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May 14, 2021

George Ernsberger - Columnist
Posted 5/14/21

THE LADY'S HANDBOOK FOR HER MYSTERIOUS ILLNESS: A MEMOIR by Sarah Ramey (Anchor). Just now out in paperback, somehow overlooked by the column when it was published to great acclaim a year or so ago …

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May 14, 2021

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THE LADY'S HANDBOOK FOR HER MYSTERIOUS ILLNESS: A MEMOIR by Sarah Ramey (Anchor). Just now out in paperback, somehow overlooked by the column when it was published to great acclaim a year or so ago (just look at those cover quotes!). Of course I had no medical need of this book—there's irony in the title, but not about who really needs it: women with a “mysterious illness,” generally gastrointestinal/gynecological, and miserable; torture. A minority of women, but not a tiny minority at that, who are appallingly often misdiagnosed and essentially dismissed, seemingly out of diagnostic desperation. The author is one; her book is not just smart and angry, it's also furiously funny, and dramatic, and at last, even hopeful (I don't say triumphant). We can see, though she isn't for a moment boastful, that the author (an artist, a singer) is strong and determined to the point of heroism, and she has resources; she's the daughter of two physicians. So she might have been all but created to be at least a catalyst for some meaningful progress being achieved in this long-dark corner of medical practice. And there's plenty of desperation, here, but there is also, at last, progress to become aware of, hope to be had. So: a dark dive, but rising toward light. Maybe.

WHEN THE STARS GO DARK by Paula McLain (Ballantine). Celebrated, here as elsewhere, for her beautifully written biographical novels (Hemingway was one subject), McLain offers her first “straight” thriller. It won't disappoint either her regular readers, or regular suspense readers who don't know her at all. This novel centers on a complicated police detective—more empathetic than is necessarily an asset for a cop—and leads her through a harrowing series of interrelated cases, some involving childhood friends. She could be a series character, but that isn't the feel; this is finished work. But we wouldn't be sorry to be wrong about that.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR by Nicci French (Morrow). Wonderful stuff, these Nicci French crime novels, and this would be in the discussion about their very best. One gets used to the style, a little bit—not tired of it, but we recognize it—but we don't see ahead of the plot, and the characters never seem a stock company.

A TRAIL OF LIES by Kylie Logan (Minotaur). The third in a terrific series the column has resisted just because we've had enough dog detectives, here. But—possibly not for the first time in history—prejudgment proves an idiot. The dogs—there are two—are meaningful but not central, and are credible, and not cute. The central character, not a cop, a scientist, is intriguing and likable, and the mystery is as clever as it is mystifying.

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