Seattle journalist Alienor Crespo flies to Spain to apply for citizenship as a descendant of Jews expelled from the Iberian Peninsula during the Inquisition, in 1492. She meets a long-lost cousin and begins to discover her family’s history. A strong and self-aware woman, Alienor is also invited into the hidden tunnels of a fantastic library, which for half a century has been preserving medieval Jewish and Muslim scholarly books that were saved from the Inquisition’s fires. The library is called the “Zahara” and is protected by a secret society of caretakers in a hidden fortress. But there is a violently fascist political group trying to restore the pure blood line of Iberia, trying to make Spain great again. And one of Alienor’s cousins is a member. Meanwhile, she has been connecting with her female ancestors in moments of spiritually awakening time travel.
Today I talked to Joyce Yarrow about her new book Zahara and the Lost Books of Light (Adelaide Books, 2020). Yarrow began her writing life scribbling poems on the subway and observing human behavior from every walk of life. Her published novels of suspense include Ask the Dead (Martin Brown), Russian Reckoning available in hardcover as The Last Matryoshka (Five Star Mysteries), and Rivers Run Back, co-authored with Arindam Roy (Vitasta, New Delhi). Yarrow is a Pushcart Prize Nominee with short stories and essays that have appeared in Inkwell Journal, Whistling Shade, Descant, Arabesques, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and Weber: The Contemporary West. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and has presented workshops on “The Place of Place in Mystery Writing” at conferences in the US and India. A New York native now living in Seattle, Yarrow is a trained musician, a writing tutor at the local community college and a prolific reader. When she is not reading, writing, or teaching, she loves being outdoors in nature, hiking, and canoeing in nearby Lake Washington.