Sorry for the long break between posts; I hope to post regularly now that we're settling into a routine once more. I recently re-read a good book, nonfiction, by Alexander Stille. Best known for his book about the complicated relationship of Italy's Jews with the fascist regime, Benevolence and Betrayal, Stille also wrote a riskier and more complex book about Sicily's mafia. The book is called Excellent Cadavers, and if that sounds odd to English speakers, it makes a lot more sense in Italian. The "excellent cadavers" refer to the trail of murdered magistrates, prosecutors, law enforcement officials and politicians who had the nerve to challenge the mafia's boa constrictor-like hold on Sicily's infrastructure. Having insinuated their way into every profitable facet of life in Palermo, Sicily's capital, the mafia even had allies within the very organizations designed to combat its pernicious influence. If you enjoyed The Godfather (and that's one movie that is far better than the book) you will like this book; however, it makes the fictitious Corleones look like mildly criminal juvenile delinquents.
For those of you who read crime fiction, you have probably noticed the recent flood of translated mysteries from Scandinavian writers. Most popular seem to have been the series of three from Stig Larsson, whose predilection for graphic and gratuitous violence and detail is shared by nearly every other Scandinavian mystery writer I've sampled. Hence, I was pleased to read Asa Larsson's (I'm assuming she's no relation; it's a ubiquitous name up north) Until Thy Wrath Be Past. It's a nicely written and well-translated mystery with its roots in World War II era Sweden, and Larsson does not hesitate to dig up the painfully equivocal details of Sweden's relationship with Germany. It's a satisfying mystery in every way, once you get past the complicated names.
I've mentioned Leah Cypess and her popular Young Adult fantasy novel, Mistwood. This week I finally got my hands on Nightspell, her second book, and though I had to read it fairly quickly (my teenager was waiting to read it) I liked it a lot. I hope I don't insult the author if I say I enjoyed it more than the first -- somehow, Nightspell drew me more into the story and I liked the characters better. Perhaps it's just that I have an easier time dealing with ghosts than with shapeshifters. In any case, it's a good pick if you like fantasy, and I'd recommend it to teen girls as well. It's a pleasure to have female protagonists in fantasy stories who aren't waiting pathetically to be rescued.