Sunday, 13 December 2020

Post on a chilly, dreary morning...

It’s been a dreary weekend so far, but the relentless rain of yesterday has thankfully stopped and the temperature has dropped significantly overnight, so I expect it’s going to be a good day for a brisk walk.  Right now I’m enjoying a steaming cup of chai and a delicious Date Bar, my “breakfast of champions” for a Sunday morning.

I recently checked author websites for new or upcoming books by three of my favourite authors, Peter Robinson, Robert Rotenberg and Michael Robotham (I like to call them “the other three R’s”!), and was pleased to discover that all three have books coming out in the new year.  But as I was perusing their previously published books, I came across one of Peter Robinson’s books that I wasn't familiar with, Many Rivers to Cross.  I put it on hold at the library and when it arrived, I realized that I hadn’t yet read it, so that was my book choice for this past week.  This is the 26th installment in the “Alan Banks” series, and it was predictably good, focusing on immigrants and hate crimes, sex trafficking and the drug trade.  The body of a young Middle Eastern boy is found stuffed in a rubbish bin on the East Side Estates and Banks and his team are tasked with finding the killer.  The first problem they face, however, is the inability to discover the boy’s identity or even determine where he was originally from.  Their search leads them to various unsavoury characters in Eastvale, as well as the Albanian Mafia, as they explore unfamiliar areas and neighbourhoods in this small but ever-growing North Yorkshire town.  Running parallel to this investigation is the story involving Zelda, Ray Cabbott’s partner and a super-recognizer, who works part-time for the NCA identifying individuals involved in sex-trafficking. When she shows up for work one day, she finds that her boss, Mr Hawkins, has died in a house fire, a fire that is suspiciously like the one from which Banks narrowly escaped in a previous book.  Could Phil Keanes, the rogue art forger, be somehow involved in the abduction and trafficking of girls?  The plots develop at a steady pace throughout the novel until we reach a satisfying conclusion that answers all of this reader’s questions, while also leaving room for the expectation of yet another Banks novel.  It was interesting, but I’m finding Robinson’s more recent books to be rather dry, not as… hmmm… I want to say “juicy” or “meaty” as his earlier works, but being a vegetarian, I dislike those terms.  Maybe I’ll just say that the storylines seem less substantial; they seem to be less interesting, less deep, and less involved than previous plots and stories, and the growth, development and interactions with and between characters seems to be lacking.  Still, it’s worth reading if you are already a Peter Robinson fan, but I wonder, as I’ve wondered after reading other recent “Banks” books, if perhaps it’s time for him to write standalones or start another series.  Or here’s an idea:  maybe he should write books from various team members’ points of view.  I would love to read a novel told from Annie Cabbott’s viewpoint for a change.

And speaking of writing a series from various points of view, I just finished the audio version of a standalone by Tana French, The Searcher.  French has written a number of mystery novels as part of “The Dublin Murder Squad” series, each told from the point of view of a detective from the previous book, quite a novel idea (pun totally intended!).  I’ve read a few of these books and have enjoyed them very much.  I’ve also listened to another of her recent standalones, The Witch Elm, which I really, really enjoyed.  The Searcher, unfortunately, did not live up to my admittedly high expectations.  Cal Hooper, a retired Chicago detective, buys a broken-down farmhouse in a tiny Irish town with the intention of settling down in a small rural community where he can leave crime and violence, as well as his unhappy past, behind.  But when a kid named Trey seeks him out, his cop instinct kicks in.  Trey’s older brother, Brendan, is missing, and Trey is certain he didn’t just run off and abandon his family the way their father did years before.  Reluctantly, Cal gets sucked into the mystery, and his less-than-discrete inquiries slowly reveal the hidden truth that lies beneath the surface of this seemingly serene community, one dirty secret at a time.  This novel was just way too long.  There.  I said it.  French is an amazing author and I hate to be critical, but it’s the truth.  It’s too long, and nothing much happens until the last third of the book.  The Witch Elm was also very long, and I had issues with some of the main character’s meandering introspections, but the story still managed to move along at a satisfying pace.  But this one, not so much.  The story ended up being interesting, and the conclusion was satisfying, but it just took so darn long to get there that I wasn’t really even paying attention at that point, which was unfortunate.  Perhaps with these bigger novels, I should actually read the book so I can skim if necessary - with an audiobook, there is no skimming allowed.  

That’s all for today.  

Bye for now…
Julie

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