Remain Silent
by Susie Steiner

This is the third book in the Manon Bradshaw trilogy.  I’m saddened by this fact because I’ve grown to love the characters that have been brought to life on the pages of these books. 

Manon is trying to juggle her family life with her husband and two kids while working part-time on cold cases.  While on a walk with her two year old son, Teddy, she comes across a young migrant found hanging from a tree.  She quickly heads home to report it, knowing somehow that she’ll be the one to investigate the case.  What she doesn’t know is that she’ll soon be dealing with the issues of illegal immigrants, racism, and xenophobia. As SIO on this case now, Manon has even less time to deal with issues at home until her husband, Mark becomes seriously ill.  

At times dark and disturbing, this novel reflects what is happening in so many countries today, showing to what ends people will go to in order to try for a better life.  

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this book is that while Steiner was writing it, unbeknownst to her, a tumor was growing in her brain.  How interesting that part of this story-line reflects what was happening to Steiner, personally.

A highly recommended series: 5 Bloody Daggers for each: Missing, Presumed; Persons Unknown; Remain Silent.

Joanne gives this book 5 stars out of 5!
         Joanne gives this book 5 daggers out of 5!

Blue Lightning
by Ann Cleeves

Blue Lightning falls midway in the series of Shetland mysteries featuring Jimmy Perez.  It really shows Cleeves at her best in both storytelling and creating atmosphere.  Fair Isle becomes as strong a character as do Jimmy and the people who inhabit the island.  Jimmy accompanied by his new fiancé Fran, returns to his home with much trepidation, knowing that strangers are not readily accepted.  With the weather turning cold and stormy the feeling of isolation for many of the residents reaches a fever pitch.  And then a body is discovered.  A woman has been murdered.

Cut off from the mainland, Jimmy is forced to use what resources he can to conduct an investigation.  As he begins interviewing the people who were part of the victim’s circle of friends, family, and acquaintances, he realizes that everyone is hiding something.  Whether it’s pertinent to the murder or not – they all have secrets.

But no one, least of all Jimmy, could ever know that the tragic circumstances of this case would determine the direction of Perez’s future for some years to come.

Joanne gives this book 4 daggers out of 5!

Seniors Book Club | April Selection

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland
by Patrick Radden Keefe

“Book club only” print copies are available at the downtown location of the Library. To pick up a copy, visit the Information Desk on the 2nd floor.

Register to drop-in and discuss this acclaimed, award-winning book which expertly blends true crime and the history of the troubles in Northern Ireland.

The Seniors Book Club meets on the second Wednesday of the month at 2:00 PM via Zoom.

In December 1972, Jean McConville, a thirty-eight-year-old mother of ten, was dragged from her Belfast home by masked intruders, her children clinging to her legs. They never saw her again. Her abduction was one of the most notorious episodes of the vicious conflict known as The Troubles. Everyone in the neighborhood knew the I.R.A. was responsible. But in a climate of fear and paranoia, no one would speak of it. In 2003, five years after an accord brought an uneasy peace to Northern Ireland, a set of human bones was discovered on a beach. McConville’s children knew it was their mother when they were told a blue safety pin was attached to the dress–with so many kids, she had always kept it handy for diapers or ripped clothes.

Patrick Radden Keefe’s mesmerizing book on the bitter conflict in Northern Ireland and its aftermath uses the McConville case as a starting point for the tale of a society wracked by a violent guerrilla war, a war whose consequences have never been reckoned with. The brutal violence seared not only people like the McConville children, but also I.R.A. members embittered by a peace that fell far short of the goal of a united Ireland, and left them wondering whether the killings they committed were not justified acts of war, but simple murders.

Further reading

Review: How Conflicts End – And Who Can End Them | The Atlantic

Review: ‘Say Nothing’ — Part History, Part True Crime — Illuminates the Bitter Conflict in Northern Ireland | The New York Times

Review: ‘Say Nothing’ reexamines a mother’s murder in Northern Ireland’s most violent years | Los Angeles Times

Whatever You Say … Say Nothing: An Interview with Patrick Radden Keefe | Los Angeles Review of Books

‘My Only Real Loyalty is to the Truth’: An Interview with Patrick Radden Keefe | Hazlitt

The Troubles: Northern Ireland History | Britannica

Watch & Listen

Chicago Humanities Festival Interview

Wind of Change (podcast by author Patrick Radden Keefe)

The Lost Ones
by Sheena Kamal

It is debatable if one can find a more emotionally and physically scarred character than Nora Watts, the protagonist in Kamal’s first book in this new series.  A five a.m. phone call from a man whose name means nothing to her, sets Nora off on a journey that she’d hoped she’d never have to go on.  A girl is missing – one whom Nora is intimately familiar with yet has neither spoken to nor seen – Nora’s fifteen year old daughter whom she gave up for adoption upon her birth.

With only her mutt, Whisper, as a companion, Nora begins her search, relying on her uncanny ability to detect a lie from the truth, and instincts honed by the years that she lived on the streets.  She trusts no one – for placing her trust in others has so often backfired in the past.  

Kamal’s atmospheric description of Nora’s journey from the rain-soaked streets of Vancouver to the snowy Canadian interior and ultimately to a beautiful island had me shivering from the damp and cold. And Nora, too, is shivering as she faces the demon who has monopolized her nightmares for so many years. 

An auspicious beginning to a new series!

  Joanne gives this book 4 daggers out of 5!

18 Tiny Deaths: The Untold Story of Frances Glessner Lee and the Invention of Modern Forensics
by Bruce Goldfarb

In reviewing this book I’m deviating from the usual mysteries/crime/thriller books that I normally blog about. But I think this is such an important book that I wanted to make it known to the many lovers of the mystery genre for it gives background to the rules that govern the investigation of crimes and crime scenes, which is certainly something every good sleuth should know.

I’m a miniaturist – I make dollhouses, scale roomboxes, miniature furniture and accessories.  I learned about the subject of this book – Frances Glessner Lee – through the 1/12” scale (where 1” represents 1 ft. in real life) dioramas depicting real crime scenes that she created (see The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death: Essay and Photography by Corinne May Botz).  However, I was totally unaware of the journey that Glessner Lee had to take to get to this point.  Here was a woman who had no scientific or medical background but who began to question how unexplained and unexpected deaths were investigated. Up to this point the field of legal medicine” (forensic science) was steeped in politics, corruption and fear.

Frances worked to have medical examiners replacecoroners (who needed no knowledge of law or medicine, were appointed to their positions and were often corrupt).  In 1943 she became a consultant to the Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard Medical School where she created an intensive week-long seminar for police officers.  The seminars provided the participants with the tools necessary to investigate unexpected and unexplained deaths including: how to estimate time of death, decomposition and other post mortem changes, blunt and sharp force injuries and related areas of death investigation.  Harvard Medical School was the only place in the U.S. to offer this seminar. In 1944 Glessner Lee created the dioramas to provide a 3D view of a crime scene, critical to any investigation.  They became an important component to the seminars then and continue to do so today.  “Today, the Frances Glessner Lee Seminar in Homicide Investigation is held at the Forensic Medical Center for the State of Maryland in Baltimore.  The seminars are conducted in accordance with the traditions set by Lee,…

This is a compact version of Francis Glessner Lee’s contribution to forensic science as outlined in this book.  She did so much more.  She was the first person to push to have forensic odontology (teeth) be used to identify victims, though no one at the time felt that this was a valuable tool.  Of course, today, it is used when necessary.  She was always fighting an uphill battle: against sexism, ageism, and ignorance, but she never waivered in her pursuit of what she felt was needed and necessary.

Joanne gives this book 5 stars out of 5!
Joanne gives this book 5 daggers out of 5!

Snow
by John Banville

It is 1957 in County Wexford, Ireland.  The Catholic Church rules every facet of the country.  Detective Inspector St. John Strafford is called to the aristocratic home of the Osborne family where a parish priest has been found dead.  Strafford meets obstruction to his investigation at every turn as the “powers that be” attempt to sweep this murder under the carpet.

The manner of the priest’s death immediately had me determine the “why” of the murder, and the “who” followed shortly thereafter.  I expected much more than the story that has played out so many times before in both real life and in fiction than what Banville hands us here.

The graphic and deeply disturbing description of certain events was, to me, completely unnecessary to the plot development.  There were enough hints as to what had taken place without the need for such vivid descriptions.

I found Strafford a rather ambivalent character and as a result just did not find him believable.  He was as disappointing as a DI as was the novel as a mystery.  I expected more from this Booker Prize winning author.

Joanne gives this book 2 daggers out of 5!

Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead

Find out more about Canada Reads @ the Library and register here for this fun-filled night of lively debate on March 5 @ 7PM (via Zoom).

“You’re gonna need a rock and a whole lotta medicine” is a mantra that Jonny Appleseed, a young Two-Spirit/Indigiqueer, repeats to himself in this vivid and utterly compelling debut novel by poet Joshua Whitehead.

Off the reserve and trying to find ways to live and love in the big city, Jonny becomes a cybersex worker who fetishizes himself in order to make a living. Self-ordained as an NDN glitter princess, Jonny has one week before he must return to the “rez”–and his former life–to attend the funeral of his stepfather. The seven days that follow are like a fevered dream: stories of love, trauma, sex, kinship, ambition, and the heartbreaking recollection of his beloved kokum (grandmother).

Jonny’s life is a series of breakages, appendages, and linkages–and as he goes through the motions of preparing to return home, he learns how to put together the pieces of his life.Jonny Appleseed is a unique, shattering vision of First Nations life, full of grit, glitter, and dreams.

About the Author

Globe and Mail Review

Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian Review

Huffington Post Interview

CBC: The Next Chapter Interview (audio)

 

Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots

Find out more about Canada Reads @ the Library and register here for this fun-filled night of lively debate on March 5 @ 7PM (via Zoom).

The Boys meets My Year of Rest and Relaxation in this smart, imaginative, and evocative novel of love, betrayal, revenge, and redemption, told with razor-sharp wit and affection, in which a young woman discovers the greatest superpower—for good or ill—is a properly executed spreadsheet.

Anna does boring things for terrible people because even criminals need office help and she needs a job. Working for a monster lurking beneath the surface of the world isn’t glamorous. But is it really worse than working for an oil conglomerate or an insurance company? In this economy?

As a temp, she’s just a cog in the machine. But when she finally gets a promising assignment, everything goes very wrong, and an encounter with the so-called “hero” leaves her badly injured.  And, to her horror, compared to the other bodies strewn about, she’s the lucky one.

So, of course, then she gets laid off.

With no money and no mobility, with only her anger and internet research acumen, she discovers her suffering at the hands of a hero is far from unique. When people start listening to the story that her data tells, she realizes she might not be as powerless as she thinks.

Because the key to everything is data: knowing how to collate it, how to manipulate it, and how to weaponize it. By tallying up the human cost these caped forces of nature wreak upon the world, she discovers that the line between good and evil is mostly marketing.  And with social media and viral videos, she can control that appearance.

It’s not too long before she’s employed once more, this time by one of the worst villains on earth. As she becomes an increasingly valuable lieutenant, she might just save the world.

A sharp, witty, modern debut, Hench explores the individual cost of justice through a fascinating mix of Millennial office politics, heroism measured through data science, body horror, and a profound misunderstanding of quantum mechanics.

About the Author

NPR Review

Tor Review

Smart Podcast, Trashy Books Interview (podcast)

Library Love Fest Interview (podcast)

The Midnight Bargain by C. L. Polk

Find out more about Canada Reads @ the Library and register here for this fun-filled night of lively debate on March 5 @ 7PM (via Zoom).

From the beloved World Fantasy Award-winning author of Witchmark  comes a sweeping, romantic new fantasy set in a world reminiscent of Regency England, where women’s magic is taken from them when they marry. A sorceress must balance her desire to become the first great female magician against her duty to her family.

Beatrice Clayborn is a sorceress who practices magic in secret, terrified of the day she will be locked into a marital collar that will cut off her powers to protect her unborn children. She dreams of becoming a full-fledged Magus and pursuing magic as her calling as men do, but her family has staked everything to equip her for Bargaining Season, when young men and women of means descend upon the city to negotiate the best marriages. The Clayborns are in severe debt, and only she can save them, by securing an advantageous match before their creditors come calling.

In a stroke of luck, Beatrice finds a grimoire that contains the key to becoming a Magus, but before she can purchase it, a rival sorceress swindles the book right out of her hands. Beatrice summons a spirit to help her get it back, but her new ally exacts a price: Beatrice’s first kiss . . . with her adversary’s brother, the handsome, compassionate, and fabulously wealthy Ianthe Lavan.

The more Beatrice is entangled with the Lavan siblings, the harder her decision becomes: If she casts the spell to become a Magus, she will devastate her family and lose the only man to ever see her for who she is; but if she marries-even for love-she will sacrifice her magic, her identity, and her dreams. But how can she choose just one, knowing she will forever regret the path not taken?

About the Author

Tor Review

Smart Bitches Trashy Books Review

Lightspeed Magazine Interview

Tor Interview: C.L. Polk and Alyssa Cole

The Fantasy Inn Interview (podcast)

Two Trees Make a Forest by Jessica J. Lee

Find out more about Canada Reads @ the Library and register here for this fun-filled night of lively debate on March 5 @ 7PM (via Zoom).

An exhilarating, anti-colonial reclamation of nature writing and memoir, rooted in the forests and flatlands of Taiwan from the winner of the RBC Taylor Prize for Emerging Writers

A chance discovery of letters written by her immigrant grandfather leads Jessica J. Lee to her ancestral homeland, Taiwan. There, she seeks his story while growing closer to the land he knew.

Lee hikes mountains home to Formosan flamecrests, birds found nowhere else on earth, and swims in a lake of drowned cedars. She bikes flatlands where spoonbills alight by fish farms, and learns about a tree whose fruit can float in the ocean for years, awaiting landfall. Throughout, Lee unearths surprising parallels between the natural and human stories that have shaped her family and their beloved island. Joyously attentive to the natural world, Lee also turns a critical gaze upon colonialist explorers who mapped the land and named plants, relying on and often effacing the labor and knowledge of local communities.

Two Trees Make a Forest  is a genre-shattering book encompassing history, travel, nature, and memoir, an extraordinary narrative showing how geographical forces are interlaced with our family stories.

About the Author

Los Angeles Review of Books

Outside Magazine Review

CBC Sunday Magazine Interview

Hazlitt Interview