Thrill list: A few literary page-turners to combat winter | Fresh Reads

By David Brewster | Jan 26, 2018

During a wet Edmonds winter, it’s tempting to find a comfy chair, light the fire, pull a blanket up to your chin and immerse yourself in a literary and plot-driven thriller or two to keep the blood moving while the cold wind and rain carries on outside.

Two East Texas thrillers to keep you warm

“Bluebird, Bluebird,” Attica Locke, Mulholland Books, $26

State Highway 59 runs north from Houston, up through Lufkin and Nacogdoches, to Timpson, and somewhere along the way, among the piney woods of east Texas, is Locke’s fictional small town of Lark, the setting for this powerful, contemporary story.

Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger, knows this country too well, and his quest to solve two murders in the bayou behind Geneva Sweet’s ramshackle cafe, down the road from Wally’s Icehouse, forces him to confront his own demons and fears as he battles the deeply ingrained racial attitudes and entwined bloodlines of rural Texas.

Mathews’ country upbringing and intuition, married with his law school education and Ranger training, combine to define a compelling hero, and I hope we hear more of his story in future books.

Locke is an accomplished author (“Pleasantville,” “The Cutting Season”) and also a producer of the hit TV show “Empire.”

“The Long Count’” JM Gulvin, Faber & Faber, $22

Fifty years earlier and right around the corner, Fannin County in east Texas is the setting for the first of Gulvin’s John Q series. John Quarrie is cut from the same Texas Ranger cloth as Mathews, while the gothic-tinged plot of “The Long Count” is something very different from “Bluebird, Bluebird.”

A British writer, Gulvin depicts with persuasive accuracy the time period and the culture while building dark tension in a page-turner about a just-returned Vietnam vet, his missing twin, their recently dead father (among several other murder victims) and a gloomy mental hospital.

Quarrie is an appealing hero, stern but fair as a single parent, courageous and brave in the face of troubled souls, fateful experiments and family secrets. Forthcoming in fall 2018 is the second John Q mystery, “The Contract.”

Announcing the recipients of the 2018 Pacific Northwest Book Awards

Each year, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association convenes a volunteer committee to award books published during the previous year by Northwest authors. This past year there were over 400 books nominated, and each of the six winners below is highly deserving.

In addition, PNBA also chose to recognize late Oregon author Brian Doyle with an Indie Spirit Honor for his body of work and vigorous support of independent booksellers in the Northwest and beyond.

“American War: A Novel,” Omar El Akkad (Portland, Ore.), Knopf, $26.95, vintage paperback, $16.95 (available January 30)

An adult dystopian novel set in 2074 Louisiana about a devastating plague and the second American Civil War.

“The Book of Mistakes,” Corinna Luyken (Olympia), Dial Books for Young Readers, $18.99.

A lovely picture book about the creative process, and how smudges can become clouds.

"Dead Feminists: Historic Heroines in Living Color,” Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring (Tacoma), Sasquatch Books, $24.95.

A lushly illustrated and inclusive celebration of inspiring women who transformed the world, created awareness and drove social change.
“Idaho: A Novel,” Emily Ruskovich (Idaho City, Idaho), Random House trade paperback, $17

A 2017 staff favorite, this debut novel begins with an unimaginable act of violence but ultimately leads to a certain kind of dark redemption.

"Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean,” Jonathan White (Orcas Island), Trinity University Press, $28

White takes readers all over the globe to discover the science, life and spirit of ocean tides.

“You Don't Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir,” Sherman Alexie (Seattle), Little, Brown and Company, $28

Another 2017 staff favorite, an emotionally powerful memoir delves deep into Alexie’s childhood and the memory of his mother on the Spokane Indian Reservation.

Indie Spirit Honor, Brian Doyle, 1956-2017, (Lake Oswego)

Doyle’s “The Plover” (Picador, $17, paperback) was yet another 2017 staff favorite, a graceful, mystical novel, set on the rolling Pacific Ocean. Among his other titles is “Mink River” and “Martin Marten.” The beloved Oregon author passed away in May 2017.

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