THE SANATORIUM by Sarah Pearse (Pamela Dorman/Viking). This terrific debut suspense/thriller/gothic/detective novel—really, it's all of those at once, and maybe most surprising of all, given the …
THE SANATORIUM by Sarah Pearse (Pamela Dorman/Viking). This terrific debut suspense/thriller/gothic/detective novel—really, it's all of those at once, and maybe most surprising of all, given the mastery, is never for a moment show-offy, just strikingly clear. And has already been on bestseller lists for a few weeks. The setting is exotic, a villa in the Swiss Alps, but we go there with a likable central character, a police detective who's invited by her rather uppity sister, to recover from a bad experience in a recent case. They and this spooky place are vividly evoked; we believe we're there in every scene, and when people close by disappear overnight, and a severe snowstorm looms, we believe all that, too. And—a climactic showdown scene is hair-raising, even after all we've already been through.
SORROW AND BLISS by Meg Mason (Harper). Lovely, smart, and warmly comic novel, about depression. Narrated by its central character with feather-light and quill-sharp wit. Ambiguity observed with ambivalence is comic even when calmly presented, and here, if not constantly hilarious, nevertheless almost off-handedly entertaining.
SMOKE by Joe Ide (Mulholland). The private investigator IQ (Isaiah Quintabe) has become steadily, well, less a brainiac, more a maniac, could we say? More an action hero in each book—but he and the books have remained brainy, too, complex in plotting and shrewdly observant of IQ's East L.A. But in this fifth of the series, all that gets blown up, as IQ hits the road. Regulars will relish every turn; newcomers should probably look at an earlier one first—you'll be glad you did, whether you come back for all the rest or not; if you do come back to this one, you'll be glad of that, too.
BLINK OF AN EYE by Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen (Grand Central). Another favorite crime novel series—this is Kendra Michaels, the freelance operative who was blind for her first 20 years of life, but strong and smart, and so developed near-superhuman powers of observation in her other senses. She's credible throughout, here, not a comic-book character at all, and these are not just detection yarns but thrillers, with action and peril. Oh, and (regulars will be glad to hear) the especially likable Jessie Mercado is back for another turn.
THE PROBLEM OF ALZHEIMER'S by Jason Karlawish (St. Martin's). Encouraging, readable, sympathetic history of the study of this awful disease; enlightening about the mysteries that have been solved, about dementia in the aged generally—and about the mysteries that remain unpenetrated. I wish I could report that all's clear, now, but it's some comfort to think about it as one of the mysteries we're still working at diligently, and with successes to build on.
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