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A Christmas gift: Six book picks for readers

Let’s take the 12 days of Christmas thing, and let’s suppose that you can read a 200-something-page novel in two days.

Here are six golden eggs from the Geese-A-Laying day, my gift to get through the 12 days of commercial merriment, more than enough to keep your mind occupied with things other than how much all the tidings of comfort and joy are costing.

These are wonderful books I’ve been hoarding for the right occasion. All are new releases within the past year; all but one are translations; all have been rightfully called “extraordinary” by all of us who voiced our assessment of their merit.

At the End of a Dull Day, by Massimo Carlotto. George Pellegrini, Venetian restaurateur, services clientele from Roman parliamentarian to hoodlum. He’s led a straight yet curiously accommodating life for the past 11 years before again finding that backed against a wall, killing people is a bit like riding a bicycle.

Confessions, by Kanae Minato. Yuko Moriguchi, a longtime teacher, sets about her plan to revenge the death of her 4-year-old daughter on two students in her middle-school class. Brilliant, chilling, tour de force is what this book is being called, already selling 3 million.

Eat Him if You Like, by Jean Teulé. Based on a true story, Teulé fictionalizes one of France’s most shameful episodes of the murderous capacity of ordinary people. That’s how the promo reads for this short, peculiarly comedic and extraordinary novella.

Malice: A Mystery, by Keigo Higashino. Japan is keeping pace with the French and Scandinavians, and Higashino is one of the country’s best-selling novelists. This is a game of cat and mouse over the death of a novelist, between the victim’s childhood friend and a meticulous detective. One of those good-to-the-last-drop stories.

The Forgers, by Bradford Morrow. Homegrown talent gives us this gem that spins its deceit in the antiquarian book world, especially and not without irony around first edition books in the canon of Sherlock Holmes with forged signatures and annotations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. About obsession, greed, books and murder. Very clever, a certain prize winner.

Crossing the Line, by Frédérique Molay. An unfitting title to a sophisticated murder mystery published and translated by a former Durango resident who is finding terrific talent to bring to U.S. crime readers. This is a police procedural that twists, turns and is stitched together by a gossamer thread. We’re lucky that Anne Trager can package these wonderful writers for us.

Nagasaki, by Éric Faye. A story by a Frenchman about Shimura Kobo, a middle-aged bachelor who believes he’s living alone in a suburban apartment in Nagasaki, Japan. A study in claustrophobia, attachment, guilt and the chimera of fate. A beautiful book and winner of the l’Académie Française’s Grand Prix du Roman.

And for a long airplane ride or a short hospital stay, Michael Connelly’s new book, The Burning Room, is worth the money. Connelly is a teller of unremarkable stories, but he’s great at it, and The Burning Room is a dandy cop story.


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