The name Caroline Cooney may be a “blast from the past” for many readers. She made her reputation writing 90 young adult novels, notably “The Face on the Milk Carton.” Now Cooney has turned to adult thrillers, and “Before She Was Helen” may get her a whole new — or returning — fan base. Clemmie lives in a South Carolina retirement community. As a small town teenager in the 1950s, she was stalked and raped by the town’s beloved basketball coach. He was later murdered. Clemmie escaped from that life, living under an assumed name for over 50 years now. One day she takes a photo of a beautiful object and sends it to her nephew. When he shares it, it makes Clemmie the target of a drug ring. Simultaneously, the cold case of her rapist’s murder is re-opened, putting her in jeopardy from two directions. Cooney herself lives in the retirement community portrayed in the novel and says she hopes she can still live there now that the book is out.
To stick with crime novels and elderly protagonists, albeit in a decidedly more light-hearted tone, next up is “The Thursday Murder Club” by Richard Osman. In this witty mystery, four residents of a British retirement village meet weekly to discuss unsolved murder cases. The four were formerly a nurse, a psychiatrist, a labor activist, and a spy. They are particularly interested in a case where the killer left a photo of the son of one of the retirees near the body. They finagle their way into the investigation and turn their various skills towards helping the police.
Ken Follett has another historical fiction book with “The Evening and the Morning,” set in England from 997-1007 A.D. It’s a prequel to “Pillars of the Earth.” While readers will learn something about the origins of Kingsbridge priory and cathedral, the novel also stands alone. It’s set during a time when England is under threat from both Vikings and the Welsh. As in other Follett historical books, several characters’ stories are told. There is Edgar, a young boatbuilder who has lost his livelihood, his father, and his love in a Viking raid. There is Ragna, a Norman noblewoman who marries an English earl and finds her new circumstances not to her liking. Lastly, there is Aldred, a monk who has high hopes for the impoverished abbey where he lives.
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