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Readingomnivore Reviews

Discussion in 'Book Reviews' started by readingomnivore, Mar 25, 2014.

  1. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    LAST BOAT TO CAMDEN TOWN is technically the second book in Paul Charles’s Inspector Christy Kennedy series, but it’s a prequel to the first book, I LOVE THE SOUND OF BREAKING GLASS. I recommend reading LAST BOAT TO CAMDEN TOWN first. It was published in 1995.

    When boatmen on Regent’s Canal in Camden Town discover the daad body of Dr. Edmund Berry, up and coming young doctor at St Pancras All Saints Hospital, his death is assumed to be either suicide or an accident. He’d been upset by the unexplained death of Susanne Collins, a patient under his care, but he’d no financial or family problems to account for his taking his own life. A few things cause Kennedy to doubt that Berry died accidentally. Though an occasional drinker of red wine, blood tests reveal Berry’d been heavily drunk on spirits. He’d been on call at the hospital until 2 AM and apparently slept on until 7 AM, when he was discovered missing, not having checked in for his duty shift. Where was he, and where did he get spirits at those hours? He has a contusion around his chest, under his arms, unexplained. Why was he murdered, by whom, and how?

    Charles does an excellent job at keeping readers’ attention focused away from the killer, though an experienced reader may reach the identity and motive ahead of the detective. I can’t say more about the mystery element without doing a spoiler. Much of the storyline establishes the characters (more so than in the “official” first in the series) and relationships, especially Kennedy’s with ann rea, feature writer for the Camden News Journal, and with his investigative team.

    One of the strengths of LAST BOAT TO CAMDEN TOWN is the creation of a viable community of characters surrounding Kennedy: DS James Irvine, DC Ian Milligan, WPC Anne Coles. They have Individual personalities and work together smoothly. “Kennedy, in his ...clueless state, would have been happy to know that the team were totally convinced that he would solve the crime. They were equally satisfied that he could solve each and every case put on his desk. He would have been further flattered if he knew that his team--or posse, as he called them--was the favourite team in the division. They all appreciated the way they were treated as equals and encouraged to help solve the cases. The more usual situation was for the soldiers to do the legwork and, upon completion of the case, the leader would take all the credit.” (114)

    Kennedy is almost too smooth to be believable. His quirks--his obsession with gourmet tea, his office furnished with self-bought and refurbished antiques, his love of early rock and roll music, especially the Beatles--are less convincing, seem at times almost a checklist of humanizing traits. “One of Kennedy’s main strengths as a policeman was that he was not scared of being wrong.. He didn’t sit on the fence. He’d have an opinion on a matter and would act on it until such time as he, or someone else, proved his opinion wrong. At that point, he would start all over again. But he was alway prepared to get on with it.” (154)

    Charles’s evocation of place is outstanding. He also uses humor to good effect, especially in characterization: “ ‘Yes sir,’ [Milligan] replied, relaxing a little on realizing that the detective inspector was, at the very least, human and, what’s more, probably from the same planet as himself--something you didn’t find too often in today’s Metropolitan police force.” (11)

    LAST BOAT TO CAMDEN TOWN gives hope that the Inspector Christy Kennedy series will continue strong. (B+)
     
  2. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    Zoe Carter’s novella PREVAILED ON TO MARRY is a variant on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It was published in e-book format in 2016.

    Carter’s characters are faithful to Austen’s originals and, of course, the outcome for Elizabeth and Jane Bennet remains their marriages to the men they love. Carter begins during Elizabeth’s visit to Reverend and Mrs. Collins at Easter. Darcy and his cousin Colonel Fitwilliam are at Rosings for their annual visit to their aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Colonel Fitzwilliam’s admiration for Elizabeth brings Darcy to the realization that he is in love with her and that nothing except his pride stands in the way of his proposing to her, confident of her grateful acceptance. But when he calls at the rectory, Elizabeth is confined to her room with headache, and Darcy is not admitted. So no proposal.

    The main change in the plot is the introduction of a new character, Mrs. Roberts, formerly nurse to Fitzwilliam and Georgiana Darcy and to Anne de Bourgh. Mrs. Roberts is now retired and living in Mr. Collins’s parish. Helping Charlotte with her visiting of elderly and sick parishioners, Elizabeth has become friends with Mrs. Roberts. In almost-comedic episodes, Darcy overhears Elizabeth discuss with the old nurse her reasons for disliking him so, especially his treatment of Jane and Bingley, including the remark on his not behaving in a gentleman-like manner. He resolves to change and to show himself worthy. Then, when an errand brings Elizabeth back to Mrs. Roberts’s cottage, she overhears Darcy confess to his interference with Bingley and Jane, his regrets, and his intention of immediately informing Bingley of Jane’s presence in Gracechurch Street. When Darcy leaves, Elizabeth completes her errand, and Mrs. Roberts tells her of Wickham’s character and his attempt to elope with Georgiana Darcy. Elizabeth apologizes to Darcy at the next opportunity, the barriers fall, Jane and Bingley become engaged immediately, as do Elizabeth and Darcy. And they all lived happily ever after.

    I wanted to like PREVAILED ON TO MARRY, but I wonder if I read the same story as the gushing 5-star reviewers. There’s not a lot wrong with the story, but the writing is nothing special. The effect is like a carbonated drink without its fizz. Compression of the action doesn’t give Darcy and Elizabeth sufficient time to come to know their feelings, to make changes in attitude and behavior, and to demonstrate those changes to each other. There’s no sense of immediacy or of place. PREVAILED ON TO MARRY is average at best. (C)
     
  3. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    SHADOWS AND SINS is the thirteenth book in Andrea Frazer’s Falconer Files series, published in 2016 in e-book and print formats.

    Many things have changed since the previous story. Market Darley nick is staggered from the unexpected death from natural causes of PC Merv Green; he was found dead in his bed by fiancee PC Linda “Twinkle” Starr, who’s on compassionate leave but who’s already cleaned out her locker and applied for a transfer. DC Neil Tomlinson is the new man on the team, transferred to Market Darley to be close to his girl Imogen, but who now wonders if the move is a mistake. DS Davey Carmichael is eagerly awaiting the birth of his and wife Kerry’s twins. DI Harry Falconer is badly shaken over Green’s death and also distracted by the return to his life of former sort-of girlfriend, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Honey Dubois. She’s repented of her affair and abortion after she’d dumped Falconer, and she’s determined to get him back; he’s not sure he can forgive her. Then Carmichael’s giant Great Dane Mulligan digs up part of a woman’s body in the woods on an early morning walk. There’s one woman reported missing, but as the team begins investigating, more bodies and more unreported missing women. How has a serial killer operated for several years in the Market Darley area without coming to police attention?

    I don’t normally care for the serial killer theme, but because I do like Falconer and Carmichael, I read it. The mystery story line in SHADOWS AND SINS is secondary to the detectives’ private lives, and there’s little sense of the pressure and intensity of such an investigation. Falconer’s angst over his missing cat Monkey and over the return of Honey Dubois and Carmichael’s dealing with the birth of the twins are the foci of the plot. Falconer’s discovering the killer’s identity comes through a dream that prompts him do a background check on the suspects that should have been done days before. It’s almost as if Frazer concludes, this is enough, and rushes to a solution that’s largely irrelevant.

    I appreciate that the introduction of DC Tomlinson adds another believable character to the team to offer a sense of real life, as people come and go in jobs and relationships. Bringing Honey Dubois back is more a problem, because it sets up major shifts in Falconer’s character. Changes in his life and attitude are too abrupt and swift to be believable. I can’t say more without doing a spoiler. My major complaint is that Falconer and Carmichael have become caricatures of themselves with little of the humor that enlivened the earlier books. The number of characters is far in excess of those developed, with little to distinguish between the female victims and no more to individualize the suspects. They remain only names.

    Sense of place, so strong in the early books, is lacking. While I have been a fan of the Falconer Files, SHADOWS AND SINS reads as if Frazer phoned it in. I’m beginning to wonder if the series has run its course. (D)
     
  4. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    LOVE NEVER FADES is Jennifer Joy’s excursion into e-book Jane Austen fan fiction published in 2016. It is a variant on Austen’s beloved Pride and Prejudice.

    Joy changes the story fundamentally by having Mr. Bennet die shortly after a visit to Reverend Collins in Hunsford, at which time he meets Lady Catherine’s nephew Fitzwilliam Darcy. Because of his carriage breaks a wheel, Mr. Bennet returns to Hertfordshire with Darcy, Darcy being on his way to join the Binkley party at Netherfields. Mr. Bennet dies the day before the assembly at Meryton, so the Bennet girls do not meet the Bingley party or Darcy for some months. In the interval, Elizabeth declines Mr. Collins’s proposal, leading her mother to arrange for Kitty and Mary to live with Aunt Phillips in Meryton, Jane and Elizabeth to live with the Gardiners in Gracechurch Street, and Lydia and herself to take a small apartment in London. Mrs. Bennet confidently expects each of the girls to find a husband by the end of the Season. Elizabeth meets the Bingleys through Uncle Gardiner’s connection with a Bingley relative, winding up as companion to Lady Lavinia Rutledge, Charles Bingley’s eccentric wealthy aunt given to outrageous pronouncements and actions. Lady Rutledge is definitely scheming, but to what purpose and for whose benefit?

    Lady Rutledge and Mr. Angelo Carissimi are the only significant new characters. It’s not clear why anyone puts up with Lady Rutledge’s interference, especially Darcy. She’s apparently accepted in the highest social circles despite her late husband’s being a pirate and smuggler later knighted for service (unspecified) to the crown; he remained in trade. Mr. Carissimi owns a shop selling chocolates and other luxury goods at Pall Mall. I can’t say more about his role without doing a spoiler. The main emotion felt by both Elizabeth and Darcy in LOVE NEVER FAILS is guilt--Darcy over something dishonorable he’s done involving Mr, Bennet’s death and Elizabeth over refusal of Mr. Collins that causes the breakup of her family. The angst gets way too deep for feelings that a frank talk could clarify quickly.

    The plot is unnecessarily drawn out, largely through Lady Lavinia’s machinations. There’s an episode with Lydia in the Thames having to be rescued by Darcy. Wickham is only referred to. There’s little sense of place with only generic descriptions of London, Hertfordshire, and Pemberley.

    Several things bother me. One is the use of possible anachronisms. I haven’t looked them up, but use of personal advertisements to seek romantic relationships and the use of the kiss of life in rescuing Lydia seem too modern for the setting. Another is the use of dialogue from other Austen works in LOVE NEVER FAILS; Joy has Darcy use Mr. Elliot the Younger’s definition of “the best company” from Persuasion, as well as moving conversations between characters in Pride and Prejudice. Word choice at times is strange: Caroline Bingley’s “quest for social prowess,” imply/infer, “conquer the battle.”

    LOVE NEVER FAILS has interesting possibilities that are not well developed. (C)
     
  5. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    Sarah Churchwell’s CARELESS PEOPLE: MURDER, MAYHEM, AND THE INVENTION OF THE GREAT GATSBY was published in 2014. It is her premise that F. Scott Fitzgerald used the 1922 murder case of Eleanor Wells and married lover Reverend Edward W. Hall, rector of St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in New Brunswick, New Jersey, as source material for the murder of Jay Gatsby. No problem there.

    Churchwell expands the scope of CARELESS PEOPLE to include not just the murder case and its role in Gatsby but also the Fitzgeralds’ personal activities and responses to the changes in American attitudes, as well as how their lives impacted the evolution of Gatsby. Churchwell researched thoroughly, and she makes many valid points. I have no problem with her methodology. She includes a cast of characters for the Fitzgeralds’ life in New York, for Gatsby, and for New Brunswick. She cites mostly primary and contemporary (especially 1922 newspapers) records in her chapter notes, with a discussion on sources and an extensive bibliography.

    So, why am I giving up on CARELESS PEOPLE at maybe twenty percent read?

    Churchwell believes Fitzgerald wrote Gatsby in chapter order, and she follows the nine chapters of the original novel in her organization. Multiple times in each chapter, she shifts between personal lives, what’s going on in popular culture, and the murder case. Many times these individual segments are only a few paragraphs long. Connections between lives, culture, and the murder are often tenuous. I’m unable to get any sense of continuity or an overview of the Hall-Wells murder case.

    I was excited to find the reference to CARELESS PEOPLE because the writing process and the way writers transform incidents from real life into fiction have always fascinated me. Its chopped-up organization leaves me more stressed and frustrated than illuminated. No grade because not finished.
     
  6. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    Jeffrey Siger’s MURDER IN MYKONOS is the first in his mystery series featuring Andreas Kaldis, newly appointed chief of police for the Greek Cycladic island of Mykonos. It was issued in e-book format in 2008.

    MURDER IN MYKONOS at almost fifty percent read is going in a serial killer, sex trade direction for which I don’t care, so I’m giving up. Kaldis, formerly an effective homicide detective in Athens, is beginning to bring order into the chaos of Mykonos policing, where tourists must be protected at all costs and local crime largely ignored, when a workman finds the bound, nude, decomposing body of a young woman in the bone vault of a disused local church. This is the first in a total of seventeen bodies with the same MO that Kaldis and the chief homicide investigator for the Cyclades region Tassos Stamatos turn up; to prevent a media circus and to give themselves time to identify the victims and find the killers, they keep the serial killings secret. In the meantime, Dutch tourist Annika Vanden Haag is wandering around the eastern Mediterranean, out of contact with her family, trying to find herself after a bad break-up with her boyfriend and on an apparent collision course with the killer.

    Siger shows the development of a working and personal relationship between Kaldis and Tassos--Tassos had worked in Athens with Kaldis’s father, who was too honest and too trusting to survive the politics of the era of the Colonels. After a rocky start, Kaldis seems to be mentoring young cop Kouros successfully. Both are relationships it would be interesting to follow.

    ********POSSIBLE SPOILERS********

    Several things besides the theme bother me. Siger gives hints of Kaldis’s back story but shows little of his thought processes and personal preferences. The most developed character is Annika Vanden Haag and, if ever a potential murder victim brings on her fate, she’s the one. She’s literally TSTL to last for long. She’s completely on her own, without even a cell phone; no one has her itinerary; she wanders the streets and bars literally all night, relying on her ability to understand Greek and her instincts about men, especially middle-aged wealthy men, to keep herself safe. She shows no hesitation about accompanying a previously unknown man in a vehicle for dinner and drinks; she drinks heavily, leaving drinks on the table while she dances or goes to the facilities, then comes back to finish the drink. She’s a college graduate from a wealthy, well-connected family who’s traveled extensively in Europe and in America. Stupid isn’t appealing. Many characters remain only first names or unnamed, even major suspects; many are superfluous to need.

    Siger develops the setting some but not to the extent possible or desirable. It seems improbable that Kaldis and Tassos could keep the discovery of the bodies secret on a small island where gossip is endemic; likewise, that seventeen tourists could disappear on Mykonos without their families and friends producing investigations is hard to believe. There’s no sense of immediacy or pressure to solve the cases. Shifts in point of view between Kaldis and Annika slow the action.

    I may give the series another chance since there are definitely some appealing features to MURDER IN MYKONOS. No grade because not finished.
     
  7. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    Sophia Meredith’s ON OAKHAM MOUNT is a variant on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It was published in e-book format in 2015, first in her Pemberley Departures collection.

    Characters are believable extensions of Austen’s originals, though Elizabeth and Darcy should be trampoline artists, the way their feelings and emotions bounce them between self-doubt, uncertainty about the other’s feelings, and determination to sacrifice personal happiness for the benefit of the other. Both leap to unwarranted conclusions with the agility of Olympic athletes. Lord and Lady Matlock, Darcy’s uncle and aunt, are the only significant additions to the story.

    The plot remains pure Austen through the ball at Netherfield; Reverend Collins proposes to Elizabeth Bennet the next morning. To her great surprise, Mr. Bennet insists that Elizabeth immediately accept Mr. Collins’s proposal as the only means to preserve Longbourn as home for Mrs. Bennet and her daughters after his death. She refuses and, running away from Longbourn to a favorite spot for meditation Oakham Mount, is discovered weeping by Fitzwilliam Darcy, himself under tremendous pressure from his aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh to announce officially and immediately his betrothal to her daughter Anne. Neither he nor Anne is interested in marriage to the other. As they share confidences, Elizabeth’s negative feelings toward Darcy fade, and he recognizes that her innate worth more than compensates for her family connections. They agree to a marriage of convenience, their mutual attraction not evident to each other. But when they return to Longbourn, they discover Jane and Charles Bingley are now betrothed and, within a week after his refusal from Elizabeth, so are Mr. Collins and Mary Bennet, who’d been assigned to entertain him during the family distraction over Jane’s engagement. Elizabeth thinks it only honorable that she give Darcy a way out of their agreement, since she no longer is in danger of being forced into marriage; he takes it as total rejection, and they’re off on the series of misunderstandings that are the focus of the story.

    I’m aware of the different social rules for men an women and manners of courtship in the Regency period, but the continual angst in Elizabeth and Darcy becomes tedious, especially since one frank talk could settle their doubts in short order. As in the original, Meredith devotes little attention to setting and atmosphere except for the splendors of Rosings and Pemberley. At least two scenes reflect modern film adaptations of Pride and Prejudice. One is a reprise of Colin Firth’s wet-shirt scene, this time involving Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam blowing off steam in a scuffle that Elizabeth walks up on when both men are (gasp!) shirtless. The second is from the 2005 film that places Lady Catherine’s visit to Longbourn in the middle of the night, with Darcy and Elizabeth meeting in the fields before dawn finally to settle their feelings for each other and their future together.

    Meredith does not approach the level of wit and irony in Austen’s original, but there are occasional flashes of humor that lighten ON OAKHAM MOUNT. “Though no one could describe Mr. Collins having a volatile nature, the direction of his sentiments had only to change from Elizabeth to Mary, and it was soon done--done while Mrs. Bennet was loudly demanding a poultice for the intolerable pounding in her head. In short, these two young persons were entirely of like mind; they knew they would suit and believed it to be a hopeless matter [because of his proposal to Elizabeth]. It was on the heels of these events that Bingley arrived and all thought of Mr. Collins, entailments and ungrateful daughters was laid aside along with the aforementioned poultice.” ON OAKHAM MOUNT is one of the better examples of Austen fan fiction currently available. (B+)
     
  8. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    Tessa Arlen’s DEATH OF A DISHONORABLE GENTLEMAN is the first in her mystery series featuring Lady Clementine Talbot, Countess of Montfort, and Mrs. Edith Jackson, her housekeeper. One of its strengths is the skill with which Arlen uses historic people and events like the sinking of the Titanic to establish the setting as the Edwardian period before the outbreak of World War I. It’s available in both print and e-book editions.

    The annual summer costume ball at lyntwood,* country estate of Ralph Cuthbert Talbot, 6th Earl of Montfort, is one of the events of the social season, and preparations both above and below stairs are extensive and exhausting. The day of ball, Lord Montfort receives notice that his nephew and ward Teddy Mallory has been expelled from Oxford. He decides to keep the news secret until after the ball; during the ball, several incidents indicate that Mallory is a bounder, possibly a criminal. Around lunchtime the next day, Lord Montfort’s gamekeeper finds Mallory’s body suspended by the neck from his vermin gibbet. Chief Constable of the county, Colonel Morris Valentine, investigates the murder personally but is forced to call on Scotland Yard when evidence of Mallory’s criminal activities turns up. Complicating the situation is the disappearance of two women from the house that night: a guest Lucinda Lambert-Lambert and fifteen-year-old housemaid Violet Simkins. How does their going missing tie in with the murder? Clementine (as she’s consistently called) decides she must find Mallory’s killer so that she can control the scandal that will ensue as the news of his murder spreads. She calls on her deputy Mrs. Jackson reluctantly since doing so is a major breach of the unspoken rules governing family-servant relations. Each woman investigates in her sphere, then they compare notes, and, with occasional input from Colonel Valentine, Mrs. Jackson solves the case.

    The protagonists are both strong women with great determination, cautious of the change in their relationship caused by their collaboration, similar in personality. “Mrs. Jackson’s understanding of the political machinations of their modern world was limited, but she understood human nature. She knew enough to recognize the pit-falls of the hidden ambitions involved whee the suffragette cause was concerned--the Parkhurst women on one side and the home secretary, Mr. McKenna, and the government on the other. Nothing was as it seemed; there were always hidden agendas.” (251) “Rather cynically, it struck [Clementine] that within a few minutes of spending time with their valets and maids [the guests] were all now fully appraised with the known facts of Teddy’s last days: his gambling club, his cheating, his expulsion, and how he had been killed. It didn’t matter what the colonel had said about not discussing among themselves what had happened and how often the servants had been told not to gossip, Clementine accepted that human nature always prevailed.” (85) It’s interesting to watch the two women separated by the chasm of social class move cautiously toward what would be friendship if they were equals.

    Arlen uses both setting and humor to establish character. “Lord Montfort... understood why...had killed the man.... It was understandable but not forgivable. What kept England’s ‘green and pleasant land’ the most civilized country in the world was its laws. The first Baron of Mountford had been present at the signing of Magna Carta, which had led to the rule of constitutional law in England. Laws had been written and refined over the centuries, laws that people of Lord Montfort’s education and background had worked hard to instill and maintain. Without law, without order, England would just be France.” (303) Sense of place is good.

    DEATH OF A DISHONORABLE GENTLEMAN should appeal to fans of Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey. The ambiance is similar. It looks to be a promising series. (B+)


    *lyntwood is consistently written with a lower case letter.
     
  9. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    Terry H. Bhola’s SEARCHING FOR WILD ASPARAGUS IN UMBRIA (UN ALTRO TIPE DI DOLCE VITA) is the story of his and his wife’s move from Brooklyn to Magione in Umbria. They sell up, move, buy and furnish a house using a windfall gift from his wife’s parents, with no jobs in sight, and he not speaking Italian. It was free in Kindle edition.

    I’m giving up at 15%. Sense of place is not well developed. Writing style is conversational but simplistic. Actions are told, not seen, and not particularly interesting.

    What bothers me most is that, at 15%, there are three named individuals in the story besides himself. One is his wife’s cat Jestie (a gray tabby aka “The Rat”), a stray dog Lilla, and a casually-encountered builder Paolo, who only enters at 14%. Wife, her relatives, realtor, solicitor, workmen, neighbors--none are named, his wife the only one in any way characterized.

    SEARCHING FOR WILD ASPARAGUS IN UMBRIA is unappealing. No grade because not finished.
     
  10. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    HIGH ISLAND BLUES is the last to date in Ann Cleeves’s mystery series featuring George and Molly Palmer-Jones. George is a respected amateur ornithologist retired from a career as liaison officer between the Home Office and local police departments; Molly is a retired social worker. Not adjusting well to retirement, they form a private inquiry agency dealing mostly with missing people and ornithological cases. It was published in 1996.

    When her name is used without permission by the Wildlife Partnership, a charity which raises money from local areas to buy and preserve the local lands from development, Lady Cecily Jessop calls on George to investigate the organization and find out who’s behind it. About all he and Molly initially discover is that Wildlife Partnership appears to be legitimate, doing good work, and the woman involved with it is American. Meanwhile, three birder friends--Mick Brownscombe, Rob Earl, and Oliver Adamson--agree to a reunion at High Island, one of several bird sanctuaries outside Houston, Texas, some twenty years after their original meeting with Laurie Cleary, who married Mick. Oliver is accompanied by his wife Julia, whom he’d impregnated before and married immediately after the trip to the United States. They are staying at Oaklands Hotel, where’d they’d stayed before, now restored, financially successful,l and run by Laurie’s cousin Mary Ann Cleary. Mick Brownscombe is murdered; Rob Earl is a suspect, and George is called in by his travel company to support Rob, a longtime friend from birding expeditions. As George works in Texas and Molly looks for information at home in England, the cases slowly seem to converge. Or do they?

    Cleeves keeps attention focused away from the guilty parties, to the extent that the identity of the killers is not adequately foreshadowed. The motive for Mick’s death is believable and its possibility referred to, but with no indication of the connection between then and now. I find that frustrating because, while I don’t consciously try to figure out the killer, I expect to have the information necessary to do so.

    Characters are strong, as always in this series, with shifts between points of view and distinctly different voices that define individuals. Cleeves excels at using atmosphere to develop personality: “[Rob] looked about him to make sure none of his group was around, then took an overgrown path through water oak, willow oak, and hackberry trees. Bird-watching needed concentration and he preferred to be alone.... The rain stopped and almost immediately afterwards the sun came out, slanting through the canopy onto the track ahead of him, the sudden heat making steam rise from the sodden undergrowth. In the sunshine the colours of the warblers were dazzlingly bright, the outlines sharp against the green of the spring leaves. It was like walking into the tropical house of a zoo. Or the Garden of Eden, he thought. All I need is Eve.” (46-7) Sense of place is outstanding.

    I hate that this is apparently the final book of this series. HIGH ISLAND BLUES ends it on a high note. (A-)
     
  11. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    LESS PROUD AND MORE PERSUASIVE is one of Sophie Turner’s variants on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The novella was published as a revised second edition e-book in 2015.

    Characters are faithful to Austen’s creations, but the period of action is reduced to approximately one week. Elizabeth Bennet is at Hunsford visiting Reverend and Mrs. Collins, while Fitzwilliam Darcy and his cousin Colonel Edward Fitzwilliiam are in residence at Rosings Park on their annual visit to their aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Elizabeth’s grace and good manners in handling Lady Catherine’s impertinent, prying questions convince Darcy that he loves her. When he proposes, Elizabeth condemns his behavior toward Jane and Wickham, and he resolves to change; the next morning, he explains the whole of Wickham’s relationship with the Darcy family, which in turn produces introspection in Elizabeth about her own judgement and attitude. As they continue to meet and talk, each becomes convinced of the suitability of their marriage.

    The speed with which both Elizabeth and Darcy sense their faults and begin to change their attitudes and behavior seems too rapid for the amount of change needed. Elizabeth accepts him having met any of Darcy’s family except the Colonel and the de Bourghs; she’s not seen Pemberley. Darcy hasn’t met the Gardiners. Neither has consulted any family members.

    Just as Austen used letters between individuals to convey emotion and to handle exposition, Turner has several that clarify Darcy and Elizabeth to each other. She bases the first in which Darcy addresses Elizabeth on Captain Frederick Wentworth’s letter to Anne Elliot in Persuasion. She takes much of the dialogue between Elizabeth and Darcy from other portions of Pride and Prejudice. Shifts in point of view between the lovers show each’s attitudes changing, but the shifts also reduce the suspense over the eventual acceptance.

    LESS PROUD AND MORE PERSUASIVE is a soothing quick read, but it’s lacking in action and suspense. (B)
     
  12. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    Mignon G. Eberhart’s THE CHIFFON SCARF is a stand alone mystery originally published in 1939, now available in e-book format.

    Averill Blaine, wealthy part-owner of the Blaine Company, sends her friend since childhood Eden Shore an airline ticket to fly from New York to St. Louis, then on to the plantation at Bayou Teche; Eden is to be bridesmaid at Averill’s upcoming wedding to engineer Jim Cady. Cady has designed a reliable, lightweight, inexpensive aircraft engine sold to an unnamed buyer represented by Major Pace. All that remains to complete the deal is the successful demonstration of the engine before the group departs for the plantation. Unfortunately, the engine catches fire during the flight, the plane crashes, and pilot Bill Blaine, another of the owners of the company, and his passenger die. The sale goes on hold until the crash is explained. The party flies out from St. Louis that night for Bayou Teche. However, the party winds up in the Chochela Valley at the ranch of Cady’s old friend, former Chicago policeman P. H. Sloane, who’s agreed to help him discover who’s responsible for the plane crash. As they investigate, motives from the past, allegations of espionage and leaking information, and two more murders add to the mystery.

    I didn’t care for any of the characters in THE CHIFFON SCARF, especially the protagonist Eden Shore and her antagonist Averill Blaine. Both are selfish, inclined to use other people, and disinclined to introspection; their major difference is that Eden is naively unaware, while Averill knows and enjoys what she’s doing. Neither is particularly believable. It’s unlikely that Averill, whose first engagement to Noel Carreaux Eden broke up years before, would want her in her wedding to Jim Cady. Eden’s subsequent rejection of Noel’s marriage proposal added insult to the injury. It’s unlikely that Eden would, after turning him down some five years before, go to St. Louis with the acknowledged purpose of getting Noel to propose again so that she may accept him. Eberhart and contemporaries often used as protagonist a spunky young woman whose family had lost their money during the Depression, forced to make her own way in the world without practical job skills, yet still connected with wealthier friends. Eden is part of this tradition. She’s also TSTL, wandering around alone (the men have all ridden out to investigate the second murder at the ranch) so that she’s easy pickings for the murderer. Her “love at first sight” for Jim Cady is a distasteful replay of Averill’s first engagement.

    There are large holes in the plot. We’re told who sabotaged the plane, but how this is to profit the killer, whose motive is explicitly stated as need for money, isn’t clear. There’s no official investigation of the plane’s crash despite the two deaths; there’s no flight plan filed for the trip to Bayou Teche; there’s no federal interest in the sale of the engine to potential enemy nations, despite the imminent outbreak of World War II. It’s an amazing coincidence that Jim Cady has an old friend qualified and willing to help him keep the wedding party isolated until the killer can be discovered. Marriage of Eden and Jim Cady based on less than a week’s acquaintance is improbable. The conclusion is so abrupt that it seems as if Eberhart had reached her page limit and brought the climax and resolution together as quickly as possible thereafter.

    Sense of place is the strongest element in THE CHIFFON SCARF, though it’s not well developed. The frequent references to the Blaine plantation at Bayou Teche are misleading because the party never gets there. THE CHIFFON SCARF reads well enough if one can suspend disbelief, which I find myself unwilling to do. (D)
     
  13. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    UNHAPPY FAMILIES is the sixth book in Oliver Tidy’s Romney and Marsh mystery series set in Dover, England. It features Detective Inspector Tom Romney and his second-in-command Detective Sergeant Joy Marsh. It was published in e-book format in 2015.

    UNHAPPY FAMILIES is the theme as well as the title of the book. All the cases being worked by Dover CID involve families, both blood relatives and professional. Going to the funeral of Sammy Coker, owner and operator of Tiffany’s Cafe where Romney often eats, leads Romney into accusations of involvement in a pedophile ring of which Sammy’d alleged to have been part. Sammy’s daughter claims he’d molested her for years, leading to their complete estrangement. In a second case, elderly Mrs. Helen Christie’s had a series of break-ins in which nothing is taken and the intruder leaves quietly with no interaction with Mrs. Christie at all. What’s going on? Does the intruder have anything to do with Mrs. Christie’s being the only unconverted house on Victoria Park, worth upward of £500,000? In another, the sudden appearance of a young girl in the road near Temple Ewell has caused a series of automobile accidents, but no child has been found at or near the site. However, a young girl who matches her description had been killed by an un-caught hit and run driver there several months before. Are people mistaken, or is a “ghost girl” causing accidents? Dover CID faces the unexpected death of one of its members and deals with the arrival of a new colleague, Acting Detective Constable Philip Fower.

    Characterization is strong in this series and especially in UNHAPPY FAMILIES. Dover CID is believably professional, a group accustomed to working together successfully, yet each an individual in his or her own right. Their reactions to the cases and especially to the death of their colleague show them to also be a tight family in feelings. All are shown as dynamic characters, including Boudicca, aka Superintendent Vivian Vine, who believes Romney too old-school to belong in the modern police force. Secondary characters are also well-done.

    Sense of place and its revelation of character are strong elements. “The Manstons lived a small and plain semidetached house in Colton Crescent of Rokesby Road, part of a residential development that occupied the high ground, little of it moral, that looked down on the north end of the town. The extended views of greenery that spread out as far as the eye could see behind the indistinct residences that lined the street might have been expected to bring the novice visitor’s feelings for the location. But Romney felt the place had an uninspiring and slightly depressing air about it. He attributed this in greater part to the unimaginative and budget-looking homes that all looked poured from the same mould. Yet another wasted opportunity. The heavy dark skies didn’t help.”

    My only criticism is a sense of the cases solved by the Dover CID as a bit incomplete, unfinished. It feels like they originated as separate plot ideas that for some reason did not jell to the point of becoming full novels in their own right. Despite this, UNHAPPY FAMILIES is highly recommended. (A-)
     
  14. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    Beth Wood’s A CONVERSATION BEHIND THE TAPESTRIES is a novella variant of Jane Austen’s beloved Pride and Prejudice. It was published in 2016.

    Wood changes the characters and story line significantly. Shortly after Georgiana’s near-elopement with Wickham, Fitzwilliam Darcy first arrives at Netherfield Park on the day of his friend Charles Bingley’s ball. Thus he has not insulted Elizabeth and indeed, knows only the Bingley party. To avoid the attentions of Caroline Bingley, who’s stalking him, he dodges behind a tapestry in the ballroom; to his surprise, he finds an unknown young lady hiding from the unwanted attentions of her fatuous cousin, the Reverend Mr. Collins, who’s planning to propose marriage the next morning. Jane Bennet, Elizabeth’s older sister, and Bingley soon join them, as does Mr. Bennet, to whom Caroline has reported the shocking behavior of his older daughters. In response to his teasing, Bingley seriously proposes to Jane and is accepted; Darcy offers marriage to Elizabeth but receives no definite answer. They’d discussed their preference for a marriage based on respect and affection, but Elizabeth is unaware that she’s so impressed Darcy that he’s in earnest. They are in limbo the next morning as Mrs. Bennet convinces Mr. Collins that he’s singled out Mary Bennet with his attentions; he proposes to Mary and is accepted. Two daughters engaged, how can Mrs. Bennet contain her happiness? In the meantime, Darcy and Elizabeth talk; she’s willing to become engaged, with the stipulation of a long engagement in which they can get to know each other and their feelings. If, after Jane’s wedding they’ve decided they won’t suit, Elizabeth will break the engagement. The main portion of A CONVERSATION BEHIND THE TAPESTRIES consists of the clarifying and strengthening of the love between Elizabeth and Darcy.

    ****SPOILERS****SPOILERS****

    I have problems with what Wood does with characters. She has Darcy seriously proposing marriage to Elizabeth Bennet when he’s known her only hours, literally. This isn’t Austen’s Darcy. By Elizabeth’s knowing something about Wickham’s background and not believing his stories about Darcy, and by Darcy’s not insulting Elizabeth’s looks at the Meryton Assembly, Wood removes most of the need for change in both their characters, the main theme of the original novel. She softens Lady Catherine de Bourgh (arguably Austen’s most obnoxious character) to the point that she becomes a pussycat--it seems Lady Catherine pushed daughter Anne’s marriage to Darcy only because of her concern that sickly Anne be properly cared for after her own death. She even insists, much to Mrs. Bennet’s delight, that Darcy and Elizabeth have a double wedding with Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam and Anne. I could go on.

    There’s no suspense and little character development. The epilogue insists that everyone, not just Elizabeth and Jane, lived happily ever after, including Lady Catherine in the Dower House at Rosings and Mary with Mr. Collins. Like Alice, I can sometimes believe six impossible things before breakfast, but I don’t believe in this fairy-tale ending.

    Wood has some humorous episodes, especially Darcy’s first gift to his affianced bride, a live frog, followed by a frog brooch (that Lady Catherine helps make the ton’s fad of the Season). Writing style is anachronistic. “One may wonder as to why Lady Catherine thought she would be able to insult her nephew into seeing tings her way, but it should be remembered tht she was in the midst of a terrible, horrible, no good, really bad day.”

    A CONVERSATION BEHIND THE TAPESTRIES has a few interesting elements, but it’s disappointing. (D)
     
  15. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    DEATH SITS DOWN TO DINNER is the second in Tessa Arlen’s mystery series set just before the outbreak of World War I. It features investigators Clementine Talbot, Countess of Montfort, and her housekeeper, Mrs. Edith Jackson. This story is set in London, and It was published in e-book format in 2016.

    Clementine is in Town during the season to socialize and to support the charitable activities of her mother’s oldest friend Miss Hermione Kingsley, who’s the mainstay of the Chimney Sweep Boys, the largest charity in England that provides for the children of the poor. At Miss Kingsley’s dinner party given to celebrate the thirty-ninth birthday of the First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill, the butler Jenkins and Clementine discover the body of Sir Reginald Cholmondeley (pronounced “Chum-ley”) in the dining room after dinner. He’d been stabbed to death. Sir Reginald had been chairman of the board of governors for the Chimney Sweep Boys and life-long friend of Miss Kingsley. Who wanted him dead? Why? Both Miss Kingsley and her paid-companion/secretary Adelaide Gaskell become ill from stress, with the largest fundraising event for the charity coming up in a week--a musical evening featuring reigning opera diva Nellie Melba. Clementine sends to lyntwood* for Mrs. Jackson to come to town to organize the gala and, coincidentally, to help Clementine solve the murder.

    The plot of DEATH SITS DOWN TO DINNER has several threads: the means and motive for the murder of Sir Reginald; what’s going on at Kingsley House with Matron’s incivility and Sir Reginald’s chosen “Chums” among the boys; the Montforts’ dealing with the desire of their son Harry Talbot, Viscount Lord Haversham, to join the Royal Naval Air Service; espionage at the Sopwith manufacturing plant where Harry is working; and the “seen and be seen” social rounds of Edwardian aristocrats. Arlen does a creditable job of hiding the killer in plain sight while still providing enough foreshadowing to make the identification believable.

    Many of the characters introduced in DEATH OF A DISHONORABLE GENTLEMAN come back in DEATH SITS DOWN TO DINNER, allowing for their further development. Their use also emphasizes the restricted circles in which the aristocrats as well as their servants move. Both Clementine and Mrs. Jackson are dynamic characters, and it’s good to see Mrs. Jackson (unmarried--all housekeepers were called “Mrs.” as a sign of respect, regardless of actual marital status) warming toward friendship with landscape architect Ernest Stafford at lyntwood. I miss Ralph Talbot, Earl of Montfort, who’s at their country home except for occasional forays to Town to support Clementine; Arlen uses ironic humor well in describing him: “Persuaded by his wife that...breakfast, luncheon, and dinner at Montfort House would no longer regrettably remind him of Eton, Lord Montfort had come up to London for the first time in months. He had enjoyed a delectable dinner of veal consomme, succulent trout in crisp blanched almonds, game quenelles and truffles, followed by a roast goose with a red-currant glaze, and pronounced that London was almost civilized.” (2)

    Arlen deals well with the time period: “...Clementine realized how incredibly fearful everyone was these days. Underneath the bright chatter at dinner parties there was an undercurrent of unease that belied the swaggering confidence that Britain held center stage in world affairs. Society continued to impress, to hold lavish costume balls, dinners and parties, and invite one another to their country houses where diverting entertainments were arranged on a scale that seemed to become grander with each passing month. Perhaps our distractions have become more extravagant and more outlandish to deflect us from our unspoken fears that we are dancing on the verge of war, and our country is being overrun by secret agents all on a mission to discover our expensive military secrets...” (109-10) Arlen uses many historic people of the period as characters, which adds greatly to verisimilitude.

    Arlen seems to be shaping up a neat series. Highly recommended. (A-)


    *lyntwood is consistently spelled with a lower case letter.
     
  16. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    MURDER AT VOLCANO HOUSE is the fourth book in Chip Hughes’s mystrery series set in Hawai’i (to use his spelling) and featuring private investigator and surfer Kai Cooke. It was published in e-book format in 2014.

    Kai Cooke’s attorney friend Tommy Woo sends Donnie Ransom to him for a chaperone / bodyguard job protecting her husband Rex Ransom while he attends the funeral of an old colleague from his now defunct company Ransom Geothermal. Some twenty years before, the company had drilled on eight acres of the Big Island at Wao Kele O Puna rain forest, sacred to goddess of fire and volcanoes Pele and to her sister Hi’iaka, guardian of the rain forest and the flowering ‘ohi’a tree. Protestors from the Save Pele Coalition, couldn’t stop it, and even now, twenty years later, the drilled land is barren and Rex Ransom and his company thoroughly hated. He’s also hated by his former colleagues because his abrupt withdrawal from Ransom Geothermal left them bankrupt and disgraced. One of them, Kurt Krofton, was killed two years before in a car accident that took him off the side of the volcano; an elderly woman dressed in white, with a white dog, had been seen earlier getting into his car, but no trace turned up at the accident. This woman matches one of the mortal manifestations of Pele. Shortly before the story opens, former corporate attorney Stan Nagahara dies exploring a lave tube in Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park. Donnie Ransom is convinced Pele is taking her revenge; she wants Kai to watch over and guard Rex. Kai watches, but Rex dies when he is overcome by volcanic fumes and falls into a live steam vent to be boiled alive. Kai sees a radiantly beautiful young woman clad in red, another of Pele’s avatars, with Rex seconds before. Rex’s death is ruled accidental, but Kai isn’t convinced. Did someone murder Rex and, if so, how?

    This is one of the book where I wonder if I’ve read the same material as those who gave it so many gushing five-star reviews. Kai Cooke is first-person narrator in the fourth book in the series. Perhaps most of his characterization is in the earlier volumes. In MURDER AT VOLCANO HOUSE, it’s rudimentary. The most revealing details are his having scars from a shark bite on his chest and his enjoyment of his girl-friend’s golden retriever Kula, who rides a double surf board with him. Other characters are standard with only one surprising twist, which to reveal would be a spoiler.

    The plot is easy to pick out. Hughes so heavily foreshadows killer, motive, and method that experienced readers should discern them well before Kai. There’s only the one character twist to distinguish the plot from hundreds similar. Sense of place is easily the strongest element of the story although considering the emphasis on the supernatural element of Pele’s revenge, Hughes makes little of the atmosphere.

    A map showing the Hawaiian Islands with insets of specific areas such as the area around the Volcano House Hotel and the Crater Rim Road, would be a plus. Using traditional spelling with apostrophes and no indication of pronunciation or, in some cases, the modern location, with extended passages of pidgin detract from understanding. A glossary of terms, perhaps?

    MURDER AT VOLCANO HOUSE is okay, but its potential is not developed. (C)
     
  17. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    THE HOUSEGUEST is one of Elizabeth Adams’s “vagaries” on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It was published in e-book format in 2013.

    Adams’s version begins with Georgiana Darcy accompanying her brother to Charles Bingley’s newly leased residence at Netherfield Park, where she meets and become friends with Elizabeth Bennet. Elizabeth helps Gerogiana to emerge from her depression over the incident at Ramsgate and to begin to overcome her shyness in company. With Darcy scheduled to be out of town, Georgiana invites Elizabeth to be her guest at Darcy House in London. Darcy returns weeks earlier than expected, so he and Elizabeth have time together in which to get to know each other. Georgiana tells Elizabeth about her indiscretion with Wickham, which forces Elizabeth to begin to reassess her opinions of both Wickham and Darcy; Darcy’s fought his attraction to Elizabeth since she came to Netherfield to tend Jane in her illness, and he’s quickly convinced that he’s the woman to marry. Elizabeth is confused about her feelings, but when she overhears Darcy telling his friend Sir Malcolm Rutherford about separating Bingley and Jane, she reverts to her original opinion of Darcy and leaves Darcy House immediately. The remainder of THE HOUSEGUEST consists of Darcy’s confessing to Bingley his interference and winning Elizabeth’s love.

    Adams adds only a few new “on-page” characters, mainly Lord and Lady Matlock and their older son and heir Cyril and Darcy’s good friend from Cambridge Sir Malcolm Rutherford. Lady Matlock determines to find Elizabeth a suitable husband so that she can remain close friends with Georgiana, giving a neat lesson to Georgiana and Elizabeth about how the Marriage Market worked. Sir Malcolm is her first choice for Elizabeth; Caroline Bingley also does her best to push Elizabeth at Sir Malcolm. The original characters are reasonably faithful to Austen, though attitudes are more modern, and the new ones fit with them.

    Adams minimizes Matlock family resistance to Elizabeth as Darcy’s choice to wed. With the aristocracy’s resistance to alliance with “trade,” Lady Matlock’s relationship with Mrs. Gardiner seems improbable. Adams uses an episode from Austen’s Northanger Abbey when when Lady Catherine de Bourgh has Mr. Collins send Elizabeth home from Hunsford by common mail coach because she’s distracting Darcy from Anne de Bourgh. Elizabeth’s waffling about “does she or doesn’t she love Darcy?” is too prolonged. It also seems unlikely that Mr. Bennet would allow Elizabeth a summer-long visit to Pemberley when she and Darcy are already engaged.

    Several things bothered me. An editing error in dates of letters jumps from November 1811 to November 1812, then back again. Word choice is occasionally inappropriate: seducement instead of seduction, a “decadent” pattern for Jane’s wedding dress. Use of apostrophes in plurals and possessives is often inaccurate. Mrs. Bennet’s explanation to Jane about what to expect on her wedding night is way too much information.

    As Austen fan fiction goes, THE HOUSEGUEST is above average, but it greatly simplifies Darcy and Elizabeth.(B)
     
  18. canuck

    canuck Active Member

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    Currently Reading:
    Night Soldiers - Alan Furst
    I admire your dedication in reading and reviewing Victorian style writing - while I have no trouble watching a film version I find the stylized speech where nobody seems to come right out and say anything directly to be a wee bit irritating. I think I must have enjoyed it more when younger, now I seem to be impatient.
     
  19. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for your kind words, canuck. I taught English for over twenty years, so the nineteenth-century literary language doesn't bother me except when the author gets it wrong! It's difficult for a modern writer to keep the formal language without infusing it with more modern attitudes and expressions. But I'm an omnivorous reader and read most anything that looks interesting. I go into withdrawal symptoms when I don't have something new to read--why I love my Kindle so much!
     
  20. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    THE DUST OF DEATH is the first book in Paul Charles’s police procedural series featuring Inspector Starrett, head of the County Donegal, Republic of Ireland, Serious Crimes Unit working out of Ramelton. It was published in 2007.

    Starrett comes on the case when the crucified body of local master carpenter James Moore is discovered inside the Second Federation Church. Moore had been a devoted family man with no known enemies, except he had been having an affair with Amanda Morrison, the wife of Ivan Morrison, First Minister of SFC. As Starrett and his team investigate, motives and suspects slowly emerge from the past.

    I like THE DUST OF DEATH. Charles creates a believable team of individuals: hurling champion Sgt. “Packie” Garvey; local Garda Francis Casey, who’s good at picking ey-up details and dealing with research and administration; and perceptive Bean Gharda Nuala Wilson. “Starrett watched from the distance of the doorway as his team went efficiently about its work. That they were all young--probably the youngest team in the entire service--wasn’t entirely accidental. Starrett had no time for old-timers with their arrogance and their airs of superiority. He liked to recruit members into his team soon after they joined the gardai, before they’d had a chance to learn any of the many bad habits and the shortcuts evident in the work of the old-timers. Starrett preferred his team to be made up of youngsters, ambitious in the art of detection and, as in the case of Sergeant Packie Garvey, not afraid of a bit of strenuous legwork.” (19) Starrett’s boss Superintendent Newton Cunningham respects his ability and backs him fully; local pathologist Dr. Samantha Aljoe is smart and beautiful.

    Starrett is an attractive protagonist. He came to the Garda as a late recruit after a money-making career selling classic cars in London, where he’d gradually moved into locating rare models for restoration. When he realized his main interest had become following the clues to finding a car, Starrett decided to become a detective. He’s been effective: “...the Templeton boys sent a couple of their superintendents up to Ramelton for several days to monitor Starrett’s team and its methods. What was the key to Starrett’s success? The only thing the Templemore superintendents could report back to their Dublin superiors--who would in turn pass it on to the major, who in turn would pass it on to Starrett--was Starrett’s unique ability to read situations and witnesses. According to the Tipperary heads Starrett seemed to have some sixth sense when it came to assessing the truthfulness of witnesses. When Starrett was told the news, he immediately thought of his mam, who had a kind of healing gift that she spread liberally and freely in the community.” (68-9) Charles does not, however, have Starrett rely on this gift. “Starrett always did everything 100 per cent by the book, and he insisted his team do the same. Perhaps there were times when 95 per cent by the book might do, but how far was it from there to work your way down to 70 per cent and 50 per cent and even not by the book at all?” (132) It bothers me a bit that Starrett has no first name.

    Charles keeps attention focused away from the eventual killer almost too much; minimum foreshadowing makes the conclusion a bit unsatisfying. Another bother the almost instantaneous matching of DNA --samples taken one morning are sequenced and identified before close of business that day. I don’t think it happens that quickly.

    Sense of place is outstanding, mostly established through locations and routes, but with occasional atmospheric details and humor that also illuminate character. “Starrett had an inkling that this [liquor being served by Cunningham] was the same potato-brewed poteen that the gardai had confiscated from a farm up in Gortahork, after a woman reported that her husband had gone blind while drinking the mountain brew. On further investigation, it transpired that the man’s sight was miraculously restored the moment the woman had put her clothes back on again. Starrett had only to wet his lips with the stuff to realise he’d much prefer to drink razor blades.” (224)

    THE DUST OF DEATH makes me look forward to the rest of the series. (A-)
     

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