Summer fiction for escape and enjoyment
Relax and enjoy these novels featuring older and relatable protagonists.
The Return of the Pharaoh: From the Reminiscences of John H. Watson, M.D., by Nicholas Meyer, 272 pages, Minotaur Books hardcover, 2021
Septuagenarian author, screenwriter and film director Nicholas Meyer imagines this caper as a long-lost manuscript by Dr. Watson. In this novel, Watson is nearing 60, and his associate, Sherlock Holmes, is making plans to leave London in retirement.
Watson accompanies his wife Julia to Egypt; she is suffering from tuberculosis and is seeking treatment at a highly regarded sanatorium.
To his surprise, Watson encounters Holmes at a Cairo bar. The latter is disguised as Colonel Arbuthnot of the Northumberland Fusiliers. Holmes discloses he has been hired to find the missing Duke of Uxbridge by the distraught wealthy South American-born Duchess.
Watson joins in the pursuit, encountering dead bodies, fake relics, a ferocious desert dust storm and the mummified remains of pharaohs in tombs robbed of their ancient gilded treasures.
Follow the lively jaunt through early 20th-century Egypt — its back alleys, posh hotels and tourist magnets — meeting British bureaucrats, expert archeologists, pseudo-Egyptologists, fortune hunters, blackmailers and extortionists.
Tensions heighten when Holmes and Watson come upon a stabbed and dying potential tipster, one of several murders depicted in The Return of the Pharaoh. Their own lives hang in the balance just as they have solved the intricate mystery.
Aviary, by Deirdre McNamer, 292 pages, Milkweed Editions paperback, 2022
Follow the stories of four of the residents of Pleasant Run, a four-story senior residential apartment building located in a university town in Montana. Some of the building’s occupants own additional apartments, which they rent to fellow seniors.
Not all of their decisions are wise or sensible. These septuagenarians and octogenarians are free-spirited and adventurous. Old age has unfettered their self-restraint and made them bold.
Rumors are afoot of a scheme to force the residents to vacate so the building can be sold for great profit. The arrival of the incompetent, rude building superintendent-manager Herbie sets the plot in motion.
A fire in his unit leads to the arrival of Maki, the local fire inspector, who discovers that a youth has spent the night in one of the basement storage units.
Suspects and their motives are followed to their denouement. The narrative takes readers for a brief sojourn to sunny California, a break from the frozen Montana landscape.
Septuagenarian author Deirdre McNamer lives in Montana. This is her fifth novel.
Fracture: A Novel, by Andrés Neuman, translated by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia, 368 pages, Picador paperback 2021
As a child, Yoshie Watanabe survived the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima. He witnessed his father’s death, and the rest of his immediate family perished in the subsequent detonation of the second atomic bomb over Nagasaki. The physical and psychological scars of this tragedy accompany him throughout his life.
Raised by his aunt and uncle, Yoshie becomes an executive at a Japanese firm. He readily accepts assignments overseas but returns to Japan after a breakup with his girlfriend.
Yoshie lives alone in retirement. Fracture culminates with Yoshie’s reaction to the nuclear disaster at Fukushima in 2011. The resultant earthquake is also felt in Tokyo, where he lives.
Fracture follows Yoshie’s life through the narratives of his four girlfriends — a fellow Parisian student, a radical journalist in New York, a divorced translator in Buenos Aires, and a widowed physical therapist in Madrid.
Each woman is interviewed by an Argentinian journalist who is covering the Fukushima nuclear disaster. They look back at their relationship with Yoshie. Each recalls the effects of his childhood trauma on his personae and the degree to which he was able to assimilate into Western culture.
Seniors will find of special interest the reminiscences of these older women and the description of the aged Yoshie. It is a tale told with nuance and insight by acclaimed Spanish author Andrés Neuman.
The author, who is in his early 40s, conjures up the frailties, regrets, inner thoughts and subjective memories of older adults.