“By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes.”
– William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act 4, Scene 1
I may have mentioned before, many times, that October is my favorite month. The days shorten, the leaves change, the air becomes cooler and crisper. It is a great time of the year for your imagination to run wild because October not only has Halloween (All Hallows’ Eve) but also Samhain, when Pagan Celts, about 2000 years ago, celebrated the division of the year between the lighter half (summer) and the darker half (winter). At Samhain this separation between this world and the otherworld was at its thinnest, allowing spirits to pass through. To ward off the ghosts and spirits people would don costumes and light bonfires. Sound familiar? Today we don costumes and light our jack o’lanterns for fun but in the past it was serious stuff. So keep those candles burning. October also has National Cat Day (10/29) and National Fossil Day (10/13). And among many others it is Bat Appreciation Month, Feral Hog Month, Pizza Month, Popcorn Popping Month and Squirrel Awareness Month.
I chose the quote listed above because it is the source for two book titles. By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie and Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. Dame Agatha gets all spooky in this one, starting out with an old lady in a tranquil nursing home calmly saying that the milk is not poisoned TODAY and inquiring about the body walled up in the fireplace. But Bradbury’s book of the nightmarish traveling carnival that comes to a sleepy Midwestern town in Illinois is one of my favorites. I recommend the book as well as the movie.
Our book group did not get an assignment to read spooky books so our selections are all over the map. Hope you find one for yourself in the mix.
- The Saboteurs (Isaac Bell #12) by Clive Cussler and Jack DuBrul (2021) 400p.
Clive Cussler died in February of 2020. From what I can tell this book was already in the works and Clive teamed upped with authors in the past so this would not be an exception. In this one, Isaac finds himself saving a senator from an assassination attempt in San Diego. This leads him to Panama to investigate a native insurrection group that’s determined to sabotage the construction of the Panama Canal.
- The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict (2021) 341p.
The little-known story of Belle da Costa Greene, J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian–who became one of the most powerful women in New York despite the dangerous secret she kept in order to make her dreams come true. Belle was a Black woman who passed for white her entire life.
- Black Book by James Patterson and David Ellis (2017) 418p.
The story is split between the past and the present. Billy Harvey is a Chicago cop who busts a high end prostitution ring with his partner. Shortly there after he is the only survivor in a shootout that claims this partner and assistant district attorney, both of whom he was sleeping with. One problem, he has lost his memory of the events leading up to the shootout. This was previously reviewed by Pete in our group who lent it to Dan. Both of the them enjoyed it.
- JFK: The CIA, Vietnam and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy by L. Fletcher Prouty (1992) 402p.
The author, a former CIA operative known as “X,” offers a history-shaking perspective on the assassination of president John F. Kennedy. His theories were the basis for Oliver Stone’s controversial movie JFK. Prouty believed that Kennedy’s death was a coup d’état, and he backs this belief up with his knowledge of the security arrangements at Dallas and other tidbits that only a CIA insider would know. This was reviewed by Dan last month who gave it to Sue, his wife, to read for this month. Dan really liked it, Sue said it only got interesting when it got to the assassination otherwise she was bored. You decide.
- “Hello” LIED the Agent and other Bullshit You Hear as a Hollywood TV Writer by Ian Gurvitz (2006) 342p.
Ian Gurvitz takes the reader through the trying process to get a half-hour comedy show picked up by a network. In his personal journal, he details two years of his life dealing with the constant rewrites, the executives, the pitch meetings, the table readings, the studios, and the networks.
- The Surrogate by Louise Jensen (2018) 321p.
Kat and her husband Nick have tried everything to become parents, and are on the point of giving up. Then a chance encounter with Kat’s childhood friend Lisa gives them one last chance because Lisa suggests she be a surrogate. But Kat and Lisa’s history hides dark secrets. And there is more to Lisa than meets the eye. A psychological thriller with twists and turns.
- The Whisperer (Inspector Sejer Mystery #13) by Karin Fossum (2020) 336p.
Karin Fossum is Norway’s Queen of Crime but I am embarrassed to say I have never heard of her. This is the 13th mystery in her series but reads like a standalone. Ragna Reigel is the Whisperer, a woman who lives a small routine driven life. A botched surgical operation on her throat has left her vocal chords damaged and unable to speak normally, only able to whisper. The book is basically a character study. We know early on that Ragna has committed a terrible crime but it is only revealed at the end.
- Parlor Games by Maryka Biaggio (2013) 400p.
In 1917 May Dugas was placed on trial for extortion. She was considered at the time as one of the most dangerous women in the world by the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Beautiful, resourceful, cunning, May used all her wiles to seduce men and gain an advantage in life. The novel opens at her trial and flashes back on her notorious career.
- Dark Sky (Joe Pickett #21) by C.J. Box (2021) 351p.
Game Warden Joe Pickett, agrees to take a Silicon Valley CEO on an elk hunt into the Bighorn Mountains. Little does he know that someone with a grudge against the CEO is hunting them. Meanwhile Nate Romanowski is going up against thieves who deal in the illegal falconry trade.
- Her Heart for a Compass by Sarah Ferguson (2021) 549p.
Yes, that Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York. This is her first adult novel. In it, she chronicles a young noblewoman’s coming of age during Victorian England. The character is based on one of the Duchess’s ancestors.
- The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate (2020) 388p.
A historical story based on real articles written in the late 1800’s (post Civil War) by former slaves searching for members of their families, many of whom they last saw in sale pens and auction yards, as they were being sold off to new owners. Three women, a former black slave, a mulatto and a white, are brought together as they make a dangerous journey to Texas.
- Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land (2019) 270p.
The author, a single Mom trying to make end’s meet, turns to a job in housekeeping. She works days and attends online classes at night. Her resulting experience is an expose of upper middle-class America and what it is like to be in service to them.