Louise Penny: A Trick of the Light Sunday, Sep 25 2011 

The wonderful Canadian author Louise Penny is back with the next installment in her award winning series featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, his team, and the villagers of Three Pines in A Trick of the Light.

This seventh novel starts with a dream-come-true moment for artist Clara Morrow–a solo show at Montreal’s famed Musee d’Art Contemporain. Penny launches us into the heart of Clara’s terror with the opening lines “Oh, no, no, no, thought Clara Morrow as she walked toward the closed doors.”

Despite her nerves, Clara’s show is a success, the culmination of a life’s work beside her husband, Peter, also an artist. Their celebration continues to a party that evening at their home in the tiny Quebec village of Three Pines, filled with the assortment of quirky and endearing character’s who readers of Penny’s work have come to love and admire.

But the tone quickly changes when a woman’s body is found the next morning in Clara’s garden, and the victim turns out to be a college friend of the Morrow’s and a former close friend to Clara. Who would want to murder Lillian Dyson? And why is she in the Morrow’s garden? The head of homicide for the Surete du Quebec is called in, and Inspect. Gamache brings his team and all of their troubles with him, as they are still healing from the physical and psychic wounds incurred in last year’s magnificent Bury Your Dead.

The art world is represented in Three Pines, from artists to gallery owners,  and all quickly come under suspicion, as well as the Morrow’s themselves. Penny develops the theme of shadow and light that embraces all of her novels, as she explores the face we show the world and the one we keep to ourselves. Gamache’s investigation will uncover deep secrets, and truths that have been hidden which color the world when they are exposed to the light of day. There are consequences for all of the people involved, as Gamache finds a killer even as he struggles with the problems buried deeply within his team and himself.

I thought Bury Your Dead (which just won an Anthony and a Macavity after already winning an Agatha and a Dilys), with its three main story lines and dramatic turns, couldn’t be topped. I was wrong. The message here, that ‘trick of the light,’ will capture you. Penny’s description of the universal shading of truth and deception, along with the way each person seeing the same situation can have dramatically different points of view,  are all compellingly illustrated. The ending of this book moved me deeply with its last visual scene.

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Penny in person a few weeks ago in Maine, on the second day of her book promotion tour. A delightful storyteller, her wit and charm captivated the audience of over a hundred squeezed into the downstairs of Kennebooks bookstore, hanging on her every word.

After reading a brief passage from the new book, Penny described her pathway to becoming a novelist, including her childhood fears, long journalism career, and years of interviewing authors for the CBC. She answered questions readily and honestly, with a wise wit, often quoting from poets who inspire her. She also described the eighth book in the series, which readers will have to wait a year to read.

Any reader who had read Penny’s blog has a good sense of the person behind the novels: the importance of her husband, Michael, their dogs and their home; the small comforts we can identify with and share, from good food to good friends; her delight as the books have gained prominence and continue to win awards. Penny has the distinction of winning FOUR Agatha Awards in a row, a first for any mystery novelist.

Penny was gracious about her success and thanked her enthusiastic readers for helping to spread interest in the series. Her audience was left with a sense of meeting a “new” old friend, one her readers hope will continue to amaze and delight us in the future.

Far Cry by John Harvey Sunday, Sep 18 2011 

John Harvey is the winner of the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger Award, among a host of other awards and honors. Through the years Auntie M has enjoyed both his Charlie Resnick and Frank Elder series.

Now he returns with Far Cry, a story that brings every parent’s worst fear to mind.  

When two teenaged girls go off on a camping trip to Cornwall, only one will return. Heather is the daughter of Ruth and Simon, and when the girl’s body is found in in an old mine, the strain causes her parents to divorce. Each parent copes very differently; Ruth remarries and moves away and tries to start a new life. She even has another child with her new husband. Beatrice is almost same age as Heather was when she died when the unthinkable happens: Beatrice disappears.

Enter Detective Helen Walker, whose investigation takes her to Cornwall to seek a connection between Heather’s death and Beatrice’s disappearance. The officer in charge of the case, Will Grayson, fears a recently paroled child abuser has abducted Beatrice.

But as the two officers wade through the past and closely examine the present, Will becomes suspicious the person who took Beatrice knew her. A race against time begins to rescue an innocent child.

One of the pleasing  aspects of Harvey’s police procedurals is the depth he manages to give his officers, from their private lives to their professional. His characters throughout his novels are described by Marilyn Stasio of the New York Times Book Review as “defiantly alive and unruly.”

If you haven’t read a John Harvey novel, it’s not too late to discover master of the genre.

Reginald Hill: The Woodcutter Sunday, Sep 11 2011 

The Woodcutter is perhaps the sublime Reginald Hill’s most ambitious and well-plotted novel to date. With the Cumbrian landscape a definitive aspect of the novel, Hill manages to take us on a journey of lies and deceit, where love is confused with power, and only a handful of people know what truths prompt the action.

Hill goes back to his Cumbrian roots in The Woodcutter, presenting us with an unlikely hero: Wolf Hadda, son of a woodcutter, an experienced Lake District hiker and climber, who rises from his humble beginnings to the heights of successful entrepreneurship.

Wolf is living a fairy tale existence with his wife, Imogen, only child of Sir Leon and Lady Kira Ulphingstone. Wolf’s father Fred had been Sir Leon’s forestry manager. When Imogen and Wolf fall in love, the young man embarks on an odyssey to make himself worthy of her. After educating himself, gaining polish and a huge business empire, the two married and have one child, a daughter Ginny. With a private jet, a knighthood for services to commerce, and five homes, Wolf is sleeping soundly in his Holland Park home next to Imogen, when the ringing of a bell in the early morning hours changes everything he knows and has built.

With his life destroyed and everyone who loved him abandoning him, Wolf is thrown into prison under repulsive circumstances, protesting his innocence. A tragic accident disfigures him, but nothing could maim him more than the loss of his wife and child, as well as the complete and utter destruction of the life he took such pains to build.

It will take the talents of a young prison psychiatrist, Alva Ozigbo, to gain parole for the silent Wolf Hadda, but once home in Cumbria at the house his father left him, the quest for truth and revenge takes over Wolf’s life. Will Wolf figure out who set him up, and how will he react? Can Alva prevent him from being returned to prison? Does he have a chance at any kind of well-deserved future happiness?

Auntie M is a huge Hill fan, from the wonderful Andy Dalziel and Peter Pascoe series, to his delectable stand-alones. He’s won numerous awards including CWA’s Cartier Diamond Dagger Lifetime Achievement Award. This time around he has written a huge novel where each character’s flaws stand out and multiply, as the unbelievable sequence of events roll forward.

This is an intense and well-plotted book, with the threads of numerous story lines of Wolf’s history merging like a tightly-woven quilt. Ian Rankin says of Hill: “Reginald Hill’s novels are really dances to the music of time, his heroes and villains interconnecting, their stories entwining.

Don’t miss this entertaining and solidly written novel by a true master author.

New Series Additions from the UK Sunday, Sep 4 2011 

Today’s blog highlights two UK authors whose series Auntie M follows.

Stephen Booth’s Derbyshire mysteries have caught on so well that the Guardian calls him “a modern master of rural noir.” The Peak District is always well explored in terms of the dark setting, and this is evident from the opening scene in Lost River.

Detective Constable Ben Cooper is on a Bank Holiday in May when an eight-year-old girl tragically drowns and he is helpless to save her. As this event haunts him, he becomes entangled with the dead girl’s family and the secrets they hide. Was this a horrible accident or a murder? Despite being warned off, he continues to investigate, which brings consequences to his personal and professional life.

In a continuing thread, Detective Sergeant Diane Fry returns to her home town of Birmingham to face the reopening of a case that hits too close to home. The area’s inner city streets are well-drawn, as is Fry’s fraught relationships with her sister, foster parents, and people from her past she learns she can’t really trust. Fry tries to preserve herself as she digs deeply for truths that will be startling and change the way she looks at people she thought she knew.

Booth’s books are well plotted and have a rich, dark atmosphere. The taut relationship between the prickly Fry and the softer Cooper has never shone brighter.

M. R. Hall’s Jenny Cooper mysteries are rapidly gaining an audience in the US. The Redeemed is the next installment in this series that relies heavily on Hall’s knowledge as a former criminal lawyer.

Jenny is Severn Vale District Coroner, a position she fights hard to keep every day, whether she’s battling her own interior ghosts or those of outsiders who’d like her to rubber stamp death certificates. She takes her job seriously, and we  are behind her every step of the way as she battles her inner demons to find the strength to serve justice for those dead.

Hall does a fine job of explaining the differences between a criminal court and that of the Her Majesty’s Coroner, and he’s also well-versed in the debilitating anxiety and panic attacks Cooper struggles with. Her personal life is a mess: a son who spends most of his time with his father; an ex-husband whose new wife is pregnant; and a lover who needs a commitment from her, one she’s not certain she can give. She relies on pills to get her through the torment of her days and nights.

Living just over the border in Wales, that countryside is beautifully described; the area becomes a haven for Cooper in her investigation into three separate deaths. What looks like a suicide becomes more when a Jesuit priest appeals to her for help on behalf of one of  his charges, who confessed to the murder of former adult actress Eva Donaldson. Eva has become a world-renowned anti-pornography crusader. Her murder investigation was rapidly closed when a former inmate, newly out on probation, confessed to her murder.

Father Lucas Starr is not above using emotional blackmail to urge Cooper to look again at Eva’s death. When the suicide that opens the novel is joined by a second, and both were members of Eva’s politically charged charismatic Mission Church of God, Jenny starts to agree that the surface story is far from the truth.

Her inquests will ruffle feathers of the wealthy and the mighty, who use their money and position to block her at every turn. They are not above resurrecting an old family tragedy in the news, one which haunts Jenny as her memory is wiped clean for that time period. Confronting that memory puts Jenny on a fearful inner journey to confront the ghosts of her past. Using the law and her hard-won strength to continue, Jenny feels alone in her quest for the real story. Even Jenny’s court officer is unreliable in terms of support, as Alison is struggling with her husband’s infidelity.

It’s only when Father Starr brings help, just as Jenny reaches the end of her options, that she claws her way to finding the resolution the cases demand, at tremendous personal cost.

Hall’s  Jenny is a flawed woman but an appealing character. Quick to feel frustration and lash out, he manages to have her retain our sympathy and understanding, especially when the decks become stacked against her. You’ll be rooting for Jenny to survive.

 

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dru's book musings

Reading is a wonderful adventure!

JoHanna Massey

"I tramp a perpetual journey." Walt Whitman

MiddleSisterReviews.com

(mid'-l sis'-tǝr) n. the reader's favorite sister

My train of thoughts on...

Smile! Don't look back in anger.

Make

make Your House a home

K.R. Morrison, Author

My author site--news and other stuff about books and things

Wicked Cozy Authors

Mysteries with a New England Accent

Some Days You Do ...

Writers & Writing, my own & other people's; movies, art, music & the search for a perfect flat white - the bits & pieces of a writing life.

Gaslight Crime

Author and reviewer of period crime fiction

Crimezine

#1 for Crime

Mellotone70Up

John Harvey on Books & Writing - his own & other people 's - Art, Music, Movies, & the elusive search for the perfect Flat White.

A thrilling Murder-Mystery...

...now being made into a radio drama

BOOK SHELF

"Tell me and I forget-Show me and I remember-Involve me and I learn"

Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

The best mystery and crime fiction (up to 1987): Book and movie reviews

forensics4fiction

Forensics demystified for the fiction writer

milliewonka

Just another WordPress.com site

Eco Women: Protectors of the Planet!

Saving the planet one day at a time.