"The Start of Everything"
By Emily Winslow (Delacorte Press, 250 pages, $26)
An American living in Cambridge, England, the author has once again set a whodunit, her second, there. It follows the hunt for a dead girl’s killer from the points of view of several different people connected by the crime, some unknowingly. Besides two detectives with tensions between them, there’s an odd professor , a college student/nanny and — the most fascinating — a young woman who clearly has Asperger’s, though it is never stated outright. Thanks partly to this chapter-by-chapter voice change, the ending is saved from predictability. Perfect for mystery fans with ADD, because just as you get restless with one character’s thoughts, you’re on to the next.
Kristin Tillotson, Arts and culture writer
"Peaches for Father Francis"
By Joanne Harris (Viking, 453 pages, $26.95)
English author Joanne Harris’ 1999 story “Chocolat” was wildly charming, both on the page and in the movie, which starred Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. The characters they played, Vianne and Roux, were central to her next book, “The Girl With No Shadow,” and to this one, her latest. In “Peaches,” Vianne and her two daughters revisit the fictional French village of Lansquenet, the scene of “Chocolat,” and are reunited with that story’s eccentric characters, including Monsignor Francis Reynaud, who has mellowed since their years-ago feud, and friend Josephine, who to Vianne’s surprise has an 8-year-old son whose father, she realizes with dismay, could be Roux. The village is struggling to adapt to a sudden influx of Muslim immigrants, including a silent woman in niqab who is unfriendly to all and seems immune to Vianne’s divine chocolates and magical ways. Once again, Harris’ theme is the Outsider — how outsiders see themselves and others, how they’re seen by others and how outsiders can become part of a community. The story is set up beautifully, with a multitude of curious mysteries and Harris’ characteristic lush descriptions of people, relationships, emotions, landscapes and food. But there are so many subplots, so many mysteries, so many characters, that the last third of the book becomes an unintentionally comic tangle that then unwinds swiftly and smoothly — as things in real life do not. Still, the story is a sweet, messy treat, rather like — well, a peach.
Pamela Miller, Night/weekend metro editor