If You Like Laurie R. King…

-Post by Molly

Laurie R. King is one of my favorite authors of historical crime fiction, and ever since my sister finally convinced me to read The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, King’s first novel starring Sherlock Holmes and his assistant (later to be his spouse) Mary Russell, I’ve been hooked on the series. King’s appeal is certainly not based on riding the coattails of the Sherlock Holmes phenomena – instead, King uses one well-established character, Holmes, drops him in the middle of the 1920s, and creates a companion for him worthy of the change in setting. Here are a few recommendations for the Laurie R. King fan…

day of atonement1. Day of Atonement by David Liss

David Liss has been writing historical fiction with Jewish characters gallavanting about the 18th century world for some time now, and his latest, Day of Atonement, set in Lisbon around the time of the great Lisbon earthquake, is a masterpiece of historical crime fiction. Framed as a revenge thriller, Day of Atonement is a fun fact-filled and action-packed thriller. It’s either the Jewish Count of Monte Cristo or the 18th century Inglourious Bastards, take your pick.

maisie dobbs2. The Maisie Dobbs novels, by Jacqueline Winspear

Jacqueline Winspear writes mysteries starring the working class girl, wartime nurse, and amateur private detective Maisie Dobbs, who spends her time in post-WWI England solving crimes with their roots buried in the war. Recent additions to the series include A Lesson in Secrets, Elegy for Eddie, and Leaving Everything Most Loved. For those who enjoy Laurie R. King’s chosen time period, Winspear’s novels are a must-read, especially upon the 100th anniversary of World War I.

jack of spies3. Jack of Spies – David Downing

Good espionage novels set around World War I are unfortunately few and far between. With the help of David Downing, already known for his brilliant series of spy novels named after different European train stations and set during the dark days of World War II, this may change. Downing published Jack of Spies, his first novel in a new series set during World War I, earlier this year, and here’s to hoping that he writes just as many installments of his new series as of his previous John Russell series.

Copies of the above listed books can be found on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

MysteryPeople Review: THE GOLEM OF HOLLYWOOD, by Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman

golem of hollywood

Post by Molly

Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman have just released The Golem of Hollywood, a novel of epic proportions and many genres. This is a truly a novel that could only be written by two people, yet the collaboration is so successful that the reader feels little dissonance between the parallel narratives. The book is organized into two main plot lines. In one, written by Jonathan Kellerman, a modern-day detective, Jacob Lev, is assigned to a case involving a head with no body and the Hebrew word for justice scrawled in ash on a countertop. As he works to solve the case, he must travel to Prague and London, and, along the way, strengthen his connection to his Jewish heritage and faith. In the other, Jesse Kellerman takes an unorthodox approach to the story of Cain and Abel, and, along the way, introduces an entirely new origin story for the ancient figure of the Golem.

Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman both have impressive writing resumes prior to this collaboration. Jonathan Kellerman has written dozens of New York Times-bestselling crime novels and has won many of the industry’s most prestigious crime fiction awards. Jesse Kellerman has a longtime career as a playwright, and has written five novels. The two also practice Orthodox Judaism, and the beliefs and practices they follow in their own lives come across beautifully in the narrative. During the High Holidays, I set out to read as many Jewish-themed books as possible, and The Golem of Hollywood, along with David Liss‘ recently released Day of Atonement, are my top mystery picks to enjoy as 5775 gets going.

The Golem of Hollywood is a detective story. It is also, in many ways, a horror story, and readers who like the supernatural side of a murder investigation will enjoy this book thoroughly. The Kellermans, together, have seamlessly integrated Jewish theology and history into genre fiction, making this a perfect choice to start out the New Year. This may be the most entertaining work of Jewish-themed speculative fiction since Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and a comparison between the two is particularly apt given that each novel completely restructures the narrative of the Golem to fit in with the American Jewish experience.

Copies of The Golem of Hollywood are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

MysteryPeople Review: THE DAY OF ATONEMENT, by David Liss

day of atonement

Post by Molly

David Liss left his dissertation on 18th century British literature to write historical detective novels full-time, and after enjoying many of his novels, I firmly believe he made the right choice. His first novel, A Conspiracy of Paper, won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, and he has now written eight novels, almost all of which are firmly immersed in an eighteenth century world. Liss has recently published his first novel since 2011’s The Twelfth Enchantment, and his new book, The Day of Atonement, makes for a perfect Jewish New Year read.

While Benjamin Weaver, the thief-taker hero of many of Liss’ books, makes a cameo appearance, The Day of Atonement is a stand-alone novel. The plot follows Sebastian Foxx, born Sebastião Raposa, raised and trained by Benjamin Weaver. Ten years before, at a tender age, Sebastian was forced to flee Lisbon after the arrest of his converso parents by the Portuguese Inquisition. After years of anger, a new commitment to practicing Judaism, and not much resolution of his childhood traumas, Foxx decides to return to Portugal and find his revenge. Sebastian aims to not only avenge himself against his family’s betrayer, but also to target a priest of the Inquisition, and possibly reconnect with his lost lady love. Upon his arrival in Lisbon, Sebastian quickly becomes tied in the fortunes of those around him and builds a group of allies to aid him in his quest. As the novel continues, Foxx finds himself embroiled in complex schemes and facing much more than a simple quest as he weighs his own goals against the safety of those around him.

Liss’ enthusiasm for the time period is present in every corner of this novel. He carefully constructs the world of eighteenth-century Portugal in a way that brings the Lisbon setting alive while also firmly grounding the reader in the novel’s historical context. A small brushing-up on the Portuguese Inquisition may be in order (I scanned the Wikipedia page), but the plot is as engaging as the historical context is detailed, and readers at all levels of interest in the time period will find Day of Atonement to be just as satisfying as the rest of David Liss’s oeuvre.

While I was reading The Day of Atonement, I couldn’t figure out if the book was more of a Jewish version of The Count of Monte Cristo or a Inquisition pastiche of Europa, Europa mixed in with Inglourious Bastards, but whichever of these comparisons you choose to appreciate more, know this: David Liss can write some seriously ass-kicking Jewish characters. Despite the book’s title, The Day of Atonement may be a bit too enjoyable to read on Yom Kippur itself. I recommend reading it the day after.

Copies of The Day of Atonement are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.