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Rachel’s Reads – February 2018

It’s the stillness that draws me in. 

The winter season is the world without adornment. The trees are bare, the air is chillingly cold and even the green grass has gone dormant. The world seems still as if sleeping under blankets of pristine white snow. For me, the stillness of winter seems to hold all possibilities in a single inhale, as if the world and I are in sync, waiting to discover what could happen with an exhalation. 

The world slows down as winter takes us back to the bare bones of everyday life. It reminds us that just like the world, we need a season of rest and renewal. As William Blake said, “In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.” I try to enjoy the world around me by taking pleasure in the simple things. Watching the snow fall, bundling up to keep warm, and my personal favorite, curling up with a good book in front of a fire. While the world is full of potential possibilities for the year, I am standing by with many prospective journeys to take. In the end though, I find myself gravitating to the twisty-turny mystery novels and thrillers as they reflect the weather beautifully. In fact, I love to double down on mystery novels set in snowy communities. 

If you also like to enjoy mysteries set in snow, I heartily recommend Still Life by Louise Penny, The Snowman by Jo Nesbø and Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg. Still Life is the first of the Chief Inspector Gamache novels by Louise Penny, but really you can’t go wrong with any book in the series. Louise introduces us to the world of Three Pines, a small village outside of Montreal, where Chief Inspector Armand Gamache doesn’t think Jane died in a mysterious hunting accident. The characters are wonderful and the setting will make you clamor for a visit to Canada. The Snowman by Jo Nesbø is the seventh in his series about antihero police investigator Harry Hole. Like Louise Penny’s series, any of the books in the series are well written and enjoyable. I recommend The Snowman because it has the biggest link to the weather, as it takes place after the first snow of the season has fallen. After a mother goes missing, Harry discovers a connection to other women who have gone missing on the day of the first snowfall. What follows is a suspenseful cat and mouse game that will keep you on the edge of your seat. In Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg, Smilla loves the snow and ice and believes that she has uncovered a crime while upset that the police have declared the death of her six-year-old neighbor an accident. The characters and setting are wonderful and this has been a favorite for years. 

If you prefer your mysteries without a side of winter weather, I recommend The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley and The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor. The Unquiet Dead is a wonderfully complex story of loss, redemption and the cost of justice. When asked to look into the death of Christopher Drayton, Detective Rachel Getty is confused as it doesn’t seem to warrant a police investigation. However, that disappears when it is discovered that Christopher may have been living under an assumed name while having ties to the Srebrenica massacre of 1995. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie introduces us to Flavia de Luce, a 12-year-old budding chemist with a penchant for poison, and her ability to solve mysteries. The Chalk Man is one that I read last month and thoroughly enjoyed. It cycles between 1986 and 2016, as Eddie tells the tale of the year that changed his life and how it impacts him today. He and his friends draw chalk men as their secret code until a mysterious chalk man leads them to a dismembered body. The impact it has is far and wide and still felt 20 years later. 

If you prefer more of a thriller than a murder mystery, I recommend The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. The Wife Between Us is another book I read last month and thoroughly enjoyed. It is a book that sets you up to assume you know what’s going on (especially with a jealous wife and her replacement) but reminds you to assume nothing. Little Fires Everywhere revolves around rule abiding Elena and single mother Mia. Elena is determined to discover her new neighbor’s secrets at any cost. 

As for me, I’m currently curling up with Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink and The Woman in the Window: A Novel by A.J. Finn, and on deck is Under a Pole Star by Stef Penney. 

Happy Reading!


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