Allison is a nearly 40-year-old public radio pop culture journalist. Her past life has been messy and complicated: escaping a deeply conservative family, teenage rebellion epitomized by membership in a riot girrrrl punk band and issues with mental illness. Her current somewhat stable life is upended when her ex-husband is murdered; consequently, Allison takes on the guardianship of her angry 11-year-old daughter. Needless to say, she is unprepared for parenting. This is a brilliant novel about unresolved baggage and healing, with precise descriptions of Winnipeg and Toronto life. Both funny and poignant, a great read.
Amy notes; I am sure I didn’t get all the Canadiana inside jokes, but I got enough to appreciate their presence! Propulsive read.
The latest Harry Hole thriller is brilliant, one of his best. Hole’s usual chaotic life is even more nightmarish with binge drinking and blackouts. A fiendish villain plots to frame Hole for a murder that Harry can’t be sure that he isn’t guilty of. So a diabolical plot with Hole’s behaviour driven by revenge and some very dubious actions. Finally there is a very satisfying enigmatic ending. Overall, an outstanding example of Scandinavian noir crime thrillers.
It is a tribute to Ms. Mandel’s skill as a writer (previous book, the brilliant Station Eleven) that a story about a Ponzi scheme in the economic collapse of 2009 can be both compelling and engaging. It is the psychology of fascinating inter-related characters that is so intriguing: the willingness to seize an opportunity, willful disbelief of reality (if it is too good to be true ..) because of delusions regarding wealth, the simultaneous paradox of knowing and not knowing. There is the enigmatic character of Vincent as a mysterious woman at the centre of the story. And there are hallucinatory ghosts in a spirit world. The story unfolds in a non-linear fashion but all loose ends are linked by the end of the book. Simply put, a great read.
H.P. Lovecraft wrote horror fiction in the 1920-30s. This delightfully creepy story imagines that Lovecraft hires a personal assistant, Arthur Crandle, in 1936. Lovecraft is almost entirely absent in the story. Instead, Crandle is enveloped in increasing uneasiness, the sense of a vague presence, someone watching, a malevolence is a predictably creaky old house. Crandle has an inherent weak character, prone to deflection and deception and so he is susceptible to creepy suggestions. And not surprisingly, there may be a ghost. Ms. Baker writes in an old-fashioned prose, in keeping with the timeline. Wet miserable weather adds to the gloom – this is a fun and entertaining read.
Queenie is British-Jamaican and her London life is a mess, mainly because of dysfunctional relationships with men. She has non-existent self-esteem and is a catastrophist. One of the strong features is the depressing description of the oppressive presence of racism.
This is a sublime sequel to Ms. Strout’s exquisite Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteredge. Olive remains a somewhat difficult, direct, honest but unfiltered and often irascible character. Her relationship with her second husband, her son from her first marriage, and the townspeople in a seaside town in Maine are, not surprisingly, complicated but entertaining. The stories show a delightful ordinariness of people. And finally, the book has a powerful treatise on ageing and (the lack of) self-awareness. A superb read.
This short book give a powerful and disturbing view of a prison in contemporary times. The two key external characters are unnamed: The Lady, a death penalty investigator hired by lawyers to evaluate evidence regarding death row prisoners; and the Fallen Priest. There is also a death row inmate, also unnamed until the final pages of the book, who watches and listens. And a prison society that is revealed as corrupt and deadly. So be warned, this is a tough read but memorable for good and bad reasons.
This imaginative book is hard to describe. The story is NOT about professional archeologists at an excavation. Instead the story follows six very different individuals whose lives intersect when bones are (apparently) discovered at the edge of a river which is to be transformed into an expressway. Planning issues (think of Jane Jacobs) are described along with environmental and Indigenous issues. The characters are portrayed vividly, especially the obnoxious and wildly irresponsible Tim. This is a great read.