Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Murder Bay, David R. Horwitz

A really outstanding historical mystery that combines procedural and paranormal elements. I was blown away by the mastery of two time periods, neither the author's own, of 1862 and 1957. Both were fascinating and deeply researched. Horwitz moves effortlessly from Civil War military history to civilian history of the same period, with enormous detail in geographical locations and the characters' backstories. In the 1950s, descriptions of characters doing even ordinary things, like taking a photo with a camera, were captured perfectly.

My very, very favorite part is a tiny bit toward the end, in one of the 1860s segments, in which the young boy is scared by an apparition of Ben, the 1950s cop to whom these ghosts have been appearing - so that there was kind of a weird time-periods bleeding through in both directions, past simultaneously present. Absolutely amazing.

Regrettably, the book was published posthumously and appears to be the only published novel by Horwitz, which is a great loss.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

A Door in the River, Inger Ash Wolfe

I love, love, love this small town Canadian mystery series.

You do need to read them in order, so start with The Calling. I'm going to read The Night Bell (Book 4) over again, which I read first, because now I feel like I really know these characters and I'll get the full resonance. Mostly, I suspect, I just want to keep reading about Hazel Micallef and James Wingate.

I am waiting, hoping, there will be more mysteries in this series!

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Taken, Inger Ash Wolfe

Book 2 of the Hazel Micallef mysteries. In some ways, this is my favorite so far because it's just as clever and funny, but not quite, quite as gruesome (although there are some searing visuals - fishhooks, ugh!).

Running through this book there is a particularly brilliant story-within-a-story with three (!) different (fictional) authors, which was absolutely fantastic. I am tapping my feet with impatience to get Book 3, "A Door in a River," while simultaneously regretting burning through the series so quickly. Please, Michael Redhill, write more!

8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel ÷ 1 Dog = Chaos, Vivian Vande Velde

A laugh-out-loud riot. I read this to my daughter and was utterly charmed. Velde has a poet's gift for words, giving each of the animals a fresh and distinctive voice. I can't recommend highly enough!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Emma, Jane Austen

I picked up Emma because I was hankering for Austen and I hadn't read it since I was a YA, or thereabouts. I remember that I hadn't liked it enormously at the time - Emma makes a lot of painful mistakes; Mr. Knightly seemed very remote, critical, and unromantic - but the book absolutely grabbed me by the heart this time.

I don't know what it was: perhaps because I'm in a position of trying (imperfectly) to educate young ladies, or because I'm more alive to my own errors, or because I've come to appreciate Mr. Knightly's character in a different light. Austen's books, to me, are all exquisite morality studies (in fine pencil, with very delicate shades of grays), in which characters' ridiculousness, often ugliness, are exposed, which almost always, transparently, trace back to raw egoism.

I think Emma is remarkable partly because of Miss Bates, who is described as being silly and tiresome, and yet with a sweetness of heart which the narrator calls out as making her worth of respect, whereas most of Austen's overtly comic characters are simply ridiculous. There is a tremendous contrast between Miss Bates' repetitive, disconnected effusions, and the horrible pretension and hypocrisy of Mrs. Elton. I also love the contrast between Frank Churchill and Mr. Knightly, where Frank, who enters the scene as a dashing, romantic hero, is revealed to be selfish, occasionally malicious, and immature. Mr. Darcy will probably always be the best of Austen's heroes, but I admire Mr. Knightly more because unlike Mr. Darcy he is generous enough to dance when he does not want to dance.

After finishing the book, I watched my way through all the film versions, and this time, discovered the BBC Masterpiece Classic 2009 mini-series with Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller. Sandy Welch, who has adapted a number of period dramas, plays fast and loose at times with the original, but this version absolutely captures the core of the story in a way none of the other versions do. If you haven't seen it, I highly, highly recommend it (available on Netflix). Garai engages and knocks it out of the park. Miller's Mr. Knightly bears a strong resemblance to his Sherlock in Elementary: careful, observant, concerned with truth and right.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Dry Bones in the Valley, Tom Bouman

Very beautifully written - the descriptive passages, ranging from natural beauty to the sordid dwellings, were haunting. Terrific mystery with several nice, unexpected twists. Just overall a brilliant book. I'm looking forward to reading the second in Bouman's series!

Later: My only regret, the more I think about it, is that I wish the case had been tied to the land rights. The nephew would have been a fantastically unexpected villain.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Calling, Inger Ash Wolfe

Recently read "The Night Bell," which I loved so much I'm starting over at the beginning with the first book in the Hazel Micallef series. The villain drives the book here - completely creepy and fascinating, unforgettable. Detectives Micallef and Wingate are smart and wryly funny and have appealing fissures of rawness. Can't wait to read the next book!