Another Maine Wilderness Mystery

PercipicecoverI’m a fan of mystery writer Paul Doiron and feel as if I discovered him (after all, I was one of the first to read his Edgar Award finalist novel The Poacher’s Son and recommend it to my mystery loving friends.) His latest work, The Precipice, takes us to the Hundred Mile Wilderness area of the Appalachian Trail in Maine. Two young women have gone missing, so heroic game warden Mike Bowditch is called in to help with Search and Rescue, interrupting a romantic vacation planned with his new girlfriend, wildlife biologist, Stacey Stevens. During the search, Bowditch is teamed up with a legendary AT hiker “Nonstop” Nissen, who is fit but misantrhopic volunteer with a shady past. When the girls fail to turn up, it looks more and more doubtful they will be found alive. Meanwhile, those who encountered the girls along the trail are telling stories with varying degrees of relation to the truth. Tensions mount when their bodies are found at the bottom of a precipice, torn apart by wild coyotes. The townspeople and hikers spin out of control in a witch hunt to eradicate the coyotes, but meanwhile, Bowditch has his hunch it was human, not canine, that caused their deaths. The book comes to an exciting man hunt conclusion, rife with backwoods violence.

What I particularly enjoy in all of Doiron’s novels is the wild and terrible beauty of backwoods Maine. He paints a realistic scene of both the poverty, ignorance and squalor along with the natural landscape and breathtaking wilderness. The beauty of nature is often juxtaposed with the ugliness of life. In this story, his description of the life and culture of the Appalachian Trial day and thru-hikers is fascinating and a colorful backdrop. His treatment of the life of a game warden is handled well, especially when describing the frustration of working with FBI, local police and sheriff’s office during an investigation, illustrating the limitations of his powers. This story kept me guessing to the end (and not wanting to reveal any spoilers, I won’t elaborate.) I did not, however, feel as if the motivation for the perp was sufficiently explored. Also, Doiron has his fun with several misguided preachers in the story, casting them in a very poor light. Some of the tale hinges on the possible motive of a hate crime, when it is revealed that the “Bible student” girls were secretly lesbians. This part of the story feels a bit artificial and forced in order to play against the moral certitudes of these two-dimensional self righteous preachers. Another thing I felt was missing from the end of the story was the reaction of the parents. The girls both have powerful parents who fly into Maine to oversee the search efforts. We get a glimpse of them with the impression they will continue to cause problems for law enforcement, especially when it is revealed that the girls were a couple, but then they drop from the picture.  Lastly, I did not enjoy the character of Stacey, Bowditch’s new love interest. I felt she was unnecessarily erratic, cold to the point of being cruel at times, and generally unloveable. It was hard to believe he would see anything in her.

Overall, as always, Doiron delivered a great story sprinkled through with beautiful descriptions of the Maine landscape.

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Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree L.R. Trovillion

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree L.R. Trovillion.

Thrilled to have been interviewed for Layered Pages!

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A Mind to Murder

P. D. James is the undisputed mistress of murder. She set the bar for the detective murder mystery genre, so why did I have such a hard time getting involved in the novel “A Mind to Murder”? It is a mystery featuring her enigmatic detective Adam Dalgliesh and is set in an exclusive psychological treatment hospital. Promising indeed. The victim is discovered early in the story–a much disliked administrative official–stabbed with a chisel in the basement records room. From there, the story sags as the detective interviews all the doctors and staff on the minute details of their movements prior to the murder. I admire James’ attention to detail, but as a reader this was a bit tedious because the same information was repeated and it was extremely difficult for me to keep track of a dozen new characters who were introduced all at once with little to distinguish them from each other. The mystery picked up when we are given a glimpse into the more private lives of these characters from a different POV, usually their own. The ending was satisfying with a little last minute twist at the end. As always, James is masterful in creating realistic people and describing them with just the right touches of detail. Dalgliesh is an intriguing detective and well-rounded creation full of his own insecurities and unexpected talents, like poetry writing. Once I became engaged with the characters I enjoyed the book and you can’t beat James for layered plots and unexpected turns. PDJames

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Magical Old World Meet New in NYC

GolemJust finished The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. Although you cannot fault her prose, I can’t help feeling as if the story would have been much better if it had been cut down by a hundred pages. The novel tracks the intersecting lives of two mythological creatures–the Golem of Hebrew lore and the Jinni from the Arabian tradition–but takes 484 pages to tell the story of these two main characters, their struggles, their saviors, their enemies, and friends along with the backstory of each and every one of these secondary characters. There is a lot going on here.  I felt as if the plot did not really get going until page 300 when a crisis erupts which sets everything spinning. What kept me hanging on through the story up until this point was the beauty of Wecker’s descriptions of turn of the century New York and the magical worlds she creates. Her descriptions employ all the senses so that a reader feels she has travelled the desserts with the caravans, meandered along the streets of The Bowry at night, and worked alongside the Golem, Chava, at the bakery. Unfortunately for this reader, I somehow felt let down at the end of this tome, as if the conclusion did not live up to the build-up of almost 500 pages. Still, I would read another of Wecker’s works.

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The Gray Ghost

covergrayghostWilliam G. Tapply’s novel Gray Ghost is a quiet meditation on the art of living simply, wrapped in a very simple mystery package. The Stoney Calhoun character is a fellow who just wants to live in his cabin in the woods with only his dog as company (with the exception of an occasional visit from his lady friend) and guide fishing trips in the waters around his home in Maine. The funny thing is, Calhoun knows how to do things like examine a witness or thwart an attacker–skills he has no idea how he came by because he lost all memory after a lightening attack several years ago. Someone else in very keen to find out what he knows–a mysterious visitor known only as The Man in the Suit. He probes and grills Calhoun to determine if he has remembered anything significant. Against this backdrop, the charred remains of a mutilated man is discovered on Quarantine Island–a small smudge of land with a haunted past. Calhoun, against his will, is dragged into the investigation. Eventually, the danger lands on his doorstep, literally. The murder mystery plot is not overly complicated because the beauty of this book is the description of Calhoun’s simple life and struggle to keep it that way amidst modern demands and complicated relationships. The description of nature and the author’s deep understanding of fly fishing adds interest and atmosphere. It is a quiet read with some disturbing twists and turns. The Gray Ghost of the title refers to both a fly fishing lure and a reference to the nuns who haunt Quarantine Island.

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Goodreads Book Giveaway Now Until May 23th

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Goodreads Book Giveaway

False Gods by L.R. Trovillion

False Gods

by L.R. Trovillion

Giveaway ends May 13, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to Win

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The Memory Garden

memoryMary Rickert’s novel The Memory Garden is the story of a foundling, Bay Singer, who struggles with who she is and the powers she may possess as she comes of age.  Bay’s mother, Nan, is a woman her grandmother’s age, who behaves in ways which embarrass young Bay and which have caused the neighborhood kids to dub her a witch.  The story takes place over only a few days when Nan decides to invite her long-estranged girlhood chums to a weekend together at her magical home, but with the hidden agenda of finding someone who will agree to take care of Bay.  The author hints at something that occurred in the past involving these old women which strained their friendship to breaking and has haunted each in a unique way.  The story unfolds very slowly, but with lovely bits of magical realism and sensory descriptions of Nan’s enchanted garden.  It is told in two alternating viewpoints: Bay and Nan.  I must admit that at times I became impatient and felt as if I was trapped in an old woman’s confused thinking and wished for some clarity, but  the teasing hints of what these women did as young women kept me reading to find out.  If you are looking for a leisurely read with some magical elements, this is the book.

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False Gods

FalseGods_Final-ebooksmI’ve been neglecting my reading list and book reviews lately while I concentrated on finishing writing False Gods, a Young Adult novel which, at first glance, is about a girl shooting for the Washington International Horse Show against the odds. On a deeper level, the story is about the nature of desire and whether what you want in life twists and torments you or lifts you up and fills the void. For the months of December and January, all proceeds are going to a local church’s youth program. The book is now available on Amazon http://amzn.to/163iXsS in paperback and ebook versions. Please post a review on Amazon if you buy it! #YA #horses #FalseGods

Thanks Blog followers and I hope to be back with some book reviews soon.

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Too Much Left in the Mist

MistThe gothic tale The Mist in the Mirror by Susan Hill, author of The Woman is Black, starts out promising but leaves the reader stranded. It is the tale of an Englishman, Sir James Monmouth, who has travelled the globe in the footsteps of his hero–an adventurer named Conrad Vane.  The author trots out the usual satisfying tropes of the genre–the barren English countryside, the haunted boys’ school, the gilded manor house at Christmastide–which is richly described and a satisfying backdrop as Monmouth journeys to uncover the truth about Vane.  Along the way, he encounters a ghostlike boy, crying in the night, disappearing doorways, a gypsy woman and misty images in the mirror–not to mention everyone he meets tells him to abandon his pursuit, but will not say why.  After all the 200 plus pages of build-up, Sir James finally uncovers an aged relative living in the ancestral home, which has some connection with Vane.  But despite all the warnings, the ghosts, the mysterious hallucinations, author Susan Hill just ends the story without much of an explanation for any of them (don’t want to spoil it for readers).  Hill certainly has the voice down perfectly for this genre and ability to transport the reader back to another time, but the plot was weak and inconsistent.

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Invisible City

InvisibleThe new novel by Julia Dahl, Invisible City, refers to the insular ultra-Orthodox Jewish community within New York.  The story opens when Rebekah Roberts, stringer to the New York Tribune, is assigned to cover the story of a body found in a scrap heap by the river.  Things get complicated when it is revealed that the body is a young mother of the Hasidic community, whose husband owns the scrap yard.  Despite these damning coincidences, the body is quietly taken away by members of the Orthodox community’s private police force and buried without police involvement–neither the collection of evidence, autopsy, nor questioning of the woman’s husband and family–  all pointing to a suspected NYPD cover-up for the sake of political ambitions and financial donations from the wealthy and powerful Jewish community. Roberts, refusing to let the truth behind the murder of this woman be buried with her, attempts to get answers from a silent Hasidic community, distrustful of outsiders.  But Roberts, haunted by her own crippling past in which her Orthodox Jewish mother abandoned her, probes deeper into the murder in an attempt to get answers not just for the victim’s sake, but also for herself.  The story is written in the first person and in present tense, lending a breathless immediacy to the action, which takes place over the course of only one week.  The story is a well plotted page turner and the characters are well drawn.  The author’s own experience as a reporter shines through in the authenticity of the character’s experiences.  My only objection is the over-use of profanity and at one point an awkwardly phrased apology to the Orthodox community in the mouth of one of the characters.  Overall, an interesting read.

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