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p32_n40_Clipart_Book_Cover_1_Gentleman_in_MoscowA Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. Viking 2016.

Count Alexander Ilyich Rastov is being tried by a Russian court for the innocuous crime of writing a poem that the state did not approve of. Rather than send him to prison though, the court sentenced him to house arrest at the Metropol hotel in Moscow where he had been living in a luxurious suite. He was also removed from his room with the few belongings he could take with him to a small room in the attic.

How he managed to spend 30 years there living a fulfilling and happy life is the heart of this novel. He had so many friends and relationships and even became a father to a lovely young girl who was left with him by her mother to be taken care of until she could return, and she never did. It is a wonderful story of a man’s resilience to his very changed circumstances.

Peggy, your other book reviewer, started this novel but didn’t care for it and stopped reading. I also got little discouraged at the very beginning but read on and am so glad I did and Peggy plans to go back to it. It is so well written with so many interesting people that became the Count’s friends, and that also includes most of the hotel’s employees. It also has so much about the Russian culture and people. It’s a must read novel.

— C.M.

p32_n40_Clipart_Book_Cover_2_The_Black_House_copyThe Black House by Peter May. Silver Oak Books 2012.

This novel is about a murder that takes place on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Fin, the main character, grew up there, speaking Gaelic until he went to school. But now he works on the police force in Edinburgh. It has been eighteen years since he left Lewis, and he has many reasons for not going back. Now, however, a murder has been committed there, very similar to a recent one in Edinburgh, and he is being sent to investigate.

It turns out that Fin had grown up with the murder victim who had been widely disliked. Being back in his childhood home causes Fin to confront what he wishes to forget, a difficult childhood with tragic events and especially a frightening episode he has managed to bury deep in his memory. This was the annual trip by bird hunters to the rocky island of Sula Sgeir to cull two thousand gannets (gouges in Gaelic). As the investigation moves forward, tension mounts, and Fin must make this perilous trip once more.

— P.M.

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