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Picks and Pans Main: Books

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The Lantern

by Deborah Lawrenson |



Inspired by the Daphne Du Maurier classic Rebecca, The Lantern is a smart, gothic bodice-ripper that transcends the genre, thanks in part to journalist Lawrenson’s gift for bringing the senses to life. When she writes, “you could open an envelope … and find it contained no words at all, just a handful of lavender with a ribbon of dried grapefruit skin, or a sprinkling of vanilla seeds,” you wish the pages were scratch-and-sniff. The spooky tale is alternately narrated by a bookish Brit, Eve, who’s been seduced by Dom, an enigmatic Frenchman, and by Benedicte, the ancient ghost who haunts the rambling Provencal house where the lovers revel in sensual delights: “… Tomatoes ribbed and plump as harem cushions; thick sheets and lace second-hand from the market … lemon sun in the morning.” But even in Paradise, trouble brews. What really happened to Dom’s wife, said to have vanished into thin air? And why are little girls in the village disappearing the same way? When skeletons, literal and figurative, start making their appearances, the idyll Dom offers-and Dom himself-prove too good to be true.

Angelina’s Bachelors

by Brian O’Reilly |



In this confection, young widow Angelina D’Angelo finds emotional and financial sustenance after her husband’s sudden death by cooking for seven bachelors in her South Philly neighborhood. The characters are Capraesque, from an ex-seminarian questioning his calling to a watch-chain-wearing Mr. Pettibone. All likeable, if not fully believable. The food’s another story: described most deliciously and leaving you hungry for more. Luckily this debut from O’Reilly (creator of Food Network’s Dinner: Impossible) includes his wife Virginia’s appealing recipes.

The Call

by Yannick Murphy |



Displaying an almost magical economy, Murphy’s novel is written as the log of veterinarian David Appleton. Between accounts of spitting alpacas and cows with milk fever are riffs on family, and UFO sightings. The Call conjures the quirky satisfactions of rural life, until 12-year-old Sam falls into a coma after a hunting accident. Appleton obsesses over finding his son’s shooter, but this is no “make my day” revenge fantasy. Instead, true heroism is revealed in the humanity of a taciturn and decent man.