Category Archives: Books

Summer Reads: 3 Thrillers for Summer Afternoons

Summer is a nice time to get away from my usual reading topics and look for something off my beaten track. And one of the side tracks I most enjoy is a “thriller” that is more mystery than violence; more story than hard-boiled detective. Which brings me to John Grisham, prolific writer of 29 novels that entwine good writing, intriguing cases, and enough danger to keep things interesting. They are great vacation reads — no heavy thinking necessary.

In The Whistler [2016] protagonist, Lucy Stoltz, is a judicial investigator for the State of Florida. A job more about reports than danger. If someone has a complaint about a state judge, Stoltz and her partner Hugo Hatch check it out. Stoltz is neither well-paid, nor a person running on adrenaline until this case lands on her desk. Her informant, Greg Myers, is a disbarred lawyer who gets his information from someone who receives the details from a so-called whistler [slang for whistleblower.]

The plot twists and turns on issues of gambling, Native American lands, a mob boss, and a corrupt judge. Each piece of Grisham’s puzzle demonstrates how seemingly smooth rocks can be lifted up to show all manner of creatures with both simple and complex motives for their corrupt lives. As the truth comes out, the perpetrators receive their just rewards, even as corruption itself continues.

In his next book, Camino Island [2017], Grisham takes a break from his usual plot line — much to the disappointment of many readers. The book opens with a heist of rare F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts from Princeton University, but turns its attention to small Camino Island off the Florida coast and rare book dealer Bruce Cable. Is he fencing the stolen manuscripts? The insurance company wants to know, and recruits Mercer Mann, a young writer drowning in student debt, to find out.

More mystery than thriller, Camino Island is well-written escapism.

John Grisham is a hard act to follow, but that doesn’t stop multitudes of writers from launching their own thrillers. Thin Air [2019] launches a new crime writer, Lisa Gray, and a new female detective, Jessica Shaw.

As the story begins, Jessica opens an email asking her to find a child kidnapped twenty-five years before. Jessica recognizes her three-year-old self in the attached photo.

Gray’s novel ties together two murders, twenty years apart, and point-of-view chapters for Jessica, Amy Ong, Jason Pryce, and Eleanor Lavelle. The tie that holds them together is closely guarded until the unexpected conclusion.


Reading in a Hammock. Public Domain.

Janet Maslin. “Review: In John Grisham’s ‘The Whistler,’ a Serious Woman and Serious Crime.” NY Times. Oct. 26, 2016.

Ken Tucker. “In ‘Camino Island,’ John Grisham takes a vacation from Writing John Grisham Novels.” NY Times. June 12, 2017.

Summer Reads: Prominent Women Lost in Shadow

This installment of Summer Reads is a bit on the serious side, because early in the summer I’m still picking through my history reading pile. The first book is historical fiction; the second, narrative non-fiction that is partly biography, and partly a great deal of information on Elizabethan building techniques. Taken in chronological order, let’s… Continue Reading

Dinner with Penelope

The question came up yesterday. If I could have dinner with any literary heroine, who would I invite?  I felt like should choose Elizabeth Bennett, because her character resonates with modern readers. But then I thought, one has tea with Elizabeth Bennett, not dinner. So, I set her to the side. Next I thought of… Continue Reading

Two Coins: A Sense of Place

My latest book, Two Coins: A Biographical Novel, officially released this past Friday, February 1, 2019. And, I’m excited to share some of the background to Mary Pigot’s story, and how I found it. While doing research for Rama’s Labyrinth, I ran across several references to the case of Pigot vs. Hastie, a civil suit… Continue Reading


Throughout the summer I’ve highlighted books I enjoyed reading. It’s the last week of August, and today is the final installment of Summer Reads for 2018. I don’t know if the books under discussion have been to your taste. They’re all books I enjoyed with historical fiction and literary fiction the most represented genres. The… Continue Reading

SUMMER READS: Two Novels of Forgotten Women

THE HANDFASTED WIFE It’s 1065 and Edith Swanneck is worried, because “These days everyone talked of how important a church wedding was, a priest listening to vows exchanged in the church porch and then blessing the marriage.” [Handfasted Wife, Chapter 1] Edith Swanneck didn’t stand on the church porch with her husband Harold Godwinson. They… Continue Reading

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