This Week’s Hot Reads: December 18, 2011
From a Norwegian thriller to an investigation of the olive oil industry, five new books to check out.
Just in time for winter another dark thriller from Norway’s answer to Stieg Larsson, Jo Nesbo.
The latest Harry Hole novel, Jo Nesbo’s The Leopard takes up where the bestselling Snowman left off. Hole, Nesbo’s melancholy detective, is lying low in Hong Kong, where he’s quit drinking by taking up opium, and is in hopeless debt to the triads. But Norway calls, and his partner Kaja brings him back with the dual promise of a reunion with his ailing father and a seemingly impossible case involving two grotesquely murdered women. Soon a third person is killed, and the only connection between them is that they all spent the same night in an isolated mountain hostel. Nesbo keeps the plot ripping along for the book’s 500-some pages.
A historian vividly examines the apocalyptic First Crusade.
Jay Rubenstein, a medieval historian and MacArthur fellow, tells the story of the first crusade as it was experienced by those who witnessed it. A vivid writer, Rubenstein describes the apocalyptic mythologies, supernatural beliefs, and religious fervor that led tens of thousands of Christian zealots into what was arguably the world’s first holy war—a war so gory and brutal that even after Jesus failed to appear as predicted many people wondered whether they had in fact witnessed the apocalypse.
A report dives into the surprisingly dirty world of olive oil fraud and production.
Tom Mueller’s book-length followup to his 2007 New Yorker expose of the seedy underworld of the olive oil trade, where corrupt sellers reap tremendous profits by adulterating their product with oil from nuts and seeds. In Extra Virginity, Mueller explores the long history of olive oil, going back thousands of years, and the long history of olive oil fraud--which is as old as the production of the oil itself. Along the way he develops a lively cast of characters, from artisinal oil makers and chemical analysts to food activists, and professional oil tasters.
From mafia soldier to CIA agent, criminal prodigy Jon Roberts gets to tell his improbable life story.
In American Desperado, drug smuggler and criminal prodigy Jon Roberts tells his story to journalist Evan Wright, author of Generation Kill. It’s Roberts’s story, with Wright occasionally chiming in to fact-check some of his wilder sounding claims. There are plenty of them. Roberts describes witnessing murder at the age of 7, committing war crimes in Vietnam, hobnobbing with Jimmy Hendrix and O. J. Simpson, arranging cocaine trades for the Medilin cartel, helping murder Meyer Lansky’s stepson—with Lansky’s permission—and eventually going to work for the CIA. A self-described sociopath, Roberts recounts his many misdeeds with unnerving frankness.
A romantic picaresque tale against the backdrop of a divided Germany.
Set in 1989 East Germany, Adam and Evelyn tells the story of a young couple whose differing views on East and West lead them on a picaresque road trip. Adam is a successful tailor who’s makes a good living dressing—and also undressing—the wealthy wives of party members. When Evelyn, his 21-year-old girlfriend, catches him with a client, she takes off on a road trip to Hungary with her friend and her friend’s older, West German cousin. Adam follows in hot pursuit, with their pet turtle and a woman who’s just failed to swim across the border,and tries to wheedle his way back into the good graces of Evelyn, who is now taken with Michael. Schulze skilfully moves between light romantic comedy and somber, ambivalent reflection on the relative freedoms and comforts of East and West.