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review 2018-03-05 16:29
Bellevue Square / Michael Redhill
Bellevue Square - Michael Redhill

Jean Mason has a doppelganger. At least, that's what people tell her. Apparently it hangs out in Kensington Market, where it sometimes buys churros and shops for hats. Jean doesn't rattle easy, not like she used to. She's a grown woman with a husband and two kids, as well as a thriving business, and Toronto is a fresh start for the whole family. She certainly doesn't want to get involved in anything dubious, but still . . . why would two different strangers swear up and down they'd just seen her--with shorter hair furthermore?

Jean's curiosity quickly gets the better of her, and she visits the market, but sees no one who looks like her. The next day, she goes back to look again. And the day after that. Before she knows it, she's spending an hour here, an afternoon there, watching, taking notes, obsessing and getting scared. With the aid of a small army of locals who hang around in the market's only park, she expands her surveillance, making it known she'll pay for information or sightings. A peculiar collection of drug addicts, scam artists, philanthropists, philosophers and vagrants--the regulars of Bellevue Square--are eager to contribute to Jean's investigation. But when some of them start disappearing, it becomes apparent that her alleged double has a sinister agenda. Unless Jean stops her, she and everyone she cares about will face a fate stranger than death


I rate this book at 3.5 stars. This despite the fact that I almost quit reading about halfway through it. At that point, it seemed like just another domestic noir novel and I couldn’t see why it was a Giller prize finalist—what could it possibly offer to deserve that? But I was home on a snowy day, appointments cancelled, coffee waiting, reading blanket at the ready, and I decided that I would give it a few more pages.

Suddenly things took a completely unexpected turn. I found myself questioning everything. The rest of the book slaloms back and forth between realities until I couldn’t distinguish between them anymore. I was hooked.

And then it ended. Those of you who know me, know that I like messy and ambiguous endings. Except this one. I was left absolutely baffled and unsure what the point of the whole exercise actually was. This was too much even for me.

Apparently there are two more similar books to come. I doubt that I will bother with them after this experience.

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review 2018-01-28 17:00
The Widows of Malabar Hill (A Mystery of 1920s Bombay) - Sujata Massey

A few minutes ago (it's 11:20 AM EST as I write this), I had the satisfaction of finishing reading "THE WIDOWS OF MALABAR HILL." It's centered around India's first woman lawyer, Perveen Mistry, who had received her legal training at Oxford. The time is February 1921 and she has returned to her home in Bombay, where she has a job working in her father's law firm. 

Perveen has been given the responsibility of executing the will of Omar Farid, a wealthy Muslim who owned a fabric mill and had 3 wives. In the immediate aftermath of Farid's death, the 3 widows are living in strict purdah (a type of seclusion in which the widows never leave the women's quarters nor see and speak with any man) at the Farid residence on Malabar Hill. Whilst carefully reading the documents, Perveen notices that the widows have signed off their inheritance to a charity. What strikes Perveen as odd is that one of the widows' signature is a 'X', which is a clear indication that the widow who affixed the 'X' probably was unable to read the document. This leads Perveen to wonder how the 3 widows will be able to live and take care of themselves. She begins to suspect that maybe they may be taken advantage of by the legal guardian entrusted by Mr. Farid to handle their financial affairs. Perveen has the welfare and best interests of her clients, the 3 widows, in mind.

Perveen goes on to carry out an investigation. She makes an arrangement with the widows' legal guardian, Feisal Mukri, to come to the residence to visit the widows and to speak with each of them separately. In the process of doing so, tensions are stirred in the Farid residence and a murder takes place there that makes a straightforward matter of executing a family will into something much more perilous and uncertain. There is also something out of Perveen's recent past in Calcutta that intrudes into her present life. 

"THE WIDOWS OF MALABAR HILL" is a novel whose prose resonates on every page. It has a lot of twists and turns that will engage the reader's attention throughout. Sujata Massey is a writer who not only knows how to craft and tell a richly compelling novel. She'll leave the reader wanting more. And after almost 14 years of reading Massey's work, I'm already eager to begin reading the second novel in the Perveen Mistry Series. 

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review 2017-12-18 21:19
The Blood Detective / Dan Waddell
The Blood Detective - Dan Waddell

When the naked, mutilated body of a man is found in a Notting Hill graveyard and the police investigation led by Detective Chief Inspector Grant Foster and his colleague Detective Superintendent Heather Jenkins yields few results, a closer look at the corpse reveals that what looked at first glance like superficial knife wounds on the victim's chest is actually a string of carved letters and numbers, an index number referring to a file in city archives containing birth and death certificates and marriage licenses. Family historian Nigel Barnes is put on the case. As one after another victim is found in various locations all over London, each with a different mutilation but the same index number carved into their skin, Barnes and the police work frantically to figure out how the corresponding files are connected. With no clues to be found in the present, Barnes must now search the archives of the past to solve the mystery behind a string of 100-year-old murders. Only then will it be possible to stop the present series of gruesome killings, but will they be able to do so before the killer ensnares his next victim? Barnes, Foster, and Jenkins enter a race against time and before the end of the investigation, one of them will get much too close for comfort.


It’s pretty difficult to make genealogy and genealogists seem sexy. Records research is never going to be as riveting as blood splatter analysis or DNA, but Waddell does his best. I liked the link between the Victorian murders and those of the present day. As someone who has spent some time in family history centres and records offices, I could recognize many of the “types” who peopled these places. There’s always at least one creepy dude like Nigel Barnes’ nemesis.

Unfortunately it is cliché ridden (the handsome researcher with something troubling in his past, the policewoman with a soft heart, the stuck-in-a-rut DCI in charge). There’s potential here, but if you aren’t a fan of research or records management, this may not be the book that you’re looking for.

Not bad, but not wonderful either.

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review 2017-12-12 16:24
Hercule Poirot's Christmas / Agatha Christie
Hercule Poirot's Christmas: A Hercule Poirot Mystery - Agatha Christie

Motives for Murder: A fortune in uncut diamonds, hidden by an eccentric old man - A woman's love, too freely given - A business empire built on ruthlessness. Each of them may have been a motive for the brutal slaying of wealthy old Simeon Lee. Coupled with Lee's family, each member of which hated him and wished to see him dead, they present Hercule Poirot with a baffling challenge--one which the astute detective solves only through his uncanny ability to see "the little things."


What does one get M. Poirot for Christmas? A bloody good murder, that’s what!

I love watching the skillful set-up in Agatha Christie’s books—the details that she lovingly points out to us, designed to lead our thinking astray! An excellent red herring meant I was looking the wrong direction when M. Poirot did his big reveal. I was so sure that I had spotted the killer that I didn’t pay attention to anyone else! (Christie – 7, Wanda – 2 so far in my reading of her oeuvre).

The murder victim is deliciously hate-able, the potential murderers are suitably complex people, the motives abound, as does the blood. As Poirot points out, when we are being forced to visit family that we might not normally & there is pressure for a certain type of behaviour, murder becomes a real possibility! So don’t lean on your family members too hard this Christmas—give them and yourself a bit of breathing room and avoid family bloodshed.

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review 2017-12-04 19:39
The Mummy Case / Elizabeth Peters
The Mummy Case - Elizabeth Peters

Radcliffe Emerson, the irascible husband of fellow archaeologist and Egyptologist Amelia Peabody, has earned the nickname "Father of Curses" -- and at Mazghunah he demonstrates why. Denied permission to dig at the pyramids of Dahshoor, he and Amelia are resigned to excavating mounds of rubble in the middle of nowhere. And there is nothing in this barren area worthy of their interest -- until an antiquities dealer is murdered in his own shop. A second sighting of a sinister stranger from the crime scene, a mysterious scrap of papyrus, and a missing mummy case have all whetted Amelia's curiosity. But when the Emersons start digging for answers in an ancient tomb, events take a darker and deadlier turn -- and there may be no surviving the very modern terrors their efforts reveal.


“Catastrophically precocious”—this is how Amelia Peabody Emerson describes her young son, Walter Emerson (better known as Ramses, for his demanding nature). Several times during this novel, a chill runs down her spine when she wonders just where her darling son is and what mischief he has found in which to embroil himself!

The fact that the author herself is an Egyptologist really makes these books fun. She uses all the historical archaeologists as characters for Emerson to roar and bellow at when he is not debating archaeological issues with vicious thrust-and-parry.

I still love Amelia, armed with her parasol, seeking out clues. Ramses is lawyer-like in his reasoning, endeavouring to manoeuvre around her prohibitions. But “da cat Bastet” really steals the show in this installment—somehow I picture her as a haughty Siamese.

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