Thursday, July 14, 2016

Took a Listen: "Past Reason Hated" by Peter Robinson

Took a Listen: Past Reason Hated by Peter Robinson, 1991, download.

Same narrator as before and I enjoy his work. More of Susan Gay after her promotion to Detective Constable. Gay gets a late night call on December 22 about a murder. It's her first night as a Detective and she immediately notifies Chief Inspector Alan Banks before she even visits the scene to verify there was a murder, or any crime, at all.

Well, there was a murder. Banks is pulled from the wedding reception of Sergeant WhatHisFace and visits a house with a beautiful nude woman covered in stab wounds and drying blood. A kitchen knife was used for the murder and the record player set on automated repeat. Banks begins interviews.

That is what Banks does, after all. He interviews. He talks. He ponders. Banks does not work an action filled job there in rural Yorkshire. Banks likes that. At one point as Banks investigates the victim's past he travels to London and falls into the old speech patterns and violent thoughts he used to use and carry when he worked in London. In Banks's earlier career he would be rewarded for beating a confession or information out of someone. He recognizes how easy it is to slip into that past personality and he does not like it.

Anyhoo. This is 1991 and lesbians like the murder victim and her live-in partner are an oddity. Was their relationship violent? Victim used to date men and worked as a dancer and prostitute, did her past violently return? What of the ex-husband of Victim's partner, how angry is he about losing his wife to a woman?

Banks is intrigued by the choice of music left playing at the crime scene. Music aficianado Banks recognizes the piece and learns it is also a liturgical piece for burying a child. When he learns Victim gave birth years ago he chases a connection.

Other things happen and we meet the Victim's messed up family and several members of a amateur stage production Victim was working with.

1. Social commentary about family, crime, police work, and life as a woman in England. All hidden within a murder mystery.
2. I hate the English term "partner". I read partner and I think business partner, or tennis partner, or bowling partner. The English should be required to add the word romantic to the beginning o that. Why not? They seem to have already been legislating most every other part of life.
3. More music love by Banks. He takes his cassette Walkman most everywhere and drives his own car because, unlike the police cars, his vehicle has a stereo.
4. There is a quite a lot going on in this book but I did not get too lost among all the characters.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

One I Own: "Beneath The Bleeding" by Val McDermid

One I Own: Beneath the Bleeding by Val McDermid, 2009, paperback not on hand for ISBN.

Another Tony Hill novel. I'm pretty sure I first read McDermid when I was on a reconsideration of materials committee at Maricopa County Library District. Let me check and see if I kept that paperwork... Yes, I do have the final letter that went out. I'll paste that below whether you care or not.

Anyhoo. McDermid knows what she is doing. She has such nice descriptions of people and how they act.  Don't ask me for more explanation, that's all I got right now.

This is one of the later novels featuring Psychologist Tony Hill and Inspector Carol Jordan. Hill and Jordan share a romantic attraction but neither one is sure of the other's interests. McDermid strings us and them along on a what'll-happen-with-them track.

The novel begins with Hill at work in a local security hospital for the insane. One patient breaks loose from his room, attacks staff and steals keys, then escapes his secure area. Patient grabs a fire ax, takes some swings, and chopa into Dr. Hill's knee. Hill awakes in a hospital bed (not in a secure facility).

Jordan is now living in the basement apartment at Hill's house. Jordan is in charge of an investigation team and they draw the case of Big Time Soccer Star Robbie who has been poisoned. Poisoned? Who poisons anyone now a days? The ex-girlfriend? An angry fan? A stalker? The cops start looking.

Meanwhile, a local sorta-Muslim guy is building a bomb. I say sorta-Muslim because he is East Asian but the only mosque going member of the family is his father who hangs out at the mosque with pals and drinks tea. What's Sorta's deal? Well, you keep reading the novel and find out.

Things happen as Hill hates being bedridden and tries to assist Jordan with the poisoning case. Another two poison victims are discovered. Sorta is successful with his bomb and the regional anti-terror goons take over part of the local police station and start bossing around Jordan and the other cops.

Jordan drinks a lot to cope with stress - even drinking at work. A younger detective is ruthlessly ambitious. The IT female cop acts like a robot and masturbates efficiently. The two lesbian cops don't have much in common but people assume they must be good pals. Hill's mother is a sociopath and fakes her emotions.

A fine novel.

1. I own this paperback. I'm not sure where I got it from.
2. McDermid's webpage has an annoying feature on the page with the bib. list. Each title slowly pops up and if you are trying to go back and forth from title to title this feature is a hassle.
3. I've heard McDermid on BBC 6 Music a couple times. I don't often catch Radcliffe and Maconie's show but enjoy the author guests.
4. I worked a few reconsideration committees at MCLD and kept the paperwork. For two of those I have copies of the complaint and write-ups by committee members. All I have for Mermaids Singing is the letter to the patron.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Heard: "Double Back" by Libby Fischer Hellmann

Heard: Double Back by Libby Fischer Hellmann, 2012 off the date. I do not know if that is the original pub date.

I really, really disliked the narration for this novel. The narrator did not do a good job.

Chicago based investigator Georgia Davis is pals with independent film producer Ellie Foreman. A friend of Foreman ask's Foreman's help with the friend's neighbor. The neighbor, Chris Messenger, has had her only daughter, 8-year-old Molly, kidnapped. Ellie knows there is nothing she can do to help and urges Messenger to call the police. Messenger absolutely refuses to contact the police and Foreman calls Davis to help out.

Davis and Foreman do team together to help out and Davis does call the police. Well, once the cops are involved then Davis and Foreman are out. A few days later the news reports that Molly has been freed. A few days after that the news reports that Messenger herself has died in a car wreck. Foreman reads the article and realizes this is a big deal because Messenger's boss died in a similar accident shortly before the kidnapping.

Things happen. Davis is hired by Messenger's ex-husband who is worried for Molly's safety. Davis digs and discovers another colleague of Messenger has gone missing. Davis tracks Missing IT Woman to a remote Wisconsin cabin. Davis and M.I.W. escape a killer at the cabin and flee to Lake Geneva where Foreman's boyfriend lives. M.I.W. shares information that the bank M.I.W. and Messenger worked for has a real important client and a couple other weird things have happened.

Davis and Foreman investigate more. Davis is injured and then travels to Arizona. More excitement in AZ. Everything is solved in the end.

Not a lot of interaction between Davis and Foreman. They meet a few times but mostly work alone. Both are interesting characters and quite different people. Foreman is divorced with a 17-year-old daughter, a rich boyfriend, and a video production job. Davis is single with no family, sleeps in a spartan apartment, and used to be a police officer. They get along okay though and Davis never expected to be friends with Foreman.

Davis's trip to a border town in AZ was the best part about the novel. Davis tracks the killings to a security contractor that works internationally and in the US. She gets involved with right-wing border watchers, illegal immigrants who are preyed on by the crooks in the US and MX, and drug smuggling in tunnels.

1. A nice enough novel to make me tolerate the awful narration.
2. The second Hellmann novel I have read.
3. Hellmann was nice to me on the two occasions I spoke to her.
4. Dang, that ALA convention was seven years ago.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Heard: "Black Horse Creek" by Charles G. West

Heard: Black Horse Creek by Charles G. West, 2012, Overdrive download.

The narrator sounded like some of the voices from South Park. I was not pleased.

A straight forward Western with revenge, a bad seed, a ruthless land baron, lonely widow, a bounty hunter, innocent store owners, etc.

Young Billy Blanchard murders a U.S. Marshall in Indian Territory (Oklahoma) and flees home to Kansas. Billy is 20-years-old and has always been a no-goodnik. He is the third of three sons ans spoiled by his violent, cruel, land baron father.

Grayson is hired by the court in Fort Smith to bring Billy back alive. Billy will stand trial, be hanged, and displayed for the public to see. The court wants to make a clear and explicit example of what happens to people who kill court personnel.

Grayson tracks Billy to the family ranch, captures him and heads back to Arkansas. Billy is a sneaky bastard and almost escapes a couple times. Billy's father, Ruthless Land Baron, sent hired guns out to free Billy and gunfights ensue. Billy is killed when one of the gunman misses when shooting at Grayson. Grayson brings the body back to Fort Smith.

Grayson is paid for his work but ambushed by Billy's brothers who shoot Grayson several times. Grayson survives, recovers, and heads back to west Kansas for revenge.  More people die and the townspeople get the gumption to fight back against Ruthless Land Baron.

This was an okay novel but I enjoy the usual Slocum novels more than this stand alone.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Listened to: "A Sleeping Life" by Ruth Rendell

Listened to: A Sleeping Life by Ruth Rendell, 1978 (according to the internet), download.

Cultural and social commentary packaged within a mystery. Rendell covers the expectations upon women and the social limits that constrain them in the 1970s. Plus a murder done as a police procedural.

Inspector Wexford is called out to a murder scene. A woman has been stabbed to death. The body holds few clues to the woman's identity. Police discover she was a former village resident who in town to visit her hospitalized father. Police have a devil of a time tracking down where the lived, who she knew, and where she worked.

Meanwhile, Wexford's daughter has left her husband and moved herself and Wexford's grandsons into the Wexford home. His daughter has being reading up on feminist literature and that has given her the gumption to change the things that have been bothering her. Daughter doesn't want to be forced to stay at home with the children;  Daughter wants to work and not rely on her husband for money, social status, etc. This confuses Wexford quite a bit. He thinks Daughter is ignoring how good she has it and she needs to be stable while the children are still quite young.

Wexford also works the murder case. No one is too broken up over the dead woman. She had moved away years ago and her father is unresponsive after a stroke. Her aunts and cousins barely know her and the only close relative in town is a rat fink drunkard anyway. The body does possess clues to a London based novelist and Wexford follows the lead he has.

Anyhoo. Wexford follows the clues and runs down a few dead ends as his superior officer pressures him for results. Spoilers Ahead. The London Novelist is supposed to be on vacation to France. London Novelist's agent, publisher and typist give some conflicting information. Dead Woman was never an attractive woman and was discounted by many people because of her looks. She never had romantic relationships and the post mortem declares her a virgin.Eventually Wexford figures out Dead Woman is London Novelist. Dead Woman hid her gender and lived as a man so she could get ahead in the world. She only dressed as a woman when she visited her old village.

Anyway. I enjoyed the story but it was not really my bag.

Quick: "The Driftless Area" by Tom Drury

Quick The Driftless Area by Tom Drury, 2006, 9780871139436.

I ended up enjoying this quite a bit. The style is comparable to James Sallis with sparse writing and an acceptance of fate and misfortune. Drury doesn't throw the whole kitchen sink at you, he lets you fill in some holes and accept the absence of an extended story, background, dialogue, etc. The opposite of Joe Hill - who I also enjoy. It's a crime novel with a bit of supernatural in it. The novel is short as well, 213 pages.

There is a film version for which I recently bought the DVD for the library. I saw Drury's name as the story source and decided to try the book.

The Driftless Area covers significant parts of Southwest Wisconsin and parts of IA and MN. Driftless means there is no glacial drift. The glacier did not extend that far south - or split into two sections, I forget which - and left an unscoured area of land with plenty of steep hills and none of the sand, rocks, etc. deposited elsewhere in the state. Drury uses state names but creates fake names for most towns and cities. I'm guessing most of this is set in WI since several town names are similar to real towns.

Pierre Hunter grew up with his parents each on their second marriage. He was never close to his much older half-siblings and his parents died when he was at college. Since his college graduation his time is spent tending bar, drinking, and hanging out alone in his apartment. The booze gets him in trouble sometimes.

One New Year's Eve he leaves a house party and takes a walk. Pierre has a brief and strange conversation with an older man in a public park. Pierre then walks back to the party but goes in the wrong house, refuses to leave, and gets arrested. The old man leaves the park and visits a young woman they discuss Pierre and what they foresee Pierre doing.

A few weeks later Pierre decides to walk to work along the frozen lake and river. He falls in and is rescued by a mid-twenties woman who uses a rope to pull him out. Pierre is enamored with the gal and over the course of a few months finally goes back to visit and they start a relationship. Pierre takes his annual summer vacation of hitchhiking to visit a cousin in California. On the way back he catches a ride in MN with a shifty guy in a beat-up pickup.

Pierre makes a rooky hitchhiking mistake and stows his backpack in the truck bed. The shifty guy literally kicks Pierre out of the truck, drives off, and stops 20 yards away to look back and gloat at Pierre. Pierre throws a rock at Shifty Guy, hits Shifty in the head, and Shifty lets go the gas and crashes the truck. As Pierre recovers his backpack he figures to get some revenge onthe now unconscious Shifty by disabling the truck. Pierre lifts the hood to pull some wires and instead sees a package hidden behind the battery. The package is a bundle of cash. Pierre takes the bundle and splits.

The story moves on with Pierre moving in with Mystery Girl and Shifty looking for Pierre so Shifty can recover the $77k Pierre took. The story is pretty relaxed. We find out Shifty can be a dangerous guy, but he is more crooked than violent and I never had dread about what would happen once he found Pierre. He and his pals are small time, regional grifters and thieves. Meanwhile, Drury fills us in on Mystery Girl's past, Old Man's prophecies of some sort, and Pierre starting to grow up a little.

I enjoyed the showdown finale, that was fun. Pierre's growing relationship with Mystery Girl was well done and not too lovey-dovey.

1. Pierre and Shifty are two sides of the same coin. Two men with good parents, who graduated college, and knowingly took poor paths. Pierre never does much of anything outside of work, drink and hangout. Shifty started thieving in college and just kept on. They've got themselves on a track and just keep going.
2. If you want a read a real review the NYT one is online. I stumbled on that when trying to remember Pierre's name.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Read: "Lost Canyon" by Nina Revoyr

Read: Lost Canyon by Nina Revoyr, 2015, 9781617753534.

Like a loyal Cheesehead Revoyr sticks some Green Bay Packers fans in here. I read Wingshooters in 2012 when I was on the state literary awards committee. After I read that novel I discovered Revoyr also wrote crime novels and I am now getting around to reading one - even if this novel was published after Wingshooters. Hey, I could have used a semicolon there, right?

Anyhoo. Gwen works in South Central Los Angeles. Her nonprofit job is working with local teens to help them succeed in school and prepare for work and adult life. She has made friends with Tracy, her personal trainer, and joined Tracy on several day hikes in the hills around Los Angeles. She is now joining Tracy and a few other people for a hike in the mountains northeast of LA.

Gwen has never done any overnight camping and is a bit worried and intimidated. But, so are Oscar and Todd. Our third person perspective takes turns with each character. Gwen is black and has always been a little chubby, and the others think her a weak link. Oscar is a self-made realtor but a tough market means he is coasting on his past sales successes. Todd is a transplant from Oconomowoc, WI (I have to go to a meeting there tomorrow) who came to CA for law school and married into a wealthy family. Tracy wants adventure and excitement. For Tracy a good time requires surprise and danger and this clouds her judgment during their trip.

There is a some racial and class tension in the group. Oscar grew up in a working class Hispanic neighborhood. Gwen is black and her mother was absent for most of Gwen's life. Todd is a wealthy white guy who rolls his eyes at talk about white supremacists. Tracy is half Japanese and naturally feisty. They all carry unfounded opinions about one another.

The group arrives to the park's ranger station and find out that forest fires have closed off the area of the park they were to hike. A Ranger says, "Here, try this route out. It's outside the park but beautiful." They take the Ranger's hand drawn map, drive down some rough logging roads, and hit the trail.

The scenery is beautiful. The hikers adjust to the altitude, pack weight, and new boots. The hikers enjoy the scenery and get used to each other's company. The hikers are bushwhacked by a teenage Mexican boy with a gun. The hikers have stumbled on a marijuana field and the Mexican kid is neeeeervous at these interlopers. The Mexican kid uses a sat phone to call his bosses and Oscar hears enough to tell everyone, "They're going to kill us and this kid has people on the way to do it."

Things look bad until a hole appears in Mexican kid's forehead. Up pops a rifle carrying white guy with a seemingly happy go lucky attitude. Things look bad again after White Guy does some racial-slur-name-calling and says he is there to protect his own dope field. "Don't you [slurs] run away now, I'll shoot you dead."

Hikers escape White Guy and, with little gear, head East to get back into the park and find help. The book continues on as a wilderness adventure with the four hikers low on food, low on water, and gradually whittled down by weather and other dangers.

An epilogue ties everything up but I think it took the novel 20 pages too far.

1. I say that "judgment" should have an "e" in it.
2. Revoyr has some nice writing about hiking and gear and the sights, sounds and smells of going on a multi-day trek. If I were writing something like this I know I would have missed the little details she puts in about boots, socks, chafing, bear bags, etc. Those details were great reminders to me about trips I took years ago.
3. Speaking of which, in April I attended the Boy Scout's Backpack Camporee with Boy #1. The Camporee does not have much hiking. There are several classes throughout Saturday on hiking and outdoor skills. One presenter was a minimalist camper who takes one set of clothes, a rain tarp, and a mini alcohol stove. I'd like to try a weekend campout this summer but don't know if I'll get to it. I will need some mosquito netting if I wanna try that guy's method.
3. Book Club style question. Why doesn't Revoyr spend time inside Tracy's head? Why tell the story through the three novices?
4. The agony of false summits. You endure a long hike upwards and find that the summit you had your eyes on is just a small plateau before another set of switchbacks.