"No one can be lonely who has a book for company." ~ Nelle Reagan

Monday, October 27, 2014

An Intimate Murder by Stacy Verdick Case (a mystery review)

An Intimate Murder
Author:   Stacy Verdick Case
Published:  October 2014
Publisher:   Before the Book Falls
ISBN 9780983713760
Edition:  Advance Reader's Copy
Source:  a complimentary copy was provided by the author to facilitate an honest and unbiased review.

When Jonathan and Susan Luther are murdered in their home, St. Paul homicide detective Catherine O’Brien and her partner Louise discover this isn’t the first time the Luther family has been visited by tragedy.  Is it a case of bad family luck or is there something more?


An Intimate Murder
by Stacy Verdick Case
The world as a whole is a strange place, and the people who inhabit this world are even stranger. The Luther’s neighbors proved to be the strangest I’d encountered in ten years of law enforcement. Considering the whackos and ice-blooded murders I’d run into, these neighbors could be proud of their over achieving ways.
The street looked benign, an affluent tree lined parkway with a BMW or Mercedes in every other driveway. The neighbor across the street had a pickup truck in their drive, but it turned out to be the yard man’s, who happened to be cleaning up the left behinds from the oak and maple fall deposits. Pretty to look at until they rotted into brown slime piles on your grass.
We questioned every neighbor on the block but no one heard the gunshots. They lived behind triple pane glass where the temperature was never too hot or too cold. Only one had dared to steal a glance out their insulated glass when an older car, rusted in too many places and not carrying the pedigree of a classic automobile, sped down the street.
“I knew right away they were up to no good.” Bernice Leigh, who claimed a relation to Janet Leigh, rocked on the edge of her tufted, chintz ottoman. 
“Well maybe not right away.” She rolled her hand dramatically in the air. “At first I thought the car could belong to one of the boy’s friends who visit the Luthers from time to time.”
“Did you know the Luthers very well?” Louise nibbled the edge of a Ginger Thin Mrs. Leigh had fanned out on a china plate, and placed on the coffee table in front of us.

Bernice Leigh shook her head with such force that her hair, which had been so obviously a wig, dislodged itself and canted to one side. Bernice righted the wig without as much as a second thought.

My Thoughts

An Intimate Murder or two.  The husband was found shot in his train room on the upper floor of their home while his wife was found stabbed to death downstairs.  Why was the husband shot and the wife stabbed?  Different modus operandi - makes the reader question why and if there were two killers, perhaps?  Was their nineteen year old son involved?  This is what Detectives Catherine and Louise find themselves investigating in an affluent suburban neighbourhood where things like this don't happen, but they do and did.

Case returns with the third book in this mystery series starring Catherine O'Brien who's a little mouthy, somewhat average though her handsome husband reminds her she's gorgeous, and rather obstinate but extremely likable character.  Paired with her partner Louise who is beautiful, smart and extremely dangerous behind the wheel; the two detectives are strong female characters who are very real and humorous to boot.  To make matters worse, the homicide detectives are saddled with a reporter who pulled strings to shadow them so she could report on the murder investigation procedures.  

I'd forgotten how much I'd enjoyed the first book in this series, A Grand Murder.  It didn't take long for me to recall how Case can combine murder, mystery and humour with strong characterizations to make a compelling novel that makes you yearn for more.  Case's writing pulls you in, her characters are realistic and well-formed, the plot not overly complex; making a quick enjoyable read perfect with a cup of tea and a throw.

By the way, how did I miss the second book, A Luring Murder?  Now I simply must get myself a copy!  Once you pick up the first, you'll have to read all the Catherine O'Brien mysteries, trust me. 

Meet the author

Stacy Verdick Case was born in Willmar, Minnesota. After a brief stint as a military brat, where she lived in Fort Sill Oklahoma and Fort Campbell, Kentucky, her family moved back to Minnesota.
Stacy currently lives in a suburb of St. Paul with her husband and her daughter. Her Catherine O'Brien mysteries, A Grand Murder & A Luring Murder, and An Intimate Murder are available from Before the Fall Books.
Stacy is hard at work on her fourth book in the series.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Joseph Boyden is in the House at STARFest 2014!!!

At the Arden Theatre in St. Albert, October 23/14

The book he was meant to write all his life:
The Orenda.
What a blast!!!  Last evening, October 23, a friend and I attended the sold out STARFest 2014 event featuring award-winning author Joseph Boyden.  My many thanks to Laura Frey a book blogger (Reading in Bed) from whom I won the tickets. Boyden has been on tour since August of 2013 promoting The Orenda, the book he said he was meant to write all his life.  Let me tell you you missed out!!  He is humorous, intelligent, passionate about human rights, and has these cute little dimples when he smiles.  

Joseph Boyden signing books at the end of the evening
Joseph Boyden was born October 31, 1966 a descendant of Irish, Scottish and Anishinaabe background.  It is his First Nations lineage that influences his writing.  Boyden recently was involved with an animated film project in which he did the voiceover for a character.  He also wrote the story Going Home Star for the Winnipeg Ballet (http://www.rwb.org/whats-on/show/a-story-of-truth-and-reconciliation).  Boyden is passionate about advocating for First Nations, missing Aboriginal women, women's rights and the environment.   He writes of these, believing this country needs to have an open dialogue on these issues - a civilized one. He is also an advocate for mental health, having suffered from depression himself as a teen.

"Walk 'til morning.  Walk through the night until you see daylight."   

Boyden considers his calling to be to address depression and the high suicide rate on the reserves among the youth and in society.  He hopes and wishes to to help.  If he can "touch just one" then he is making a difference.  

In addition to his novels, one short-story collection, and the Winnipeg Ballet story (http://vimeo.com/107958447); Boyden has written a couple non-fiction books including one about Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont.  He desires to make history exciting for readers.

He is one very busy man!!  He teaches at the university in New Orleans, as does his wife Amanda (also a novelist), is on the road promoting The Orenda, is currently writing a companion novel to The Orenda and a new novel titled Seven Matches, a book about residential schools and a young boy who seems to be running away with seven matches to light a fire to warm him by night.  Boyden's brief introduction was compelling!

As you can tell, Joseph Boyden is a huge historian, drawing from his heritage, primarily the Native American heritage on his mother's side; to tell the tales of history.  As he says, If we don't know where we come from, how do we know where we're going?

**In the works, The Orenda is currently being made into a television mini-series for CBC.

Boyden reading from The Orenda
Joseph Boyden's biography as supplied by his publisher:  Joseph Boyden's first novel, Three Day Road, was selected for the Today Show Book Club, won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the CBA Libris Fiction Book of the Year Award, the Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award, and the McNally Robinson Aboriginal Book of the Year Award, and was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. His second novel, Through Black Spruce, was awarded the Scotiabank Giller Prize and named the Canadian Booksellers Association Fiction Book of the Year; it also earned him the CBA’s Author of the Year Award. His most recent novel, The Orenda, won Canada Reads and was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. Boyden divides his time between Northern Ontario and Louisiana. (http://www.hamishhamilton.ca/authors/joseph-boyden.html)

Boyden's novels include Three Day Road (2005 Penguin Canada)  - winner of the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, Through Black Spruce (2008 Penguin Canada) - won the Scotiabank Giller Prize November 2008, The Orenda (2013  Hamish Hamilton, a division of Penguin Random House Canada) - long listed for the 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize and winner of the 2014 Canada Reads.  He published a short story collection titled Born With a Tooth in 2001 (Cormorant Books).  His non-fiction works include two titles:  From Mushkegowuk to New Orleans: A Mixed Blood Highway (Edmonton: NeWest 2008) and Extraordinary Canadians: Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont (Penguin 2010).
Photo Gallery:

Local author Diana Davidson

Diana Davidson is an Edmonton author whose debut novel The Pilgrimage was published September 2013.  Following a brief introduction, Diana interviewed Joseph Boyden for this STARFest event.

“If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water” (Hemingway's quote which inspires Joseph Boyden's writing style)

A sold out audience was in attendance for this STARFest Event with Joseph Boyden.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada named Boyden a TRC Honorary Witness at the TRC Alberta National Event in March 2014.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is mandated to:
  • Tell Canadians what happened in the Indian Residential Schools;
  • Create a permanent record of what happened in the Indian Residential Schools;
  • Foster healing and reconciliation within Canada

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Finally, it's Here!! The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah (book review)

Monogram Murders
Author:  Sophie Hannah
Published:  September 2014
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages:  320
Edition:  Hardcover
Genre:  Mystery
ISBN: 9780062297211
Source:  A complimentary copy was provided with thanks to the publisher and TLC book tours in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Since the publication of her first book in 1920, Agatha Christie wrote 33 novels, two plays and more than 50 short stories featuring Hercule Poirot. Now, for the first time ever, the Agatha Christie Estate has approved a brand new novel featuring Dame Agatha's most beloved creation.
Hercule Poirot's quiet supper in a London coffee house is interrupted when a young woman confides to him that she is about to be murdered. She is terrified, but begs Poirot not to find and punish her killer. Once she is dead, she insists, justice will have been done.
Later that night, Poirot learns that three guests at a fashionable London hotel have been murdered, and a cuff link has been placed in each one’s mouth. Could there be a connection with the frightened woman? While Poirot struggles to put together the bizarre pieces of the puzzle, the murderer prepares another hotel bedroom for a fourth victim…
In the hands of internationally bestselling author Sophie HannahPoirot plunges into a mystery set in 1920s London – a diabolically clever puzzle that can only be solved by the talented Belgian detective and his ‘little grey cells’.
Published worldwide in September 2014.

My thoughts:

I've been an Agatha Christie fan for a few decades so when I heard Sophie Hannah was going to write a Hercule Poirot novel I was excited. Though Poirot was written out in Curtain: Poirot's Last Case, it didn't deter me from my desire to read The Monogram Murders despite it being written by another author, Sophie Hannah.  

The novel is set in 1920's London, around the period of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.  Hercules Poirot is retired and all he desires is to relax with a cup of coffee in a local coffee house when in comes a distraught woman with murder on her mind... her own!

Shortly after meeting this woman, Jennie; Poirot and his friend of short acquaintance (a mere six weeks previous to the meeting of Poirot and Jennie), Edward Catchpool from Scotland Yard, find themselves at Bloxham Hotel investigating three murders that had taken place in one evening at the famous hotel.  

As Christie wrote Poirot, an intelligent Belgian man of style and sharp mind; Hannah's Poirot is virtually identical; an impeccable likeness of the great sleuth. Hannah kept him true to character, paying a great homage to Dame Agatha Christie.  As in this example from page 207:
"Au contraire, mademoiselle.  In due course you will have your turn to speak, you may rest assured, but first I have another question for you.  You said to me, "Oh please let no one open their mouths!".....And - pardon me! - one final observation, mademoiselle....." (Hercule Poirot, The Monogram Murders)
Just as Christie would have done, Hannah wrote in several twists in the plot so the reader, much like poor Catchpool, cannot quite keep up with Poirot who, himself, throws in a few false leads to keep Catchpool's grey cells working and, quite frankly, the reader's too. 

At first one may be able to determine this is not Christie writing this Hercule Poirot mystery as Hannah's writing style is similar but not identical, but Hannah does a fine job of capturing the attention of the reader by writing a twisted plot the likes of Christie that we soon forget whom we are reading and just sit back and enjoy another visit with the incredible Poirot.  Does Hannah pull it off?  Yes, she does.  Her obvious love for Agatha Christie's writing and for Poirot is tangible in this new tribute to a woman who is outsold only by the bible and Shakespeare.  It was wonderful to be in the presence of the great Belgian sleuth again.

“Sophie Hannah’s idea for a plot line was so compelling and her passion for my grandmother’s work so strong, that we felt that the time was right for a new Christie to be written.” (Mathew Prichard, grandson of Agatha Christie)

About Agatha Christie:
Agatha Christie is the most widely published author of all time, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare. Her books have sold more than a billion copies in English and another billion in a hundred foreign languages. She died in 1976.
Learn more about Agatha Christie through her official website.

Meet the Author:
Internationally bestselling author Sophie Hannah breathes new life into the incomparable detective. In this thrilling tale, Poirot plunges into a mystery set in 1920s London—a diabolically clever puzzle that will test his brilliant skills and baffle and delight longtime Christie fans and new generations of readers discovering him for the first time. Authorized by Christie’s family, and featuring the most iconic detective of all time, this instant Christie classic is sure to be celebrated by mystery lovers the world over.
Connect with Sophie Hannah through her website, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

7 Days and Counting Until the Release of John Grisham's Gray Mountain!!!!

Grisham's books are my favourite for a good legal thriller.  I am really looking forward to this one, starring a female protagonist.  I think that's a big deal for a Grisham novel.  Do you?

#JohnGrisham   #GrayMountain  #legalthriller

Monday, October 6, 2014

Giller Prize Short List Announced

Congratulations to the six authors and their publishers on making the Giller Prize short list:

The Scotiabank Giller Prize will air live on CBC Television November 10 at 9 p.m (I think that's Eastern Standard Time), hosted by Jian Ghomeshi.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Other Voices, Other Rooms may offer more of himself than Capote intended.-

Other Voices, Other Rooms
Author:  Truman Capote
Published:  1948
Publisher:  Random House
Pages:  231
Genre:  Southern Gothic, fiction
Source:  borrowed

Published when Truman Capote was only twenty-three years old, Other Voices, Other Rooms is a literary touchstone of the mid-twentieth century. In this semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel, thirteen-year-old Joel Knox, after losing his mother, is sent from New Orleans to live with the father who abandoned him at birth. But when Joel arrives at Skully’s Landing, the decaying mansion in rural Alabama, his father is nowhere to be found. Instead, Joel meets his morose stepmother, Amy, eccentric cousin Randolph, and a defiant little girl named Idabel, who soon offers Joel the love and approval he seeks.

Fueled by a world-weariness that belied Capote’s tender age, this novel tempers its themes of waylaid hopes and lost innocence with an appreciation for small pleasures and the colorful language of its time and place.

My thoughts:
A young Truman Capote could be the very same boy in the novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms.  In fact, it's been said this novel is the closest thing to being autobiographical.   Though situations may differ, there is a parallel between Joel and Truman as young teenage boys growing up in the south.  His desire for family and inclusiveness shows especially in this debut novel.

Capote has a gift with the written word that is at once visual and emotional.  You, as the reader, can feel the emotions, enjoy the lyricism, and ponder the sometimes disjointed imaginings that are one thing but then another.  

I found Other Voices, Other Rooms a fascinating read.   I began reading knowing this first novel of Capote's was considered somewhat semi-autobiographical.  Capote takes the reader back to a time and place where leisurely summer days can take the imagination to places far away and yet near.  The shade from the hot sun, a cool drink, and good friends are excellent companions for Joel and are we any different?  Other Voices, Other Rooms is relatable, imaginative and a superb example of the gift Capote had with the written word.

This photo of Capote graced the back cover of Other Voices, Other Rooms.  Photo taken by Harold Halma.

Truman Capote was a native of New Orleans, where he was born on September 30, 1924.  His first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms, was an international literary success when first published in 1948, and accorded the author a prominent place among the writers of America's post-war generation.  He sustained this position subsequently with short-story collections (A Tree of Night, among others), novels and novellas (The Grass Harp and Breakfast at Tiffany's), some of the best travel writing of our time (Local Color), profiles and reportage that appeared originally in The New Yorker (The Duke in His Domain and The Muses Are Heard), a true crime masterpiece (In Cold Blood), several short memoirs about his childhood in the South (A Christmas MemoryThe Thanksgiving Visitor, and One Christmas), two plays (The Grass Harp and House of Flowers) and two films (Beat the Devil and The Innocents).

Mr. Capote twice won the O. Henry Memorial Short Story Prize and was a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters.  He died in August 1984, shortly before his sixtieth birthday.  (biography from Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote)


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