You’ll freely admit it: you can’t do it alone.
Every important thing you do takes two. Another opinion, a confirmation that you’re right, an extra set of hands, another pair of eyes, everything works better when you’ve got help. It takes a pair to make progress, a duo to do well, and in the new anthology, “Odd Partners: An Anthology,” edited by Anne Perry, it takes two to murder.
Cut from the same cloth.
That’s what people say about you and your best pal, but being unalike is exactly what makes your friendship work. Unique pairings like yours are what you’ll find in this collection of short stories from some of America’s best mystery writers.
Northern Minnesota offers prime fishing and great wildlife-watching, but rich developers sometimes have different notions. In “The Nature of the Beast” by William Kent Krueger, that doesn’t set very well with an angler who loves the land – and it doesn’t set well, either, with a wolf he helped save.
Everyone, it seems, is on social media these days, including cats. In “Oglethorpe’s Camera” by Claire Ortalda, a cat fetches a clue to a murder – or does he? A bloody stocking cap and a little pussyfooting around tell the tale.
“Loose Lips Sink Ships,” as they used to say during World War II, and in “Glock, Paper, Scissors” by Shelley Costa, loose lips can cause murder. Keeping one's mouth shut, however, can ensure that revenge happens, even decades later.
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If you could disappear, how would you do it? In “What Ever Happened to Lorna Winters?” by Lisa Morton, how would you make someone disappear, if they lived in the limelight?
If you’re an inveterate note-taker, then you’ll understand why it’s important to write everything down. If it’s not in print, it doesn’t exist, but in “No 11 Squatter” by Adele Polomski, it’s a life-or-death matter.
And Eric Applebaum’s mind was slipping but not totally gone. Still, he couldn’t remember why he was on an airplane, or where he was going. In “The Last Game” by Robert Dugoni, though, he learns that it’s the trip of a lifetime.
Every year, you say these words: “I have no time to read!” but this year, you can break the cycle. “Odd Partners” gives you 19 different ways to do it.
In her introduction, editor and author Anne Perry says that she’s always been intrigued by the idea of “any two beings who had to cooperate with each other… to solve a crime.” Here, they also commit crimes, inadvertently or on purpose, in ways that surprise readers with nice plot twists and delightfully imaginative interpretations of Perry’s required “beings.”
Another surprise: some of these stories aren’t mysteries but are more suspense-like, perhaps in the vein of old Hitchcockian works. It’s a nice shake-up, which further underscores the theme of “different.”
So put away your bookmarks; you won’t need ‘em. With this book, tuck it, take it, and enjoy any of the stories inside. You’ll find “Odd Partners: An Anthology” to be one fun book.
Fiction: 'All the Ever Afters'
Just about every person alive grew up feeling sorry for poor little Cinderella. In “All the Ever Afters” by Danielle Teller, we see the classic story from the POV of Agnes, the evil-not-evil stepmother. This novel is an eye-opener: there are always two sides to a story, and both could be correct.
Fiction: 'The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein'
Another two-sides-to-the-tale tale is “The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein” by Kiersten White, a novel of the woman who loved Victor Frankenstein. Or did she? Without him, she’d be homeless, broke, and hungry. With him, she would always fear his temper and the horrible things she was discovering about him. It’s a dark-and-stormy kind of book, perfect for anyone who wants winter chills of a different sort.
Fiction: 'Berlin 1936'
A lot of mini-stories make up “Berlin 1936” by Oliver Hilmes, translated from the German by Jefferson Chase. It’s a multi-level tale of Nazis, gypsies, homosexuals, and secrets in the infancy of the Third Reich, told in a conglomerate, slice-of-life sort of way that will make you forget that it’s all fiction.
Fiction: 'How to Stop Time'
Every year, it seems, scientists claim that humans will achieve immortality within a few decades. That’s a curse in “How to Stop Time” by Matt Haig. In 1598, a man named Tom fell in love with a woman named Rose. They had a daughter and then Rose fell ill and died; Tom, however, survived because he’s an “alba.” Tom is more than 400 years old and there are two things he wants: to feel as normal as he did in 1598, and to find his daughter, who is also an alba. Romancy? Yes, but also part sci-fi, part history, a little drama, and a whole lot of wonderful.
Fiction: 'Tin Man: A Novel'
To round out the fiction list, there’s “Tin Man: A Novel” by Sarah Winman. It’s also the story of Ellis, who lost his wife and his best friend, the former to a car accident and the latter to AIDS. Ellis misses Annie because she opened his world; he misses Michael because Michael pushed him to do things he would have never tried. But there were so many things Ellis never knew about Michael, until he finds Michael’s journal. Emotional, dramatic, also romantic, here’s a book that’ll make you curl up in your chair, stricken, for an hour after you’ve finished it.
Nonfiction: 'Here is Real Magic'
For anyone who’s ever wondered how that guy on TV does those illusion tricks, “Here is Real Magic” by Nate Staniforth is a book for you. Staniforth always wanted to be a magician but he wanted to do it big. Little coin tricks were old-school so, in this book, he goes on a journey to find out of magic is real or not. Hint: this isn’t a magic book. Read it, and you’ll be left with answers you weren’t even asking for.
Nonfiction: 'The Language of Kindness'
You may never see “The Language of Kindness” by Christie Watson on any other Best Of list and that’s too bad. Watson is a nurse, and this is a book about being ill, care-giving, living, and dying. Beware that some of the stories are a bit gruesome, but this is a lovely book for anyone alive.
Nonfiction: 'Natural Causes'
And not that there’s a theme here or anything, but you’ll also want to read “Natural Causes” by Barbara Ehrenreich, a book about the things we do to avoid dying. It’s informative, funny, wry, and intelligent. Hint: rant, rail, avoid sweets, eat kale, do all you want, but you’re going to die someday anyhow…
Nonfiction: 'The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row'
There’s a ton of surprising gratitude inside “The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row” by Anthony Ray Hardin with Lara Love Hardin. The reason is that Anthony Hardin was put on death row for a crime he didn’t commit. First surprise: it took thirty years for him to be exonerated. Second surprise: this book holds a whole lot less anger than you’d think it would, and a whole lot of uplifting. Of all the books on this list, it’s the one you’ll never regret reading.
Nonfiction: 'West Like Lightning: The Brief, Legendary Ride of the Pony Express'
Rounding out the nonfiction list, there’s “West Like Lightning: The Brief, Legendary Ride of the Pony Express” by Jim DeFelice. History fans will love this book because DeFelice focuses on the Pony Express but doesn’t ignore other major players in the Civil War era. Readers who like tales of little-known life will love this book, too, as will anyone who loves a good oater. Bonus: it’s one of those easy to browse books that will pull you in tight.
For any child who loves the Little House on the Prairie books, “Hardscrabble” by Sandra Dallas will be a winner. It’s a tale of twelve-year-old Belle Martin, who moves with her family from a farm in Iowa to the prairie in Colorado in 1910, and it wasn’t easy. For your 8-to-13-year-old, though, Dallas eases through the difficulty and happiness of this historical novel.
Children’s: 'Lorraine: The Girl Who Sang the Storm Away'
Much as I loved the bouncy, joyful words that make up “Lorraine: The Girl Who Sang the Storm Away” by Ketch Secor, and as much as they made me so very happy, the cherry on this literary sundae are the illustrations by Higgins Bond. Lush, colorful, and radiant, this is the tale of a girl and her grandfather, their love of music, and a mysterious spate of missing items. Your 3-to-6-year-old will like that. You’ll love the artwork.
Children’s: 'They Lost Their Heads! What Happened to Washington ’s Teeth, Einstein’s Brain, and Other Famous Body Parts'
Something totally fun to read, for the kid who loves oddities: “They Lost Their Heads! What Happened to Washington ’s Teeth, Einstein’s Brain, and Other Famous Body Parts” by Carlyn Beccia. This is a book that will inform your 10-to-14-year-old. It’s also going to give them light shivers, a few laughs, and a big dose of informative history that doesn’t feel like schooling. What better thing to have while school is out?