Sun, Sep 24, 2006 - Page 18 News List

ANNE STEPHENSON's new & notable


The Devil's Feather

By Minette Walters


Connie Burns, a British reporter stationed in Baghdad, is abducted, blindfolded and abused, supposedly by terrorists, but when she's released three days later she refuses to tell authorities that she knows the man who held her. He is Keith MacKenzie, a mercenary who had learned that Burns suspected him of committing sadistic rape-murders in Iraq and similar crimes in Africa. Burns is so shaken and secretive about her ordeal that she flees Iraq and takes refuge in an isolated house in the English countryside, hoping to evade questions and hide from MacKenzie and what he did to her. It’s only through her notes to an editor and a British detective that we gradually learn what happened in Iraq, while Burns' growing friendship with a reclusive neighbor allows her emotional wounds to begin to mend. With subtlety, patience and respect for the intelligence of her readers, Walters, a master of psychological suspense, portrays a traumatized woman's efforts to rediscover her courage. The result: a novel that's hard to put down.

Hillbilly Gothic

By Adrienne Martini

Free Press

Many books have been written about families beset by mental illness, and others about prickly mother-daughter relationships, pregnancy and postpartum depression. Martini covers all of it in her candid and darkly funny memoir, which culminates in her admission to a hospital psychiatric ward two weeks after her daughter is born. It is, she writes, "a grand tradition" in her family: "After a woman gives birth, she goes mad." Martini was at a disadvantage. A misfit among expectant mothers, she wasn't glowing or rosy but was game enough to make jokes early on as she went "into the mall of hell that is the modern maternity shop." But as the months passed, her worry grew: "I am so ashamed of not being blissfully happy, of the darkness that is starting to lap up around me," she writes. Even so, her descriptions of pregnancy and birth are authentic and witty, and she recalls postpartum depression with compassion for herself and for women like her. "All I can say is that you have to take it minute by sucky minute, until it doesn't suck so much. And to not be afraid to find the help you need. Don't become invisible."

Fear of the Dark

By Walter Mosley

Little, Brown

"I plan for calamity," says Paris Minton, who in 1956 is 29, reads Tolstoy and Joyce (he owns a used-book store in the Watts neighborhood of south-central LA), has a weakness for dangerous women and has several acquaintances who are killers and thieves. Paris narrates Mosley's Fearless Jones novels (this is the third). This plot drags Paris into a blackmail scheme hatched by his cousin, Ulysses S. Grant (known to all as Useless), but the real pleasure is Mosley's cast of motley characters and his knack for describing them with brief perfection. One man has "no distinguishing characteristics. You never saw him, even when he was right there in front of you." Another's hands "were fat with muscle and his neck was a third the length it should have been. Whatever it was his wife loved him for, he didn't display it on the outside." Mosley's books have been described as "racial noir" for their portrayal of Blacks in 1950s LA, but Paris puts it better, without complaint or guile: "A life worth remembering is hell to live."Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet?

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