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review 2018-11-16 19:40
24 Festive Tasks: Doors 3, 21 and 24 - Books for Melbourne Cup Day, Kwanzaa and Epiphany
Field of Thirteen - Dick Francis
The Guards - Ken Bruen,Gerry O'Brien
The Clock Strikes Twelve - Diana Bishop,Patricia Wentworth


Dick Francis: Field of Thirteen

I've owned this collection of short stories since forever and decided our Melbourne Cup Day book task was the perfect occation so pull it out and finally read it.  Candidly, I'm not sure why Dick Francis didn't write more short stories: both his style of writing and his plot construction lent themselves perfectly to the short form, and I tend to view even some of his novels as short story constructs extended to novel length rather than books conceived as novels in the first place (even though they probably were).  Be that as it may, this is a very enjoyable collection featuring some of Francis's best writing, set in the world of racehorse breeding (and stealing and betting), and against the great race events of Britain and the U.S., from the Grand National, Ascot, Sandown Park, the Marlborough Racing Club Gallops, Cheltenham and Stratford to the Kentucky Derby, plus the odd imaginary racetrack (unfortunately, not also the Melbourne Cup).  Not all of the mysteries involve a death, and not all the deaths that occur are caused intentionally -- word to the wise, however, steeplechase racing is a hazardous sport for humans and horses alike, and Francis makes no bones about this particular fact.

 


Ken Bruen: The Guards
(Narrator: Gerry O'Brien)

Ken Bruen's Jack Taylor series has been on my radar ever since I watched the first episode of its TV adapatation, starring Iain Glen.  The Guards provides as gut-punch an opener as is conceivable to the series; we see how and why Taylor is dismissed from the Gardaí Síochána, and though the motif of the loner detective who struggles not only at socializing but also with a range of other things, most notably including full-blown alcoholism, is a veritable staple in today's detective fiction, I can think of few other series where particularly the protagonist's addiction is explored this forthrightly (well, OK, Harry Hole comes to mind).  Taylor is -- literally -- not afraid to pull punches, but he is fiercly loyal to those to whom he feels loyalty is due ... and ready to take his loyalty all the way if necessary.  I've never been to County Galway, where the series is set, and I can't shake the feeling that I'd get even more out of it if I had, but even so, this is one series I'm glad to have finally added to those that I'm now following (and I'm not exactly sad I have a bunch of installments to catch up on first).  Gerry O'Brien's narration, too, did a stellar job in transporting the book's tone and atmosphere.

 

I listened to this for the Kwanzaa square (a book with a black cover). 

 


Patricia Wentworth: The Clock Strikes Twelve
(Narrator: Diana Bishop)

This came with high praise from both Tigus and Moonlight, so I knew I had a lot to look forward to -- and I was certainly not disappointed!  This is a New Year's Eve story and the "family patriarch publicly announces 'I know someone here has betrayed family interests and you've got until midnight to come forward and confess your sins'" classic mystery plot variant ... seriously, someone should have told those Golden Age family patriarchs not to do this sort of thing because it'll invariably get them killed.  Anyway, Wentworth had comfortably settled into her formula by the time she wrote this book, and I agree with Moonlight -- this is now my new favorite entry in the series, too.  Though written strictly to Wentworth's formula (cozy rural setting with bickering family [or village population], lovers to (re)bond, a reasonable but not impenetrable amount of red herrings, a perhaps not entirely unexpected villain, and an investigation by thoroughly compentent police inspectors who are, nevertheless, easily "bested" by Miss Silver), the characters and their various conflicts are finely and credibly drawn and jump off the page as real people ... and Miss Silver, as always, is a sheer delight.  Well done, Maudie!  And Patricia -- and Diana (Bishop), whose reading of the Miss Silver books I've thoroughly come to enjoy.

 

I'm counting this book towards the "Epiphany" square of "24 Festive Tasks" (a book with the word "twelve" in the title).

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2011-10-29 13:30
Kinderschreck
In the Forest - Edna O'Brien

A boy, robbed off his mother's love at the age of ten. Refusing to believe she is dead, clinging to the idea that she was buried alive while she was sleeping, digging a hole into the ground near her grave in order to speak to her. A loner who, then and there, decides to become "a true son of the forest," as his mother in a dream apparition has told him to be. (Or was that an early delusion?) An adolescent, locked up in juvenile homes, boarding schools, prisons and other institutions, abused by a priest, neglected, ignored, and locking himself off against the outside world in response. Putting to practice the one lesson he has learned from Lazlo, the boys' schizophrenic leader in the first such institution; Lazlo who heard voices and who has taught him that the one thing that counts is to hate "them" (the grown-ups, those that stand for authority and society as a whole) with a worse hate than they have for him. A young man, unable to show any feeling other than that long-practiced hatred; acting out his suppressed emotions in violence whenever he is not locked up, unable to escape the voices now talking in his head more and more often, just as they were once talking in Lazlo's.

 

And a young woman with long red hair. Maddie's mother, raising her young son alone, breaking off all relationships with men as soon as they get to close for comfort. An outsider, only recently moved to the village. A teacher. An artist. Mistress of ceremonies at a Celtic festival, performing pagan rituals. Druidess. Mystery woman whom nobody knows with complete intimacy, maybe not even her sister Cassandra and her best friend Madge. Raped and murdered by a young man trapped between insanity and emotional deprivation, for whom she is the realization of everything he associates with the idea of the female – simultaneously fairy queen, virgin, angel, object of his sexual fantasies, whore, confidante and most importantly, mother.

 

This is the couple which, in the deadly dance at the heart of Edna O'Brien's In the Forest, is locked together by fate; a fate prompted by the murderer's delusions and rage as much as by society's inability to deal with him. And this first murder is only the starting point of a killing spree which will demand several more victims ...

 

Read more on my own website, ThemisAthena.info.

 

Preview also cross-poted on Leafmarks.

Source: www.themisathena.info/literature/obrien1.html#Forest
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2008-11-25 00:00
A ghost train ride through Dublin's nightly underbelly.
Night Shift - Dermot Bolger

"I've been riding on a ghost train where the cars, they scream and slam; and I don't know where I'll be tonight, but I'd always tell you where I am." – Mark Knopfler, Tunnel of Love.

 

It's a dull, dumbing and exhaustive routine, that night shift at the run-down metal factory, and it's only society's losers who are working there; those who no longer have the hope of a better life and of a future to speak of, and who now live from night to night only, trying to beat the graveyard shift one bleak weeknight at a time: Duckarse, the chargehand, never introduced by any other name than that of the nickname which the men have given him, and which seems to sum up his entire existence. Dan, the lonesome old man who has spent his life running away from and simultaneously following from a distance the pitiful fate of the woman he met in post-World War II London, and whose image now haunts his sleepless days because he abandoned her, and because his guilt-ridden conscience has convinced him that he is responsible for her fate; although he has long since lost the ability to do anything about it – or about anything else, for that matter. And Frankie, who spends his weekends in pubs and bars, unsuccessfully trying to build a career as a rock band promoter, and for whom paradise consists of one idea only: to delve head-first into the limitless stashes of Amsterdam's drug market, and never to re-emerge.

 

And then there is Donal, who does not seem to fit in with this group. Donal, who married his girlfriend Elizabeth after high school because he truly loves her – not just because they found out that she was pregnant and marrying her was the honorable thing to do. Donal, who now lives with his delicate, beautiful and very pregnant young wife in a trailer in the backyard of her parents' house. Donal, who actually has the hope of escaping the dull routine of his nightly work, and of all the days not spent awake with his wife because he is catching up on the sleep he did not get at night. Donal, who only took this job (which his childhood friend Frankie found for him) because he quickly needed a source of income after they had found out that Elizabeth was pregnant. And Donal, who is caught between his loyalty to Frankie and the life that he represents on the one hand and his love for Elizabeth and their shared, fragile hope for a better future on the other hand; desperately trying to hold on to their one chance at luck and happiness and to defend it against the bleakness threatening to encroach their life from all sides simultaneously in the post-industrial streets and neighborhoods of blue collar Dublin.

 

Read more on my own website, ThemisAthena.info.

 

Preview also cross-posted on Leafmarks.

Source: www.themisathena.info/literature/bolger.html#NightShift
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