Sunday, 1 February 2015

Beating the "winter blues" with books...

On this first day of February, when we really are in the middle of winter, I am finding that a good book and a delicious cup of tea can dispel the winter blues on even the darkest, coldest days.  Actually, I’m a “winter person”, so I enjoy the season, but sometimes it is so dark and cold that even I need something to perk me up.  And I found a perk this past week in an awesome mystery that I can’t wait to tell you about.
In my last post, I said that after the Anne Tyler book, I needed a book that was fast-paced and engaging, and I found it in a novel by an author I’d never heard of before.  The Forgotten Girls, by Sara Blaedel, Denmark’s “Queen of Crime”, sucked me in and kept me guessing to the very last page.  The novel opens with a woman racing through the forest to get away from Gone.  Fuelled by fear and panic, she stumbles through the branches and heads for the light, only to meet an untimely end.  Her body is discovered in the forest but remains unidentified for four days, despite the unique scarring which covers one side of her face and shoulder.  Detective Louise Rick, assigned to head up the Special Search Agency, a new unit of the Missing Persons Department in central Zealand, a small town outside of Copenhagen, is frustrated that no one has reported her missing.  Her body was found by a forest worker one morning, but without any clues, she and her new partner, Eik NordstrØm, have no way to identify her.  She takes a risk and releases a photo to the media, which pays off.  A woman who used to work at Eliselund, a state-run mental institution, identifies the woman as Lisemette, a child she once cared for while she worked there many years ago.  Louise discovers that Lisemette, who was mentally disabled, was sent to the institution when she was three years old after her mother passed away and her father could no longer take care of her as well as run the farm.  Although the death has been ruled an accident, Louise feels that there are still too many loose ends to close the case, and continues digging into the history of the long-closed institution, only to uncover some surprising arrangements and their unsavoury  consequences.  While digging into the past of the town and area, Louise’s own past resurfaces, and she must search deep within herself to finally resolve her own personal issues before she is able to move on.  Her search for answers to Lisemette’s death will ultimately lead to a discovery that is sure to shock even the most seasoned mystery readers. I couldn't put this book down, and finished it in just three days.  With its complex plot twists, this mystery thriller reminded me of Harlen Coben and Henning Mankell.    
And speaking of Henning Mankell, I just finished listening to an audiobook by this Swedish author, one of the books in the “Kurt Wallander” series called One Step Behind.  This novel opens with the calculated murder of three young adults who were dressed up in period costumes to celebrate Midsummer’s Eve at a nature reserve outside of Ystad.  When these bodies are finally discovered, Wallander is assigned to head up the investigation.  When one of his most trusted colleagues, Svedberg, does not show up at the meeting, he becomes suspicious and goes by his flat to check on him.  He discovers Svedberg’s dead body slumped in a chair and the indication that a frantic search took place.  Are these murders connected, or was Svedberg just the unlucky victim of a break-in?  When the fourth member of the group from the Midsummer’s Eve party, unable to attend due to illness, is murdered, Wallander ramps up the search with extra help from other police teams.  When yet more murders occur, Wallander, recently diagnosed with diabetes and suffering various health issues, questions his ability to lead the team effectively and considers turning the case over to someone else.  In classic Mankell style, this novel, too, parallels the motives of the murderer with the decline in Swedish society.  While I found it a bit long, and I didn’t love the narrator’s style, it was worth the patience it took to reach the conclusion.  I have just downloaded 2 more audiobooks in the “Wallander” series, both of them a bit shorter than this one, but unfortunately narrated by the same person.  Oh well, once I got used to his style of reading, I could let it go and enjoy the writing. 
That’s all for today.  Stay warm and Happy Reading!

Bye for now…
Julie

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