Devil House

The cover of the book shows an old house with two turrets silhouetted in black and white against a black background. Beneath it, against a white background, is a red outlined reflection of the house's shape, illustrated to resemble a vampire bat. The red and black lettering is in a Gothic style and gives the cover a retro, pulpy feel.

It’s changed since you were here, or else it hasn’t
It was special, it was deadly
It was ours and then it wasn’t

– The Mountain Goats

By Ben H.

An entertaining book full of mystery, empathy, and suspense, Devil House is also a thoughtful examination of authorial responsibility. John Darnielle excels at building meaning by layering stories. As the frontman of The Mountain Goats, he’s a storytelling genius. He’s magical and efficient. He’s an all-time great songwriter.

Speaking of authorial responsibility, I should state upfront that I think Darnielle is a better songwriter than he is novelist. Devil House would have benefited from heavy editing. That being said, I like the book and I consider my responsibility as the author of this review now satisfied.

Devil House is the story of true crime writer Gage Chandler. Chandler fictionalizes true stories for money, the job of all novelists, really, but he isn’t Thomas Wolfe writing about Asheville. Chandler writes the new Hulu documentary about a mother who poisoned her kids or a couple who killed boarders and buried them under the hyacinths. Chandler writes books that are adapted for the small screen and become the must watch shows of the week. He approaches the gruesome devil house murders of Evelyn Gates (the greedy landlord) and Marc Buckler (the sleezy real estate mogul wannabe) the same way he approached previous cases, but things get complicated.

The titular house is the center of the novel and serves as a cipher for all the characters. Chandler, Buckler, Gates, Seth, Alex, and Derrick all revolve around its foundations in one way or another. It’s Chandler’s next project; it’s work. Buckler and Gates see it as an asset or potential asset. High school students Derrick, Seth, and Alex use the abandoned house as a hideout. They make it a castle. It’s a safe place to sleep at night. Many of the highlights of the book occur when Chandler describes the boys and their relationship with the house.

Chandler’s methods are extreme. He’s the Daniel Day Lewis of true crime writers. Joaquin Phoenix ain’t got nothing on Gage Chandler. He lives where the crimes were committed (he literally moves into the building known as devil house). He holds items held by those involved as if they were talismans. He haunts eBay looking for paraphernalia tangentially connected to the case. He becomes the victims. He becomes the murderer. Chandler recreates lives based on evidence left behind. He imagines conversations and relationships based on the contents of a junk drawer. He establishes character and personality based on notebooks full of doodles. He gives his characters depth. He uses empathy to create details and narratives for his characters; but has he cold-heartedly monetized empathy?

While living in devil house, an old case that involves the murder of two students by their high school teacher, which Chandler turned into the book The White Witch of Morro Bay, comes back to haunt him. He receives a devastating letter from someone questioning his depiction of a certain character. Chandler prides himself on being fair to his characters, but how can you be fair to someone’s son when to you they are just a character you have partially fleshed out? His resolve shaken, he questions his methods and his career.

For those thinking that what this book sounds like it needs is a medieval section in middle English, you’re in luck! For me, this strange interlude emphasized the depth of the world-building that Derrick, Seth, and Alex were doing. It’s like I always say, “whan that Aprille with his shoures soote, / The droghte of March hath perced to the roote.” I also always say that if you can cut the section in middle English from the book you wrote in 2022, you should.

As in Wolf in White Van, Darnielle moves back and forth in time, weaving patterns and stacking stories. The payoff is well worth it. I reread the reveal a couple of times because it was so satisfying. The obvious takeaway for me was a critique of true crime books, shows, and movies. Devil House also offers a commentary on how society treats its vulnerable members. Whatever meanings you find inside Devil House, I think you’ll enjoy exploring most of its pages.

Harbor me when I’m hungry
Harbor me when I’m hunted

– The Mountain Goats

Ben Hamilton works at Project Literacy, Howard County Library’s adult basic education initiative, based at HCLS Central Branch. He loves reading, writing, walking, and talking (all the basics).

Author Works: Sarah Gailey

Black and white photo of the author, with short hair and one hand tucked inside her jacket, sits next to a cover of The Echo Wife. The cover shows an engagement ring and its reflection in gold with blue highlights, the title appears in blue inside the rings.

Tue, May 17 at 7 pm online
Register at bit.ly/echowife.

by Kristen B.

Author Sarah Gailey discusses their acclaimed novel The Echo Wife (also eBook and eAudiobook) in conversation with Maggie Tokuda-Hall, author of Also an Octopus (reviewed here). Gailey’s most recent novel, The Echo Wife, and first original comic book series with BOOM! Studios, Eat the Rich, are available now. Other shorter works and essays have been published in Mashable, The Boston Globe, Vice, Tor.com, and The Atlantic, and their work has been translated into seven languages and published around the world.

Publisher’s Weekly review of The Echo Wife:

This creepy, exhilarating science fiction outing from Gailey (Magic for Liars) dissects an unconventional affair that violates both a couple’s marriage vows and scientific integrity. Dr. Evelyn Caldwell is startled to discover that her husband, Nathan, has been seeing another woman—and even more shocked to learn that the other woman is a clone of Evelyn herself. Nathan created Martine to be everything Evelyn isn’t: attentive, submissive, and family-oriented. Adding insult to injury, Nathan used Evelyn’s own research to do so. An explosive confrontation among the three ends in Nathan’s murder, leaving Evelyn and Martine forced to work together to cover up the crime. It’s a situation that is not entirely unfamiliar for Evelyn, whose troubled past is teased out bit by bit. The women slowly discover that Nathan was hiding more secrets than either of them knew, forcing Martine and Evelyn to think on their feet in order to save themselves and the odd little family they create along the way. Gailey’s story unspools as a series of dark reveals that leave both the characters and the audience reeling. Readers won’t want to put this one down. (Feb.)

Gailey is a Hugo Award winning and bestselling author of speculative fiction, short stories, and essays. They have been a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards for multiple years, and their bestselling adult novel debut, Magic for Liars, was published by Tor Books in 2019.

A bright pink cover shows a black hand upside down with its fingers crossed and a mystical eye on the wrist. the title of the book frames it in large yellow layers.

My book club (Books on Tap) read Magic for Liars for our May meeting. As with many other of Gailey’s books, it doesn’t fit neatly into one category. Yes, it’s a murder mystery complete with clues, red herrings, multiple suspects, and gory details. The book also tackles grief, illness, and how families deal with both. These weightier topics rather sneak around the edges of the crime scene. Our protagonist and Private Investigator, Ivy Gamble, is hired to solve the death of a teacher at the school for magical students where her sister teaches. She tells us up-front that she’s a liar, that she resents the living daylights out of her magical sister, and that she’s not proud of how the situation resolved. To say they are estranged doesn’t begin to cover the levels of distrust and bitterness that separate these twin sisters – one magical, one not. Do you trust that sort of narrator? It’s a terrifically entertaining read that nonetheless leaves you thinking about what you might do in a similar situation.

Magic for Liars is available in print, as an eBook and an eAudiobook.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

A fairly plain cover with a red edge and the title in script and the author's name hand lettered. A small wolf stands between author and title lines.

by Sahana C.

I read the introduction on Goodreads: “Four septuagenarians with a few tricks up their sleeves, a female cop with her first big case, a brutal murder. Welcome to…The Thursday Murder Club” and immediately placed a request for this book. Then I waited for a few weeks and was thrilled when I finally got the notification that the novel was ready for me. I finished it the day I started, because, first things first, the book is hilarious. I paged through, intent on the mystery and trying to pick up the clues scattered through the pages and thinking about the details of the case, then suddenly remembered that the characters are using and abusing the privileges of their old age. One of the main characters pretends to have her handbag stolen to talk to a police officer, while another pretends that his memory is going in order to get a detective to give him what he needs. All of them are ever-so-charming when they’re trying to get their way, and you suddenly remember that the point-of-view character is a seventy-something year old who is casually discussing (and excited about investigating!) murder.  

The novel happens in a retirement village, Cooper’s Chase, and centers on four friends who genuinely seem to have absolutely nothing in common and no real reason to like each other. (Except Joyce: “I think we all like Joyce,” says Ibrahim. Ron and Elizabeth nod their agreement again. “Thank you, I’m sure,” says Joyce, chasing peas around her plate. “Don’t you think someone should invent flat peas?” (p 13)). The four meet weekly (on Thursdays, to no one’s surprise) in the Jigsaw Room to solve cold cases, especially murders. There’s Ron, a loudmouthed, passionate rabblerouser whose biggest role in the group comes from his unwavering suspicion of any sort of authority. Ibrahim, a retired psychiatrist, serves as the group’s resident tech expert, who is wildly proud of his technological prowess while also organizing and keeping the data on all of the crimes the club discusses. Joyce, the first point of view readers are introduced to, is a former nurse and the newest member of the group, who is steadfast and practical, keeps her head down, and bakes a mean cake in almost every other scene. Finally, rounding out the four and one of the founding members of the Thursday Murder Club is Elizabeth, who remains infinitely mysterious, with a checkered past, who always manages, somehow, to get her way.  

Through trickery and subtle coercion, they involve themselves in the investigation of a murder that occurs adjacent to their retirement village, bringing two detectives into the fold: Donna, a young woman looking to prove herself, and Chris, a detective who feels a bit past his prime. The detectives quickly realize the importance of our Murder Club, never take them for granted, and come to realize that the Thursday Murder Club’s influence and investigative effort is absolutely necessary to solving the crime. Through it all, we get an actual well-constructed mystery, one that leaves bread crumbs and truly utilizes each of the ensemble cast of characters to the full extent of their humor and intelligence. It keeps the plot moving from beat to beat.  

No real moral judgements are made in the story. The retirement village is full of rich and accomplished people who are ready for some time out of the spotlight, but who have their own secrets and problems, which in turn allows them to confront the criminals without any real superiority. The only judgements are for the truly obnoxious characters (one in particular, who simply has no manners), and even comes across as more of a grandparent’s headshake of disapproval than any real condemnation. 

The Thursday Murder Club is a cozy mystery full of humor, vitality, and life, more than I anticipated for a book about murder and retirement villages. It is available in print, eBook, and eAudiobook

Sahana is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She enjoys adding books to her “want to read” list despite having a mountain of books waiting for her already.

Home is Where the Library Is: The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis

A woman dressed in a bright yellow dress walks while reading through a grand lobby with well-lit doors and windows behind her.

by Cherise T.

I have a favorite photo of my kids where my son is wearing his baseball cap backwards and my daughter is wearing a poncho as a skirt. Today, my son’s visors often still point in reverse and my daughter never misses the opportunity to transform an article of clothing into something original and extraordinary. 

Where, you ask, was this photo taken? In front of the New York Public Library, the revered Fifth Avenue building guarded by two marble lions. A library with an eight-room apartment on the mezzanine.

Having never read a novel by the popular historical fiction author Fiona Davis, I was attracted to the plotline of The Lions of Fifth Avenue, not only because of my love for libraries but because I have entertained the fantasy of enjoying unlimited access to stacks and stacks of books. Deep, dark stacks with first editions and handwritten notes by famous authors. One of my favorite books in the HCLS collection is The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems because I can sink into Dickinson’s creative process and believe, for phrases at a time, that I am sharing a word journey into an otherwise fathomless mind. 

Told through the dual lenses of 1993 and 1913-18, The Lions of Fifth Avenue reads both as historical fiction and mystery. The plot weaves the interconnected stories of a family with a deep multigenerational connection to the New York Public Library. In 1993, Sadie Donovan strives for an ever more significant leadership role as an NYPL librarian and curator. In 1913, Sadie’s grandmother, Laura Lyons, aspires to be a journalist in a society where women’s professional opportunities were limited. Whereas Sadie works at the NYPL, Laura actually lives there in the apartment reserved for the family of the superintendent of the NYPL, who happens to be Laura’s husband, Jack. Laura and Jack live in the apartment with their children, Henry and Pearl. Both Sadie and Laura walk up the same steps and pass the same stone lions, and they face parallel hurdles in their careers and their romantic relationships. They share devotion to family and an insatiable attraction to investigation and knowledge. And Sadie and Laura contend with the theft of treasured library materials, setting them up as witnesses and suspects. 

Although the protagonists of the novel are fictional, the framework has historical roots. At one time, NYPL superintendents resided in the library, and the first superintendent who lived in the Fifth Avenue building raised children there. True as well is the unfortunate fact that rare books have been stolen from the library over the years. Fascinated by NY’s architectural landmarks, Davis writes novels revolving around different city buildings including the Barbizon Hotel, Dakota apartments, Chelsea Holtel, and Grand Central Terminal. Her writing has a real feel for New York City, and the plot twists in The Lions of Fifth Avenue make it a page turner. Climb the stairs between the lions, settle in to live in a library for a bit, and see if you can solve a few mysteries. 

Cherise Tasker is an Adult Instructor and Research Specialist at the Central Branch. When not immersed in literary fiction, Cherise can be found singing along to musical theater soundtracks. 

Spooktacular Chapter Books for Kids

By Jessica L.

This illustrated book cover shows two Black children on bicycles, framed by white ghostly pillars and colorful strange plants. The title type is wiggly hand-drawn in a purple to orange fade.
Ghost Squad cover

Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega

Claribel Ortega’s debut novel is perfect for middle grade readers who love the paranormal, magic, adventure, and a little mystery. This book celebrates Dominican culture and lore, while also providing beautiful examples of caring adults and loving relationships among families and friends.This book also explores themes of grief, loss, and found family. 

Twelve year old Lucely Luna lives a pretty supernatural life in a haunted house with her father, who gives ghost tours in St. Augustine, Florida. She is surrounded by the spirits of her loved ones who have passed. These spirits, familial fireflies, assume their ghostly human forms to comfort and care for Lucely. Something strange happens to her beloved grandmother’s spirit and Lucely and her best friend, Syd, inadvertently awaken malicious spirits in their efforts to help bring back her grandmother’s spirit. These malevolent spirits not only threaten the existence of Lucely’s fireflies, but desire to drag St. Augustine into the underworld. Lucely, Syd, Syd’s abuela Babette (a real witch), and Babette’s chonky kitty, Chunk, must work together to make everything right once more.

The book cover shows Willa in a green dress with a bear cub at her side in a spooky forest, with dark tree trunks and a purple-twilight background.
Willa of Dark Hollow cover

Willa of Dark Hollow by Robert Beatty

This is the second installment in the Willa of the Wood series by Robert Beatty. However, it’s also a standalone story, so you won’t miss anything if you haven’t read the first book. This story stresses the importance of conserving our natural world and the invaluable relationships we build with family and friends. Themes of found family and the complexity of doing what’s right abound.

Willa is among the last of an ancient Indigenous people of the Great Smoky Mountains, the Faeran. Willa is deeply connected with the forest and the animals with which she can communicate via her Faeran language. Her magical abilities also include camouflage and making trees grow instantly. She is, after all, a young teenage wood witch trained and brought up by her grandmother against the harmful norms of Faeran society. Willa feels helpless against the industrial loggers who continue to destroy the forest in the name of progress. She discovers a dark hollow with strange and beautiful creatures, but the mystery and danger grows as she learns how these dark forces are hunting humans. But are these hunters the right answer to dealing with the loggers as their handiwork endangers her own adoptive family? Can Willa find a way to save her family, the forest, and the animals she loves all by herself?

Other titles and series for kids who enjoy the paranormal and supernatural, fantasy and magic, mystery and adventure: 

Desmond Cole Ghost Patrol by Andres Miedoso
Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty
The Witch’s Boy by Kelly Regan Barnhill
The Forgotten Girl by India Hill Brown
The Strangers by Margaret Peterson Haddix is the first in the Greystone Secrets series
My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish by Mo O’Hara
The School is Alive! by Jack Chabert is the first in the Eerie Elementary series
The Witches of Benevento by John Bemelmans Marciano
Short & Shivery: 30 Chilling Tales by Robert D. San Souci
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark: Three Books to Chill Your Bones By Alvin Schwartz
That One Spooky Night (Graphic Novel) by Dan Bar-el
Rowley Jefferson’s Awesome Friendly Spooky Stories by Jeff Kinney
Scary Stories for Young Foxes by Christian McKay Heidicker

JP has worked for HCLS since 2006. She loves playing with her new orange tabby kittens, Mando & Momo.

Norfolk, Archaeology, and a Touch of Crime: The Ruth Galloway Mysteries

The cover of The Crossing Places shows a black owl with yellow eyes atop a black perch, against a turquoise background.

By Julie F.

London native and Brighton resident Elly Griffiths has had a phenomenal (and very busy!) career since publishing the first Ruth Galloway mystery, The Crossing Places, in 2009. The author of three children’s books, the Stephens and Mephisto historical mystery series, and the Harbinder Kaur mystery series, she is the winner of the 2020 Edgar Allan Poe award for Best Novel for the first Kaur mystery, The Stranger Diaries. She also won the Dagger in the Library award from the Crime Writers’ Association, which is a prize for a body of work by a crime writer that users of libraries particularly admire.

Although all of her work is acclaimed, the Ruth Galloway novels are especially beloved by her devoted readers. Ruth is a forensic archaeologist who teaches at the University of North Norfolk, where her best friend, Shona, is married to the head of Ruth’s department. Over the span of thirteen novels, Ruth nurtures a passion for the work that consumes her academic life but also spills over into her personal life and a second job as an adjunct to the North Norfolk police constabulary. Like many police officers, DCI Harry Nelson is haunted by the one case he couldn’t solve – that of a missing five-year-old, who was taken from her parents’ home ten years ago and is now missing, presumed dead. When bones are discovered on the beach near Ruth’s home, DCI Nelson calls on Ruth to help the police date and identify them. An Iron Age discovery ensues, another child goes missing, and Ruth finds herself pulled into a case that has ramifications both past and present. The Crossing Places is an excellent start to a series where following the quirky, familiar characters we learn to love doesn’t overshadow the intensity of the mystery; Griffiths is skilled at developing both character AND plot.

Through the course of the series, Ruth has chilling adventure after adventure: she carbon-dates bones found on the site of an old children’s home in the process of being demolished; she attends the scene of the discovery of a downed World War II plane which presumably has the skeleton of the pilot intact; and a jaunt to Italy at the request of a fellow archaeologist needing help with his own most recent discovery results in a kind of working holiday. As the books progress, her relationship with DCI Nelson, both professional and personal, goes through a series of ups and downs that has the reader rooting for both the cranky but decent old-school DCI and the strong-willed, independent archaeologist.

The cover of The Night Hawks shows a backlit red house with a triangular roof, with dark trees above and green grass in the foreground.

The most recent novel, The Night Hawks, has the titular group of treasure hunters combing the beach in North Norfolk when they come across a body – and a cache of Bronze Age weapons, which is of real interest to Ruth and a new university colleague. DCI Nelson speculates that the body, which is not from antiquity, might be that of an asylum seeker who washed overboard in a storm, but the death is quickly linked to a murder-suicide at a nearby house, Black Dog Farm. The name ties into local legend about a huge, spectral black dog who haunts the area, adding an element of the paranormal to an already complicated mystery.

Both The Crossing Places and The Night Hawks are worthy additions to a compelling series, but I can recommend every entry – I’ve read and enjoyed every story involving DCI Nelson and his team, and Ruth and her colleagues, for well over a decade now. I’m still looking forward to more suspenseful mysteries from them – in a recent interview, Elly Griffiths said she is hard at work on the fourteenth Ruth Galloway novel, The Locked Room. Fans of Louise Penny, Ann Cleeves, and other writers of character-driven police procedurals will find much to enjoy and admire about this suspenseful series.

Julie is an instructor and research specialist at HCLS Miller Branch who finds her work as co-editor of Chapter Chats very rewarding. She loves gardening, birds, books, all kinds of music, and the great outdoors.

Death in Her Hands

The cover is in green, with the semi-profile of a woman in light blue; its edges are jagged as if pixilated on a flickering TV screen. At the very bottom of her profile, where the chin would be, is a tiny human silhouette in black, facing her as if approaching.

By Ben H.

“Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body” 

Vesta, the amazingly unstable 72-year-old narrator of Death in Her Hands, is my favorite of all of Ottessa Moshfegh’s growing roster of eccentric narrators. The main conceit of Death in Her Hands is that Vesta must solve a murder mystery. Before we know anything else about Vesta, we learn that she found a note in the woods (quoted above) and believes that she needs to solve the mystery (there is no body).  

Based solely on that note, Vesta envisions a detailed backstory for Magda and the murderer. She imagines one plausible idea after another and adds details until she’s created a truth that is incredibly real to her. A wild journey, Death in Her Hands occurs mostly inside Vesta’s head. Moshfegh immerses the reader so far into Vesta’s isolated, almost solipsistic, world that it’s jarring when Vesta interacts with anyone other than her dog Charlie. She must interact with others because her investigation takes her all around her small Northeastern town. She visits the public library, picks up a hitchhiker, visits odd neighbors, runs from wild animals, and finds clues. As she finds clues about the murder, she drops clues about her own mysterious past.

The book is a murder mystery, and Moshfegh plays with that genre and those tropes, but it is also a psychological drama. Moshfegh is an accomplished writer who gives the reader enough information to know that Vesta is not trustworthy, but not enough information to completely dismiss the murder as a figment of her imagination. At times Death in Her Hands reads more like Woolf’s The Waves or Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49Vesta’s thoughts carry us like waves; and her investigation doesn’t always make sense, but it always almost makes sense.

It’s easy to believe Vesta. She’s likable and very persuasive.
You almost believe that she’s solved the mystery! 
…Then you realize that you aren’t sure that there ever was a note. 

The book explores mental health, aging, abusive relationships, and isolation. Those don’t sound like cheery topics, but Vesta is a funny narrator, and she makes it an enjoyable ride: “My God, he could be crouched behind the kitchen door, and there you’d be, standing in your socked feet and bathrobe, agog at the knife glinting in the rack. Had you used it to chop onions? Had you forgotten that you’d wandered down for a midnight snack, left the knife out, et cetera? Were you still dreaming? Was I?” 

Moshfegh is a master of cultivating a dreamlike quality (she nailed it in McGlue as well). When everything seems off, it’s hard to know if anything is real. If you like dark, brilliant, insightful, inventive writing, I think you’d enjoy Death in Her Hands.

P.S. This is ostensibly a review of Death in Her Hands, but it’s really a recommendation to go read ANY Ottessa Moshfegh (she’s incredible). If you’re looking to have a weird weekend, pick up a bunch of Moshfegh from your local library and get lost in her wild world.  Also available as an eBook and an eAudiobook via Libby/OverDrive.

Ben Hamilton works at Project Literacy, Howard County Library’s adult basic education initiative, based at HCLS Central Branch. He loves reading, writing, walking, and talking (all the basics).

The Other Black Girl

Photo of Zakiya Dalila Harris, with the book cover in the bottom right hand corner. Book features a black woman in profile, with her hair up in complex braids. The "I" in "Girl" is an afro hair-pick.

By Rohini G.

This book defies genre. Is it a sly satire or a hard-hitting social commentary? Is it a sharp page-turning thriller or contemporary literature at its best? A witty and playful debut or a manual for code-switching? I could not slot it into just one category. It is the book you will be discussing with your friends and neighbors. Right, Linda?

In blue round italics, "What was she going to do? Who was she going to be?"

Zakiyah Dalila Harris’s novel debuted as a Most Anticipated Book of 2021 by Time, The Washington Post, Harper’s Bazaar, Entertainment Weekly, Marie Claire, Bustle, BuzzFeed, Parade, Goodreads, Fortune, and the BBC. Deservedly so. The Other Black Girl is an electric debut about the tension that unfurls when two young Black women meet against the starkly white backdrop of New York City book publishing.

Written with wit and incisive humor, this book delves into the modern corporate atmosphere with its microaggressions, isolation, and manipulations. Working at Wagner Books as the only black editorial assistant, Nella Rogers is very excited when one morning, she looks through a small crack in a cubicle and sees what she calls “the flash of a brown hand.” Enter Hazel-May McCall. Nella finds a confidante in Hazel and someone who finally gets it. But it doesn’t take long for Nella to realize there’s something off about Hazel, even if she can’t quite put her finger on it. And then, shortly after Hazel’s arrival, the first anonymous note arrives on Nella’s desk: “Leave Wagner Now.” Hazel? And if not Hazel, then who? Nella begins searching for answers—and in the process, finds herself at the center of a dangerous conspiracy that runs far deeper than she ever could have known 

I thoroughly enjoyed Zakiyah’s sparkling style of writing and her ability to paint office dynamics in nuanced shades of privilege and discrimination, while juggling an un-put-down-able mystery: a mystery that leaves your insides twisted at the end. In her review in The Washington Post, Naomi Jackson says, “One of the pleasures of “The Other Black Girl” is its unapologetic appeal to Black female readers. From references to 90s Black culture to ample servings of hair-related angst, conversations and plot points, Black girls will appreciate how their experiences, perspectives and quirks are centered in this novel.”

We are excited to host Zakiyah on June 23 at 7 pm. Listen to Zakiyah Harris and bring your questions. Register here

Rohini is the Adult Curriculum Specialist with HCLS. She loves literature and rainy days.

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

The book cover shows a brunette woman with red lips in profile against a blue background, with a frond of peach-colored leaves in the foreground. One of the leaves obscures her eye, which gives her a mysterious appearance.

By Gabriela P.

In 1926, Agatha Christie could have had Hercule Poirot, her own creation, scratching his head. Her 11 day disappearance has no credible explanation to this day, and remains shrouded in conjecture. In her book The Mystery of Mrs. Christie, novelist Marie Benedict gives readers an exhilarating glimpse into what Christie may have been like. It is a fascinating blend of fact and fiction that is truly an empowering tribute to one of the most sensational mystery writers of all time.

The book is set up with alternating chapters between the past and the present, with Agatha giving a heart-rendering account of her life through her early years and marriage to Archie (Col. Archibald). The shackles of social norms and expectations that governed her marriage shape reveal an unexpectedly tragic side to her that not many readers may have imagined. As the story turns to her disappearance and the ensuing search, the book becomes a captivating back and forth between her own reflections and the increasingly loathsome Archie’s. 

I have always admired Agatha Christie. In my youth, I was a faithful fan and read each and every one of her novels.  Not a single one failed to keep me glued to the pages until the very end with their delightful characters. Of course I dreamt of being like Hercule Poirot, with his sense of humor, knowledge of human emotions, and effortless  brilliance. I was often left trying to solve each of the mysteries alongside him as his imagined assistant… but of course my personal theories always ended up missing the mark completely!

With Benedict’s book, I was given the opportunity to imagine a brilliant but naive young Agatha stifled by society. How could someone so intelligent and capable of creating characters that rivaled Sherlock Holmes lose themselves in an impossible journey to be a perfect wife in a perfect marriage? Benedict’s writing led me to feel all of Agatha’s fear, love, and frustration while sharing her journeys that inspired so many of her prided and celebrated characters.

As with her previous novels, Marie Benedict does not disappoint. She is a master in picturing both famous and not-so-famous people in history with wonderfully-researched work and rich storytelling.

Also available to borrow as an eBook.

Gabriela is a customer service specialist at the Miller Branch. She loves long walks, reading with her dog, and a good cup of coffee.

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts

The book cover depicts Tuesday Mooney running in silhouette at the center of a series of concentric circles, with buildings, a cat, birds, and streetlamps on the edges of the circles.

By Becky W.

Did anyone else have the experience of playing hours upon hours of capture the flag when they were young? I remember how a game consisting of just two bandanas, a few neighbors, and a backyard made me feel as though I were on a grand adventure spanning the globe. Kate Racculia’s Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts brings me right back to that simple sense of adventure. As an unlikely cast of characters race to solve an eccentric billionaire’s high-stakes, citywide scavenger hunt, I couldn’t help but let my imagination wander.

When Tuesday walks into a room, people can’t help but notice her. A tall, broad, pale woman, dressed all in black. Perhaps it’s her Wednesday Addams appearance or the fact that she rolls her eyes at the thought of socialization, but Tuesday comes across as a textbook loner. She has a good job (protected by her cubicle), a fine home (stocked with X-Files DVDs), and a long-time friend (who is always the first to text). After the death of billionaire Vince Pryce, puzzle-obsessed Tuesday abandons her content life to join half the city of Boston in solving an elaborate scavenger hunt with the hope of wining a share of Pryce’s fortune. As more clues are uncovered, Tuesday becomes allied with a group of fellow hunters: Dex, her quick-witted best friend; Nathaniel Arches, an overly charming heir; Dory, Tuesday’s lonely teenage neighbor; and Abby, a childhood friend reported missing as a teen, but whose ghost managed to follow Tuesday into adulthood.

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts is an incredibly fun, quirky, imaginative book filled with great characters and an epic plot. Racculia’s use of treasure hunt whimsy juxtaposed with the common burdens of student loans and sellout jobs, makes this a relatable, charming story of adventure and friendship.

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts is also available as an ebook on Libby/OverDrive.

Becky is an Adult Instructor and Research Specialist at the HCLS East Columbia Branch who enjoys art and everything science.