The Dog by Joseph O’Neill

Find in catalogWith morbid fascination and some pleasure in the dark humor, I plowed through this story of a rich lawyer who becomes “the dog” of a super rich Dubai family empire. He is used by the family to handle all sorts of questionable and legally iffy matters and spends copious and funny time finding legal ways to lessen his own liability. On the run from a ferocious and hurt ex-girlfriend, he seeks only the company of a man servant, a high end brothel, and some old buddies in various stages of the big ride up or down this disgusting social structure.

Mistaken Identity by Nayantara Sahgal

Kin in spirit to both Evelyn Waugh and Salman Rushdie, Sahgal focuses on a young rich playboy in 1920s India. He is an apolitical poet who is mistakenly arrested and spends years in prison in British held India charged with conspiracy to overthrow the government. It is a black humored story, but not quite satire, more a fairy tale in which other Indians arrested for trying to raise consciousness are large hearted fools who will die to make a small point in an overwhelmingly bad situation. The tone is very secular: Whether you are surrounded by Colonials, Muslims, or Hindus, you are in trouble if you even inadvertently stir their stagnant waters.

The Scapegoat by Daphne du Maurier

Start with the (unbelievable) premise that two identical looking men, one an English scholar of French, the other a decadent and weak French count with a complex family/business/lovers situation, meet one night, and after a drinking binge, change roles. The Englishman, who’d been at a low ebb in his life, wakes up with all his belongings and car gone. But he has a devoted manservant waiting to take him to his fate. This scapegoat falls into the count’s lofty and complex life with a weird bravado, and readily takes on the man’s family as his own, messing with their lives as the head of household and changing the struggling family business. Is this a moral tale? A fairy tale? Good reading.

Rooms by Lauren Oliver

Find in catalog“Rooms” is a ghost story for adults and is special if not unique as it is from the point of view of the ghosts–in this case two women of different eras who died in an old house now inherited by the children and ex wife of a sick man. What’s the cosmology here? The usual–that the ghosts have some unresolved, unforgiven, un acknowledged sorrow that is holding them back from “moving on.” Trite on its own but interesting seen side by side with the stories of the dysfunctional inheritors who must also put their pasts away and move on. Do you like books filled with modern obsessions and shallow angst?

The Unknown Bridesmaid by Margaret Forster

Find in textWow, I really felt the undertow of this book. The tension only let go a little too fast at the end, when the truly troubled main character does face up to the ghastly things she did as a child. How did this child grow to become a psychologist turned magistrate (who specializes in troubled or criminal children)? For those of us a little suspicious of the helping professions, this book pours gasoline on the fire. I was intrigued by her depiction of how an educated person can go in and out of awareness of her true self.