Sunday, October 18, 2009


I picked up this collection in Paris at Shakespeare and Company at the end of June and rationed the stories while I was reading many other novels.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, writes such heart-stopping and utterly beautiful stories. Assembled here are the ones that Munro chose, stories that she believes have a "sturdy sense" of self, "built out of [their] own necessity, not just to shelter or beguile."

Dip in and then delve. You will change the way you read fiction.

THE STRANGER HOUSE by Reginald Hill (2005)

I can't get enough of good crime fiction and Hill is at the top of his game in this novel. A young Australian mathematician is on her way to graduate work at Cambridge, but en route she decides to visit Illthwaite, the village from which her paternal grandmother was displaced thanks to a child migrant scheme forty years ago. Samantha Flood discovers quite quickly that the villagers she asks about her gran are definitely not telling her the full shilling about the past and she is determined to find out the truth, in spite of the consequences.

Hill never insults his readers, rather assumes that you are up to the chase, both physical and mental.

THE DAY THE FALLS STOOD STILL by Cathy Marie Buchanan (2009)

First time novelist Cathy Marie Buchanan writes with precision and aplomb in this tale which begins in 1915 in Niagara Falls, the dawn of a new era of hydroelectric power. Seventeen year old Bess Heath has lived a life of privilege as the youngest daughter of a hydro executive; however, after graduating from her boarding school and returning to her family home, she discovers that nothing is as she'd remembered. Her father has been fired, her mother is working as a seamstress instead of managing her household staff and Bess's beloved sister Isabel has taken to her bed, her engagement to Boyce Cruikshank broken.

A chance meeting with Tom Cole on a trolley platform changes Bess's life. And, although her blossoming relationship with him causes friction with her family, Bess is determined to make it work because Tom is not only handsome, but also talented and kind and thoughtful. Prejudice makes life difficult for the two lovers, but they persevere and remain devoted to each other throughout the years that Tom serves in WWI and returns a broken man.

Archival photos of the era as well as news clippings interspersed throughout the story add a degree of verisimilitude, though Buchanan's telling is deft enough without them. I thoroughly enjoyed the journey along the shoals and eddies of this story and you will too.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

SWAN PEAK by James Lee Burke (2008)

Louisiana lawman Dave Robicheaux is taking a well-deserved and much needed break in Montana on his friend's ranch with his wife Molly and his bail-buddy Clete Purcel. They've left their Hurricane-ravaged New Orleans parish homes for respite in the mountains where they hope to spend their days fishing and relaxing.

However, the unusual and brutal murders of two college students on their friend's property pulls them into the whirl of a nefarious community run by a vicious and twisted oil tycoon.

Clete continues to be haunted by nightmares of a bloody episode in which the remains of a former mob boss had to be "combed out of the trees..." looking like "pulled pork somebody had dropped into a fire."

Dave and Clete and Molly have to keep their wits about them in order to get out of Montana alive.

Thursday, October 01, 2009


This is the second Jaquot novel I've read and it is as equally satisfying as the first also set in Provence.

A German family is extinguished by close-range gunfire and the case is one of the most baffling of Inspector Danile Jaquot's career. Many of the villagers believe that the crime could be personal since they remember the atrocities committed by the Germans during WWII, crimes that included the execution of innocent civilians.

When a local son is arrested and charged with the murders because of his passing dalliance with the dead granddaughter, a young stranger comes to town to temporarily run the family's flower shop. Marie-Ange's talent as a horticulturist and a business woman means the shop flourishes, but it is her talent as a psychic that is even more important in helping Jaquot to solve the crimes as the corpses continue to pile up.


Cameron Rouse, a right-wing freelance journalist from London, shows up in Lydmouth to do a piece on the "communist" squatters in a disused military camp outside of town. However, Rouse's working visit to Lydmouth is short-lived indeed. He's one of the corpses that mystifies Detective Richard Thornhill who is on a bit of a wild goose chase of "persons of interest" that includes local Philip Wemyss-Brown, the esteemed editor of the local newspaper, and dear friend to Thornhill's former lover Jill Francis.

Taylor weaves a tangled web that is supremely satisfying as the real criminals are unable to escape its sticky grasp.