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New Chester Himes Biography Reveals A Life As Wild As Any Detective Story

Maureen Corrigan reviews a new biography of Chester Himes, who published his first novel in the 1940s and was hailed as a worthy member of an elite company of black intellectuals and writers like Ralph Ellison and Richard Wright. Now his literary legacy is largely forgotten. This new biography hopes to change that.


The Only Surprise In Rowling's 'Cuckoo's Calling' Is The Author.

After "Robert Galbraith" was revealed to be the pen name for J.K. Rowling, many readers have been circling back to a "debut" novel they'd initially overlooked. Critic Maureen Corrigan says the mystery is respectable, but she will shelve it in the "I've read worse, but I've read better" category.


'A Grain Of Truth' About Memory And Modern Poland.

A new mystery by novelist Zygmunt Miloszewski explores Poland's relationship to its anti-Semitic past. Teodor Szacki, the likably washed-up hero, must sprint all over town interrogating suspects, including so-called Polish "patriots" — extremists who bombard him with their anti-Semitic rants.


Lemony Snicket Dons A Trenchcoat

In Who Could That Be at This Hour?, a prequel to A Series of Unfortunate Events, Daniel Handler satirizes pulp mysteries and uncovers the parallels between detective fiction and childhood. In both, he says, an outsider is trying to make his way in a mysteriously corrupt world.


A Moody Tale Of Murder In A 'Broken' Dublin Suburb.

Tana French's latest novel follows Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy, a police detective with a rage for order, as he investigates a young family's murder in a suburban Dublin development gone bust. Critic Maureen Corrigan says Broken Harbor is as much social criticism as it is whodunit.


Brit Wit Meets Manor Mystery In 'Uninvited Guests.'

A dark and stormy night, an isolated manor house and a knock at the door all play a part in Sadie Jones' delicious romp of a novel. Set in Edwardian England, it tracks a noble but cash-strapped family whose lavish dinner plans go awry when they're asked to shelter a crowd of refugees.


'Death And The Penguin' Captures Post-Soviet Reality.

Ukrainian novelist Andrey Kurkov writes short, surrealistic stories full of dark comedic surprises. His latest is The Case of the General's Thumb, but critic John Powers suggests starting with his 1996 novel, Death and the Penguin. It's a fast-paced, witty read and what Powers calls "an almost perfect novel."


'Turn Of Mind': The Haunted House Is In Your Head.

Dr. Jennifer White is a retired orthopedic surgeon diagnosed with dementia — who cannot remember whether or not she killed her friend. Alice LaPlante's debut novel is a fearless and compassionate investigation into the erosion of her main character's mind.


Maureen Corrigan's Favorite Books Of 2010

Fresh Air's resident book critic selects her favorite reads from the year, including Patti Smith's moving memoir, a feminist slant on election season, a new history of labor unions.


Larsson's Just The Tip Of The Nordic Literary Iceberg.

Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy has taken U.S. readers by storm. Not since the arrival of Ikea on these shores has Sweden made such an inroad into the American home and imagination. But critic Maureen Corrigan says the impressive "Ice Age" of Nordic mystery writing is well under way.


Nazi Noir Ventures To Havana In 'Dead Rise Not.'

If the Dead Rise Not, the latest book in Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther detective series, shifts the saga from prewar Nazi Germany to 1954 Havana. Critic John Powers says the Chandleresque novel kept him glued to his deck chair for days.


Book Suggestions For A Passionate Holiday.

The act of passing on a passion is one of the greatest gifts you can give. Book critic Maureen Corrigan promises that the books on this list — mostly slim, unforgettable volumes about places or things that the writers themselves deeply love — are merrily infectious.


Mystery Novels, With A Southwestern Flair

Author Tony Hillerman died Oct. 26 at the age of 83. He was best known for his mystery novels, which evoked the Najavo culture of the American Southwest. In this 1988 interview, Hillerman discusses writing and his attraction to Native American culture.


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