The Divorce Papers

Susan Riegar’s The Divorce Papers throws a very different format at the reader, who will love it or hate it. Instead of a traditional narrative, Riegar chooses to tell the entire story of a young lawyer and her divorce client through emails, office memos, legal rulings, and other printed documentation. At first the formatting bothered me and I wanted more interaction between the characters, but by the end I appreciated the difference. More formal documents helped highlight the legalities of divorce, while the letters and emails emphasized the emotions of divorce.

It’s an interesting story as well. Sophie Diehl, a young lawyer, and her partnered mentor team up on a divorce because of Sophie’s lack of experience on divorce. In fact, she’s only taking on the divorce because the wife is a wealthy daughter of one of the firm’s oldest families requested her after an initial meeting. This divorce deals with a lot of money, which is used as a front for all the hurt emotions felt, which is probably typical for most divorces. Through email, Sophie uses her close friend as a sounding board for her career and personal life and we’re able to see a closeness in their relationship even though they never interact in person in the novel.

This was an interesting read because of the formatting and it really showed how technology doesn’t have to distance us from each other.

Read June 2015

The Secret of the Nightingale Palace

What happens when a young Jewish girls falls in love with a Japanese boy at the beginning of WWII? How does this brief love affair tear apart the girl and how can she ever recover? What happens when a gay Jewish man needs to marry and produce an heir for his department store empire? What happens if a wife hated her husband as he died from cancer?

These are some of the questions that Anna and Goldie, an estranged granddaughter and grandmother, will learn about each other as they cross the country from New York City to San Francisco. Goldie is an overbearing, stylish, wealthy grandmother who had some harsh criticism for her granddaughter’s soon to be husband causing a rift that lasted beyond the life of the husband. Anna, only 35, hasn’t recovered from the death of her husband and hasn’t talked to her grandmother in almost 5 years when she’s summoned to NYC to help. Turns out, Goldie needs to return an item that she’s held in safe keeping to her Japanese friend from her life in San Francisco over 60 years ago.

The story feels a little tired. This isn’t the first time that we’ve had the skipped generation story, whether they’re related like this novel or not. But this is a great story. The grandmother has lived a great and filling life while silently bucking the social norms. The granddaughters story doesn’t feel as full as the grandmothers but she’s also many decades younger. They both learn from each other, but the younger of the two has less history to bring. Its mostly the older, wiser, more stylish grandma leading the way when it comes to figuring out life and love, even if she’s kept it secrets for years. Which should be expected that someone who’s older should understand life better. And while I enjoyed this novel, its something I feel like I’ve read before, and not as original as many of the reviews give it.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read, even if a bit trite.

Read June 2015

Aftermath

Just writing the tags for this novel makes me realize what a dark book Peter Robinson’s Aftermath really is. Almost every violent crime is represented in this novel. Very gory. Very graphic. Acting Detective Superintendent Alan Bank’s in leading the investigation into the serial killer Terence Payne’s house of horrors. Payne’s wife was found beaten and unconscious and the basement filled with bones. It seems like an open and shut case with the only complication being one of the first officers on the scene killed Payne after he killed her partner.

For this being written in 2001, not today, the topical issue of police violence takes an interesting turn in the British system. To the lay observer, it seems logical that the young police officer should not be charged, but the evidence that she killed in anger starts mounting. As does the evidence against Payne. But DS Banks compulsively investigates the murders to make sure they have the right killer.

It seems everyone has a dark past that they’d like to run away from and DS Banks starts putting all the pieces together. This was a really enjoyable and equally dark book. Robinson takes what’s dark about human nature and somehow makes it darker, in a page turning way.

Great mystery!

Read June 2015

The Bone Seeker

M.J. McGrath’s character Edie Kiglatuk is an expert animal tracker which comes in handy when trying to find a missing girl. In The Bone Seeker, Edie teaches at a local high school when Martha, one of her students, goes missing and turns up dead in a Lake that the locals fear is haunted.

Edie has to postpone her teaching to team up with her friend and local policeman Derek Pallister. Derek is considered an outsider because he’s not 100% Inuit, while Edie is able to work closer with Martha’s family to find out what happened.

Martha’s father is the elder in the area and he’s been working with a lawyer to get the area cleaned up. In the height of the Cold Way, this area of the Arctic was used for military storage and it seems that there were lots of pollutants left in the ground which caused many of the locals to become infertile or suffer early deaths. Being so remote makes everything about life harder, but especially fighting the government.

McGrath leaves the reader guessing about what will happen in this mystery and what the military has spent years covering up. But does any of this have to do with Martha’s murder? Its a question that I asked throughout the book and McGrath doesn’t giveaway much until the very end. All the different pieces weave together and Edie and Derek have a hard time determining which clues are important for Martha and which need to be handed over to the lawyer working with the locals.

Throughout, McGrath sprinkles details about the Arctic life and how impossible it is to survive for most people. This is my second Edie Kiglatuk novel and I now believe that McGrath is showing the culture as it is. Edie is a simple woman with simple ways, but a mind that doesn’t let anything get past it.

Great read!

Read May 2015

Still Life

Still Life is a surprising first novel by Louise Penny. The characterization of the main characters that I loved in The Beautiful Mystery is already present in the beginning of their novel life. Both Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir have their detection preferences in this early work, but their relationship is not as defined as it becomes later. I don’t mean this as a criticism, but rather as a plus, since Penny has taken the time to let the relationship occur naturally. Instead of telling the reader that the two are a great pair, she’s let us find out by watching their interactions over time.

In this novel, a private artist has been shot dead by a arrow after having her first public showing of her art work is announced. Chief Inspector is sure that her art work is tied to her death, but he and Jean-Guy Beauvoir must immerse themselves into the small town life to find the motivation of the murder.

Louise Penny writes all the side characters as well as Gamacge and Beauvoir; and once again takes us into a small world where outsiders are not usually welcome.

Louise Penny keeps the reader guessing in this small town mystery, but keeps the tone light and humorous with lessons for those affected by the murder as well as those working with Gamache. He is a kind leader and  does not deal well with an unkind addition to his team. This was another great read!

Read 2015

The Beautiful Mystery

The Beautiful Mystery is not the first novel by Louise Penny, but its the first I’ve read. I was immediately blown away by the relationship between the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his partner Jean-Guy Beauvoir. Theirs is a paternal relationship with the elder Gamache filling a father role as well as boss and mentor. One is thoughtful while the other is all about action.

The two are an interesting pair as they enter the closed monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, a Catholic order so reclusive they were lost to the Vatican for hundreds of years. Penny details the imaginary beauty of this silent monastery as well as the ethereal quality of the music. Its easy to get lost with all the interesting characters that pop up in the investigation of a murdered monk as well as the love of the ancient chants that the order sings in prayer to God.

This closed murder investigation has a twist when a Vatican monk who works in the office formally known as the Inquisittion shows up suddenly without prior knowledge of the dead monk. Is there a Catholic conspiracy or a plain old murder here? Louise Penny delivers a beautifully told story that has the reader handing on every word yet the motive of the murderer remains hidden until the end of the novel. Throughout the story the main detectives delighted me with their personal journeys and obvious affection for each other.

This was another recommendation from my aunt-in-law and this author is sure to become one of my favorites.

Read May 2015

Echo Park

Echo Park is another of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch novels. This time, Bosch is back in the police department in their Open-Unsolved Unit. Bosch reviews a case that he worked back in 1993 when a young woman named Marie Gesto went missing. Back then Bosch settled on a suspect but could never find evidence. Over the years, the suspect, who had no evidence against him, felt so harassed by Bosch that he was able to take out a restraining order against Bosch so that he could not be interviewed without his lawyer present.

Today (2006), an arrested serial killer has claimed that he committed the Gesto murder and as part of a plea arrangement, he would lead the detectives to the body. As always, Bosch is emotionally invested in this case and tags along with the other investigations and district attorneys to try to close this case. Of course, nothing turns out to go smoothly and soon Bosch determines that there is much more to the serial killer than the Gesto murder. While trying to uncover the truth about the 13 year old case, he uncovers a conspiracy involving murderers, politicians, and policemen.

A great, easy read with many twists and turns.

Read May 2015.