Friday, January 29, 2010

Kris Neri

Kris Neri writes mysteries, urban fantasy, thrillers, and short stories.

Her latest publication is High Crimes on the Magical Plane, a funny urban fantasy.

Earlier this month I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I've always loved Wendy Hornsby's writing. She didn't published for a while, and I'm glad to see her back with her latest Maggie MacGowen mystery, In the Guise of Mercy. There's an elegance to Wendy's writing that's present even when she tackles the hardest, most gritty subjects, and her reader is left with a sense that as long as those elements are roughly in balance, there's harmony in what is still a tough world. Wendy made gutsy choices in this novel. One of the most compelling aspects of the earlier books in the series was the relationship between documentary film maker, Maggie MacGowen, and the cop, Mike Flint, who was first her lover, then her husband. But Mike dies early in this mystery, and Maggie is forced to go on alone, carrying out her beloved's last wish. It's keeping me riveted, so I think the unexpected choice works, though I do miss Mike.

I don't read many historical novels. I don't know why — I did enjoy history classes in school. I suppose I convince myself I'm simply too contemporary a person, but it takes an exceptional historical novel to hold me. Jeri Westerson's historical mysteries, Veil of Lies and Serpent in the Thorns, engaged me well enough that, after reading the first book in the series, I had to read the second. Both books feature Crispin Guest, a nobleman who found himself on the wrong side of the King Richard debacle, and who was stripped of his rank and wealth and tossed out onto unforgiving medieval mean streets. He makes his living now as a Middle Ages private investigator, solving sticky problems for those who can pay him the meager sums he earns. Often hungry, always dressed in rags, Crispin still operates according to an unflinching moral code, even if it seems a luxury he can no longer afford. The best historicals depict characters who typify their time and place, yet still reflect a universality that resonates with people of any period. These novels succeed in both ways.

One of my all-time favorite nonfiction books is Kent Nerburn's Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder. Acclaimed author Kent Nerburn was asked by a Native American elder, identified only as Dan, to share his perspective and strip away the stereotypes and myths associated with the Indian culture. Set against the backdrop of contemporary reservation life and the majesty of the western Dakotas, with haunting, poetic prose, Nerburn tells Dan's tale, a true American story, if one that few of us have ever heard. Now Nerburn is back with the result of his final encounter with Dan, shortly before the old man's death, The Wolf at Twilight: An Indian Elder's Journey through a Land of Ghosts and Shadows. An even tougher read, The Wolf at Twilight looks at the sordid history of Indian boarding schools. In his still mesmerizing prose, Nerburn shares Dan's attempt to rid himself of the ghosts that haunted his life since childhood, telling his tale in the manner of the Indian storytelling tradition, as few non-natives ever have. It's a haunting story of darkness and loss and of the resilient spirit of our first peoples.
Visit Kris Neri's website and read her blog posts at Femmes Fatales.

--Marshal Zeringue