"Something Red" by Jennifer Gilmore and "Very Bad Men" by Harry Dolan
In "Something Red," Jennifer Gilmore winningly blends family and political drama to tell the evocative story of the Goldsteins, a Washington D.C.-based family.
It's 1979, and as the Cold War rages, father Dennis travels to Moscow representing the U.S. government while son Dennis heads off to college and daughter Vanessa struggles with the growing pains of adolescence.
Gilmore's characters are remarkably alive on the page, and her solidly researched portrayal of the era's tumultuous politics is dead-on.
Set in the mean streets of Michigan, this mystery is "about the motives people have for killing one another." One of them is a botched 17-year-old robbery at the Great Lakes Bank in Sault Ste. Marie. Like Dolan's notable debut, "Bad Things Happen," this cleverly plotted hard-boiled tale features mystery magazine editor David Loogan, and revolves around a mysterious manuscript -- a narrative of murders committed and ones yet to be.
Loogan has settled into a life of relative domesticity in Ann Arbor with detective Elizabeth Waishkey, but his peace is shattered when he discovers the prophetic manuscript left outside his office door. Loogan explicates the manuscript to track the killer, who suffers from synesthesia and for whom "written words were endowed with color and movement."
Dolan's knack for layering his narrative with nods to the genre's form (a critical clue comes from a grammatical observation) and allusions to other mysteries and manuscripts (Aristotle's "Metaphysics," for one) adds to the reader's pleasure and to the book's own bold "color and movement."
Dolan will be at Once Upon a Crime Bookstore, 604 W. 26th St., Mpls., at 7 p.m. Tuesday.