The second novel in Elsa Hart's 18th century Chinese mystery series featuring Li Du, the former librarian of the Forbidden City. En route to Tibet, his caravan encounters a dead monk with a mirror painted on his chest. Murder, or suicide? Li Du investigates suspects at a nearby manor. In the process, Li Du must decide if he will return to the imperial city from which he was once exiled. Hart infuses her stories with historical detail, political intrigue, and cultural observations from that era. Her mysteries cleverly teach us Chinese history in an entertaining way. After reading Hart’s first novel, Jade Dragon Mountain, I was very eager to read her sequel. She did not disappoint.
The author of the delightful The President’s Hat and The Red Notebook continues to use the device of loss to take a satirical look at contemporary France. Alain, a Parisian doctor, receives a life-changing letter 33 years too late. Posted in 1983 and lost in the mail, the letter is offering Alain’s band, the Holograms, a record contract. At the time, with no known encouragement from the music industry, the young band subsequently split up. Now nostalgic, Alain decides to contact his former band mates. But how have band members changed and what will this letter mean to them? French Rhapsody is a quick read that is romantic, thoroughly entertaining, and funny. Yet, it’s also deceptively serious about the current state of French politics, the rise of xenophobic hate groups, the impact of the Internet, changes in medical care and the music industry, and the vagaries of the art and antiques businesses. Note: Mr. Laurain will return to The Book Stall to talk about his book at 7 pm on Monday, Oct. 24.