Welcome Back to the Friday Fiction Feature! Tabatha here, with your week’s dose of fiction titles. This week we have a mash of my favorite titles, books which inspired some great movies, and (as always) some just plain funny titles.
First up is a sequel to The Count of Monte Cristo about a computer hacker, written by an author known only as “Holy Ghost Writer” (who has a $1000 contest to discover his identity…I’m looking at you starving artists). In That Girl Started Her Own Country (Sequels to the Count of Monte Cristo #6) International Playgirl Zaydee finds herself in the midst of a crisis fueled by international intrigue, multinational corporate greed, and a convoluted legal system. Imprisoned for computer hacking, this brilliant jet-setter becomes an international media celebrity as she defends herself, an unknown girl labeled Princess Jane Doe, against unknown charges. With complicated and shadowy plots brewing, the book is lush and captivating and perhaps the best addition to the series yet.
Next we leave the world of computers, international espionage (and apparently a link to the Count of Monte Cristo… somewhere) to move to a small, remote island. One of my favorite whodunits, And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. First, there were ten – a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a private island off the coast of Devon. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they’re unwilling to reveal – and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. One by one they fall prey. Before the weekend is out, there will be none. And only the dead are above suspicion.
Once we have learned the identity of the island killer, Agatha Christie takes us out of the water-bound plot and into the international world of crime with the debut of her most difficult to pronounce detective, Hercule Poirot. The Mysterious Affair At Styles (Hercule Poirot #1) is the famous case that launched the career of Hercule Poirot. When a wealthy heiress is murdered, Poirot steps out of retirement to find the killer. As the master detective makes his way through the list of suspects, he finds the solution in an elaborately planned scheme almost impossible to believe.
The next book, Caleb Carr’s The Alienist, combines the murder mystery with the history and psychology we Daily Dose readers crave. The year is 1896, the place, New York City. On a cold March night New York Times reporter John Schuyler Moore is summoned to the East River by his friend and former Harvard classmate Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, a psychologist, or “alienist.” On the unfinished Williamsburg Bridge, they view the horribly mutilated body of an adolescent boy, a prostitute from one of Manhattan’s infamous brothels.
The newly appointed police commissioner, Theodore Roosevelt, in a highly unorthodox move, enlists the two men in the murder investigation, counting on the reserved Kreizler’s intellect and Moore’s knowledge of New York’s vast criminal underworld. They are joined by Sara Howard, a brave and determined woman who works as a secretary in the police department. Laboring in secret (for alienists, and the emerging discipline of psychology, are viewed by the public with skepticism at best), the unlikely team embarks on what is a revolutionary effort in criminology– amassing a psychological profile of the man they’re looking for based on the details of his crimes. Their dangerous quest takes them into the tortured past and twisted mind of a murderer who has killed before, and will kill again before the hunt is over.
Fast-paced and gripping, infused with a historian’s exactitude, The Alienist conjures up the Gilded Age and its untarnished underside: verminous tenements and opulent mansions, corrupt cops and flamboyant gangsters, shining opera houses and seamy gin mills. Here is a New York during an age when questioning society’s belief that all killers are born, not made, could have unexpected and mortal consequences.
Carlos Ruiz Zafón and Lucia Graves (Translator) created one of my favorite series titles with conflicts motivated by literature and history in The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. The first book in the series, The Shadow of the Wind, is set in Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets–an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.
And finally, I bring you a book I was delighted to discover belonged in a series: The Talented Mr. Ripley (Ripley #1) by Patricia Highsmith. While I confess to having only seen the movie, I am nevertheless intrigued by the idea of a literary version and, dare I say it, more skillful adventures…
Since his debut in 1955, Tom Ripley has evolved into the ultimate bad boy sociopath, influencing countless novelists and filmmakers. In this first novel, we are introduced to suave, handsome Tom Ripley: a young striver, newly arrived in the heady world of Manhattan in the 1950s. A product of a broken home, branded a “sissy” by his dismissive Aunt Dottie, Ripley becomes enamored of the moneyed world of his new friend, Dickie Greenleaf. This fondness turns obsessive when Ripley is sent to Italy to bring back his libertine pal but grows enraged by Dickie’s ambivalent feelings for Marge, a charming American dilettante. A dark reworking of Henry James’s The Ambassadors, The Talented Mr. Ripley—immortalized in the 1998 film starring Matt Damon, Jude Law, and Gywneth Paltrow—is an unforgettable introduction to this debonair confidence man, whose talent for self-invention and calculated murder is chronicled in four subsequent novels.
(psst- here’s a link to more Ripley adventures)