Dunedin Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute

Recent Books

Daddy was a German Spy and Other Scandals (May 2019)

By Brian Edwards

June 12, 2019

On Christmas Eve 1939, commercial traveler James Arthur Edwards, alias Leonard Robert Myram, alias Leonard Ronald Maham, abandoned his wife Jean and his two-year-old son Brian on the roadside seven miles from her family home near Belfast, and drove off into the night.  The boy would never see his father again.

Daddy was a German Spy, and Other Scandals covers the first 25 years of Brian’s life in Northern Ireland and documents his attempts to uncover the truth about his father.  Who was Arthur Edwards?  Was he the drunkard, philanderer, wife-beater, embezzler, bigamist, possibly even German spy of Jean’s telling, or merely a charming fantasist, adventurer and rogue?

While the search for answers to these intriguing questions lies at the heart of this book, Daddy was a German Spy is also a humorous and poignant account of growing up as the only child of a solo parent in post-war Ulster, billeted in a succession of lodgings and reliant on the not-so-tender mercies of a series of eccentric landladies.  Politics, religion and sex all find their place in a memoir that ranges from the author’s unconventional conversion to socialism to his loss of faith and his frustrated attempts to lose his virginity.

One False Move (June 2019)

By Robert Goddard

June 12, 2019

What value can be put on a human mind?

How Joe Roberts does what he does is a mystery.  He has a brain that seems able to outperform a computer.  To a games company like Venstrom, that promises big profits if his abilities can be properly exploited.  So they send Nicole Nevinson to track him down and make him an offer too good to refuse.

But Venstrom aren’t the only people interested in Joe.  His current boss, a shady businessman, is already making serious money out of Joe’s talents and isn’t going to let him go without a fight.  And then there are other forces, with still darker intentions, that have their own plans for him.

Almost before she knows it, Nicole has crossed an invisible line into a world where the game being played has rules she doesn’t understand and where no one can help her win.

But win she must.  Because the battle now isn’t just for Joe’s mind, it’s for Nicole’s life.

Cari Mora (June 2019)

By Thomas Harris

June 12, 2019

From the creator of Hannibal Lecter and The Silence of the Lambs comes a story of evil greed and the consequences of dark obsession.

Twenty-five million dollars in cartel gold lies hidden beneath a mansion on the Miami Beach waterfront.  Ruthless men have tracked it for years.  Leading the pack is Hans-Peter Schneider.  Driven by unspeakable appetites, he makes a living fleshing out the violent fantasies of other, richer men.

Cari Mora, caretaker of the house, has escaped from the violence in her native country.  She stays in Miami on a wobbly Temporary Protected Status, subject to the iron whim of the immigration authorities.  She works at many jobs to survive.  Beautiful, marked by war, Cari catches the eye of Hans-Peter as he closes in on the treasure.  But Cari Mora has surprising skills, and her will to survive has been tested before.

Monsters lurk in the crevices between male desire and female survival.  No other writer in the last century has conjured those monsters with more terrifying brilliance than Thomas Harris.  Cari Mora, his sixth novel, is the long-awaited return of an American master.

Dead at First Sight (June 2019)

By Peter James

June 12, 2019

It is clear that nothing is as it seems when Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is called to investigate the suicide of a woman in Brighton.  As his enquiries continue, a handsome motivational speaker, living in the area, comes forward.  He’s discovered his identity is being used to scam eleven different women who are looking for love online.  The first he knew of it was a phone call from one of them, out of the blue, saying, ‘You don’t know me, but I thought I knew you’.

The woman is now dead.

Roy Grace realizes he is looking at the top of an iceberg.  A global empire built on clever, cruel internet scams and the murder of anyone who threatens to expose them.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz (June 2019)

By Heather Morris

June 12, 2019

The incredible story of the Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist and the woman he loved

Lale Sokolov is well-dressed, a charmer, a ladies’ man.  He is also a Jew.  On the first transport from Slovakia to Auschwitz in 1942, Lale immediately stands out to his fellow prisoners.  In the camp, he is looked up to, looked out for, and put to work in the privileged position of Tetovierer – the tattooist – to mark his fellow prisoners, forever.  One of them is a young woman, Gita, who steals his heart at first glance.

His life given new purpose, Lale does his best through the struggle and suffering to use his position for good.

This story, full of beauty and hope, is based on years of interviews author Heather Morris conducted with real-life Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov.  It is heart-wrenching, illuminating, and unforgettable.

Normal People (June 2019)

By Sally Rooney

June 12, 2019

Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in the west of Ireland, but the similarities end there.  In school, Connell is popular and well-liked, while Marianne is a loner.  But when the two strike up a conversation – awkward but electrifying – something life-changing begins.

Normal People is a story of mutual fascination, friendship and love.  It takes us from that first conversation to the years beyond, in the company of two people who try to stay apart but find they can’t.

A Cornish Summer (May 2019)

By Catherine Alliott

May 21, 2019

Flora’s been in love with her husband for twenty years.  The trouble is, he’s been married to someone else for the past fifteen.

Now she’s been invited to spend the summer in the shady lanes and sandy coves of Cornwall.  It should be blissful.

There’s just one small snag: she’ll be staying with her former mother-in-law, Belinda.

And Flora discovers she’s not the only one invited when her ex-husband shows up out of the blue, complete with his new wife.  So now there are two small snags.

Can Flora spend the summer playing happy families with the woman who stole her husband’s heart, and the mother-in-law who might have had a hand in it?

Or will stumbling on the family secret change her mind about them all?

The White Darkness (May 2019)

By David Grann

May 21, 2019

Henry Worsley, devoted husband and father and decorated British Army officer, was a man obsessed.  He had spent years studying the life of Ernest Shackleton, the 19th-century polar explorer who strove to become the first person to reach the South Pole and later to cross Antarctica on foot.  Shackleton never completed his journeys, but he repeatedly rescued his men from certain death and emerged as one of the greatest leaders in history.

Worsley felt an overpowering connection to those expeditions.  He was related to one of Shackleton’s men and had modelled his military command on Shackleton’s legendary skills.  And he was determined to measure his own powers of endurance against them in the most brutal landscape in the world.

In 2008, Worsley set out across Antarcticia with two other descendants of Shackleton’s crew, battling the relentless cold, life-threatening physical exhaustion and treacherous hidden crevasses.  Yet, when he returned home, he felt compelled to go back.  In 2015, Worsley bid farewell to his family and embarked on his most perilous quest: to walk across Antarctica alone.

The Old Man & the Gun And Other Tales of True Crime (May 2019)

By David Grann

May 21, 2019

The Old Man & the Gun is the incredible story of a bank robber and prison escape artist who modelled himself after figures like Pretty Boy Floyd and who, even in his seventies, refuses to retire.  True Crime follows the twisting investigation of a Polish detective who suspects that a novelist planted clues in his fiction to an actual murder.  And The Chameleon recounts how a French imposter assumes the identity of a missing boy from Texas and infiltrates the boy’s family, only to soon wonder whether he is the one being conned.

In this mesmerizing collection, David Grann shows why he has been called a ‘worthy heir to Truman Capote’ and ‘simply the best narrative nonfiction writer working today,’ as he takes the reader on a journey through some of the most intriguing and gripping real-life tales from around the world.

The Strawberry Thief (May 2019)

By Joanna Harris

May 21, 2019

Everyone is different.  Some of us are just more different than others…

Vianne Rocher has settled down.  Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, the place that once rejected her, has finally become her home.  With Rosette, her ‘special’ child, she runs her chocolate shop in the square, talks to her friends on the river, is part of the community.  Even Reynaud, the priest, has become a friend.

But when old Narcisse, the florist, dies, leaving a parcel of land to Rosette and a written confession to Reynaud, the life of the sleepy village is once more thrown into disarray.

The arrival of Narcisse’s relatives, the departure of an old friend and the opening of a mysterious new shop in the place of the florist’s across the square – one that mirrors the chocolaterie, and has a strange appeal of its own – all seem to herald some kind of change: a confrontation, a turbulence – even, perhaps, a murder…

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