“The Midnight Shawl”, by Jacqueline St. Joan (Golden Antelope Press)
When Colorado author Jacqueline St. Joan wrapped up her acclaimed family saga, “My Sisters Made of Light,” she had no plans to write a sequel. But “I wanted to know what happened,” she said. Readers also wanted to know if Ujala, the book‘s heroine, who escaped from prison awaiting trial for saving an abused Pakistani woman, would be captured or live happily ever after in India.
So, a dozen years after the publication of her first novel, St. Joan released “The Midnight Shawl.”
The story takes place 20 years after the first novel. Having fled Pakistan, Ujala lives in India, but not fortunately. Her once loving husband is now violent and controlling, and she fears for his life. She slips a letter to her sister, Faisah, a human rights lawyer, pleading for help. The two have not been in contact since the escape.
Faisah, with the help of her lesbian lover Lia, makes plans to save Ujala. But it is Nafeesa, the teenage daughter of a third sister, the martyr Meena, who comes to the rescue.
Nafeesa’s father decided that she should live under purdah and arranges for her to move in with a restrictive family. With the connivance of her grandfather, Nafeesa ends up with Aunt Faisah instead. The condition of the grandfather: Promise to bring his daughters back to him before he dies. At the risk of her own life, Nafeesa swears to keep her promise. “The Shawl of Midnight” is a story of family strength in a time of domestic terrorism. And while it’s a sequel, it’s also a standalone novel.
St. Joan’s research is prodigious, especially her knowledge of the conditions of women in Pakistan, where a hint of impropriety can result in beatings, torture and even death. She knowingly writes about the strength of women living today under medieval laws and the networks they form to help each other.
St. Joan is an accomplished writer, and “The Shawl of Midnight” (“if you give a woman a shawl, she’s forever your sister”) is a graceful tale of sisterhood that empowers oppressed women to survive.
“Dawn,” by Dr. Lynne Fenton and Kerrie Droban (Berkley)
Following the fatal 2012 shooting at Aurora’s Century 16 movie theater, numerous victims and others accused the killer’s University of Colorado psychiatrist, Dr. Lynne Fenton, of failing to arrest him. The murders turned his life upside down. She was forced into hiding to escape death threats as well as persecution from the media. The only psychiatrist to be revealed as a mass shooter’s doctor, Fenton dealt with her own emotional trauma as she wondered if she could ever live a normal life again.
For three long years, Fenton was under a court order not to discuss the case. But now it’s her turn. In “Aurora”, she recounts the treatment of a young man who was so scary that she called other psychiatrists for help. Yet since Holmes never showed any signs that he was a threat to himself or others, she wrote, there was no legal way she could have had him committed.
“He filled me with an unshakable aversion that bordered on hatred,” Fenton told his colleagues. “There was a negative energy in him that felt bad…. He made the hair on my neck twitch…it was as if his very presence sucked all the air out of a room.
Fenton was so disturbed by this patient that she broke patient confidentiality by contacting her mother to find out more about her life. It did not fit any of the more than 400 categories of mental health disorders.
As Denver residents will recall, the shooter dressed up as the Joker to attend a screening of “The Dark Knight.” He opened an exit door, then dressed in protective armor and returned with an arsenal of weapons to murder 12 people, including a 6-year-old girl, and wound 70 others.
Fenton can’t explain the “why” of the shooting. She can only reveal the revulsion and fear she felt while dealing with Holmes and how he still affects her life. She no longer wears bulletproof clothing and has given up her position at CU. She’s retreated to a remote cabin in the desert, and even now she fears she’s not completely safe from the crazies who blame her for not stopping one of America’s most visible serial killers. America.
“Fire Season” by Leyna Krow (Viking)
When fire destroys Spokane Falls in 1889, banker Barton Heydel comes up with an ingenious way to rip off the locals. Instead of distributing money to citizens who borrow money to rebuild, it issues banknotes. He pockets the cash as well as the payments.
On the day of the fire, Heydel had planned to kill himself to end his life as a drummer. Heydel fantasizes about a lavish moment with his favorite prostitute, Rosalyn, whom he saves from the gutter. Lush, Rosalyn decides to give up her favorite drink, Mud Drink, as she recuperates at Heydel.
Once sober, Rosalyn sees the money hidden by Heydel in the walls of the house and flees with the money.
Meanwhile, another con artist, Quake Auchenbauchter, arrives in Spokane Falls, claiming to be an arson inspector. Heydel is rumored to have lit the fire to make loans. Quake claims that not only is Heydel an arsonist, but he is also a forger. Every bill at the bank is fake. He picks them all up to take them to the authorities. Of course, the money is real, and Quake pulls off the biggest scam of them all.
The three thieves finally meet later in this enjoyable romance that keeps you guessing which one will end up with the money.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter, In The Know, to receive entertainment news straight to your inbox.