Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin & The Twelve Tribes of Hattieby Ayana Mathis

Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin (January 2013, Mulholland Books) Ian Rankin’s Standing In Another Man’s Grave finds retired John Rebus considering his identity in the absence of being a police detective. He is working as a civilian, looking into cold cases, but he has also put in an application to rejoin CID after seeing one too many “take the gold” (retire), only to die shortly thereafter. It’s always fascinating to see what becomes of aging heroes and how those with particular skill sets adapt to a changing world. Aging out, and how changing technology affect the world and police investigations are big themes  in this novel and though still a maverick, Rebus acutely feels the passage when faced with new gadgetry, social media and more tech-based methods of research, for the most part he is hands on and a people person. This was my first visit with Rebus and I can see why friends and foes are both impressed and repelled by his curmudgeonly charm. Rankin has created a cast of muti-faceted main and side characters, along with an engaging mystery. I am looking forward to exploring earlier works in this series as well as looking forward to what Rebus and company get into next. Recommended.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis (December 2012, Knopf) Beginning in 1925 with the birth and death of Hattie Shepherd’s twins Philadelphia and Jubilee, Ayana Mathis’s The Twelve Tribes of Hattie tells the often lonely and disparate stories of Hattie’s surviving offspring. Though Hattie isn’t a prominently placed figure in each of the stories, as the mother who has shaped them, she is bigger than life and readers get to know her through the ways she has affected her children, and the troubled lives they lead (she touches upon mental illness, parental jealousy, infidelity and sexual abuse, among others). Ultimately this is a touching read  and one that is hopeful, though many of the stories contain elements of profound sadness. Mathis has an extraordinary command of language and excels at mixing the history of the Great Migration all throughout these tales. Her prose is touching and so evocative of her ability to imbue these characters with subtle emotion and understanding. Each of the stories builds on the others in showing how Hattie and her children made a place for themselves within the unyielding marching of history. Highly Recommended.

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