There are a very few among this year's abundant offerings that I recommend as holiday gifts. The first is EVIL EYE, by one of my favourite authors, Jason Goodwin. In this the fourth in the Investigator Yashim series, the eponymous eunuch shines a dazzling light on the dark corners of the Ottoman Empire, as he pursues an admiral and former mentor who defected to Egypt. Master of verbal tapestries embroidered in the silkiest of languages, Goodwin weaves a plot that takes travellers through a landscape dotted with exotic caravanserais, quaint yalis, and opulent palaces to meet agas, pashas, dancing girls, Janissaries and Circassian odalisques. Charming Polish ambassador Palewski, French Empress Josephine's cousin, the valide sultan, Greek vegetable merchant George and the enchantress Preen, reappear in the cast of characters, bringing the pleasant familiarity of old friendships to the story. Although EVIL EYE stands on its own, the complete series ranks among my choices as one of the best gifts to lovers of good fiction.
My second recommendation is A TRICK OF LIGHT, seventh in the Inspector Gamache series by another of my favourite writers, Canadian Louise Penny. The adventures of Armand Gamache, of the Surete du Quebec, unfold in the tiny village of Three Pines, in Quebec, a place of great beauty and magic. There, a group of unforgettable characters--painters Clara and Morrow, vinegary poet Ruth Zardo, jolly innkeepers Gabri and Olivier, no-nonsense bookseller Myrna Lander--add depth and color to the to elegantly devised plots. Readers have hailed this is a stand-alone book as the best of the series. Penny is numerous literary prizes---Agatha and Arthur Ellis Awards among others--and it to discover the enchanted world she created is indeed a pleasure.
My third recommendation, LANTERNAS COR DE AURORA, by Brazilian Sanzio de Azevedo, is for Lusophone readers one. This a slender volume of haikus, composed with great skill and grace, highlights the imperishable beauty that links places geographically remote to each other, such as northeast Brazil and Paris. while singing the glories of nature, Azevedo coaxes the sweetest notes from an instrument he has mastereed--the Portuguese language.
|Matt Beynon Rees and his son Cai.|
Fourth on my list is the present I am getting for myself--MOZART"S LAST ARIA, by Matt Beynon Rees. Having followed his evolution from nonfiction to fiction writer, having read his witty blog I have no reason doubt Tasha Alexander when she says that this is "a stunning combination of mystery and meticulously researched historical fiction."
Equally noteworthy are,
PORTRAIT OF A SPY, by Daniel Silva-- please see review.
THE SILVER BOAT, by Louanne Rice--please see review.
ALICE BLISS--please see review.
CALEB'S CROSSING, by Geraldine brooks--please see interview.