Literary Scene

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By Ryan G. Van Cleave 

Two thrillers by local authors and a dynamite picture book whose illustrator you can meet on October 28
Come Home

by Patricia Gussinthrillers

Longboat Key resident Patricia Gussin’s latest thriller — #5 in the Laura Nelson series — propels the reader through a ripped-from-the-headlines story about racial prejudice and the effects of the Arab Spring.

Ahmed Masud had it all: married to Nicole Nelson, his loving partner in a thriving plastic surgery practice in Philadelphia, and a wonderful five-year-old son Alex. Then comes malpractice lawsuits, general post-9/11 mistrust, and pressure from his Egyptian family to take his son and return to Cairo. Permanently.
Come Home is the powerfully-told story of a mother who desperately attempts to recover her son. But what’s equally impressive is how Gussin manages to create sympathy for all the characters involved. I also appreciate how the urge to create melodrama is resisted despite the obvious high-octane emotional opportunities to do exactly that. thrillers

Let’s be clear— Gussin might have come to writing after a full career in the world of medicine, but she’s a pro. And this book is just the latest bit of evidence that shows her writing career is on the right trajectory.

Rating: 4/5

Flashlight Night

by Matt Forest Esenwine (author)
and Fred Koehler (illustrator)

I’m a sucker for well-written picture books that rhyme, and Flashlight Night is that and more. Don’t take my word for it. Just hear it for yourself. thrillers

Shines a path where waters rush,
reveals a hole in the underbrush.
Casts a glow upon a wall
down a dark and ancient hall
as inky shadows rise and fall
dancing . . .to no sound at all.

The entire book is like this— a lovely linguistic ode to the imagination of kids. But what makes this book all the more special are Fred Koehler’s riveting illustrations that transform the mundane into the wondrous. Where the kids play in the backyard is rendered in muted pencil illustrations. But where the flashlight shows? It’s fantastic and weird and stunning.
The swimming pool leads to a pirate adventure. And a rope ladder becomes a hot air balloon event. This is a fun, fun book that kids will want to hear again and again. Don’t be surprised if they want to grab their own flashlight and go on a romp-filled exploration of their own.

Among a slew of picture books coming out this fall, this one shines bright. Strongly recommended.

Rating: 4.25/5 |

Curb Appeal

by Jeff Widmerthrillers
Curb Appeal is the third installment of the CW McCoy series of crime novels. What’s not to like about this new novel by Sarasota resident Jeff Widmer? Most of the things I look for in a mystery are right there. For example: thrillers

Book’s setting is a mashup of Sarasota and Bradenton—CHECK
Hero is a former detective turned real estate agent—CHECK
Hot new cop boyfriend faces assault charges—CHECK
Rival real estate agent is strangled by a lacy black bra in chapter 1—CHECK
Back-to-back hurricanes—CHECK

Seriously, Widmer understands the value of pacing and creating a driving forward momentum. But he still knows how to sprinkle in telling details (perhaps a skill learned through the odd combination of previous jobs—dishwasher, surveyor, guitarist, journalist, and marketing professional).
Those who’ve ever dealt with real estate agents, too, will appreciate the inside look in the strange high-stakes world of property selling. Who knew that nearly 40% of Realtors say they’ve been in a work situation that made them fearful for their safety, or that in 2013, 25 real estate professionals were the victims of homicide? thrillers

“The concept of curb appeal, the attraction that houses have when seen from the street, applies not only to property but to people,” says Widmer. “Both can present an image that’s very different from reality.”

Widmer’s Curb Appeal presents both the image of an intriguing book—and the reality matches. Give this story your own appraisal today.

Rating: 3.75/5

To read more of Ryan’s book reviews, click here.


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