From the Grave
By David Housewright. (Minotaur Books, 307 pages, $26.99.)
This witty and wonderful St. Paul author has been entertaining readers with the Rushmore "Mac" McKenzie crime-solving series since 2004. Yet after 17 episodes, we still can't get enough of this St. Paul cop-turned-private eye and the rich characters that surround him.
In this late-summer release, McKenzie is startled to learn that he's been singled out by name at a psychic reading attended by his first love and now best friend, Shelby. The psychic medium has linked his name to a missing trove of money, and he finds himself in the middle of an ongoing search for the treasure.
Pragmatic, self-confident and constantly consulting his conscience for poignant and entertaining gut-checks, the former cop dismissed the whole psychic reading thing as nonsense. That is, until a chance encounter with a "gifted" college student leads detectives to the body of a missing girl.
Readers will delight in the antics and dialogue in this crime mystery. Housewright stays above grisly details that other writers thrive on, making him a relaxing and thoroughly entertaining read without the heaviness of a dark plot.
If you're a Housewright first-timer, you can pick up nearly any installment in the series and feel right at home.
Farm Girl: A Wisconsin Memoir
By Beuna Coburn Carlson. (University of Wisconsin Press, 232 pages, $21.95.)
The author bio for Beuna Coburn Carlson is tantalizingly terse, saying only that she is "a writer based in Grand Rapids, Michigan." What has the nonagenarian written? Well, this. No record of other books, articles or even letters to the editor by Carlson seems to exist, which adds to the homespun appeal of "Farm Girl," where Carlson comes off like a Depression-era Laura Ingalls Wilder.
The book consists of loving two- and three-page essays that describe life on a farm near Plum City, Wis. Carlson includes trips to Lake Pepin and Stockholm, but mostly addresses her mom's prodigious canning, the way her dad divvied up milking duties, surviving the drought of the 1930s and how families navigated party line telephones. It's a deeply nostalgic book — so deep that the most irritated Carlson gets is when she snipes that teachers now insist on being called "educators" — but so few people are around to describe life 90 years ago that surely Carlson is entitled to snipe about whatever she wants to.