Debut psychological thriller paints fascinating portrait
We learn a lot about Michaela “Mickey” Brandis very early in My Second Death, a debut psychological thriller by Akron native Lydia Cooper. Mickey is 28, has been living in her parents’ garage in West Akron more than half that time, is a doctoral student at the university and rapidly assures us that she hasn’t killed a man since she was 10.
Before Mickey can even get into telling us about her psychiatric problems and diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder (“In short, I was a highly intelligent borderline sociopath”), a school secretary gives her a phone message slip with a Nietzsche quote and an address on Allyn Street, which proves to be that of a condemned house.
Upstairs, she finds a mutilated corpse chained to a bed.
Because of her juvenile record, Mickey doesn’t call the police; instead, she goes home, where her loose-cannon brother Dave has brought a friend, Aidan, to dinner. When Aidan asks Mickey to solve his mother’s decades-old murder, she rebuffs him violently, but then moves in with Aidan — who lives on Allyn Street.
Mickey, in her impassive way, doggedly pursues the matter of Aidan’s mother; as to the other murder, there aren’t very many suspects, and Cooper is generous with her clues, so the identity of the killer will be no surprise. She redeems this with a fascinating portrait of Mickey’s description of herself as “the monster in the family;” having learned the “rules for normalcy” and morality, she is able to follow a routine of classes, research and running until it is disrupted by tragedy and her codependent relationship with Dave.
My Second Death (335 pages, softcover) costs $16.95 from Tyrus Books. Lydia Cooper graduated from the University of Akron in 2001 and earned a Ph.D. from Baylor University in 2008.
‘Sharp and Dangerous Virtues’
Sorry, Stow. Too bad, Tallmadge. In Sharp and Dangerous Virtues, Martha Moody’s tense dystopian novel, much of Ohio has been smart-bombed away and turned into the Heartland Grid, a giant agricultural area of more than 50,000 square miles whose purpose is to feed America.
In 2047, after the Short Times, when power was rationed and hurricanes came inland, Canada is our enemy, aligned with Africa and Europe.
With hostiles just across Lake Erie, Cleveland is the headquarters of the adversary Alliance. Moody introduces her characters: A small family determined to stay in Dayton when everyone else is fleeing (husband Chad is entranced with the history of Dayton, right down to the founding of National Cash Register); a church custodian whose discovery of a child’s body becomes a political football; and a water commissioner who dreams of love and glory.
Sharp and Dangerous Virtues (400 pages, hardcover) costs $26.95 from Swallow Press, an imprint of Ohio University Press. Martha Moody, an alumna of Oberlin College, lives in Dayton and is a retired physician.
Reed Memorial Library (167 E. Main St., Ravenna) — Award-winning poet Jeanne Bryner reads from and signs her collection Smoke, 2 p.m. today.
Hartville Marketplace (1289 Edison St. NW) — Florida author Estella Williams signs her novel From Both Sides of the Chair, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday.
Cuyahoga County Public Library (Strongsville branch, 18700 Westwood Drive) — Nivi Engineer, Cleveland Heights author of the comic self-help book The Indian Girl’s Definitive Guide to Staying Single, 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. Registration required; call 440-238-5530.
Cuyahoga County Public Library (Parma-Snow branch, 2121 Snow Road) — Daniel Palmer, bestselling author of thrillers including Helpless, signs his newest novel Stolen, 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. Registration requested; call 216-661-4240.
Barnes & Noble Booksellers (28801 Chagrin Blvd., Woodmere) — Kimberla Lawson Ruby signs her novel A House Divided, 7 p.m. Wednesday; Kathryn Livingston signs Lilly: Palm Beach, Tropical Glamour, and the Birth of a Fashion Legend, about fashion designer Lilly Pulitzer, 7 p.m. Friday.
Visible Voice Books (1023 Kenilworth Ave., Cleveland) — Canton native and 2012 Pulitzer Prize finalist Matt Bors signs Life Begins at Incorporation: Cartoons and Essays by Matt Bors, 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday.
Fort Hayes Metropolitan Education Center (546 Jack Gibbs Blvd., Columbus) — The seventh annual Ohioana Book Festival features more than 100 authors, with panel discussions, activities and food, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Kent illustrator and graphic novelist P. Craig Russell is one of 10 featured authors. See the list and schedule at http://ohioanabookfestival.org.
— Barbara McIntyre
Special to the Beacon Journal
Send information about books of local interest to Lynne Sherwin, Features Department, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309 or email@example.com. Event notices should be sent at least two weeks in advance.