Parker Pyne Investigates – Agatha Christie
The forlorn, the anxious and the puzzled have all beaten a path to Parker Pyne’s office where, armed with just an intuitive knowledge of human nature and a small retinue of talented employees, he turns their fantasies into reality – for a modest fee, payable in advance.
Silent House – Orhan Pamuk (Translated by Robert Finn)
In an old mansion in Cennethisar (formerly a fishing village, now a posh resort near Istanbul) the old widow Fatma awaits the annual summer visit of her grandchildren: Faruk, a dissipated failed historian; his sensitive leftist sister, Nilgun; and the younger grandson, Metin, a high school student drawn to the fast life of the nouveaux riches, who dreams of going to America. The widow has lived in the village for decades, ever since her husband, an idealistic young doctor, first arrived to serve the poor fishermen. Now mostly bedridden, she is attended by her faithful servant Recep, a dwarf–and the doctor’s illegitimate son. Mistress and servant share memories, and grievances, of those early years. But it is Recep’s cousin Hassan, a high school dropout, and fervent right-wing nationalist, who will draw the visiting family into the growing political cataclysm, in this spell-binding novel depicting Turkey’s tumultuous century-long struggle for modernity.
Purity – Jonathan Franzen
Young Pip Tyler doesn’t know who she is. She knows that her real name is Purity, that she’s saddled with $130,000 in student debt, that she’s squatting with anarchists in Oakland, and that her relationship with her mother–her only family–is hazardous. But she doesn’t have a clue who her father is, why her mother has always concealed her own real name, or how she can ever have a normal life.
Enter the Germans. A glancing encounter with a German peace activist leads Pip to an internship in South America with The Sunlight Project, an organization that traffics in all the secrets of the world–including, Pip hopes, the secret of her origins. TSP is the brainchild of Andreas Wolf, a charismatic provocateur who rose to fame in the chaos following the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now on the lam in Bolivia, Andreas is drawn to Pip for reasons she doesn’t understand, and the intensity of her response to him upends her conventional ideas of right and wrong.
Purity is a dark-hued comedy of youthful idealism, extreme fidelity, and murder. The author of The Corrections and Freedom has created yet another cast of vividly original characters, Californians and East Germans, good parents and bad parents, journalists and leakers, and he follows their intertwining paths through landscapes as contemporary as the omnipresent Internet and as ancient as the war between the sexes.
River of the Dead (Inspector Ikmen #11) – Barbara Nadel
Convicted murderer and drug baron Yusuf Kaya has escaped from Istanbul prison. He appears to have had inside help…
Inspector Cetin Ikmen is called to investigate Kaya’s contacts in the city, while Inspector Suleyman heads to Kaya’s home town of Mardin, a dangerous city in the south east of Turkey. Back in Istanbul, as Ikmen delves deeper into Kaya’s past, the body count continues to rise. Meanwhile, Suleyman discovers that Kaya has another wife in Mardin, an American woman heavily guarded by members of the Kaya clan. It’s not long before the two Inspectors are caught up in a terrifying web of arms and drug running, terrorism, blackmail and murder…
Sacred India – William Dalrymple
Sacred India is a close-focus view of spirituality in India with a very God-is-in-the-details approach. Lonely Planet tackles a bafflingly large subject with admirable grace in this loosely structured, accessibly sized coffee-table book. A florid painting of Ganesh, a hundred capped heads bowed in prayer, weather-beaten flags whipped in the Himalayan wind: all are diverse glimpses of India’s spiritual cultures. India’s four major religions–Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, and Buddhism–are gathered in an impressionistic collage of vibrant photos and text. Christianity, Jainism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, as well as tribal religions and gurus are also covered in smaller sections. The book’s photos are lavish in color and pungently evocative–but decidedly not opulent. They excel at the intensely personal (a lotus flower, a turban-swathed camel trader, a Muslim woman reading the Quran), but their zoomed-in style sometimes falls short of capturing the sense of awe and grandeur we like to associate with religion. Sacred India offers brief glimpses of a wide-ranging and multicolored land; but unlike the fable of the blind men and the elephant, the picture formed in the mind’s eye from these richly textured details will be greater than the sum of its parts.
Season of the Rainbirds – Nadeem Aslam
Set during a monsoon season in the 1980s in a small town in Pakistan, Season of the Rainbirds is centred on the mysterious reappearance of a sack of letters lost in a train crash nineteen years previously. Could the letters have any bearing on Judge Anwar’s murder? The letters and the judge’s death trigger a series of tragic events and as the murder investigation progresses, dark tales of passion and betrayal unfold and long-buried secrets come to light.
The narrative segues between several characters—the judge’s family, a cleric troubled by local inhabitants’ lapses, a Muslim deputy commissioner defiantly involved with a Christian woman, a feudal landlord and a crusading journalist reporting on the delivery of the mail packet—and comes to a head when the journalist disappears and the country lurches between fear and uncertainty following an assassination attempt on the president.