Mystery and suspense
Four novels, old and new
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Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (with Karen Swallow Prior): Prior continues her guides to classic novels with this edition of Frankenstein. In addition to the novel’s text—with clarifying footnotes—the handsome book includes an introduction, reflection questions, and an appendix with Shelley’s introduction to the 1831 edition. Prior discusses Shelley’s parents, who were social and political revolutionaries, and her marriage to Romantic poet Percy Shelley. Their demanding vagabond lifestyle resulted in the death of all her children but one. Prior shows how Shelley’s life and the philosophical movements of the day influence the book’s themes and how those themes interact with a Biblical worldview. Thoughtful reflection questions encourage a close reading of the text and provide a helpful guide for those reading alone, in a group, or in an academic setting.
Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan: This dual narrative novel takes place in present-day Savannah, Ga., and in 1838 Savannah, when prominent residents boarded the steamship Pulaski for a doomed voyage to Baltimore. The 1838 story follows the plight of two women from one prominent Savannah family. The story’s present-day narrator is a historian and museum curator tasked with putting together an exhibit of artifacts from the recently discovered Pulaski shipwreck. As she digs into the past and solves long-buried mysteries, she better understands her own difficult past. Callahan bases the novel on historical events and people. She adds characters to provide narrative structure and occasionally uses bad language. She also shows the injustice of slavery and weaves questions about suffering and God’s goodness and control throughout the book.
The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner: In 1905 Sophie, an Irish woman eager to escape New York tenement life, answers an ad to move to San Francisco and marry a widower with a young daughter. At first all seems well: He’s handsome and well-off. His daughter is sweet though mute from the trauma of her mother’s death. But cracks appear. They burst open the same morning a massive earthquake tears apart the city. Meissner shows the chaos that ensues as residents escape the destruction and pour into city parks. Six weeks later, Sophie reports her husband missing and police begin to investigate. Transcripts of interviews between Sophie and a U.S. marshal break up the narrative and crank up the suspense in this story that explores evil and the meaning of justice.
Billy Boyle: A World War II Mystery by James R. Benn: The first of 16 books in the series features a young Irish cop from Boston who lands a plum military job on the staff of distant relative Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower needs a fixer and someone he can trust. Billy needs a safe place to ride out the war. Then Eisenhower goes to Europe, and Billy finds himself on or near the front lines. Eisenhower uses Billy to investigate murders and other crimes that might blow up and hurt morale. The first novel takes place in England. Subsequent ones find Billy in new locations that correspond with the war’s progress. James Benn packs action and World War II history into each novel, along with meditations on the ethics of war and the value of life, and a sprinkling of bad language.