation and opportunity, when an adolescent Chicago is transformed into the gleaming White City of the Chicago’s World’s Fair of 1893.”

Children’s Books

Summer of Dreams: The Story of a Worlds Fair Girl (1993) by Dorothy Hoobler, Thomas Hoobler, Carey Greenberg: (Grades 3-6). Set in 1893, the story follows preteen Cristina Ricci and her adventures at the Chicago Columbian Exposition, where she works as a guide to children visiting from other countries.

Chicago World’s Fair ( 1998 ) by JoAnn A. Grote: In the American adventure series, #29. Christian fiction. 144 pp.

Fair Weather (2001) by Richard Peck: In 1893, thirteen-year-old Rosie and members of her family travel from their Illinois farm to Chicago to visit Aunt Euterpe and attend the World’s Columbian Exposition which, along with an encounter with Buffalo Bill and Lillian Russell, turns out to be a life-changing experience for everyone.

Exploring the Chicago World’s Fair, 1893 (2002) by Laurie Lawlor: In the American Sisters series. Dora Pomeroy must keep watch over her sisters against the dazzling backdrop of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

The Great Wheel (2004) by Robert Lawson: Conn Kilroy leaves his Irish village for work in America, first with a contracting company in New York and then to Chicago, where he and his uncle join a crew building what some called Ferris’s Folly — the first Ferris wheel and the showpiece of Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.

Magician in the Trunk (2007) by Candice F. Ransom: In the Time Spies series. When Mattie, Sophie, and Alex travel back in time to the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, they decide to help Harry Houdini’s failing magic show, but they find themselves in need of help when they are accused of stealing a priceless diamond.


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1901 BUFFALO Pan-American Exposition

(Surprising there aren’t more novels written with this setting, where Pres. William McKinley was assassinated.)

Fiction

City of Light (1999) by Lauren Belfer: Historical mystery set in Buffalo and Niagara Falls at the start of the 20th century, where hydroelectric power and the Pan-American Exposition promise new possibilities.

The Temple of Music: A Novel (2004) by Jonathan Lowy: Leon Czolgosz, an alienated factory worker and an ardent admirer of Emma Goldman, plots to assassinate President McKinley at the 1901 Buffalo World’s Fair.

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1904 Louisiana Purchase International Exposition in ST. LOUIS

Fiction

Meet Me in St. Louis (1942) by Sally Benson: On which the film of the same name was based. Originally serialized in the Saturday Evening Post. Tells the story of four sisters living in St. Louis at the time of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition World’s Fair in 1904

1904 (2004) by Marcelo Vital and David Montgomery: Graphic novel celebrating the centennial of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, also known as the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Combines adventure and historical fiction in a lavishly illustrated tale about a delivery boy who single-handedly saves the 1904 World’s Fair.

Children’s Books

The World’s Fair: The Days of Laura Ingalls Wilder (Book Five) (1992) by Thomas L. Tedrow: Given the assignment to cover the St. Louis World’s Fair, Laura and Manly decide to make a second honeymoon of it. Disgusted at what some people have made of the Games, Laura speaks up for some contestants who are being treated as side-show freaks, teaming up with Alice Roosevelt to stop the inhuman Anthropological Games.  In the Thomas Nelson series, Days of Laura Ingalls Wilder. 223pp.

The Song of the Molimo ( 1998 ) by Jane Cutler: When twelve-year-old Harry comes from Kansas to visit the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, he befriends an African pygmy, Ota Benga, who is part of an anthropology exhibit, works for the first female news photographer, and becomes involved in a burgeoning scientific controversy.

The Minstrel’s Melody (2001) by Eleanora Tate: In the American Girl history mysteries series. In 1904, twelve-year-old Orphelia follows her dream by running away from home to join an all-black minstrel show headed for the Saint Louis World’s Fair, and learns about her family’s troubled past in the process.

Film

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944): Directed by Vincente Minnelli, starring Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien, Mary Astor, Leon Ames, June Lockhart and Marjorie Main.

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1933-1934 A Century of Progress International Exposition in CHICAGO

Fiction

Light From Arcturus (1935) by Mildred Walker: Novel about a bored and restless Nebraska woman who “stepped beyond sacrifice and duty, impressed herself on a larger scene, fed her spirit, and grew in dignity. Grounded in memorable events, this novel illustrates the significance of the period’s great world’s fairs to the early settlers. The milestones in Julia’s progress are trips to the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876 and to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 and in 1933.”

Going to Chicago (1997) by Rob Levandoski: Bittersweet debut about a quixotic 1934 road trip to the Chicago World’s Fair, recalled by a curmudgeonly retiree. 207 pp.

The Hatbox Baby (2002) by Carrie Brown: Set at 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. “A Chicago woman goes into premature labor and delivers a tiny baby, barely alive. The father takes it to the fair (in a hatbox) to be cared for by a physician who has an exhibition of tiny preemies in primitive incubators. When the father is killed in a road accident, the baby becomes the focal point of a fan dancer; her brother, a dwarf; the doctor and his nurse; and the baby’s aunt.” (Library Journal)

True Detective (2003) by Max Allan Collins: In the Frank Nitti Trilogy. Nate Heller is a cop trying to stay straight in one of the most corrupt places imaginable: Prohibition-era Chicago.  Reviewers mention that the World’s Fair ‘comes alive’ in this novel.

Young Adult Fiction

Beverly Gray at the World’s Fair (1935) by Clair Blank: In the Beverly Gray College Mystery series. Beverly and her friends have graduated from college and are working in New York. Disappointed that she was not going to Paris to study with friends, Beverly and her remaining friends plan a month vacation at the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago where they witness a murder when a diver is killed by an air gun at the fair.  250 pp. Very rare book because it was omitted when the AL Burt series was reprinted by Grosset (it was thought that the world’s fair setting dated it).

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1939 NEW YORK World’s Fair

Fiction

Murder At The New York World’s Fair ( 1938 ) by Phoebe Atwood Taylor. Written by Taylor under the pseudonym Freeman Dana, at the request of Bennett Cerf. 265 pp.

World’s Fair Goblin (1969) by Kenneth Robeson: Doc Savage series #39. An eight-foot monster is haunting the 1939 New York World’s Fair. What is the bizarre secret of Maximus, the ‘World’s Fair Goblin’? Republished 2008 with Czar of Fear in Doc Savage Reprint #17.

World’s Fair (1985) by E. L. Doctorow: Fiction and reality meet within the 1930s Bronx childhood of Edgar, growing up through the intensity of the Depression and the hope of the New York World’s Fair. 288 pp.

1939: The Lost World of the Fair (1996) by David Gelernter – Historical fiction, romance, anti-modern political jeremiad. 418 pp.

Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2000) by Michael Chabon: Includes descriptive scenes on the grounds of a New York World’s Fair.

Tomorrow at the Fair (2005) by Bob Madison: Sci-fi? John Kenner, 12 years old, dreams of the future as seen in science fiction comics. When the 1939 World’s Fair promises to create the World of Tomorrow, he and his grandfather run away from home and travel to New York, only to learn that anarchists plan to blow up the Trylon and Perisphere! 300 pp.

Children’s Books

All Aboard! (1995) by James Stevenson: Hubie and his family take the Broadway Blazer to the 1939 World’s Fair, but Hubie has a series of adventures by himself on the way there.

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1940 Golden Gate International Exposition in SAN FRANCISCO

Fiction

Swing: a novel (2005) by Rupert Holmes: Jazz musician Ray Sherwood, playing at the 1940 World Fair, becomes involved in the investigation into the death of a mysterious Frenchwoman, who had previously propositioned him.

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1962 Century 21 Exposition in SEATTLE

Film

It Happened at the World’s Fair (1963): Musical adventure film starring Elvis Presley. Two cropdusters, trying to earn money, hitchhike to the World’s Fair in Seattle. While one tries to earn money playing poker, the other takes care of a small girl, Sue-Lin, whose father has disappeared.

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FICTITIOUS Fairs

Young Adult Fiction

World’s Fair 1992 (1970) by Robert Silverberg: 1992 World’s Fair in a satellite above Earth. Science fiction. The 1992 World’s Fair was to be an orbital extravaganza, set in a gigantic satellite 50 000 miles above the Earth, and the young xenobiology student thought it would be a dream come true. 248 pp.

Books about Hurricanes

f813d5ed8c83c5f0e4c269e4204d3fd4.jpgWho knew that NOAA has a list of fictional books, plays, and movies that have been written involving tropical cyclones and hurricanes? I found out accidentally today, looking for the title of a mystery, written decades ago, set in Palm Beach featuring a nurse and tycoon! (Haven’t found it yet.)  The list of about 65 works is chronological and starts with Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1611), ends with Hurricane: a novel (2008) by Terry Trueman, about Hurricane Mitch in the Honduras.

House Rules Booklist: If You Like House MD …

housemd

… you might like these books, suggested by members of various library listservs.

The query I sent out was:

I’m looking for fiction that will appeal to someone who likes the FOX TV show, House MD, starring Hugh Laurie. The appeal factors could include medical diagnostics or medical mystery, interesting dynamics among medical professionals, cynical smart doctors, close co-dependent friendships between male doctors or men generally, an underlying belief that ‘everyone lies,’ and so on.

Here are the suggested authors, series, and titles.  I haven’t read any yet. I’d love additions, and comments if you have read them:

Ariana Franklin (pseudonym for Diana Norman). New historical thriller series set in the 12th century about cynical, smart female physician Adelia Aguilar who is brought to England to solve murder mysteries for King Henry II. She’s a coroner. First in the series: Mistress in the Art of Death (2007). Last (and second): The Serpent’s Tale (2008).

Eileen Dreyer. Standalone medical mystery thrillers featuring cynical, world-weary nurses and EMTs. Also writes a series featuring Molly Burke, forensic nurse and death investigator in St. Louis, MO. First in series: Bad Medicine (1995). Last: Head Games (2005).

Sequence (2006) and The Silent Assassin (2007) by Lori Andrews, medical thrillers featuring geneticist and forensic specialist Dr. Alexandra Blake, described as smart and edgy. (Reviews compare the books to the popular TV series NCIS).

CL Grace’s series featuring Kathyrn Swinbrooke, a female doctor in medieval times when only men could be doctors. Titles: 1. A Shrine of Murders (1992); 2. The Eye of God (1994); 3. The Merchant of Death (1995); 4. The Book of Shadows (1996); 5. Saintly Murders (2001); 6. A Maze of Murders (2003); and 7. A Feast of Poisons (2004). Some romance. (Grace is a pseudonym for writer P.C. Doherty.)

Echo Heron’s medical thriller series featuring nurse Adele Monsarrat, who has a quirky sense of humor. Titles are Pulse (1998), Panic (1998), Paradox (1998) and Fatal Diagnosis (2000).

Lifelines (2008) by C. J. Lyons. Set in a Pittsburgh hospital, involves the new attending physician whose first night doesn’t go well. When she’s accused of negligence in the death of the son of the Chief of Neurosurgery, she starts investigating to save her career.

The Bugman novels by Tim Downs: 1. Shoofly Pie, 2. Chop Shop, and 3. First the Dead. The main character, Dr. Nick Polchak, is a forensic entomologist in North Carolina who helps solve crimes based on what the bugs say. He has a wry sense of humor. The books are marketed as Christian fiction but are not preachy; values are implicit, not explicit.

Drowned Towns (Book List)

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I became fascinated by the idea of a drowned town when I read Peter Robinson’s In a Dry Season (1999) and Reginald Hill’s On Beulah Height (1998), both set in Yorkshire, England, and both crime novels whose plots feature towns that have been evacuated and flooded to create reservoirs.

A drowned town is a town, city, village, collection of buildings, or other place that’s submerged, inundated or flooded by water as a consequence of the building of dams and creating of reservoirs for water supply, hydroelectric power, irrigation, flood management, or job creation.

There are lots of real ones in the world, some of which are listed below.

And of course there are crime novels and other fiction books — for adults, teens, and children — written about the phenomenon, and I’ve listed some of those below as well. If you have additions, let me know!

DROWNED TOWNS

Mysteries and other fiction with a featured element of intentional submerging, inundating, and flooding of towns, villages, cities, and other places as a consequence of building dams and reservoirs for water supply, hydroelectric power, irrigation, flood management, and job creation. The core of this list was developed by a retired librarian in Pennsylvania, with additions by members of DorothyL and FictionL in August 2006. The apt term “Reservoir Noir” comes from crime novelist Peter Robinson.

Some descriptions are taken verbatim, or in essence, from review sources such as Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal, and from booksellers’ descriptions.

Reservoir Noir (Crime Novels)

Alan Dipper, Drowning Day (1976): “The calm of a small Welsh town is shattered by the threat of annihilation. A vast reservoir already exists, poised three hundred feet above its rooftops, and now politics and greed demand that the valley itself should be flooded to provide water for new towns and industry. A tide of violence sweeps in from outside, and the people prepare to fight for their future.” Listed in Allen Hubin’s Crime Fiction II. 207 pp.

Eileen Dunlop, Valley of the Deer (1989): Young Adult. Set in Scotland. In 1964, 14-year-old Anne is living in a valley near Dumfries that is about to be flooded to make a reservoir, while her archaeologist parents excavate an ancient burial mound. When she finds an old family Bible behind a secret door in her house, she’s led on a quest to solve the mystery surrounding the death in 1726 of a young Scottish woman, Alice Jardyne, accused of witchcraft. 139 pp.

Lee Harris, Christening Day Murder (1993): Set in New York state. Thirty years ago, the inhabitants of Studsburg, N.Y., relocated when the town was flooded to create a reservoir. Now that drought has left the small town temporarily high and dry, former nun Christine Bennett (in town for a baby christening) discovers the remains of a young woman hidden in the Catholic church (from PW review). 213 pp.

Reginald Hill, On Beulah Height (1998): Set in Yorkshire, England. Dalziel and Pascoe mystery. Fifteen years ago, the village of Dendale suffered double tragedies: three children were kidnapped, never to be found, while a fourth barely escaped with her life. Then the government forced the villagers to evacuate Dendale so they could flood its homes and shops to create a new reservoir. Now, a seven-year-old girl from Danby, the village where most of the Dendale’s inhabitants retreated, disappears (from Booklist review). Excellent. 374 pp.

James D. Landis, The Taking (2003): Set in Massachusetts. Swift River Valley is doomed: set to disappear beneath the waters of the Quabbin reservoir. Jeremy Treat is the town minister, a man of deep faith trying to inspire hope in a place destined to be taken from its inhabitants. He is also the husband of Una, a voluptuous eccentric pining for her first love, and father of Jimmy, a seemingly perfect child prodigy. Into this tight-knit family comes Sarianna, a romantic student obsessed by the story of the Valley. Her ensnarement in the secrets and desires of the Treat family is the basis for this stunning gothic novel of sexual awakening, shifting identity, loss and love. Published in the UK as The Valley (2006).

Jane Langton, Emily Dickinson Is Dead (1984): Set in Massachusetts, at a poetry symposium in Amherst. Describes the 1939 flooding of the towns of Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott to create the Quabbin Reservoir. One of her characters stuffs a body down Shaft 12 on the Hardwick shoreline of the reservoir. 247 pp.

Julia Wallis Martin, A Likeness in Stone (1997): Set near Oxford, England. A killer strikes again when long-dead victim Helena Warner surfaces from the bottom of a reservoir, and her three closest friends continue to maintain an eerie silence as Bill Driver tries to uncover their dark secret. Excellent. 280 pp.

Sharyn McCrumb, Zombies of the Gene Pool (1992): Set in eastern Tennessee. Mystery/science fiction. In the 1950s, a group of eight young men buried a time capsule containing their science fiction stories and other artifacts of the time. A dam was later built on the Watauga River, and a lake, Gene C. Breedlove Lake (known as the Gene Pool), formed over the place where the time capsule was buried. Now the lake must be drained for dam repairs. Since some of the eight men, who are now elderly, have become famous, the time capsule will be dug up. A writer who was supposed to have died 30 years earlier shows up, and when he is killed, science fiction writer Jay Omega sets out to discover who the killer is. 274 pp.

Michael Miano, The Dead of Summer (1999): Set in Connecticut. New York TV writer Michael Carpo vacations annually in the small town of Bridgewater, Conn., at the house of his friend, elderly African-American writer Jack Crawford — but this year Carpo arrives to find him dead. It looks like suicide, but then Carpo learns that the village’s older residents are dying at a suspiciously fast clip. The deceased, it turns out, are all linked to a ghost town submerged by a recently constructed lake. Carpo must find out who wanted them dead, and why, before the last of the lost town’s survivors disappear (from PW review). 224 pp.

Ron Rash, One Foot in Eden: A Novel (2002): Set in Seneca, South Carolina. This debut novel combines a murder mystery with the occasion of the flooding of a South Carolina Appalachian valley by Carolina Power. The real Santee-Cooper Reservoir is mentioned. 240 pp.

Rick Riordan, The Devil Went Down to Austin (2002): Set near and under Lake Travis in Austin. As Riordan says in an interview: ” When Mansfield Dam was built, and they flooded the area, you think that it all washes away, but it doesn’t. There really are pecan groves down there still, and they say they even have the pecans on the trees — the last pecans they ever grew. And barbed wire fences. What the land was like until it was taken and flooded.” The book includes the description of a dive into the preserved pecan orchard at the bottom of the lake. [Thanks, Kathleen!]

Peter Robinson, In a Dry Season (1999): Set in Yorkshire, England. When a drought drains the local Thornfield Reservoir, uncovering the long-drowned village of Hobbs End and the skeleton of a murder victim from the 1940s, Detective Alan Banks and Detective Sergeant Annie Cabot investigate the decades-old crime, with quite a bit of WWII ambiance and history involved. Excellent. 422 pp.

Lisa See, Dragon Bones (2003): Liu Hulan, an agent for China’s Ministry of Public Security, and her American husband return to investigate murder and archaeological theft at the Three Gorges Dam, one of the most beautiful and controversial places on earth. When completed, the Three Gorges Dam will be the most powerful dam ever built and the biggest project China has undertaken since the building of the Great Wall. Yet, the reservoir formed by the dam will inundate over 2,000 archaeological sites and displace over 2 million people. 368 pp.

Paul Somers (aka Paul Winterton), Broken Jigsaw (1961): Set in England. An adulterous couple murder her rich husband and hide his body in a sinkhole that’s about to be covered by the reservoir that will also drown the village of Alton. Two years later, a drought causes the reservoir to recede and the body must be retrieved and rehidden — but in the meanwhile a nearby cottage has been rented by a writer who never seems to leave it and who is sure to observe such activities.

Julia Spencer-Fleming, Out of the Deep I Cry: A Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mystery (2004): Set in upstate NY. Crime novel that intertwines storylines from the 1930s, 1970s, and present. The 1930 storyline involves the building of the Conklingville Dam and the flooding of forty square miles of the Sacandaga River Valley, creating the Great Sacandaga Lake as well as Stewart’s Pond, which is a focus of this story. When the flooding occured, many residents of the area were relocated to fictitious Miller’s Kill, where this series is set. 336 pp.

Donald Westlake, Drowned Hopes (1990): Set in upstate New York. John Dortmunder’s ex-cellmate, Tom Jimson, asks Dortmunder’s help in reclaiming a $700,000 stash from an old robbery. The cash was buried in an upstate New York town that was subsequently flooded to become part of New York City’s reservoir system. Jimson’s plan to blow up the reservoir dam will doom nearby towns, so Dortmunder must concoct a more humane solution (from PW review). 418 pp.

John Morgan Wilson, Rhapsody in Blood: A Benjamin Justice Novel (2006): Set in California. In 1956, glamorous film star Rebecca Fox was murdered in the Eternal Springs Hotel in the Calif. desert. A young African-American man was blamed for the murder and was lynched by an angry mob led by the KKK, though new DNA evidence indicates that he may have been innocent of the crime. The government has since damned the valley for hydroelectric power and the waters of Lake Enid now cover the town where the vicious killing took place. Benjamin Justice accepts an offer from a reporter friend to spend a relaxing weekend at the Haunted Springs Hotel and becomes involved in both the old murder and current-day danger. 288 pp.

Stuart Woods, Under the Lake (1987): Set in Sutherland, Georgia, “a charmingly reconstructed town on a man-made lake.” Investigative reporter John Howell becomes obsessed with the dark secrets of a local family that vanished after their farm was flooded a quarter-century earlier. 281 pp.

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Other Drowned Town Fiction

Mabel Esther Allan, Pendron Under the Water (1961):Juvenile fiction, set in the UK. When Pendron villlage is drowned to form a reservoir, all the villagers except one take the date stones from their cottages. The story is about the recovery of that missing stone one summer when the reservoir is very low because there is no rain.

Andrea Barrett, The Forms of Water (1993): Set in Massachusetts. At 80, Brendan Auberon, a former monk, is confined to a wheelchair in a nursing home. His last wish is to see the 200 acres of woodland where his family home once stood. Half a century ago, the owners of the land were evicted from their homes and the land was flooded to create a reservoir which would provide water for the big city. Brendan convinces his staid nephew Henry to hijack the nursing home van to make this ancestral visit.

John Blackburn, Bury Him Darkly (2013): An English manor house is about to be submerged under a new reservoir as part of a planned water project. The house contains the tomb of its two-centuries-dead (or is he?) previous owner — a poet/artist/occultist whose late artistic flowering is suspected of being caused by a demonic bargain — as well as most of his work.

Berlie Doherty, Deep Secret (2004): Young Adult. Set in England. Haunting novel about twins and generations in a village which is to be flooded to create a reservoir. Based on real events of the flooding of the small villages of Derwent and Ashopton in north-west Derbyshire to make way for the building of the Ladybower reservoir supplying water to Sheffield, Leicester, Derby and Nottingham. 264 pp.

Ivan Doig, Bucking the Sun (1996): Set in northwestern Montana. A Depression-era narrative largely devoted to the problems of building the Fort Peck Dam, which created a reservoir 135 miles long, provided flood control and was the biggest earth-fill dam in the world at the time. It focuses on the fictional Duff family and their roles in the mammoth dam project, and in the process describes the working conditions and way of life of the thousands of workers hired to construct the Fort Peck Dam, many of them homesteaders from upriver farms destined to disappear under the waters of the newly formed Fort Peck Lake (summary from Wikipedia). There are two murders, but the book is not essentially a mystery. 412 pp.

Sylvia Fair, The Ivory Anvil (1974UK/1977US) Juvenile fiction, set in the UK. A piece of a 3-D cube puzzle is found in a submerged village that that dries out during a heatwave.

Sarah Hall, Haweswater (2002): Set in Cumbria, England. Won UK’s Commonwealth Prize. Debut novel is set in 1936 in remote Marsdale village in the Lake District, and tells of the flooding of the dale to make way for a reservoir, against the wishes of many of the local hill farmers. When Waterworks representative Jack Ligget from industrial Manchester arrives with plans to build the new reservoir, he brings the much feared threat of impending change to this bucolic hamlet. And when he begins an intense and troubled affair with Janet Lightburn, a devout local woman, it leads to scandal, tragedy, and remarkable, desperate acts.

Mollie Hunter, The Walking Stones: A Story of Suspense (1970; illus Trina Schart Hyman). Ages 9-12. Set in the Scottish Highlands. Paranormal thriller. After receiving the gift of Second Sight from his old friend,the Bodach, ten-year-old Donald becomes responsible for safeguarding the ancient power of the walking stones before their glen is flooded by a hydroelectric company. 143 pp.

Jackie French Koller, Someday (2002): Ages 9-12. Set in Massachusetts. Fourteen-year-old Celie lives in Enfield, Mass. in 1938 and her town, along with three others, is to be flooded to create a reservoir. All the families have to move from their homes, but Celie’s Gran refuses to do so. Celie’s mother is angry with Gran and says she should face reality, but that’s because Celie’s mother is a city girl and really wants to leave. Based on the creation of the Quabbin Reservoir. 224 pp.

Kathryn Lasky, Home Free (1985): Young Adult. Set in Massachusetts. Fifteen-year-old Sam Brooks and his mother have moved to her hometown in New England, mourning Sam’s father, who died in a car crash. Sam soon involves himself with a project to introduce eagles to an ‘accidental wilderness’ that exists because an entire valley, including four villages, was flooded to create a reservoir, forcing many families to relocate and leave their pasts behind. His work to save the wilderness helps an autistic girl return to reality and reveals her strange hidden power. 245 pp.

H.P. Lovecraft, “The Colour Out of Space” (1927): Spooky science fiction. Set in Massachusetts. Forty years ago, a strange meteorite struck the town and farms of Arkham, Mass. Since then, nothing grows right here (inedible fruits, anatomically incorrect animals, oddly coloured plant life, a sort of phosphorescence in the air), and people have malaise, insanity, bad dreams…. Something is sucking life itself out of everything in the area, and its reach is growing larger and larger. Now, the entire blighted area will be flooded and the citizens of Boston will be drinking water from the created reservoir. The entire story is online.

Sue Miller, The World Below (2001): Set in Vermont. The Quabbin Reservoir and Harriman Reservoir are not central to the plot but are mentioned seven times between pp. 209 and 270.
Michael Shea, The Color Out of Time (1984): Science fiction. Set in New England. Homage to Lovecraft’s "The Colour Out of Space." The flooded New England valley made a beautiful holiday spot, with twenty miles of secluded lakeshore. But visitors Gerald Sternbruck and Ernst Carlsberg soon realise that the still waters of the lake conceal a frightful evil that preys on flora, fauna, and human beings.

William F. Weld, Stillwater (2001): The story of fifteen-year-old Jamieson, a farm boy who finds first love with the unforgettable, dreamy Hannah. At the same time, life as he knows it is unraveling around him, as his town and four neighboring towns will soon be flooded to create a huge reservoir. Written by a former Mass. governor. 240 pp.

Jane Yolen, Letting Swift River Go (1992; illus. Barbara Cooney): Ages 5-9. Set in Massachusetts. Relates Sally Jane’s experience of changing times in rural America, as she lives through the drowning of the Swift River Towns in western Massachusetts to form the Quabbin Reservoir. 32 pp.

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Real Drowned Towns

in the U.S.

Alabama: the town of Irma, under Lake Martin

Arizona: Alamo Crossing, a mining town now under 100 feet of water in Lake Alamo; town of La Laguna, under Mittry Lake.

Arkansas: Several towns, including Miller, under Greers Ferry Lake on the Little Red River (1959-1962); the town of Custer by Norfork Lake; the town of Fir by Lake Ouachita; the town of Hand by Norfork Lake

California: Hetch Hetchy Valley, a glacial valley in Yosemite National Park in California, was flooded in 1923 by O’Shaughnessy Dam, forming the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir; Jacksonville, near Sonora, under Lake Don Pedro; Melones, near Sonora, under New Melones Lake; Monticello, near Napa, evacuated for Lake Berryessa Reservoir, and Redbud Park inundated by same; Heroult, Kennett, Baird, and Copper City, for Lake Shasta in 1944; the town Lorraine by Thermalito Afterbay; the town of Minersville by Clair Engle Lake; the town of Pleyto by San Antonio Reservoir; the towns of Foster Bar, Bullards Bar, and Garden Valley by Bullards Bar Reservoir; the town of Salmon Falls by Folsom Lake; the towns of South Fork, Bloomer, Bidwell Bar, Bidwell, and Enterprise by Lake Oroville; the town of Mussey Grove by San Vicente Reservoir; the town of Isabella by Isabella Lake; the town of El Capitan by El Capitan Reservoir; the town of Cedar Springs by Silverwood Lake; the town of Auld by Skinner Reservoir; the town of Hullville by Lake Pillsbury;
the towns of Lexington and Alma, for the James J. Lenihan Dam and Lexington Reservoir (around 1950), near Los Gatos; the town of Petersburg, under the New Hogan Reservoir; town of Picacho, mostly submerged when Laguna Dam completed 1909; Mormon Island in Folsom Lake, near Sacramento.

Colorado: Sopris, for the Trinidad Dam and Reservoir; McPhee for the McPhee Reservoir; the town of Iola by Blue Mesa Reservoir

Connecticut: the village of Barkhamsted Hollow, for Barkhamsted Reservoir on the Farmington River (Saville Dam, 1940)

Florida: the town of Butler due to construction of the Jim Woodruff Reservoir.

Georgia: the towns of Petersburg and Lisbon when Strom Thurmond Lake was created; the town of Oketeyeconne by Walter F. George Reservoir; the town of Hunt by Chatuge Lake.

Idaho: the town of American Falls, for the American Falls Reservoir and Dam (1910s-1920s); the town of Montour, for the Black Canyon Dam.

Indiana: the town of Monument City, flooded in 1965 to create the Salamonie Reservoir.

Kansas: towns under Tuttle Creek Lake on the Big Blue River, near Manhattan (1962; one town was rebuilt elsewhere: Randolph, Kansas)

Maine: the towns of Dead River and Flagstaff, flooded in 1949 when the Flagstaff Dam was built and Flagstaff Lake was created on the Dead River in western Maine.

Maryland: the town of Conowingo when Conowingo Dam was built in 1928; 1809 mill town Triadelphia, inundated in 1931 by Triadelphia Reservoir; the town of Shamburg by Prettyboy Reservoir; the towns of Dulaney Valley and Bosley by Loch Raven Reservoir.

Massachusetts: the towns of Boylston, West Boylston, Clinton and Sterling, for the Wachusett Reservoir (1897-1908); town of Dana, North Dana, Millington, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott, on the Swift River for the Quabbin Reservoir

Missouri: the towns of Theodosia and Forsyth when the Bull Shoals Dam and Lake was built on the White River in 1951; the town of Shawnee Bend, inundated by the creation of the Lake of the Ozarks by Bagnell Dam in 1931.

Montana: the town of Nagos, inundated by Lake Koocanusa; towns and homes near Glasgow, Mont., flooded by Fort Peck Dam on the Missouri River (1933-1940), created to provide flood control, hydroelectric power, and 10,000 jobs during the Depression — it is the largest hydraulically filled dam in the United States and created the fifth largest man-made lake in the U.S., Fort Peck Lake; the town of Armstead (inundated), plus Routes 91 (rebuilt as Interstate 15) and the main line of the Union Pacific RR, for Clark Canyon Dam and Reservoir in Beaverhead County (1961-1964), created for downstream irrigation and flood control; the town of Rexford, Highway 37, the Great Northern Railroad line, for Libby Dam and Lake Koocanusa (1970s).

Nevada: St. Thomas, under Lake Mead when the art deco Boulder Dam (aka Hoover Dam) was built on the Colorado River in 1931-1936, but due to drought conditions has been visible again since the late 1990s.

New Mexico: town of Paraje, submerged by Elephant Butte Lake when Elephant Butte Dam built, 1912-1916

New York: Neversink and Bittersweet, New York, now under the Neversink Reservoir; the towns of Olive, West Shokan, Brodhead Bridge, Brown’s Station, Boiceville, West Hurley, Glenford and Ashton (in the Catskills) to create Ashokan Reservoir; the towns of Beerston, Cannonsville, Rock Rift, Rock Royal and Granton, for Cannonsville Reservoir; the towns of Arena, Pepacton, Shavertown and Union Grove, for Pepacton Reservoir; the towns of Eureka, Montela and Lackawack, for Rondout Reservoir (1937-1954); the town of Gilboa for Schoharie Reservoir in the Catskills (1919-1927); the town of Southeast, on the Croton River (Sodom Dam), to create East Branch Reservoir, Middle Branch Reservoir, Bog Brook Reservoir and Diverting Reservoir (info and photos here); Concord, partially flooded in 1930 when the Conklingville dam created the Sacandaga Reservoir (now Great Sacandaga Lake).

North Carolina: the towns of Judson and Fontana, to create Fontana Lake; the town of Tuscola, inundated by the creation of Lake Junaluska and Lake Junaluska Dam. North Dakota : Sanish (Old Sanish), Elbowoods, Lucky Mound, Shell Creek, Nishu, Charging Eagle, Beaver Creek, Red Butte, Independence, and Van Hook (some towns are part of Fort Berthold Indian Reservation), flooded for Lake Sakakawea in 1953 (see photo of foundations visible above lake); town of Moe, under the Garrison Reservoir (1950s).

Ohio: the town of Elk Lick by William H. Harsha Lake.

Oregon:  the town of Arlington, in Gilliam County, relocated uphill from its original location to make way for the John Day Dam, constructed on the Columbia River (1958-1968) and creating Lake Umatilla, along with the towns of Boardman and Umatilla, also relocated for the dam.

Pennsylvania: the town of Corydon, and tribal lands and gravesites, flooded in the 1965 for Kinzua Dam and Allegheny Reservoir and in the 1990s partially uncovered due to low water levels; the town of Pritchard by Lake Cowanesque; town (Wilsonville?) under Lake Wallenpaupack (1924-1926)

Rhode Island: the towns of Kent, Richmond, Ashland, South Scituate, Saundersville, Rockland and Ponaganset, and mills at Clayville, Elmdale, Harrisdale and Glenrock, plus almost 1,500 graves (relocated), for the Scituate Reservoir (1915-1926).

South Carolina: the towns in the Saluda Valley, under Lake Murray (Saluda Dam, 1920s); the towns of Andersonville and Price by Hartwell Lake.

South Dakota: Bear Gulch II, submerged beneath the waters of Pactola Lake.

Tennessee: the town of Butler, in 1948 by the TVA for Watauga Dam and Reservoir; towns under Norris Lake, created by the TVA’s Norris Dam (1933-1936), for hydroelectric and flood control structure, on the Clinch River; the town of Willow Grove, for Dale Hollow Reservoir (1942)

Texas: Guerrero Viejo, a colonial town from the 1750s — which includes Nuestra Senora del Refugio, a historic Spanish mission — when the U.S. and Mexico dammed the Rio Grande to create Falcon Lake Reservoir in 1953; the town of Old Zapata, inundated by the Falcon Dam Reservoir; the town of Calliham, for the Choke Canyon Dam and Reservoir (1982) on the Frio River (flowing to the Nueces River); the town of Addicks near Houston for the Addicks Dam Reservoir (mid 1940s); the panhandle town of Saints Roost, under water in the Greenbelt Reservoir; town of Swartwout, inundated by Livingston Dam/Reservoir on the Trinity River; houses, farmsteads, orchards, and farms, submerged by Lake Travis with the Mansfield Dam (originally called the Marshall Ford Dam), on the Colorado River, built in 1937-1941.

Utah: Connellsville, under Electric Lake; the old mining town of Hite, under Lake Powell; the town of Rockport, under the Rockport Reservoir (1950s).

Virginia: the town of Greenwood, inundated by Lake Moomaw

Washington: 3,000 people (including Indian tribes) in the towns of Kettle Falls, Peach, Keller, Lincoln, Inchelium, Gerome, Marcus, Gifford, Boyds, Fort Covile, and Daisy evacuated for Lake Roosevelt, formed by the Grand Coulee Dam (1933-1941) on the Columbia River, which was built for the purpose of irrigation; the town of Moncton, submerged by Rattlesnake Lake and Masonry Dam on the Cedar River Watershed (1912-1915) to provide drinking water for Seattle; the town of Roosevelt, relocated for the building of the John Day Dam and creation of Lake Umatilla on the Columbia River (1958-1968).

West Virginia: the towns of Yates, Sandy, and Stone House, inundated by Tygart Lake; the town of Morrison by Summersville Dam.

For more: Immersed Remains: Towns Submerged in America has more history, and photos, of some drowned towns in the U.S.

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outside the U.S.

Canada: the town of Minnewanka, Alberta, for Lake Minnewanka (1912; 1941); the mining town of Minto, British Columbia, for Carpenter Reservoir; towns of West Kootenay, British Columbia, including Arrowhead, Beaton, Needles and Waneta, drowned for reservoirs and power dams; the town of Upper Mill Ville by Mactequac Lake, New Brunswick; the towns of Mille Roches, Moulinette, Wales, Dickinson’s Landing, Farran’s Point, and Aultsville, near Cornwall, Ontario, for a hydro dam on the St. Lawrence River in 1958.

United Kingdom: the mill village of Goyt in Derbyshire; the towns of Derwent and Ashopton for Ladybower Dam; the village of Hambleton, inundated by Rutland Water; the town of Mardale in the Lake District, flooded by Haweswater Reservoir.

Australia: Old Jyndabyne Township, New South Wales, for the Jyndabyne Dam Project

New Zealand: Cromwell (South Island) partially flooded in the 1980s to create Lake Dunstan, to power a hydroelectric dam

Italy: the town of Fabbriche di Careggine, under Lake Vagli — every ten years the lake is emptied for maintenance and the town is visible.

Argentina, S.A.: Federación was submerged (residents relocated) in 1979 when the Salto Grande Dam was built, on the border with Uruguay.

Colombia, S.A.: the old colonial town of Guatavita was flooded to create a hydro-electric reservoir, Tominé Reservoir (1967)

Brazil, S.A. : the original city of Nova Ponte plus 8 other municipalities, due to the Nova Ponte Hydropower Plant dam and reservoir (1987-1994)

India: the town of Harsud, in Madhya Pradesh, flooded in 2005 for the Narmada Dam project, to provide hydroelectric power and irrigation for crops; the village of Khandal, the town of Tehri, and other villages, for the Tehri Dam (1990s)

Burma: tens of thousands of people forcibly relocated for the proposed TA Sarong hydroelectric dam and its reservoir, on the Salween River in northeastern Burma (2000).

Russia: the town of Atalanka and others along the the shores of the Angara (in Siberia), intentionally flooded in 1961 as a result of the construction downriver of several dams and the Bratsk hydroelectric station.

China: millions of people are expected to be transplanted from 153 towns and 4,500 villages (and several temples submerged) when the Three Gorges Dam is completed.

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Helpful Sources

Re: dam-l towns submerged by lakes by Damon Scott

Underwater Towns — Scuba Diving Board (Cached here)

If You Liked the Film “Brokeback Mountain” …

I’ve posted a list of books (and a few movies) similar in style, content, and character depiction to the current film, “Brokeback Mountain,” based on a short story by E. Annie Proulx, and starring Heath Ledger as Ennis Del Mar and Jake Gyllenhaal as Jack Twist. Thanks to the folks on Fiction-L for their help compiling the list.

Notes:

  1. The list was compiled primarily by members of Fiction-L in January 2006.

  2. Themes of the books listed might include:

    • men or women in love with someone of the same sex and conflicted about it

    • bisexuality and its complexities in marriage and other relationships

    • a character being surprised by his/her choice of lover’s gender, race, class, etc.

    • the issues faced by a character who falls in love with someone of the same sex or someone otherwise seen as culturally inappropriate

    • a brief, intense emotional and/or sexual relationship and its aftermath, resolution, and/or consequences over years.

GIOVANNI’S ROOM (1956) by James Baldwin [Delta, 2003, 176 pp.]: The novel is narrated introspectively and retrospectively in the first person by David, a young, white American trying to find himself in post-World War II France. Mostly through flashbacks, we follow David’s exploits in Paris, where he keeps company with the Saint-Germain crowd of homosexuals, while his official American fiancée, Hella, is traveling in Spain. The central focus is on David’s struggle with his sexual identity and his tragic romance with Giovanni, a handsome Italian bartender, whose love David ultimately rejects in a fit of self-hating and homophobic rage. (Description from The Literary Encyclopedia)

A HOME AT THE END OF THE WORLD (1998) by Michael Cunningham [Picador, 352 pp.]: Bobby and Jonathan are close boyhood friends growing up in Cleveland in the late 1960s and ’70s. Their relationship is both average and far beyond what most kids would consider ‘normal.’ After high school, Jonathan moves to New York City, Bobby soon follows, and they both become involved with Clare, a slightly older woman who finds each one appealing in his own way. The three make a life together. (Description from Library Journal)

BETWEEN LOVERS (2002) by Eric Jerome Dickey [Signet, 400 pp.]: The story’s narrator is an unnamed successful African-American novelist based in Los Angeles, who for seven years has loved Nicole, despite the fact that she left him waiting at the altar when she moved in with another lover, the tough-spirited, strong-minded, passionate Ayanna, who is an attorney and a woman. Nicole wants them both, and their sensual and twisted journey culminates in a tragedy that changes them. [Library Journal says that “The triangle, which becomes spiritual as well as physical, proves first destructive, then healing.”]

WOUNDED (2005) by Percival Everett [Graywolf Press, 242 pp.]: Set in the beautiful harsh desert plains of Wyoming, the novel focuses on John Hunt, a widower, a successful African American rancher and horse trainer, and a cautious and careful man. He lives with Gus, his aging uncle, and briefly with a hired hand, Wallace, who is arrested for the brutal murder of a young gay man and who subsequently hangs himself in jail. The murder of the gay man leads to a hate crime rally, which brings David and his boyfriend Robert to town, and eventually David and John form an unlikely bond as John tries to deal with his own feelings about homosexuality. Jane Smiley, reviewing the book, notes that it’s the themes and not the plot that are central to the book: “how are the murderous impulses of a certain portion of the American populace, who are racist, homophobic, aggressive and well-armed, to be dealt with? Can black horse trainers and Native American cattle ranchers and women and gay guys passing through simply keep to themselves?”

ALMA ROSE (1993) by Edith Forbes [Seal Press, 322 pp.]: Set in the west, this story is narrated with calmness, simplicity, and elegance of language. Taciturn Pat Lloyd works at her father’s mercantile store in Kilgore, a small, dusty town in the rolling hills and sagebrush-covered plains of the West. Into her routine, small world comes truck driver Alma Rose, who focuses her charm and energy on Pat, and Pat’s life is turned upside down. When Alma stops coming to Kilgore, Pat carves a statue of Alma’s likeness into a hillside near the highway.

MAURICE (1971) by E.M. Forster [Norton, 2005, 256 pp.]: Forster actually wrote the book in 1913/1914. It’s story of a young middle class man (from age 15 onwards) searching for his identity within a society that denies his desire to love a person of the same sex. His first homosexual relationship with Clive Durham at Cambridge ends when Clive decides to marry. Later Maurice thinks about overcoming his sexual desires but fails, falling in love with Alec Scudder, the gamekeeper on Clive’s country estate. The novel ends happily.

HOMESICK CREEK (2005) by Diane Hammond [Random House/Doubleday, 352 pp.]: The novel, set in small town Hubbard, Oregon and a follow-up to Going to Bend (2003), explores the struggling marriages of two midlife couples in Oregon: diner waitress Bunny and her car salesman husband, Hack, and Bunny’s best friend, former almost-beauty queen Anita, and Anita’s frequently drunken but loving husband, Bob, who has had a secret homosexual relationship since childhood with Warren.

I SHOULD BE EXTREMELY HAPPY IN YOUR COMPANY: A NOVEL OF LEWIS AND CLARK (2003) by Brian Harris [Viking, 416 pp.]: Meriwether Lewis is a man with a propensity to brooding, detachment, perfectionism, intensity. William Clark is less complicated, a guy who just wants to settle down and have a family. “Despite their different dispositions, or perhaps because of them, Lewis loves Clark, possibly in the romantic if not the erotic sense of the word, and Clark’s devotion, though more ordinary, is still powerful. The two men don’t quite understand each other, but only Clark has the sense to recognize that; for Lewis, Clark is another kind of ideal, forever receding” (from Salon review).

THE PRICE OF SALT (1952) by Patricia Highsmith [Norton, 2004, 262 pp.]: Published under the pseudonym Clare Morgan. The riveting story of Therese Belivet, a stage designer trapped in a department-store day job, who falls in love with Carol Aird, an alluring suburban housewife going through a divorce. They set out across the United States, pursued by a private investigator who eventually blackmails Carol into a choice between her daughter and her lover.

THE LORD WON’T MIND (1970) by Gordon Merrick [Alyson Publications, 1995, 255 pp.]: “This novel is a liberating manifesto of the right to love whomever we please, disguised as a romantic potboiler.” Set during the World War II time period (10 years after the beginning of the Depression). Charlie and Peter are the young lovers. Charlie is more reluctant, and more closeted, and he “marries an ambitious actress in an attempt to fit in. When he can’t measure up, she exacts a lurid, biting revenge. Peter wants only to celebrate his love, and while he is more naive and vulnerable, he is also more pure, more true to himself. By novel’s end, it is the slightly coarse Charlie who is learning from Peter about human feelings” (Amazon reviewer). Sequels are One for the Gods (1971/1996) and Forth Into Light (1974/1996).

THE DEATH OF FRIENDS (1998) by Michael Nava [Bantam, 256 pp.]: Mystery, part of series. Criminal defense attorney Henry Rios is contacted when an old friend, Supreme Court judge Chris Chandler, is found murdered in his chambers. The judge’s young lover, Zach, a former street hustler and gay-porn star, appeals to Rios to protect him from suspicion of guilt, but Henry must tread carefully: Chandler’s wife, also a friend, knows nothing of her husband’s secret life; almost no one does — in fact, even Henry had never heard of this young man. What other secrets was Chandler hiding?

LAND THAT MOVES, LAND THAT STANDS STILL (2003) by Kent Nelson [Viking, 352 pp.]: Set on an alfalfa ranch east of the Black Hills of South Dakota, this novel focuses on the stories of three women as it explores nuances of place, character, grief, and renewal. After losing her husband in a farming accident, Mattie Remmel discovers letters that reveal that he had same-sex lovers, which causes her to question her life and marriage, and which leads her daughter, Shelley, an insecure college student, to seek her own consolation. Along with a beautiful, flaky, mechanical whiz of a ranch hand, Dawn, who is equally betrayed in love, and a 14-year-old runaway Native American boy, Elton, they work hard, face the threats of neighbors, and deal with the arrival of a former lover bent on revenge.

AT SWIM, TWO BOYS: A NOVEL (2003) by Jamie O’Neill [Scribner, 576 pp.]: In the spring of 1915, Jim Mack and ‘the Doyler,’ two 16-year-old Dublin boys, make a pact to swim to an island in Dublin Bay the following Easter. By the time they do, Dublin has been consumed by the Easter Uprising, and the boys’ friendship has blossomed into love — a love that will in time be overtaken by tragedy.

DESERT OF THE HEART (1964) by Jane Rule [Arno Press, 1975, 224 pp.]: Evelyn Hall arrives in Reno wanting only to be left alone while she waits six weeks for a painful divorce from her husband. Once there she meets Ann Child, 15 years younger, who is a free-spirited lesbian. Soon Ann refuses to let the controlled but vulnerable Evelyn ignore the powerful emotions that begin to unleash inside her… The 1985 movie “Desert Hearts” is based on this book.

MRS. STEVENS HEARS THE MERMAIDS SINGING (1965) by May Sarton [Norton, 1993, 224 pp.]: We meet Hilary Stevens, a lesbian poet and novelist, when she is 70, as she is interviewed in 1964 after she publishes a book of poetry that brings her a second round of fame; she had shocked the world in 1922 with her novel of two women in love. As Hilary answers the questions of the two reporters sent to interview her, she flashes back through pivotal scenes from her full and fascinating life, including memories of her (often female) muses. Separately, she spends time with a young man who has recently had an unhappy affair with another man and who is questioning his sexuality. The book was made into a movie in 2004, starring Lucy Brightman as Hilary Stevens.

POWER OF THE DOG (1967) by Thomas Savage, with an afterword by Annie Proulx [Back Bay Books, 2001, 304 pp.]: This novel is a western that explores misogyny, misogamy and homosexuality. Using shifting points of view, the book traces the tense relationship between two bachelor brothers, Phil and George Burbank, on a Montana ranch in the 1924-1925. Phil, “a fascinating study in western machismo, sharply intelligent and capable of merciless cruelty, masking a fiercely denied homosexuality,” terrorizes his new sister-in-law when George marries a widow with a teenaged son.

CLEARCUT (2005) by Nina Shenfold [Knopf, 352 pp.]: Set in the rugged backwoods of the Pacific Northwest in the 1970s. Two men — one a rough-hewn loner, the other a gifted Berkeley dropout — are both interested in the same woman, and end up falling in love with each other. Menage a trois.

THE CITY AND THE PILLAR (1948) by Gore Vidal [Vintage, 2003, 240 pp.]: Set in the 1940s. When close friends Jim Willard and Bob Ford spend a weekend at a cabin before Bob heads off to sea, their horseplay and relaxation leads them to sexual intimacy, and “the experience forms Jim’s ideal of spiritual completion. Defying his parents’ expectations, Jim strikes out on his own, hoping to find Bob and rekindle their amorous friendship. Along the way he struggles with what he feels is his unique bond with Bob and with his persistent attraction to other men. Upon finally encountering Bob years later, the force of his hopes for a life together leads to a devastating climax” (Vintage description). This novel tells the story of a young man’s search for a soul mate, for the ideal person for him — or someone he thinks is ideal.

THE FRONT RUNNER (1974) by Patricia Nell Warren [Wildcat Press, 1995, 307 pp.]: In 1975, coach Harlan Brown is hiding from his past at an obscure New York college, after being fired from Penn State on suspicion of being gay. A tough, lonely ex-Marine of 39, Harlan has never allowed himself to love another man. Then Billy Sive, a brilliant young runner, shows up, along with two others who were thrown off a team for being gay. Harlan agrees to coach the three boys for the 1976 Olympics under strict conditions that thwart Billy’s growing attraction for him. Billy’s acceptance of his own sexuality contrasts with Harlan’s fear about confronting the pain of his past or the challenges ahead if their intimacy is exposed.

ORANGES ARE NOT THE ONLY FRUIT (1985) by Jeanette Winterson [Grove/Atlantic, 1995, 176 pp.]: Jeanette’s parents are working-class evangelical Christians in the North of England in the 1960s. She herself is destined for the missionary field, but her high success rate of converts turns into a charismatic encounter with one girl in particular, Melanie. After being asked to publicly repent, having her demons exorcised for 14 hours, and being locked in a closet without food for three days, Jeanette pretends to repent, but continues to believe that she hasn’t done anything wrong in loving both Melanie and God. She begins a relationship with another convert, Katy. Eventually, at age 16, Jeanette quits the church and is made to leave home. At the heart of the novel is the question, do you stay safe or do you follow your heart?


Similar Movies

“Making Love” (1982): A young doctor realizes he is gay, which has consequences for his marriage and his life. As he begins to explore his new sexual identity, he gets involved with a commitment-phobic writer, and the movie explores issues of commitment, love, infidelity, rejection. Stars Michael Ontkean, Kate Jackson, and Harry Hamlin.

Desert Hearts (1985): It is 1950s Nevada, and Professor Vivian Bell arrives to get a divorce. She’s dissatisfied with her marriage, feels out of place at the ranch, and finds herself increasingly drawn to Cay Rivers, an open and self-assured lesbian, and the ranchowner’s daughter. The emotions released by their developing intimacy, and Vivian’s insecurities about her feelings towards Cay, are played out against a backdrop of rocky landscapes and country and western songs. Stars Helen Shaver, Patricia Charbonneau , and Audra Lindley. Based on Jane Rule’s book, Desert of the Heart.

“In and Out” (1997): After being awarded an Oscar for the portrayal of a gay soldier, Cameron Drake thanks his English teacher for being his gay inspiration. Problem is, he’s not, and he’s about to be married. “The way Kline tackles sexual preference is also how one would confront the ending of a relationship, which could be what this movie is about on a smaller level.” (IMDB reviewer) Stars Kevin Kline, Joan Cusack, Tom Selleck, and Matt Dillon.

“Bent” (1997): Because Max is gay, he is sent to Dachau concentration camp under the Nazi regime. He denies he is gay and gets a yellow label (for Jews) instead of pink (for gays). In camp, he falls in love with his fellow prisoner Horst, who wears his pink label with pride. Stars Clive Owen, Lothaire Bluteau, Ian McKellen.

List compiled Jan. 2006.