Three Dreamers

Written By: Lorenzo Carcaterra

Published By: Ballantine Books

Reviewed By: Melissa Minners

               I recently was offered the opportunity to check out an advanced copy of Three Dreamers by Lorenzo Carcaterra.  I’ve read many of Carcaterra’s books, fiction and non-fiction, and enjoyed them all, so of course, I accepted the offer.

               Three Dreamers is a memoir of sorts.  It’s an ode to the three women who had the most influence in Carcaterra’s life – his grandmother, his mother and his wife.  For those of you who know nothing about Lorenzo Carcaterra, life was not always kind to the author.  As a young boy, he lived in a volatile household rife with verbal and physical abuse.  His father had killed his first wife and was almost equally intent on killing his second wife.  When he wasn’t beating on her, he was gambling away what little money he earned, leading to more arguments and more physical abuse.

               As a teenager, Lorenzo was sent to spend the summer with his Italian grandmother.  Nonna Maria gave him a sense of stability and life in Italy offered him a sense of what home life should be like with no stress and no angry words or fists.  In addition to the love and kindness he experienced with his grandmother, Lorenzo learned just what kind of woman Nonna Maria really was.  During World War II, Nonna Maria was a driving force on the island of Ischia, showing strength and fortitude while making daily trips for food and supplies in Nazi-occupied territory.  She lost people close to her, but never turned bitter and always showed a strength that made her a pillar in her community.

               Lorenzo did not have the same relationship with his mother Raffaela.  Though he confesses that he loves the woman, theirs was a relationship filled with anger, resentment, and regret.  Raffaela was tricked into marriage with Lorenzo’s father.  World War II left Raffaela a widow with a young boy to take care of and her father’s side of the family matched her to an American.  It was only when she moved to America that she learned the mistake she had made.  Her new husband was a drinker, a gambler and physically abusive.  She would later learn that he killed his first wife when she threatened to leave him.  When Lorenzo was born, she felt trapped.  Her oldest son had to move away to be safe from his stepfather’s tirades and all she ever saw when she looked at Lorenzo was the trap she could never get out of.  And yet, it was his mother who made him determined to make something of his life.

               Lorenzo met his wife Susan while working at the Daily News.  She was the first person who wasn’t family who believed in his dream of becoming a writer.  Throughout their marriage she pushed him to tell the stories he had within him to tell.  She always believed in him and stood by him through it all, even while struggling with her own demon – cancer.  Before she died, she made Lorenzo promise her one thing – that he would keep writing.

               Three Dreamers is a beautiful tale of how three very different women shaped Lorenzo Carcaterra into the man and the author he is today.  Nonna Maria showed him strength and love and the gift of storytelling.  Raffaela helped nurture that stubborn streak and his anger at his mother fed his desire to better himself.  Susan nurtured the writer inside while giving him the loving family he had always hoped for.  Lorenzo’s gift for storytelling allows you to see everything vividly through his eyes.  His descriptiveness makes the scenes in the book come alive and his love for each woman will leave you looking for a tissue box in the end.  A great addition to Carcaterra’s nonfiction work!

Buy Three Dreamers at Amazon!

Thief of Souls

Author: Brian Klingborg

Published By: St. Martin’s Press

Reviewed By: Melissa Minners

               I love reading books set in different locales, so when I was offered an opportunity to review Thief of Souls, I found myself quite interested.  Not only did it have a pretty cool title, but it was a murder mystery set in China, centering on a rural town cop and his determination to solve it.  I have a bit of perspective on how crime is handled by law enforcement in America, but it would be very interesting to read how law enforcement handles these things in China.  I couldn’t wait to read this book, and once I got started, I couldn’t put it down.

               Thief of Souls centers around Inspector Lu Fei, once a cop in the big city of Harbin and now an Inspector in Raven Valley, a small backwater village where nothing big ever happens.  That is, until now – Lu Fei has been called to the crime scene of a murder.  At first look, the murder appears to be a routine strangulation coupled with a possible rape.  But as CID soon discovers, there is nothing ordinary about this murder. 

Very similar to America’s CSI, CID collects evidence and runs an autopsy.  They soon discover that the murder at hand was ritualistic – her organs were removed and joss paper has been stuffed in her mouth to clear her passage to the other world.  Their first suspect is a local butcher, but though the man was infatuated with this victim, Lu doesn’t feel he is intelligent to have committed this crime.  That coupled with the fact that his young victim seemed to be living well beyond her means in the city of Harbin (she was only in Raven Village to observe the passing of her mother), leaves Lu wondering if money may not have more to do with this murder.

Though he feels stymied at every turn, Lu keeps digging until he discovers that his victim is not the only one to have been killed in this ritualistic fashion. The closer Lu gets to finding this serial killer, the closer to danger he finds himself…and this mysterious killer is closer to Lu Fei than he can imagine!

As soon as I began reading Thief of Souls, I found myself firmly entrenched in Brian Klingborg’s descriptive and captivating writing.  Lu Fei is one of those characters that you can’t help but enjoy – he’s flawed, but the flaws make him human; he cares deeply for those he feels worthy, but can’t seem to express his feelings, a relatable trait for many; and he is a bit of a rebel, something we all seem to love when reading crime stories.  The murder itself is quite intriguing as it gives the reader insight into the customs of The People’s Republic of China, as well as insight into how investigations and arrests are conducted in that country.

There wasn’t an incredible amount of action – this was more of a cerebral experience than a car chasing, explosion of an action drama – but the action that was there added to the intensity of the novel.  There was an edge-of-your-seat intensity to this book.  The reader becomes so invested that they can’t put the book down until they know who the murderer is.  Once the murderer is revealed, it is actually quite the plot twist.  I truly enjoyed this read and I hope that Brian Klingborg decides to continue writing more Lu Fei mysteries.  This is one character that I would love to see again!

Buy Thief of Souls at Amazon


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