Joanne’s Mystery Picks

The Lonely Hour
By Christopher Fowler

When a baffling set of murders takes place across London, the Peculiar Crimes Unit works the late shift to try and find the culprit.  For the murders take place during the lonely hour – 4 a.m.  Headed up by the always pragmatic John May and the oh-so-eccentric Arthur Bryant, the unit struggles to find the common denominator between the murders in the hopes that they can put a stop to the bloodshed.

The often-times irreverent Bryant is at the top of his game again now that he’s recovered from what was ailing him and quickly recruits his usual odd personages and misfits to help him.  May, on the other hand seems distant and pre-occupied with something other than the case at hand, causing friction between him and Bryant.

Like all of the books in this series, Fowler’s latest is character-driven with setting following a close second.  And oh, what fun these characters are.  In fact, in the Acknowledgements page at the end of this book, Fowler says that this was the most fun he’s had with a Bryant & May novel.  And it shows.  Be prepared to laugh out loud and chuckle under your breath.  Reading this book was an absolute delight from the first page to the very last.

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

Tuesday Afternoon Drop-In Book Club | January Selection

Mr. Dickens and His Carol
by Samantha Silva

This title is only available in print. Click here to place a hold.

The Tuesday Afternoon Book Club meets on the third Tuesday of the month at 2:00 PM via Zoom.

Register here to drop in and discuss Silva’s creative re-imagining of Dickens’ inspiration for his holiday classic.

Laced with humor, rich historical detail from Charles Dickens’ life, and clever winks to his work, Samantha Silva’s Mr. Dickens and His Carol is an irresistible new take on a cherished classic.

Charles Dickens is not feeling the Christmas spirit. His newest book is an utter flop, the critics have turned against him, relatives near and far hound him for money. While his wife plans a lavish holiday party for their ever-expanding family and circle of friends, Dickens has visions of the poor house. But when his publishers try to blackmail him into writing a Christmas book to save them all from financial ruin, he refuses. And a serious bout of writer’s block sets in.

Frazzled and filled with self-doubt, Dickens seeks solace in his great palace of thinking, the city of London itself. On one of his long night walks, in a once-beloved square, he meets the mysterious Eleanor Lovejoy, who might be just the muse he needs. As Dickens’ deadlines close in, Eleanor propels him on a Scrooge-like journey that tests everything he believes about generosity, friendship, ambition, and love. The story he writes will change Christmas forever.

Further reading

Author website

New York Time Review

Ceasefire Magazine Review

Washington Independent Review of Books

Los Angeles Public Library Interview

Discussion Questions

BBC Culture | How did A Christmas Carol come to be?

Watch & LISTEN

Dialogue on PBS | Samantha Silva on Mr. Dickens and His Carol

Literary Hub Interview

Monday Evening Book Club | January Selection

Moon of the Crusted Snow
by  Waubgeshig Rice

Print | eBook and eAudiobook (Hoopla)

The Monday Evening Book Club meets on the second Monday of the month at 7:00 PM via Zoom.

Register to drop-in and discuss this slow burning thriller and powerful story of survival.

We’ve been waiting for this story. It irresistibly turns our gaze toward something we already knew but couldn’t quite make ourselves see. The result is intense, thrilling, and vivid as the darkest dreams – much like the old Anishinaabeg stories told by the Elders. As one revelation follows another, we come face to face with mystery and responsibility of being human. ~Warren Carious, director, University of Manitoba Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture. 

Further Reading

About Waubgeshig Rice

Toronto Star | At Home During COVID-19

Hamilton Review of Books Interview

CBC Books

Twitter

Watch & Listen

Weekend Picks

Cold Ones

With this December heatwave we’re having, let’s not forget to crack open a couple of cold ones this weekend.

The Spy Who Came in From The Cold

British agent Alec Leamas refuses to come in from the Cold War during the 1960s, choosing to face another mission, which may prove to be his final one.

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Force Majeure 

An idyllic family skiing vacation takes a stunning turn when an avalanche threatens the ski lodge restaurant, sending people fleeing and demanding quick decisions that change the course of the family’s dynamics and trust.

Trailer

Raised by her father, an ex-CIA agent, in the wilds of Finland, Hanna’s upbringing and training have been one and the same, all geared to making her the perfect assassin. The turning point in her adolescence is a sharp one. Sent into the world by her father on a mission, Hanna journeys stealthily across Europe, eluding agents dispatched after her by a ruthless intelligence operative with secrets of her own. Hanna faces startling revelations about her existence.

 

 

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

The Flood
By Kristina Ohlsson

This is the sixth book in Ohlsson’s series featuring detectives Fredrika Bergman and Alex Recht.  Not having read the previous novels, I knew nothing about the back story of these characters so I was often left wondering what had prompted certain behaviours or actions.  The detectives are faced with a series of very gruesome murders , questioning how someone could devise such horrible ways of killing.  I questioned this, too, but in reference to how Ohlsson came up with the ideas to begin with.  It made me reflect on a conversation I had with Michael Redhill, (writing as Inger Ash Wolfe) author of the Hazel Micallef series, at Starfest one year.  I asked him this very question about where he comes up with such bizarre ways of killing his characters.  He said that the answer is as close as the internet!  

Recht and Bergman eventually realize that there is a common denominator to the murders and that they are looking for a serial killer.  Their investigation is hampered by doubt and sabotage by other members of their division as they scramble to find the next clue that will help them stop the carnage.

The most puzzling thing about this book is its title and its description: The Flood: The water is rising.  And the bodies are too.  There is no flood in the story and water plays no part in it whatsoever.  If the title is a metaphor for something, then I’m baffled as to what it could be.

Joanne gives this book 3 daggers out of 5!

Weekend Picks

Black & White Friday

These new and old movies are on sale for the everyday low price of absolutely FREE!

Wings of Desire

Two angels, Damiel and Cassiel, glide through the streets of Berlin, observing the bustling population, providing invisible rays of hope to the distressed but never interacting with them. When Damiel falls in love with lonely trapeze artist Marion, the angel longs to experience life in the physical world, and finds – with some words of wisdom from actor Peter Falk.

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Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

After the insane General Jack D. Ripper initiates a nuclear strike on the Soviet Union, a war room full of politicians, generals and a Russian diplomat all frantically try to stop the nuclear strike.

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Frances Ha

A woman in her late twenties living in contemporary New York tries to sort out her ambitions, finances, and above all, her tight but changing bond with her best friend Sophie. Frances Ha gets at both the frustrations and the joys of being young and unsure of where to go next.

The Apartment

Bud Baxter is a minor clerk in a huge New York insurance company, until he discovers a quick way to climb the corporate ladder. He lends out his apartment to the executives as a place to take their mistresses. Although he often has to deal with the aftermath of their visits, one night he’s left with a major problem to solve.

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Weekend Picks

Stache Cache

Just some guy stuff for Movember.

Enjoy,

The Border

As a border guard involved in drug smuggling along the Rio Grande, Charlie Smith (Nicholson) has crossed the line many times. But when he decides to clean up his act and help unite an “illegal” woman with her baby, he runs afoul of his corrupt department, his greedy wife (Valerie Perrine) and a ruthless neighbor (Harvey Keitel) in this action-packed suspense-thriller.

Star Stache: The Corrupt Crumb Catcher – Jack Nicholson

Gangs of New York

As waves of immigrants swell the population of New York, lawlessness and corruption thrive in lower Manhattan’s Five Points section. After years of incarceration, young Irish immigrant Amsterdam Vallon returns to seek revenge against the rival gang leader who killed his father.

Star Stache: The Butcher’s Special – Daniel Day-Lewis

This Is Spinal Tap

Whether or not you’re a die-hard fan of the group, you’ll love this ‘Rockumentary’ of England’s legendary Spinal Tap. Take a behind-the-scenes look at a band whose time has come … and gone … and come again.

Star Stache: The Metal-Mo – Harry Shearer

No Country for Old Men

When a man stumbles on a bloody crime scene, a pickup truck loaded with heroin, and two million dollars in irresistible cash, his decision to take the money sets off an unstoppable chain reaction of violence.

Star Stache: The Sportsman – Josh Brolin

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

Obsidian
By Thomas King

Thumps Dreadfulwater is at a cross-roads in his life: he cannot move forward until he reconciles himself with his past.  And this means solving the case known as the Obsidian Murders.  He’s just returned to Chinook from a month in Eureka, CA, where the murders took place, hoping to find the answers to this crime that left ten people, including his partner and her daughter, brutally murdered.  

When he gets home he finds that someone has been leaving reminders of the murders everywhere he frequents, as if taunting him to solve the case.  Has the murderer followed him to Chinook and is his life now in danger?  As Thumps goes over everything he knows and remembers about the case, he realizes that the answers have to be in the past, in fact, right at the very start of the whole case.

Again we are entertained by King’s wit and wordplay, with his quirky and colorful  characters and his subtle commentary on social issues.  You can’t help laughing out  loud as you follow Thumps’ investigation, often hampered by one or more of Chinook’s residents, however good their intentions are at the beginning.  But Thumps perseveres and everyone is better off because he does.

Joanne gives this book 5 daggers out of 5!

Weekend Picks

Noirvember Picks

The month of November can be as cold, tough, and shadowy as the distinctive characters and plot tangles from one of the most fascinating eras in film.

Trust no one, baby, but believe this… these picks are better than a deck with six aces.

Double Indemnity 

A rich woman and a calculating insurance agent plot to kill her unsuspecting husband after he signs a double indemnity policy. Against a backdrop of distinctly Californian settings, the partners in crime plan the perfect murder to collect the insurance, which pays double if the death is accidental.

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The Killing

Career criminal Johnny Clay recruits a sharpshooter, a crooked police officer, a bartender and a betting teller named George, among others, for one last job before he goes straight and gets married. But when George tells his restless wife about the scheme to steal millions from the racetrack where he works, she hatches a plot of her own.

Trailer

Sunset Boulevard

A hack screenwriter writes a screenplay for a former silent film star who has faded into Hollywood obscurity.

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The Maltese Falcon

After his partner is murdered, private investigator Sam Spade searches for the killer while also involving himself in a mystery surrounding the existence of a jewel-encrusted statue known as the Maltese falcon.