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review 2020-04-27 16:05
Reading progress update: I've read 100%.
Broken Ground - Val McDermid,Cathleen McCarron
Broken Ground - Val McDermid

So what happened at the end there, Val?  Why that infernal rush?  Did you suddenly become aware that you were on your way towards producing a minor brick, or did your publisher tell you to cut it short?  There we were, sailing nicely along in the usual 4-stars-or-higher bracket into which this series typically falls for me, and then you first give us an arrest that couldn't be a greater possible anticlimax, taking into account all that's at stake there, and, literally as an aside, almost everything else that had been threatening to come crashing down on Karen's head is tied up super-squeaky-clean in no more than a few puny words as well??  Fie.

 

Also -- and I do realize this one is down to me, but nevertheless it does add to my aggravation -- can we please be done with Karen's new superior officer sooner rather than later?  I've had my own share of run-ins with this type of person way beyond anything I'm willing to take anymore (it also doesn't help that I've recently seen -- and am currently seeing again -- shenanigans of a different, but equally infuriating kind); so the prospect that of all Karen's problems that were still unresolved in the next-to-last chapter, this of all things is the one issue remaining unresolved, makes me not particularly rush to get the next book, whenever it's going to be published.  I seriously do NOT want to meet this person again.  And unlike poor Karen, I have the freedom to opt out here; which I may very well end up doing, unless someone tells me that the supervisor in question is getting her long-overdue comeuppance and Karen is rid of her by the end of the next book at the very latest.

 

Finally, just curious: What's your fascination with dead bodies surfacing from the depth of a peat bog?  This has to be at least the second, if not third book where that sort of thing is happening ...

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review 2020-04-14 02:46
The Flower Reader by Elizabeth Loupas
The Flower Reader - Elizabeth Loupas

This book was such a disappointment. I loved Loupas' book, The Red Lily Crown. I loved how she told tales of the de Medici family and brought Renaissance Italy with all its intrigue to life. Someone who did what she did with the de Medici's should have easily handled Mary, Queen of Scots, and all the drama of her Scottish entourage. One would think.

 

This book was a disaster from the start. Rinette's wedding is forcibly disrupted by a group of Scottish brutes who want to force her marriage to someone else. This starts a theme that will carry throughout the entire novel. ALL Scottish men are brutes. They are savage, bodice-ripping, dagger-carrying, brawling-in-the-streets brutes. The French aren't any nicer but they dress better so the author is a little more forgiving of their actions.

 

And then there is the one and only Mary, Queen of Scots. She was worse than the brutes. For starters, Loupas' MQoS made Charles VI of France look sane. I recognize that there were actual, legit issues with MQoS. Most biographers suggest she suffered from the same disease attributed to King George III's bouts of madness. Sorry but if Mary is really as awful as Loupas makes her out to be, her bastard half brother actually makes her disappear and puts the crown on his own head. He doesn't waste years fighting with her before fleeing the country. So maybe it's all a little more complicated than that. But is it really? Loupas would have you believe that it's really not. After all, Scotland is overrun with violent, wild men who can't stand being told what to do by any woman no matter what her title is.

 

Somewhere in all of this, there's a casket (foreshadow alert) containing letters and a mysterious prophecy written by the one and only Nostradamus. These items were property of Mary's mother, Marie of Guise. Rinette is entrusted with this casket and told to deliver it into Mary's hands upon Marie's death. Instead of just handing the casket to Mary as soon has she is off her French boat, Rinette decides she's going to hold on to it. She thinks she's going to bargain with someone she hasn't talked to or seen since they were eight years old. Before she had been Queen of France and Queen of Scotland. Spoiler alert- It doesn't work out very well for Rinette. 

 

Last issue with this book -

I'm so over authors who spend all kinds of time telling me about their heroines who are strong, brave, and independent women who don't need a man only to have the story ending with a woman who needs a man because she spent the whole book making bad choices. That was a terrible run on sentence. It's exactly how the thought came out of my brain. I'm not apologizing. Just acknowledging. Anyway, if she's (Rinette or Mary. Take your pick.) so smart, why does she continue to make so many bad choices? Both things can't be true. Beyonce has told us as much several time. 

 

Loupas has one other published work I have on my TBR. It takes the reader back to Italy. I'll probably pick it up only because I loved her last venture into Italy. Maybe it's just Scotland with all of its brutes that's the problem. 

 

If I were able to get to the library right now, this book would have gone back unfinished. As it is, I cannot get to the library so I might as well read all of the books I have. 

 

 

Dates read 4/5/2020 - 4/13/2020

Book 25/75 

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review 2020-03-13 22:29
A twisted mystery and an homage to the classics of the genre
The Hunting Party - Lucy Foley

I thank Harper Collins UK and NetGalley for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

Lucy Foley is a new author to me but I was intrigued by the premise of the book, which promised to be a look back at the classics but with a modern touch. The format is easily recognisable (a group of people isolated in a somewhat strange setting, a crime, and the suspicions that fall on all those present). I had recently read The Glass Hotel and although they are set in very different locations (the hotel here is in the Scottish Highlands), there were some similarities in the isolation of the place, and in the motivations of some of the employees to seek such isolation, but this is a more conventional caper, where everybody hides secrets, dislikes and even hatreds, and there is a lot of emphasis placed on the relationship between the university friends who go on holiday together even though they no longer have much in common, and whom we get to know pretty well during the book.

There are plenty of lies, obscure motivations, relationships that are not what they seem to be, infidelity, popularity contests, friction between the so-called friends, and the book is told in two separate timeframes, one after the crime (although a bit like in Big Little Lies, we hear about the aftermath of the crime, but who the victim is doesn’t get revealed until almost the very end), and another that follows chronologically from the time when the friends set off towards their holiday destination. Eventually, both narratives catch up, and we get a full understanding of what has gone on.  It’s a great strategy to keep readers guessing, and although I did have my suspicions of at least some of the things that were to come, I admit that there are some interesting red herring thrown into the works . Readers need to remain attentive to the changes in time frame to avoid getting confused as to when things have taken place, although this is clearly stated in the novel.

One of the problems some readers seem to have with the novel is that the characters are not terribly likeable. The story is narrated mostly from the point of view of several of the women: three of the female friends (Emma, the newest one to arrive in the group; Miranda, the Queen Bee who never quite lived up to everybody’s expectations; and Katie, Miranda’s best friend, the only single one, who seems to have outgrown the group in many ways ), and also Heather, the manager of the hotel, who has secrets of her own (and is one of the nicest characters)— all of them told in the first person—, and one man’s point of view, Doug, another employee of the hotel, although in his case we get a third-person account, and one marred by many of his personal difficulties (let’s say that he is not a very reliable narrator). Reading the events from several points of view helps us gain perspective and heightens our suspicions as to what might really be going on. I must agree that the characters, probably because we are privy to their internal thoughts rather than to others’ opinions of them, are difficult to like. Self-obsessed or obsessed with others, with random likes and dislikes, cruel, or unable to face the truth… none of them are people most of us would choose as friends. Considering this is a book about a group of friends, it does offer a particularly grim view of old friendships, emphasising the lack of sincerity and honesty and the dark undertones to most of the relationships between them. On the other hand, I must admit that dark —or at least grey— characters make for a much more interesting reading experience than goody two-shoes.  

The writing style is straight forward and manages to create a clear image of the characters in the reader’s mind. There are some rather memorable scenes as well, but the book takes its time building up the background and the relationships, rather than moving at a fast pace, but still manages to keep readers intrigued and interested.

As I said, I had my suspicions about who the guilty party might be and what was behind the murder from early on (the clues are all there), but nonetheless I found the ending satisfying, and I think most readers will feel the same.

In sum, a solid thriller, that brings back memories of old style mystery novels, with more emphasis on the psychological aspect, and which also has much in common with the domestic noir style (although here transposed to the Highlands). An interesting novel for lovers of the genre, and one that I’m sure in the right hands could be turned into a successful movie. 

 

 

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text 2020-02-29 22:20
A Day Out at Leakey's

When @MoonlightReader first mentioned the buddy read of Miss Pym Disposes, I immediately thought about how to celebrate reading my last Josephine Tey book in style. 

I mean, Tey has become one of my favourite authors over the years and I had kept back Miss Pym Disposes for a special occasion, knowing full well that finishing it will likely lead to a reading slump and author hangover.

I mean, I still have a few other books and plays to read by the author under her other pen name Gordon Daviot but these are of an entirely different style and premise, they are not "Tey mysteries".

 

So, when I thought about it, it also occurred to me that I still had not been to that secondhand bookshop in Inverness, Tey's/Daviot's/Mackintosh's birthplace, that I've meant to seek out for years. 

 

As the weather forecast for today was pretty grim, I finally decided that I might as well spend the day indoors elsewhere, hop on a train and see if it is true that the bookshop has a wood-burning stove on its premises. Tey book in hand I set out on a small adventure...

 

The weather forecast was wrong, btw. It was cold, but really sunny.

Never mind. 

 

Leakey's, the bookshop, is currently housed in a former church. It does not like much from the outside...

 

...but looks can be deceptive.

 

 

And yes. Yes, there is a wood-burner right in the centre of the shop. 

 

 

What a brilliant place! The shop does have a small general fiction section, but it mostly specialises in antiquarian books and maps. The travel section upstairs is pretty impressive, too! I found it difficult to contain my book purchases to only a few books, but I saw an edition of Freya Stark's The Southern Gates of Arabia, which I hope will make up for the (so far) disappointing book by Gertrude Bell I am reading at present.

 

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text 2020-02-22 13:08
Reading progress update: I've read 39 out of 373 pages.
All the Hidden Truths: one shocking crime: three women need answers: Winner of the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Debut of the Year! - Claire Askew

Four chapters into the book and the following already annoy me:

 

1. The back cover blurb gives away a major plot point. It's something that is not mentioned in the chapter that introduces the three main characters. Grrrrrr.

 

2. Then on page one we have this:

"She forced herself to press the bell and shuffle out of her seat, down the aisle and then the stairs of the swaying bus. She alighted outside the National Library of Scotland, whose double doors were mobbed by a gang of school kids. Moira felt herself tense. She'd come to sit in peace and do some studying for her OU degree, but the thought of being holed up in a dark, oppressive reading room on a day like this had already put a sullen feeling in her chest. A school-trip group clattering about the place practically guaranteed that she'd get nothing done."

Erm, I presume she's referring to the general reading room, which indeed does not have a lot natural daylight in the general reading room (tho other reading rooms have floor to ceiling windows). But one of the effects of the location of the general reading room is that it is isolated from the areas where school kids could possibly clatter about. There is no way the character could have heard them unless the kids had been let loose in the reading room itself. And that is highly unlikely in that particular place. You know, the library that is famous for patrons shushing even the librarians. 

 

3. The descriptions of everything seem overdone. 

 

4. I find it difficult to keep the timeline straight: one character wanders about thinking about the past and her son. We learn that she's wearing jeans that she wore when pregnant with her son. Then we learn her son is 20. I'm not saying it's impossible to wear jeans for 20 years...but is it likely?

 

5. We encounter a 20 year-old construction worker who has been in an accident - fell of from a scaffold and impaled his shoulder in a bar. 

 

Yet, all of the characters describe him or refer to him as a "boy".

 

6. We have a DI who hears about the accident and prays that she's not called to that particular case. What case?! Why?!

 

 

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