"The Bartender's Tale" by Ivan Doig, Riverhead Books, 387 pages, $27.95.
Rusty Harry tells the story of life with his father, Tom Harry, owner of the Medicine Lodge bar in Gros Ventre, Montana.
Rusty's parents divorced when he was a baby and his aunt raised him for the first six years. Then his father shows up one day to take him home.
It is the summer of 1960 and Rusty is 12. The town cafe is purchased by a couple from Butte. They have a daughter, Zoe, who becomes Rusty's new best friend. They hang around in a room in the back of the bar, building balsa wood airplanes and looking at the things people have pawned when they don't have money to buy drinks.
Then suddenly, Proxy, a former taxi driver, shows up with her daughter, Francine, whom she claims is Tom's daughter. Their lives are about to change.
Ivan Doig is a great storyteller. The characters are charming, the dialogue is wonderful and the plot is excellent. This is really American literature. Pull up a barstool, order a Select beer and enjoy this captivating story of a father and son.
"Far North" by Michael Ridpath, A Thomas Dunne Book for Minotaur Books, 376 pages, $25.99.
This is the second in a series about Sgt. Det. Magnus Jonson, who was born in Iceland, but then moved to Boston. He is in danger because of his investigations. When the Icelandic police commissioner asked for help in learning American police procedures, he volunteered because he speaks the language.
In 2009 people in Iceland protested because of the banking crisis. People lost their jobs. Now someone is killing bankers. That plot line is interspersed with one that happened in 1934. Two boys playing in fields saw something that shouldn't have seen. Jonson works the current case, but is still troubled that the person who murdered his father in Boston a few years earlier was never arrested.
This is an interesting series set in a country that we don't read much about. The characters are good and the plotting is complex.