Saturday, April 30, 2022

The City Of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty


Nahri is a very successful con woman in the bazaars of Cairo in the eighteenth century.  She has always had to survive by her wits; she doesn't remember anything about her family or how she got to Cairo.  But things are about to change.  One day she inadvertently summons Dava, a djinn of mighty powers.  He recognizes Nahri as a healer but they are forced to flee Cairo.  Dava feels responsible for Nahri and decides that they must go to the Brass City, Daevabad.  

The two flee across the desert on a long trip.  Along the way, Nahri finds out some history on Dava.  He was a resident of Daevabad, one of three factions in the city.  A war broke out between the groups and war crimes were committed.  Dava's family was massacred and in return, he killed so many of the other side that he was named The Scrouge.  He was enslaved and lived as a slave for many years.  His body died but he is fourteen hundred years old.   All of Nahri's family and the rest of her group were killed in the war and she is the only surviving healer.  As such, Dava believes she will be honored and protected.  The two encounter horrible beasts along the way but eventually arrive.

The emperor of the city welcomes Nahri and tolerates Dava as her companion.  He has two sons.  The elder will be the next emperor but spends his time drinking and partying.  The younger, Ali, has been trained as a warrior since he was a toddler.  There is instant antipathy between he and Dava and both are drawn to Nahri.  Will war break out again with Dava leading the opposing forces?

This is the first of the Daevabad Trilogy.  It was a finalist for both the British and World Best Fantasy Award.  The world building is superb with magical creatures and intricate histories for the various factions.  The rivalry between Dava and Ali is a major pivot point in this book and will be encountered in the others in the trilogy.  The setting is believable and a location and mythology that is not commonly encountered in fantasy.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers who are looking for something a bit different.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Unseen by Karin Slaughter


Things are not going well in Macon, Georgia.  A new drug lord has moved into the city and the Georgia Bureau of Investigations thinks he may have inflitrated the police department.  Will Trent has been sent there to work uncover after a tip from Lena Adams, the woman Will's girlfirend, Sarah Linton, blames for her husband's murder.  After Jeffrey was killed, Lena went to Macon and there she met and married Jeffrey's son, Jared.

Men break into Lena and Jared's house to kill them.  Lena manages to kill the men but not before Jared is shot with a shotgun.  Now he is in the ICU and Jared's mother has called Sarah to come to the hospital.  Lena is hiding a secret from the police with the help of a superior officer and that secret is bringing down more death and destruction.  The mayhem and the fact that Will has to be discreet about his undercover role causes issues between Will and Sarah.  Can Will bring down the drug dealing ring before it breaks up his relationship?

This is the seventh book in the Will Trent series.  The conflicts between Sarah and Will are getting a bit old as this book states that they have been together now for two years.  All of the uncertainty and secrets should have been resolved by now.  But the plot is tense and intricate and the resolution is satisfying.  Lena has been painted as a problem individual since she was first introduced and this book gives her back some of her humanity and a way for her to go forward into the future.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Notes From The Burning Age by Claire North


Ven has lived through the Burning.  He lived in the monastery, not as a priest but as an archivist who preserved the knowledge of previous ages.  He had the ability to translate these texts that had been largely lost in the populace.  The monastery was very protective of this knowledge, holding it secret so that those who brought about the Burning can't do so again.

But knowledge has a charisma and serves as a lure to those who want power.  In Ven's case, that is The Brotherhood who is determined that Ven will translate every document and give them the tools that will allow them to rule over all.  Ven gives them snippets and becomes a spy against them.  Over the years, he will be held in respect, imprisoned and threatened with torture and degraded daily as the personal slave of a cruel ruler.  With help from his network he manages to escape and raise resistance to The Brotherhood.  Which side will win?

This novel feels like it is set in medieval times.  It is an intricate retelling of how the world almost ended and how it may yet if those who are power hungry gain the secrets of the world before. I listened to this novel and the narrator has the perfect voice to bring Ven to life.   Ven is a fascinating character as are those he encounters both those who are horrific and those who provide care and love.  The author has written many novels and uses several pen names.  Readers will remember her 2014 novel, The First Fifteen Lives Of Harry August, which made the Washington Post Books Of The Year list.  This book is recommended for science fiction fans who enjoy dystopian novels.  

Monday, April 25, 2022

Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. King


Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes, have been working a case in India for many weeks.  Their next stop will be California but they decide to break the trip with a stay in Japan where neither of them have ever been.  They board a cruise ship for a trip that will take many weeks.  That makes those riding with them very important.  They are thrilled to meet Haruki Sato, a young Japanese woman returning home who agrees to teach them the language and customs of Japan while on the trip.  They are less pleased to see another group of travelers.  Lord Darcy is a figure from Holmes' past and a blackmailer working in the upper reaches of society.  Holmes despises blackmailers and is determined to keep an eye on Darcy, his new wife and his grown son while on the trip.

The couple is shocked when an evening stroll on the ship reveals Haruki balancing far above on a line and more shocked when she confides in them that she is a ninja, the class of warrior below samurai.  She serves the Emperor and more commonly, his son who is Emperor in all but name as the presiding Emperor is in quite bad health.  

When Holmes and Russell reach Japan, Haruki travels with them, introducing them to Japanese baths, food, architecture and inns.  In one of these, they meet the young soon to be Emperor and he requests their help.  Several years before he gave a book to the English king to show appreciation for his hosting.  He learns later that it is a priceless treasure that should never have left Japan and contains a secret document that is critically important.  He is now being blackmailed by Lord Darcy to get the book back.  Russell and Holmes agree to help but the book is lost along with Lord Darcy's life in the blackmail attempt.

Two years later, Russell returns home one night to find Haruki in her kitchen bleeding profusely.  She is in England to try again to retrieve the book and now the blackmail amount is four times as much.  Can she and the Holmes/Russell couple succeed where they failed before?

This is the thirteenth novel in this series and it won the Agatha Award for Best Historical Fiction.  Readers will enjoy reading more about the relationship between the couple as well as their working lives and will learn much about Japan in the 1920's.  This has been a successful series for King and she plans to continue writing novels in it.  This book is recommended for Holmes fans and readers who enjoy historical mysteries. 

Friday, April 22, 2022

The Death Of Santini by Pat Conroy


In this autobiographical novel, Pat Conroy details his adult life.  Readers will remember his childhood from his great novel, The Great Santini and his life in high school from the novel based on it, The Prince Of Tides.  Conroy grew up in a Marine family with a fighter pilot for a father.  His father was abusive to Conroy's wife and the seven children, beating them all for little or no reason, making their lives full of anxiety and brutality.

In this book, Conroy details how as an adult, he was reconciled with his father and mother after their divorce.  Conroy himself had three marriages with another long time relationship and three daughters.  But his first two marriages ended in adultery and fighting.  He also reconciled with most of his siblings although the sister who was closest in age to him holds him in contempt and hatred.  The youngest son grew up and lived the life of a schizophrenic and ended up killing himself.  Pat details all of these tragedies and the stories of his extended family on both sides.

In addition, he talks about each book he wrote and what the reaction was to each.  His first book was The Water Is Wide and the people of Beaufort, SC, which was the place he most considered home, were not pleased to be shown as racists who were denying a decent education to the black children descended from the Gullah people.  His novels created outrage and disharmony within his family and his detailing of the brutal education he got at the military college, the Citadel, also was a revelation to many.  But Conroy continued to write his truth and was a very successful novelist.

His third marriage, to Cassandra King, lasted twenty-eight years, ending only with Conroy's death.  Conroy had good relationships with many authors and never forgot a kindness shown to him or to his family.  In my mind, Conroy is one of the great American authors who details the South and the live Southern people live.  This book is recommended for those who enjoy biographies or those who love  the Conroy books.  

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Mythic World by Kerby Rosanes


Mythic World is a glorious coloring book for adults.  The illustrations are from legends and mythical creatures from around the world.  There are eighty-six pages of incredibly detailed panels to color.  At the back of the book, there are explanations of each legend with the country of origin.  Rosanes is a Phillipines-based illustrator who started his intricate illustrations as a hobby and now works full-time as his fame has grown.  This book is recommended for adults who enjoy coloring.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Shadow Man by Alan Drew


Rancho Santa Elena is a bedroom community in California.  Residents come there for the low crime and the excellent public schools, fleeing the dirt and crime of the cities.  The constant construction of new houses is changing the landscape, destroying the ranches and horse trails that had given the city its name.

Detective Ben Wade grew up there.  He left and worked in a city police force but as his daughter, Emma, grew older, he and his wife decided to move back home.  Unspoken was the thought that a move might save his marriage but that didn't work out and his wife, Rachel, is now an ex-wife and Ben lives alone up on the ranch he grew up on.

Now evil has come to the town.  A serial killer is riding the interstates, emerging at night to find victims.  He breaks into houses, often through unlocked doors, and strangles the women he finds there.  The police force is on high alert trying to catch him.  Ben is involved in the case although he is also working the death of a teenage boy found in a strawberry field, the child of immigrants.  Ben worries about his wife and daughter, now alone in a condo and he worries about his town.

Ben was a swimmer at the high school growing up and the teenage boy was also.  Santa Elena has a famous swimming program that produces scholarship level swimmers who win state records and some of whom even make the Olympic team.  But Ben knows there is a dark secret that is the other side of the success and glory that swimming brings the boys.  Somehow it all seems intertwined, the killer, the secrets kept by the city and the boys sacrificed to keep the secret going.  Can Ben save his city?

This is an interesting exploration of several themes.  The erosion of unsettled places as people flee crime, the dark secrets that everyone is suspicious about but not willing to deal with, the effect that teenage trauma can have on adults throughout their lives and the ability to finally confront the evil that has haunted one are all found here.  Readers will be interested in the main character, Ben, and hope that he finds a way forward through the memories that haunt him.  The next book in this series is going to be released later this year and readers will get a chance to see what Ben is like after the events in this book.  This book is recommended for readers of psychological suspense.  

Sunday, April 17, 2022

The Water's Lovely by Ruth Rendell


Ismay and Heather are sisters and they share a flat.  Their mother and aunt live upstairs as the mother has mental issues.  The sisters are close, perhaps too close, Ismay thinks.  Their mother's troubles started after the death of her husband, the sister's stepfather.  Ismay has always had suspicions that Heather had something to do with that death as the stepfather drowned in the bath and Heather was the only other person home. Ismay wonders if Heather drowned him to protect Ismay from him as he seemed to have more than a stepfather's interest in her.   But nothing was said at the time and now she can't ask Heather about it.

Both of the women have recently found relationships.  Heather has Edmund and she is the first woman Edmund has fallen for.  The two move in together and later marry.  Ismay is madly in love with Andrew but he seems less committed to her. He also desperately despises Heather and Edmund and threatens to leave Ismay unless she gets rid of them.  Then he leaves her anyway for another woman.  When the new woman is found dead, Ismay wonders if Heather is protecting her again.  

Then there is Marion.  Entering her forties, Marion has always had to live by her wits, taking low-paying jobs helping elderly people who she hoodwinks and steals from.  Marion finds out about the earlier death and starts to blackmail Ismay.  How will this play out?

Ruth Rendell specialized in books of psychological suspense.  This book falls into that category.  The reader is drawn into the sisters' lives and the conflicts they are going through.  There are multiple threads, all of which end up being intertwined and satisfactorily resolved.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, April 15, 2022

The Innocents by Francesca Segal


Adam Newman is twenty-eight, a soon to be partner in an investment firm in London and about to be married.  He has known Rachel all his life and they have been dating since high school.  He works for Rachel's father's firm and their social life includes many family functions and gatherings where he knows everyone since their part of London is full of the people he has known all his life.  Adam is excited and feels that he is about to make the final move towards his adult life.  He thinks Rachel will be the perfect wife and the fact that he knows and loves all her family as she does his makes the prospect even more appealing.

Then it happens.  Rachel's cousin, Ellie, comes back to London from New York.  Ellie's mother was killed in a terrorist attack in Israel when she was a young girl and she grew up in Rachel's house.  She is a model and there are rumors that her life has gone off the track.  Her college has asked her to leave.  She has been in an adult film.  She may have been involved with a scandalous older man whose affairs are now being publicized during his messy divorce. 

Regardless, when Adam sees Ellie, he feels an instant connection.  He feels guilty but feels compelled to find situations where he can see her.  He starts to look at Rachel differently, seeing her as provincial rather than his dream partner.  When his attraction is returned by Ellie, Adam must make a decision.  Which woman will he make his life with?

This is Francesca Segal's debut novel and it has been quite successful.  It was longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction and won the Costa First Novel award as well as the National Jewish Book Award For Fiction.  She was the person behind the Observer's Debut Fiction column.  The characters in this novel are finely drawn and caught up in a dilemma that many young people face; should they strike out for a life totally new or settle into a life very similar to that of their family?  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Akin by Emma Donoghue


Noah Selvaggio is about to turn eighty.  He is a retired chemistry professor and widower and as he ages his thoughts return to his childhood.  Noah was born in France.  As World War II approached, his father immigrated to the United States while he and his mother stayed behind to attend to his grandfather, a renowned photographer.  When Noah was around four, his mother sent him to join his father, making the long sea voyage by himself.  She stayed in Nice throughout the war, rejoining Noah and his father after the war and having Noah's little sister.

Now Noah is about to return to Nice for the first time and he is quite excited about it.  But right before he is to leave, he is contacted by New York social services.  He has a great nephew he has never met who is eleven and named Michael.  Michael has no one to stay with.  His father died of a drug overdose and his mother is in prison.  He had been staying with his grandmother but she has just died also.  Noah is the only relative who can be located.  Reluctantly, Noah agrees to take Michael with him while social services continues to look for a younger relative who will give Michael a home.

So the two take off, eighty and eleven.  There is a huge gap in knowledge between the two.  Noah knows what an adult knows and is surprised how little of his knowledge Michael has studied.  Michael is appalled at how technology illiterate Noah is and how little he knows of current culture and phrases.  Somehow the two find enough of a common ground to get by.  Once in Nice, Noah revisits scenes from his childhood and he believes that he has discovered a shameful secret about his mother.  Michael helps him with his research into his mother's life and provides a different viewpoint from Noah's.  The two start to gel together but of course this relationship is only temporary.

Emma Donoghue has written a heartwarming novel with memorable characters.  Michael has had about as much bad luck thrown at him as a child can and remains a charming individual overlaid with teenage angst.  Noah is a fairly fussy elderly man whose viewpoint may be changed being around this young boy.  The story of their discoveries both about history and their own natures will charm the reader.  This book is recommended for readers of family relationships and literary fiction.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Lucky Alan by Jonathan Lethem


In this anthology, the reader gets a look into the mind of Jonathan Lethem.  There are nine stories.  The first is the title story and is about a theatre director living in Manhattan and a financial investor.  The two meet on the street as they live in the same neighborhood and strike up a friendship.  The director is older but the other man is young and seems wealthy.   After a visit abroad, he returns with an Asian wife who then becomes pregnant.  The man dies soon after his child is born and the director comes to question their friendship.

Some of the stories are obscure and others are very relatable.  My personal favorite was the last story which is titled Pending Vegan.  It is about a family man taking his wife and two daughters to Sea World, unfortunately after deciding to take himself off an antidepressant.  

Jonathan Lethem is considered one of our better novelists.  He was a MacArthur Fellow and has won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.  Some of his better known novels include Dissident Gardens, Motherless Brooklyn, The Fortress Of Solitude, The Feral Detective and A Gambler's Anatomy.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Chaos by Patricia Cornwell


Dr. Kay Scarpetta should be feeling fine.  It's a hot summer evening in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and she's walking to a fine restaurant to have supper with her husband.  Along the way, she encounters a young English woman on a bicycle several times and they stop and chat a bit.  Her husband is waiting and they order a wonderful meal.  That's about as good as it gets.

As they sit Kay and her husband both get calls which can only mean a suspicious death has occurred. Kay is the chief medical examiner while her husband is an FBI profiler.  Kay's investigative partner, Pete, comes by and picks her up. They drive to a park and there they find the body of the young woman Kay had met on her stroll, now dead with no apparent cause.

There are other things happening to Kay.  Someone is posting items about her on social media claiming that she is erratic and shouldn't be trusted with such a sensitive job.  Her husband and partner have both been getting false emergency calls, close to the situation implying knowledge but claiming to come from official sources which isn't true.  Kay has been getting threatening emails.  She suspects this could be the psychopath who has been tracking her niece for some time and who is back on the loose after escaping the secured psychiatric hospital where she had been imprisoned.

This is the 24th Kay Scarpetta novel.  Those who have been following the series will be interested in the further events in the lives of the continuing characters.  Those who are reading this as a stand alone will get enough of the background to make it an enjoyable read.  As always, Kay finds a way to solve the intriguing death and the events happening in the background that are the true cause.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, April 11, 2022

New Teeth by Simon Rich


In this anthology, Simon Rich demonstrates what makes him such an up and coming comedy writer.  From pirates who adopt a little girl who makes them mend their wild ways to a giant ape who saved a city but now has no job and feels out of things to a two year old detective on the case of his sister's missing unicorn to the true story of Babe Ruth and how he became the famous ballplayer reimagined, the humor and inventiveness of the author is apparent.  Readers will go from fondly smiling to laugh out loud chortles as they read these delightful stories.

This was a fun book to read.  Simon Rich has written for various television shows such as Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons and Pixar.  He is the creator and showrunner for the shows Man Seeking Woman and Miracle Workers.  The humor is lighthearted and never mean and the best word for this work is joyous.  I listened to it and the various accents and narrations added quite a bit.  This book is recommended for those looking for a light-hearted break.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Criminal by Karin Slaughter


Will Trent has never been this confused.  He is in love, he thinks, with Sara Linton, the doctor that has come into his life, but he is still married to Angie.  That marriage is a joke with her disappearing for months at a time but he has known her for most of his life and its hard to break away.  He seems to be in trouble at work since his supervisor, Amanda Wagner, has sent him to the dreaded airport bathroom scene to work instead of using him on criminal cases.

Then several events occur.  A college student has gone missing, a case that Will would normally be all over but Amanda still keeps him away.  Will decides to share more of his past with Sarah and takes her one evening to the ruins of the orphanage house he grew up in between foster families.  He is shocked to encounter Amanda there and they both end up in the basement when a staircase collapses.  Then the worst news.  Will's father, who has been imprisoned for decades after a series of gruesome murders has somehow been paroled.  Amanda has known this and hasn't told Will and he is as angry as he has ever been.  As the story unfolds, more women go missing and the clues point to the father as the killer.  Why was he ever released?

This is the sixth Will Trent novel.  He has been beaten down by life so many times that the reader can't help but cheer for him to get resolution and love.  The reader gets a lot of Will's backstory in this novel and finds out about Will's past as he does.  There is also a great deal of Amanda's backstory and why she picked out Will to mentor when most people would find him an odd choice.  There is much history about the early days of women police and how they banded together to form a network and fight the old boys club.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, April 8, 2022

Knife Of Chaos by Robert Jordan


As the Wheel moves on to the final confrontation that will determine if Earth survives, the major players work towards their destinies.  Rand is busy dealing with the Seanchan who are overrunning various countries that he depends on.  Perrin is desperately searching for the Shaido renegades that have stolen his wife, Faile.  Egwene has been captured and is imprisoned in the White Tower where she has a plan to undermine the false Aes Sedai leader Elaida from within.  Elayne is in Caemlyn, pregnant with Rand's twins and fighting to gain the support she needs to win the Crown she was raised to wear.

There are also new alliances.  Loial the ogre has run from his mother and the elders long enough and he is found and married to his new wife.  He expects regret but is surprised to find that he is excited and proud of his new wife.  Mat is still on the run with the Seanchan Empress, Tuon, and before things are done, he also finds himself married.  The alliances are set.

This is the eleventh book in the Wheel Of Time series.  Things are getting close to the end and the author is setting the characters in their final places and with their final partners and alliances before the ending battle.  The Dark One has had centuries to plan his strategies and gather his strength and the human race must depend on young Rand al'Thor, who isn't sure why he has been chosen to lead them and questions if he will have the strength and determination to win.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Human Smoke by Nicholson Baker

 This book discusses the events between World War I and World War II.  It is written in short vignettes that demonstrate how the feeling about the war was cultivated and how opinions of the general populace changed as time went by.  It covers the years between the early 1920s and when the United States declared war after Pearl Harbor.

Speeches and letters by world leaders are used to demonstrate this.  The leaders include Hitler, Churchill, Roosevelt and Gandhi.  It discusses the Jewish question and how Germany was not alone in its cruel treatment of the Jewish population although definitely the worst as that nation attempted to perform a genocide that would erase the Jewish people and culture.  But other nations refused to provide a haven, allowing the concentration camps to be established and used.  The personal opinions of Churchill and Roosevelt were also contemptuous of the Jewish people and considered them less than those of their background.

The antiwar movement is covered as is the roundup by England of their German population into camps.  This was one thing I didn't know about and it preceded the American roundup of the Japanese population.  Another surprising thing was the evidence that those high in the United States government had many warnings of the Pearl Harbor disaster and chose not to act.  Some would call it a sacrifice of those men in order to force the American entry into the war.  It also questions the commonly held belief that the Germans were the first to bomb cities.  England was already bombing before Germany began the Blitz.

Nicholson Baker is an author who has written both fiction and nonfiction.  He is also known as an enemy of the now common practice of libraries moving away from physical books and moving to microfilm and ebooks.  In this novel, he enlightens the average person and provides an alternate way of looking at the years leading to the war and the careful grooming of the general population to support it.  The format of short paragraphs illustrating a point and quotes from newspapers and speeches allows the reader to gain knowledge without being overwhelmed.  This book is recommended for nonfiction readers.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Day For Night by Jean McNeil


Richard Cottar is a movie director.  His films have brought him critical acclaim.  He is about to start a new movie, a biography of the German Jewish philosopher, Walter Benjamin.  Benjamin fled Germany with the rise of the Nazi's, living in several locations such as Ibiza, Nice and Paris.  He fled France as the Nazi's conquered it, crossing the French-Spanish border with a visa to the United States.  But although the town they entered was supposed to be neutral, Benjamin's group was told upon arrival that they would be turned over to the Germans the next day.  Benjamin committed suicide.

As Richard is about to start work, he is introduced to a young star, Alex.  While he knows Alex is probably too young to portray Benjamin, Richard is always thinking ahead to the next movie and the one after that so is interested in getting to know Alex.  What he doesn't expect is the immediate bond that the two of them encounter despite Richard being more than a quarter of a century older.  He casts Alex as his star and as the two men's friendship deepens, Richard questions if he is in love with Alex.

The book then abruptly moves to his wife's story.  Joanna Cottar had always been Richard's producer.  Richard dies and Joanna decides to make his film after his death to honor his vision.  She develops her own relationship with Alex, leaving the reader to wonder if Alex is a chameleon who becomes whatever the other person needs to see.  

I listened to this novel and the narrators were perfect.  There was both a male and female narrator and they told Richard's and Joanna's story of their marriage and their relationships with Alex in a slow, perceptive manner.  One of the morals of the novel is that we fall in love with a person not so much a gender and we could change the gender of those we are attracted to as our life circumstances change.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Monday, April 4, 2022

All The Colors Of Darkness by Peter Robinson


Detective Inspector Annie Cabbot caught the call.  A man had been found hanging from a tree near a scenic overlook.  When she inspects the scene, she is fairly sure that this is a suicide.  It's never really clear why an individual kills themselves but it's her job to determine the cause.  Her supervisor, DCI Alan Banks is on a well deserved vacation.

Annie soon determines that the man is Mark Hardcastle who is a set designer for the local community theatre.  She can't find next of kin but he did have a relationship and she is told Mark basically lived with his partner so she goes to notify him.  But when she gets to Laurence Sibert's house, a bigger puzzle awaits.  Laurence is lying on the floor of his study, bloody and dead.  

Annie calls Alan back from his vacation since this case will be very public.  Two men are dead and no one knows that much about them.  Laurence is obviously wealthy but it's unclear what his occupation was.  It turns out that much of his money came from his mother and her successful business.  Did Mark kill Laurence and then himself out of remorse? Was one or the other of the men starting a new relationship?   Did someone else kill both of them?

When Alan arrives and he and Annie investigate, several things come to light.  Laurence had been a government worker but the office he worked for was M-16.  Did that prior life have long shadows that reached his current one?  Mark was working on setting up a new theatre group that would pretty much gut the existing one.  Did that play a role?  Alan starts to believe that this was a very cunning murder where the men's minds were manipulated after Alan and his girlfriend watch a Shakespeare play.  Is he right?

This is the eighteenth Alan Banks novel.  As always, Alan is the intellectual policeman, interested in classic literature and all kinds of music, especially classic and folk.  His partner, Annie, is ambitious and determined to make a name for herself.  The two work well together with all the time pressures and directions from above.  This novel is recommended for mystery lovers.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Things We Do In The Dark by Jennifer Hillier


Paris has lived a hard life.  As a child, she was the victim of vicious child abuse.  Her mother, it turned out, was a cold-blooded killer known as The Ice Queen after killing her lover.  Paris had testified at the trial and her testimony sent her mother to prison for life with parole possibility after twenty-five years.  Paris was sent to live with relatives who resented her presence.  As soon as she turned eighteen, she ran off and made her way the best she could, a way that included stripping in a men's club.

After a tragedy, Paris ran away again and started another new life.  She put her old life and identity behind her and that's when she became Paris rather than the name she grew up as.  She ran to California and started teaching yoga classes.  Eventually she owned her own studio and that's where she met Jimmy.  Jimmy was much older than she but somehow they clicked.  He was a well-known retired comedian who had had a hit series that everyone knew.  It took a while but he eventually convinced her to marry him.

Returning from a weekend away, Paris finds Jimmy in the bathtub, covered in blood.  She is arrested for his murder although it could have been suicide just as well.  Paris isn't that worried about the murder charge because she knows she wasn't even in the area when his death occurs.  What she is worried about is her mother who has gotten parole and is threatening to reveal Paris' past unless Paris pays her off.  Are some people just meant for tragedy?

Jennifer Hillier is a Canadian author whose crime novels have won many awards.  In this, her eighth novel, she creates a character in Paris that the reader can't help but love and cheer for even as it seems life is determined to drag her down no matter what she does.  Paris is an example of how some people can overcome terrible life events while others drown in them.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, April 1, 2022

The Moral Lives Of Animals by Dale Peterson

 In this book, author Dale Peterson questions the commonly heard thought that humans are the only creatures with morality.  He suggests that many animals exhibit the same behaviors and cites interesting and pertinent facts that illustrate his theories.  

In Part 1, Peterson defines morality with chapters on words, orientations, definitions and structures.  He talks about the definite hierarchies that animals establish when they live with each other or just encounter each other.  Part 2 explores the rules that animals have when living together with topics such as authority, violence, sex, possession and communication.  Part 3 talks about attachments and has chapters on cooperation and kindness.  The last section talks about the future of morality.

This is a fascinating look at animals and how they structure their lives  It is perhaps especially relevant as wild animals continue to vanish and as household pets currently have a status almost never seen before with millions of dollars spent annually on them.  Peterson is the official biographer of Jane Goodall and her groundbreaking work on animals and has written extensively on animals, computers and other topics.  One of his prior books received a New York Times Notable Book Award.  This book is recommended for nonfiction readers who are interested in animals and their social organizations.