Sunday 9 December 2018

Tea, treats and audiobooks on a cool, sunny morning...

I’ve got my steaming cup of chai tea and delicious Date Bar on the coffee table in front of me on this gorgeous, crisp, sunny wintery morning.  It’s supposed to be clear, sunny days ahead for most of the week, too, which is awesome as we head into the busy Christmas season.
I finished a book yesterday that I will briefly write about, but I really wanted to focus on audiobooks today, as I haven’t written about any for quite some time.  I finished reading Susie Steiner’s second book in the series featuring DI Manon Bradshaw, Persons Unknown, and I have to say that I was a bit disappointed.  Not that it wasn’t well-written or that it didn’t have an interesting plot and complex mystery at the core, just that it lacked so many of the qualities that made Missing, Presumed so great.  A wealthy Londoner is crossing a park in Cambridgeshire when he falls dead in the arms of a woman out walking her dog.  Why was he in this small city and why would anyone want to kill him? Manon Bradshaw is back from London with her tail between her legs, her adopted son Fly, sister Ellie and nephew Solly in tow.  She begs for her old job back and is put on cold cases, taking advantage of the slower pace as she suffers the pains of her first pregnancy at 42. Davy Walker has been promoted and is running the investigation into the murder of Jon-Oliver Ross, the wealth management consultant who died of a stab wound to the heart in the park, but he must follow firm directions from Gary Stanton, the Chief Superintendent whom Davy idolizes, despite not agreeing with them.  These directions narrow the focus of the investigation exclusively on Fly, and Manon does all she can, while sitting on the sidelines and being instructed to stay away from the case, to find evidence pointing to the real killer. The threads of her investigation eventually come together and lead to a satisfying conclusion that leaves everything wrapped up neatly. I think if I hadn’t just read Missing, Presumed, I would have been more satisfied with this mystery; however, I still recall all the great things about the first mystery that made me love it.  This book had not a single literary reference, and Manon almost took a backseat as a character. And the sections focusing on her efforts to find the real killer seemed to be fraught with the pains of her pregnancy, the physical challenges she experiences, the uncertainty about her decision to have a baby, and her concern for Fly.  She was certainly a lackluster version of the character she was in the earlier book, a mere shadow of her former feisty, opinionated self, which definitely detracted from my reading enjoyment. But I’m still glad I read it, and this experience will not deter me from reading other mysteries by Steiner as they are published.
I noticed that I haven’t written about any audiobooks since the end of October with Clare MacIntosh’s I Let You Go, although I’ve listened to three books since then.  The first I also finished in October, a fabulous Young Adult novel, The Midnight Dress by Australian author Karen Foxlee.  A local girl goes missing and Foxlee drops clues into the story as she shifts from past to present to fill in the details for us.  Newcomer Rose Lovell, a girl who moves around a lot with her single, alcoholic father, never forms friendships because she always has to leave, causing them to end before they even have a chance to begin.  This time, though, Rose moves to a small coastal town where a popular classmate, Pearl Kelly, befriends her and Rose wonders if this time it will be different. Pearl convinces her to take part in the Harvest Parade, but to do so, Rose must find the perfect dress.  She seeks the help of Edie Baker, the town eccentric who knows all the town’s secrets and has many of her own, which she shares with Rose during their weekly meetings while she teaches Rose to sew her own dress, a dress of midnight blue that is constructed from materials taken from other dresses, creating what is to become a dress of stories.  Who is the girl that disappears, where did she go and what has happened to her? This surreal, magical story was at once a mystery, a coming-of-age story, and an exploration into the joys and perils of relationships. The descriptions of the various settings were beautifully detailed, but these didn’t overtake the story. I didn’t know anything about this book, but I’m so glad I listened to it, and will definitely keep my eye (or ear!) out for other books by this author.
Then I listened to a disappointing mystery by Jennifer McMahon, The Night Sisters.  Set in a small Vermont town, this novel explores the bonds between two sisters and their long-ago best friend as they struggle to unravel the mysteries of their past in order to understand the horrific events surrounding them now.  Amy and Piper were best friends, with Piper’s kid sister Margot always tagging along. Amy lived with her eccentric family at the Tower Motel, where they played as girls until two of Amy’s family members disappear. Their friendship is brought to an abrupt end, and decades pass with no contact, until suddenly they are thrown together again and must try to understand events of the past to free Amy from the accusations she is facing today.  The summary of the novel sounded intriguing, and I thought it might be a bit of a ghost story, but the key to the mystery ended up being much more mundane than that. I didn’t really enjoy this book, which I thought was way too long, but I stuck with it until the very end. I will not, however, seek out other books by this author.
And I just finished listening to Unnatural Causes:  a Dr. Katie LeClair Mystery by Dawn Eastman.  The heroine of this novel, Katie LeClair, is a new doctor in a small town outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan.  After completing her residency, she joins a family practice and is just getting to know the townspeople when one of her patients, Ellen Riley, is rushed to the ER after an overdose of diazepam, which Katie supposedly prescribed but about which she remembers nothing, and dies on the table.  Katie can’t believe that Ellen committed suicide, nor can Ellen’s daughter, Beth, but the police chief is satisfied with this conclusion, and it is up to Katie to search for clues that will help solve the mystery and find out what really happened to Ellen and why.  As I was listening to this audiobook, I kept thinking that, if Nancy Drew grew up and became a doctor, she would be just like Katie LeClair! It was a fun “read”, but not very believable. Having said that, I might listen to another one of these audiobooks if I am struggling to find something else to listen to and just need to choose a book.
That’s all for today.  Get outside and enjoy the sunshine!
Bye for now…

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