Book Notes by Valerie Oakley
One of the ‘perks’ of being retired is the opportunity to take part in “extracurricular activities,” in my case being a part of the committee that chooses the One Book title for the community. One of the recent titles suggested–I’m not at liberty to reveal the final choice–was Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart.
In 1708 on the border of China and Tibet, a murder takes place and an imperial librarian becomes involved in solving it. The publisher’s lead sentence describes the set-up: “A detective must learn what a killer already knows: that empires
rise and fall on the strength of the stories they tell. Li Du was an imperiallibrarian. Now he is in exile.” The librarian, of course, gets caught up in the investigation as, among other things, the area is about to experience an eclipse of the sun “commanded by the Emperor himself.” The librarian must choose whether to leave town or to stay and assist in the investigation.
One of the endearing details was the revelation that the library books are arranged by color within major subject
classifications, which represent the twenty-eight constellations. Although the arrangement doesn’t help solve
the mystery, it is an indicator, to me, of the breadth of the author’s interests. A complex solution to a basically
simple problem: arranging the books (a hot topic for librarians) by color relating to the constellations. For
further clarification, see page 30 of the book. Details like those keep the pages turning and contribute to the full
effect of a book well-researched but very readably written. This is Hart’s first book and she has written one
more, The White Mirror, featuring the same character, Li Du.
Book Honored by 2017 Florida Book Awards
Suncoast Empire: Bertha Honoré Palmer, Her Family, and the Rise of Sarasota has been awarded the
silver medal for Florida Nonfiction. The author, Dr. Frank A. Cassell, was the featured speaker at the Friends
of Fruitville Library Annual Meeting. The book was also reviewed in the Summer 2017 Out East Newsletter.