Kjell Ola Dahl: Sister Thursday, Apr 30 2020 

Sister, by Kjell Ola Dahl, brings detective Frank Frolich to the forefront. After several books with Frank and his partner in the Oslo PD, Frank has been suspended and is working to get a private investigator’s office off the ground.

When he meets Matilde, he feels his luck is definitely on the upswing. As the two learn about each other, Matilde soon convinces him to help Guri, her good friend who works at a refugee center. Guri wants Frank to find the sister of a Middle Eastern refugee there so the young woman can remain in Norway.

Then an author writing an expose on illegal immigration and how the refugees are treated shows up in Frank’s office and offers him cash for his help. Frederik Andersen’s first book revolved around a ferry tragedy decades ago. Was the police investigation stilted at that time? How are the two threads of the missing sister connected to this?

Soon several people are dead, and Frank has only one friend he can trust.

Frank is such an authentic characters with a shrewd sense of humanity that readers will follow him eagerly. Dahl establishes his sense of place with exquisite details, and his tightly-woven plot will keep readers flipping pages long after the light should be turned out.

Helen Fitzgerald: Ash Mountain Thursday, Apr 30 2020 

Ash Mountain is Helen Fitzgerald’s newest novel that brings the most creative and human characters to leap off the page. With its strong sense of setting and a distinct knowledge of human character, the book will creep up on you and catch you unaware as you know—you KNOW—there is not a pretty ending in sight, yet are compelled to read on and see how it all turns out.

That’s one of Fitzgerald’s talents, getting you to care about her quirky characters. In Ash Mountain, when Fran comes home to her small bushtown to care for her father after his severe stroke, it’s not because she misses the town she’s escaped from that holds some of her most awful memories and secrets.

With her sulky teenaged daughter in tow, escaping from the city job she loathes and a failed relationship is a minor positive factor for the single mom of two children. With her son in the area, she can almost kid herself she’ll be fine here—almost.

Fran picks away at her secrets, told in chapters alternating with a present where the oppressive heat has people do anything for relief. And those secrets will have their comeuppance as Fran is not the weak child she once was, all as she tentatively forges new relationships. When a bushfire starts and surges toward Fran and those she loves, the tension for the reader is almost unbearable.

This has been called a ‘disaster thriller’ and there’s good reason for that, as this catastrophe will change Fran and the town forever, but it doesn’t begin to explain the dark humor of Fran and the real feel of the people she’s created. The scenes with her taking her father-on-a-stick to get him out of the house are worth the read alone.

It’s dark, yes, but with an effusive sense of humanity at its heart that makes this read highly recommended.

(Don’t forget to read the Author’s Note where Fitzgerald describes where the cover photo originated.)

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