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Sunday, March 31, 2024

In the Hour of Crows by Dana Elmendorf

A little Southern Gothic, a little supernatural, and a little Appalachian superstition, In the Hour of Crows  is also a mystery.

Abandoned by her mother, and living with an unpleasant grandmother who is known as a "Granny Witch," Weatherly Wilder has an unusual childhood.  Her family has a history as herbalists with strange gifts, and Weatherly's gift is as a death talker like her grandfather.  Her cousin and best friend is a scryer.  Are these gifts or curses? It depends.

Death talkers can often, but not always, talk to the dying and bring them back.  There is a price to be paid for this-- the death talker inhales the death, creating Sin Eater Oil.  Weatherly's been doing this since she was a child at the encouragement of her grandmother.  Her grandmother is a cruel and controlling woman, but she needs Weatherly. Without Weatherly's skill and the death oil, the old woman becomes meaningless.

When a car hits Adair's bicycle killing her, Weatherly refuses to accept it as an accident. Adair "saw" something that bothered her, and Weatherly is convinced Adair's death was deliberate; she doesn't intend to let the wealthy Sloan Rutledge get away with it.

Family secrets are slow to be revealed, but Weatherly has every intention of discovering why Adair was targeted and to hell with the consequences.

I enjoyed the book, but felt that there were many loose ends that were not resolved involving Weatherly's mother, Rook, Gabby Newsome, the fact that everyone overlooks evidence of Adair's death, and the reason for the grandmother being in Stone Rutledge's office.  A sense of incompleteness that bothers me. 

Thanks to NetGalley for this opportunity.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

The Bookwoman's Last Fling by John Dunning

John Dunning's Cliff Janeway was a favorite years ago, and I don't know how I missed this final book in the series. 

Cliff Janeway, former detective and rare book expert, is contacted to review a remarkable collection of rare books from the H.R. Geiger estate. He eagerly flies to Idaho to assess the books and decide whether or not he can except the job.  The collection was amassed by Geiger's deceased wife, Candice, a bookwoman after his heart.  

His meeting with Junior Willis, however, does not go well, and regardless of how thrilled Janeway is with the collection, there are problems to be resolved.

One of the problems: several of the original books of astounding value have been replaced with reprints. Another is that Junior Willis wants this done more quickly than is reasonably or responsibly practical.  How can Janeway locate and return the missing books in the time allowed?  Is he expected to just sign on the line?

Janeway is fascinating with Candice Geiger and her collection, but also with the suggestion that Candice was murdered twenty years ago.  The deal with Junior goes south, but new possibilities arise with his meeting with Candice's daughter, Sharon.  The former detective and the rare book expert in Janeway combine--leading through many twists and turns, including spending time as ginney (groom or stable hand in horse racing terms), a murder, and attempts on Janeway's life.

  I learned a great deal about horse racing and shedrows (Dunning himself spent time as a ginney in his youth) and the plot kept me in the dark.  Near the end, I thought I had it figured out by the Mad Hatter clue, then an abrupt shift through me off again.  It wasn't until the concluding chapter that the bad guy was revealed.

The Bookwoman's Last Fling was engrossing, but I will certainly miss Cliff Janeway. 

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Echogenesis by Gary Gibson

 I really enjoy science fiction, and this was a strange, but fascinating version that has a connection with our current problems-- mixing dystopia, fantasy of sorts, and science possibilities.

Fifteen people awake in a strange place with no idea how they got there or where "there" is.  They awaken in bodies of their much younger selves with no memories after a certain point in their lives, and this, in addition to their unknown surroundings, disturbs them all.  

Also disturbing for some is that their memories of being decades older inside bodies that are so much younger. They must make adjustments to deal with the teenage hormonal changes that make them quicker to anger and quite a bit feistier.

There are plenty of twists, curious and hostile creatures, and an immediate division among the survivors. Humans are humans with all the flaws inherent to our condition.  

One thing that bothered me was the immediate dislike between Sam and Vic.  I would have liked to have seen that develop less quickly, the reason for Sam's aversion to Vic a bit slower for them to understand.

Overall, a Echogenesis is in many ways more thoughtful than all the action suggests. If you enjoy science fiction, this is a book you may find not just full of twists, but an involving mystery of how and why these 15 people are where they are.

Friday, March 22, 2024

The Salaryman's Wife


3.5/5 stars

The Salaryman's Wife was written in 1997 and perhaps Suhata Massey's first novel.

Rei Shimura is half Japanese and half American, raised in America. She loves Tokyo, but finds herself caught between 2 cultures. For example, she speaks excellent Japanese, but is still trying to learn Kanji, the Japanese character writing system. The mystery is complex with multiple characters and complicated circumstances. The characters are well drawn, and the Japanese setting, culture, and atmosphere contribute to the plot.

I enjoyed it (with the exception of 2 sex scenes that were unnecessary) and probably would have given it 4 stars if I weren't more familiar with Massey's Purveen Mistry series set in India, which I love. I look forward to the next in this series; it is always fun to see how an author develops after a first novel, and of course, I want to know more about Rei's new venture in antiques and her relationship with Hugh.

The narrator was quite good, although it was difficult at times to keep track of Japanese names without seeing them visually.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

The Dark Wives


The Dark Wives by Ann Cleeves


When a young man's body is found outside a care home, Vera is concerned not just with the murder, but with the disappearance of a fourteen-year-old girl at the same time. Reading from the girl's journal, Vera resists the opinion that the girl is responsible, but knows that finding Chloe Spence is of utmost importance whether or not Chloe is guilty. Then another death escalates the suspense and confusion.

The team is undergoing a transition (and some guilt) after Holly's death, and Rosie Bell, the new team member has to find a way in. Rosie has a surprising empathy with families of victims which gives her a contrast with Holly. Her determination is evident, and I like her addition to the team.

Vera is much less curmudgeonly than in earlier novels, but she continues holding on to her opinions before sharing with her team, which is not always in everyone's best interest.

As always, Ann Cleeves draws the reader in with both great plotting and character development. I also appreciated the focus on care homes for profit at the expense of the young people who need help, which is a matter of concern in both the UK and the US.

The conclusion was... broader than expected and evidence of the author's ability to throw in the unanticipated. Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC.