The Arsonist’s City by Hala Alyan. Interesting story of a well-to-do family set in Syria and Lebanon during and after the war in the latter. Character-driven, which is my favorite kind of book. But it could have benefited from a good editor; I found to be very long, 4★
The Deep, Deep Snow by Brian Freeman and The Ursulina by the same author. I am reviewing these two books together because Ursulina is a prequel to Deep. In the first, Freeman introduces us to Shelby Lake, a sheriff’s deputy in a northern county. She had been left as a newborn on the steps of the sheriff’s house; he raises her and eventually she goes to work for him. This first book was a decent mystery. If you like escapist mysteries, you will probably like it. The second book trundles along in traditional mystery fashion… until the last 25 or so pages. Then the plot twist is so earthshaking as to render it unbelievable, even if you had already swallowed some of the unlikely bits in the first 80% of the book. Snow 3★, but Ursulina barely rates 1★. This is kinda sad because I had enjoyed the author’s Jonathan Stride series.
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. I have tried to read this book before without success. However, my Monday night book club — which I haven’t attended since the pandemic began; the library director at the library where the group meets took few precautions against COVID spread — was reading it this month. I decided it was time to go back. Elder Son has recommended it multiple times, but this time I had the extra incentive of book club. I read it on my new-ish Kindle. It was okay, not a five-star read for me. It did foster a good discussion; we all found it was a struggle to read because the first 2/3 was so boring. 3★, but YMMV. If you read it as an anthropological study in fiction book form it might be more palatable.
The Investigator by John Sandford. Sandford is my very favorite mystery author. His characters are intelligent and they have intelligent banter. The first 10 or 15 books in his Prey series (series has 32 books) with Lucas Davenport have him as a Minneapolis homicide detective, so there is lots of banter among his team. Later he moves to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (MN’s state criminal police) but still uses many of the same characters. In the latest books he is a US Marshall, less banter because less team. Still really good, but not as good IMO as the earlier books.
Be that as it may, Investigator is the first book of a series starring Letty Davenport, Lucas’s adopted daughter. The character is written to be very much like Lucas — smart, willing to do what must be done without agonizing over it. She is an aide to a US senator but is bored with the job and planning to quit when he gives her a research assignment: find out who is stealing oil from various drilling companies in the Texas Permian Basin, and more importantly where is the money from sales of the purloined oil going. Funding terrorists? drug dealers? rich retirements? Her senator is chair of the Senate committee overseeing the Department of Homeland Security, so the terrorist angle is particularly worrisome to him. Letty is paired with a DHS investigator, and the two of them work with several police departments in Texas. Lots of banter among them. 4★
Pretty Things by Janelle Brown. A novel about a trio of grifters and a spoiled heiress, I would recommend that you read it rather listen. It is a novel of suspense. which I prefer printed on the page, but I didn’t realize that when I selected it for my monthly book. Plot is okay, but I am just getting to the part where the suspense begins. 3★