Dunedin Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute

Books Archive

Month: August 2021

The Girl Who Died (August 2021)

By Ragnar Jonasson

August 10, 2021

Teacher wanted on the edge of the world …

Una knows she is struggling to deal with her father’s sudden tragic suicide.  She spends her nights drinking alone in Reykjavik, stricken with thoughts that she might one day follow in his footsteps.

So when she sees an advert seeking a teacher for two girls in the tiny village of Skalar – population of ten – on the storm-battered north coast of the island, she sees it as a chance to escape.

But once she arrives, Una quickly realizes nothing in city life has prepared her for this.  The villagers are unfriendly.  The weather is bleak.  And, from the creaky attic bedroom of the old house where she’s living, she’s convinced she hears the ghostly sound of singing.

Una worries that she’s losing her mind.

And then, just before midwinter, a young girl from the village is found dead.  Now there are only nine villagers left – and Una realizes that one of them has blood on their hands…

The Good, The Bad and the Little Bit Stupid (August 2021)

By Marina Lewycka

August 10, 2021

George is in a pickle.

After walking out on his wife Rosie on Referendum night 2016 to shack up with hairdresser ‘Brexit Brenda’ next door, he thinks he’s got it made – especially when he wins millions on a Kosovan lottery he only vaguely remembers entering.

Unfortunately, he’s forgotten his password and can’t get at his money.  Which is a problem because he suddenly has to contend with lots of forceful new friends desperate to know his mother’s maiden name.

As thinks quickly get out of hand, George must make a mad dash from Sheffield to the Adriatic – and into the arms of organized crime gangs who specialize in illegal kidney transplants and heroin smuggling.

George is in need of rescue – both from this pickle and from himself.  But will his son Sensible Sid, Brenda and Rosie put aside their differences long enough to help?  And might the journey bring this dysfunctional family back together?

The Maidens (August 2021)

By Alex Michaelides

August 10, 2021

St Christopher’s College, Cambridge, is a closed world to most.

For Mariana Andros – a group therapist struggling through her private grief – it’s where she met her late husband.  For her niece, Zoe, it’s the tragic scene of her best friend’s murder.

As memory and mystery entangle Marianna, she finds a society full of secrets, which has been shocked to its core by the murder of one of its own.

Because behind its idyllic beauty is a web of jealousy and rage which emanates from an exclusive set of students known only as The Maidens.  A group under the sinister influence of the enigmatic professor Edward Fosca.

A man who seems to know more than anyone about the murders – and the victims.  And the man who will become the prime suspect in Mariana’s investigation – an obsession which will unravel everything..

The Black Dress (August 2021)

By Deborah Moggach

August 10, 2021

Pru’s husband has walked out, leaving her alone to contemplate her future.  She’s missing not so much him, but the life they once had – picnicking on the beach with small children, laughing together, nestling up like spoons in the cutlery drawer as they sleep.  Now there’s just a dip on one side of the bed and no-one to fill it.

In a daze, Pru goes off to a friend’s funeral.  Usual old hymns, words of praise and a eulogy but … it doesn’t sound like the friend Pru knew.  And it isn’t.  She’s gone to the wrong service.  Everyone was very welcoming, it was – oddly – a laugh, and more excitement than she’s had for ages.  So she buys a little black dress in a charity shop and thinks, now I’m all set, why not go to another?  I mean, people don’t want to make a scene at a funeral, do they?  No-one will challenge her – and what harm can it do?

Sharp, poignant and full of surprises, The Black Dress is a beautifully observed portrayal of loneliness and life, rich with flashes of dark humour and infused with both wisdom and joy.

Notes from the Burning Age (August 2021)

By Claire North

August 10, 2021

Ven was once a holy man, a keeper of ancient archives.  It was his duty to interpret archaic texts, sorting useful knowledge from the heretical ideas of the Burning Age – a time of excess and climate disaster.  For in Ven’s world, such material must be closely guarded, so that the ills that led to that cataclysmic era can never be repeated.

But when the revolutionary Brotherhood approaches Ven, pressuring him to translate stolen writings that threaten everything he once held dear, his life will be turned upside down.  Torn between friendship and faith, Ven must decide how far he’s willing to go to save this new world, and how much he is willing to lose.

The Cellist (August 2021)

By Daniel Silva

August 10, 2021

Viktor Orlov had a longstanding appointment with death.  Once Russia’s richest man, he now resides in exile in London, where he is waging a crusade against the kleptocrats who have sized control of the Kremlin.  His mansion is protected by armed bodyguards.  Yet somehow, on a rainy summer evening, in the midst of a global pandemic, Russia’s vengeful president finally manages to cross Orlov’s name off his kill list.

Before him was the receiver from his landline telephone, a half-drunk glass of red wine, and a stack of documents…

The documents are contaminated with a deadly nerve agent.  The Metropolitan Police determine that they were delivered by one of Orlov’s employees, a prominent investigative reporter.  And when the reporter vanishes hours after the killing, MI6 concludes she is a Moscow Center assassin who penetrated the billionaire’s formidable defenses.

But Gabriel Allon believes his friends in British intelligence are dangerously mistaken.  His search for the truth will take him to Geneva, where a private intelligence service is plotting an act of violence that will plunge an already divided America into chaos.  Only Allon, with the help of a brilliant young woman employed by the world’s dirtiest bank, can stop it…

Should We Stay or Should We Go (August 2021)

By Lionel Shriver

August 10, 2021

When her father dies, Kay Wilkinson can’t cry.  Over ten years, Alzheimer’s had steadily eroded this erudite man.  Surely one’s own father passing should never come as such a relief?

Both healthy and vital medical professionals in their early fifties, Kay and her husband Cyril have seen too many of their elderly patients in the NHS in similar states of decay.  Determined to die with dignity, Cyril makes a modest proposal: they should agree to commit suicide together once they’ve both turned eighty.  When their deal is sealed, the spouses are blithely looking forward to another three decades together.

But then they turn eighty.

By turns hilarious and touching, playful and grave, Should We Go portrays twelve parallel universes, each exploring a possible future for Kay and Cyril, from a purgatorial Cuckoo’s-Nest-style retirement home to the discovery of a cure for aging, from cryogenic preservation to the unexpected pleasures of dementia.

Weaving in a host of contemporary issues – Brexit, mass migration, the coronavirus – Lionel Shriver has pulled off a rollicking page-turner in which we never have to mourn deceased characters, because they’ll be alive and kicking in the very next chapter.

Mum & Dad (August 2021)

By Joanna Trollope

August 9, 2021

It’s been twenty-five years since Gus and Monica left England to start a new life in Spain, building a vineyard and wine business from the ground up.  However when Gus suffers a stroke and their idyllic Mediterranean life is thrown into upheaval, it’s left to their three grown-up children in London to step in …

Sebastian is busy running his company with his wife Anna, who’s never seen eye to eye with her mother-in-law.

Katie, a successful solicitor in the City, is distracted by the problems with her long-term partner, Nic and the secretive lives of their three daughters.

And Jake, ever the easy-going optimist, is determined to convince his new wife, Bella, that moving to Spain with their eighteen-month old would be a good idea.

As the children descend on the vineyard, it becomes clear that each has their own idea of how best to handle their mum and dad, as well as the family business.  But as long-simmering resentments rise to the surface and tensions reach breaking point, can the family ties prove strong enough to keep them together?

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