Table of Contents

Spring 2009

From The Editor

Letter from Jack Getze

Short Stories

Patrick Whittaker

9:03

Anthony Rainone

Fall to Pieces

Phil Beloin

Late, After Dinner

Jake Nantz

Midnight on the Links

Stephen D. Rogers

Queen Anne's Lace

Mike Sheeter

Blue Fugazzi

David Moss

The Sleepy Pines Nursing Home

Fiona Kay Crawford

Successful Surgeon

Graham Powell

The Ins and Outs

John Towler

The Fall

Damien Seaman

Thursday Night Blowout

Matthew Acheson

Writing on the Wall

Interviews

Sandra Ruttan with Russel D. McLean

Declan Burke with Brian McGilloway

Jim Napier with Phyllis Smallman

Brian Lindenmuth with Craig McDonald

Reviews by:

P.A. Brown

Mexican Heat

Gloria Feit

Friend of the Devil

Theodore Feit

Death Was in the Picture

A Beautiful Place to Die

Night and Day

Claire McManus

The Hanged Man

The Poisoner of Ptah

My Sister, My Love

The Cruelest Month

Jim Winter

Trigger City

The Fourth Victim

TKO

Bookspot Review Roundup

Book Excerpt

The Big O
by Declan Burke

Featured Article

Passing of the Torch - Celebrated crime novelist dies
by Jim Napier

The Cruelest Month

Our book club's book for March was THE CRUELEST MONTH, by Louise Penny.  We decided on this book because it intersected two themes we have been thinking about reading.  The first one was wanting to read a "cozy."  The second was wanting to reading something either written by a Canadian or set in Canada. (We were talking about how close Canada is, and yet how little we really know about it.  We have read other books set in Canada and have liked them.)

This is (it turns out) the third in a series set in the fictional Quebec town of Three Pines.  A beloved local resident--a cancer survivor who fled life in the big city for something more simple--dies during a seance, which takes place in the town's "haunted house."  The investigative team led by Armand Gamache is called in to figure out what has happened.  Was it murder?  Can you literally scare someone to death?  In the meantime, Gamache--who has blown the whistle on some terrible goings-on in the department--is the target of a cruel vendetta that seeks to ruin him, his family, and his career. 

In some ways Three Pines is a sort of Quebecois version of St. Mary Mead, complete with all the delightful businesses and local characters that one expects in a cozy.  But Three Pines is an update of that typical village; the author works hard at making the cast overtly "diverse," including a much-beloved and accepted gay couple and a black woman who runs the local bookstore.  The investigation does proceed very slowly, with a psychologically perceptive but somehow not very satisfying conclusion.

This was a book that, as a club, we felt we really wanted to like, but we were left feeling disappointed, underwhelmed even.  On the positive side, the author is simply fantastic at evoking the sights and sounds of this quaint village, with its local bakery, and bed & breakfast, and bookstore.  Penny's powers of description are really superb.

But a lot of the other elements didn't come together for us.  So much of the book was simply saccharine (one member complained it almost give him a toothache).  There is a lot of New Age mumbo-jumbo going on, as well as a haunted house that is taken much too seriously, and given way too much weight in the story in a way that pushed our suspension of disbelief too far.  The plot meanders and takes a long while to get where it's going, and the "revenge against the whistle blower" subplot overwhelms the main story in a way we felt was melodramatic.  The dialogue is quite uneven--sometimes syrupy sweet, sometimes filled with really bad jokes, and occasionally quite profane (which came as a shock, as it seemed to go against the "cozy" feeling the author was trying to create).  We all have been known to curse a blue streak, and we're not necessarily opposed to it in a novel, but it seemed so out of place here, that we wondered if the author had purposely inserted it to defend herself against criticism that the novel was too "homey."  And, finally, Gamache is just so perfect, so sensitive, so loving, so perceptive, that it's really hard to relate to him as a real human being.

All in all, I would say that as a group we came away disappointed.  Eleven of us attended this meeting.  None of us loved it.  Two liked it, three said it was OK, six said it was a struggle to get to the end.  None of us felt any desire to read any more in the series.  This led to an interesting discussion of reading series books in order or not (a discussion we've had before).  A couple of people said that they'd heard that Penny's earlier books were much better, and we should have started with those.  We have a diverse club, and even though we all like different things, it's interesting to see how our opinions cluster on one side or the other; for this one we just felt like it was a misfire, but we respect the fact that Penny is well respected at what she does.



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