A Trick of the Light

In Louise Penny’s A Trick of the Light, we are brought back to Three Pines for Chief Inspector Gamache to solve another crime. This time, after Clara Morrow’s opening of her art show, an old rival is found murdered in her garden. All the town are suspects, along with many members of the Montreal art community that came to Three Pines to celebrate with Clara.

Penny dives into the lives of many artists, dealers, and gallery owners in this novel and shows how long some one can harbor resentment. After the woman is identified, it seems almost everyone who knew her had a motive to kill her. She was a beast of a woman for those who knew her 20 years ago, but a kind, generous woman to those who knew her more recently. Can someone change that dramatically? Was the murder revenge for an old wrong, or maybe one a little newer?

Great read. Great characters. In this novel, Gamache and his sidekick Beauvoir are also dealing with the aftermath of a police raid gone horribly wrong. They continue to deal with this in the next couple of Penny novels, and I should try to get the novel when the raid happens in order to help piece all this together.

Read June 2016.

Call Me Princess

Call Me Princess is about the horrors that can be encountered with online dating. Meeting people online allows a certain anonymity that doesn’t usually occur in the real world. Inspector Louise Rick is called out to meet with the victim of a horrific date rape and has to piece together how the rapist met and chose his victim. Based on the evidence, this was a planned attack and Rick needs to determine if there’s been any other victims.

The clock is ticking and another victim is found, worse off than the first victim. Once again, journalist Camilla Lind investigates the crime from a more personal perspective and  gives the victim an outlet for her pain. This time Camilla and Louise’s personal lives are at odds and the tension in their relationship causes a potential gap in catching the criminal.

I really enjoy how Blaedel delves past the basics of a crime and tries to figure out how the criminal and society in general contribute to the problems.

Another good read by Sara Blaedel.

Read June 2016

The Body in the Birches

In The Body in the Birches, Sophie Maxwell returns to her Uncle’s summer house on the coast of Maine. Most of her family is there to fight for their inheritance, as their Uncle Paul will announce who will inherit the home. The island of Sanpere is a little world of its own, with generations of families vacationing near each other. Most know each others secrets, and most agree that having the family vie for their inheritance could only lead to disaster.

While the premise is interesting, as is the basic story, there are many details about this book that made me cringe. Sophie, upon meeting an attractive nephew of Uncle Paul’s, blushes…often. Who writes about women blushing when they see men? Not usually a good mystery writer. Also, Sophie takes over the cooking after their servant dies. So, shocking, she gets the house. There’s lots of other family drama in this book, but it was pretty clear from the second she walked into the house that she should inherit it, as long as everything was right in the world, which it is, even with people dropping dead and attempted murders.

This was a good vacation read because its always interesting to read about how rich people spend their vacations, but this is not a great mystery that dives into corruption or social injustices.

Read June 2016.

Only One Life

Only One Life by Sara Blaedel is not the first, and won’t be the last, Scandinavian novel that dives into Islamic immigration into an insular Scandinavian country. Inspector Louise Rick and journalist Camilla Lind try to determine if the death of a young, Jordanian girl was a honor killing. Members of Samra’s family are evasive and secretive, making it seem as if they may suspect each other of her death. After Samra’s best friend, a young Denmark girl named Dicta is found dead, the hunt for the killer intensifies.

Both Rick and Lind attempt to break the family’s tight circle, again in different ways. Camilla wants to understand how hard it is for a young immigrant to live between 2 cultures and live her own life while trying to please her family. Louise wants to find out why someone would feel the need to kill a young woman for honor.

Blaedel sensitively moves between cultures as the characters investigate these horrific crimes and shows that making assumptions based on stereotypes is not the best way to run a murder inquiry.

After reading, The Forgotten Girls, I had to read another Blaedel novel. Only One Life was written first and Blaedel evolves as a writer, both novels are fantastic.

Read June 2016

The Forgotten Girls

Sara Blaedel’s The Forgotten Girls is a perfect example of Scandinavian mysteries. Its a stark setting, with overworked and dedicated police officers, dealing with a social injustice that penetrates Denmark’s society.

The Forgotten Girls were institutionalized during a time when family kept mental illness a secret. They truly were forgotten until one ends up dead in a forest more than 30 years after her death certificate was signed.

Blaedel’s Inspector Louise Rick and journalist Camilla Lind dive into a defunct mental institution to try to find the identity of a women found dead. The different interests of the two friends come at the mystery with different intentions, but both have the same goal of helping.

This was a great read with a disturbing and horrific ending.

Read June 2016.

A Walk in the Woods

I loved this book! Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods makes me want to take a couple months off from life and venture into the wild. When the only thing that matters from day to day is getting to the next camping spot. He documents the frustrations and challenges, but the beauty of just walking sounds wonderful.

The information about the Appalachian Trail and how nature is being destroyed in places and preserved in others, is an honest discussion about how Americans use their wild spaces. In such a large country its good to know that there are people working hard to save the woods as close to what they were before America happened. On the other hand, I’m not surprised at the inefficiency of bureaucracy and government as well as the opportunists who want to make some money without worrying about the destruction they may be causing.

This was a well-written book about a very interesting topic. I’m not usually a fan of non-fiction, but there’s something about this book, and also Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, that help me realize how hectic my normal life is and how nice it is to think about escaping from it all.

Read June 2016

Love Me Back

Merritt Tierce’s Love Me Back is a strange book about a restaurant worker who threw away her life, husband, and child to work nights, sleep around, and do a lot of drugs. It seems well-written and intriguing, but either I missed the point of the novel or there wasn’t one. I kept waiting for a moment of redemption or forgiveness or even a good cause for Marie’s self-destruction. There are hints about a religious upbringing and a sheltered life that she’s breaking away from, but it seems like she had a decent childhood.

I read this a month or so ago, so maybe I’m forgetting some key parts of the story (which is possible and why I should document the books right after I read it). But I still liked reading Love Me Back. The character is engaging in her effort to destroy as much of her life as possible. I’d be interested to read another Tierce novel to see if her writing can develop plot a little better than just characters.

Read May 2016