Sunday, 12 February 2017

Book talk on a snowy Sunday morning...

We had lots of snow last night, so it looks like a winter wonderland outside!  I’m happy to be inside, warm and cozy with a steaming cup of chai tea.  No treat today, but I had a treat yesterday, a very yummy heart-shaped, raspberry-filled cookie from a local baker/artisan, Bittersweettart (http://bittersweettart.co/), that I got at the Kitchener Market.  It was delicious!!


I have a book and an audiobook that I’d like to tell you about in this post.  I read Sophie Hannah’s new book last week, A Game for All the Family, which kept me riveted to the very last page.  It opens with Justine Merrison revelling in the fact that she does Nothing.  After escaping a hectic life in London and a career that nearly destroyed her, she and her family are moving to Devon, to a beautiful rambling estate in the countryside, where she plans to do as little as possible.  This plan works for a few months, but then she begins to notice that her daughter Ellen’s behaviour is changing, that she is becoming more withdrawn and reticent.  When questioned, she eventually reveals that her best friend George has been expelled from school.  Justine knows nothing about this, but upon further questioning, she learns that he was falsely accused of committing a crime in which Ellen was involved and unjustly expelled.  Justine goes to the school to find out what is going on, only to be met with denial from the headmistress - not only was George not expelled from the school, but there never was a George attending the school in the first place.  Did Ellen make up this “friend”?  Is the school covering something up?  Then Justine begins receiving anonymous phone calls telling her to go back to London and claiming that she shares a traumatic past and a guilty secret with the caller, and she becomes more determined to get to the heart of this bizarre story and find the truth.  At her husband’s insistence, she reports these calls to the police, but they seem to be unable or unwilling to help.  When the phone calls become more menacing and the caller threatens Justine and her family, she realizes that she alone must find the truth and safeguard her family from this unstable woman. This book was creepy and riveting, a real page-turner.  About half-way through the book, I flipped to the back inside flap to read the author bio and noticed Hannah’s picture - she looks so normal, like she should be writing “chicklit”, not psychological thrillers about deranged psychopaths intent on killing entire families!  I loved the book, but I’m not sure how I feel about the ending.  Of course, since I can’t give anything away, I can’t explain why I didn’t love the way she chose to end it - I’d love to discuss it with someone and get his or her thoughts.  Anyway, it was certainly well-written and suspenseful, and kept me feeling slightly off-balance, wondering what was reality and what was pure fantasy.  I find Hannah’s books are usually fairly confusing, but the enjoyment of reading them, in my opinion, far outweighs the uncertainty left by the complicated storylines and the details that are often difficult to figure out.  


And speaking of complex, complicated stories that are difficult to figure out (and even more difficult to believe!), I finally got the the end of The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen, the first in the “Department Q” series featuring Carl Mørck.  This is the first book I’ve read/listened to by this Danish author, but the review I read compared it to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (which I’ve never actually read, but I’ve watched the original film).  Carl is just back from a leave after a botched investigation left one of his colleagues dead and another paralyzed, but no one wants to work with him, including his boss, Marcus Jacobson.  Using funds recently received from the government for the investigation of cold cases of a sensitive nature, Jacobson banishes Carl to the basement under the guise of promotion as head of the newly-established “Department Q”.  Carl gets to choose his own cases, control his own budget, and allocate his time however he wants, with the aid of an assistant, Syrian refugee Assad, but all he really wants to do is be left alone to wallow in his survivor guilt.  Alas, he has to show that he’s selected a case to work on and give updates on his progress, so he chooses to reinvestigate the disappearance of Merete Lynggaard, a prominent politician who disappeared on her way to Copenhagen with her brain-damaged brother Uffe five years earlier.  His thorough investigative techniques, along with Assad’s surprising astuteness and skill, lead them on a twisting, turning path that spirals down, down, down into the depths of a sociopath’s plan to torture and ultimately annihilate a woman against whom this madman has a grudge.  This book was long.  It was complex.  It was violent and full of conspiracy theories, false leads and archetypal characters.  The plot was fairly ridiculous and unbelievable, but it was also well-written and suspenseful.  I think part of the problem I had enjoying this book was with the narration, and the author also had to provide so much back-story to set the stage for subsequent books in this series.  I am definitely interested in reading/listening to other books in this series (hopefully with a different narrator!), and would recommend this to anyone who enjoyed the Steig Larsson trilogy or Scandinavian thrillers with dark, curmudgeonly main characters.  


That’s all for today.  Get outside and play in the snow!!

Bye for now…
Julie

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