Thursday, October 13, 2022

Karen Odden

Karen Odden earned her Ph.D. in English from New York University and subsequently taught literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has contributed essays to numerous books and journals, written introductions for Victorian novels in the Barnes & Noble classics series, and edited for the journal Victorian Literature and Culture. Her previous novels, also set in 1870s London, have won awards for historical fiction and mystery.

Odden's new novel is Under a Veiled Moon, her second Inspector Corravan Mystery.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I usually have several books going at once between the non-fiction research I do for my next book, and my three book clubs. (People tease me about my book club philandering, but I love clubs because they pick books I might not even have discovered; it’s like a surprise grab bag every month.)

Recently I’ve added in books written by my co-panelists for Bouchercon, the mystery conference being held in Minneapolis next week. For that, I just finished Catherine McKenzie’s new book Please Join Us, which I read in two days. It features Nicole, a 39-year-old struggling woman lawyer who joins what she believes to be an empowering women’s group, Panthera Leo, and becomes enmeshed in a secret society. With a twisty plot that recalls John Grisham’s The Firm, it’s a page-turner.

For research about my next Inspector Corravan mystery, I’m reading Brian McDonald’s (nonfiction) Alice Diamond And The Forty Elephants: Britain's First Female Crime Syndicate, about the all-women thieving gang from Elephant & Castle area of London. Corravan is put on the case of a murdered woman who is part of a gang similar to this one. There is a new novel called The Forty Elephants by Erin Bledsoe, which I’m eager to read; it takes place in the 1920s, fifty years after mine.

One of my book clubs just finished ValĂ©rie Perrin’s Fresh Water for Flowers, which I absolutely loved. Translated from the French, the book features Violetta Toussaint, a caretaker at a cemetery in a small town in Bourgogne. It has a fabulous cast of well-developed secondary characters – gravediggers, mourners, a police chief whose past is intertwined with Violette’s in a surprising way – and beautiful, poetic language. It’s a bouquet of different love stories, all flawed and some failed, but many are beautiful and tender. There’s a mystery tucked in as well, like a dark fern amid the flowers. It was a bestseller in France and enjoyed by our club.

Another book club is reading Richard Powers’s latest, Bewilderment. I found his masterpiece, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Overstory, thought-provoking, nuanced, and beautiful. I enjoyed this one, though it has the most devastating ending I've read this year. An astrobiologist named Theo, whose wife died in a car accident, is the single parent of a neurodivergent son, Robbie, a sensitive child attuned to the dangers threatening our environment. After Robbie is nearly expelled from school for hitting another student, Theo enrolls Robbie in an experimental neurological treatment program, and Robbie improves – until a social media storm results in the treatment being shut down. The messages about various perils – a president who makes inflammatory tweets, global warming, viral social media campaigns, etc. – are timely and relevant but a tad overt to my ear; however, at moments, the tenderness of the writing took my breath away. It's a compelling, quick read; I certainly recommend. My favorite quote: “There are four good things worth practicing. Being kind toward everything alive. Staying level and steady. Feeling happy for any creature anywhere that is happy. And remembering that any suffering is also yours.”
Visit Karen Odden's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Karen Odden and Rosy.

Q&A with Karen Odden.

My Book, The Movie: Under a Veiled Moon.

The Page 69 Test: Under a Veiled Moon.

--Marshal Zeringue