Book Review: Before the Frost

I rate this book a 4 out of 5

I rate this book a 4 out of 5

Originally Published in Spruce Grove Examiner on December 28, 2012

I read this book like my youngest daughter enjoys an unexpected treat – savoring each bit with delight and gratitude, proceeding ever more slowly and with a growing regret that the experience will soon end.
The first Linda Wallander Mystery, (and Mankell’s tenth novel featuring Inspector Kurt Wallander) ‘Before the Frost’ joins Linda as she endures the waiting period required before she may begin her career at the same police station as her father. In forced stasis, she kills time, hangs out with her girlfriends and quarrels with her father… all quite boring, until her friend Anna disappears.
Since no one else believes it atypical of Anna to have vanished, Linda investigates the disappearance on her own. Linda’s concern, inexperience and persistence generate a few rookie mistakes, placing her in danger—and exposing a connection between her investigation and her father’s current case. When another of Linda’s friends disappears, father and daughter join forces, racing against time to stop a tragedy, the seeds of which were planted decades before.
I recommend this book to those who enjoy crime novels. The plot is intricate without fussiness, there is enough police procedure and not so much that one becomes mired in red tape, and Mankell’s characters are incredibly compelling.
Henning Mankell has written over thirty-five novels and many plays. Published in thirty-five countries, he consistently tops Europe’s bestseller lists. His work has been adapted for numerous television and film productions. He also won the German Book Prize and the Crime Writers’ Association’s Macallan Gold Dagger.

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Book Review: Two of the Deadliest

Two of the Deadliest; Edited by Elizabeth George; Harper An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers;2009; ISBN:978-0-06-135033-7

Reviewed by:  R.D. Girvan

Originally Published by The Spruce Grove Examiner, November 9, 2012

I don’t know how I missed this book when it was published, reviewed and praised in 2009, but this collection of twenty-three short stories edited by Elizabeth George deserves revived recognition.

Subtitled “New Tales of Lust, Greed and Murder from Outstanding Women of Mystery,” Two of the Deadliest explores what men and women are willing to do in the name of two deadly sins:  Lust and Greed.  It’s an interesting premise, but what really caught my eye was the “Women of Mystery” part.  I wanted to find out: would female writers have a slightly different approach to the same subject than male writers?  My answer was a delightfully horrified, “In these stories? Yes!”

For example, “Cougar”, written by Laura Lippman, is told squarely from a woman’s point of view. It addresses uniquely feminine vulnerabilities and fears such as aging and becoming a bag lady.  In it, a 42-year-old mother, treated by most as though she were invisible, obsolete and redundant, sees that she must do something to protect herself from her adult son, and uses decidedly female techniques to do it.

“The Runaway Camel” by Barbara Fryer is about a lady lawyer on the fast track, derailed by lust.  In a highly effective technique, we are never told her name; she’s just “a beautiful woman” or “magnificently unyielding” or “baby.”  Fryer tells the story unflinchingly, yet I could not read it without wincing for “baby” as she matches wits with a devastatingly handsome basketball player.

My favorite is “Dark Chocolate” by Nancy Pickard. She writes a riveting tale of a stay-at-home-mother and her family.  As the protagonist bakes in her quiet kitchen, the story is slowly revealed, piece by piece, like the design on the bottom of a cake plate.

George gathered these and twenty other stories from both legendary and novice writers.  They take many stereotypes and turn them on their heads, giving us a suspenseful, shocking and entertaining collection.  The dichotomy between the stereotype of a female writer—her approach, area of expertise and comfort zone—and their actual subject matter is wonderful. It’s as if one met June Cleaver at the library, smiling sweetly, dressed beautifully, wearing her ever-present pearls—wielding a stained cleaver with skill and precision.

Fingers Crossed…

Philippine Tarsier (NOT a self-portrait, LOL)
subject of one of my kids’ non-fiction books

One of my favorite parts of writing adult suspense novels is, well, the suspense part. I get to keep people guessing about what’s going to happen next. I can’t help it, I just find that fun.

For example, my 2012 NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month competition) novel features a man named Leon who has taken to saying ominous things to rationalize some highly inappropriate behaviour.  He’s been a very bad man.

When asked, I like to give friends little snippets of what Leon has been working on lately.  I tell them breathlessly, my eyes wide, with a “can you believe THAT?” expression on my face, and I end it with an enraptured, “Isn’t that just aw…”  I want to say ‘awesome’ but they look both hooked AND horrified, so I quickly amend it.  Instead, I finish with, “…aw…ful?!”  Then when they want to know what happens next, I thwart them.  I leave and dash off to write some more.  Usually giggling.  Gleefully.

Recently, though, I took a fun and satisfying break from my usual pursuit of the unusual.  I used it to work on a great idea I had for a neat series of kids’ non-fiction books.   Mailing the query letter was very exciting.  I dropped the envelope in the post box, thinking, “Bye…  Hope to see you again…fingers crossed…”  The publisher’s website says they will respond in about six months.  That gives me plenty of time to wonder what will come next.  Talk about being kept in suspense!  Serves me right, I guess.  Payback:  isn’t it just awe…SOME?!  🙂  Rd