I am always thrilled to find an author new to me whose work I enjoy. It is a real treat. Mason Bushell is an English author from Norwich who writes The Workhouse Mysteries. As those of you who read my blog will know, my favourite genre is crime thrillers and mystery novels so I recently treated myself to the first novel in the series, The Tale of the Depressed Man.
The main protagonist is Holly Ward who works as waitress and manageress of her mother’s restaurant The Workhouse. However, Holly’s grandfather is a police detective and his interest in solving mysteries and putting things right has clearly passed to Holly too. This book had a really interesting storyline that used the backdrop of a restaurant as the location for the story: this really works.
The opening chapter of The Tale of The Depressed Man was very entertaining and a brilliant way to start the book. The story goes straight into a bank robbery that goes wrong and a high speed car chase where the getaway driver gets more than he bargained for. Shortly after this Holly notices a man sitting at the bar in the restaurant looking really miserable. She tries to cheer him up and find out the reason for his sadness and the next thing she knows, she and her friends and family are involved in the search for the loot from the bank robbery and then a hostage situation.
There are some really strong characters in The Tale of The Depressed Man. I particularly liked Holly and her grandfather. I was kept entertained from start to finish – with a race against time to save a hostage situation, this was a clean, easy to follow plot that I’m sure crime readers young and old will enjoy. The Tale of The Depressed Man is an excellent crossover novel: it would benefit from additional editing but that did not spoil my enjoyement of the book and I look forward to the next story in the series.
I had A Man Called Ove by the Swedish author, Fredrik Backman, in my TBR (to be read) list for too long. However, when it became book of the month for my book group, the book suddenly became top of my list.
Ove is a quiet, practical, grumpy man who married a vivacious, outgoing woman who appreciated his qualities. Ove comes off at first as such an officious, stubborn busybody, you want to laugh at him and not with him. He is such a miserly haggler. The words “batteries not included” can put him in a rage. Anyone who doesn’t drive a Saab is an idiot. He is certainly not afraid of expressing his views on any subject, particularly people who break rules.
As the book progresses, the reader comes to see his bark has no bite, and his hunger to be needed is the grace in his core. His wife, Sonya, liked to talk, about books she loved or the delinquent kids she taught, and he liked to listen to her. He got sustenance from building her things, like bookshelves, or, when she became wheelchair bound after a tragic accident, constructing her an accessible kitchen or a ramp at her school.
Ove’s long grief over losing Sonja has recently been compounded by the feeling of uselessness he has after being forced into an early retirement. He is suicidally depressed, but life keeps intruding. He may snarl at a homeless cat ora young person or even at interruptions from his irritating neighbors, but he doesn’t resist much taking the cat in or helping these neighbours with their problems. Ove thinks he just wants to say goodbye to life, but beginning to care about one thing leads to more and more threads that bind. I have a special place in my heart for writers who can make you laugh one moment and make you cry the next and Backman does just that. A Man Called Ove reads more like a series of short stories than a novel. I found A Man Called Ove most enjoyable and easy to read.
About the Author
Fredrik Backman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove (to be a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks), My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, Britt-Marie Was Here, Beartown, Us Against You, and two novellas, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer and The Deal of a Lifetime. Things My Son Needs to Know About the World, his first work of non-fiction, will be released in the US in May 2019. His books are published in more than forty countries. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden, with his wife and two children. Connect with him on Twitter @BackmanLand or on Instagram @backmansk.
Shopping Cart Annie was given to me by a dear friend who knows the author personally, so I very much hoped I would enjoy the novel by Cordy Fitzgerald. The book is set partly in Colorado and partly in Afghanistan. It is a complex mystery which crosses continents and decades and deserves concentration and consideration.
The main protagonist is a retired schoolteacher and amateur sleuth, Dr. Inez Buchanan. This character is particularly well drawn so the reader knows her strengths and weaknesses and understands why she reacts as she does.
Inez receives a visit from her neighbor, Dolly David, which she considers strange as they do not know each other, however, Dolly goes to Inez because she needs her help. Years ago, Dolly’s granddaughter, Kadija Campbell, went missing from her college campus in Fort Collins, Colorado. The police believed that Kadija was dead, but Dolly has always held out hope that she is alive. A mysterious phone call reinforces her belief that Kadija is alive and hints that she is being held in Afghanistan.
Inez has great sympathy for Dolly but doubts she can do anything to help. Then, Dolly dies in a mysterious accident and leaves Inez as the executor of her estate. Dolly was worth billions of dollars, and Inez knows that her last wish would be for Inez to find Kadija at any cost.
Inez’s friend and FBI contact, Trace Mitchell, believes Kadija may be working as a spy in a terrorist cell. In the adventure that follows, Inez connects Kadija’s disappearance with strange happenings in the Middle East. There are powerful people who know more about the young woman than they are letting on, and Inez must discover the truth.
If you enjoy an interesting mystery with lively characters and complicated twists, Shopping Cart Annie is the book for you. Iyt would be an excellent book group novel as it would generate active discussion.
About the Author by the Author
I live in Colorado and feel fortunate to have both my grown sons live nearby. My first thirty years were spent in Washington, D.C. where relatives and family friends customarily had their own conspiracy theory about what really happens in government. As an only child, I read a lot and by high school, wanted to become a spy for CIA. I never applied, but instead read loads of book on the topic. With a Ph.D. in Education Administration, I’ve gained another set of tools to address my passion for investigative research and espionage.
Admittedly, Cordy Fitzgerald is a pen name. It belonged to my grandmother who died a few days after giving birth to my mother. I can’t tell from my mother’s birth certificate whether she was married at the time of the birth or not. But what is evident through the testimony of relatives now dead is that they were all dirt poor people in Culpepper, Virginia. I use the name now in a feeble but a most reverent attempt to add a few years of life to hers, albeit on the Internet.
The Rose of Sebastopol by Katharine McMahon is one of those books that had been on my radar for some time, so when it was book of the month at my book group recently, I was delighted.
The Rose of Sebastopol is a story set in the mid nineteenth century at the time of the Crimean War. It tells the story of Mariella and Rosa who are cousins and friends from childhood.
In 1855 Rosa Barr who is a headstrong young woman, travels to the Crimea, against the wishes of her family. She is determined to work as a nurse bit she does not return.
Three people have been intimately connected with her. One, her step- brother, Max Stupeley, a soldier and adventurer; the second a Doctor Henry Thelwell, who is Mariella’s fiance. Henry is traumatized by the war, and harbour a secret passion for Rosa, and the third is Mariella herself. Mariella must now uncover the truth about what has happened to the missing nurse.
Mariella’s journey takes her from the domestic quiet of London to the foothills of Italy where she finds Henry seriously ill and she is devastated when she finds out about his infatuation with Rosa. She then travels on to the ravaged Russian landscape of the Crimea, where she struggles to discover what has happened to her captivating cousin and uncover the secrets of those who loved her.
Although Kate Grenville is one of Australia’s best-known authors, I had not read any of her books before. She has published eight books of fiction and four books about the writing process. Her best-known works are the international best-seller The Secret River, The Idea of Perfection, The Lieutenant and Lilian’s Story and The Secret River was the book our local book group read most recently.
The Secret River is a story set in the nineteenth century and tells the story of William Thornhill and his family. William is an illiterate English bargeman and a man of quick temper but deep compassion who steals a load of wood. His sentence is commuted from death to deportation to the colony that would become Australia. What I had never thought about was that, as William was married with a child, his wife, Sal, with family had two choices: she could have stayed in England, coping with the stigma of being a single parent or travel into the unknown with her husband, Will. She chooses the latter.
When they arrive in the colony, Sal has a second child. Will is immediately assigned to Sal, effectlively as her slave. She shows him kindness and respect, despite her misgivings about their new circumstances and her homesickness for London.
As time progresses, Will gradually realises that if he wants to make a home for his family, he must forcibly take the land from the people who came before him. Thus commences a series of disturbing and violent scenes that are most difficult to read. I do not doubt the atrocities happened, I do doubt that I need to read about it in such graphic detail. Will also has two men assigned to him as he, in his turn had been assigned to Sal. But Will’s greed and determination prevent him from treating his’slaves’ as humanely as Sal treated him.
The Secret River is a masterpiece of historical setting and of the mental, physical and emotional demands that people must endure when they are abruptly required to move from their home country to a new land. This is an excellent book group read and a fine historical novel.