Dunedin Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute

Books Archive

Month: September 2016

Southern Ruby

By Belinda Alexandra

September 1, 2016

Reviewed on Wireless Books Otago Access Radio 105.4FM 15 October 2016 also on podcast

In New Orleans – the city of genteel old houses and ancient oak trees covered in Spanish moss, of seductive night life, Creole culture, voodoo and jazz – two women separated by time and tragedy will find each other at last.

Amanda, orphaned as a child and suffering the loss of her beloved grandmother, has left Sydney in search of a family she never knew.

Ruby, constrained by the expectations of society and class, is carrying a lifetime of secrets.  Amanda’s arrival sparks revelations long buried – a double life, a forbidden love, and a loss that cannot be forgotten.

Southern Ruby is a sweeping story of love, passion, family and honour.  Alternating in time between the 1950’s and the eve of Hurrican Katrina, it is also a tribute to a city heady with mystery, music, and superstition, which has borne the tumults of race and class and the fury of nature, but has never given up hope.

Dear Amy

By Helen Callaghan

September 1, 2016

Reviewed on Wireless Books Otago Access Radio 105.4FM 17 September 2016 also on podcast

In her guise as ‘Dear Amy’, agony aunt for a local newspaper, Margot Lewis has dealt with all sorts of letters – but never one like this…

Dear Amy,
I’ve been kidnapped by a strange man.  I don’t know where I am.  Please help me,
Bethan Avery

This must be a cruel hoax.  Because Bethan Avery has been missing for nearly two decades.

But as the present-day search intensifies for another missing schoolgirl, Margot is unnerved enough to take the letter to the police, hoping they will dismiss it as a sick joke.

Instead, they let Margot in on a little secret.  One that confirms her darkest fears and tangles her up in the search for the sender, which could save one young girl’s life and cost Margot her own…

Closed Casket: Agatha Christie

By Sophie Hannah

September 1, 2016

Reviewed Wireless Books Otago Access Radio 105.4FM 17 September 2016 also on Podcast

Following the global success of The Monogram Murders, and 100 years after Agatha Christie first imagined him, Hercule Poirot is back in Sophie Hannah’s new novel Closed Casket.

Lady Athelinda Playford has planned a house party at her mansion in Clonakilty, County Cork, but it is no ordinary gathering.  As guests arrive, Lady Playford summons her lawyer to make an urgent change to her will – one she intends to announce at dinner that night.  She has decided to cut off her two children with-out a penny and leaver her fortune to someone who has only weeks to live…

Among Lady Playford’s guests are two men she has never met – the famous Belgian detective.  Hercule Poirot, and Inspector Edward Catchpool of Scotland Yard.  Neither knows why he has been invited…until Poirot starts to wonder if Lady Playford expects a murderer to strike.  But why does she seem so determined to provoke, in the presence of a possible killer?

When the crime is committed in spite of Poirot’s best efforts to stop it, and the victim is not who he expected it to be, will he be able to find the culprit and solve the mystery?

Home by Harlan Coben

By Harlan Coben

September 1, 2016

Reviewed on Wireless Radio Otago Access Radio 105.4FM 1 October also on Podcast

For ten long years two boys have been missing.

Now you think you’ve seen one of them.

He’s a young man.  And he’s in trouble.

Do you approach him?  Ask him to come home with you?  And how can you be sure it’s really him?

You thought your search for the truth was over.

It’s only just begun.

The Safest Place in London

By Maggie Joel

September 1, 2016

On a frozen January evening in 1944, Nacy Levin and her three-year-old daughter Emily, flee their impoverished East London home as an air raid siren sounds.  Not far away, Diana Meadows and her own child, three-year-old Abigail are lost in the black-out as the air raid begins.  Finding their way in the jostling crowd to the mouth of the shelter they hurry to the safety of the underground tube station.  Mrs Meadows, who has so far sat out the war in the safety of London’s outer suberbs, is terrified – as much by the prospect of sheltering in an East End tube station as of experiencing a bombing raid first hand.

Far away, Diana’s husband Gerald Meadows, finds himself in a tank regiment in North Africa while Nancy’s husband, Joe Levin, has narrowly survived a torpedo attack in the Atlantic and is about to re-join his ship.  Both men have their own wars to fight but take comfort in the knowledge that their wives and children, at least, remain safe.

But in wartime, ordinary people can find themselves taking extreme action – risking everything to secure their own and their family’s survival, even at the expense of others.

Precious and Grace

By Alexander McCall Smith

September 1, 2016

Reviewed Wireless Books Otago Access Radio 105.4FM 17 September 2016 also on Podcast

This is the story of Precious and Grace, known to one another and their friends as Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi, co-directors of the No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.

For years the two women have been helping people with the problems in their lives, but their partnership is tested by a curious case: a client who wants to rediscover the life she lost when she left Botswana thirty years ago.  Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi soon find that the quest for the truth takes them in very different directions.  They are each convinced that they are on the right track – but what if they are both wrong?

Meanwhile Mma Ramotswe must extract Mr Polopetsi – part-time assistant detective – from a potential disaster wtih wide-reaching consquences, deal with a stray dog that Fanwell – the gentle mechanic – has brought into their lives, and cope with the agency’s arch-enemy, Violet Sephotho.

Steeped in the heat of summer in Botswana, and packed with intrigue, this heartfelt tale of friendship under pressure reveals how coming to terms with the past may be the only way to face the future.

The Woman who Walked in Sunshine

By Alexander McCall Smith

September 1, 2016

Reviewed on Wireless Books Otago Access Radio 105.4FM 1st October and on Podcast

Mma Ramotswe is taking a break, leaving important tasks in the capable hands of Mma Makutsi, co-director of the No. 1 Ladies Detactive Agency.  But Mma Ramotswe soon finds herself interfering in cases (secretly, or so she intends).  While ‘on holiday’, she delves into the past of a man whose reputation is brought into question, she is called upon to rescue a small boy – and discovers Violet Sephotho’s lastest underhand business endeavour: the No. 1 Ladies’ Secretarial College.  Meanwhile, Mma Makutsi hires a part-time science teacher as an assistant, and suspects that her authority is being undermined.  Will Mma Ramotswe be caught out?

Out of Bounds

By Val McDermid

September 1, 2016

Reviewed Wireless Books Otago Access Radio 105.4FM 17 September 2016 also on Podcast

‘There were a lot of things that run in families, but murder wasn’t one of them…’

When a teenage joyrider crashes a stolen car, a routine DNA test  could be the key to unlocking the mystery of a twenty-year-old murder inquiry.  Dectective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie is an expert at solving the unsolvable.  So, finding the answer should be a straightforward, but it’s as twisted as the DNA helix itself.

Meanwhile, Karen finds herself irresistibly drawn to another case, one that she has no business investigating.  And as she pieces together decades-old evidence, Karen discovers the most dangerous kind of secrets.  Secrets that someone is willing to kill for…

Billy Bird

By Emma Neale

September 1, 2016

Finalist New Zealand Book Awards

Athenaeum Book Club choice

Liam and Iris have one son: Billy, a bright ‘toddler puddling about like a penguin, leavng surrealist art installations all over the house – a tiny cow in a teapot in a hat on the doorstep, of course!  A stuffed crocidile in a silk camisole perched beside a woollen chick in a beanie on the bread-bin, why not!’

Just as they are despairing about being able to conceive another child, Jason comes into their family.  He arrives under fraught circumstances, but might just make a perfect sibling for Billy.  Jason is a ‘lovely, poor, sad, unfortunate, ordinary, annoying, delightful nuisance of a ratbag of a hoot of a kid’ and the boys grow close over the ensuring years.  But after a terrible accident, Billy turns into a bird.  He utterly believes it: and as his behaviour becomes increasingly worrying, Liam and Iris must find a way to stop their family flying apart.

When extracts of Billy Bird won the NZSA Peter and Dianne Beatson Fellowship, the judges said the project was ‘inventive, joyful and beautifully written’.  Ripe with playfulness, yet also unforgettably poignant, this novel will unstich – and then mend – your heart several times over.

Commonwealth

By Ann Patchett

September 1, 2016

Reviewed on Wireless Books Otago Access Radio 105.4FM 15 October 2016 also on podcast

It is 1964: Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited and notices a heart-stoppingly beautiful woman.  When he kisses Beverly Keating, his host’s wife, he sets in motion the joining of two families whose shared fate will be defined on a day seven years later.

In 1988, Franny Keating, now twenty-four, has dropped out of law school and is working as a cocktail waitress in Chicago.  When she meets the famous author Leon Posen one night at the bar, and tells him about her family, she unwittingly relinquishes control over their story.

Told with equal measures of humour and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a powerful tale of a families far-reaching bonds of love and responsibility – and a mediation on inspiration, interpretation and the ownership of stories.

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