We don’t know about you, but we powered through this past week with one goal in mind: hibernating next week. With temperatures dropping and a slew of rainstorms passing through, we’re looking forward to staying inside with a mug of (peppermint spiked) hot chocolate and getting lost in our current favorites, which just happen to be the opposite of Christmas cheer: cold case murders, paranormal antics, and a heartbreaking fascination with the color blue.
Mallory: Maggie Nelson’s Bluets is a rare book from an American writer – a short, achingly beautiful semi-narrative of a woman’s heartbreak, told under the guise of strange love story – her love affair with the color blue. I’d compare it to Annie Ernaux’s Simple Passion or Alain de Botton’s On Love – both fictionalized nonfiction gems, told in spurts of gorgeous prose – a genre popular in France, but mostly missing from contemporary American literature.
This is my second trip through Bluets. The first time I read it, I was struck by its lyricism. This time, I am struck by its soulfulness. Blue is not a gimmick; it’s a prism through which the narrator reflects on loss – the loss of a man, and the loss of a close friend’s mobility after an accident left her paraplegic.
Ashley: The two things I shamelessly love in stories (even though others groan when I admit it) are a cute romance and a touch of paranormal intrigue. Kimberly Derting’s debut, The Body Finder, delivers on both.
Violet Ambrose has a gift (unfortunately a non-refundable one) that lets her sense where murdered bodies are buried and identify their murderer should she come into contact with them. Now, she’s determined to find the serial killer terrorizing her small town before she stumbles across another dead body. But there’s another, equally pressing problem: the school dance is coming up, and while Violet wants to go with her childhood best friend who she now has a huge crush on, she doesn’t want to ruin their friendship. I can see some of what’s coming (is there any doubt that she will get with her best friend?) but the killer’s identity is elusive; he exerts enough of a presence, though, to make it feel like danger lurks around every corner for Violet. The tension in these two plot lines has kept me feverishly flipping pages.
Niree: Like everyone else, for the past few weeks I’ve been totally hooked on the podcast Serial. Through long-form investigative journalism Serial slowly teases out information leading to suspenseful discoveries that keep listeners on the edge of their seats. To me, what’s most fascinating about Serial is the emergent humanity of all the players involved. Their flaws, weaknesses, mistakes. Their joys and triumphs. Their complicated relationships with their own memories. With the podcast airing its final episode this week, I started looking for my next fix of Serial-esque true crime. I found that with Lost Girls.
Lost Girls is the riveting true account of four women, internet prostitutes assumed to have been murdered by the same killer. Journalist Robert Kolker’s deceptively simple prose is elevated by the narrator’s cool, calm voice who attaches a certain weight to every sentence, even those that may otherwise be disregarded or easily forgotten. But that’s what Kolker also does best: he shows significance in each human life where the killer has shown contempt. The story he tells is not just of villains and victims; it’s an astute social commentary on the pitfalls of the digital age, and a portrait of the harsh socio economic realities surrounding the struggling communities from which these women come from. If you’re looking for a gripping, chilling but sweetly humane story, look no further. This is investigative reportage at its finest.
Justin: Territorial Rights is a overlooked classic of half-baked espionage. The action centers around the Pension Sofia, a once-glamorous Venetian hotel where a terrible crime may or may not have taken place in the waning days of World War II, and which now plays host to all manner of decadent expats and their tangled intrigues. The plot is thick with two-timing spouses, self-serving political refugees, mysterious agencies, and a long-dead king. To give away much more than that would spoil the pleasure of following Spark’s winding and intersecting plots, but suffice to say her wicked humor and eye for detail is as sharp as the Coen Brothers, while her sense of irony is as expansive as Graham Greene at his best.
I feel like Muriel Spark is one of those writers who’s often maligned as someone you read once in high school and then promptly forget about. I read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie many years ago, but until recently I had no idea about the rest of Spark’s rich and varied body of work. After Territorial Rights, I’m setting myself to rectifying that oversight: I’ve already downloaded The Mandelbaum Gate.