Random House, $25.00, 338 pages, ISBN 978-0-679-60436-5
Mystery fiction is generally classified by the following types, according to William G. Tapply: police procedural, private eye, hard-boiled, soft-boiled and cozy. The last being a term describing amateur detectives such as Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple. The term ‘cozy’ is derived from a type of teapot sweater used to keep the tea hot. Those are the traditional definitions. Nowadays, we have various subdivisions; thrillers, spy and serial killers for example, but even with minute distinctions, some mysteries fall into an unclassifiable category because mystery fiction has evolved to the point that it’s often indistinguishable from literature. And such is the case with this week’s book. THE TIGER’S WIFE by Tea Obreht.
Part folk tale, part myth, part memoir, tragedy, and war story as well as a mystery, it is all blended together with language so beautiful and compelling, it’s difficult to believe it’s a first novel . . . but it is.
THE TIGER’S WIFE takes place in an unnamed Balkan country ten years after the Balkan war. It’s about a young doctor’s search to find her grandfather, also a physician, who died on a mission of mercy “on the other side of the line” demarcating one religious ethnic group, Slovak-Christian from another, Turk-Moslem. Woven together with a master’s touch, this book will be one for the ages. I generally avoid highly-promoted novels for this column, but in the case of THE TIGER’S WIFE I’m glad I didn’t. An all-around excellent read, I highly recommend it, especially for book clubs.
I’m still recommending a visit to the new Daniel Pierce Library and Time and the Valleys Museum. You’ll be glad you did, because
“One civilized reader is worth a thousand boneheads.” — H.L. Mencken