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Column: November reads full of mysteries, Christmas, cats and more

This month’s books include “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “Dewey” by Vicki Myron, “The Christmas Box” by Richard Paul Evans and “The Saint Patrick’s Day Hero” by Doug and Sally Mayfield of Deerwood.

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Arthur presents this months books, which include "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Christmas Box" by Richard Paul Evans, "Dewey" by Vicki Myron and "The Saint Patrick's Day Hero" by Dough and Sally Mayfield. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

I’ve got books spanning a wide array of genres and topics this month, all delightful in their own way.

Those of you who read last month’s column were introduced to my new kitten Agatha, named for one of my favorite authors, Agatha Christie. In the spirit of fairness, this month’s write-up is dedicated to my other fur baby — my orange tabby cat Arthur, named in part for author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who created Sherlock Holmes. So this month, I’ve got some Sherlock Holmes mysteries and a book about a special orange cat.

This month’s featured Minnesota writers are Doug and Sally Mayfield of Deerwood.

‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This is the first book among my reviews this year that I did not actually read a word of.
I had a decent bit of traveling to do over the past month, so I downloaded this audiobook on the library’s Hoopla app and listened to it as I drove long distances.

“The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” is a compilation of 12 short stories, narrated by famed sidekick Dr. Watson and centering on the renowned Sherlock Holmes.

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For those unfamiliar with Holmes but in want of a good detective story, I’d suggest starting with “A Study in Scarlet,” where the sleuth makes his first appearance.

But for those acquainted with Holmes and Watson already, this compilation is a fun read, with each short mystery taking up only two or three chapters. The subject matter ranges from murder to theft to mistaken identify, all showcasing the incredible deductive reasoning skills of Sherlock Holmes and challenging readers to get to the conclusion before he does. Spoiler alert: You probably won’t.

‘Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World’ by Vicki Myron and Bret Witter

For anyone who needs a feel-good pick-me-up, I’ve got just the book. And if you happen to be a cat lover, even better.

I think I grabbed this book at a library book sale a year or two back when I saw the big orange cat on the cover. I didn’t have imminent plans to read it, but Agatha kind of picked it out for me this month. I was sitting in my living room watching TV one night, about to get up and find a new book to start, when Agatha jumped on my lap and decided to snuggle in. Of course I didn’t want to disturb her, but luckily I was sitting next to one of my several bookshelves, so I decided I’d just pull out a book at random and start reading it. That book introduced me to Dewey, and it could not have been a better choice.

The true story of Dewey starts on a frigid January morning in 1987, when someone left a tiny orange kitten in the book return at the public library in Spencer, Iowa. The poor little baby was nearly frozen to the metal bin by the time staff came to work and found him. Library Director Vicki Myron adopted him on behalf of the library, and Dewey quickly became an icon in the Spencer community. But Myron never could have anticipated just how far reaching his charming personality and comforting demeanor would be.

Word of the cat’s miraculous survival story spread through newspapers, radio stations and magazines across the state, then the country and eventually the world, with a Japanese film crew trekking to Iowa to film Dewey for a documentary.

Dewey loved people. He let the library’s children love on him, he comforted staff members when they were having rough days, and he even made friends with the grouchiest of library patrons who probably would never admit the love they had for the big orange cat.

He lived in the library for 19 years before he died and touched countless lives in that time.

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There were so many inspiring quotes in this book that made me stop and think about my life, but there was one in particular that stuck out to me, so I’ll leave it at this: “Find your place. Be happy with what you have. Treat everyone well. Live a good life. It isn’t about material things; it’s about love. Those are the lessons Dewey taught me. But he also taught me something else: You never know when you’ll fall in love.”

‘The Christmas Box’ by Richard Paul Evans

It’s that time of year again, so I decided to pull out one of the several Christmas novels I just picked up from the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library to help me get into the spirit of the season.

“The Christmas Box” was a really quick but impactful read. The author originally wrote the book as a Christmas story for his kids, later self-publishing it.

Evans spins a tragic yet heart-warming story of a young father learning the true meaning of Christmas after realizing he spends too much time working and not enough time with his daughter. The lesson comes from an old widow — Mary Parkin — who recruits Evans and his family to move into her mansion and help out with some of the household chores and keep her company.

It is a beautifully written tale that serves as a reminder of what’s most important in life both during the holiday season and all year-round.

‘The Saint Patrick’s Day Hero’ by Doug and Sally Mayfield

There’s something about this book that was haunting and tragic yet beautiful and hopeful at the same time. This novel wasn’t exactly packed with action, but I still managed to lose myself in the story, turning page after page with no regard for time.

College English professor William Kessler suffered a psychotic break in the aftermath of a March 17 shooting on his campus that claimed the lives of dozens of students and his own son. It doesn’t help that the community — the whole nation, in fact — has dubbed him the St. Patrick’s Day hero and won’t stop thanking him for his heroic acts that day. But William hasn’t told anyone the full story. And now, two years later, after his life spirals out of control, he must try to get a firm grip on reality and pull himself up out of the trenches of post-traumatic stress disorder.

But learning the truth about why so many students didn’t get the active shooter alert until it was too late and being thrust in the middle of a potentially disastrous lawsuit only wreaks more havoc on William’s mental health.

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Even with the tragedy and heartache, this story is one of hope — hope that with the right people and the right resources, a person can better their life. The 400-page book only spans 41 days, but those days are so packed with emotion and a compelling storyline that made “The St. Patrick’s Day Hero” incredibly difficult for me to put down.

Authors Doug and Sally Mayfield live in Deerwood, and Doug is a retired Crosby-Ironton English teacher. Their first novel is “Angle of Declination,” which went on my to-be-read list as soon as I finished “The Saint Patrick’s Day Hero.”

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa .

Theresa Bourke.jpg
Theresa Bourke

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