Tag: Minotaur Books

To Read, and what to Read, that is the question!

I was so excited to get three new books this week that I started one last night, the one sat atop my TBR, which, as it happens, was SLOW HORSES by Mick Herron. And, oh dear. I was either not in the mood for this one, or, it isn’t really my kind of read. Not sure which. But, only a couple of chapters in, and already, I’m struggling with the prose. It’s written in short, sharp, almost jarring sentences that are very abrupt.

While this might be the author’s way of making you feel the sense of urgency as our erstwhile spy, River, runs around Kings Cross Station chasing a suspect bomber, it made it difficult to read. There is no flow to the story. Things are either half described in a sort of shorthand way, or, worse, over detailed in their description.

And where the opening chapter should be tense and strained as our spy chases down a suspect, it reads like a badly edited telegram from another era. All sharp and disjointed. And when River chases the bomber down into the underground, instead of being caught up in what should be a terrifying moment, it all kind of fizzles to an abrupt end. Yes, even as the bomber blows himself up, along with, we are told, 120 other people aboard an underground train.

The target pulled a cord on his belt.
And that was that.”

Really? And that was that? Who’s writing this, Donald Trump speech writer?

Then, further in, the author tells us about a hypothetical person sat atop a double-decker London bus, looking up into a three story building’s windows—Slough House—and what they might see there. Several pages then go on the explain how dull the paint job is. Emphasising the colours of the walls—grey and yellowing from nicotine stains—how dirty the windows are, how there is little or no life beyond the glass, and then, about the front door that’s not a front door.

All this torpid description goes on, and on, and, dare I say it, on—ad nauseam.

Hardly the stuff of either a spy novel, or a thriller. What’s more, I really don’t need to read 3 pages of how the rain was dripping down his collar and soaking his back. Because he’s on a stake out for a journalist’s garbage bag.

Let’s remind ourselves. This is a two-time CWA Dagger award-winning series. Yeah, really? No!

I’m shelving this one along with STASI CHILD by David Young, which also had a torturously slow start and a very unlikeable set of characters. All I can say is, I’m probably not in the right mood or headspace, and will set them aside till after the new year.

I think I need Inspector Chopra and some Mumbai whimsy in my life right now.

Waiting on Wednesday

Bonjour tout la monde: For today’s Waiting on Wednesday post, I want to talk about a new series I’ve just discovered written by British author, David Young. The first book in the series is STASI CHILD, featuring Lieutenant Karin Muller of the East German police. The premise alone was enough to get me hooked. I mean, after all, Lt. Muller is working with what we always think of as the bad guys, the Stasi; the State.

What’s more, this is set in an era—the mid 70s—in which I was actually living and working in Germany and had, on several occasions, visited East Berlin, as it was back then. So I instantly felt an affinity with the location and time period of this series.

Book Summary

1975: When Oberleutnant Karin Muller is called to investigate a teenage girl’s body at the foot of the Berlin Wall, she imagines she’s seen it all before. But she soon realizes that this is a death like no other before it—the girl was evidently trying to escape from West Berlin.

As a member of the People’s Police, Muller’s power in East Germany only stretches so far. The Ministry for State Security, the Stasi, assures her the case is closed, all they need to know is the girl’s name. Yet they strongly discourage her from asking questions. The evidence doesn’t add up, and it soon becomes clear the crime scene has been staged. But this regime does not tolerate curious minds, and it takes Müller too long to realize that the trail she’s been following may lead her dangerously close to home.

David Young
Minotaur Books
Hardback, 416 pages

Waiting on Wednesday

Today, for a change, I thought I would do a Waiting on Wednesday post for you, about a book I’m really anticipating. This is a weekly prompt to highlight and bring attention to upcoming releases that we’re anticipating and amped up for. This prompt is brought to you by Jill over at Breaking the Spine.

Of the many books on my Wish List, and yes, there are a few, the one that I’m really eager to get my hands on, at the moment, having just recently read Kingdom of the Blind, is ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE by Louise Penny. This will be her 16th book in the The Three Pines series featuring Armand Gamache. But, as the summary below tells us, Gamache is no longer in his beloved Québec, but has travelled further afield, and everything is not as it should be. But then again, when is it ever, in a Louise Penny book?

I am so excited about reading this one because Penny has taken Gamache outside of his familiar territory and comfort zone, and dumped him in what will be, I hope, one of Penny’s best books to date.

Book Summary

On their first night in Paris, the Gamaches gather as a family for a bistro dinner with Armand’s godfather, the billionaire Stephen Horowitz. Walking home together after the meal, they watch in horror as Stephen is knocked down and critically injured in what Gamache knows is no accident, but a deliberate attempt on the elderly man’s life.

When a strange key is found in Stephen’s possession it sends Armand, his wife Reine-Marie, and his former second-in-command at the Sûreté, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, from the top of the Tour Eiffel, to the bowels of the Paris Archives, from luxury hotels to odd, coded, works of art.

It sends them deep into the secrets Armand’s godfather has kept for decades.

A gruesome discovery in Stephen’s Paris apartment makes it clear the secrets are more rancid, the danger far greater and more imminent, than they realized.

Soon the whole family is caught up in a web of lies and deceit.  In order to find the truth, Gamache will have to decide whether he can trust his friends, his colleagues, his instincts, his own past.  His own family.

For even the City of Light casts long shadows. And in that darkness devils hide.

by Louise Penny
Murder Mystery
Hardback | 448 pages
Sept 1 2020 by Minotaur Books

Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny

Book Summary

When a peculiar letter arrives inviting Armand Gamache to an abandoned farmhouse, the former head of the Sûreté du Québec discovers that a complete stranger has named him one of the executors of her will. Still on suspension, and frankly curious, Gamache accepts and soon learns that the other two executors are Myrna Landers, the bookseller from Three Pines, and a young builder named Benedict.

None of them had ever met the elderly woman.

The will is so odd and includes bequests that are so wildly unlikely that Gamache and the others suspect the woman must have been delusional. But what if, Gamache begins to ask himself, she was perfectly sane?

When a body is found, the terms of the bizarre will suddenly seem less peculiar and far more menacing.

But it isn’t the only menace Gamache is facing.

The investigation into what happened six months ago—the events that led to his suspension—has dragged on, well into the dead of winter. And while most of the opioids he allowed to slip though his hands, in order to bring down the drug cartels, have been retrieved, there is one devastating exception.

Enough narcotic to kill thousands—carfentanil—has disappeared into the inner city of Montreal. With the deadly drug about to hit the streets, Gamache races for answers.

As he uses increasingly audacious, even desperate, measures to retrieve the drug, Armand Gamache begins to see his own blind spots. And the terrible things hiding there.

What I Thought

Once again, Louise Penny pulls out all the stops and gifts us with another insightful look into her characters, the village of Three Pines, and the thriving underbelly lurking down dark alleys and in the hidden corners of seedy Montreal, complete with two compelling storylines that deliver intrigue and murder in equal measure.

What’s so special about a Louise Penny Three Pines novel, are the complex nuanced characters, the display of camaraderie, the shared bonds of friendship, and sometimes, the not so subtle ribald humour. Plus the sheer complexity to her stories that draw you right into the narrative. Not satisfied with one or two threads, Penny’s novels are always layered and richly textured with wonderfully written detail. From the descriptions of the characters themselves, to their interactions with one another and the deliciously described food they eat. From the village of Three Pines dressed deceptively in winter snows, to the city of Montreal itself, all play a part bringing a Louise Penny novel to life.

The one thing you can be sure of, in a cut-throat world where anything goes and does happen, to the brutal world of drugs and murder, the one thing you can be sure of is Penny will always counterbalance the pain, grief, and abject horror. Three Pines will always be a welcomed respite with characters who have lived though and known pain, and understand that a community such as theirs survives not because of their idealism, or hope, but in the strength of their diversity. It’s through their flaws and failings we see, as Leonard Cohen wrote, how the light gets in.

In Penny’s own words the books are about “…the common yearning for community. For belonging. They’re about kindness, acceptance. Gratitude.” Wisdom and insight into human nature are infused into her books naturally and with such ease. She’s never preachy but gives us so much more to think about in life’s morally grey areas. And there’s always plenty of grey areas in a Penny novel. Why people lie, why people murder, motivation is not always money or prestige but sometimes bitter revenge. In Kingdom of the Blind, we have two very disturbing threads, one warped by the need for revenge, the other a the desperate need to stop deadly opioids from hitting the street. Both, in their own way, are going to destroy any number of people’s lives. 

Of course, on a much lighter note, we can’t forget to mention the poet Ruth Zardo’s duck, Rosa, who, like it’s owner, provides a great deal of the humour in a Penny novel, with her on-point commentary throughout, “… fuck, fuck, fuck …” And, after all, isn’t that just what a duck would say?

As a side note, it would be helpful to first read, Glass Houses, the preceding novel to Kingdom of the Blind, for further context.

All-in-all, this may very well turn out to be my favourite Louise Penny novel, ever. As always, this one comes highly recommended.

by Louise Penny
Murder Mystery
Hardback, 389 pages
Nov 27 2018 by Minotaur Books