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The Early Word: New Books for the Week of May 25, 2009

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Some choice fiction, to be sure, for this unofficial start of summer. But also an unexpected number of non-fiction titles: A little Guts, a little glory, some gerbils and surgeons…  

The Scarecrow
By Michael Connelly

A Michael Connelly mystery is not your typical beach book. For one thing, you’re not going to want to leave the blanket to get out on the sand, let alone the water, to stop turning pages. And you’re not going to want to risk setting the book down for even a minute, letting it fall prey to the encroachment of the deadly bookworm or Connelly fan. Especially with the riveting The Scarecrow, which sees reporter Jack McEvoy as the latest casualty of corporate downsizing at the Los Angeles Times.  Deciding to end his career with a bang, he shoots for the definitive story of a 16-year old drug dealer in jail after confessing to a brutal murder, a confession that might be false. A tip from an angry relative gets him to delve into the old case further, and Jack stumbles upon a high-profile serial killer case that might save his job, assuming he can survive long enough to solve it. In the complex fray steps FBI agent Rachel Walling, with whom Jack  worked on a serial killer case in 1996's The Poet, but as the pair discern more about the killer and his disconcerting dispositions, they realize that they are also being stalked. The reader, page by page, may also get that unnerving feeling…

Shanghai Girls: A Novel
By Lisa See

Lisa See's latest novelistic foray into the lives of Chinese women (Peony in Love) begins in 1937 Shanghai, a cosmopolitan city under imminent threat of Japanese invasion. As oblivious to rumors of their beloved city's collapse as they are to their family's circumstances, 21-year old Pearl Chin and her younger sister May openly mock their parents' superstitious, old-world ways and continue to shop, frequent nightclubs, and pose as "beautiful girls" whose images on posters summon viewers to buy products. When the Japanese army's brutal invasion of the city wreaks havoc on such a self-centered heaven, their businessman father loses everything to the ruthless mob, and to pay off his debts he forces his daughters into arranged marriages to Chinese men living in the United States. See is commanding in her portrayals of the prejudice and harsh treatment the sisters encounter as they try to assimilate into the strange new world of Los Angeles. With adroit plotting and finely drawn characters Shanghai Girls covers 20 years of love, heartbreak, and happiness while delivering a thought-provoking history lesson.

By P. T. Deutermann

Once Dead, Twice Shy

By Kim Harrison

The City & the City
By China Mieville

Sorceress (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel #3)
By Michael Scott



Theory of the Subject
By Alain Badiou

My Treasured Memories of Elvis
By Judy Palmer Bendewald

Blue Collar, Blue Scrubs: The Making of a Surgeon
By Michael J. Collins

The Last Supper: A Summer in Italy
By Rachel Cusk

American Radical: The Life and Times of I.F. Stone
By D. Guttenplan

Guts: Combat, Hell-raising, Cancer, Business Start-ups, and Undying Love: One American Guy's Reckless, Lucky Life
By Robert Nylen

The Gerbil Farmer's Daughter: A Memoir
By Holly Robinson

Wildflower: An Extraordinary Life and Untimely Death in Africa
By Mark Seal

I'm Down: A Memoir
By Mishna Wolff

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About Gordon Hauptfleisch