Sunday 2 February 2014

Happy Groundhog Day!!

I heard that Wiarton Willie immediately saw his shadow this morning as he emerged from his cozy den, indicating six more weeks of winter for us in Canada.  Hmmm… to me, that means six more weeks of potential “good reading days”, since it’s so much harder for me to stay inside and read on a pleasantly warm, sunny day than on a cold, messy one.  So, for me, this is good news!

Well, I’ve had a busy morning of cooking and baking, and I’m so happy to now be sitting down with my (well-earned!) hot cup of tea, a slice of Date Bread, and my book thoughts for the past week.  I have a book and an audiobook to tell you about today.

I finished listening to Unleashed by David Rosenfelt last week, the most recent book in the “Andy Carpenter” series, narrated by Grover Gardner.  I listened to so many of these books that I have come to associate his voice with the character.  I wonder if Gardener has narrated any other books… I must check that out.  The main character in this series, Andy Carpenter, is an irreverent Paterson, New Jersey lawyer who has become independently wealthy due to some shady business conducted by his deceased police investigator father some years earlier.  He has a golden lab named Tara, whom he loves almost as much as he loves his girlfriend Laurie, an ex-detective.  With his sudden wealth, he opens a dog shelter, the Tara Foundation, where he cares for dogs that are going to be put down by other shelters in the city until they are adopted.  Andy generally takes on difficult cases where cover-ups by prominent members of the community are occurring, and Unleashed is no exception.  In this book, Andy is reluctant to take on any more cases, so when his friend Sam Willis asks him to investigate what at first appeared to be a plane crash causing the death of Sam’s friend, Barry Price, but which turns out to be murder by poison, he declines.  When circumstances involving Laurie and an injured dog lead him to take on the case, he attempts to defend Price’s wife and Sam’s former sweetheart, Denise.  As he uncovers information that leads him to believe Price was involved in high-stakes money-laundering, he searches for other witnesses to help in his case.  These witnesses are all scared, and as the murders pile up, Andy realizes that there is more to the case than just money-laundering, and the lives of everyone involved are at risk.  I thought at first that this story was a bit lame, that it didn’t have the usual depth of character involvement and plot that his other books usually have, and I wondered if that was because Andy’s relationship with Laurie was firmly cemented and there was no more sexual tension, which played a significant role in many of his earlier books.  About halfway through, the case seemed to be solved, and I was feeling pretty disappointed.  I wondered how the author was going to fill the next half of the book.  Then Andy’s case went to trial, and suddenly that customary depth of plot and character involvement began in earnest.  The plot became complex, the characters became more interesting and involved, and my faith in Rosenfelt was restored.  This reader enjoyed a completely satisfying conclusion to the story, and can look forward to listening to further “Andy Carpenter” books.  Hurray!

When I closed last week, I was wondering what I could read that would be engaging enough to be a quick read to fill in the time until I would start my next Book Club selection, and I considered rereading a Peter Robinson mystery.  Well, I discovered in my collection a book I had not read before, The Boy in the Snow by M. J. McGrath, the second in the “Edie Kiglatuk” mystery series.  I read the first in the series, White Heat, which I really enjoyed, so I was pleasantly surprised to find this book, which I had entirely forgotten about.  It seemed appropriate read this mystery, set in Alaska, during a week when we were experiencing exceptionally cold weather, and finishing the book on a day when snow fell continually for the entire day and into the night.  The story begins with Edie’s ex-husband, Sammy, losing control of his dogsledding team while participating in an important race along the Iditarod trail.  Half-Inuit Edie is in Anchorage to support Sammy’s progress in the race, but she feels out of place “down South”, away from her Northern home on Ellesmere Island.  She is snowmobiling along a trail in the woods when she encounters a white bear, which, when she determines that it is a Spirit Bear, she follows deeper into the woods on foot.  Lost and unsure of which way to go to return to her snow machine, she is thrilled when a couple, a pair of Old Believers, approach her on their own snowmobile.  She gets directions back to her machine, but on the way, she finds the frozen body of an infant, a baby boy in a Spirit House.  As she helps the Alaskan Police Department with their investigation into this death, she becomes more and more dissatisfied with the direction the investigation takes and the conclusions the investigators reach.  Balancing her obligation to support Sammy with her need to find the truth about the boy’s death, Edie faces one obstacle after another in a challenging search which uncovers complex schemes involving human trafficking and baby-selling.  With the help of her friend, police chief Derek Palliser, and a host of other, often eclectic, characters, Edie uncovers a grisly, morally corrupt plot that endangers the lives of many, a plot in which the guilty parties may just escape punishment.  I flew through this book.  Often I would have to put it down reluctantly because of the kink in my neck from reading so long.  It was helpful that I had read White Heat, but not absolutely necessary in order to enjoy this mystery.  There are many reasons to read this book:  complex plot, interesting characters, and a plethora of information about Inuit people and their culture, including the Inuktatut language, which is included in the back of the book.  The cultural information is perhaps at least as interesting as the details of the mystery, and while I found parts of this book to be a bit “over-the-top”, I would still recommend it as a quick, interesting read for anyone who enjoys a fast-paced mystery.  After reading White Heat, I remember commenting that Edie reminded me of Smilla in Peter Hoeg’s novel, Smilla’s Sense of Snow (blog post on Dec. 30, 2012), and this comparison certainly applies to this novel as well.  Both women are strong and smart, and definitely under-appreciated and underestimated by all those around them, especially the men.  I hope British writer McGrath has plans to continue this series for many years (and many books!) to come.

I will start I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith today, and will hopefully have time to finish it before my meeting on Saturday.  It is a fairly long book, but an easy read, and a book I’ve read before (see blog posts in February and March, 2013). 

Bye for now…

PS I just checked Grover Gardner as narrator for audiobooks available through my library, and he has an extensive audiography list.  I have listened to many of the books he has narrated, including some of the "Inspector Montalbano" series by Andrea Camilleri, Defending Jacob by William Landay and Shades of Blue by Bill Moody.  I'm impressed!

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