Books 36 - 38

36. The Other by David Guterson - I had to remind myself over and over that this is a novel and not a work of non-fiction, not only because the characters are so well drawn and the plot an incredible natural arch of humanity, but because I wanted to believe that what happened to our narrator, Neil Countryman and his friend John William Barry really happened. This is a story of paths taken and not taken, the tenacity of a friendship that could have expired many, many times, and in no small part a sort of Into The Wild with less rebellion and more dialog. This book also succeeds in telling us how it all ends from the very beginning, but that doesn't stop you from wanting to see the journey unfold.

37. The Virgin of the Small Plains by Nancy Pickard - A young woman is found naked, bloodied and dead in a Kansas pasture by the local sheriff and his sons. Secret and lies follow until 17 years later when a now grown up resident of the town starts asking questions. The characters in this book are drawn with more detail than your average mystery, and thats a plus as well as a minus. More depth means it is easier to identify with all of the characters as the narrative cuts from before the discovery of the body to the lives of all those affected by that discovery. However, more depth points a big ol' neon arrow at the killer, in my opinion. There's an interesting side story of how the dead girl, now called "The Virgin" earns status as a implement of miracles, especially when a tornado passes through the town of Small Plains. To really like this story, you're going to have to practice some suspension of disbelief when it comes to murder investigations in rural Kansas, but if you can do that, this is a not too taxing look at the havoc people can cause in the name of good.

38. I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan - Very funny, very intelligent and very original! The tag-line for this book (when did books start having tag-lines, anyway?) is "Finally, the other side of the story." and that is exactly what we get. Lucifer is offered a chance to return to live in Heaven, by God, if he can live on Earth, as a mortal, and not cause trouble, for one month. The body he is given as his instrument of redemption belongs to a writer, and that inspires Lucifer to use the time to tell his version of Creation, Adam and Eve and original sin, Jesus Christ (or Junior or Jimminy Christmas or a bunch of other nick names the Devil uses for the guy who got in the way of Hell being a capacity crowd), and a lot of other things that we mortals haven't gotten quite the truth about, in his opinion. With the power of clairvoyance, it's quite easy to gather an entourage of just the type of people we've all suspected were one step removed from the dark one - commercial film makers and their ilk. Underneath Lucifer's manipulations, there's a surprising sweet story of how the Angels (fallen and un-fallen) are similar to a lot of big families where the father reigns supreme. When that subplot turns into a very satisfying ending, you know you've read a story by an author who wasn't afraid to go full out.