Strange Things Done & Not A Sound

 

Both of these were library books that I saw mentioned in blogs and requested.  Strange Things Done by Elle Wild is set in an isolated town in the Yukon.  During the winter freeze the tourists and some of the residents leave  before the town is completely cut off.  Jo Silver, a journalist, arrives to take over the local paper, fresh on the heels of a career and personal disaster.  Then, the dying begins.

This is a complex and tension filled novel.  The environment alone can kill you, much less a human with a motive.  The sense of place here is marvelously done, the isolation, the cold, the pack mentality of the humans living in such conditions, and the beauty that exists is all here.  The characters are fully fleshed out and in some cases quirky, reminding me of the TV show Northern Exposure.  The mystery itself is engaging with red herrings and plenty of suspects to keep the reader guessing.

Great dark and suspenseful mystery.  An example of Canadian Noir!

Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf is my first book by this author.  The protagonist, Amelia Winn, is profoundly deaf after a hit run driver ran her and a patient down.  She was a nurse working with sexual assault and domestic violence victims.  Unable to work now and feeling overwhelmed by the isolation of her deafness, she turned to alcohol and lost everything else, her husband, step daughter and home.  Now sober she spends her time paddle boarding, hiking, and running to keep her addiction at bay until she stumbles over the body of a woman she worked with at the hospital.  Amelia finds herself in the middle of a murder case that she cannot let go.  With her service dog, Stitch at her side, Amelia digs into the victim’s life and death and soon doesn’t know who to trust or where to turn.

The character of Amelia was so well portrayed here.  The feelings of being at the top of your career and having it all snatched from you.  The onset of her alcoholism and the daily battle to keep it at bay are superbly done.  The mystery was suspenseful and maintained the sense of tension even once you knew what was happening.  I will definitely read more from this author.

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Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

33876540  I received an ARC of this book from the publisher at BEA in exchange for a fair review.

Bonfire  by Krysten Ritter is about going home again.  Abby Williams left home and never looked back.  She has made a name for herself as a lawyer for environmental causes.  Now she is headed home again, back to the Barrens to investigate possible water contamination on the part of a company that has become the lifeblood of the town.

Once she returns, the case she has been brought on is obviously bigger than anyone thought.  Its tentacles extend to every facet of life in the town and reopen one of the town’s biggest mysteries, a 10-year-old disappearance, What happened to Kaycee?  

This is a real page-turner of a novel.  The protagonist Abby is intelligent and driven, but clearly has issues regarding the town, her father, her own history, and substances.  Her character is complex and well drawn.   The setting, the Barrons, a small town depending  on one company for its continued existence and prosperity is  well-developed.  You can feel the  fear the townspeople have of upsetting the golden goose.  There are lots of plot lines her, the current environmental issue, the missing girl, Abby’s conflict with her father, and some slightly romantic subplots.  These all weave together seamlessly into an engrossing novel.  Fans of Erin Brockovich and Silkwood would like this.

Summer Reading This Week…

 

Summer is finally here for me and I can hopefully make a substantial dent on my TBR!

Starting off with The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld.  This is a signed ARC from BEA received in exchange for a fair review.  Both suspenseful  and psychological, this book kept me reading  straight through.  Naomi, who was once a missing (and found) child herself, is now a Child Finder.  When a child is missing and all else fails, Naomi takes the case.  Often the children she finds are dead, but at least the cases are closed.  She is now drawn to a new case.  The child, Madison,  has been missing for 3 years and is presumed dead when Naomi begins her search.  The novel follows Naomi in the present day and back into her past and  Madison from the moment she goes missing.

The writing here is first-rate.  The pacing keeps the story flowing even when the time shifts to Naomi’s memories.  The tension builds throughout and leads to a dramatic conclusion.  There are a couple subplots that lend depth to Naomi’s character and insight into how she works the different missing child cases.  Naomi’s character is complex and intriguing.  The reader wants to know what happened to her and what will happen to her.   Highly recommend for fans of  psychological and suspense fiction!

The Undertaker’s Daughter by Sara Blaedel is another signed ARC from BEA received for a fair review.  Sara Blaedel is a Danish author who writes crime fiction being best known for her Louise Rick series.  This book straddles both sides of the Atlantic.  Ilka is a Danish school photographer and widow, who receives word that her estranged father has died in Racine, Wisconsin.  She travels to Wisconsin to settle up his estate, including his funeral home business, and becomes entangled in running her father’s business, a local murder mystery connected to an older unsolved murder, an underhanded corporate group with some questionable business practices, her father’s new family, and a love interest or two.

This was a great read!   Ilka is an interesting character, who has lots of depth and detail that trickles out as the book progresses.  The setting is interesting, especially seeing it through an outsider’s eyes.  There are moments of menace, tension, and suspense interspersed with character driven scenes, which are important and feel authentic.  The murder mystery resolves in this novel, however there are still unresolved threads, which presumably will be tied up in the next book (this is book 1 in a new series).  I’ll admit I am going to have a hard time waiting for book 2.

Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont was an impulse read from the sale table at Barnes and Noble.  This is the book of a marriage falling apart, Jack, a well-known artist, and Deb, a retired ballet dancer.  The marriage explodes when “the other woman” reveals the affair, not to Deb, but to her two children Simon, 15, and Kay, 11.  The prose here is beautiful, the sentences and paragraphs are wonderfully constructed, particularly in the first half of the book.   The second half uses a staccato style to bullet through the outcomes of the rest of the characters’ life alternated with flashbacks.

The cover blurb talks about the humor and the book being funny…I guess it went over my head because I didn’t find any humor here.  In fact, the last half was pretty boring. Two wealthy, navel gazing, whining characters, who are going through the breakdown of their marriage due to adultery.  There is just nothing really special here.

Brick Lane by Monica Ali was a great read, a glimpse into a slice of life in an immigrant family.  Nazneen is in an arranged marriage to Chanu, who is much older than her.  She leaves Bangladesh to be with Chanu in London.  Once in London, Nazneen is an observer  and recorder of all that is happening around her.  The pacing is slow and steady here to allow the reader to appreciate the window they are given into her life and the world of being an immigrant woman in London.  The novel follows her and her family’s life over a period of years.  Insightful and beautifully written.   Highly recommended!

Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell is the first book in the Kurt Wallander series.  Wallander is a Swedish Police Inspector and the book jumps right into a brutal crime within the first few pages.  Wallander leads the investigation and the path it takes leads to secrets from the victim’s past,  refugee camps, and more crime.  It has a very timely feel  to it as far as dealing with issues of immigration and refugees and the strong feelings these topics arouse.  Wallander is introduced in this first book, not just as a Police Inspector, but also as man.  His personal life intrudes into his work giving a dark, almost dismal feel at times.  I really enjoyed the book and the TV show.  I would recommend to fans of the TV show and fans of Nordic Crime fiction.

Daughters-in-Law by Joanna Trollope

9293224  I have read a few other Joanna Trollope books and I have always enjoyed them for the slice of family life and the characters that she builds and this, Daughters-in-Law was no exception.  Rachel is the mother of three sons, who has always ruled her roost with an iron hand gloved in velvet until her youngest son marries.  Charlotte upsets the balance of power, refusing to cede to how things have always been done, while this drama is occurring Ralph, the difficult-to-place son, and his wife have a crisis of their own.  Soon the four couples, parents and the sons and their wives find themselves having to readjust their dynamic and come to terms with new relationships.

I enjoyed this as a quick summer women’s fiction type read.  I did find Petra a difficult character to take and have any sympathy for at all.  I think we were supposed to in the end see that everyone’s side had some merit and her view was just as important, but frankly she was some hippy, dippy space cadet not living in the real world and I had no use for her.  Good demonstration of the culture clashes that occur when children marry and bring new people into a family.

What She Knew & Everything You Want Me To Be

What She Knew, I received from a friend at book club.  This is a psychological thriller with a pretty big red herring, that takes on almost a life of its own, to lead you rabbiting off in search of the culprit.  Rachel Jenner is a divorcee whose son disappears on her watch and her reactions lead some of the public to speculate that she had something to do with his disappearance.  The cast of characters include her older sister, her best friend, her ex and his new wife, and the team of detectives assigned to the  case.  Some of the book is told in the form of interviews with the detective in the aftermath, other parts are snippets from blogs and comments on social media, short quotes about child abductions, along with the  first person narrative told from Rachel, the mother, and Jim, the DI assigned to the case.  This all comes together to tell a coherent story.  My only issue is that I felt like the resolution was a little rushed and it felt like the storyline for the red herrings was more developed and could have used more resolution.  Overall a good read.

Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia, is a book I saw mentioned on a blog and decided to add to my TBR and request from the library.  On the surface the book is about the death of a teenager, but underneath there is a lot more going on in this book.  Hattie is manipulative, but it is a manipulation born of a lack of power, of entrapment in roles she has been assigned, the good daughter, the good girl, the smart one, the popular one, the farmer’s daughter.  She is looking to escape and using (manipulating) others to achieve that goal.

Hattie’s murder is the focus of the book but it highlights what is going on around her.  One of the big themes explored is the death of small town America, one of the characters even says

Kids leaving all the time and ones that haven’t are getting killed.  Men dropping off with heart attacks every other day.  Pretty soon this is going to be a country of nothing but old women.

This leads to the second which is the breakdown of a marriage.  Peter and Mary’s marriage is being destroyed by the return to Mary’s hometown to look after Elsa on the family farm.  Peter cannot acclimate and more importantly does not want to.  This is not the life he wants and is not “the deal” he brokered when he married Mary.  Now she is unilaterally making decisions that effect both of them under the delusions of the trope, rural = good, urban = bad.  Even by the end of the book, Mary still seems to have no understanding of the part she played in this whole debacle.  The book also explores Hattie as a Lolita-esque character, although I don’t see Peter as Humbert Humbert.  The ending and resolution are well done.  Good read with a twist.