Dunedin Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute

Recent Books

Twilight of Empire (March 2018)

By Greg King and Penny Wilson

March 14, 2018

On a snowy January morning in 1889, a worried servant hacked open a locked door at the remote hunting lodge deep in the Vienna Woods.  Inside, he found two bodies sprawled on an ornate bed, blood oozing from their mouths.  Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria-Hungary appeared to have shot his seventeen-year-old mistress, Baroness Mary Vetsera, as she slept, sat with the corpse for hours, and when dawn broke, turned the pistol on himself.

A century has transformed this bloody scene into romantic tragedy: star-crossed lovers who preferred death together than to be parted by a cold, unfeeling Viennese court.  But Mayerling is also the story of family secrets: incestuous relationships and mental instability; blackmail, venereal disease, and political treason; and a disillusioned, morphine-addicted crown prince and a naïve schoolgirl caught up in a dangerous and deadly waltz inside a decaying empire.  What happened in that locked room remains one of history’s most evocative mysteries: What led Rudolf and his mistress to this desperate act?  Was it really a suicide pact?  Or did something far more disturbing take place at that remote hunting lodge and result in murder?

Drawing on extensive research and archival sources in Vienna, Greg King and Penny Wilson reconstruct this historical mystery, laying out evidence and information long ignored that conclusively refutes the romantic myth and the conspiracy stories.

Girl in the Woods (March 2018)

By Aspen Matis

March 14, 2018

In 2008, Aspen Matis left behind her quaint Massachusetts town for a school two thousand miles away.  Eager to escape her sheltered childhood, Aspen wanted to reinvent herself at college.  But on her second night on campus, all those hopes were obliterated when Aspen was raped by a fellow student.  Aspen was confused, ashamed, and uncertain about how to deal with a problem that has become common on campuses throughout the country.  Her desperation growing, she made a bold decision: she dropped out and sought healing on the 2.650-mile Pacific Crest Trail leading from Mexico to Canada.

In this important and inspiring memoir, Aspen chronicles and ambitious five-month trek that was as dangerous as it was transformative.  Forced to survive on her own for the first time, she found herself on a new expedition: to confront – and overcome – the confines that had bound her since long before college.  A nineteen-year-old girl alone and adrift, Aspen conquered desolate mountain passes and met rattlesnakes, bears, and fellow desert pilgrims.  Among the snowcaps and the forests of America’s West, she blazed a new path to the future she wanted – and reclaimed it.

What emerges is an unflinching portrait of a girl in the aftermath of rape.  Told with elegance and suspense, Girl in the Woods is a beautifully rendered story of emotional and physical boundaries eroding to reveal the truths that lie beyond the edges of the map.

The Long Drop (March 2018)

By Denise Mina

March 14, 2018

William Watt wants answers about his family’s murder.

Peter Manuel has them.

But Peter Manuel is a liar.

Happiness for Humans (March 2018)

By P. Z. Reizin

March 14, 2018

Don’t tell anyone, but Jen is one of my favourite people.

(Machines aren’t supposed to have favourites.  Don’t ask me how this has happened.)

Jen is sad.  Aiden wants her to be happy.  Simple?  Except that Jen is thirty-something woman whose boyfriend has just left her and Aiden is a complicated, very expensive piece of software.

Aiden knows Jen inside out.  With access to all her devices, he knows her most played song, can find her favourite photos and single out the insta-quotes which most inspire her.  Based on observations and unique algorithms, he has calculated that Jen should find a new man to achieve optimum wellbeing.  And with the whole of the internet at his disposal, he doesn’t have to look far to find a perfect specimen and engineer a meeting.  Except Jen seems to be remarkably unwilling to fall into line with Aiden’s flawless plan.

Can a very artificially intelligent machine discover emotional intelligence in time to fix Jen’s life?  And find out what exactly makes human beings happy?

The Shadow Sister (March 2018)

By Lucinda Riley

March 14, 2018

Star D’Apliese is at a crossroads in her life after the sudden death of her beloved father – the elusive billionaire, named Pa Salt by his six daughters, all adopted by him from the four corners of the world.  He has left each of them a clue to their true heritage, but Star – the most enigmatic of the sisters – is hesitant to step out of the safety of the close relationship she shares with her sister CeCe.  In desperation, she decides to follow the first clue she has been left, which leads her to an antiquarian bookshop in London, and the start of a whole new world…

A hundred years earlier, headstrong and independent Flora MacNichol vows she will never marry.  She is happy and secure in her home in the Lake District, living close to her idol, Beatrix Potter, when machinations outside her control lead her to London, and the home of one of Edwardian society’s most notorious players, Alice Keppel.  Flora is pulled between passionate love and duty to her family, but finds herself a pawn in a game – the rules of which are only known to others – until a meeting with a mysterious gentleman unveils the answers that Flora has been searching for her whole life.

As Star learns more of Flora’s incredible journey, she too goes on a voyage of discovery, finally stepping out of the shadow of her sister and opening herself up to the possibility of love.

Gabriel’s Bay (March 2018)

By Catherine Robertson

March 14, 2018

Kerry Macfarlane has run away from his wedding-that-wasn’t.  He lands in coastal Gabriel’s Bay, billed as a ‘well-appointed small town’ on its website (last updated two decades ago).  Here Kerry hopes to prove he’s not a complete failure.  Or, at least, to give his most convincing impression.

But Gabriel’s Bay has its own problems – low employment, no tourists, and a daunting hill road between it and civilization.  And Kerry must also run the gauntlet of its inhabitants: Sidney, single mother deserted by a feckless ex; Mac, the straight-shooting doctor’s receptionist; a team of unruly nine-year-olds; a giant restaurateur; and the local progressive association, who’ll debate apostrophe placement until the crack of doom.

Can Kerry win their respect, and perhaps even love?  Will his brilliant plan to transform the town’s fortunes earn him a lasting welcome in Gabriel’s Bay?

Persons Unknown (March 2018)

By Susie Steiner

March 14, 2018

As dusk falls a young man staggers through a park, far from home, bleeding from a stab wound.  He dies where he falls; cradled by a stranger, a woman’s name on his lips in his last seconds of life.

DI Manon Bradshaw can’t help taking an interest – these days she only handles cold cases, but the man died just yards from the police station where she works.

She’s horrified to discover that both victim and prime suspect are more closely linked to her than she could have imagined.  And as the Cambridgeshire police force closes ranks against her, she is forced to contemplate the unthinkable.

How well does she know her loved ones, and are they capable of murder?

An Unsuitable Match (March 2018)

By Joanna Trollope

March 14, 2018

‘Why on earth, after all you’ve been through, all you’ve survived, all you’ve achieved, why do you want to get married?’

Rose Woodrowe has just got engaged to Tyler Masson – a wonderful, sensitive man who is head-over-heels in love with her.  The only problem?  This isn’t the first time for either of them, and their five grown-up children have strong opinions on the matter…

Like Rose’s daughter, Laura, who remembers her parents’ painful divorce and doesn’t want to see her mother hurt again.  Or the twins, Emmy and Nat, who simply don’t trust the man their mother has fallen for.  Then there’s Tyler’s children: Seth too busy with his San Francisco sourdough bakery to get to know his father’s new partner; and Mallory, the aspiring actress, who is still wrestling with the issues of her own childhood.

Who to listen to?  Who to please?  Rose and Tyler are determined to get it right this time, but in trying to make everyone happy, can they ever be happy themselves?

The Chalk Man (March 2018

By C. J. Tudor

March 14, 2018

‘None of us ever agreed on the exact beginning.

Was it when we started drawing the chalk figures, or when they started to appear on their own?

Was it the terrible accident?

Or when they found the first body?

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (March 2018)

By Stuart Turton

March 14, 2018

It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy.  As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.

But Evelyn will not die just once.  Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again.  Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.

The only way to break this cycle is to identify her killer.  But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest.  And someone is desperate to stop him ever escaping Blackheath…

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