American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse
Imagine a five-month long crime spree in which no one is killed or even seriously injured. This happened recently on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, in rural Accomack County, once wealthy and now full of abandoned buildings, dozens of which have been set on fire. Meet the firefighters, mostly volunteer, stretched to their limit, and the law enforcement officials trying to figure out where the arsonist will strike next. Likeable mechanic Charlie and his girlfriend Tonya, an attractive night clubber with two children, are clearly involved, but the author, an award-winning reporter, frequently surprises the reader as the story unfolds, from the first fires to the final court case. This is a story of small-town America and how it’s changed over the last century, along with an unlikely love story and a page-turning crime drama.
On March 21 at 10 a.m., the Tuesday Morning Book Group will discuss the historical novel Dollbaby, by Laura Lane McNeal. Ibby Bell travels to New Orleans to stay with her eccentric grandmother, and grows up during the 1960s. Here is my earlier review.
The Tuesday Evening Book Group will meet at 7 p.m. on March 28 to discuss The Empire of Deception, by Dean Jobb. This is the true story of a brilliant con man, Leo Koretz, whose wealthy lifestyle, lavish parties, and generosity beguile his family, friends, and acquaintances into giving him millions of dollars to invest, much of it in non-existent oil wells in Bayano, Panama. Eventually his Ponzi scheme falls apart after investors visit Panama, but by then Leo is in disguise, still living extravagantly, in Nova Scotia.
The Crime Readers will meet at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 15 to discuss Broken Harbor, by Tana French, a Dublin murder squad mystery. Crime Readers are co-sponsored by the Indian Prairie Public Library. Optional dinner is at 6 p.m.
Copies of the books are available at the Adult & Teen Services Reference Desk.
The Great Pearl Heist by Molly Caldwell Crosby
A pleasing blend of history and true crime without violence, set in 1913 London. An amazing necklace of matched natural pearls is acquired by jeweler Max Mayer. More valuable than the Hope Diamond, and insured by Lloyds of London, the necklace is closely guarded. Word of the necklace reaches Joseph Grizzard, head of a gang of jewel thieves from London’s East End. With a network of jewelers, jewelry buyers, and informants, Grizzard discovers that the necklace might be shipped by mail from Paris for viewing by prospective buyers. When the necklace is stolen, possibly in France, Scotland Yard’s Inspector Alfred Ward has one main suspect: Joseph Grizzard. No one besides Grizzard could have planned the successful heist. But how could he catch the “uncatchable” Grizzard? And how could Grizzard fence the pearls, as they couldn’t be recut like diamonds? Meanwhile, an agent of Lloyds of London is trying to recover the pearls, and his informants are nervous and undependable. I won’t say more except that a reader might end up rooting for the very civilized and clever Grizzard gang. I would have preferred less background on the characters and more about pearl diving and the necklace itself, but overall this was a fascinating read.