A Cool Breeze on the Underground

Don Winslow’s A Cool Breeze on the Underground was a fun book to read. Neal Carey is a graduate student who works for a RI bank and fixes the wealthy clients’ problems. When a vice-presidential hopeful’s daughter runs away, Neal is brought it to find her, clean her up, and bring her back in time for the Democratic convention.

Neal heads to London, Allie’s last known whereabouts, to search the city for her. The charm of this novel is not just in the mystery that Neal is trying to solve, but how he got into this business in the first place. Neal’s upbringing was less than ideal and Joe Graham, who works for the bank, helped raise him into the cunning and great fixer that he is. The flashbacks show how Joe trained Neal in the art of detection, in creative and unorthodox ways. Neal uses his training to track down Allie and trap her all the while battling with the ethics of returning a runaway to the family she ran from.

This was a quick, fun read. Neal’s interactions with those around him are part of what makes this book a good read. He usually says what people want to say, versus what they should, and yet manages to stay in almost everyone’s good charms. He’s a fun character and gets himself into and out of very unusual circumstances.

Read November 2014.

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Awakening

S.J. Bolton’s novel Awakening creeped me out. There are a lot of snakes in this book, venomous and not, and this novel should not be read by anyone who is terrified of snakes. With that said, I’ve never been particularly bothered by snakes and yet while reading this novel I saw snakes everywhere!! In the rain drops that moved the grass on the side of the road. In the roots that gnarled their way across my hiking trail. And I live in an area that doesn’t have many snakes, and yet I was freaked out.

So, with that disclaimer, this book was fantastic! Our heroine, Clara, was disfigured as a child and now tries to limit her experience with fellow humans and focuses her energy on her wild animals that she treats at the veterinary clinic. Unfortunately, her quiet village is being terrorized by venomous snakes and her neighbors seek her out for her reptile knowledge. When a non-indigenous, very deadly snake turns up in a neighbor’s home, Clara works with Matt, the local detective, and Sean North, a TV star who works with wild animals, to try to determine how these wild snakes are getting into homes and killing people.

Bolton include many elements into this mystery. Clara is also psychological mess allowing her disfigurement rule her life. Clara in her quest to understand how the victims are tied together, also uncovers a religious cult that many neighbors were part of over 50 years ago. As she tries to tie the past and present together, she becomes a target.

This was a great, scary crime novel!

Read November 2014.

Her Fearful Symmetry

Audrey Niffenegger tells the story of beautiful twins and how twin-ness can consume them. 20 years ago, Elspeth and Edie parted, never to be together agin, when Edie left her twin and England under strange circumstances that no one quite understood. Edie and her husband have twin daughters who are beautiful mirror images of each other, outside and inside. Julia is the strong willed twin and Valentina is more timid and sickly, and both are currently stagnating in their parents house.

When Elspeth receives a terminal diagnosis, she writes her will so her nieces will inherit everything with a caveat being that the girls must live in Elspeth’s apartment for a year and their parents are barred from entering the apartment.

Niffenegger creates a gothic novel with Julia and Velentina living a warped life, totally codependent on each other and their twin-ness. Once they move into Elspeth’s apartment, right next to the famous Highgate Cemetery, Niffenegger begins to show the differences between the 2 girls. Their symmetry and closeness only allows for one personality to thrive but there are 2 of them to contend with.

To add more strangeness to the story, Elspeth, who passed away early on, begins a second life trapped within her apartment walls. While the twins and Elspeth get to know each other, the story about why the mom and aunt are estranged remains a secret.

This ghost story delves into the supernatural and creates a reality that many hope exists, life after death. Although I cannot imagine anyone hoping that when they die they get trapped in their home to watch the next generation of twins living out a replica of their life. This is a strange, compelling story that I had a hard time putting down. And unlike many horror books that lose their audience with the final horrific reveal, in Her Fearful Symmetry, Niffenegger keeps the reader engaged and the story plausible until the end. Creepy as the end is, I still bought it and all the characterization throughout the novel lead the characters to making the choices they made and created the ending.

Great read! Read October 2014.