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The Page Boy

By Lavender November 6, 2008

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In Cod We Trust:Living the Norwegian Dream
Eric Dregni
University of Minnesota Press
$22.95

Eric Dregni had me from his first fumbling interview with the fellowship board—nay, from the first sentence: “I heard the news that I had received a Fulbright Fellowship to Norway the same time I found out my wife, Katy, was pregnant.” Undaunted by his complete ignorance of spoken or written Norwegian, and a vagueness concerning his topic—“Your field is creative nonfiction. What are you going to write about?” “Norway. I’m going to write about Norway.”—he nevertheless is awarded the fellowship. He, Katy, and incubus are off on what might be considered a latter-day Scandinavian version of Lucy and Desi’s The Long, Long Trailer. Dregni is seriously in search of family and ethnic roots, stretching in this volume from Great-Grandfather Ellef Dragni to the author’s Norwegian-born infant, Eilif. You will learn more than you want to know about what is considered edible in terms of fish, but you also will discover much about crosscultural and interfamilial relationships.

Our Lady of Pain: A Barnes Murder Squad Mystery
Elena Forbes
MacAdam/Cage
$24

As readers of her debut novel, Die With Me, will attest, British crime writer Elena Forbes does not qualify as a “cozy” author. Not yet at the Val McDermid pitch that requires reading in a locked, well-lit room with one eye closed, Forbes nevertheless delivers a good, gripping, gritty tale. The main characters, detectives Mark Tartaglia and Sam Donovan (haunted by the still-at-large fiend from Die), seek a serial killer who leaves his victims naked, bound, and kneeling as though in prayer. Lovely Rachel Tenison yields up not only her body, but also a pristine apartment—with a trunk full of BDSM artifacts that belie her aloof, ice-maiden outer persona. As the investigation proceeds apace, Forbes stirs the pot—adding as seasoning an incestuous half-brother, a seriously damaged fellow police officer, a jealous wife, and a friend of the deceased who had liaisons with Rachel and with the police officer—who thicken the brew deliciously. May Forbes be hard at work on novel three.

Picturing Indians: Photographic Encounters and Tourist Fantasies in H.H. Bennett’s Wisconsin Dells
Steven D. Hoelscher
University of Wisconsin Press
$24.95

There is photographing, and there is picturing, which, as all images must do to some degree, works to shape the impression the viewer receives of the subject. H.H. Bennett took up photography in 1865, after his Civil War service in the Union Army. In 1883, working in the Wisconsin Dells, whose scenery he had captured extensively in stereo views, he decided he could do a more lucrative trade focusing on the area’s Ho-Chunk (or Winnebago) Native American population, showing the white culture what it wanted and expected to see of the native. But Steven D. Hoelscher’s nuanced study demonstrates that the arrangement was not all one-sided—both photographer and subject had economic reasons to participate. Bennett, unusual for a photographer, stayed in the area for decades, getting to know the Ho-Chunk, and finding his own fortunes changing with theirs. The Epilogue, “Picturing Ho-Chunk Today,” features images by native photographer Tom Jones, and discusses the reaction of today’s Ho-Chunk viewers to Bennett’s representations.


Santa Clawed
Rita Mae Brown
Putnam
$25

Ah, Crozet, Virginia, Christmastime: a sleepy little town of good fellowship, fine horseflesh—and the highest per-capita murder rate this side of Prohibition Chicago. This year, someone is targeting the good monks of the local hospice group, The Brothers of Love, who also run a Christmas tree farm. The first casualty, throat neatly sliced, is found under the very tree that our heroine, “Harry” Haristeen, had picked out earlier in the day. As she has for Brown’s previous 16 incidents of rural mayhem, Harry jumps in to find the killer. Even before the next frozen victim is found, Harry (and her four-legged helpers, Mrs. Murphy and Pewter—cats—and Welsh Corgi Tee Tucker) discover that many of the brothers have taken up Love as a secondary avocation, following failed stints in larceny and other miscellaneous felonies. Crozet also is rife with adulterous affairs and sundry dark passions sufficient to make the solving of the crimes a thorny and dangerous task. Good holiday fare.

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