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 This installment: another cozy island novel, an exhilarating Wild West extravaganza, and a scary psychological thriller.

    Island Apart by Steven Raichlen

I've hit a spate of "island" books recently. The ingredients: local charm, personal interactions intensified by close quarters, the Beauty of Nature. This one is a contemporary fairy tale. Claire comes to Chappaquiddick to restore herself after cancer and to work on editing a biography of Wilhelm Reich. She and a hermit who's lived under the radar for years find each other, slowly by fits and starts. They gain mutual trust, partly over food. They're both excellent, innovative cooks and the detailed feasts are amazing. Of course the Dark Secret emerges and--whew--is resolved. A little hokey but certainly readable and I found the Reich material a bonus.

   Magic Words by Gerald Kolpan

Subtitle: the tale of a Jewish boy-interpreter, the world's most estimable magician, a murderous harlot, and America's greatest Indian chief. Yes, indeed, that almost says it all. There's a Penny Dreadful quality to this wild tale but also chunky bits of history and lore. For instance, the Trail of Tears and a crusading newspaperman who brought some justice after the fact. Lots of ambition, desperation, and adventure. The characters, often bigger than life, have some depth as well. I often had to suspend disbelief though many events are based on historical happenings, but enjoyed the crazy mix of cultures and the colorful atmosphere.
 

   Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

The author is a British police intelligence analyst and it shows in this intense story of a relationship gone bad. Catherine snags Lee and can't believe her good luck. But his dark side soon appears and things get very scary. The story comes out in alternating short chapters, from before and after. It shows how helpless a woman can feel, especially if her charming, charismatic lover even has the power to turn her friends against her. Catherine manifests her ongoing anxiety in crippling OCD behaviors but a new neighbor, Stuart, offers a way out. He's a psychologist, they get involved, and ultimately he helps her find the courage to literally face her biggest fears. Gripping.

Back next Monday

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Posted by: Neshama

Neshama works at the Fairfax Library.

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