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The Lowland

The Lowland
Jhumpa Lahiri

Summarizing the plot of any Lahiri book takes only a few words. But the plots are deceptively simple-  her characters and storytelling are exceptional! She has a way of describing everyday moments- attending a class, getting the mail, cooking rice- so they appear vividly in the reader’s mind and linger there long after the last page is turned.

Lowland is the story of two brothers from India. Subhash travels to America for college and, while he returns home for visits, never  moves back. Udayan, however, gets involved in controversial politics in his homeland. These choices made early in their lives determine the brothers’ fates.
There are other parts to the plot- marriage, children- but in the end this is a story about the two brothers: the things that they shared, and the things that drove them apart.
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You might like: Bitter Sweets, Farooki. Kite Runner, Hosseni

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Blue Monday

Blue Monday
Nicci French

Frieda Klein is the last person on earth you would expect to become involved in a police case. She is a single woman, living alone in her own house. She has a lover, Sandy, but he doesn’t sleep in her bed. She enjoys small rituals like drinking tea in front of the fire. She is a psychotherapist who only sees a few people a week so that she can give each patient proper consideration. When she can’t sleep, she takes long walks on dark, cold London streets. In short, Frieda lives a small, quiet life.
Frieda is not alone, tho. She remains close friends with her brother’s ex-wife Olivia and daughter Chloe. She is in touch with her former mentor, Reuben and her own mentee, Jack. Finally there is the Ukarainian handyman Josef who (quite literally) falls into Frieda’s life. Each of these people looks to Frieda for help in some way- and she offers strength and guidance. But at the end of the day she retreats to that quiet spot with a cup of tea- or a cold solitary walk.
Frieda’s life is thrown into turmoil when one of her patients, Alan, begins talking about his dreams. These dreams closely mirror the kidnapping of a young boy that just happened. Not only that, Alan has had dreams in the past that could also link to unsolved crimes. Frieda goes on a search for the truth.
Inspector Karlsson is Frieda’s contact at the police. He is intrigiued by her insights but also frustrated by her tendancy to try to solve the cases on her own.

This being a murder mystery, of course Frieda and Inspector Karlsson solve the case. But is the kidnapped boy alive? Is Alan guilty?  And can Frieda maintain her quiet solitary life- and still help all the people she cares for?
This book is good from a psychological thriller standpoint. But Frieda and the cast of supporting characters are also exceptionally well drawn. I know after Blue Monday, Nicci French also wrote Tuesdays Gone. I can only hope the books continue for at least all the days of the week.

Full confession: I actually, accidentally read Tuesdays Gone first, so I knew how Blue Monday ended. It was still so good that I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. That’s how you know you’ve really got a good mystery: when you know whodunnit and you want to read it anyway.
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