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Category: Book Reviews

Book Review: Homicide in Hardcover by Kate Carlisle

Reviewed by Joelene Pynnonen

When Brooklyn Wainwright agrees to attend the opening of Covington Library’s latest antiquarian exhibit, she’s expecting conflict. She and her old mentor, Abraham Karastovsky – the man who taught her everything she knows about book restoration, haven’t spoken for six months, after all. What she’s not expecting is to find Abraham shot and close to death; the jewel of the collection, a supposedly cursed copy of Faust, nearby.

When Derek Stone, the head of security for the book exhibition, finds her hunched over the body, she becomes a major suspect. Now it’s up to Brooklyn to clear her name, bring the killer of her beloved mentor to justice, and try to stay alive doing so. With the suspects mounting, the task is getting more impossible by the minute.

Characters and setting are the magical combination that will either win or lose readers in a cosy mystery. Luckily, Homicide in Hardcover has a winning combination. Both the characters and setting are friendly, comfortable and easy to lose yourself in. Brooklyn grew up in an affluent hippie commune. While she doesn’t live there any longer, her family and friends mostly do; and she goes back to visit quite often.

While this is marketed as a cosy mystery and fits the guidelines fairly well, it could also fall into the romantic suspense category. From the first couple of chapters a classic love/hate relationship dynamic pops up around Brooklyn and Derek. It suits the quirky, whimsical atmosphere of the novel, but might be a too cheesy for some cosy crime readers.

The atmosphere of Homicide in Hardcover is fun and light, but that doesn’t keep it from tossing an abundance of red herrings into the mix. There’s no shortage of suspects. Brooklyn’s nemesis in love and work, the vindictively jealous Minka LaBoeuf, is hanging around on the night of the murder. And while there’s nothing to indicate that Minka had a grudge against Abraham, Brooklyn wouldn’t put stealing the Faust past her. Abraham’s own archrival, Enrico Baldacchio, has shown up, despite the bad blood between them. And, perhaps most disturbingly, Brooklyn runs into her mother only moments before finding the fatally wounded Abraham.

As forces close in from every side, Brooklyn needs to search for the truth– even if the answers she finds are not the ones she wants.

Homicide in Hardcover is a solid start to the Bibliophile Mystery series. A quick and easy read, it fills up an otherwise dull weekend quite nicely.

 

Homicide in Hardcover – Kate Carlisle

Berkley (February 3, 2009)

ISBN: 9780451226150

Book Review: See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

Reviewed by Krista McKeeth

In this riveting debut novel, See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love.

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.

As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling

In See What I Have Done, author Sarah Schmidt puts the reader right inside of the Borden house on the day of the murders – the famous 1892 case in which Lizzie Borden was accused of murdering her father and her step mother with an axe. This version not only allows us to view the story from the inside but from different perspectives of those closest to the case.

The story unfolds through the viewpoints of Lizzie, her sister Emma, the maid Bridget and one outsider, Ben. Although in the beginning I was confused about how Ben’s character would fit into the story, I found that he plays a huge part in how the author has chosen to wrap up the story and what happened after the murders. What I absolutely loved about this story is that, besides Emma, the other characters are all presented as possible killers and very unreliable narrators who have their own reasons to want the Borden’s dead. What a hostile environment the household was to live in!

Lizzie herself is full of zest! She is dramatic, haughty and cunning – the type of person you will love to hate. She was absolutely my favourite character with Bridget coming in a very close second because of her views of how the Borden’s ran their household and the kind of messes she was always left to clean up. Then there was Emma the oldest and put-upon daughter who only wants to find a love of her own and a life outside the home.

I really enjoyed the pacing of the story and how well the characters were adapted. They all had their own very true voices that played well in this engrossing story line of those fateful hours leading up to the murders. I was very entertained the whole time and found it a joy to jump into this secretive setting of the Borden household.

 

 

Review: Homicide in Hardcover by Kate Carlisle

When Brooklyn Wainwright agrees to attend the opening of Covington Library’s latest antiquarian exhibit, she’s expecting conflict. She and her old mentor, Abraham Karastovsky – the man who taught her everything she knows about book restoration, haven’t spoken for six months, after all. What she’s not expecting is to find Abraham shot and close to death; the jewel of the collection, a supposedly cursed copy of Faust, nearby.

When Derek Stone, the head of security for the book exhibition, finds her hunched over the body, she becomes a major suspect. Now it’s up to Brooklyn to clear her name, bring the killer of her beloved mentor to justice, and try to stay alive doing so. With the suspects mounting, the task is getting more impossible by the minute.

Characters and setting are the magical combination that will either win or lose readers in a cosy mystery. Luckily, Homicide in Hardcover has a winning combination. Both the characters and setting are friendly, comfortable and easy to lose yourself in. Brooklyn grew up in an affluent hippie commune. While she doesn’t live there any longer, her family and friends mostly do; and she goes back to visit quite often.

While this is marketed as a cosy mystery and fits the guidelines fairly well, it could also fall into the romantic suspense category. From the first couple of chapters a classic love/hate relationship dynamic pops up around Brooklyn and Derek. It suits the quirky, whimsical atmosphere of the novel, but might be a too cheesy for some cosy crime readers.

The atmosphere of Homicide in Hardcover is fun and light, but that doesn’t keep it from tossing an abundance of red herrings into the mix. There’s no shortage of suspects. Brooklyn’s nemesis in love and work, the vindictively jealous Minka LaBoeuf, is hanging around on the night of the murder. And while there’s nothing to indicate that Minka had a grudge against Abraham, Brooklyn wouldn’t put stealing the Faust past her. Abraham’s own arch rival, Enrico Baldacchio, has shown up, despite the bad blood between them. And, perhaps most disturbingly, Brooklyn runs into her mother only moments before finding the fatally wounded Abraham.

As forces close in from every side, Brooklyn needs to search for the truth– even if the answers she finds are not the ones she wants.

Homicide in Hardcover is a solid start to the Bibliophile Mystery series. A quick and easy read, it fills up an otherwise dull weekend quite nicely.

 

Homicide in Hardcover – Kate Carlisle

Berkley (February 3, 2009)

ISBN: 9780451226150

Film Review: Wind River

Reviewed by Joelene Pynnonen

When US Fish and Wildlife agent, Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) sets out to track the mountain lions killing livestock on the Wind River Indian Reservation, the last thing he expects to find is his friend’s daughter’s body. Eighteen year old Natalie Hanson is frozen solid with no shoes and wearing clothes insufficient for the snowy climate. Suspecting foul play, local authorities alert the FBI and rookie agent, Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) undertakes the initial assessment.Although Natalie’s body shows signs of rape and assault, the cause of death is exposure. Without a clear homicide, Banner can’t call in an investigative unit. Banner and Lambert are going to have to team up together if there’s any chance of bringing Natalie’s murderers to justice.

Considering that I barely knew anything about Wind River when going into the cinema, it was quite a lovely surprise. The unforgiving snow-caked mountainous setting is both beautiful and bleak. The atmosphere is taut throughout. The writing sparse but brilliant. And the characters bring it all together.

I was initially disappointed that a movie about the lives and struggles of Native Americans – specifically Native American women – cast two white leads. After watching it though, I think the decision was considered. There’s a reason that #ownvoices resonates with so many people of colour. As a white writer, I think Taylor Sheridan is aware of the importance of Native Americans telling their stories. But Native Americans don’t have his platform, and that’s where Wind River comes in.

It’s clear through-out the film that only Native people are Native. Lambert had been married to a Native American woman, and he has two children by her, but Wind River makes it clear that he doesn’t get a claim on their experiences or their struggles.

Characters drive this story. Renner and Olsen handle their roles perfectly. Their characters have different approaches to situations and different personalities, but Wind River doesn’t rely on the well-worn antagonist-to-friend trope so rampant in buddy-cop films. Lambert and Banner start with a mutual respect. And although Banner heads the investigation, she’s quick to recognise that she doesn’t have the tools to negotiate the cultural or political landscape.

People I’ve spoken to have felt that the main characters weren’t fleshed out as well as they should have been. It’s true that backstory wasn’t prioritised in either Lambert or Banner’s case, but their characters weren’t any weaker for that. Their determination to find justice for Natalie comes through with natural credibility that doesn’t rely on a backstory. In a lot of ways, I preferred this approach. It’s more realistic, but it also emphasises that wanting answers for a woman’s death should be a natural response, not a product of prior life experiences.

Wind River is an enjoyable, if bleak, character-driven crime film. With solid performances against a gorgeous landscape, I strongly recommend checking it

Book Review: I am Legend by Richard Matheson

Reviewed by Krista McKeeth

Recently I decided to pick up I am Legend by Richard Matheson, a book that I’ve come across often on lists of “should reads.” As a fan of vampires, I imagined that I would love the story and enjoy the process of reading through it. But I found a story that, for a while, really frustrated me.

The first half of the novel is heavy on the story setting and the inner monologue of Robert Neville – a man who spends his days making repairs on his sheltered house, finding supplies and killing sleeping vampires. His spends his nights, trying not to listen to the vampires outside his door calling his name and drinking to pass the time. I found the languid descriptions of this man’s every day life hard to get through even though the novel is a rather short read.

It was really the second half of the novel that  caught my attention. As the more active part began, the story truly unfolded about how this world has progressed, to the point where the reader is introduced to the possibilities of its future.

I was happily surprised that there was some great detail of the creatures and idea of what civilisation would be underpin their present state. It made perfect sense and I found it intriguing. I now know why this made it on so many lists and can see some connections between this book and others I have read that came after, and built upon similar ideas.

It turns out that I am happy to recommend this book as well; I am glad I pushed through the beginning to reach such an ingenious ending.