October Quick Picks

Put down the Halloween candy and grab one of these literary treats instead:

See What I have Done, by Sarah Schmidt, Grove Atlantic; $26.00, 324 pages.

Australian library coordinator-turned-novelist makes her chilling debut with a reinterpretation of the infamous story of Lizzie Borden, the Fall River, Massachusetts, native who bludgeoned her father and stepmother to death with an axe 125 years ago this past August.  Borden was tried and acquitted of the crimes, and officially, the murders remain unsolved, but Schmidt’s reexamination of the events through multiple narrators offers gruesome, cruel new perspectives on hidden family secrets.

A Bold and Dangerous Family: The Remarkable Story of an Italian Mother, her Two Sons, and their Fight against Fascism, by Caroline Moorehead, Harper; $27.99, 488 pages. 

National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction finalist Caroline Moorehead (Human Cargo) takes on another topic examining courage under oppression. Here, we meet the Rossellis, an aristocratic family opposed to fascism and Benito Mussolini’s rise to power before World War II.  Using family letters and secret police files, Moorehead recounts how the Rosselli’s dedicated their lives and resources to rebelling against Mussolini’s reign of terror, and how their courage continued to inspire opposition during the dark days of war. A vivid portrait of a country’s decent into darkness and of those who defied it.

In the Darkness of the Night, by Bruno Munari, Princeton Architectural Press; $35.00, 60 pages.


Originally published in Italy in 1956 under the title Nella notte buia, this little masterpiece uses a full arsenal of book arts techniques to convey space and time. Rather than relying exclusively on text, author Bruno Munari (1907-1998) relies instead on symphony of words and images to convey the story. Thick paper cutouts give way to fragile transparent sheets, making for a wholly unexpected and holistic reading experience. Perfect for collectors and paper engineers alike.

Magpie Murders

Magpie Murders, by Anthony Horowitz, Harper; $27.99, 464 pages.

Looking for a sophisticated whodunnit to read during the dog days of summer? British screenwriter Anthony Horowitz has you covered with Magpie Murders, a two-in-one murder mystery. A book within a book, part one is called Magpie Murders, a classic crime caper written by a contemporary fictional novelist, Alan Conway. Set in 1950s England, acclaimed crime solver Atticus Pünd attempts to solve multiple murders in a sleepy country village. Fans of the British t.v. series Midsomer Murders, also written by Horowitz, will find many similarities–multiple deaths, plenty of suspects, not much time to crack the case–but, just when it looks like the crime will be solved, the storyline jumps back to modern times, where Conway’s editor Susan has just learned of her star author’s suicide. Now there’s a new mystery to solve, with clues peppered throughout Conway’s manuscript. Some may be frustrated by the sudden break in the narrative, but stick with it; Horowitz deftly navigates the terrain with wit and style.

Young adult readers may recognize Horowitz’s name from the well-received Alex Rider spy series. Magpie Murders nicely segues into adult readership territory, and as classic summer reading fare, is best enjoyed on a quiet afternoon, preferably on shady porch, and definitely accompanied with something cool to drink. Cheers!