In The Mail*

Zero to the bone by Robert Eversz

zerotothebone.jpg– Publishers Weekly:

Eversz hits the jackpot in his fifth Nina Zero mystery (after 2005’s Digging James Dean) as his Hollywood tabloid photographer with the unsavory past confronts various challenges and emerges irrevocably changed but still standing. Nina (nee Mary Alice Baker) is on the cusp of a breakthrough—an exhibition of her edgy photography at an art gallery—when she receives what appears to be a snuff film, whose victim has a Betty Boop tattoo exactly like one borne by Nina’s featured model. Nina’s quest for a killer sucks her into a maelstrom of perversion, crime and corruption. The fundamentally decent Nina has a toe in the “normal” world, but her status as an ex-con and parolee, her issues with her estranged and abusive father, even her fragile relationship with her young niece, all threaten to pull her back into the muck. This compelling, nerve-wracking, draining novel will leave readers hungry for the next in the series.

– Booklist: “Nina’s terse, tough-girl patter is irresistible, and her street-smart, humorous take on love and life makes for addictive reading.”

The Man of My life Mauel Vazquez by Montalban.

– From a review in The Independent:

The writer, born in 1939, the year of Franco’s Civil War victory, grew up in the grimmest years of dictatorship in the slums of Barcelona. Many men were absent: dead, exiled or in jail. Montalban met his own father for the first time when, aged five, he passed a strange man on the stairs.
[. . .] In the mid-1970s, he started to write the detective novels featuring Pepe Carvalho; The Man of My Life is the penultimate of 18 Carvalho novels. Montalban conceived the series as a chronicle of contemporary Barcelona, commenting on events soon after they had occurred.
[. . .] The Man of My Life is a novel of the millennium, with murder now wrapped in religious passion and Satanic cults that have replaced Communist parties. However, the real Satanists are not the weird sects of lost children, but the same crooks as ever: capitalist society that ravages its victim-members for profit. Montalban interweaves with the public story a deeply private tale of lost youth and love, an extended meditation on ageing and loneliness.

The Guardian:

Following his fish-out-of-water venture in Argentina in The Buenos Aires Quartet, bon-vivant detective Pepe Carvalho is once more in his beloved Barcelona, and back to his usual nonchalant style of sleuthing between slap-up meals and the appreciation of female pulchritude. When the son of a prominent financier is murdered, Pepe is called in to investigate the matter and track down the killer, which leads him to infiltrate the murky world of local Satanists and religious sects. As sumptuous recipes and descriptions of food alternate with trenchant comments on local and international politics, Carvalho is also torn between two women, his on-off partner Charo and the fascinating Yes, a lover from his youth. Inevitably, the personal and the professional merge and the mood darkens. Montalban died recently, but there are fortunately still some unpublished Pepe novels, and this is one of the best.


Mercedez Benz by Pawel Huelle

Benz.jpg

The Timesonline:

Huelle is a Polish writer from Gdansk, and this is a meditation on his family’s history and the history of their country. In the early 1990s, after the end of communism, the narrator is taking driving lessons. While he negotiates the hair-raising Gdansk traffic, he tells his teacher about his father, his grandparents, and their ownership of Mercedes- Benz cars. Illustrated with personal photographs, the book revisits the lost, prewar Poland and Huelle ponders his nation’s uncertain future. Quirky, thoughtful and often poetic, it opens a subjective and fascinating window on to the recent past.

The Guardian:

Huelle writes in such an engaging, chatty style that you hardly notice the fraught circumstances underlying every tale . . . It’s a grim little symbol of modern Poland, finally freed from fascism and communism, but ravaged instead by the free market.

The New Statesman:

Huelle’s wit and his subtle gift for measuring absurdity stand comparison with Hrabal or any of the other great central European ironists.

The True Darcy Spirit by Elizabeth Aston

Dust jacket description:

Following on the heels of Mr. Darcy’s Daughters and The Exploits & Adventures of Miss Alethea Darcy, Elizabeth Aston delivers an irresistible new novel set in the world of Jane Austen.

After being disowned by her family, Cassandra Darcy — the artistic eldest daughter of Anne de Bourgh (and granddaughter of the infamous Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Mr. Darcy’s cousin in Pride and Prejudice) — strives to make a living by painting. But struggling to succeed in bohemian London turns out to be the least of her worries! To begin with, there are the unwelcome advances of a certain Lord Usborne, and then there are the letters bequeathed to her by a friend — highly compromising letters written by Princess Caroline that her husband, the Prince Regent, would very much like to possess. In league with Lord Usborne, the prince enlists the services of Cassandra’s cousin, Horatio Darcy, who is a lawyer, to track down the missives. When Horatio’s investigation leads him straight to Cassandra, he initially disapproves of her lifestyle until he finds himself utterly charmed by it — and particularly by her. Romance may prove elusive, however, as social obstacles and the efforts of a vengeful Lord Usborne conspire to divide the two would-be lovers.

*A regular series of posts noting books I have received recently

About the author

Kevin Holtsberry

I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season - oh, and watching golf too).

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