It's true that I don't normally find myself reading crime novels with a romantiread in June; more about this book, of course, at my reading journal.
It's true that I don't normally find myself reading crime novels with a romantic edge to them; au contraire, I seem to be on a steady diet of dark, no-frills, edgy, psychological, existentialist-bent, noirish, largely obscure and downright gritty, no-holds barred (but always well written!) crime fiction. So, after having read several of these for a while, after having finished some even darker fiction and some even more horrific (because they're true) nonfiction books, I figured it was time to give the old, tired, and probably by-now warped brain a rest. What better way than to relax with some light historical crime fiction? As I was looking forward to a restorative, ahhhh-this-is-going-to-be-just-what-the-doctor-ordered kind of novel, -- surprise! It turns out that Ms. Rizzolo isn't all sunshine and light: On a Desert Shore picks up some definite Gothic tones, there is an horrific crime at the heart of this book, and if that's not enough, there is also the issue of slavery that she weaves most deftly into her tale.
Yes, there are a few sweetish sort of romantic spots in this book (the sort I generally avoid like the plague) but seriously, to her credit unlike many authors I've read, this one keeps them to a minimum; no bodice ripping here. The story focuses way more on the crime and the characters, on London itself, and it's a fun way to pass a lazy reading day. ...more
Having recently discovered Mittelholzer's work (in My Bones and My Flute: A Ghost Story in the Old-Fashioned Manner), I couldn't wait to revisit him aHaving recently discovered Mittelholzer's work (in My Bones and My Flute: A Ghost Story in the Old-Fashioned Manner), I couldn't wait to revisit him again. Luckily, Peepal Tree Press has published a few of his books, including this one. The blurb for Shadows Move Among Them says that while reading this book it is "impossible" not to make comparisons to "the fate of the People's Temple commune at Jonestown in Guyana in 1978." I can sort of see it -- you have in this novel the establishment of a "utopian" community of Berkelhoost where people are free to express themselves in many different ways, but it's a place where the emphasis on "discipline" comes before everything else. It's a good book with a story that takes time to develop but once you're in, you're hooked.
Set on the banks of the Berbice River back when this country was still known as British Guiana, the leader of this community, Reverend Harmston, has developed a philosophy centering on taking life with "a pinch of salt," without having to "nail ourselves down to any set philosophy or flat conventions." Newcomer Gregory Hawke, the nephew of Mrs. Harmston, has come to Berkelhoost seeking a rest -- he's burned out by the war, he may or may not have killed his wife, and he's looking to heal his nerves and seek peace in nature. When he gets there, Harmston's precocious daughter Olivia realizes that the real Gregory hasn't yet appeared, that it's "only his shadow" that is with them. As Gregory becomes more familiar with the family and the way of life at Berkelhoost, he finds himself having to take stock of the meaning of "civilization" (the world he's just left) and "barbarism" as he's confronted with an entirely new set of values here, constructed in such a way as to be a sort of antidote to the problems of the outside world. There's much more of course -- sex, nature, religion, and of course, Guyanese history all have major roles in this novel.
There's a lot of subtle humor in this novel, as well as a growing awareness that even in this utopian oasis, all may not as bright as it seems. Berkelhoost is a not only a place of phantoms and shadows, but it is also a place where contradictions abound. I found it to be an incredibly thought-provoking novel once I started noticing said contradictions and to me this was the big payoff here.
Shadows Move Among Them may not be everyone's cup of tea, but so far, I haven't been disappointed with either of the Mittelholzer novels I've read and there are more winging their way to my house as we speak. I appreciate Peepal Tree Press taking the time to publish his work; there are still some books that haven't yet been brought back into print, but I'm hoping the Peepal folks will consider doing so. His books take time, but are most definitely worth reading. ...more