We Know You Remember by Tove Alsterdal

Reviewed by Katy Zignego (Library Staff)

We Know You Remember is the English-language debut novel for popular Swedish crime writer Tove Alsterdal. But don’t be fooled by that word “debut”–this is a well-crafted mystery, by a writer at the top of her game.

We Know You Remember is a complex story, but it begins with a murder. Olof Hagstrom, who has not visited his family in more than 20 years, decides on a whim to stop when he is driving near his father’s home. When he goes inside, he discovers that his father has been murdered. The investigation leads down twisted channels into the past, turning up more crimes–and more suspects–at every turn.

One of the investigators, detective Eira Sjodin, finds she has more than one special connection to the case. She pursues the Hagstrom case determinedly, challenging her superior officers, her skills as an officer, and even her own beliefs. Eira Sjodin reminds me of Thora Gudmundsdottir, the detective in Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s excellent Icelandic crime series. Alsterdal is reported to be working on a sequel to We Know You Remember, and I’m crossing my fingers that it will again star Eira Sjodin.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC ALSTERDAL)

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Reviewed by Holly (Library Patron)

This book is based on the premise of alternate universes. The main character, Nora, visits a library where all the books include stories of what her life could have been. The books are created from decisions she made. She discovers she can live in these alternate universes. Readers are taken on this journey with Nora and through her journey the library “rules” are revealed. This book has lots of twists and turns. If the premise interests you, the book will too.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC HAIG)

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

Reviewed by Katy Zignego (Library Staff)

The Devil and the Dark Water is billed as a classic locked-room mystery, and that is certainly what it delivers–and not much else. Though the mystery is a first-rate challenge for the armchair detectives, those who prefer a little bit of literary merit with their mysteries will be left unsatisfied.

The setting is a ship, bound for Amsterdam from Batavia in 1634, at the height of the power of the Dutch East India Company. Among the ship’s passengers are the governor general, his wife and daughter, his mistress, and his second-in-command, while locked in the ship’s brig is Sammy Pipps, the world’s greatest detective. Also aboard are Sammy’s bodyguard, a priest and his assistant, a greedy captain, a feckless purser, and innumerable bloodthirsty soldiers and sailors. And, apparently, a demon.

As the demon wreaks havoc abovedecks and below, the governor general’s wife teams up with Pipps’s bodyguard to stop whatever (or whoever) has summoned the evil. But every time they seem to be approaching a solution, a new problem appears. All the twists will definitely keep the reader guessing, but I found myself not really caring much about the outcome because I didn’t care about the characters. They are flat and uninteresting, and the dialogue falls somewhere between stilted and downright unnatural. The setting, which might be so evocative, is used almost entirely as a prop for new discoveries and given zero ink in its own right. And it’s best not to get me started on the historical accuracy.

Read The Devil and the Dark Water if you don’t have any friends handy to play Clue with. If you want a mystery with great 17th-century Dutch period detail, try The Miniaturist instead.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC TURTON)

The Guncle by Steven Rowley

Reviewed by Katy Zignego (Library Staff)

The Guncle is a very contemporary novel, with a moral that is timeless. The premise is one that I can’t imagine in a mainstream fiction book even twenty years ago: two young children who have recently lost their mother to cancer and their father to rehab move in with their out-and-proud gay uncle (guncle) in Palm Springs. Hilarity ensues, as it always does in Steven Rowley’s novels. The kids learn to enjoy a leisurely brunch (and lupper), the Tooth Fairy brings signed playbills, and they all celebrate Christmas in July–complete with a pink tinsel tree.

The Guncle isn’t all fun and games, though. Guncle Patrick struggles to find a way to help the kids talk about their grief, and to deal with his own. When he finally hits upon something that seems to work–making funny YouTube videos together–it brings his disapproving sister down on them with a fury. He is also trying to figure out his stalled acting career and a new romance, and the stress seems almost overwhelming. But Patrick handles everything with a great sense of humor and a huge heart.

Throughout the book, Patrick teaches the kids “Guncle Rules” to live by, including: cameras are not always your friend, if you can’t tone it–tan it, and (my personal favorite) fun drinks make everything more interesting. But the rule I took away from reading The Guncle is a life lesson for everyone: as long as you do things with love, you get it right in the end.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC ROWLEY)

Hostage by Clare Mackintosh and Falling by T.J. Newman

Reviewed by Emily Terasa (Library Staff)

I’ve read two books in the last few months that have very similar plots. They both involve family members being held hostage so that their loved ones will crash a plane (a pilot in one book, a flight attendant in the other). In both there are unknown assailants on the plane, plucky flight attendants and passengers trying to help (and maybe hinder), and difficult choices to be made.

Hostage by Clare Mackintosh and Falling by T.J. Newman are both exciting thrillers that keep a fast pace throughout the entire book. But if I had to pick one that I enjoyed more, it would be Falling because I found the characters more likeable and the action better.

Hostage available through the Bridges Library System

Falling in Adult Fiction (FIC NEWMAN)

Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian

Reviewed by Cassidy Hammel (Library Staff)

What could be more interesting that a diagnosed psychopath trying to settle an old score? How about eight diagnosed psychopaths pulled together for a research panel on the same campus? Chloe Sevre is one of those eight and has prepared and waited for years to exact revenge but as she progresses through the final phases of her plan, she’s hampered by someone else’s agenda. Bizarre deaths begin to occur in the psychology building she frequents regularly for the research panel. Chloe however will not be deterred from the mission her life has become and is forced to contend with a little stalking, some light battery, and many threats. But fear not, she is capable of giving far more than that in return.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC KURIAN)

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Reviewed by Katy Zignego (Library Staff)

You probably remember author Andy Weir from his 2014 bestselling novel The Martian. Everything I liked about that book–adventure, plausible science, a great sense of humor–is back in spades in his newest work, Project Hail Mary. But I actually liked Project Hail Mary even better, because it has the extra element of a great friendship story.

I can’t tell you too much about the plot without giving away some serious spoilers, but the story opens with the main character, Ryland Grace, awakening alone inside a spaceship. This is a bit of a surprise, since (as last he can remember) Grace is a middle-school teacher with no interest in visiting space. As Grace adapts to his bizarre new circumstances, he slowly begins to remember what happened in his last several months on Earth, and how he ended up in a spaceship barreling toward the star Tau Ceti.

It is terribly fun to hitch a ride with Ryland Grace as he MacGyvers his way out of one problem after another, but the book gets really good when an unexpected friend joins Grace. That’s all I’m going to say, except that if you enjoyed The Martian, you’ll love Project Hail Mary.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC WEIR)

Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian

Reviewed by Katy Zignego (Library Staff)

Hour of the Witch, the newest offering from New England author Chris Bohjalian, takes the reader to Salem, Massachusetts, in the decades before the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Mary Deerfield, a young Puritan woman, attempts to sue her abusive husband for a divorce, and the scrutiny brought by the divorce case leads to her arrest and trial as a suspected witch.

While the divorce storyline puts a new twist on the usual witch trial story, I was ultimately unsatisfied with the novel. I was never able to believe in Mary Deerfield as a Puritan woman of the 1660s. While Bohjalian spends a considerable amount of ink expounding upon the philosophy of the Puritans, the reader gets the impression that Mary has never bought into the Calvinist worldview. In fact, she seems more like a modern rational humanist who has time-traveled back to the 17th century and is not happy about it.

This is not a problem unique to this novel or novelist, and a good foundation of historical detail can make up for a lot of character shortcomings. But only the very best historical fiction can boast characters who feel completely true to their time, and Hour of the Witch does not live up to that standard.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC BOHJALIAN)

I Don’t Forgive You by Aggie Blum Thompson

Reviewed by Cassidy Hammel (Library Staff)

Allie Ross has put considerable distance between herself and her past. Although that’s where she’d like to keep it, it rears its ugly head threatening to ruin her marriage, job and relationship with her son. Allie steadily unravels as she slides quickly into suspect number one. Her neighbors believe she is guilty and she faces insurmountable odds in an effort to clear her name.

I seem to be a pro lately at picking debut books and although this is Aggie Thompson’s first novel and you can’t have more from her yet, it’s a fast-moving and chilling mystery novel worth picking up.

Available through the Bridges Library System

Breaking Creed by Alex Kava

Reviewed by Diane Basting (Library Staff)

Ryder Creed believes in three things, his dog, his intuition, and finishing the job you start regardless of where it leads. Breaking Creed is the first installment of the series that introduces us to Ryder and his dog Grace. Grace is a multi trained scent dog; her main focus is drugs and she has been getting some major headlines recently which leads a teenager who is running away from a drug cartel to recognize an opportunity to be rescued. What follows is an action packed thriller with many twists and turns, not all of them plausible, but if you stick with it to the end I believe you will find yourself at the start of a four book weekend featuring a retired marine, a K-9 scent dog, an FBI agent, and plots that will keep you guessing what could be on the next page.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC KAVA)

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