Two Minnesota-based thrillers today, plus a children’s book about a tough little sailboat in Lake Superior.
“Northfall” by Brian Lutterman (Oak Ridge Press, $17)
I took mental inventory: Conover Partners. The FBI. The Catholic Church. The police. If I thought hard, there might be another powerful organization or two I could run afoul of. And of course, there was always that annoying hired killer, who’d emptied an assault rifle clip in my direction.
Former corporate attorney Brian Lutterman kicks his Pen Wilkinson series up a notch with excitement in this sixth thriller featuring a paraplegic attorney who can’t seem to stay out of trouble.
Pen Wilkinson uses a wheelchair after she was in an accident that killed her young niece. When the series began with “Downfall” in 2014, Pen had lost her job as a prosecuting attorney. In subsequent books she took on investigative jobs that always seemed safe and easy – and never were.
In the new book, Pen muses about her life after her accident, sounding less upbeat than in previous books: “The experience had divided my life into Before and After. The After portion — the day-to-day grind of living as a paraplegic — mainly consisted of muddling through. Most days, muddling was okay; I was grateful to be alive. But deep down, I wanted something more. That’s why investigative projects, with the potential of helping people, presented such a powerful temptation.”
So Pen agrees to help a friend investigate a man’s murder in a Minneapolis homeless camp. When she rolls herself to the hidden site, she finds an disturbed woman who talks about the man, but doesn’t say anything else.
In this complicated plot, which puts Pen in more danger than in previous books, Pen finds herself on the trail of the millionaire head of a huge company who disappears now and then and cannot be found. His company is about to be sold by his daughter, who’s threatened by two goons and a man with a foreign accent. They have guns they won’t hesitate to use if Pen interferes with their mysterious plans. The lynchpin of her investigation is the silent homeless woman, about whom Luttterman writes vividly.
“Northfall,” the name of a Minnesota town, is something of a breakthrough in the series, which began with Pen investigating corporate crime. There is corporate greed in this book, but the pace is faster and there’s more action.
Lutterman will sign copies of “Northfall” from 10 to 11:30 am Friday, July 15, at Lake Country Booksellers, 4766 Washington Square, White Bear Lake, signing with Dean Hovey his newest mystery “Whistling Bake Off.” Lutterman and Bernard Rappa will be among writers at the Local Author Showcase from 1 to 2:30 pm Sunday, July 10, at Zephyr Theatre, 601 Main St., Stillwater, presented by Valley Bookseller.
“Secrets of the Louvre” by Bernard Rappa (Legacy Pond Press, $19.95)
When it became clear the Nazis would lose the war, Goering committed suicide. I was the only one left with any knowledge about his secret collection of treasures and its whereabouts.
Thousands of visitors who visit the Louvre in Paris, one of the world’s great museums, probably don’t know there are sub-bases and sub-sub basements in the oldest parts of the building, constructed in 1200 CE.
Those hidden tunnels include old rooms used for torture, empty cells, hidden places where someone could die and never be discovered. But the deep underground was also a perfect place for Hermann Goering, head of Hitler’s Nazi military, to hide treasures confiscated from Jews who died in death camps and other wealthy people.
The story begins with an American waking from a coma not remembering his name, identity or reason for being in Paris. He’s nursed back to health by a sweet nurse, Alana, whose grandfather, Hans Muller, is a master art restorer.
The man eventually remembers his mission in France and uncovers a modern-day plot of betrayal and greed among those who know of Goering’s treasure room, which represents only a fraction of the paintings, tapestries, sculpture and other artworks Goering and Hitler sent by trainloads to Germany and their private homes.
The author’s editor could have tightened the narrative when information is given twice. And the dialogue is sometimes stiff and stilted. The most interesting parts of this book are Rappa’s descriptions of the hidden places in the Louvre and the looting of art by the Nazis.
“Lily Leads the Way” by Margi Preus; illustrated by Matt Myers (Candlewick Press, $17.99)
“MOOOOVE aside!” the big ship blasts at Lily. “I’ve got a bellyful of iron ore/and I can’t stop or turn very fast. Better MOOOOVE!”/Lily scoots away, rocking unsteadily in the big ship’s waves./The thousand-footer – almost as long as the ship canal -/passes under the bridge./Then the bridge goes down, down, down.
For many Minnesota families, vacation means a trip to Lake Superior, especially when the tall ships arrive. This year, the sailing beauties will be in Two Harbors Aug 4-7. (Go to lakesuperior.festofsail.com.)
Little kids heading north with their parents can learn about traffic on the lake ahead of a visit by reading about brave Lily, a small, sturdy little sailboat that can’t pass under the aerial bridge because all the big boats tell her to get out of the way. Her adventures earned a starred review from Kirkus.
“MOOOOVE” shouts all the vessels — the ore boat, the ocean-going “saltie,” the tugboat. Lily is nearly swamped by the Coast Guard cutter and even fishing boats. Every time Lily thinks the bridge will stay up for her, it goes down. Finally, she slips under the bridge and beholds the tall ships: “Grand old granddaddies and grandmamas./Tall ships. Big ships. With sails a-brimming and flags a-flying./Lily’s sails flutter with excitement as she floats out to meet them.”
Preus, bestselling author of the Newbery Honor Book “Heart of a Samurai,” and her husband once had a little sailboat like Lily.
The author lives in Duluth, but her biography on the jacket flap says only that she “lives near Lake Superior in Minnesota, not far from the bridge that inspired ‘Lily Leads the Way.’ And the bridge that’s shown on the book’s first page is the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge. Yet the word “Duluth” never appears anywhere in the book.
Preus’ publisher must have wanted young readers in other parts of the country to focus on the lake and Lily for a universal reading experience not tethered to any specific place on land.