"Suspect," by Robert Crais, is the tale of two wounded warriors, one human and one canine, who forge a crime-busting partnership as a K-9 team for the LAPD. Scott James witnessed his partner's murder in the course of a shootout and has been traumatized ever since by the fact he couldn't prevent her death. Maggie, a German Shepherd who served in Iraq, saw her pack leader get killed and has been gun-shy ever since. Tentatively, then more confidently, they undergo the training that will make them a force to be reckoned with on the streets. Maggie gets a voice in the narrative, which is a nice twist. Crais has written another winner.
"The Girls Guide to Love and Supper Clubs," by Dana Bate, is a hoot. The professional/culinary/romantic adventures of Hannah Sugarman are deftly portrayed in this debut novel set in Washington. The author has a talent for humorous descriptions and character development, creating a very enjoyable escape.
"Brain on Fire," by Susannah Cahalan, is not your typical memoir. The author was struck with a mysterious brain illness that was extremely difficult to diagnose and resulted in "a month of madness." She is a reporter at the New York Post and knows how to tell a riveting story. Her illness was terribly frightening for her and her family and they had to be persistent to get her the proper treatment.
"A Storm Too Soon," by Michael Tougias, is hard to put down. This harrowing true story of a disaster at sea during the 2007 mega-storm off the eastern United States is a testament to human courage in the face of tremendous odds. The book details the disastrous impact of the storm on trapped sailors, and the heroic, practically superhuman, rescue efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard. The author does a nice job of weaving in important background information on the variable behavior of the Gulf Stream.
"Invisible Murder," the second in the suspense series set in modern Copenhagen written by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis, goes from strong to stronger. The atmosphere is very realistic, which gives the book a strong sense of place. The plot centers around the lives of the underdog refugees who populate the corners of so many European cities. In this case, the impoverished Roma are the downtrodden. Issues surrounding the Islamic population also reverberate. Nina Borg returns as the intrepid nurse to the refugees and struggling and stressed maternal figure. The title is a sneaky clue.
"The Good House," by Ann Leary, deserves all of its accolades. The novel is set in a coastal Massachusetts village, but could easily be set in Fairfield County. It's narrated by Hildy Good, a witty and acerbic observer of her fellow townspeople. As a realtor, she is perfectly positioned to know what is going on and have strong opinions about her neighbors. As a recovering alcoholic, she is an imperfect and rueful commentator on life's passages and the foibles of the diverse cast of characters that populate the novel. It's a very entertaining, well-written read that makes you think about some serious issues at the same time you laugh out loud.
"The Little Paris Kitchen," by Rachel Khoo, is an accessible, charming introduction to French home food. The winter salad with goat cheese mousse recipe is reason to check the book out, and that is just one of many mouth-watering recipes to tempt an enthusiastic cook.
Shifting south to Italy, we have the new Nigella Lawson cookbook, "Nigelissima, Easy Italian Inspired Recipes." It's beautifully photographed and the recipes are original and flavorful. Nigella, a bit of a British Barefoot Contessa, will have you creating Italian specialties like a pro in no time. Her goal is to make dishes that are long on taste and short on fussiness and she succeeds.
"The Backyard Parables," by Margaret Roach, will help get an armchair gardener through the rest of the winter. She speaks of a partnership with her garden, and the seasonal division of the book's chapters (water, earth, fire and wind) allows her to delineate her best practices around a calendar. She has a wry sense of humor about pest control, the sheer amount of work involved in gardening, and speaks reassuringly about the combination of monotony and exhilaration that is the gardener's lot. Full of common-sense tips as well, this book is a pleasure and will inspire you to plan for imminent spring.