Joanne’s Mystery Picks

Cold GraniteCold Granite by Stuart MacBride

Any account of child murder, whether it’s ripped from the headlines or found between the covers of a mystery novel, is disturbing .  MacBride’s debut novel, set in Aberdeen, Scotland, and featuring DS Logan McRae is certainly not for the faint of heart. A child murderer is at large and his indignities to the bodies of these little souls is truly gruesome.

If DS McRae thought that he’d be able to ease back into work after a year on sick leave, he had another thing coming.  The strangled and mutilated body of a four-year-old boy has been found in a ditch and they’ve pulled out all the stops to find his killer.  But David Reid’s body won’t be the last one they find.

It’s hard to imagine that anyone could find anything to laugh at in a novel such as this, given its subject matter, but MacBride is able to slide in bits and pieces that do make the reader laugh out loud.  DS Logan himself can be a load of laughs, as he slogs his way through the bitterly cold December in Aberdeen, cursing at Angus Robertson and his six-inch hunting knife which were responsible for his year of sick leave.  Meanwhile, it seems that his superior’s major preoccupation is with his role in the upcoming Christmas panto, which inspires some very creative insults from DS Logan.

Colourful, complex characters, an atmosphere of cold, dark and death, and a plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat.  It doesn’t get better than this when it comes to a mystery!

5 Daggers
Joanne gives this “5 daggers out of 5”.

Weekend Picks

Alex Ross Perry Picks

One fresh and two eclectic films for a weekend I hope to be remembered as summer’s golden exit.

Golden Exits

Nick has settled into a safe existence in a small pocket of Brooklyn, where he currently toils on an archival project for his father-in-law. Soon, 20-something Naomi arrives from Australia to assist Nick for the semester. She has no acquaintances in the city beyond a loose family connection to a music producer who lives in the same neighborhood. For the few months she spends around Nick, Buddy, and their families, Naomi’s presence upsets the precarious balance holding these two households.

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Queen of Earth

Catherine has entered a particularly dark period in her life: her father, a famous artist, has recently died, and on the heels of his death she’s dumped by her boyfriend James. Looking to recuperate, Catherine heads out to her best friend Virginia’s lake house for some much-needed relaxation. Tranquility eludes her, however, as she’s instantly overcome with memories of time spent at the same house with James the year before.

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Listen Up Philip 

Anger rages in Philip as he awaits the publication of his second novel. He feels pushed out of his adopted home city by the constant crowds and noise, a deteriorating relationship with his photographer girlfriend Ashley, and his own indifference to promoting the novel. When Philip’s idol Ike Zimmerman offers his isolated summer home as a refuge, he finally gets the peace and quiet to focus on his favorite subject: himself.

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St. Albert Gazette Great Reading

Book picks as published in the August 28, 2019 St. Albert Gazette. For more great reads, check here.

InnocentsThe Innocents : a novel

By Michael Crummey

A brother and sister are orphaned in an isolated cove on Newfoundland’s northern coastline. Still children with only the barest notion of the outside world, they have nothing but the family’s boat and the little knowledge passed on haphazardly by their mother and father to keep them. This novel is richly imagined and an unflinching exploration of the bond between brother and sister.

 

If, thenIf, then : a novel

By Kate Hope Day

In the quiet haven of Clearing, Oregon, four neighbors find their lives upended when they begin to see themselves in parallel realities. Startling, deeply imagined, and compulsively readable, Kate Hope Day’s debut novel is about the choices we make that shape our lives and determine our destinies–the moments that alter us so profoundly that it feels as if we’ve entered another reality.

St. Albert Gazette Great Reading

Book picks as published in the August 21, 2019 St. Albert Gazette. For more great reads, check here.

Seven or eight deaths of Stella FortunaThe Seven or eight deaths of Stella Fortuna : a novel

By Juliet Grames

Stella’s childhood is full of strange, life-threatening incidents–moments where ordinary situations like cooking eggplant or feeding the pigs inexplicably take lethal turns. Even Stella’s own mother is convinced that her daughter is cursed. When the Fortunas emigrate to America on the cusp of World War II, Stella and her sister Tina must come of age in a hostile new world with strict expectations for each of them.

 

Travelers by Helon HabilaTravelers : a novel

By Helon Habila

A Nigerian graduate student who has made his home in America knows what it means to strike out for new shores. On a trip to Berlin, Habila’s central character finds himself thrown into contact with African immigrants and refugees whose lives previously seemed distant from his own. The walls between his privileged existence and the stories of these other Africans on the move soon crumble.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

Mountain Master of Sha-TinThe Mountain Master of Sha Tin by Ian Hamilton

Ava is thrust into a violent and volatile situation when her good friend, Xu, the Mountain Master, asks her to settle a triad war that has broken out in Hong Kong because he is too ill to leave his bed. She is forced to work against her arch enemy Sammy Wing and his nephew Carter – the new Mountain Master of Sha Tin – as they attempt to regain control of Wanchai.

Hamilton provides a comprehensive summary of Ava’s adventures to this point, providing any new reader with enough backstory to make the events in this novel understandable. However, I always recommend that one reads a series from the beginning as there are often subtle references in previous novels that become germane to subsequent stories.

The violence is ramped up in this novel and Ava is forced to do things that she’d rather not have to. Uncle’s presence is felt more than it ever has been since he died, almost as if he is reassuring Ava that she is following the right path. Her years of working as a forensic accountant have trained her well in approaching complex problems and she falls back on the tricks of the trade that she polished to perfection with Uncle by her side.

Offsetting the violence, Hamilton provides a subplot involving Pang Fai, Ava’s friend and lover, which opens the door to some interesting potential plots. I wonder if he’ll incorporate them in his next novel, The Diamond Queen of Singapore, due out in July 2020.

4 Daggers
Joanne gives this “4 daggers out of 5”