Shattered – Dick Francis

2102647Gosh, I love Dick Francis mysteries! I know they can be formulaic, but they are still fun. I read this ages ago but had completely forgotten the story. I could imagine what the main street in Broadway was like as my sister and I had visited a few villages in the Cotswolds in 2014 (real village but we didn’t visit that one). Honey stoned buildings that would still look cheerful in mid-winter with twinkling lights coming through the windows. Like all Frances novels, they are either directly set in the racing industry or the racing industry features heavily in the plot. In this story, the main character is a friend of a jockey who dies early on and the story is the mystery the jockey leaves his friend to solve. His friend goes through the physical wringer but the mystery is solved and he leaves with his girl and new friends.

Aww! But it was exciting too! I had to keep reading to find out what happened. I started reading Dick Francis when I was in my early twenties. I was temping at a local high-school library and the librarian introduced me to Francis. And it’s official – 20 odd years after reading my first one, I still love the stories.

D is for Deadbeat by Sue Grafton

In a blog I read, the writer enthused about the ABC series by Sue Grafton and bemoaned 15005684the fact that the series was drawing to a close. I had never read any of these so I thought I would give it a go. The earliest my local public library had on the shelves was D, so I started with that.  Although this one is a little way in the series, you don’t really have to read the previous ones to get a sense of who Kinsey is. I liked how independent she is and how she goes about finding out information pre-www. How do you find out where someone lives? Go to the public library and look up a phone book. This particular story is thin and not much happens really. The detail is how she hunts out information – both physically (stake outs) and other information sources, the putting together of said information and conversations. The characters in this one are mostly ill-educated minimum wage earning people, people living in poverty and people who would place themselves as middle-class. The vibe is dreary but there are fun moments when Kinsey goes to a ‘happy-clappy’ funeral. Oh dear! I really liked Kinsey’s attitude towards Evangelicals – it is one I share. I might read some of the earlier ones to find out if I want to continue with this series. At the moment, I’m uncertain.

The Breath of Night -Michael Arditti

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Wow, I loved reading this book! It was like a mix of a boys own adventure, political thriller, mystery and family saga, all rolled into one. The setting is the Philippines, a country in South-East Asia that has had it’s fair share of colonialist rule. Just as the French have left a big impact on Vietnam, the Spanish have left a big impact on the Philippines. Arditti captures the environment perfectly – the suffocating humidity, the heat, pollution, the extreme catholicity, the nightmare traffic. And the corruption. Put a naive British man into the mix and you get confusion and comedic situations. Imagine trying to solve a mystery in a place that is totally alien to anything you’ve experienced before, where not knowing the language is the least of your troubles. I highly recommend this novel! It made me laugh and it made me think. I also felt sad too as the Philippines is again under the rule of a tyrant.

Fatally Flaky by Diane Mott Davidson

7030758I was torn as to what to read for Colorado. I didn’t want to read a cowboy christmas romance, and I didn’t want to read a bodice ripper thriller. What to do? The other alternative was this one – a novel from the Goldy Bear Culinary Mystery series. This is what my local public library in the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne had in their collection for books set in Colorado, so my hands were sort of tied as I don’t own a book about Colorado or fiction set in that state. The Goldy Bear Culinary Mystery series is what is now known as a ‘cozy mystery‘. This is where the sleuth is not a law enforcement professional, but is a professional in another capacity (interior designer, caterer, etc). She is sometimes has a partner in law enforcement, so she gets to know things that the general public wouldn’t. This story was pleasant enough and had a credible mystery. There are some bad guys, a bridezilla, and some characters that were meant to be likeable (which I didn’t). It has recipes at the back, but boy are they chock full of fat and sugar!!! Even though I am a recipeaholic, I won’t be making copies of these. If I’ve learnt anything from reading this, it is that I prefer police procedurals.

Traveller – Ron McLarty

4505511I enjoyed reading this story of a middle-aged man revisiting his first neighbourhood and his reminiscences. Each character stood out as an individual with little embellishment on the authors part. I really liked some of the characters and it saddened me when they died. There are continued references to place which makes me wonder if this novel has more meaning for someone who has grown up in Rhode Island. For someone who has never been there, the geographical references muddy the story. Working-class suburbs are recognisable world over. The town could have been my first home – a working-class suburb with Italian migrants – no Irish, but Greek and later on, Eastern European. The bullies were there too – bullies are to be found in every primary and secondary school. But the bullies in this novel were more dangerous and I have to say, a little over the top. It was interesting to read a little perspective from a bully’s point of view. Dress to impress becomes bash to impress. The other thing that interrupted the story for me was the sports jargon. If you have no idea about a particular sport or its rules, it is difficult to appreciate the accompanying angst.  Essentially this is a story about growing up with violence, deep friendship and familial love, and the sadness and joy that goes with it.

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