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review 2019-11-19 16:52
Careless Love (Robinson)
Careless Love - Peter Robinson

It's not like Peter Robinson to end on a cliff-hanger, but that's exactly what he does in this novel, albeit only relating to a minor sub-plot (and a new character) that haven't really been all that well developed. This subplot of Zelda's (she is a former victim of sex trafficking and also girlfriend to Ray, Annie Cabbot's father) has all the hallmarks of the beginning of a Big Bad arc that might carry on through several instalments.


Meanwhile, the case of the week (as it were) also involves the exploitation of women, resulting in the untimely deaths of two of them. Adrienne Munro is dead of the effects of a drug overdose; what makes her case stand out is that her body has been dumped in a broken-down car in a remote place, after the local police's initial investigation. (The car bears a wonderfully ironic sign, "POLICE AWARE"). On the same night there's another death with inexplicable aspects - this time a man - which may be related. And then there's a third death later on, along with an enabler who is assaulted and a villain who gradually makes himself obvious, and I won't say more than that.


As always, I enjoyed the unfolding of the evidence. The fact that we get the autopsy results for the first victim right at the very end of the book struck me as unusual verisimilitude. Fortunately for Banks, said results confirmed the conclusions he and his team had already reached.


A solid entry in the series.

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review 2019-11-18 21:58
B Plus: Dancing For Mikhail Baryshnikov at American Ballet Theatre (Langlois)
B Plus: Dancing for Mikhail Baryshnikov at American Ballet Theatre: A Memoir - Michael Langlois

I was a massive Baryshnikov fan back in the 70s and 80s, and therefore this memoir by corps de ballet dancer Michael Langlois was instantly of interest. As it turns out, he's also a reasonably interesting man himself. He's particularly frank about two subjects: the perils of eating disorders, and the way he had to negotiate being a straight ballet dancer (like his hero/employer Baryshnikov, incidentally), given both the outside world's stereotyping and the actuality of maintaining friendships and boundaries within the ballet world itself. He appears to have managed a very close friendship and, for a time, roommate relationship, with gay dancer Peter Fonseca, for instance (alas, Fonseca was part of the dreadful losses to AIDS in the ballet world in the 80s and 90s). And although I was, of course, in it for the celebrity cameos, his anecdotes about the regular company members, musicians and coaching staff are quite engaging: he doesn't hesitate to re-create conversations and describe physical surroundings in a fair bit of detail. Finally, he is just about forthcoming enough (i.e. not too much) about the progress and eventual deterioration of the relationship with his girlfriend Julie, another dancer in the company.


Living up to the promise of the subtitle, Baryshnikov makes his appearance throughout a large part of the book, although it is clear there was never any more of a relationship between the two men than employer/employee, or coach/dancer. Langlois is actually quite funny about Baryshnikov's inability to articulate exactly what he wanted from a less talented dancer; like many with brilliant gifts, he seems, by this author's account, to have been a bit stymied by the fact that they didn't just *know* how to do it, as he did himself. Baryshnikov also called Langlois "Mikey" for many years, and Langlois generously (and probably correctly) surmises that he didn't realize the diminutive was derogatory, unlike his own "Misha", by which everyone seems to have known him.


Langlois is also likeably frank about the impact of realizing that his talent, though good, was not first-class (hence the book title), and how he eventually resolved that by moving first to smaller companies where he could do better roles, and then eventually out of the ballet world altogether. He now has an online presence as a massage therapist.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2019-11-18 21:26
Sleeping in the Ground (Robinson)
Sleeping in the Ground - Peter Robinson

I believe this is the first mass murder we have seen Banks tackle; and Robinson doesn't spare us in the first chapter with his description of the members of a wedding party falling victim to a sniper.


Banks and his author become more and more aware of the complicated relationship between the media and law enforcement as both get older. In fact, the most annoying chapters for both Banks and this reader are those where he clashes with Adrian, the media officer for the police. The progress of this novel, however, depends largely on a discussion of whether they (and the public) will be satisfied by the apparent solution they have reached halfway through, even though they lack understanding of the motivations of the (apparent) murderer who has (apparently) suicided after his crimes, in the common pattern. It's no great spoiler, given that there are 200 pages still to go in the the novel, that the initial explanation doesn't suffice for anybody.


I was not particularly thrilled about the reintroduction of psychologist Jenny Fuller as a likely romantic interest for Banks (again), but at least she's more age-appropriate than recent candidates, and they're both being extremely cautious.


I continue to enjoy the supporting cast of women police officers - Annie Cabbot and Gerry Masterson - who at this point in the series are nearly as primary to each investigation as Banks. (Winsome Jackson is sidelined with a flesh wound inflicted by the sniper in this story; a pity.)


There are readers who are tiring of the Banks series after so many entries (this is #24, and there is another one out already). I am not one of those readers.

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review 2019-11-18 21:14
The Bishop's Man (MacIntyre)
The Bishop's Man - Linden MacIntyre

This is solid, psychologically sound and surprisingly good fiction from an author who's made his name as a journalist, and who, moreover, chose a ripped-from-the-headlines theme for his 2009 novel. He writes as his protagonist a senior Roman Catholic priest in eastern Canada, whose career has been the quiet "management" of priests committing various types of abuse. When I heard the premise, I was expecting something far more simplistic, but this main character has a whole past of his own to deal with, as well as facing the implications of what he has done at the behest of his Bishop and his Church. Far from getting its prize-winning status for any political correctness, I think in fact the nuance and ambiguity of this fiction may have worked against it with some readers who might be looking for more denunciation and less authorial empathy and understanding.


You need to pay a certain amount of attention in the opening chapters to follow the chronological back-and-forth, as Duncan MacAskill (well-named, as he asks himself more and more difficult questions) moves in recollection between the present and the various crucial periods of his past life: notably his childhood (did his father abuse his sister?); and his exile in Latin America, where he was tempted to a relationship with a woman for himself, and also saw the violent death of an idealist. MacAskill has to face up to the untimely death of a young man in his new parish, a death that may or may not be directly attributable to some of MacAskill's "management" in the past. And he is himself drawn into alcoholism, and then into a criminal act by fury against a revealed abuser; I won't say any more than that. But there is incident as well as psychological insight if you're willing to wait for it.


Some will be maddened by the ending that does not have the expected pointed moral (or catharsis). But I thought it was exactly right, in a novel where there are terrible things that are definitely wrong, but yet nothing is ever completely black-and-white.

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review 2019-11-18 20:12
Jack the Ripper: Case Closed (Brandreth)
Jack the Ripper : Case Closed - Gyles Brandreth

I was under the impression that Brandreth's Wilde series had necessarily come to its end with the last, rather dark outing centred around his imprisonment in Reading Gaol and brief sojourn in Paris before his death. Imagine how pleased I was, then, to discover this new volume, however out of chronological sequence it may be. The story is set in 1894 (not in August-September 1888, the dates of the spree killings generally recognized to be Jack the Ripper's). The conceit is that the Ripper returns and commits at least one more murder. Brandreth's (or rather Wilde's) solution is colourful and takes us through the world of the circus, the sordid streets of London's red-light district, and a 19th-century madhouse. In a blog entry, Brandreth actually makes a claim that the solution Wilde enunciates is the correct one, and is based on new information from documents of a Brandreth forebear.


Amongst the real persons portrayed in this episode, alongside the reliable Arthur Conan Doyle, are writers Lewis Carroll and James Barrie (vignettes only), and Wilde's brother Willie and wife Constance. Hovering over all the proceedings, though only lightly suggested, is a threatening miasma of Wilde's impending doom, suggested by the continued presence of someone following him (presumably at Queensberry's behest).


Brandreth has also incorporated into this novel, as a character and a source of near-contemporary speculation about the Ripper, the policeman (later chief) Macnaghten, who was a neighbour of Wilde's and who wrote a famous report on the likely perpetrator. Wilde contemptuously dismisses Macnaghten's primary suspect, who by coincidence was contemporary of Wilde as a student, and who committed suicide suspiciously soon after the Ripper murders appeared to cease. Brandreth's fictional Wilde claims knowledge that this suspect was guilty of the lesser crime of having an affair with a boy.


Greatly enjoyed, as always.

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