BY NICO VREELAND
[In this feature, we highlight a handful of the best book reviews appearing over the weekend in major newspapers. Follow it here.]
Three Stations, by Martin Cruz Smith, reviewed by Olen Steinhauer (New York Times)
Three Stations is a short (243 pages) thriller set in Russia. Steinhauer says that Smith elevates the thriller to social criticism, and with such a small canvas, it’s easy to hope for a tight, small, beautiful knot of a novel. Although, Steinhauer also compares Smith’s hero to Stieg Larsson’s eponymous “girl” hero, which makes me wary—I don’t care for Larsson.
A Mountain of Crumbs, by Elena Gorokhova, reviewed by Kapka Kassabova (Guardian)
Kassabova makes A Mountain of Crumbs (which came out in January in the U.S.) sound like a charming, beautifully written book. It’s a memoir about Gorokhova’s life in Soviet Russia, but even the few brief passages quoted in this review feel novelistic—what that means for the book I’m not entirely sure.
The Glass Rainbow, by James Lee Burke, reviewed by Dick Lochte (L.A. Times)
Lochte reports that the new Burke is mostly the same old Burke (which is quite solid mystery, if you’ve never read him), with a few sprinkles of new stuff. This review is worth looking at just for the art that accompanies it—it’s about a thousand times better than the book’s actual cover.
Packing for Mars, by Mary Roach, reviewed by Peter Carlson (Washington Post)
This book bears all the fingerprints of Mary Roach, which Carlson is quite happy about (he calls her “America’s funniest science writer”). Packing for Mars sounds like a gross and hilarious account of the minutiae of space travel. The last Roach book, Bonk, was a C4 Great Read.
Elegies for the Brokenhearted, by Christie Hodgen, reviewed by Joanna Smith Rakoff (New York Times)
Hodgen’s second novel is a coming-of-age novel told in the second person, by the protagonist to the five people who made her who she is. Rakoff says the premise might seem obvious (sounds more cloying to me), but she claims “its execution proves deeply, satisfyingly original.” Sounds good.