Throughout Private Eye July, the editors of BookPage share some of their favorite mysteries and thrillers.
In Mr. Timothy, Tim is all grown up and, at 23, is looking for a way to prove his independence from the Cratchit family benefactor, Ebenezer Scrooge. A whorehouse madam hires him to teach her to read and write, and in the process, Tim stumbles upon a mystery. Someone in London is murdering young orphan girls, and Tim may be the only one who cares enough to find out why. With the help of two street urchins—one of whom is marked as the killer's next victim—and a one-armed man who makes a living retrieving bodies from the Thames, Tim sets out to find the killer.
Bayard manages to make his new characters as captivating as those he borrows from Dickens, while carefully layering in references to past events—some portrayed in The Christmas Carol, others from the years since—to reveal what has happened to the Cratchit family over the decades. And as Tim struggles with his complicated feelings for the father figures in his own life, he becomes one to the children under his care, adding yet another layer to the story. If you're looking for an emotionally complex, yet exciting, mystery—this is your book.
See what else is going on during Private Eye July!
On the day the Oscar noms roll in, featuring many films with a literary angle like The King's Speech and The Social Network, news broke of another literary adaptation: Louis Bayard's The Pale Blue Eye. We're fans of Bayard's work here at BookPage and can't wait to see what Crazy Heart director Scott Cooper (who is also adapting Hillenbrand's Unbroken for the big screen) will do with this story of Edgar Allen Poe's early years as a West Point cadet.
Bayard fans can look for our review of his next novel, The School of Night, in April.
Louis Bayard isn't afraid to take on new territory in his work—since he first turned to writing historical mysteries in 2003, his novels have covered Dickens, Poe and 19th-century French detective Vidocq with equal skill. Now, Bayard has tried his hand at writing a book that takes two present-day scholars on a search for a 16th-century letter that is the key to a mystery. The School of Night (Holt) will hit shelves on March 29.
From the catalog:
In the late sixteenth century, five brilliant scholars gather under the cloak of darkness to discuss God, politics, astronomy, and the black arts. Known as the School of Night, they meet in secret to avoid the wrath of Queen Elizabeth. But one of the men, Thomas Harriot, has secrets of his own, secrets he shares with one person only: the servant woman he loves.
In modern-day Washington, D.C., disgraced Elizabethan scholar Henry Cavendish has been hired by the ruthless antiquities collector Bernard Styles to find a missing letter. The letter dates from the 1600s and was stolen by Henry's close friend, Alonzo Wax. Now Wax is dead and Styles wants the letter back.
. . . Joining Henry in his search for the letter is Clarissa Dale, a mysterious woman who suffers from visions that only Henry can understand. In short order, Henry finds himself stumbling through a secretive world of ancient perils, caught up in a deadly plot, and ensnared in the tragic legacy of a forgotten genius.
As a Francophile who welcomes any excuse for a summertime celebration, le quatorze juillet is one of my favorite holidays. To commemorate the French fete nationale, pour a kir or other apèro and sit down with one of these reading selections.
The grand finale of the fireworks display at the Eiffel Tower on July 14, 2009.
France in fiction
Anyone with an interest in French literature shouldn't miss Suite Francaise, or any of the rediscovered works of Irène Némirovsky, a Franco-Russian novelist who chronicled WWII in her books as the country crumbled around her.
There's a lot of Marie Antoinette fiction out there, but Sena Jeter Naslund's moving portrait of the misunderstood queen, Abundance, belongs at the top of the list.
And who could forget Peter Mayle, whose Year in Provence sparked the "expat memoir" craze of the turn of the millenium? He's now moved on to novels like A Good Year, which became a movie starring Russell Crowe.
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French lives and history
French cuisine is (deservedly) world-famous, and French chef Jacques Pépin is one of its best-known faces. In his memoir, The Apprentice, Pépin discusses the influences on his cooking style.
Few write as lovingly about the joys of French food and culture as Julia Child, and her posthumous memoir, My Life in France, is excellent reading. Her great-nephew, Alex Prud'homme, talked to BookPage in 2006 about the book.
Mirelle Guiliano caused a sensation with French Women Don't Get Fat—in a BookPage interview about her follow up, French Women for All Seasons, she shares more secrets for staying slim.
Books about the ups and downs of expat living in France abound, but anyone who's ever tried to master the language should not miss David Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty One Day. For a more traditional take, Catherine Sanderson's Petite Anglaise is a charming look at an Englishwoman's transition to French culture.
And don't miss the works of Graham Robb, an Englishman who brings the culture and history of France to life in his well-researched and readable books. I'm in the middle of Parisians right now and loving it.
Do you have a favorite book with a French angle?