Joan Baum

It’s a matter of fact that between 1840 and 1882 there were eight assassination attempts on the life of Queen Victoria, but in his suspenseful novel “The Darwin Affair,” Tim Mason adds a ninth, in 1860, and makes the target Prince Albert. The date is important: it’s just months after the publication of Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” and concomitant with the Oxford University Museum debate on evolution featuring those famous antagonists – biologist and anthropologist Thomas Huxley and Anglican Bishop Samuel Wilberforce. Prince Albert wants to give Darwin a knighthood.

Before there was the Algonquin Round Table in New York in the ‘20s, a lunch group of literary bon vivants whose often quotable put downs would become famous, there was – and STILL IS – The Club, a unique London tavern assembly of intellectuals, started in 1764, that included some of the most dazzling verbal sharpshooters of the day. 

 

Tory Bilski could have called her well-written and witty memoir of riding horses in northern Iceland “Wild Horses of the Midnight Sun,” but in naming it “Wild Horses of the Summer Sun,” shows her writing creds: the alliteration effectively plays on the popular image many people associate with this starkly beautiful land of lupine fields and black volcanic sand banks – not to mention Johnny Mercer’s lyrics in that old jazz standard, “Midnight Sun.” Like Mercer, Bilski evokes a nostalgic warmth for what is gone but indelibly remembered because it was so affecting. 

The title of Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen’s suspenseful new psychological thriller is comforting . . . and sinister: “You are Not Alone.” The first-person protagonist is Shay Miller. She feels herself to be alone. Then she meets strangers who invite her into their exclusive gathering of young women. The group includes the sophisticated Moore sisters, who not only show her how to dress and act, but begin to make her uneasy. There’s something odd going on with them, though neither Shay nor the reader knows yet what it is.

In doing research for other books, journalist Phil Keith, with his co-author Tom Clavin, kept coming across footnote references to a relatively obscure but legendary war hero, an American born in 1895 whose father had been the son of a former slave. Their interest was piqued, and what followed was further research. And a new collaboration, “All Blood Runs Red.”

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