Thursday, July 30, 2020
A woman's body is found in the Thames. She was rowing and it turns out that she was a top rower who was a possible participant in the sport at the Olympic level. Rebecca Meredith is also a police inspector which makes her murder a different proposition as it introduces complexities not always found in other murders. Scotland Yard superintendent Duncan Kincaid is chosen to head up the investigation although he is about to go on family leave to be a stay at home parent while his detective wife Gemma goes back to work.
Who could have killed Meredith? Was it someone from a past investigation who is out for revenge? Her former husband who is now on the brink of financial collapse after their divorce settlement? Her former rowing coach who might not be excited to see his former student out-competing his current team? Someone from work who would be impacted by a recent complaint Rebecca had filed? Her new lover who was on the canine rescue team which found her body? Any of these individuals are a possible suspect.
As Kincaid starts to investigate, he learns more about Rebecca. She is a driven woman who will sacrifice herself to gain her goals. What does that mean about the internal complaint at work? Will she sacrifice her career to gain satisfaction? What does it mean to the men in her life, who know that they will always come second to her ambition? Soon another crime occurs; the workshop/home of the man on the canine team is torched and he is hurt. Is this a separate crime or is it connected?
This is the fourteenth book in this series. Much of the action centers around the relationship between Duncan and Gemma and their expanding family. When it turns out that Gemma has a personal connection to the case, it makes Duncan even more determined to find out what has happened and Gemma uses her resources to work the case from another angle. The mystery has a satisfactory ending and the reader is left eager to read more about this couple and their work. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Wednesday, July 29, 2020
Attorney Mickey Haller is one of Los Angeles' best defense attorneys. He is known as the Lincoln Lawyer because he basically runs his practice from the back seat of his Lincoln Towncar. He's found that is the most effective way of managing his business as he spends his days going from court to jails to meetings, rarely settling for very long. He has staff who manage the practice; his ex-wife Lorna does the scheduling, billing and takes care of the paperwork, Earl is his driver and spends his days ferrying Mickey from place to place and he has Levin, his private investigator.
Haller has just gotten a new client and he is excited about him both because he thinks the case will be an easy win and because the man's family is wealthy and can pay big bucks for Haller to represent him. Louis Roulet has been arrested and charged with attempted rape and bodily harm on a woman. The pictures of her injuries are horrendous and the police have recovered a knife belonging to Roulet and his prints are everywhere in her apartment. It appears to be an open and shut case.
But Mickey isn't so sure. Roulet seems like that rarest of cases, an innocent man. He has an answer for everything; the woman approached him in a bar and gave him her address but when he arrived he was knocked out and when he came to the police had been called and he was arrested on the spot. Who is telling the truth?
As the case progresses, Mickey and Levin find evidence that could clear his client but he starts to have misgivings. Is the man really innocent or just more adept at hiding his guilt than other clients? Soon other cases start to impinge on this one and it will take all of Haller's legal expertise to be sure that justice is done, both in this case and the others.
This is the first in the Lincoln Lawyer series. Fans of Connelly's work know that it is later revealed that Haller is the half brother of Harry Bosch. The plotting in this novel is tight and the surprises come quickly. Readers get an inside look at what running a legal practice is really like from the inside along with an interesting set of cases that end satisfactorily. This book is recommended for mystery readers, especially those interested in legal thrillers.
Monday, July 27, 2020
In 1816, a group of young radicals from England gather overseas in a villa. They include Lord Byron, the poet Shelley, a doctor, Shelley's wife, Mary, and Mary's stepsister who is Byron's lover. There is not much to do as it rains incessantly. Bored, Byron challenges everyone to write a new work, including the nineteen year old Mary. She writes the story of Frankenstein, which she uses to explore her feelings about how each individual has their own worth and every person should be free to experiment and live to their fullest potential.
In modern age Britain, Ry Shelley, a descendant of Mary, is a doctor and a transgender who is making the transition from life as a woman to that of a man. He meets a brilliant scientist, Victor Stein, who is interested in how life can be defined, the field of artificial intelligence and the quest for immortality. Ry is willing to help at first, bringing Victor discarded limbs for his experiments but she hesitates when he reveals the full range of his experiments and what he is willing to do to push the barriers of what it means to be human.
This novel was a longlist nominee for the Booker Prize last year. It is an interesting mix of the two time periods and what it means to be human in each era. In the early 1800's, it is the ability for women to be treated as full citizens of the countries they inhabit. In modern times, it is the ability of each person to define basic facts about themselves such as gender and appearance, to do the work they desire and to push the frontiers of knowledge. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.
Wednesday, July 22, 2020
Edie Pritchard grows up in a small town in Montana. She is considered smart and intelligent by those around her and fun-loving. As the novel opens, she is working as a teller in a bank as there aren't many career jobs for women in the sixties. The novel is broken into three distinct parts, Edie in her twenties, in her forties and in her sixties.
Edit marries young. She is married to Dean Linderman. Dean is a twin and his brother Roy has always been the outgoing one, while Dean is more introverted. Roy is a salesman, Dean is a mechanic. Dean can't believe that Edie chose him and wonders if she made a mistake choosing him over Roy. Both men want Edie and now, even though Dean is married to her, he spends his days becoming more and more jealous of Roy and what he imagines Edie might feel for him. When Edie and Roy go on an errand that ends in a disaster, it precipitates Edie's decision that this life might not be for her.
In her second stage, Edie has moved away and is now married to Gary Dunn. Dunn is wealthy and is determined to control all around him, including Edie. When she gets a call from Roy asking her to return to her first home to visit with Dean, who is sick, Gary immediately says no. Edie decides that she will determine where and when she goes places and takes off with her daughter. Dunn follows her and there is a scene that comes from the men around her trying to control her.
Finally, in the last stage, Edie is now in her sixties and on her own. She has moved back to her hometown and lives quietly in an apartment, working and having a few friends. Her life is turned around when her granddaughter decides to visit out of the blue. She brings her boyfriend and the boyfriend's brother and it's clear that these men are trouble. They are the kind who drift from town to town, scheming get rich quick schemes and not too careful to follow the law. The granddaughter leaves with them but then contacts Edie wanting her to come find her and take her back. When Edie does, she is forced into a confrontation with the brother who is determined to keep his brother's girlfriend with them.
This is an interesting novel from successful novelist Larry Watson. As with other novels, he writes about small town life, about people who live lives of quiet desperation and who attempt to find happiness in their surroundings. Edie spends her life trying to throw off the need of men to control her life; her decisions and her happiness. Whether the control is overt or convert, it exists in every male relationship she encounters and the reader is left wondering if Watson sees this as a given in male-female encounter. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.
Monday, July 20, 2020
Detective Gemma Woodstock is faced with a difficult homicide investigation. She is the lead detective in the small town where she grew up and where she knows everyone and everyone knows her. The victim in this case is Rosalind Ryan, the English and drama teacher at the school where she and Gemma attended as teenagers. They weren't friends back then but few knew that Gemma had issues with Rosalind. Rose, as some called her, was beautiful even back then and she was the new girlfriend Gemma's first love, Jake, turned to after he broke up with Gemma.
Now Rosalind has been found floating in the lake behind the school. Although she was liked, no one seemed to know her well and there are several fields of inquiries. The surviving family is her father and three brothers, none of whom seem to be that upset about Rosalind's death. There are rumors about Rosalind at school. Some people think she was involved with the principal who seemed to favor her while others gossiped that she was much too close with the male students. The autopsy reveals that Rosalind is pregnant so there was a man somewhere in her life although there is no overt signs of one.
Gemma has other issues. Her relationship at home with her partner, Simon, is floundering. The main thing that is keeping them together at this point is their son, Ben. Gemma is involved in an affair at work with her partner, Felix. He is married with three children of his own and they both know the affair is doomed or that it will tear their lives apart. Can Gemma balance her personal life and her professional one in order to solve the crime?
This is a debut novel for Sarah Bailey. The novel is set in rural Australia and American readers may have some small difficulties with cultural differences such as school schedules and Christmas being hot and steamy. The main character, Gemma, is not a polished professional but rather a woman with demons of her own, trying her best to do the work that defines her. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Saturday, July 18, 2020
When actor Bobby Sullivan's wife and business manager are found dead, in his bed, he is the obvious suspect and is quickly arrested. His movie company is aghast at this development in their marketing of Sullivan and his latest movie and hires an expensive law firm to represent him.
Eddie Flynn isn't one of the city's expensive lawyers but he is effective and creative. When he is hired to be second chair, he sees a chance to be hired fulltime by the firm which will help him in his quest to reunite his family. As he learns about the case, he begins to believe that Bobby is innocent. When the law firm pulls out, Flynn becomes the lead attorney and is determined to do whatever it takes to free Sullivan.
But there is an adversary Flynn never suspected. A serial killer has been operating for years under the radar. His joy is in the killing but also in managing to get someone innocent found guilty for the killer's crimes. Sullivan is his latest case and this time the killer is upping the ante. Through devious maneuvers he manages to get himself on the jury where he gets a front row seat and can assure a guilty verdict. Can Flynn uncover the killer and prove Sullivan innocent?
Steve Cavanaugh has written an intriguing and fascinating novel that is a mix of a legal thriller and a serial killer novel. Eddie Flynn is a sympathetic character and the reader will be pulling for him. The killer seems invincible and it is hard to see how he can lose. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Friday, July 17, 2020
They awake slowly. All six of the crew of the Dormire are clones and they have been recloned after dying. Why would all six of the crew have died at once? As they awake, they realize that all of their former beings have been murdered but who did it?
Their mission is to transport humans in suspended animation to a new planet with more resources as Earth continues to be depleted. The crew are all clones with a criminal past. No one except the captain has access to the files outlining the crimes each individual has committed. And IAN, the AI running the ship, has been damaged.
The crew consists of these individuals. Katrina is the captain. Her second in command is Wolfgang, who is in charge of security. Joanna is the crew doctor. Hiro is a navigator while Paul is also an engineer and is there to work on various systems that have errors. Maria is the cook and general errand helper who cleans and does whatever is needed to keep things moving.
Now they must work together to figure out who killed all of their previous bodies and who is still trying to kill them. They are working in the dark without IAN's help to remember things or give them files to make their jobs easier. As the killer strikes again, the crisis becomes more timely. Which of them is the killer and can the others stop them before all is lost?
This novel was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula Best Novel Award in 2018. It is an interesting premise and in order for the mystery to be solved, the reader must learn about how the clones came to be created, the rules governing their existence and what they are allowed to do. As each individual's backstory is told, the shadowy reach of an individual they all have in common is seen. This book is recommended for readers of science fiction.
Thursday, July 16, 2020
Halfway through July and not much has changed. The virus is now surging in many states, North Carolina being among them. I'm worried about school openings with four grandchildren who could be exposed and more and more children being affected. Our daughter, who recently graduated from college, will be moving home at the end of the month to stay with us until she finds a job, not an easy task in this economy ravaged by layoffs and business drawbacks. We are still self-isolating and while it gets boring, I must say it is good for reading. I read sixteen books in June, and of course got a lot more. Here's what's made it through the door:
1. Other Fires, Lenore Gay, literary fiction, sent by publisher
2. War For The Oaks, Emma Bull, fantasy, purchased
3. The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton, historical fiction, purchased
4. The Muse, Jessie Burton, historical fiction, purchased
5. Monogamy, Sue Miller, literary fiction, sent by publisher
6. The Zero, Jess Walter, literary fiction, purchased
7. Holy Skirts, Rene Steinke, literary fiction, purchased
8. The Lives Of Edie Pritchard, Larry Watson, literary fiction, sent by publisher
9. 2030, Mauro Guillen, nonfiction, sent by publisher
Ebooks I've purchased in the last month:
1. Laidlaw, William McIlvanney, legal thriller
2. Murder On Birchleaf Drive, Steven Epstein, true crime
3. Good Girl, Bad Girl, Michael Robotham, suspense
4. The Marsh King's Daughter, Karen Dionne, historical fiction
5. A String Of Beads, Thomas Perry, suspense
6. Out Of Bounds, Val McDermid, mystery
7. Blood Ties, Samantha Hayes, mystery
8. Hunter's Blood, Val Penny, mystery
9. The Temple Of My Familiar, Alice Walker, literary fiction
10. Eve Of Snows, L. James Rice, fantasy
11. Chaos Awakens, Megg Jensen, fantasy
12. The Origin Of Species, Charles Darwin, nonfiction
13. Walk The Wire, David Baldacci, suspense
14. Lila, Marylynne Robinson, literary fiction
15. The Age Of Wonder, Richard Holmes, nonfiction
16. The Silent Sister, Dianne Chamberlain, literary fiction
17. The Grim Sleeper, Christine Pelisek, true crime
18. Old Man's War, John Scalzi, sci-fi
19. The Future Of Another Timeline, Annalee Newitz, science fiction
20. Pretty Killer, Johnny Truant, mystery
21. Lost Girls, Caitlin Rother, true crime
22. The Last Of The Moon Girls, Barbara Davis, literary fiction
23. Her Final Words, Brianne Labuskes, mystery
24. The Dentist, Tim Sullivan, mystery
25. These Women, Ivy Pochoda, mystery
26. Harbour Street, Ann Cleeves, mystery
27. The Last Time I Lied, Riley Sager, mystery
28. Gnomon, Nick Harkaway, sci-fi
Here's what I'm reading:
1. The Overstory, Richard Powers, audio
2. Pilgrim At Tinker's Creek, Annie Dillard, Kindle Fire
3. The Glass Hotel, Emily St. John Mandel, hardback
4. The Lives Of Edie Pritchard, Larry Watson, paperback
5. War For The Oaks, Emma Bull, paperback
6. Snap, Belinda Bauer, Kindle Fire
7. The Dark Lake, Sarah Bailey, Kindle Fire
8. Atlas, William Vollman, paperback
9. The Lieutenant, Kate Granville, paperback
Tuesday, July 14, 2020
Detective Dave Robicheaux has been a policeman for many years in his beloved Louisiana. Things have changed over the years, of course, His best friend, Clete Purcel, ran afoul of the police force and is now working as a private investigator instead of as Robicheaux's partner. His new partner, Bailey Ribbons, is beautiful and young and he isn't sure exactly what to make of her.
Robicheaux goes to visit Desmond Cormier, another friend from way back. Desmond is one of the few who left and found fame and fortune. He is a movie director and his movies have gained awards. Now he is back shooting a film in Louisiana. The movie business is bringing money to the area but Dave isn't sure it isn't also bringing trouble.
Cormier has surrounded himself with men that Dave isn't sure he likes. There is Antoine Butterworth, who has a reputation as a sadist. Lou Wexler is a lawyer and money man but Dave isn't happy that his daughter. Alafaire, is dating him. While visiting Cormier, Dave spots a body in the water and it turns out to be a young woman who has been crucified and set afloat on a cross. Desmond and Antoine, who are also there, claim to not see anything, nor know anything that can help in the investigation.
More bodies follow. Most are women who have interfaces with the movie folks, but there are other men around who could be involved. Hugh Tillinger is an escapee from the Texas death row, where many think he was about to be executed for murders he did not commit. Then there is the creepy Chester Wimple, who is a mob hitman and one of the scariest villains around. Who is responsible for the murders?
This is the twenty-second Dave Robicheaux novel in the series. Dave is getting older and having survived three wives, feels he is too old for love. His feelings for Bailey are a surprise to him. Clete has his back as always, and the friendship between Dave and Clete is a bright spot in the narrative. Robicheaux's love for his native Louisiana shines through as does his fierce love of family and friends. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Monday, July 13, 2020
The year is 2008 and the location is Haiti. The narrator is a journalist who is temporarily living there with his wife. He looks around for other Americans to pass time with and he meets Terry White. Terry is a former policeman, a homicide detective from Florida. He and his wife, Kay, suffered financial issues in the downturn of 2008 and he has signed up with the United Nations peacekeeping force, composed of security professionals from around the globe who are in Haiti to keep the peace during troubled times and to teach the Haitian policemen their techniques.
Terry isn't thrilled to be there. He is living alone, with Kay coming down for periodic visits. He ends up becoming pretty much a permanent bodyguard to a local judge who was educated in the United States. Johel Celestin has a little influence as a local judge but he longs to do more for his countrymen. He has a vision of building a road from the capital to his impoverished area. There is almost no trade and fresh food is difficult to come by without a reliable means of transportation. It depresses the economy as farmers can't raise crops they have no way of transporting to sell, nor can fishermen make a living. He decides in order to get his road built he will run for the office of Senateur. The current occupant of the position, Maxim Bayard, is old and Johel senses he might be able to be defeated.
Political campaigns are not easy in Haiti. The voting process is full of corruption with voters often selling their votes to both sides. Many just sign in at the voting place and leave a blank ballot for the poll workers to fill out. There are influential men who can promise entire villages to be counted for one side or the other. Can a newcomer fight against this established dominance? Even worse than the political fight Johel is in, he has a more personal issue. Terry White has fallen in love with his wife, Nadia, and they are having an affair. The journalist observes all these conflicts and watches to see what the outcome will be.
Mischa Berlinski's acute observations of personal and political conflict read like the headlines from the latest edition of the newspaper. He immerses the reader in a world most have never considered and finds a way to make this political contest in a remote area relevant. He explores the relationship between men and women and between men with their friends and the sudden explosions that can occur when lust and love come between them. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.
Sunday, July 12, 2020
In this fascinating book, author Robert McFarland takes the reader on a journey to places most of us will never see. All are underground places and each chapter introduces the reader to a new locale and gives the history and interrelatedness of this area to the world around us. Each is a place most of us never knew existed except for a few who are interested in the area or the scientific work that takes place there.
As the book opens, McFarland takes us into underland places in Britain, his home. He talks about those who explore underground and how many have lost their lives there. He talks about a place in old mines under the sea where the new discoveries of physics are done, as they need a large space totally isolated. Another chapter introduces the biology of the forest and how the trees are interconnected and the part that fungi play in the environment.
Moving on to Europe, he explores cities and their underground spaces. There are cities with rivers flowing completely under them. Other have catacombs and old history of abandoned places that are not easy to find but still exist. In Slovinia, he talks about the wars that happened there and how the caves were used as burial sites for the victims of the conflict.
Moving on to Northern Europe, McFarland explores the little known cave paintings of the Far North, not as well known as those in France. Few have seen the red figurines called The Red Dancers. Then he moves on to the glacier areas and explores their majesty and how oil exploration and climate change threatens them.
In each chapter, he explores the science and the history and philosophy surrounding the topic. Each chapter is thoroughly researched and explained. The book has won awards such as a New York Times 100 Notable Books and the Guardian's 100 Best Books of the 21st Century and won the National Outdoor Book Award. It is a book to be slowly read and savored and the reader will turn the last page much more knowledgeable about the worlds that exist beneath our feet, laying the foundation for our lives above. This book is recommended for readers of nonfiction.
Friday, July 10, 2020
When journalist Emma Skye comes to, she finds herself in the hospital. She doesn't remember why she is there but her husband, Damien, tells her she has been in a car accident. But there's more. She was five months pregnant with their baby, Simon, and he did not survive an emergency Caesarean delivery. Emma is shocked not from grief but because she doesn't remember Simon. She doesn't even remember being pregnant.
After she goes home, she tries to recover her memories. She remembers most things from her past. She remembers falling in love and marrying Damien, who is a technology superstar with his own cybersecurity firm. She remembers her parents dying when she was six as well as losing her best friend when she was fifteen. But the events leading up to the accident continue to elude her and for some reason Damien is reluctant to talk about it with her.
After going back to work, she receives a plum assignment. She is given the cover story of Nathan, a TV star who specializes in extreme sports. She is shocked to discover that she has been given the assignment because she had started it last summer but the article was unexpectedly pulled. She doesn't remember why nor does she remember Nathan.
When she goes to interview him, she has to confess that she doesn't remember him or their time together when she started the assignment. He definitely remembers her and from his reaction to her, apparently they had forged a close relationship. She doesn't know how close but her physical attraction to him and his to her suggests that it was more than professional. Could she have been in love with him? Did it have anything to do with her accident and loss of Simon?
Kerry Lonsdale has written an intriguing tale of a young professional woman, determined to have a career and a satisfying love life along with a family. She relates the issues in trying to have it all and the story twists and turns as Emma begins to realize that secrets can kill any relationship. Readers will find themselves plunging deeper into the story as it changes direction again and again. This book is recommended for readers of women's fiction.
Thursday, July 9, 2020
Hanna isn't like most children. Seven years old, she doesn't speak. She doesn't take direction from her parents, especially her mother Suzette. She basically rules the house, everything dictated by what she'll accept and what will cause her to go into a tantrum. School is out as she has been asked to leave several of them already.
Suzette is a stay at home parent but she doesn't want to be. She was a valued member of their architectural firm before she had Hanna but there is no one else who can take care of Hanna. Hanna reserves the majority of her spite and tricks for Suzette who at times loses control and yells at her. Suzette has health issues of her own and is determined to find some help. This creates an all out war as Hanna is determined to have her way and to ultimately have her father, Alex, all to herself.
As Suzette continues to search for help, consulting psychologists and specialized schools, Hanna ups her game. She now speaks occasionally to Suzette when Alex isn't around, cursing and declaiming that she is the last witch burned in France. She even speaks in French sometimes, thus validating the teams of doctors that have insisted there is no physical reason for her not to speak. Worse, she starts to plan and carry out attacks on Suzette, injuring her at times. Can these parents find a way to help Hanna?
This book is every parents' nightmare. The thought of a child determined to do anything to remove the parent from existence is so far from normality that it is a horror to contemplate. It brings up the issues of nature versus nurture and asks the reader to determine which is at play with Hanna. This is a debut novel and the author has an interesting future in front of her as she explores her thoughts in other books. This book is recommended for suspense readers.
Wednesday, July 8, 2020
In 2009, a break-in and theft occurred that rocked the museum and scientific worlds. The small Tring Museum, a division of the British Museum of Natural History has one of the largest collections of birds in the world. Many are of rare birds and birds that are now extinct and were gathered by men who were contemporaries of Charles Darwin. It is a priceless collection as it cannot be replicated and scientists from around the world use the birds in various research experiments on such subjects as pollution, extinction, genetics and others.
But after the museum closed one night, a twenty year old man, broke a window, got into the museum and started frantically stuffing bird corpses into a suitcase. He stole hundreds of birds in a short time, then climbed back out, got on a train and returned to London where he was a student at the London Royal Academy of Music. The man was Edwin Rist. Rist was not only a talented musician who had won a scholarship from the United States to attend the college in London, but one of the world's acknowledged experts in tying flies to catch fish; specifically salmon.
There is an entire subculture devoted to the world of fly tying. Specifically, those interested in this hobby are obsessed with Victorian fly tying and there are instructions which read like a recipe telling someone which feathers and how to make a specific fly. The problem, of course, is that Victorian fly fisherman used feathers from birds whose feathers are now rare or impossible to get. A few exist as attics are raided for female hats which went through a vogue of using large amounts of feathers or auctions of old estates of collectors. But it is difficult and expensive to replicate the original flies.
Rist was brought up in the United States by parents who home schooled him. He and his brother were encouraged to follow any interest that caught their fancy and the parents did anything they could to support the interests. One of Edwin's interest was the flute and he was given music lessons by experts. When he saw and was entranced by his first flies, his parents took him again to experts in the field and conferences where feathers were traded and sold.
What Edwin stole and later sold was priceless. When he was captured and jailed, his parents' first thought was hiring experts to represent him. When Edwin got to court, his legal team called a psychiatrist who explained the Edwin was on the autistic spectrum and could not be held responsible for his acts. He was set free and has not served time for his actions.
The author learned about this case from a fly fisherman guide as he was fishing in the remote rivers out West. He became fascinated with the case and was determined to find out what really happened and where the feathers which were never found were. He spent years interviewing collectors, museum experts, fly tyers and those in the know about the crime. This book is recommended for readers of true crime and for those interested in science, specifically ornithology.
Monday, July 6, 2020
During World War II, two million children were separated from their parents and sent out to the country to live with strangers in order to have them in a safer place. This novel imagines what would have happened if the royal children, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, had been among those children. The two girls are sent away to Ireland, as it was a neutral state, to an estate owned by an old Duke, in exchange for monthly shipments of coal which Ireland was in need of.
Of course, the girls are not send alone. Celia Nashe is a young secret agent and is sent along to serve as their protector, although she is designated to the outside world as their nanny. In addition, a member of the Irish Garda, Strafford, who actually grew up himself on a landed estate, is assigned as the liaison with the local police. There are also military who guard the borders of the estate.
For the girls, the biggest threat is boredom. They are homesick and there isn't much to do with their host not seen except at meals. They are their only company and must entertain themselves with reading and riding horses and whatever else they can do.
But it isn't all boredom. The local IRA is very interested in 'Ellen' and 'Mary', the names the girls are going by in an attempt to remain anonymous. But its hard to hide any newcomers in the country where any small event is news for talk. There are servants in the Hall with local families to repeat any tidbit and men who come and go to the estate. Soon the identities of the girls are open secrets and the men who are always looking for a way to hurt England are scheming to take advantage of this gift dropped in their laps. Are the girls safer or more in danger?
Benjamin Black is the pen name of the novelist John Banville. As a Booker Prize winner, I expected more from this novel but the action was all pushed to the end of the book and everything at the climax happened rapidly. The characters were not as well developed as I had hoped for either. This book is recommended for readers of thrillers and those interested in World War II literature.
Saturday, July 4, 2020
Things aren't going well for Florence. Eighty-four, she is living these days at the Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly but the administration is starting to make noises about her needing to move to the next stage in assisted living. No way is Florence going to go. Although things aren't perfect here at Cherry Tree, it has one unassialably advantage. Her best friend, Elsie, is also a resident and she spends every day with Elsie and makes her feel better about life.
Florence and Elsie have been friends since they were children. Elsie always knows what to say to help Florence remember things, to speak so that others understand what she wants or means, or just to make the days pass by with fun instead of boredom. All in all, life is good as long as Florence is with Elsie. At least until the day the new guy moves in.
As soon as Florence sees the new resident, she knows him by his true name. This is Ronnie, the older guy who brought tragedy to Elsie's family. Ronnie, who was cruel to the women around him. Ronnie, who cheated and lied but who had a magnetism that women couldn't resist. Ronnie, who Florence killed over forty years ago.
It couldn't be Ronnie, but Florence is convinced. He is sly, grinning at Florence but otherwise acting perplexed at why she thinks she knows him. Soon, Florence is being gaslighted, things moved around her apartment, things she thinks are missing showing up, events stages to make Florence look like her mental state is deteriorating. She knows who is responsible but how to convince anyone else?
This novel was longlisted for the Woman's Prize in 2018. It takes the reader inside the mind of an elderly person who is fighting to retain their dignity but who feels the world slipping away, slowly but inevitably, day by day. It is also a mystery which is revealed slowly and with each retelling, the world shifts and we understand Florence a bit better. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.
Thursday, July 2, 2020
Two Australian families' lives are intertwined due to circumstance. The Pickles are a haphazard crew. The dad is a gambler, poor when his luck is bad and rich when it's good. The mother is a former beauty who drinks and parties and pretty much ignores the two children. They inherit a huge house in Perth called Cloudstreet which they are forbidden to sell for twenty years. Since Pickle is unemployed at times, it's good they have a place they can't be thrown out of, but the house is too big for them. So they hit on the idea of renting half of it out.
The Lamb family are the renters. They are the opposite of the Pickles. Both father and mother are industrious, religious and love their large brood of children. They quickly hit upon the idea of opening a store as there isn't one in their neighborhood. The children all help; except for Fish. Fish was a child everyone loved and was everyone's favorite. While on a family outing, Fish has an incident and is almost drowned. The accident leaves him with mental disabilities; he will never grow up. The family rallies round and takes care of him.
The two families rub along together over the years. Winton has them face various emergencies and difficulties and shows the reader how each family handles such events. Throughout the years, the families are never close but co-exist peacefully. When disaster strikes, the two families learn to help each other out.
This epic novel is considered one of the great novels of Australian literature. It won the prestigious Miles Franklin Award, which is Australia's top literary award. The deft outlining of the various characters and the slow recognition of the change in Australia from a rural country to one more focused on the cities is entertaining and informative. Each reader will have a favorite character to follow over the years. This book is recommended for literary readers.
Wednesday, July 1, 2020
Ulster, Northern Ireland in the early 1980's. There is rioting as the Catholic men from the IRA who are imprisoned are on a hunger riot demanding their rights as political prisoners and they are starting to die. With each death, Ulster erupts in riots and men in the streets fighting the police. Detective Sean Duffy is in the midst of this. He is one of the few Catholic policeman in the North, and so besides the animosity for all police, faces extra attention as someone who is considered a traitor to his background. He is also a college graduate at a time when that is rare in the police, someone who majored in psychology.
This background is needed for his next case. A man is found killed and left in an abandoned car. He has the marks of the IRA traitor, shots in his knees and his hands removed. When the man is identified, he is in the paramilitary groups but something else is brewing. The severed hand left with him is not his and there are indications that this could be a murder done because the victim was homosexual. There are also indications that the murderer is interested in classical music; opera in particular. When another victim is found, also a homosexual and with the same forensic indicators, it seems clear that someone is applying violence to the men who are willing to break Irish law to live as gay men.
But of course there are always more cases coming. The body of a young woman is found hanging in the forest. She was the ex-wife of one of the prison protesters, and it is clear that she recently gave birth although there is no indication of what happened to the baby. In the midst of this, Duffy becomes embroiled with the female pathologist who comes with her own baggage. Can Duffy find the murderer before the violence blows Ulster sky-high?
This is the first book in the Sean Duffy series, of which there are currently six. Duffy is an interesting character and the methods he uses to find out what is going on are engaging. He must deal not only with crime but a society that is falling apart and in which he is an anomaly. I listened to this one and the reader's Irish accent added so much to the narrative. This book is recommended for mystery readers.