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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Kindle Quest #2

Still slogging along on my attempt to read 100 of the paper books already lying around here before succumbing to the lure of an e-reader on which I can load up a whole bunch of new purchases. I thought I'd posted the second set from last spring but I see not. Here goes with my spring reading, and maybe the summer's as well if there's room.

9. Beautiful Lie the Dead – Barbara Fradkin. 8th in the Inspector Green series. A bone-chillingly cold book set mainly in Ottawa and Montreal. It begins with a blizzard and almost every scene invokes the inimitable dangers of a Canadian winter both urban and bush. There are several narrators in successive scenes in the early chapters, something that can be annoying or confusing in less deft hands than Barbara’s. As with most in this series, family is the heart of the tale for both good – Inspector Green’s solid home life – and ill – the secret-burdened people scarred by their relationships to the woman lost in the initial blizzard. My best book of the week, and possibly the month.

10. Negative Image – Vicki Delaney. 4th in the Constable Molly Smith books. Set in fictional Trafalgar, BC, it has a cast worthy of a small town, including several sets of overlapping law enforcement personnel from different agencies. Score cards might be in order. The mix of narrators occasionally left me confused for several sentences as to whose head I was in. The villain wasn’t an equal match for all the investigators and could have been uncovered much sooner if all the cops hadn’t been distracted by their personal lives.

11. She Felt No Pain – Lou Allin. 2nd in the Constable Holly Martin series. Set in a fictional small town along the south shore of Vancouver Island, it follows Holly (mostly) through a series of small-town crimes and further clues to the disappearance of her mother. The setting and atmosphere were well done.

12. The Shetland Bus – David Howarth. Non-fiction account of his WW2 stint building and coordinating the British-Norwegian fishing-boat program that supplied materiel and instructors to Norway during the German Occupation. Inspiring what men can do when they simply acknowledge their fears and get on with what needs to be done. After all the reading I’ve done on Norway during the invasion/occupation – starting with that Grade Five book ‘Snow Treasure’ – I SO want to go to Norway and see that area for myself.

13. Dragonsdawn – Anne McCaffery. A re-read, but I got the previous read from the library and this one I own. I love filling in the bits of half-forgotten history on this favourite fantasy world.

14. Posted to Death – Dean James. On opening this book (purchased second-hand) I found I’d read it before and thought then, as now, that a vampire who takes pills so he can act like a normal person is really not changing the dimension of a mystery novel for me. So I quit and put this book into the ‘to good homes’ box by the front door. But it’s done. One more I can check off the Kindle Quest count.

15. Bones Gather No Moss – John Sherwood. Clearly forgettable, as I’ve forgotten it already. It didn’t annoy me enough to stop part way through. That, I’d remember.

16. Miss Melville’s Revenge – Evelyn E. Smith. An oldie but an irreverent goodie. I know next to nothing about this series but enjoyed the fast pace, tight pov, and the un-aware characters among whom Miss Melville moves.

17. The Withdrawing Room – Charlotte McLeod. A very early entry in the famous series, with layers of visually engaging images and surprising revelations in many of the characters’ lives, not merely in the one or two central to the murder. That sense of a whole cast of real people, rather than a few stars surrounded by what might as well be cardboard trees, is one of the ways this older series stands out.

18. The Night Inside: A Vampire Thriller – Nancy Baker (1993, Penguin Canada).  Older but interesting look at a vampire coming out of a 90-year sleep and getting mixed up with a young woman from modern-day Toronto. Well written and engaging despite some very graphic (to me) sexual violence. Too bad the next two books in this series are out of print. I found the second at a used book store but the third may elude me until/unless they’re re-released in e-book format.

19. The Water Rat of Wanchai - Ian Hamilton (2011, House of Anansi). This debut novel introduces Ava Lee, a Chinese Canadian forensic accountant who specializes in cash recovery where the sums are large and prosecution chancy because of international legal variance. While nobody cracks open a book about a forensic accountant looking for a thrill a minute, there are thrills to be had, especially toward the end. First, however, there's a lot of front-loaded back story about Ava to page through, and a fair bit of sitting by while she talks on the phone or checks into hotels.  The book is over 400 pages in trade paper, and feels it. The read would have seemed shorter if the heroine was more engaged with the world around her but she struck me as very detached even in the midst of violence. It's very cerebral for a thriller - lots of thinking and not much emotional engagement. Not to say I won't at least open the next one, as I'm a sucker for a travelogue, especially one that hits places where the tourists don't go, like Guyana.

20. The Grub ‘n Stakers Pinch a Poke – Alisa Craig. In this farcical mystery from the 1980’s, a community-theatre group stages a play based on the Robert Service poem about Dangerous Dan McGrew. Wacky eccentrics, romantic rivalries, and absurd attempts at murder and other mayhem make this a delightful light read to fill a summer afternoon.

21. One Careless Moment – Dave Hugelschaffer. (Cormorant Press)  This second in the Porter Cassels series sees the wildfire-fighting Albertan on loan to Montana. The opening chapters are a thorough and sometimes terrifying introduction to the behavior, dangers, and means of fighting a forest fire in rugged terrain. Porter soon finds evidence of arson and his investigation must navigate not only the highly hazardous fire environment but the equally unpredictable local tensions between residents, developers and squatters. The mystery was a page-turner, the insight into firefighting fascinating to anyone who lives, as I do, on the edge of similar terrain that is always at risk from fire. One thing that bugged me was the use of first-person present tense. It was done, no doubt, to bring immediacy to the narrator’s experiences during the fire and other dangerous situations, but I found it distracting. A good read nonetheless, and I will look for other books by this author.

22. Midnight Special - Larry Karp.  Third in his music-box collector series. This is first-person narration done as well: as if I were catching up on recent events over coffee with an old friend. Only as much back story as is needed at any point to orient me to a new character or situation, A steady, albeit descriptive, pace through each action scene. Fascinating tidbits about music boxes and automata sprinkled throughout.  I’m not too keen on the uni-dimensional sidekick or the reasons for Our Hero’s kindness to burglars, but maybe they would make more sense to me if I’d read the earlier books. The climax was a ‘Papa Poirot’ scene in which the suspects and other players were all gathered together to share their bits of the puzzle before the solution was revealed.

23. The Etruscan Chimera – Lynn Hamilton.  An earlier entry into her Lara McClintock series, this novel visits Paris (and environs) and Italy. Enjoyable, with lots of the expected fascinating facts about Etruscan history, pottery and so on. Way too complex, though, and I’m still not sure if the ‘Poirot’ ending (only in a tomb!) really made sense in light of all the killing and pot-passing. But it was a pleasantly erudite way to spend a few hours, and I’m sorry there won’t be more from this author.