Tuesday, March 31, 2009

FALL by Colin McAdam (2009)

A friend recommended McAdam's first novel SOME GREAT THING--about a plasterer in Ottawa and his son (sounds boring but it was a fantastic read)--so when I saw his name on the list at Harbourfront, I decided to go and hear him read from his second book which launches the Hamish Hamilton imprint at Penguin Canada.

FALL is not only the name of the beautiful and smart girlfriend to Julius, the protagonist, but also the leitmotif of the novel. Several of the players fall from grace in this privileged boarding school based on the tony Ashbury College in Ottawa, where McAdam was once a student as the son of a diplomat.

Although the meanness and hijinks of the boarders is typical for that milieu, Julius's roommate Noel takes cruelty to a new level and it is from his point of view that we get the insider's perspective as he looks back at his final year from the remove of his adult life.

What impressed me most about McAdam's book is his dialogue which is quintessentially teenish in its rhythm and content.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Continuing my current obsession with crime fiction, I picked up one of Andrew Taylor's books, which does not feature a detective.

James is well established in his career and firmly grounded in his relationship to his wife Nicky until his past rears its ugly head and bites him in the ass in the form of a telephone call from Lily Murthington who is dying of cancer in a local hospice.

The novel shifts from present to past and we fill in the sordid details about Jamie's adolescence at boarding school and in the company of his classmate Charles/Carlo Murthington and his family--father Hugo, sister Felicity and stepmother Lily. There is a dark secret that Taylor manages to withhold until the final 100 pages and it is this secret that is Jamie's undoing in addition to the idea that he may have fathered a daughter with Lily, a young woman named Kate who was raised as Carlo's half-sister and who is in a spot of trouble herself thinking she will be blamed for an accidental death.

It seems a little soap opera-ish from the outset, but Taylor manages to make you care for Jamie and his unfortunate circumstances and wish for him to be able to set things right.


In a field outside of Venice, the partially decayed corpse of a young man is discovered in a makeshift shallow grave. What identifies him is his family ring--he is of noble lineage and has been "missing" for over a year. Detective Brunetti finds himself telling the deceased parents about their son's unfortunate end and then is stuck in a web of lies as he tries to discover what circumstances led to the boy's death.

There was a very public story of kidnapping, but Brunetti doesn't believe it. There is more to the Lorenzoni family and its business dealings than meets the eye. With the help of his connected father-in-law, the Count, Brunetti manages to uncover unsettling truths about the ties that bind.

Monday, March 16, 2009


I found the title misleading of this DI Charlie Priest crime novel. Though, I liked the way the narratives wove together--the disgraced police officer who has obviously been framed; the headmistress who had hoped for a romantic tryst who ends up being driven off the road; the married MP caught in an extra-curricular passionate clinch who decides to end it once and for all; the fabulous four who plot different ways to play the game that they have devised and to which they are so deviously and deviantly committed.

Pawson certainly knows how to spin a good yarn peopled with characters you love to loathe and a detective you will continually root for.


Gabriele's reading at Harbourfront convinced me to pick up a copy of her new novel, the story of two sisters who couldn't possibly lead more disparate lives: Beth Ann and Georgia "Peachy" Archer. Beth is a fashionable, skinny bitch New Yorker who has abandoned her farm girl upbringing and embraced the shallowness of a frenetic professional life while Peachy abandoned her dream of becoming a social worker, when she got knocked up at nineteen and married Beth's high school sweetheart.

On one of Beth's occasional fly by night visits to her family in rural southern Ontario, she makes an unforgivable decision and that decision pushes the plot forward and has the sisters exchanging lives, if only for a few days.

What kept me reading THE ALMOST ARCHER SISTERS was a need to witness Peachy exact her fumbling revenge in one of my favourite cities, where even the pavement hums with expectation.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

REMEMBER ME? by Sophie Kinsella (2008)

As a leader of the pack of chicklit, British-born, New York Times bestseller Sophie Kinsella knows how to wend a tale of a not-so-enviable life of privilege. Her protagonist, 28 yr. old Lexi Smart wakes up in a London hospital after a car crash, believing that it is the day of her father's funeral 3 years previous. Trouble is she doesn't remember the three years in between where she managed to lose a load of weight, have her teeth done, scrabble up the business ladder, alienate her friends and marry the rich man of her dreams.

Kinsella manages to let the reader in on the loathsome truth about Lexi's less-than-ideal husband and her coterie of spoiled "friends" while Lexi herself gives it the old college try to rebuild the marriage that she can't remember ever existed. Her supporting cast including her grifting little sister Amy, her Whippet-obsessed mother and her husband's right hand man Jon help, intentionally or not, to put Lexi on her proper path of redemption and self-discovery, but not before she faces the enigmatic Mont Blanc"--not the pen--and resolves for herself to set herself straight.

BORN STANDING UP by Steve Martin (2008)

Poet, philosopher, novelist, screenwriter, playwright, art aficianado, actor and comic: Steve Martin is all of those and more. I, for one, am grateful that he did not have the funding to purse a Ph. D. in philosophy in the early 60s, because he may have ended up an abstract-scripting fuddy duddy, holed up in a state university, hoping to discover the meaning of life.

His work ethic and determination to succeed are enviable and ought to be modelled by young men and women in 2009.