Wednesday 27 November 2013

How the Light Gets In

Finished November 22
How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny, read by Ralph Cosham

This novel in the series featuring Armand Gamache is set in the days leading up to Christmas. Armand's wife has travelled to France where his son's family now lives and Armand will be going there just before the holiday.
At work, Armand's supporters seem to be dwindling. With his loyal officers in the homicide department being transferred away and new officers that don't respect him forming the majority of his department, Isabelle Lacoste is one of the only officers who still has his back. Armand badly misses his old right hand man Jean-Guy Beauvoir who blames Gamache for abandoning him and has sunk into an addiction that is destroying him.
When Gamache is sent a message asking for advice from his friend Myrna Landers in the village of Three Pines, he decides to take the time to travel to the village and get away from the city. Myrna is worried about a friend of hers who was supposed to arrive the day before but hasn't, yet when Gamache asks for information on this friend, Myrna is reluctant to reveal the woman's name. When she finally does, Gamache finds that this woman was once famous around the world, but has been largely out of the news in many years, living under another name than her own. As Gamache digs into the woman's past, he finds he has to go back to her childhood to discover the motivations behind her fate.
It is in Three Pines that Gamache feels safe, but is that feeling of safety an illusion created by the lack of data signals and its cozy atmosphere, or is it really a haven for Gamache and his supporters.
This book continues the threat to Gamache that begin to appear several books ago, coming to an intense and dramatic head that will change everything, not only for Gamache and his family, but also his friends, and perhaps even Quebec itself.
A real page-turner.

Friday 22 November 2013

Cross and Burn

Finished November 22
Cross and Burn by Val McDermid

This thriller takes place in West Yorkshire and moves around between several points of view, some of them members of the recently disbanded MIT investigative team of the Bradfield Police: Tony Hill, psychologist and police profiler; Carol Jordan leader of the MIT team, now ex-police dealing with her grief by pushing everyone away; and Paula McIntyre, formerly Carol's constable, but now sergeant for another DCI. The other main character we see the inside view of is the criminal, the man who is obsessed with finding the perfect wife for his needs, the man who is never satisfied, who chooses, stalks, kidnaps, and terrorizes his victims in his impossible to fulfill goal. And then we have the victims, well-dressed professional women, successful and attractive, but no match for his well-planned attacks.

The title seems to come from a quote that appears on the first pages of the book:
"The hardest thing in life is to know which bridge to cross and which to burn" -- David Russell

Paula is struggling with her new DCI, trying to be loyal, but believing that justice outweighs such loyalty. When someone she knows goes missing and she becomes involved with the woman's teenage son, it becomes personal. When someone she knows well is under suspicion for these brutal crimes against women, she is sure they have the wrong man, and that the right one is still out there somewhere, endangering more women it becomes even more personal. A fast-moving book that you won't want to put down.

The Longings of Wayward Girls

Finished November 17
The Longings of Wayward Girls by Karen Brown

This novel moves back and forth between the summer of 1979 and the same area twenty years later, with additional news items from 1974.
In 1974 a young girl disappears on her way home from a friend's house and is never seen again. In the same neighbourhood in 1979, Sadie lives with her parents, a girl with an imagination who leads her friends on a variety of inventive activities from outfitting the nearby woods with a tour of Halloween-like scenes, neighbour kids drafted in as actors in the macabre scenes, Sadie convinces her closest friend to trick another girl, one who family background makes her different, into engaging in a correspondence of hidden notes. The notes are supposed to be from a young farm boy in the area, but are really from Sadie and her friend. But as the notes from the girl grow increasingly troubling, another tragedy is set in motion.
Twenty years later, Sadie lives nearby with her husband and two children. Her recent loss of a child in stillbirth has made her vulnerable and when a man she had a crush on in her youth pursues her, she finds it hard to say no. But as Sadie struggles with her own troubled past and this man's troubled present, she also learns the value of what she has now.
This is an interesting story of girls and women who struggle with the reality of their lives as opposed to fantasy lives they might have had. This is a story of depression, of longing for what one doesn't have, of looking to the other side of the fence. But there is also hope and vulnerability, and people who care.
A good read.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Loss of Innocence

Finished November 14
Loss of Innocence by Richard North Patterson

Hadn't read this author in a while and was looking for an audiobook so grabbed this one. The story is framed as the reminiscences of an older woman to a younger one, looking back at the summer of 1968 when Whitney Dane had finished university and was planning her wedding, to take place at the end of the summer. Whitney is a daughter of privilege, and she spends the summer at her parents' summer home on Martha's Vineyard. Her fiance has been given a job in her father's investment firm and comes back and forth, staying in the guest house on weekends. Her parents have bought the couple an apartment in New York City in the same building they started their own married life. Whitney feels that her life is planned to be a replica of her parents, and isn't entirely sure that is what she wants.
Lots is going on in the world, the assassination of Robert Kennedy, the Vietnam war and the draft, civil unrest, particularly from black Americans, and even internationally with the Russian smothering of rebellion in Czechoslovakia. Whitney is also worried about her older sister, "the pretty one", and whether her life is really what it is what she claims. She is befriended by a local young man, a man with his own baggage, but who listens to her and values her intellect, encouraging her to think of new possibilities. As Whitney observes those around her and struggles to figure out what she really wants, she learns more about those close to her than she wants to know. A very engaging novel.

Saturday 9 November 2013

Before I Met You

Finished November 9
Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell

This lovely novel had me completely enraptured. Liz moves to the island of Guernsey at the age of ten with her mother, Alison, and stepfather, Jolylon, to live with her stepfather's mother, Arlette, and becomes Betty. Betty is very close to her grandmother, a woman who loves clothes and stylish things. When Arlette has a stroke and the develops Alzheimer's, Betty's parents can't cope and move out, but Betty stays, becoming Arlette's caregiver for several years. Upon Arlette's death, the will mentions a beneficiary none of the family have ever heard of, Clara Pickle, and Betty sets off to London on a search that will take her places she never imagined.
The story goes back and forth between Betty's search for Arlette's story and Clara, and Arlette's story in the years from 1919 to 1921 in London. Arlette's London is a London of fashion, music, parties, art, and love. From Liberty's to jazz clubs, parties with black jazz musicians, sitting for portraits, living a life full of happiness to heartbreak and tragedy, this is a life you won't forget. And Betty too, finds a life in London, from working in a burger joint, to mixing with rock stars, antique dealers, and others looking to make a life for themselves.
This is a story of London, of a particular bubble of time in the years just after World War I, and of learning the stories of those we love. A wonderful story.

Friday 8 November 2013

An Impartial Witness

Finished November 5
An Impartial Witness by Charles Todd, narrated by Rosalyn Landor

I've read some of Charles Todd's Inspector Rutledge novels, but not the Bess Crawford ones until now. I thoroughly enjoyed Bess. This is set during World War I, and Bess is a nurse in France. On a journey back to England escorting a group of injured soldiers, Bess witnesses an encounter between a man and a woman in a railway station. She is startled to recognize the woman, but doesn't manage to speak to her. The woman is the wife of one of the badly burned soldiers that she just escorted home, and Bess has recognized the woman from the picture the soldier kept with him at all times. The deeply emotional state of the woman in the encounter with an officer that Bess witnessed is what drew her attention. Back in France, she is startled to find that the woman was murdered later the same day that Bess had seen her.
Bess shares her information with Scotland Yard, but continues to be drawn back to the mystery of the situation, and she tries to find out as much as she can about the woman, her life and what might have led to her death and subsequent attacks on others.
Bess makes friends along the way, has a close shave with violence against herself, and learns more about the nature of people when desperate. A very good read.