Thursday, September 29, 2011
Pastor's Bay is a tiny, insulated town on the Maine coast whose inhabitants are wary of outsiders and protective of its own citizens. It has its small town, small time, petty crime, but little does it know that big government is luring some big city, big time, nasty criminals to its environs to orchestrate a take down of said criminals. As most things do in this world, these plans go to hell and several people end up dead by the end of this ill advised operation.
Randall Haight keeps to himself, works from home and is determined not to mess up the second chance he's been given under a new identity after he and a friend did their time for murdering a girl when they were fourteen. Haight's come to cherish his anonymous, mundane, haunted existence in Pastor's Bay until he starts receiving photos in the mail--photos that make clear that someone knows his secret, knows his true identity, knows his crime and is determined to make him squirm. To resolve the issue Haight turns to his attorney who turns to Charlie Parker to investigate the identity and motive of Haight's harasser.
When another fourteen year old girl disappears from Pastor's Bay, Charlie realizes there may be a much more sinister motive driving the person targeting Haight if that someone is setting up a scapegoat to take the blame for the missing girl. As Charlie delves into Haight's case and the periphery of the case of the missing girl, he can't shake the feeling that Haight is lying. When anonymous texts are sent to Charlie's phone questioning the ethics and behavior of the Pastor's Bay police chief and accusing the chief of telling lies, Charlie starts looking into the chief's past, too. In a story in which the truth is hidden by a veneer of lies and everyone's true motives are less than clear, one wonders what the lies hide and why and what the cost of revealing those lies will be for Charlie, for Haight and for Pastor's Bay.
This is an intricate, dark thriller with dual narrative threads. Connolly's books are always page turners, but when focus switches to the secondary story line before it connects with the main narrative, the action slows down. However, without the secondary story line's presence from the start, the resolution of the main narrative would fly out of thin air because so often the players of the secondary story line connect with the main story line. Despite these minor quibbles, this is a first rate, must read for fans of the Parker series. As a longtime fan myself, I find I'm more worried about the fact that Charlie's daughter seems to have some sense of the otherworldliness of her father and the implication that some ravens are spying on Charlie at the behest of an as yet unseen big bad villain. I recommend you check out this book the next time you visit the library.
--Reviewed by Ms. Angie
Thursday, September 22, 2011
The story follows three British sisters, daughters of an American expatriate mother and British father, who are the modern day descendants of Jo March, one of the sisters portrayed in the classic novel by Louisa May Alcott. The Atwater sisters are as different from each other as the March sisters were from each other.
Lulu is adrift in her life and her career; she's at loose ends as to what she wants to do with herself and despairs that she'll never meet a man who'll love and accept her for who she is. One can't help but feel for Lulu because she's the one that gets ganged up on by her well meaning sisters and parents who only want her to finally decide what it is she wants to do for a career. And working successive dead end jobs in an antiques store, a skeevy pub, as a dogwalker and in a toy shop are not acceptable uses of a degree in biochemistry according to Lulu's family.
Elder sister Emma, responsible, sensible, dependable, and sophisticated, is planning a wedding; youngest sister Sophie, flighty, beautiful, dramatic (and let's be honest, the one who annoyed me the most) is on the cusp of the successful theater acting career that she's always wanted. Lulu, prickly, direct, aimless professionally, hopeless romantically, is the black sheep of the family. After discovering a cache of her great-great-grandmother Jo March's letters in her parents' attic, Lulu discovers a kindred spirit in Jo who was an equally prickly, direct, socially awkward, independent, intelligent personality. It is in these letters and in what they share about Jo's life and family that Lulu finds comfort, solace, and hope because in the end her great-great-grandmother led a full life with a husband and children, and she was beloved and fiercely adored by her family.
The story follows the lives, familial relationships and dynamics of the three sisters. The sisters are vividly, distinctively portrayed as three dimensional characters individual from one another. Fans of Little Women and readers who enjoy stories with female relationships at their center will enjoy this novel. I recommend you pick it up the next time you visit the library.
--Reviewed by Ms. Angie
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Best selling historical fiction novelist Carrie McClelland is struggling with her current novel, set in France amidst the intrigue of the exiled Scottish court of the last Stewart king. Upon stumbling on the beautiful atmospheric ruins of Slains castle, whose resident noble family is at the heart of an ill fated Jacobite plot to land the Stewart king on Scotland's shores, Carrie knows she must reverse course with her novel and set it instead at Slains.
After relocating to Cruden Bay, home to Slains, Carrie finds that her story and characters flow and take shape as if they have a life of their own. Channeling a story rife with exquisite historical details that she has never researched and therefore cannot know, Carrie is chilled to discover that perhaps her connection to these past events is rooted in some sort of ancestral memory passed down the generations and that the story she channels is actually that of her ancestor, Sophia Paterson. Embarking upon a romance that strangely parallels her own ancestor's ill fated romance with a soldier, Carrie continues her all consuming journey into the past as she writes her book.
This novel is rich with the flavor of the Scottish dialect and spirit, heavy with searing betrayals, intrigues and tragedies that make it hard to put down until the stories of both Carrie and Sophia are resolved. Historical romance lovers will enjoy this book. I recommend you check it out the next time you visit the library.
--Reviewed by Ms. Angie
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Edie is the best guide on Ellesmere Island, but when she takes two American men out on the tundra for a routine hunting trip and one is shot and killed, a puzzling and dangerous mystery is uncovered --and promptly dismissed by her community's mayor. More bodies fall in the wake of the first murder as the dead man's travel companion disappears on a later expedition guided by her beloved stepson, Joe, who also gets caught up in the middle of a perplexing and terrifying situation. When Joe inexplicably commits suicide, Edie is left unmoored by her grief and spirals back into the depths of alcoholism after a hard won period of sobriety.
The mayor and even Joe's blood family accept his suicide at face value and are content to sweep the unexplained disappearance of the American explorer under the rug without further investigation. However, Edie realizes it's up to her to find the answers to the shooting death of the first American, the whereabouts of the disappeared American, and the unanswered questions surrounding Joe's death. To this end Edie sets out on a secret days long search of the isolated, thawing summer tundra to search for clues about what happened on Joe's ill fated expedition. What she finds on a beach and in a cave is even more frightening and bewildering as Edie realizes there's more at work than she can fathom and that she must be careful about whom she trusts with the information she digs up. Her unofficial investigation leads her hundreds of years into her family's past and across an ocean to another Inuit community.
This is a masterful, nail biting mystery that is unwound over many months and enriched by the Inuit language and culture depicted within its pages. This is a story in which the arctic setting becomes as much a character demanding of respect of the human characters. I'm not sure if this is intended as a stand alone novel or the advent of a new series. I'm hoping new series--I'd like to read more about what happens to Edie.
This book is available at the library; I highly recommend you check it out. Mystery lovers will especially appreciate this read.
--Reviewed by Ms. Angie
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Eve meets Dom, an older gentleman, by chance while on a job in Switzerland. Immediately the two embark upon a whirlwind love affair that continues after both return to London. Dom, a previously married man, is mysterious, closed off about his past, and given to mercurial and dark moods. Their love affair exists in its own isolated bubble--neither makes much effort to introduce the other to family or friends, especially Dom, who insists on compartmentalizing his past and his present; he refuses to discuss the former with Eve because he claims it is too painful.
When Dom proposes moving to an isolated, run down, long uninhabited estate in the Provence countryside, Eve agrees to go with him that summer. But as the two pass the summer in France, Eve realizes she needs to know more about Rachel, Dom's mysterious former wife whom he refuses to talk about. As summer fades into autumn, Eve embarks upon a research project determined to find out more about Rachel through her own means even as she becomes aware of the growing distance between herself and Dom.
Interspersed with the present story is the story of Benedicte, the previous resident and former owner of the haunted estate upon which Eve and Dom now reside. Born and raised there, Benedicte spent nearly her entire life on the estate and as she tells her story a dark, cruel streak emerges in her childhood that is rooted in the twisted and dark nature of her brother Pierre, who tore the wings off butterflies, flayed kittens, stole things and was not above abusing and using his own sister.
When Benedicte's and Dom's complete histories emerge, it is tragic, terrifying and harrowing--and not what the reader expects.
I recommend you check out this book the next time you visit the library.
--Reviewed by Ms. Angie
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Chicago raised Madeline Stone still reels from the death of her beloved adoptive mother, Emmy, a year ago. Abandoned by her mother, rejected by her grandfather, who refused to raise her and from whom she remained estranged for the rest of his life, Madeline accepts an invitation from Gladys, her grandfather's girlfriend, and Glady's sister, Arbutus, to return to tiny McAllaster, Michigan, town of her birth, to assist in caring for Arbutus, who's become crippled by arthritis.
McAllaster is a tiny, one street town on the coast of Lake Superior where less than 1000 people live year round. The natives struggle to make ends meet while the rich out of towners summer in mansions built on the lake shore that drive up taxes and drive out native McAllaster residents. The economic situation of the main characters and their fellow natives becomes almost another character in the story as Gladys heads for a legal showdown with wealthy interlopers bent on changing 'how things have been done in McAllaster for generations.'
Upon arriving in McAllaster, Madeline develops an uneasy and difficult rapport with Gladys, who reluctantly doles out bits of Madeline's Stone family history piece by piece. However, Madeline is there for Arbutus in whom she senses a kindred spirit with Emmy. There's also a romance or two thrown in there for good measure.
It seems as if the story splits itself between too many plots--there's the conflict between McAllaster natives and the new establishment, Madeline's mystery shrouded family history, the weird tension between Gladys and Madeline, and the romantic subplots. The story never really decides which one to focus on to the detriment of all the threads running through the story. As a result Gladys' and Madeline's tension seems manufactured for drama while Madeline's family history reveals no great revelation. Nevertheless the book has the kind of ending that leaves a smile on the reader's face.
This book is on shelf at the library--check it out the next time you visit!
--Reviewed by Ms. Angie