Friday, November 17, 2006

BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS by Giles Blunt (2006)

Detective John Cardinal has spent years supporting his wife through manic episodes, some during which she had to be hospitalized. Recently, however, Catherine, has been going through a good patch where she has seemed energized by her work as a photographer. When Catherine is found dead, with a suicide note written in her schoolgirl script, her husband is naturally devastated. He's also suspicious. And, when a spate of suicides leads to Catherine's psychiatrist Dr. Bell, Cardinal is obviously concerned and curious.

The subplot involving a cold case of child abuse is equally chilling. Giles Blunt is a master of the crime genre.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

THE WILDFIRE SEASON by Andrew Pyper (2005)

Learning that Andrew Pyper is the author assigned to the table where I will be sitting on Wednesday at the Writers' Trust Great Literary Dinner Party, I picked up his most recent novel.

The prose is gorgeous and the dialogue precise and authentic.

An arsonist starts a bush fire in a remotely populated area of the Yukon in order to give the firefighters something to do during the dog days of summer. Miles, the fire chief, not only has the burden of reading the fire and how it will spread, but also the anxiety of saving his five year-old daughter Rachel, whom he has only met recently.

The subplot in which a New York couple, strangers to each other although married for decades, hires a local guide to hunt a bear is no less anxiety-provoking. Especially when they are trapped in the licking flames as well.

The plot had me gasping for breath at times, in panic. And, I had to put the book down because the images were all too real.

Pyper sure knows how to write. I'll be picking up a copy of his earlier novel LOST GIRLS.

DEAD COLD by Louise Penny (2006)

I read Louise Penny's second mystery in one gulp yesterday. (Published as A FATAL GRACE in the US) Set in a sleepy Quebec village, DEAD COLD is a satisfying crime novel wherein several suspects are unlikely-- a bereaved octogenarian, a yoga-studio owning septugenarian and a bullied child who spends her days at an exclusive boarding school for girls in Montreal--the loosely disguised Miss Edgar's and Miss Cramp's.

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache takes on the case of a Boxing Day murder that happened in broad daylight among many witnesses at the annual outdoor curling briar.

The twists and turns and occasional laughs out loud will have you flipping the pages of this compelling tale right to the end. Acronyms acquire certain power under Louise Penny's pen.

Friday, November 10, 2006


Lam's collection of linked short stories was recentlly awarded the 2006 Giller Prize--for the best English language book of fiction in Canada. In it you follow Ming, Chen, Fitzgerald and Sri through their human anatomy lab at Medical School and into their residential practices at walk-in clinics and emergency room triage. BLOODLETTING & MIRACULOUS CURES is not for the squeamish or faint of heart, especially in "Take All of Murphy," where the descriptive detail is absolutely visceral.

However, in addition to precise prose, Lam is also an adept storyteller, and it is his craftsmanship that will have me reaching for his first novel due out in Fall 2007 from Doubleday.

ECHO PARK by Michael Connelly (2006)

Detective Harry Bosch has a stale case that he just can't leave alone--the unsolved murder of Marie Gesto that has nagged him for more than a dozen years. When he gets a call from a hot-shot prosecutor who has Raynard Waits ready to admit to the murder in order to avoid the death penalty for a series of crimes, Harry is both relieved and bothered by the offer.

The wild goose chase that follows after Waits leads them to the alleged burial site of Gesto's remains is anxiety ridden.

Former defense attorney Connelly is at the top of his crime-writing form in ECHO PARK.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

REQUIEM FOR MY BROTHER by Marian Botsford Fraser (2006)

When I saw this title listed in a summer edition of Quill and Quire as forthcoming, I special ordered a copy--having met Marian through PEN Canada work and having buried my only brother.

I had no idea that there would be such haunting similarities in our stories: the eldest of three children; raised in small-town Ontario; a younger brother named David who loved the north--its landscape, its rhythms; a family code in which "I love you" was understood but never said face to face.

Fraser's spare prose hits the mark. As Nino Ricci notes, it is "uncompromising and deeply affecting...a meditation...on how much of even those we are closest to remains unknown."

We are still, David, Denise and I, just the three of us.

THE FEARSOME PARTICLES by Trevor Cole (2006)

I picked up a copy of this GG short-listed novel after hearing Trevor Cole read excerpts at IFOA at the end of October. I was also intrigued by a reviewer's reference to Cole as a stylist belonging to "the Truman Capote school." However, although the sections dedicated to Victoria (the high-end house stager) were wryly amusing, and the narrative dedicated to her son Kyle was painfully engaging, the portions about Gerald's musings and his work life were yawn-worthy.

I must be missing something.

LAST STOP SUNNYSIDE by Pat Capponi (2006)

Living in a rooming house in Parkdale, Dana Leoni finds herself in the middle of a mystery involving a former housemate whose body has washed up along the Lake Ontario shore where the old Sunnyside Amusement park used to be. When the police decide to close the case, Dana and her remaining housemates--people pushed to the margins of society through mental illness and misfortune--decide to do detective work of their own inspired by their reading of the seedy, but hopeful tales of Janet Evanovich. Their dedication leads them to discover a terrible reality that is all too plausible.