FIELDWORK
Set in Thailand, this suspenseful thriller features a fictional young journalist named - like the book's author - Mischa Berlinski, who finds himself at the center of a mystery involving the death of an American anthropologist. Mischa comes to Thailand to join his girlfriend, Rachel, a schoolteacher. A seasoned freelance writer, he's initially excited by the prospect of investigating the anthropologist's story, but soon learns there's more to the incident than meets the eye. The anthropologist, a woman named Martiya van der Leun, was serving a 50-year prison sentence for murder when she took her own life in her jail cell. An outgoing Berkeley graduate, Martiya had been convicted of killing a missionary. Mischa delves into Martiya's past, only to become obsessed with her. Martiya's story leads him into an exploration of native Thai culture and the effects upon it of both missionaries and anthropologists - groups with different and often conflicting agendas. The author, who worked as a journalist in Thailand, writes with wonderful command about the country and its customs. He uses different types of fieldwork, both religious and scientific, to build a thematic foundation that is rich, complex and satisfying. A 2007 National Book Award finalist, this riveting novel is Berlinski's first - an accomplished narrative that has established him as a gifted new writer.

A reading group guide is included in the book.

MYSTERIES OF THE MIDDLE AGES
Cahill adds to his acclaimed Hinges of History series with his latest book, an examination of medieval culture and how it gave birth to many of the intellectual concepts that shaped civilization as we know it. After the Dark Ages, Europe underwent a period of intellectual flowering, experiencing growth and ferment in the areas of science, art, philosophy and literature. Social progress was also part of the expansion, as women were able to take up vocations that had long been off-limits to them. Over the course of this fascinating narrative, Cahill travels to the capitals of Europe, including Paris, Rome, Florence and London, to retrace the development of medieval progress and explain its effects on society. Sharing anecdotes and revisiting important chapters in history, he demonstrates that many fundamental ideas related to art and science that we now take for granted were seeded in the medieval era. The Hinges of History sequence includes the best-selling titles How the Irish Saved Civilization, The Gifts of the Jews, Desire of the Everlasting Hills and Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea. Cahill, an authoritative yet accessible writer, has a broad vision and an astonishing grasp of history. With his newest book, he offers another perceptive and illuminating history that entertains even as it challenges.

A reading group guide is available in print and online at readinggroupcenter.com.

THE DOUBLE BIND
The best-selling author of Midwives (a 1998 Oprah's Book Club pick) and Before You Know Kindness, Bohjalian offers an unforgettable blend of mystery and psychological intrigue with his 11th novel. Laurel Estabrook is brutally attacked while cycling in Vermont. After the tragedy, she retreats from life and goes to work in a homeless shelter, immersing herself in her career. At the shelter she meets an elderly man named Bobbie Crocker who has a box of photos showing characters from The Great Gatsby - and showing Laurel on the road where she was attacked. The Gatsby characters, who are real in Bohjalian's narrative, include Daisy and Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby himself. After Bobbie dies, Laurel calls on the Buchanans' daughter, an elderly woman named Pamela, in order to find out more about him. But Pamela is secretive and refuses to disclose any information. Clearly, she has something to hide, and Laurel is soon drawn into a mystery - one that quickly takes over her life. Bohjalian's ingenious use of F. Scott Fitzgerald's characters and his development of Laurel into an intelligent and strong-willed heroine give this novel remarkable life and momentum. The narrative has an unexpected ending that's perfectly suited to its suspenseful, haunting tone. Finely constructed and full of surprises, this chilling tale will stay with readers long after the final page is turned.

A reading group guide is included in the book.

comments powered by Disqus