Saturday, January 4, 2020

Karen Odden

Karen Odden is the author of bestselling novels A Lady in the Smoke and A Dangerous Duet.

She currently resides in Scottsdale, Arizona with her husband, her two children, and her ridiculously cute beagle, Rosy.

Odden's new novel is A Trace of Deceit.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
As I work on my mystery, about a Scotland Yard inspector in 1878, I find myself craving big-hearted, bold works that are strongly rooted in true history. So here are a few of my recent favorites!

In mid-December, I finished Daniel Mason’s The Winter Soldier, about a young Viennese medical student who is called upon to serve in a hospital in the Carpathian Mountains during WWI. When he knocks on the door, asking to be taken to the senior physician, the nurse tells him bluntly that he is it. (!) The book is told in third person but adheres closely to the protagonist’s point-of-view. It has some of the historical charm and strong sense of place as Stef Penney’s The Tenderness of Wolves, or David Benioff’s City of Thieves.

Unspeakable Things by Jess Lourey. I read the galley because I heard the author speak at Bouchercon (a large mystery writer’s conference) in October and had a feeling this would be an amazing book club read. (My book club is one of the more serious sort. My friend Donna runs it; I’m just a happy participant.) Jess Lourey’s book, based on horrifying true events in a small town in 1980s Minnesota, cuts to the bone. The best comparison I can make about its emotional punch is to books such as Jeannette Walls’s memoir The Glass Castle and the more recent Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. I bought this book for my husband two Christmases ago, and he loved it, so I put it on my TBR list. It details one of those untold but wretchedly true American stories about race, money, and the abuse of power. The Osage were relocated (several times), ultimately ending up on a reservation that happened to sit on top of an enormous oil reservoir. For several decades in the early 20th century, various unscrupulous white men conspired to steal the Osage’s profits by every means, including highly questionable legal actions and murder. Grann has clearly done meticulous research into these events. I found myself hoping against hope for some justice at the end. (Spoiler alert: there isn’t much.)

November Road by Lou Berney. This book won the best book of the year at Bouchercon. I finished it in two stints, and the characters are still haunting me. The time is November 1963, just after JFK was shot, and this is one of those books in which two stories intersect. The first story belongs to Frank Guidry, an upper-middle-ranking member of the New Orleans mob, who was asked to drop off a getaway car in Dallas. But after JFK’s assassination, he knows that the killer was not Lee Harvey Oswald but a professional hit man sent by his mob boss Carlos Marcello. Frank knows that he knows too much, and now he is on the run. The second story is that of Charlotte, who takes her two daughters and flees her alcoholic, dysfunctional marriage in Oklahoma. An accident tumbles her car into a ditch, and in Charlotte and her two children, Frank finds a way to hide from the hit man sent to kill “a single man” on the run. But Frank and Charlotte find in each other something that transcends their past lives. Told in third person, the chapters are focalized through different characters, but predominantly through Frank and Charlotte. Frank’s backstory is hinted at throughout, and when finally revealed ratchets up the emotional power. It’s a dark read, and the fairly explicit sex and gore, while not gratuitous, may not be for everyone. But Frank’s transformation from a callous womanizer to a decent human being is compelling and ultimately heartbreaking.

The holidays are an excellent time to read books by the fire while eating cookies! Next up for me? Malcolm Gladwell’s book Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know and Geraldine Brooks’s The Secret Chord because her book Year of Wonders is still one of my all-time faves, and I reread it almost every year.
Visit Karen Odden's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Karen Odden and Rosy.

--Marshal Zeringue