What We’re Reading Now:

Becka Oliver, Executive Director  

American Sherlock by Kate Winkler Dawson
G.P. Putnam’s Sons
February 11, 2020

Kate Winkler Dawson has been the featured author for our latest series of “WLT On the Craft of Writing” events around the state. Which means that I’ve been lucky enough to hear her talk firsthand about her wonderful new book, American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI, in Austin, Dallas, and Houston (with events in Georgetown and Waco still to come). Honestly, I could listen to her all day long and not get bored – and reading the book is just as much of a treat. During her research, Kate opened box after box containing the life’s work of Edward Oscar Heinrich – a forensic science pioneer who kept meticulous notes documenting his many breakthroughs – and managed to distill that enormous pile of information into a narrative nonfiction read that is suspenseful, surprising, and beautifully written. Whether studying the sand at a grave to determine its origins, or analyzing a pair of overalls left behind by a band of murderous train robbers, or testifying against Fatty Arbuckle in one of the most famous trials of the 1920s, Oscar Heinrich took forensics science into the modern age and forever changed crime scene investigation. His story needed to be told and I can’t imagine another author telling it as well or as thoroughly.

If you are a fan of true crime tales and police procedurals, this book is for you. If you’re a history buff and love discovering people you’ve never heard of who have made extraordinary contributions, this book is for you. If part of the pleasure of reading for you is the learning, this book is for you. If you’ve ever binge-watched CSI or Criminal Minds or Law & Order or, fittingly, Sherlock, this book is for you. (In other words, this book is for you!)

Kelsey Williams, Office Manager   

Harleen by Stjepan Sejic
DC Comics
February 11, 2020

After watching DC’s Birds of Prey in theaters, it struck me how much I love the character Harley Quinn but how little I’ve actually read about her. Cue me in a comic shop, scouring the shelves for more stories about my favorite anti-heroine. With great luck, I got my hands on Harleen – an incredibly beautiful graphic novel with story and art by Stjepan Sejic.

Sejic reimagines the origin story of Harley Quinn – if you’re not familiar, she’s a psychiatrist turned crime doer after becoming enmeshed with the Joker – and pays particular attention to the subtleties of how empathy and desire activate and diminish. Harley Quinn, or Harleen Quinzel, gets to tell her own story in this stunning work by Sejic. The artwork in Harleen is gorgeous, the story is moving and fits seamlessly into Sejic’s art style and graphic narrative pacing, and Harley gets the chance to be messy, complicated, ambitious, and fully realized.

Neena Husid, Leadership Austin FellowA Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat
Candlewick Press
March 24, 2020
Riveting, rich and meaningful, A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat gets this reviewers enthusiastic thumbs up. Though set in a fantastical Southeast Asian dystopia where light is doled out by a suspect Governor, this middle grade fiction shines lights on such heady issues as truth, justice, ownership and power. The story follows Pong, and escaped prison waif, through a series of experiences, often white-knuckled, which lead him beyond a need to survive and into a  realm of understanding the hard choices a woke citizen, and friend, must make. Inspired by Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, Soontornvat’s A Wish in the Dark, is peopled with characters no less inspired. Pong, the misunderstood fugitive, Nok, the girl who wrongly pursues him and Somkit,a resourceful best friend who never disappoints all illuminate the bleakness of a dark world with a fire that won’t be extinguished. Not by despots: not be circumstance; and not by fear. This is a wonderfully written, smart book you won’t want to miss.
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