5 days ago

Mystery and thriller series starters can be misleading

So, what can you tell about mystery and thriller series from their series starters—the first books published in the sequence? Sometimes a whole lot. And sometimes not much at all, as it turns out. Mystery and thriller fans love book series. By following the exploits of a leading character or a team of investigators, we […]

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a couple of weeks ago

Religious conflict in Elizabethan England fuels this gripping spy story

There is no lack of religious conflict in today’s world. Hindus against Muslims. Sunni vs. Shia. Christians and Jews squaring off against Muslims. But it’s hard to find anything today to surpass the sheer complexity of the festering three-way collision of incompatible faiths in sixteenth-century England. Then, barely half a century after Henry VIII pulled […]

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a couple of weeks ago

The immigrant experience in America through many eyes

Then-Senator John F. Kennedy’s 1958 book, A Nation of Immigrants, brought to light a historical reality that few at the time had thought much about. Fewer than ten million out of 180 million Americans were foreign-born then. But by 1990, following the generous Immigration Act of 1965, that number had doubled. And today, the United […]

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3 weeks ago

The suspenseful first Easy Rawlins detective novel

In 1948, the first In-N-Out Burger opened in Los Angeles, a harbinger of the car culture that would come to dominate the region. Farmland divided the city from the town of Santa Monica, and the population then fell short of two million. (It was only with the 1950 census that L.A. surpassed Detroit as the […]

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last month

The brutal legacy of terrorism in the Andes

Most Americans today associate international terrorism with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their many radical Islamist offspring and imitators. Sadly, though, these groups are just the latest examples of a perverted indulgence in violence that has cropped up all over the world since the 1960s. The Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany and the Weather Underground in […]

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last month

This historical spy story ignores history

When historical novelists depart from the recorded facts of history on occasion, it’s generally understandable. For example, in her excellent novel of the Wars of the Roses, The Kingmaker’s Daughter, Philippa Gregory ignores the six-month interregnum in the reign of King Edward IV, and that matters little. But Allison Epstein wanders much too far from […]

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last month

A suspenseful World War II espionage thriller set in Paris

England shuddered in terror in the summer of 1940. Following the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk in May, Nazi Germany’s U-boat campaign threatened to starve the British people, and an invasion was imminent. Preparations for Operation Sea Lion were underway, revealed by a growing chorus of chatter in German radio communications. In […]

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last month

A strange murder mystery set in Poland

The title of this strange murder mystery set in Poland comes from “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” by the prophetic British poet William Blake (1757-1827), whose work figures throughout the book. Olga Tokarczuk, the Nobel Prize-winning author, tells the tale through the addled and unreliable account of a dotty older woman in a tiny […]

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a couple of months ago

A spellbinding WWII thriller set in neutral Sweden

What most of us in the English-speaking world know about Scandinavia’s role in World War II is largely limited to tales of the Nazi invasions of Norway and Denmark. Less well remembered are the events that unfolded in neutral Sweden, the region’s most populous country. And award-winning Swedish author Cecilia Ekbäck uses those events and […]

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a couple of months ago

The truth lies undercover in this Ghana murder mystery

Ghana’s most celebrated women’s fashion designer has been murdered in her bed, and the police investigation has, as is so often the case, gone awry. Lacking even a shred of evidence, they’ve arrested and imprisoned without trial Lady Araba’s driver and prevented the police lab from analyzing DNA gathered at the scene. Months later, Lady […]

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