Joanne’s Mystery Picks

9781459741218WHEN THE FLOOD FALLS: The Falls Mysteries by J.E. Barnard

Calgary author, J.E. Barnard, won the 2016 Unhanged Arthur Ellis Award for the Best Unpublished First Crime Novel for her mystery When the Flood Falls.  It’s a promising beginning to what appears to be a forthcoming series.

Lacey McCrae, ex-RCMP, has travelled from the Lower Mainland to Calgary with a lot of baggage – both literal and figurative.  She hopes to leave behind a marriage gone sour, and a job that she used to enjoy.  As she hooks up with her old university roommate, Dee Phillips, Lacey finds that the skills learned in her former job are called into play when Dee admits to being threatened on a number of different occasions.

Meanwhile, spring runoff threatens the main bridge crossing in the area and Lacey is particularly anxious about the possibility of being cut-off.  There’s obviously a back-story to Lacey’s anxiety but Barnard only hints at it.

I found there to be too many loose threads in this novel and can only hope that a subsequent book will tie up these loose ends, helping us to understand the cause of Lacey’s fears, the reason she left the force, and why she needed a new start in a new location.

xco2mg4zgjd6hffuiir4rhn6kyA DARKNESS OF THE HEART by Gail Bowen

Bowen’s 18th novel in the Joanne Kilbourn series brings a surprising revelation to the main character and proceeds to examine Joanne’s personal past in great detail.  This revelation affects many of the people in Joanne’s circle but none so much as Joanne herself.  She now has to re-examine her friendship with Sally Love and Sally’s family to understand how she, herself, fits into this new picture that has come into focus.

Roy Brodnitz, a writer of Broadway shows and a good friend of Joanne’s, hopes to examine the family history between Sally and Joanne in a mini-series and approaches Joanne about it while in town working on The Happiest Girl, his Broadway hit.  Soon Taylor has struck up a friendship with the young actress in the starring role and the entire family is thrust into the often seamy side of the movie industry.

This story often got bogged down in the lengthy descriptions and explanations of  past events and people and was slow to move forward where real action was at a minimum.  I found many of the passages to be tedious and was inclined to quickly read over them.  Now that Bowen has provided us with Joanne’s back-story, perhaps she’ll move on to more exciting events in the life of this character.

3 Daggers
Joanne gives this “3 daggers out of 5”

Seniors Book Club October Selection

of this earth1

The Seniors Drop-In Book Club will meet at 2:00 pm on Wednesday, October 10 in the second floor Training Room to discuss Of This Earth: A Mennonite Forest in the Boreal Forest, a memoir by Rudy Wiebe.

About the book

In Of This Earth, Rudy Wiebe gives vivid life again to the vanished world of Speedwell, Saskatchewan, an isolated, poplar-forested, mostly Mennonite community – and Rudy’s first home. Too young to do heavy work, Rudy witnessed a way of life that was soon to disappear. And we experience with him the hard labour of clearing the stony, silty bushland; the digging out of precious wells one bucket of dirt at a time; sorrow at the death of a beloved sister; the disorienting searches for grazing cattle in the vast wilderness sloughs and the sweet discovery of the power of reading.

Rare personal photographs (reproduced throughout the book) and the fragile memories of those who are left give shape to the story of Mennonite immigrants building a life in Canada, the growth and decline of the small Speedwell community, the sway of religion, and a young boy’s growing love of the extreme beauty of the aspen forests – as well as how all these elements came to inform his destiny as a writer. (Publisher)

About Rudy Wiebe (Publisher)

Where the truth lies: Author Rudy Wiebe on what’s important (Edmonton Journal)

Why Rudy Wiebe will never write a funny novel (Q&A on CBC)

A history of Russian Mennonite immigration to Canada 

Mennonites and their beliefs

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

ZARA’S DEAD91b2phikril by Sharon Butala

Sharon Butala’s novel is based on a murder that happened in Saskatoon.  She has fictionalized the case with her own interpretation of the events in this novel, which left me confused and unsatisfied.  Fiona, a former journalist and author of a book about the murder of Zara Stanley, is compelled to take up the case once again when someone shoves an envelope with some cryptic numbers written on a page, along with a name that is unfamiliar to her, under her door.  Fiona immediately begins to make suppositions and draw conclusions based on few, if any, facts, and only her personal feelings about the case.  She jumps in her car and begins a random journey to discover the truth.  As random as her journey is, her thought processes are even more so.  One would think that they were those of a delusional person.

Fiona is off on so many different tangents, none of which are backed-up by any facts.  She seemingly pulls them out the air as if they were arrows pointing to the truth.  However, nothing could be further from that!  This was a disappointing and confusing book, and I’d surely recommend giving it a miss.

1 dagger
Joanne gives this “1 dagger out of 5”

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

34064625BODY ON BAKER STREET  by Vicki Delaney

There aren’t very many surprises in this heavily formulaic mystery by Canada’s Vicki Delany.  When Gemma Doyle and Jayne Wilson, proprietors of the Sherlock Homes Bookshop and Emporium on Baker Street, are approached about holding a book signing with Renalta Van Markoff, the controversial author of the Hudson and Homes mystery series, it’s glaringly obvious who the victim will be in this second book in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mystery.  Not only that, but we know what the “murder weapon” will be a good twenty-four hours before the murder is committed (it couldn’t be more obvious if it was lit up with a neon sign!).

There’s the indignant Holmes’ expert who decries Renalta’s interpretation of Conan Doyle’s invention; Renalta’s long-suffering assistant; and finally, the handsome publicist.  All are considered suspects and Gemma and Jayne take it upon themselves to solve this murder before an innocent person is arrested.

9781487002749THE IMAM OF TAWI-TAWI by Ian Hamilton

Ava has just started a new relationship with the actress Pang Fai when she’s contacted by one of Uncle’s oldest friends.  He wants Ava to fly to Manila to look into the rumours of a college in Tawi-Tawi, an island in the Philippines, which is said to be training terrorists.

While the first part of this novel seems to consist of Ava “living” on her phone, the pace soon ramps up and Ava is thrust into an investigation that is anything but simple.  She partners up with a CIA agent and what they find when they finally are able to investigate the college will chill you to the bone.

Hamilton has raised the bar again with this novel as Ava has to rely on all the guile and wisdom that Uncle ever passed onto her while also digging deep into her own personal resources.

 

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

512bzcnpdhtl-_sx334_bo1204203200_SLEEPING IN THE GROUND by Peter Robinson

When DS Alan Banks and his team are called to the scene of a mass murder it’s as if we’re witnessing an event ripped from the headlines of a newspaper.  Someone has targeted a wedding party outside a church and there are many casualties. When their investigations lead them to a suspect, Banks and his team are left with more questions than answers and begin to second-guess their findings.

At the same time he’s working this case, Banks is dealing with the death of a former girlfriend and the return of profiler Jenny Fuller, with whom he almost committed adultery years before.  Rather than providing a leadership role as befitting his rank, Banks seems to spend a lot of his time mooning about – like a love-sick schoolboy.

Even with these three storylines working back and forth, the novel becomes clichéd and predicable.  Conclusions are reached after minimal investigation and his team make decisions without consulting Banks or each other.  The plotting is shoddy and the characters are mere shadows on the page.  Even the regular characters appear lifeless.  What used to be interesting (i.e. Banks’ music choices) becomes boring and repetitive as Robinson launches into an often lengthy description about the songs and artists he’s chosen to play,  every time he’s within range of a sound system.

Needless to say, this novel was a disappointment.  I can only hope that it’s a one-off and that Robinson’s next book will redeem him in the hearts of his readers.