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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Out of the Deep I Cry by Julia Spencer-Fleming

  Out of the Deep I Cry

 From Booklist
In Millers Kill, New York, Episcopal priest and former army helicopter pilot Clare Fergusson has a problem. The roof of St. Alban's Episcopal Church is leaking badly, and the budget can't cover the extensive repairs necessary. Clare is relieved when vestry member Mrs. Marshall offers to liquidate the Ketchem Trust to pay for the repairs, but it turns out that interest earned from the trust must goes to the local free clinic for the working poor. Then the clinic's doctor disappears, and Clare investigates, along with Millers Kill's married police chief Russ Van Alstyne, with whom Clare shares a strong mutual attraction. Early spring in the Adirondacks is vividly described in this third installment in the series, and both the main and secondary characters are well developed. Church practice, police procedures, army tactics, and the vaccination of children frame the central mystery as the plot jumps from past to present. A comfortable mix of police procedural and village cozy. Sue O'Brien

The library did not have the second in the series, so I went with the third.  I'm afraid this one didn't work as well for me as the first one did.  The attraction of the two main characters (Clare, an Episcopal priest and Russ, a married man) makes me uneasy.  Clare is committed to her calling and Russ is committed to his marriage--so unless something drastic happens the star-crossed lovers are just going to be miserable.  
The mystery, moving back and forth from past to present, wasn't as involving either. Although I liked the first book, I'm not sure if I will continue this series.
Library copy.  Minotaur Books
Mystery.  2007.  336 pages.   

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Red Queen's Run

The Red Queen's Run by Bourne Morris begins with a faculty meeting in the school of journalism.  The protagonist Meredith "Red" Solaris is concerned about the animosity displayed by a few of the faculty members,  and her thoughts go to the Amy Bishop shooting in Alabama.

 (OK--first page, and I'm wondering...fact or fiction?  Somehow those lines didn't feel like fiction; the name didn't exactly jog my memory, but I stopped right there and Googled Amy Bishop.  Indeed, when Bishop failed to be granted tenure at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, she went to a faculty meeting and shot and killed three professors, wounding three others.)

As Red Solaris regrets that the ivory tower is not all sweetness and light, intelligent discussion, and academic camaraderie, the reader knows to expect violence as well.  An interesting way to introduce the darker side of university politics.   

When the Dean of the Journalism School is found dead from an apparent heart-attack and/or a fall down the stairs, Red is appointed interim Dean and begins to wonder if the death of her friend and mentor was an accident or murder.

Several issues are tackled in the novel:  faculty in-fighting, student/professor sexual relationships, curriculum, and cheating and plagiarism.  There is also a romance developing between Red Solaris and the detective assigned to the case.

I didn't find the detective's willingness to share information with Red too believable, but otherwise, I was all in and eager to discover who had actually murdered the dean.

Read in Sept.; blog post scheduled for Nov. 20

NetGalley/Henery Press

Mystery.  Dec. 9, 2014.  Print length:  280 pages.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Two Monkeewrench Novels by P.J. Tracy

Shoot t0 Thrill 

I started reading the Monkeewrench series by the mother/daughter team known as P.J. Tracy in 2003 before I started my reading blog.  Since then, I've read everything the library has to offer.  Shoot to Thrill is the fifth in the series.

The computer software team of Grace McBride, Fat Annie, Harley, and Roadrunner have used their skills to break the law in the past, but only in the interest of justice.  This time the team is working with John Smith, an FBI agent on his last case, trying to discover who has committed five murders in different states and not only filmed the murders and posted them on the web, but advertised them in advance, giving  a hint about the next victim and location.

When the next clue is posted, there is a chance of saving a life and possibly ending the killing spree--but the clues are vague and the setting can't even be narrowed down to a single state.  One of the murders, however, is local, and Minneapolis detectives Margozzi and Rosbeth get involved.

I really like this series.  Initially, the mother and daughter team of P.J. Tracy were publishing a book a year, but the last couple of novels in the series have been about 3-4 years apart.  The next in the series is Off the Grid, and I checked it out as well and dived into it as soon as I finished Shoot to Kill.

Library copy.  Penguin Group

Crime Fiction/Suspense.  2010.  308 pages.

Off the Grid 

At the end of Shoot to Thrill, Grace McBride sails off with John Smith, the now retired FBI agent who has the same sense of "aloneness" that Grace does.  They are friends, not lovers; but Leo Magozzi has been in love with Grace for a long time and is a tad upset.  The journey is good for Grace, and she abandons some of her paranoid fear (Grace's paranoia has been in place since the first book in the series.)  When, ten miles off the coast of Florida, two men board the sailboat and attempt to kill John Smith, Grace doesn't sink back into the same paranoia that has accompanied her throughout the series.

Although the reviews have been seriously mixed on this novel, I found it extremely interesting because, although the book was published in 2012, it focuses on a couple of things that are prominent in the news today. 

First, there is a segment on the sex trade; kidnapping young women and selling them or forcing them into marriage.  The Islamic State in Iraq,  the kidnapped girls in Nigeria, the women from Russia and the Baltic states, and gangs in the U.S.  have all been in the news recently for this horrific abuse.

Second, the recent calls for jihad that involve individuals spontaneously attacking police or service men, as in the recent attacks in Canada and New York, for example, and the tragic attack on the synagogue in Jerusalem.  Murders carried out by individuals in response to a general call.  

Third, the organized and well-planned terrorist actions that we all fear.

Fans of the series have given this book such disparate reviews--almost polar opposites--but I liked it a lot.  There is a lot of violence and the complexity of (at least in my case) rooting for a vigilante.   Rooting for a vigilante is always a tricky slope, but when battling evil, we all want the bad guys to disappear.  In how many books and films do we cheer on the hero who kills the bad guys without benefit of trial and without compunction?  

Such a conundrum. We want to believe in the legal system, but at least in our imaginations--in books or movies--we often condone vigilante violence.  Even when we know the dangers and moral questions of this behavior.

OK, digression complete.  The Monkeewrench books are also full of witty comments and apt descriptions about Minnesota weather.  A few examples:

* "The sun was shining, but the sky was that scary dark blue that looked like a theater curtain hiding winter behind it."
* "This is bullshit, Leo, you know that?  I had to scrape my windshield this morning.  Nobody told me Armageddon on Ice was coming to a theater near me, and I've got a four-year-old bawling into his board shorts right now because he wanted to be a surfer dude for Halloween."
          * "...his hands were shaking like a Chihuahua in a snow bank."

Each book can stand on its own, but the series is much more fun if you begin with the first in the series.  You can find a list here.

Library copy.  Penguin Group.

Thriller/Suspense.  2012.  305 pages.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Die for You by Lisa Unger

Die for You 

I read Unger's latest novel In the Blood, in January of this year, so when I found this one at the library, I grabbed it.  Unger has several series that I may look into, but Die for You is one of her earlier stand-alones.

Isabelle Raine is an author and considers herself a close observer of human behavior, but she is stunned when her husband Marcus kisses her goodbye one morning and disappears--not only disappears, but leaves devastation in his wake.  Is he a victim?  Is he still alive?  Or did the man Isabelle married ever exist?

I really liked the idea of this novel, but unfortunately,  I didn't care much for the characters, the switches from past to present (I have nothing against switching from past to present and back again in general, but the technique didn't work for me in this novel), the switches in POV, or the plot that seemed a bit hollow at the core.

Overall, the book felt jumbled, lacked a truly sympathetic protagonist or secondary characters, and failed to overcome its complications.  

Nevertheless, I really liked In the Blood, so I'm not giving up on this author.  Has anyone else read Lisa Unger and have recommendations?

Library copy.

Mystery.  2009.  347 pages.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Mostly Mystery

In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming

Book Description:     It's a cold, snowy December in the upstate New York town of Millers Kill, and newly ordained Clare Fergusson is on thin ice as the first female priest of its small Episcopal church. The ancient regime running the parish covertly demands that she prove herself as a leader. However, her blunt manner, honed by years as an army pilot, is meeting with a chilly reception from some members of her congregation and Chief of Police Russ Van Alystyne, in particular, doesn't know what to make of her, or how to address "a lady priest" for that matter. 

I enjoyed this novel and plan to read more in the series.

Purchased.  Minotaur Books

Mystery.  Reprint 2012.  Print length:  308 pages.

Chambers of Death by Priscilla Royal

I've enjoyed all of the previous books in this series, so when I was having a difficult time finding books I wanted from NetGalley, it was time to return to another medieval mystery.

Book Description:  When one of her company falls ill on a return journey to Tyndal, Prioress Eleanor accepts lodging at a nearby manor. The hospitality may be warm but the underlying passions among the steward's family are scorching. Master Stevyn's wife is having an affair with the groom while a local widow acts more like the lady of the manor than the lady herself. Stevyn's eldest son and spouse are obsessed with sin and heaven, while his youngest son, bound for the Church, unexpectedly returns with more interest in lute playing than the priesthood.

Murder, of course, can be expected.  The problem is that I didn't much care for this sixth book in the series.  Any series can vary in quality, but I'm not sure if that was the reason I didn't like it as much or if I'm growing a bit tired of the tension between Eleanor and her favorite monk. 

Purchased.  Poisoned Pen Press

Medieval Mystery.  2009, 2011. Print length:  261 pages.

Valley of Dry Bones by Priscilla Royal

Book Description: In the late summer of 1274, King Edward has finally been anointed England’s ruler, and his queen contemplates a pilgrimage in gratitude for their safe return from Outremer, a journey that will include a stay at Tyndal Priory.

I liked this one better than Chamber's of Death, but still wonder if by the 7th book, my interest in the characters is waning.  Maybe it is time for Ralf to have a story entirely to himself.  Or Sister Ann.  Or for the plots to have less to do with Eleanor's troubling attraction to Thomas.

I still love the history included in the books, especially Royal's Author's Notes and Bibliographic source material.

Purchased.  Poisoned Pen Press

Medieval Mystery.  2011.  Print length:  245 pages.

The Murder at Sissingham Hall by Clara Benson

Book description:  On his return from South Africa, Charles Knox is invited to spend the weekend at the country home of Sir Neville Strickland, whose beautiful wife Rosamund was once Knox's fiancee. But in the dead of night Sir Neville is murdered. Who did it? As suspicion falls on each of the house guests in turn, Knox finds himself faced with deception and betrayal on all sides, and only the enigmatic Angela Marchmont seems to offer a solution to the mystery. This 1920s whodunit will delight all fans of traditional country house murder stories.

Clara Benson wrote during the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, but none of her books were published until after her death.  She wrote for her own enjoyment and for her friends; I wonder how famous she would have become had she been published during her life time.  At any rate, I love this genre and enjoyed the novel.

Mystery.  2013.  Print length:  262 pages.

Paradigms Lost  

Bad choice of cover.  The book is a light read about a data miner named Jason, his psychic friend Sylvie, and his new client, a vampire.  But the novel is more science fiction than a typical vampire story.

Some interesting ideas, but not terribly satisfying.  

Read in Oct.


Science Fiction.  Dec. 2, 2014.  print length:  544 pages.  


Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

The Goblin Emperor

I am late to this splendid addition to the fantasy genre, and like so many others, I loved the book.  I enjoyed the characters and the political intrigue. 

The main flaw in this lovely tale is that plot and characters are sometimes obscured by the strange multi-syllabic names and created language and by passages referring to a complex political, historical, and cultural system that even a member of the society would be hard put to understand completely.   And yet, I slipped into this world and found myself immersed in the story and unwilling to put it down. 

Maia, half-goblin and half-elf, is thrust into his new role as emperor when the airship that carried his father and half-brothers crashes.  Maia had only met his father once, at his mother's funeral, and had been relegated to an estate far away from the palace in the care of an abusive and bitter cousin.  When the news comes of his father's death, he is whisked to the court with little knowledge of court functions and without anyone he can truly trust.

Maia's father had never shown kindness to Maia or to Maia's mother, so he feels no grief at his father's death. He does know, however, that if he is to be emperor, it will not be in the style that has father has been.  While he has no experience or training in the world of politics,  Maia does have a kind and compassionate heart, and he makes an impression on those few individuals who serve him closely.

Most of the plot concerns the court intrigue and Maia's attempts to discover who was behind the sabotage of the airship that killed his father and half-brothers.  The action scenes and magic that usually accompany high fantasy are not here.  This is a story of young man who has been isolated and ill-treated trying his best to survive the intricate complexities of the court, the disparagement of those who should have supported and guided him, the exploitation of those who would use him, and the loneliness of his position.

Despite the perplexing language and  complicated political system, reading The Goblin Emperor was still a great pleasure.  If I gave stars, it would be 4 1/2 stars because what I liked I liked very much!

Library copy.  Macmillan/Tor Books

High Fantasy.  April, 2014.  447 pages.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

There Was a War

Do letters from the past fascinate you?  They do me, which is why I love Letters of Note.  The letter posted today is a perfect choice for Veteran's Day.  The following quote is from the introduction that precedes the letter.
"On November 11th of 1918, the First World War effectively came to an end with the signing of the armistice—an agreement between Allied and German forces to end, with immediate effect, all hostilies and withdraw troops from the battlefield. Peace, at last, after four years of fighting and more than 37 million deaths. Shortly after the armistice was signed, 26-year-old Lewis Plush—a lieutenant with the American Expeditionary Forces—wrote home to his parents and spoke with great eloquence of his experience. He returned home in February of 1919."  (via Letters of Note)

If you are interested in reading the remarkable letter from Lewis Plush to his parents, click here.  Plush describes his role in the war that opened in 1914, one hundred years ago, with elegant prose and touching memories of his role as a pilot, his friends, his experiences.

Books for the New Year

NetGalley reads to be published in 2015.

The Just City by Jo Walton is due to be released January 13, 2015; blog post scheduled for December 30.   What if Plato's ideas from The Republic were actually carried out?  So many philosophical questions debated.  Loved it!

Monday's Lie by Jamie Mason -- I loved Mason's Three Graves Full and was thrilled to get this latest book from NetGalley.  It doesn't disappoint.  To be released in February; my review is scheduled for January 19, 2015.

Murder in the Queen's Wardrobe: An Elizabethan Spy Thriller by Kathy Lynn Emerson is a mystery set in one of my favorite historical periods. Release date March 1, 2015.  Haven't scheduled this review yet. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Undercity by Catherine Asaro

Undercity by Catherine Asaro 

When I received the e-book from NetGalley, I had never heard of  Catherine Asaro, but when I read and loved the book, it was time to find out more about this author.

Asaro is one of those multi-talented individuals who excels in at almost everything.  She has a PhD in chemical physics and an A.M. in physics from Harvard; a B.S. with highest honors from UCLA; she teaches chemistry, physics, and math and coaches national competitions; she is a dancer and a musician; she writes science fiction novels that have won all kinds of awards including 2 Nebulas.

OK--now, it is possible to not only love the book, but to thoroughly admire the woman who works both hard science and science fiction!

Major Bhaajan, a former military officer, is now an experienced P.I.  On accepting a case from an anonymous but well-paying client, she ends up back in the city of Cries and working for  the Majda imperialists, who want her to find a runaway prince.  (Very interesting concept:  the men are kept isolated and treated, in general, as light-weights while the women rule and make all important decisions.  Ha!  The men are in the harem in this culture.)  

And then there is the Undercity and its inhabitants.  Here dwell the impoverished and marginalized--but the denizens of the Undercity have their own unique culture, and it is in the Undercity that Asaro's world-building shines.  Major Bhaajan comes from these tunnels deep in the earth, and although she has been gone a long time, she is uniquely qualified to understand the characters and the culture of the "city" that exists underneath the city of Cries.

Highly recommended for science fiction fans.

Read in Oct.;  blog post scheduled for Nov. 10

NetGalley/Baen Books

Science Fiction.  Dec. 2, 2014.  Print length:  304 pages.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Four Brief Reviews

I think this about finishes the catch-up reviews from September and October. Computer problems plagued much of October and early November (had to have our friendly tech guy out again to see where I was picking up the Malware). Third time's the charm?  

The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear 

WWI setting; static characters; abrupt ending.    

This is not a Maisie Dobbs novel, although it does cover some of the same WWI issues that were significant in the first Maisie Dobbs books and those of Charles Todd's Ian Rutledge mysteries.  What is missing is a genuine sense of plot.

Library copy; HarperCollins

Historic Fiction.  Jan. 1, 2014.  336 pages.            

Skin Hunger:  A Resurrection of Magic by Kathleen Duey

Two connected stories, centuries apart.  

I don't remember where I saw this one mentioned, but I ordered the first two books in the trilogy.  A finalist for the National Book Award, Skin Hunger is a dark YA fantasy.

A compelling novel that hooks you, but ends with a cliff hanger. I was glad I had ordered the second book as well.  The narrative switches from the early story in which Sadima, a young girl who can communicate with animals ends up as housekeeper for two wannabe magicians.  Somiss and Franklin want to resurrect magic.  

In the alternating story, Somiss has been successful in establishing an Academy for Wizrds, but don't think Hogwart's.  Pretty much the opposite--this academy is  unrelenting in the mistreatment and abuse of the boys admitted.  

Purchased.  Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Fantasy.  2007.  368 pages.

Sacred Scars:  A Resurrection of Magic (bk. 2)-Kathleen Duey

I was glad to have the second book in the trilogy since the first one ended in such a cliff hanger.

The two alternating stories continue.  When I finished I was sorry that the third book has not yet been published.  

After a week or so, however, that compulsion to continue reading lessened as I considered the two books together.  Not much good ever happens.  Somiss is evil; Franklin is co-dependent, unable to function as an individual, and therefore, an accomplice in evil he doesn't condone; after Sadima's memories are taken by Somiss, she doesn't remember anything about the past; and Hahp (the boy protagonist in the Academy section) continues to survive the tests of the academy.

OK - the above is an oversimplification, but after giving the books a rest for a couple of weeks, that was what it boiled down to for me.  If  the third installment had been published, I would have dived right into it immediately, but is more of a maybe.

Purchased.  Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Fantasy.  2009.  560 pages.

The Carpathian Assignment by Chip Wagar

I read this in September for the R.I.P. challenge, but then ended up going on vacation and letting this ARC get buried in a pile of books.

It was a great choice for the R.I.P. challenge and for folks who love Bram Stoker's Dracula and analogs of the original Dracula.  The Carpathian Assignment is the story from a different perspective--that of Kálváry Istvan, a retired Hungarian calvary colonel, who accepts an assignment as chief of police in Bistritz, in the province of Transylvania.

Almost as soon as he arrives at his new assignment, Istvan learns that his predecessor disappeared.  It isn't long before he realizes that he is involved in a complicated and frightening hunt for a serial killer.

The viewpoint is entirely different from the original.  Instead of the very English pov provided by Jonathan Harker and his friends, The Carpathian Assignment examines the case from the Austrian-Hungarian perspective.  The most important characters are part of the police force, the Royal Hungarian Gendarmerie, the Roma, and various inhabitants of isolated villages in the region.

In many ways, the book follows the original, but there are specific and interesting differences in the way Jonathan Harker tells the tale and what transpires in Istvan's version. 

A great book for  for those who enjoy Gothic novels written in nineteenth century style.  

The e galley was too difficult to read, so Lynn Coppotelli of Smith Publicity kindly sent me a physical review copy, and I'm sorry it has taken me so long to review it.

Gothic Novel.  2014.  324 pages.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

The Griever's Mark by Katherine Hurley

The Griever's Mark  is a YA fantasy novel.                  

Book description:    Before Astarti’s mother abandoned her to the deadly ocean tides, she gave her infant daughter a parting gift: a tattoo known as the Griever’s Mark, meant to carry her into death. But before the tide could claim her, the Earthmaker Belos, cast out by his people for his cruelty and for delving into forbidden magic, found and saved her. At least, that’s his story. 

For seventeen years, Astarti has served Belos, using her control of the energy world, known as the Drift, to help Belos gain power throughout the kingdom of Kelda. Though she hates her master, the Leash he has anchored deep within her makes defiance impossible. 

But when Logan, a handsome Earthmaker with his own reasons to hate Belos, recognizes that Astarti may be more than she seems, Astarti begins to unravel Belos’s lies: about her Mark, about her parents, and, most importantly, about her power. Astarti also discovers that Belos’s plans are bigger and more terrible than anyone has guessed, and she must decide: how much will she risk to stand against him?          
What I liked:  there were some new aspects in the use of magic and in the world Hurley created.  

This YA fantasy follows pretty predictably in the YA romance mode.  It should appeal to its target audience, and yet, I don't feel any great compulsion to continue the series.  

Read in Oct.; review scheduled for ??


YA/Fantasy.  Nov. 11, 2014.  print length:  333 pages.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Fear No Evil

Fear No Evil 

Jayne McCartney (no relation, even though they are both from Liverpool) is a P.I.  When a couple comes to her with the request that she investigate their daughter's death, Jayne is reluctant, but agrees.  Although their daughter's death has been ruled a suicide, the parents believe their daughter was murdered by a ghost that had been stalking her.

Jayne feels her charge is prove the police investigation was thorough, and hopefully, to relieve the minds of the girl's parents.  She doesn't believe in ghosts.

But what Jayne encounters is much more than she expected.  Maybe ghosts and demons are real and deadly.

There is a handsome ex-Priest, a dead Scouse princess (new word for me; Scouse is the Liverpool accent and can be employed as adjective or noun), a vicious crime boss, some additions to Team Anti-demon,  and a few murders along the way.

Crime and paranormal mix in this entertaining read.  I will be interested in seeing how this series develops.

NetGalley/Harper Collins

Crime/Paranormal.  Oct., 2014.  Print length:  400 pages.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Dark Triumph by Robin La Fevers

Dark Triumph      

A while back, I reviewed Grave Mercy, the first in this trilogy.  Unsure initially about whether or not the book would keep my interest, I found myself quite intrigued with the idea of a convent that trained assassins and worshiped Mortain, the god of death.

Dark Triumph is Sybella's story (she made a few brief appearances in Grave Mercy).   Sybella has a background of abuse from her own family, but like Ismae in Grave Mercy,  Sybella is rescued from her horrific family and delivered to the convent to begin training as Death's handmaiden.  However, the abbess who treated Ismae kindly exhibits little compassion for Sybella despite the terrible abuse the child has endured.  Perhaps the third book will reveal the cause of this strange animosity.   

Although the abbess treats Sybella without warmth or empathy, she nevertheless recognizes Sybella's value as an assassin.  After three years, the abbess sends the seventeen-year-old Sybella  back to her despicable father as an assassin and a spy.  Why would the abbess return the girl to the very situation that led Sybella, half-mad with fear and grief, to the convent of St. Mortain in the first place?

The story is a darker one than Grave Mercy, and there are some unpleasant aspects, but it kept me engrossed throughout.  I especially liked seeing the Beast of Waroch, the ugly knight who had a small role in Grave Mercy take a larger role in Dark Triumph.

I look forward to the final book in the series and finding out more about the abbess of St. Mortain.  Although this is a book listed for "young readers," I would classify it in the recently added New Adult category.

NetGalley/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Fantasy.  2013.  Print length:  405 pages.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

My Sister's Grave by Robert Dugoni

My Sister's Grave 

from the Book Description:  Tracy Crosswhite has spent twenty years questioning the facts surrounding her sister Sarah’s disappearance and the murder trial that followed. She doesn’t believe that Edmund House—a convicted rapist and the man condemned for Sarah’s murder—is the guilty party. Motivated by the opportunity to obtain real justice, Tracy became a homicide detective with the Seattle PD and dedicated her life to tracking down killers.

I was surprised to see mostly 4 & 5 star ratings for this book.  From the beginning, my thoughts were that a good editing was necessary, but I was reading an uncorrected proof from NetGalley, and perhaps the other readers had a better edited version.  On the other hand, as I read some of the 4 star reviews on Amazon, I noticed that many of them mentioned some of the problems I had with the book.

The premise is interesting.  I liked that Tracy Crosswhite noted the discrepancies in the arrest and conviction of Edmund House.  Even though she felt a certain repugnance about the man, she didn't think he was guilty and was determined to find out what really happened to her sister. House's conviction didn't feel right, and Tracy wanted to know the truth.  Yet, the twist is strongly hinted at from the beginning and the events that follow the discovery of Sarah Crosswhite's body could so easily (and logically) been avoided.

While other readers seemed to find Tracy a strong and sympathetic character, she didn't really emerge as a three-dimensional character for me.  The frequent flashbacks interrupted the narrative flow and didn't always add meaningful information.  Much of the book seemed awkwardly paced and predictable.

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer

Mystery.  Nov. 1, 2012.  Print length:  418 pages.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

How the Light Gets In and The Long Way Home

I'm still missing two novels in this series (# 7 & #8).  I should have reviewed How the Light Gets in and The Long Way Home) a while back, but with all of my October computer problems, I failed to do so.  I'm still catching up with October reads.

How the Light Gets In 

Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering 
There is a crack, a crack in everything 
That's how the light gets in.   
     --From the lyrics to Leonard Cohen's Anthem

The two novels in the series that I'm missing are the two right before this one.  Kick me!  I should have read these in order.  Not that this book can't be read and understood without the back story. It can, and I had no trouble doing so. On the other hand, when you love a series, it is always preferable to read the books in order.  

The current mystery functions completely within this novel; it is the corruption within the  Sûreté du Québec that has run throughout all of the novels that comes to a head here.

OK - Constance Pinauilt, an elderly friend visits Myrna in Three Pines and promises to return for Christmas.  When she doesn't show up, Myrna enlists Inspector Gamache to find her friend, but when he does find the missing Constance, it is too late.  Why would anyone want to kill this mild elderly woman?  Even after Gamache discovers that Constance was once famous throughout the world, the reason for her murder is a mystery.  

This contained mystery is interesting because it creates a fictional account of the sensational birth of quintuplets (remember the Dionne quints?) and the subsequent removal of the girls from their family.  

The other story line (that threads through all of the previous books) deals with the corruption and the bad (very bad) apples in the Sûreté who are determined to punish Gamache and end his career.  This is where I must go back and pick up the two previous to books that lead up to the reasons Jean-Guy Beauvoir, Gamache's most trusted colleague, has returned to a devastating drug addiction and refuses to talk to Gamache.

As usual, characterization is excellent and so is the writing.  I do have a problem with the completion of the Sûreté story line that has been woven since the first book in the series.   With this plot line completed, what comes next?  Has Penny wrapped up the series?  Well, perhaps not because 2014 sees the publication of The Long Way Home    

Purchased.  Minotaur Books.

Mystery/Police Procedural.  2013.  print length:  416 pages.

The Long Way Home is the ARC that started me reading the books I've missed in the series.  Before reading this one, I went back and picked up the first three novels in the series ( reviewed here and here).

After all the positive things I've had to say about all the previous books, I've read (and expect to say when I pick up the two that I've missed), I'm at a loss about how to review this latest in the series.

It isn't that I wanted to put it down.   Yet, for several reasons, I simply didn't feel as involved with this book as I did with all of the others.  

  Just to note a few things:
(Spoiler Alert - highlight if you want to read)
Gamache is retired.  This doesn't make me happy.
Most of the book is set outside of Three Pines.
I found much of it slow and a bit repetitive.
It felt as if she ended the series in the previous book, and then decided on  "Just one more."
Is she planning a new series?  Maybe with Jean-Guy or Isabel the featured protagonist?

ARC from Minotaur Books

Mystery.  2014.  print length:  385 pages.

Monday, November 03, 2014

The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny

 APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
             --T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland

The Cruelest Month, the third in the Inspector Gamache series, shows a bit more of the serious turn that continues to take place in the rest of the novels.  Of course, there is a murder with plenty of suspects and plenty of possible motives, but there is also a psychic and a seance, jealousy, and a betrayal within the ranks of Gamache's own team.

Ruth Zardo, the curmudgeonly old poet and my favorite character, continues to grow.  Sly, witty, bitchy, and compassionate in turns, Ruth is a highlight in every book even though she makes only brief appearances each time.  The familiar village characters are all here, but new ones are introduced.  

While the willingness of everyone to feel the inherent evil of the Hadley house and then proceed to conduct a seance there seems far-fetched, I always love the characters themselves--full of personal flaws and secrets.  The comic relief provided by several characters and their dialogue continues to amuse me, even as the machinations within the Sûreté du Québec to cover past and present crimes continue to add to the darker element and growing apprehension.

It is best to read the series in order (I wish I had done so) and to keep in mind that they get better with each new addition.  Better and darker, but still with plenty of warmth and compassion from Gamache and witty repartee among the Three Pines familiar characters.

Read in Oct.; blog post scheduled for ?

Purchased.  Minotaur Books

Mystery/Police Procedural.  2010.  Print length:  318 pages.