I'm not much for thrillers, unless they've got a special hook, when the crime solver turns out to be a gourmet chef, or a quilter or engages in some quirky occupation. Or if the setting is close to home, as in the case of the novels of upper Midwestern writers Mary Logue and Larry Millett.
I don't even know if you could call "The Girl in the Green Glass Mirror," by Elizabeth McGregor (Bantam, $24)) a thriller because it's so much more
history, art, deftly wrought characters in love and the setting near Salisbury, England. Heroine Catherine Sergeant is in a funk. Her husband has left her with no explanation, one of a series of hard luck experiences she's suffered in life. She's an antiquarian working for an auction house. One day, she goes out to a manor house to evaluate a piece of furniture for newly arrived and newly widowed John Brigham, an architect of stature.
Turns out they hit it off. They each share a special interest in the 19th century painter Richard Dadd, who spent a good share of his adult life in Bedlam, the famous British madhouse. Dadd is an historical figure and his paintings hang in the Tate. It's a break for both of them, but when Catherine discovers an unknown Dadd painting, the plot thickens and threatens Brigham's future.
The novel is chock full of architectural curiosities, historical insight, the mysteries of the Salisbury plain and the secrets of Brigham's manor house, Bridle Lodge, a monument to the likes of William Morris and Burne-Jones. Even the dust jacket is a cut above the ordinary. It's a painting by
guess who?--Richard Drabb.
Tess Gerritson left a medical career to become a writer. She has had a succession of bestsellers, including her first novel, "Harvest" and her last, "Body Double." Now she's out with "Vanish," Ballantine, $24.95), in which a pregnant homicide detective goes to the maternity ward and runs into all manner of trouble, when a woman in a body bag turns out to be alive and is shipped to the pregnant woman's hospital. She kills a security guard and takes the homicide detective hostage. It remains for Gerritson's medical examiner, Maura Isles to find out what's going on and how to rescue the pregnant detective.
On the regional front, a new house called Syren Press is bombarding me with new books. One of the best is "Kiss Me Goodnight," edited by Ann O'Fallon and Margaret Vaillancourt (Syren Press, 5120 Cedar Lake Rd., Minneapolis, MN 55416, $16.95). It originally piqued my curiosity because my mother died when I was nine years old, leaving a huge void in my life. Subtitled "Stories and Poems by Women Who Were Girls When Their Mothers Died," it's a very satisfying collection, at once sad and funny and always touching.
Well, I'm a guy, not a girl, but I dove into this book and emerged a different person, a little sadder, a little wiser (I hope) and comforted for having shared the contributors' pain. Although it was published in Minneapolis, the writers come from all over the country and overseas. O'Fallon and Vaillancourt work in the same office and when they found out they had lost their mothers they determined to put together a book and advertised for submissions. They were overwhelmed with manuscripts.
Vaillancourt's imaginative piece is especially touching. She lost her mother to alcoholism when she was a kid and in her essay, she imagines what her life would have been like had her beautiful mother gone to Hazelden and the cure had taken. Shining through this bittersweet piece is the author's love for her mother juxtaposed to the pain the woman caused her family. There are 25 such poems and stories in this collection, which also includes a section of photos of the authors and their mothers in happier times.
Next stop for my copy of this inspiring book? My kid sister, who was only three when mom died, so young she barely remembers a mother's touch.
Dave Wood is a past vice president of the National Book Critics Circle and former book review editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. E-mail him at email@example.com.