Let books take you away from it all!
After the long winter, are you wishing you were somewhere else? Are you curious about life lived outside of the gray? Your neighborhood Multnomah County branch library offers many books with such a strong sense of place that you will feel transported to a different world.
Annie Dillard's newest novel, 'The Maytrees', takes place among bohemians who live among the dunes of Cape Cod. The long love story of the marriage of Lou and Toby Maytree is shot through with the author's deep and lyrical attention to the physical world of the seashore
Linda Fairstein places her detective stories in New York City; each book in the series features a different aspect of the city. In 'The Kills', sex crimes prosecutor Alexandra Cooper's investigation of a date-rape case takes her to the creeks and channels that crisscross the outer edges of lower Manhattan. Fairstein weaves in the history, economy, and boating culture of the waterways. (Those of you who appreciated the license plates puzzles in April Henry's mysteries will enjoy matching wits with Cooper and her partners, detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace, as they bet on Final Jeopardy answers.)
'Contrary Blues' by John Billheimer is set in a small West Virginia town whose resourceful officials have managed to fool the Federal government into funding twenty buses instead of two. They use the surplus money to fund clinics, Meals on Wheels, and other worthy civic projects. West Virginia native Owen Allison is sent from Washington to investigate. This funny and sometimes touching story unfolds among the slag heaps, played-out mines, and hill-shadowed high school baseball fields of Appalachia.
The weather on the open plains of Kansas is almost a like a character in Nancy Pickard's 'Virgin of Small Plains', providing a sense of foreboding as Abby Reynolds unravels the mystery behind a 17-year old homicide. A beautiful teenage girl found dead in the snow has inspired local reverence for years; some believe her spirit can cure deadly diseases. As a present-day storm builds, the town must face the truth behind the girl's death.
Kathleen Hills' series featuring Constable John McIntire is set in the tiny town of St. Adele, Michigan, in the early 1950s. While reading 'The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies', I could hear and feel the mosquitoes and sand flies of the Upper Peninsula in summer. In this episode, McIntire puzzles over the murder of newcomer Rueben Hofer, a stern and unbending farmer who had spent the war in a nearby camp for conscientious objectors. Hills' books are quiet masterpieces, where the still isolation of the place lingers after the plot is resolved.
Nevada Barr's detective, Anna Pigeon, is a National Park Service ranger. 'Ill Wind' takes place in Colorado's Mesa Verde National Park, amid the ruins of Anasazi pueblo dwellings. Anna must find out what is making park visitors sick, and why a ranger died under mysterious circumstances. Anna patrols the park, chases murderers through it, and uses the wilderness to soothe her troubling memories of her late husband and her increasing fondness for alcohol. Through Anna's adventures, we get a close sense of life in a rugged and beautiful desert.
Sarah Waters' 'Night Watch' takes us to London during the Blitz. It follows a group of young people though the dark and the rain of blacked-out London - a landscape of rubble and ash, searchlights and fires. In a time when tobacco was thought to calm and fortify people, rescuers wait for the all-clear signal, and then put cigarettes into the mouths of victims even before they have pulled them from the fallen buildings. Reading 'Night Watch' will take you to both a time and a place quite different from ours.
Visit your neighborhood branch library and take a fictional trip to another world!