This week, a must-have anthology of one of literature's great characters, new Michael Connelly, and a doomed Arctic expedition. Plus: a man who's life goal is to bite his own elbow.
The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown) - Edgar-winner Connelly's fifth novel featuring Mickey Haller (aka "the Lincoln Lawyer"), the L.A. defense attorney who uses a Lincoln town car as a mobile office, opens with a brilliantly staged bit of legal maneuvering, but the real action begins in chapter three: Andre La Cosse, a high-tech pimp, is charged with murdering one of his clients, Giselle Dallinger, a prostitute who turns out to be known to Haller as Gloria Dayton, from 2005's The Lincoln Lawyer. The case is fishy, and Haller's crew goes to work: investigator Cisco Wojciechowski, case manager Lorna Taylor, associate Jennifer Aronson, and driver Earl Briggs.
Travels with Lizbeth: Three Years on the Road and on the Streets by Lars Eighner (St. Martin’s Griffin) - A man and his dog survive in most precarious circumstances—and with something close to aplomb—in this classic memoir of homelessness, reissued for its 20th anniversary. Eighner spent the tail end of the 1980s living on the streets of Austin, Tex., with several epic hitchhiking excursions to Los Angeles and back in pursuit of dubious writing gigs, with his dog Lizbeth as his one steady companion.
Brown Dog by Jim Harrison (Grove) - Selected as one of PW's Best Books of 2013, this is 500 pages of preposterously fun shenanigans of Brown Dog, one of literature’s great characters. Spread across six novellas, the adventures of the part–Native American protagonist include stealing the petrified body of an Indian chief from the bottom of Lake Superior and taking a trip to Los Angeles to retrieve a lost bearskin, along with plenty of drinking and chasing women. An essential collection from an American legend.
Autobiography of a Corpse by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, trans. from the Russian by Joanne Turnbull (NYRB) - Sly, vibrant, and often very funny, Krzhizhanovsky’s stories, originally written in the 1920s and ’30s (though virtually unpublished during the author’s lifetime), are a joy. In “In the Pupil,” the narrator’s reflection in his lover’s eye leads to all kinds of drama. The best of the many exceedingly fine stories here is “The Unbitten Elbow,” in which a man’s life’s goal of trying to bite his own elbow leads to scarcely imagined changes in society. Full of precise detail, this book will instruct, delight, and then leave the reader pondering long after the reading is finished.
The Collector of Lost Things by Jeremy Page (Pegasus) - Moody and affecting prose buoys this strange and troubling account of an Arctic ocean voyage to the end of the earth, and the end of a species. Naturalist Eliot Saxby sails forth on the Amethyst in 1845 in an attempt to find surviving specimens of the Great Auk, a large waterfowl hunted to extinction, but the expedition quickly becomes an interior exploration of connections among the ship's officers, passengers, and captain, a troubled lot.
The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince by Jane Ridley (Random) - After researching in the royal archives at Windsor Palace for more than five years, Ridley, a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and professor of history at Buckingham University, wove together this marvelously rich biography of Edward VII (1841–1910). Called Bertie by his family, Edward’s inner life is teased out by Ridley through the correspondence of those around him. The resulting portrait is remarkably thorough, quite a feat considering the bulk of information that comes from the colossal, dramatic, and one-sided diaries and letters of Bertie’s mother, Queen Victoria (1819–1901).