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Monday, December 06, 2021

Ghost Light by Stan Jones, Patricia Watts and Death by the Thames by Gretta Mulrooney


From Description:
  The case starts when Tommie Leokuk’s husband brings her to Active’s office to show him what she found in her latest midnight ramble around the Arctic hamlet of Chukchi. From the pouch of her traditional atiqluk, she pulls a human jawbone with a single molar still in place.

Tommie’s dementia means she can’t explain where she found it. As her husband explains, “She lost her brain few years ago.”
Ghost Light is the 7th in the Nathan Active series set in Alaska, but the first one I've read.  Nathan Active was adopted by a white family and raised in Anchorage, but in the first book, Active found himself back in the area where he was born as Police Chief, trying to fit in culturally with the Inuit community.  (I may have to go back to the first book and read through the series.)

I liked the way this case was investigated and the way information had to be filtered as new information became available.  The characters were also interesting, not just Chief Active, but the minor characters who are part of the community.  The murderer is one of two options...but which one?   I will check out the previous books at some point and get to know the characters better. 

Mystery.  Sept. 15, 2021.  Print length:  258 pages.  

 Death by the Thames is a Tyrone Swift mystery, and Mulrooney also has a newer series featuring D.I. Siv Drummond.

Toni and Sam have a small wedding planned, done their way, without elaborate plans, and on that morning, Toni is looking forward to seeing Sam and after the ceremony heading to the Scilly Isles for their honeymoon.  But the person at the door is not her ride; it is the police to inform her of Sam's death, and Toni's world begins to unravel in the worst of ways.  The police tell her that Sam and a teenage girl have been drowned in an apparent suicide.

Unable to come to grips with Sam's death and unable to believe that he was having an affair with an underage girl, Toni eventually contacts Tyrone Swift.

She wants him to find out the truth.  The police have found no evidence of anything other than suicide, and Toni still doesn't believe it.  Swift warns her that he may not be able to prove Toni right, that the truth may be unpalatable, but Toni insists on hiring him.

Toni's friends have given her strong support over the months since Sam's death, but they are not at all sure that Toni has done right thing in hiring Swift.  They seem to want her to eat better and begin getting on with her life.  With little to go on and some reluctance from people trying to protect Toni, Sam begins interviewing people, looking for a way into Sam's life and behavior before the wedding.

NetGalley/Joffe Books
British Detective.  Dec. 22, 2022.  Print length: 318 pages.
I'd much rather read than review, and many other readers face the same dilemma.  How many of you are caught up with your reviewing?  

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult and The Stills by Jess Montgomery


I first read about this one on Diane's First Chapter, First Paragraph Tuesday and quickly got myself a copy of Jodi Picoult's latest book.

Although I admit to being curious when I read the First Chapter intro, it didn't begin to reveal how much I would love the book.  I fell in quickly and was engrossed the entire time.  

Wish You Were Here is a book that you want to read without knowing much about it, so it is difficult to review and not give too much information, but it is one of my favorite books of the year and was full of surprises.  

It is a story of Covid and relationships, beautifully written, and revealing.  Picoult did a great deal of research for the book and it shows, making the story almost more realistic than some of what we read in the news...but it is also much more than that.  A remarkable book and highly recommended.

I want to say more about all of the ways Picoult turned this story on its head, but that would not be fair.  I've recommended it to my daughters and friends so I will hopefully have someone to discuss it with.

You can read Diane's review when she finished it--here. Don't miss this one!  5/5

NetGalley/Random House/Ballentine

Literary Fiction. Nov. 30, 2021.  Print length:  336 pages.

I finally got around to reading The Stills, the third book in the Kinship series.  World-building is usually associated with science fiction or fantasy, but Jess Montgomery is so skilled at creating atmosphere and historic details that the term applies to her books set in Bronwen County, Ohio, part of the Appalachian range.

Thanksgiving Day, 1927, begins well with friends and family enjoying a dinner together.  But when a young boy nearly dies from tainted moonshine, Prohibition and revenuers, moonshiners, and a plan to take over bootlegging territory  emerge.  The Prologue deals with what Zachariah saw as he watches over Marlena's still and move on to the Thanksgiving celebration at Sheriff Lily Ross' home.  

The section about dehydrated grape brick turning into wine when Mama, Lily, and Marvena are preparing for dinner was  fun. 

Under the Volstead Act, whose rules regulated Prohibition, grapes could be grown, but only if they were being used for non-alcoholic consumption. Furthermore, if the winemaker sold grapes to someone, aware they were going to use them to make wine, they themselves could be jailed.

It meant that in selling their grape bricks, winemakers had to be able to maintain deniability that their product could be used to produce alcohol. To get around this, winemakers ensured that their grape bricks carried a warning not to leave it in water for too long in case, heaven forbid, it should begin fermenting and turn to wine.

The warning in fact also served as an instruction manual, specifically advising the buyer “not to leave that jug in the cool cupboard for 21 days, or it would turn into wine”.  (source)

One of the strengths of these novels is Montgomery's ability to create a setting in which landscape, culture, historical issues, and characters blend so authentically that the reader is immersed in the story.  In addition, Montgomery has created so many strong female characters--Lily and Marvena and Fiona, such different women, but ultimately made of sterner stuff than they may have ever believed.  

I fell in love with the characters in The Widows, enjoyed them even more in The Hollows, and was glad to join them in The Stills.  The book alternates between Sheriff Lily Ross' pov and that of Fiona Vogel.  

A couple of other interesting facts:  the use of asthma cigarettes to treat asthma and the separation of sexes in many Protestant churches.  Lily speaks of the end  (in 1927) of separation by gender in the Presbyterian Church, and I could only find that many Protestant churches practiced this gender separation.


Historical Mystery.  2021.  Print length: 362 pages.