Three stars rather than two because, well, it seems a bit ungracious to give two stars to a book I more or less enjoyed. Carola Dunn's writing is simp...moreThree stars rather than two because, well, it seems a bit ungracious to give two stars to a book I more or less enjoyed. Carola Dunn's writing is simple and snappy, and it never gets in the way of the story, which takes a certain grace to achieve. But while I still think the Daisy books are stronger when they use a set piece like the country house mystery, the plotting of this one felt all over the place.
Some things were perfectly obvious from the outset (a certain and rather charming romance, the likely victim and the likely perpetrator). Aside from the murder (even the execution of which seems sloppy and unresolved), nothing much happens except that people talk about things, while Daisy and Alec meander along, helping with but trying not to take over the local police investigation. The unravelling is bumpy and messy, and the ending was so abrupt I had to go back and check that my ebook wasn't missing the last few pages.(less)
3.5 stars, really. And I don't know that it's fair to base my rating almost solely on the ending, especially when I think Walton went for a braver end...more3.5 stars, really. And I don't know that it's fair to base my rating almost solely on the ending, especially when I think Walton went for a braver ending than the one I was anticipating. But it's left a bitter taste in my mouth, and I'm now wary of reading the next book, so despite enjoying and being intrigued/impressed by most of the book, that's the rating I'm giving it.(less)
Only three stars, not because of the writing quality, which was as high as ever, but because this was such an unpleasant read. :(
The mystery, encompas...moreOnly three stars, not because of the writing quality, which was as high as ever, but because this was such an unpleasant read. :(
The mystery, encompassing the origins of the Gregorian chant and a mysterious monastery in a remote part of Quebec, was as interesting and psychologically nuanced as ever. Well, everything was as interesting and nuanced as ever. It's just that I love these characters, and reading this book was like watching them stand on the train tracks and wait as the train approaches them in slow motion. You know they're not going to clear the line; you know they're going to be pretty much destroyed by what's coming.
I understand why Louise Penny took this approach to the book. But that doesn't make it any more palatable as a reader.(less)
I've been gobbling up Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache books over the past couple of weeks, and have been impressed with the growing complexity and th...moreI've been gobbling up Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache books over the past couple of weeks, and have been impressed with the growing complexity and the way each book builds on the previous one.
If this is your introduction to the series, please put it away and read one of the others first. Ideally start with Still Life, but at the very least, read The Brutal Telling, the plot of which plays a pivotal role in Bury Your Dead.
At the beginning of Bury Your Dead, Gamache has taken refuge with his old mentor in Quebec City. He is recovering from a terrible experience, the horror of which is revealed gradually as the book unfolds.
Although he's trying to escape his role as Chief Inspector of Homicide, Gamache is inevitably drawn into another mystery, this time involving the English-speaking community and a plot possibly stretching back to the very founding of the city. At the same time, Penny does something I've never seen in another crime novel and has Gamache's sidekick, Jean Guy Beauvoir, reinvestigate the mystery from the previous book.
The mysteries unfold simultaneously, all quite slight as individual plots, but Penny draws out the similarities and parallels with apparent ease. The book is slow to start, and at first I thought that finally I might be reading a Gamache novel that I didn't like. That changed about a third of the way in, when the various voices and plotlines came together, weaving a kind of symphony of sadness, acknowledgement, horror and grieving.
The ending is, appropriately, left to Gamache and the culmination of the recent tragedy, and I am not ashamed to say that I put the book down and burst into tears.
In another author's hands, the fiery, gorgeous Beauvoir would be the main character and Gamache would be a humorous sidekick. Or else the novels would be relegated to the cosy crime genre, where nothing truly bad ever happens (or if it does it is glossed over). But Louise Penny's characters, particularly Gamache, know how terrible the world can be; the magic is that Gamache takes the hits, but never lets them destroy his humanity. That is what makes these books so engrossing and moving, at least for me.(less)
Beams Falling is PM Newton's follow-up to the excellent The Old School, in which Detective Nhu (Ned) Kelly took on corruption within the police force...moreBeams Falling is PM Newton's follow-up to the excellent The Old School, in which Detective Nhu (Ned) Kelly took on corruption within the police force and came perilously close to the truth about her parents' murders into the bargain.
The sequel starts with Ned fighting to return to work - and to find out who was responsible for her parents' deaths. When she's shunted out to Cabramatta as a token Asian officer just before the apparently senseless murder of a young boy, she again becomes embroiled in corruption and the complications of duty, with problems this time coming (mostly) from the other side of the police tape.
The book paints a vivid picture of Cabramatta in the early nineties, almost a failed state in which many members of the police force seem comfortable letting the various gangs and dealers duke it out among themselves, regardless of how many innocents get in the way. Newton's descriptions of some of the awful situations characters have faced, since before they even arrived in Australia, offer a counterpoint to this view - not to mention a reminder of the plight of refugees attempting to gain access to Australia today.
There's also what feels like a very realistic portrayal of PTSD and the ways those affected deal with it. In fact, the entire book could be viewed as an examination of how characters from all walks of life deal with the bad hands they are given: some of them retain their integrity, such as it is; most don't, and who are we to judge them for this?
I loved The Old School, and recommend reading it first if you haven't already, but to me Beams Falling is a grittier, more mature book, deeper on several levels than its predecessor. Highly recommended, and I'm looking forward to more from Nhu and PM Newton.(less)
I picked this up on a trip to the north-east mainly because, as a northerner, I love reading about the area. After a slightly shaky start, I really en...moreI picked this up on a trip to the north-east mainly because, as a northerner, I love reading about the area. After a slightly shaky start, I really enjoyed it, and have gone straight to look up the rest of the series.
Northumbria Police may have entered the twenty-first century, but DCI Kate Daniels suspects the attitudes haven't changed. When a murder on Newcastle Quayside turns out to have links to her personal life, she is desperate to keep certain matters quiet. But with an unstable killer unleashing his long-planned reign of terror, events quickly spiral way out of her control.
I did have a few issues with the book (one or two dropped threads, although perhaps they'll be picked up in the sequel, and a bit too much telling rather than showing, particularly when the narrator jumps inside other characters' heads) - but as a first novel it's an excellent one, and I look forward to reading the follow-ups.
ETA: Also, the author's love for the north-east is palpable, and I loved reading the descriptions. I did wonder, however, whether they would feel a bit too much like infodumps to readers unfamiliar with the area.(less)
Daisy has arrived at the country pile of her friend Lucy's family, because Lucy is finally marrying Binkie. Or is she? When a relative is found strang...moreDaisy has arrived at the country pile of her friend Lucy's family, because Lucy is finally marrying Binkie. Or is she? When a relative is found strangled days before the wedding, Alec is called in, not as a guest but as a Scotland Yard Detective. Handy for him that Daisy is on the spot with inside information about the house guests who have gathered for the wedding.
Maybe it's just that I really needed something to take my mind off things this week, but I enjoyed this a lot, and I think it's one of the best instalments of the series. Dunn's writing seems to have more life when she's writing country house mysteries (which I suppose are more like set pieces, as opposed to creating new settings and taking her characters abroad). The characters seem to be getting more nuanced, as well - I particularly enjoyed Lady Ione in this one, as well as the developments in both Lucy's and Binkie's characters.(less)
A serial killer is targeting men and leaving their mutilated bodies in popular gay hunting grounds in Bradfield (which seems to be part Leeds, part Br...moreA serial killer is targeting men and leaving their mutilated bodies in popular gay hunting grounds in Bradfield (which seems to be part Leeds, part Bradford). Enter criminal profiler Tony Hill and Detective Inspector Carol Jordan, who are forced to fight prejudice inside the police force if they are to find the killer before another victim dies.
This is well-written and a smooth read, but very dark. Too dark for me, I think - I enjoyed the writing and the characters, but I'm not going to continue reading the series, or at least not for a while.(less)
And we're back on form! I was underwhelmed by the last Phryne book but enjoyed this one a lot - perhaps because it's partly a love story and partly a...moreAnd we're back on form! I was underwhelmed by the last Phryne book but enjoyed this one a lot - perhaps because it's partly a love story and partly a (gently mocking) tribute to Sherlock Holmes.
Phryne's old friend and lover, Dr John Wilson (ahem), is in town and suffering from an unrequited passion for his travelling partner, mathematician and wartime code-breaker Rupert Sheffield. When Sheffield's past threatens his present, Phryne is determined to protect John from harm, a task which may end up embroiling half the gangs of Melbourne, not to mention MI6.
Meanwhile, Inspector Jack Robinson needs Phryne's help with in a choir whose conductors keep having unfortunate accidents...but as the choir prepares to sing Mendelssohn's Elijah, it becomes clear that not only the conductors are in the firing line. Unravelling both these mysteries will take all of Phryne's ingenuity, not to mention that of her household and protégés.
This is darker than Greenwood's recent efforts, with the war and its after-effects on the various characters playing a large role. I loved the character of John Wilson and was very happy with the way his storyline played out. I was less impressed with the murder mystery aspect - I felt there were a couple of slapdash elements to the storyline. That said, this was a hugely enjoyable read with a mostly satisfying conclusion. More Phryne soon, please!
I had high hopes for this one - a cruise ship mystery! What a great set piece to base a book around. But I figured out what was really going on three...moreI had high hopes for this one - a cruise ship mystery! What a great set piece to base a book around. But I figured out what was really going on three quarters of a book earlier than Daisy and Alec apparently did, so spent the rest of the book yelling at them in my head, and generally getting bored. It's a shame, because Carola Dunn's writing is nice and crisp...but it felt as if there was nothing behind the beautifully constructed sentences.(less)