By Michael Connelly
MYSTERY

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Good for a weekend's worth of the heebie-jeebies, Connelly's latest shamus-versus-serial-killer thriller mixes the cool noir vibe of Raymond Chandler with the freaky head games of Thomas Harris. Retired L.A. cop and part-time PI Hieronymus "Harry" Bosch, the author's recurring hero of choice, is a modern-day Philip Marlowe, a surly loner who reluctantly agrees to investigate the shady death of old pal Terry McCaleb (the heart-transplanted sleuth from Connelly's 1998 whodunit Blood Work). Former FBI agent and full-time psycho Bob "the Poet" Backus, Connelly's recurring nut job of choice, is a younger, smarter Hannibal Lecter who enjoys offing adulterous men as much as toying with those knuckleheaded authorities. Linking the good guy and the bad guy is federal agent Rachel Walling (think Silence of the Lambs' Clarice Starling), who thought she had killed the Poet a few books ago and is now helping Bosch chase the creep across the Nevada desert. Or—cue spooky music—is the Poet chasing them?

For newbies unfamiliar with Connelly's tough-guy storytelling and CSI-type forensics, this quick read is a great place to start. For diehards, however, The Narrows will read like a slick greatest-hits package, as the author blends characters from his previous novels and provides few new wrinkles. Connelly is too much of a pro to make it seem like a cheap sequel, though, and the crooked-haloed Bosch remains one of the most complex crime fighters around. In the book's creepiest scene—and there are lots of them—our hero snuggles up with his sleeping 5-year-old daughter and reads from the Poet's corpse-heavy case files. And you thought your parents were weird.

By Karen Joy Fowler
NOVEL
CRITIC'S CHOICE

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Five women and a single man meet for an "all-Jane-Austen-all-the-time book club" in Karen Joy Fowler's ingenious fourth novel. As spring turns to summer in Northern California, Fowler's cast reads through Austen's entire oeuvre, revealing their own stories in the process. Sylvia is uncoupling from a 32-year marriage; Jocelyn, her best friend, has sworn off men and begun breeding dogs. Grigg is sure no one wants a nice guy, while Allegra hasn't yet decided whether her next lover will be male or female.

Fans of Emma, Mansfield Park et al will recognize allusions galore, but the real pleasure comes from watching Fowler pay homage to Austen's gift for depicting people in conversation—how they say one thing and mean another. Readers who understand that the subject of most book clubs is not the books but the members will find this modern comedy of manners dishy good fun.

You Don't Really Know Me: Why Mothers and Daughters Fight and How Both Can Win

Terri Apter, a professor of social psychology at the University of Cambridge, observed and interviewed 59 pairs of mothers and daughters for her new book, You Don't Really Know Me: Why Mothers and Daughters Fight and How Both Can Win. Apter, 54, who herself has two grown daughters, talks about the lessons she learned regarding the maternal bond.

WHAT WAS YOUR INSPIRATION FOR THE BOOK? There is a strong theory of adolescence that girls want a kind of psychological divorce from their parents—that they want to cut ties. When my older daughter was still a kid, that idea became so distasteful I really wanted to update it and bring mothers' voices into this: I wanted to watch girls and mothers in action.

WHAT WAS YOUR MOST STRIKING DISCOVERY? Girls aren't fighting to try to push the mother away. They are trying to engage her in a new way, to shake her out of her old habits of looking at the girl. What I would call it is not a separation but maybe an individuation: defining yourself as a little bit different from your mother but doing it while maintaining a connection. They also make amends; if you actually look at the arguments you'll find a daughter is as likely to take a step toward reconciliation as the mother.

WHAT ARE THE HOT-BUTTON TOPICS FOR MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS? Homework, money, suitable/unsuitable friends and boyfriends. On another level the arguments are about recognition and respect.

WHAT'S YOUR BEST ADVICE FOR MOMS COPING WITH TEENAGE DAUGHTERS? Whatever your daughter says, you are extremely important to her. She needs your good opinion and your faith in her.

HAVE YOUR DAUGHTERS READ THE BOOK? Yes, they think it's funny. My younger daughter says, "See? I'm not the only one who gets annoyed when you're not really listening."

  • Contributors:
  • Sean Daly,
  • John Freeman.