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Jan. 5: Ragnar Jónasson and Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Reykjavík: A Crime Story. Trans. Victoria Cribb. ISBN 9781250907332. Best-selling Icelandic crime writer Jónasson has teamed up with the country’s prime minister Jakobsdóttir to produce this novel, which introduces readers to yet a new category of fiction: “Scandinavian noir” ( While Iceland is a notoriously peaceful country with one of the lowest crime rates in the world, the story is based on a cold case from 1956 involving the disappearance of a young girl. Thirty years later, a journalist revives the investigation – with consequences that reach into the corridors of Icelandic power.

Feb. 2: James McBride, The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store.  ISBN 9780593422946. The New York Times headlines its review of McBride’s book thus: “A murder mystery inside a Great American Novel” (Danez Smith, August 6, 2023). In 1972, a skeleton is discovered. Who is it? The hunt for the identity of the victim, and that of the killer, takes the investigators back to the 1920s, to the racially and ethnically mixed community. The titular grocery store is owned by Chona Ludlow, an American Jew married to Moshe, a Romanian Jew, who owns a local theater and dance hall. From their respective venues, the Ludlows observe the community and are inevitably enmeshed in the crime investigation.

March 1: Zadie Smith, The Fraud. ISBN 9780525558965. Smith’s first historical novel is set in 1860s England and based on the story of a man who (fraudulently, of course) claimed to be one Sir Roger Tichborne, heir to a title and a vast estate. A divisive character, the fake Tichborne inspires slavish devotion in his followers and equally intense hatred from his critics. The observer of all this is a would-be novelist named Eliza Touchet, who becomes involved with both sides of the argument about the fraudster. This work appears at first to be political satire, but the New York Times reviewer Karah Mahajan thinks of it as “a book about novelists” (August 28, 2023). We shall see.

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About the lecturer(s)

Margaret Hallissy

Margaret Hallissy is Professor of English with specialties in medieval literature, Irish literature, and the modern phenomenon of “book groups,” which have sprung up in communities throughout the nation. She has written numerous articles and scholarly books, including works on book group procedures and leadership, as well as Irish-American fiction.

Lecture Details



3 lecture(s)
Day & Time

Friday, 10 am - 12 noon

Jan 05, 2024
Feb 02, 2024
Mar 01, 2024