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Five picks for September

Cindy Burnett
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WHAT TO READ This month’s selections include several stories focusing on mother/daughter relationships, a historical mystery, and a thriller written in a unique format. (Photo: Cindy Burnett)

Buzz Reads is a column about books by reviewer Cindy Burnett. Each month, Cindy recommends five recently or soon-to-be released titles.

Good Bad Girl by Alice Feeney (thriller) – Thriller queen Alice Feeney returns with another page turner that kept me invested until I reached the end. Twenty years prior, a baby is abducted from a stroller at the grocery store, and in the present day, a woman is murdered in a nursing home. The two crimes appear to be interconnected but how? The story follows three women: Patience, who works at a nursing home; Edith, a patient at the same nursing home, placed there by her daughter but very anxious to leave; and Clio, Edith’s daughter. Each woman has her own secrets and reasons for the actions they take. The book’s focus is on mother/daughter relationships, and Feeney states in the acknowledgements: “This story takes place on Mother’s Day and this book is for all the daughters.” Domestic suspense lovers will devour this one, and I recommend reading as little as possible about the storyline before diving in to avoid any spoilers.

The Invisible Hour by Alice Hoffman (historical fiction/magical realism) – Alice Hoffman’s new novel, The Invisible Hour, is a tribute to the powers of books and their impact on people’s lives. I was immediately drawn into this compelling tale about love, mother/daughter relationships, cults, sacrifice, survival, and how books can transport readers, provide comfort, educate, and much more. Newly pregnant, Ivy leaves her privileged home after both her parents and the baby’s father are unhappy about her pregnancy. Looking for a place she will fit in, Ivy runs away and falls in with a group led by a charismatic and cruel leader. This cult bans books and separates babies from their mothers, but Ivy manages time to bond with her daughter Mia. Mia has inherited her mother’s love of reading, and Ivy helps her sneak into the local library where she falls in love with The Scarlet Letter. Her love of this novel sends Mia on a journey through time where she comes to understand that reading can transport a person to other worlds or bring them to the reader, and that readers and writers affect one another in mysterious ways. This story is an intensely personal one for Hoffman, and her connection to the story makes this one a powerful read.

Mother-Daughter Murder Night by Nina Simon (fiction/mystery) – This entertaining debut is a fun combination of mystery and family drama. High-powered businesswoman Lana Rubicon is diagnosed with cancer and leaves LA to convalesce with her daughter Beth and granddaughter Jack in their sleepy Monterey Bay bungalow. Just when Lana feels like she is going to die from boredom, Jack happens across a dead body and quickly becomes the main suspect in the murder. The focus on Jack throws the three Rubicon women into chaos and provides Lana with a purpose as she begins scrutinizing this small-town murder case. The characters are authentic, the humor is engaging, the setting is vivid, and the plot has unforeseeable twists making it an all-around stellar read. Mother-Daughter Murder Night is a smart and laugh-out-loud murder mystery that will keep you guessing until the end.

Murder in the Family by Cara Hunter (thriller) – British crime writer Cara Hunter’s US debut is a winner that kept me completely engaged from beginning to end. Twenty years ago, Luke Ryder was murdered in the garden of his swanky London home – and the killer was never found. In the present day, his stepson, TV director Guy Howard, hopes to solve the case by revisiting the crime through a Netflix docu-drama series entitled Infamous. Guy has assembled a panel of experts in various fields to sift through the evidence and hopefully solve the case. Using a unique format divided by episodes and in script format, the investigation and evidence are presented in the form of emails, text messages, and newspaper articles and reviews, as well as discussions among the “experts” as they sift through the documents and debate the relevance of each detail. I am a huge fan of stories told in unique and clever formats, and Murder in the Family is a clear standout.

The River We Remember by William Kent Krueger (historical fiction/mystery) – With his signature writing style and insightful portrayal of both the natural world and the people who reside there, William Kent Krueger pens another gem that will stay with me for a long time. It’s the late 1950s, and the fictional town of Jewel, Minnesota is commemorating Memorial Day to honor those who died in the country’s various wars. Wealthy resident Jimmy Quinn’s bullet-filled body is found floating half naked in the Alabaster River, and Sheriff Brody Dern, a highly decorated veteran who bears both internal and external scars from World War II, is tasked with solving Quinn’s murder. Around town, rumors fly that the murderer is Noah Bluestone, a Native American veteran who has recently come home to Jewel with a Japanese wife. The River We Remember portrays small-town life following war and tragedy as well as the many ways people seek to heal from both. This beautiful depiction of mid-century American life will resonate with anyone who loves a well-told story.

Editor’s note: Southside Place resident Cindy Burnett also writes our weekly Page Turners column. She hosts the Thoughts from a Page Podcast, is co-creator of the Houston literary event series Conversations from the Page, runs the Instagram account @thoughtsfromapage, and regularly speaks to groups about books.

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