Dunedin Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute

Recent Books

Cast Iron (February 2017)

By Peter May

February 1, 2017

In 1989, a killer dumped the body of twenty-year-old Lucie Martin into a picturesque lake in the West of France.  Fourteen years later, during a summer heatwave, a drought exposed her remains – bleached bones amid the scorched mud and slime.

No one was ever convicted of her murder.  But now, forensic expert Enzo Macleod is reviewing this stone-cold-case – the toughest of those he has been challenged to solve.

Yet when Enzo finds a flaw in the original evidence surrounding Lucie’s murder, he opens a Pandora’s box that not only raises old ghosts but endangers his entire family.

Hell Island (February 2017)

By Matthew Reilly

February 1, 2017

Reviewed on Wireless Books Otago Access Radio 105.4FM 18 February 2017 also on podcast

It is an island that doesn’t appear on any maps.
A secret place, where classified experiments have been carried out.
Experiments that have gone terribly wrong…

Four crack special forces units are dropped in.
One of them is a team of Marines, led by Captain Shane Schofield, call-sign: SCARECROW.

Nothing can prepare Schofield’s team for what they find there.
You could say they’re just entered hell.
But that would be wrong.
This is much, much worse.

Jericho’s War (February 2017)

By Gerald Seymour

February 1, 2017

Corrie Rankin is already a legend at MI6 when he is recalled, with little regard for the horrors of his recent past, and sent to the Yemeni desert.  There is a chance to take down a high value player in the war against Al-Qaeda – a chance, also, for the Brits to succeed without begging help from the Americans.

The sniper and his spotter who will go with Corrie are less than ‘top team’, but the best that can be found if the mission is to stay deniable.

And once the three misfits are in-country, they must rely on intelligence brought to them by a British Jihadi who has been ‘turned’ and a young archaeologist digging in the ruins nearby.

The mission is the brain-child of an apparently old, fat fool in a striped cricket blazer, a sweating figure of fun among the ex-pat community across the border in Muscat.  This is Jericho – not actually as old or fat or foolish as he appears, nor as harmless.

And this is Jericho’s War.  The weapons it deploys, the brutal aims it pursures, are state of the art.  The fear it breeds and the raw bravery it demands are as timeless as the desert itself.

Autumn (February 2017)

By Ali Smith

February 1, 2017

Autumn.  Season of mists and mellow-fruitfulness.  That’s what it felt like for Keats in 1819.

How about Autumn 2016?

Daniel is a century old.  Elisabeth, born in 1984, has her eye on the future.  The United Kingdom is in pieces, divided by a historic once-in-a-generation summer.

Love is won, love is lost.  Hope is hand in hand with hopelessness.  The seasons roll round, as ever.

Ali Smith’s new novel is a meditation on a world growing ever more bordered and exclusive, on what richness and worth are, on what harvest means.  This first in a seasonal quartet casts an eye over our own time.  Who are we?  What are we made of?  Shakespearean jeu d’esprit, Keatsian melancholy, the sheer bright energy of 1960’s Pop art: the centuries cast their eyes over our own history-making.

Here’s where we’re living.  Here’s time at its most contemporaneous and its most cyclic.

From the imagination of the peerless Ali Smith comes a shape-shifting series, wide-ranging in timescale and light-footed through histories, and a story about ageing and time and love and stories themselves.

Here comes Autumn.

City of Friends (February 2017)

By Joanna Trollope

February 1, 2017

Reviewed on Wireless Books Otago Access Radio 105.4FM 18 February 2017 also on podcast

She glanced at her phone again.  There were appeals from the girls, from her ex-colleagues, a text from Steve reading with uncharacteristic imperiousness, ‘Call me.’  She couldn’t.  She couldn’t call anyone … She leaned forward, gripping the edge of the bench, and stared at the ground.  God, she thought, am I losing my mind?  Is this what happens when you lose your job?

The day Stacey Grant loses her job feels like the last day of her life.  Or at least, the only life she’d ever known.  For who was she if not a City high-flyer, Senior Partner at one of the top private equity firms in London?

As Stacey starts to reconcile her old life with the new – one without professional achievements or meetings, but instead, long days at home with her dog and ailing mother, waiting for her successful husband to come home – she at least has The Girls to fall back on.  Beth, Melissa and Gaby.  The girls, now women, had been best friends from the early days of university right through their working lives, and for all the happines and heartbreaks in between.

But these career women all have personal problems of their own, and when Stacey’s redundancy forces a betrayal to emerge that was supposed to remain secret, their long cherished friendships will be pushed to their limits.

The Dark Flood Rises (December 2016) – Athenaeum Book Club

By Margaret Drabble

December 1, 2016

An Athenaeum Book Club Pick

Francesca Stubbs holds our hand as we take a walk through old age and death.  Fran brings us to drinks with her friends, dropping off suppers for her ex-husband, warm and cosy in his infirmity.  She visits her daughter, holed up as the waters rise in a sodden West Country, and texts her son in Lanzarote, as he deals with the estate of his deceased girlfriend.

The questions of what constitutes a good death preoccupy this glittering novel.  The Dark Flood Rises asks momentous questions as it entertains and enthralls.  In her beautifully imagined new novel, Margaret Drabble is at her incisive best, exploring the end of life with her trademark humour, composure and wisdom.

Billy Bird (September 2016) – Athenaeum Book Club

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.

All the Light We Cannot See -Athenaeum Book Club

By Anthony Doerr

August 1, 2016

Athenaeum Book Club pick for 2017

‘Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.’

For Marie’Laure, blind since the age of six, the world is full of mazes.  The miniature of a Paris neighbourhood, made by her father to teach her the way home.  The microscopic layers within the invaluable diamond that her father guards in the Museum of Natural History.  The walled city by the sea, where father and daughter take refuge when the Nazis invade Paris.  And a future which draws her ever closer to Werner, a German orphan, destined to labour in the mine until a broken radio fills his life with possibility and brings him to the notice of the Hitler Youth.

In this magnificent, deeply moving novel, the stories of Marie-Laure and Werner illuminate the ways, against all odds people try to be good to one another.

The Teddy Bear’s Ribbon & Other Tales – Athenaeum Special Event

By E.R. Nye

July 1, 2016

Reviewed Wireless Books Otago Access Radio

In this series of adventures Sherlock Holmes and his friend and chronicler Dr Watson solve not only the mystery of the homely teddy bear and it’s role as courier in a spy ring but a number of other crimes.  Thus the pair shed new light on an old grave robbery in seventeenth century Sweden.

Holmes takes on an unexpected role in outwitting a con man who sees Watson as a gullible victim for a plausible swindle.  They venture into international intrigue and the shadowy world of an Italia secret society as well as solving other puzzles, such as the terrible threat of the Giant Rat of Sumatra.

The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 – Athenaeum Book Club

By Lionel Shriver

May 1, 2016

Athenaeum Book Club pick for 2017

It is 2029.

The Mandibles have been counting on a sizeable fortune filtering down when their 97-year-old patriarch dies.  Yet America’s soaring national debt has grown so enormous that it can never be repaid.  Under siege from an upstart international currency, the dollar is in meltdown.  A bloodless world war will wipe out the savings of millions of American families.

Their inheritance turned to ash, each family member must contend with disappointment, but also – as the effects of the downturn start to hit – the challenge of sheer survival.

Recently affluent Avery is petulant that she can’t buy olive oil, while her sister Florence is forced to absorb strays into her increasingly cramped household.  As their father Carter fumes at having to care for his demented stepmother now that a nursing home is too expensive, his sister Nollie, an expat author, returns from abroad at 73 to a country that’s unrecognizable.

Perhaps only Florence’s oddball teenage son Willing, an economics autodidact, can save this formerly august American family from the streets.

This is not science fiction.  This is a frightening, fascinating, scabrously funny glimpse into the decline that may await the United States all too soon, from the pen of perhaps the most consistently perceptive and topical author of our times.

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