Saturday, 2 June 2007

Vacation Reads

These books were read over a three week trip to Newfoundland for fun and business and where my reading was definitely not up to my normal level!

Finished May 26
Tsunami: The Newfoundland Tidal Wave Disaster by Maura Hanrahan
On November 18, 1929, an offshore earthquake on the Grand Banks triggered a tsunami that hit the Burin Peninsula of Newfoundland, killing 27 people, destroying homes, wharves, flakes, and boats and sweeping away everything from provisions and heating fuel for the winter to the fish ready to be sold. This meant that families lost not only homes and supplies, but the source of income and the tools for earning the income. This book tells the story of the communities, individual victims, and those to who stepped in to help them and it brings the disaster to life.
An excellent read.

Finished May 12
The Devil's Feather by Minette Walters
This queen of psychological crime fiction has done it again. Reuters correspondent Connie Burns grew up as the daughter of a white farmer in Zimbabwe. She has often had the role of a war correspondent, covering civil unrest in Sierra Leone, and most recently, the war in Iraq. While Connie was based in Sierra Leone, there were several incidents of women found raped and hacked to death in their own homes. A British DI, Alan Collins, in the country as part of a training force, is troubled by the crimes and by the way the three young men who are indicted for the crimes are caught. He thinks the assaults were the work of one man, maybe even one of the foreign contingent and mentions this to Connie. This remark focuses Connie's suspicions on John Harwood, a foreigner on private contract as a bodyguard. She remembers his face from a previous stint in the Congo, but thinks he was a mercenary soldier there under a different name, Keith MacKenzie. When she is posted to Iraq and encounters him there working in a private security firm apparently under the name Kenneth O'Connell, her interest in his previous crimes is awakened. She is blocked from contact with him, and this encourages her to research crimes in Iraq that are similar to those in Sierra Leone. She contacts Alan Collins to get his advice but she is already being stalked by someone gaining access to her hotel room when she is out. As she becomes scared enough to leave town, she is kidnapped on the way to the airport. When she is released 3 days later, she has no visible signs of abuse, but flees to England, and eventually to the British countryside. Here, she meets her independent neighbour Jess Derbyshire and draws from the young woman's strength of mind to face down her experience and her fear. The characters are brilliant and there is true suspense.

Finished May 8
Q&A by Vikas Swarup
This delightful novel tells of a young Indian man's difficult and eventful life story through the means of a television contest, "Who Win Win a Billion?". Ram Mohammed Thomas, abandoned as a baby, and brought up in a variety of environments, has entered and won the contest. The television producers are unprepared for such a win this early in the show's history and don't believe he could have done it without cheating. He is questioned by the police and unexpectedly rescued by a young female lawyer. She goes through the footage of the contest with him and he explains how his life experiences gave him the knowledge to answer each question. The characters come alive as do their difficult circumstances. I found myself cheering for him throughout.

Finished May 6
Twenty Questions by Alison Clement
The main character, June, is married to Bill and works in the school cafeteria. When her car fails her one day, a man offers her a ride and she refuses. She hears later that a woman was killed after accepting a ride from the same man. Ronald Pruett is arrested for strangling Vernay Hanks. Vernay's daughter, Cindy, is a student who assists in the cafeteria. She finds herself drawn to Cindy and pretends a friendship with Cindy's mother. She gets drawn into Cindy's home life with her uncle, Harlen, and finds herself having a secret life that her husband is not aware of. When her two worlds collide, she finds herself having to make a decision. It took me a while to get into the story, but once I did it was engrossing. You really get to understand June and how her life has become what it is.

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