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October 6 2018
We begin this week with a look at some historical fiction, not bodice rippers or Victorians, but books set in the last century. NOVEMBER ROAD by Lou Berney has the assassination of President Kennedy as the impetus for what I thought was an absorbing and moving story of a couple of ordinary people whose lives were to undergo fundamental change in the aftermath of that event. Laurie Loewenstein's DEATH OF A RAINMAKER is set about thirty years earlier, during the Great Depression. Katie Voss reports that readers will find this debut novel's account of the extraordinary resilience of small town Oklahomans wholly absorbing.
German novelist Alex Beer makes her North American debut with THE SECOND RIDER, set in Vienna in 1919 in the year following the end of the First World War. Although the plot was not strikingly original, I thought Beer's sound research and evocative handling of atmosphere fully repaid the reader's time and attention. Elly Griffiths' THE VANISHING BOX takes places shortly after the end of the Second World War on the pier in Brighton, England. It is part of her Magic Men series, less dark than her archaeologically-based Ruth Galloway books and Jim Napier calls it one of Griffiths' best.
Since the action in Stephanie Gayle's IDYLL HANDS occurs in 1999, it can't really be called historical, but the situation of its newly out protagonist, a small town Connecticut chief of police, as regards homophobia is a measure of a degree of social change. Phyllis Onstad was very pleased with how well both author and character have developed in this on-going series.
In the weeks before Christmas, police inspector Lena Stigersand must deal with a series of murders in freezing Oslo in Kjell Ola Dahl's THE ICE SWIMMER. Anne Corey reports that while Lena retains her cool, the reader is gripped by the fear lest Lena succumb to the danger to her life as she gets closer to a solution to the killings. The detective in Peter Blauner's SUNRISE HIGHWAY, Lourdes Robles, also has to cope with a series of killings. These are young women on Long Island. Barbara Fister reassures readers reluctant to take on yet another serial killer story not to worry as this is a beautifully written novel with vivid characters.
Only one domestic suspense thriller this week, and that is Paula Daly's OPEN YOUR EYES. Nicola Nixon writes that while it contains some interesting remarks about cut-throat tactics in the publishing business, she found the characters largely flat and underdeveloped and the protagonist irritatingly uninquisitive.
If a lot of the books this week have been set in the past, Lisa Brackmann's BLACK SWAN RISING is set firmly in the present moment, in the current climate of internet trolling, social media-induced outrage and violence, and personal attack. Keshena Hanson reports that though the novel has some flaws, its realistic characters and frightening closeness to contemporary reality constitute an enthralling read. George Pelecanos' THE MAN WHO CAME UPTOWN also deals with contemporary reality, in this case the situation of young men in poor Washington DC neighbourhoods. Jim Napier says that this is a penetrating, convincing, and ultimately uplifting look at people living on the fringe.
Barbara Fister says that AND THE FIRE CAME DOWN by Australian Emma Viskic is perhaps not the ideal place to begin since the plot would be clearer had you read the previous novel, but that Visik is an immensely talented stylist who creates characters who jump off the page.
Caryn St Clair says that while books with dogs are often cosies, this cannot be said of BURNING RIDGE, by Margaret Mizushima, as there is nothing cute about the K-9 character here, who is a respectable working dog who knows his business. Caryn remarks that this gritty police procedural set in Colorado, though part of a series, can be readily read on its own. No dogs in PJ Parrish's police procedural THE DAMAGE DONE, but the investigation does cover quite a bit of Michigan landscape before coming to a resolution. PJ Coldren, a Michigander herself, says that the other PJ gets it right.
Finally, a bona fide cosy, this one a debut, LAST CALL by Paula Matter. The protagonist is a bartender in a VFW post in north Florida, who does some sleuthing to avoid being herself charged with murder. Phyllis Onstad felt that the main character was simply too underdeveloped to resonate and hold things together.
Our guest in the "Sixty Seconds..." slot is Lou Berney, whose new book is reviewed this week. You'll find his anwers to our questions in the box over to the left.
Our friends at CRIMEREVIEW have much to say about what's happening in UK crime. You should take a look.
Those of us living Canada are celebrating Thanksgiving this weekend. Ours is much like that in the US except the weather is warmer and the produce more recently harvested. And no pilgrims. We hope that everyone who is celebrating has a very happy day.
We'll be back at the end of the month with much to say about what we've been reading and we hope you'll join us. In the meantime, do get in touch if you'd like to comment on anything we've said.
P.S. If you wish to submit a book for review, please check here before contacting us. Please note that we do not review self-published books.
Our mascot and masthead is Smokey the Cat. Smokey the cat went to the great playground in the sky on April 29, 2008, at 3:30 p.m. He was about 13 years old, had diabetes and only 11 teeth left. He is much happier now. He will remain as our masthead and mascot.
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