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.
The Blood Road is the twelfth book in the Logan McRae detective series set in Aberdeenshire by Stuart MacBride, but it is the first book that have read by this author. I did see him make an appearance with Caro Ramsey at an event at Bloody Scotland in Stirling a few years ago. But he was very drunk and his language and actions made the whole thing embarrassing to watch. It must have been even worse for Caro Ramsey being on stage with Stuart MacBride on that occasion. I have not been back to Bloody Scotland since then and I probably would not have picked up MacBride’s book, had it not been on sale for £2.00.
The subject matter of The Blood Road , kidnapping and sale of children for purposes of abuse to paedophiles, is incredibly dark. However, for the most part, it is dealt with sensitively. The dialogue is fast, pacy, darkly humorous and extraordinarily engaging, you just get swept along with them all in a kind of hypnotic reading trance.
The Blood Road starts when the murdered body of a retired policeman, Bell, is discovered. McRae becomes involved because this policeman had, apparnetly died and been buried two years earlier. As if that were not odd enough, a connection is discovered between Bell and an ongoing investigation into the missing children. Wee ones are being snatched and Logan finds himself with no choice but to wade in, dragging newbie DS Simon Rennie along for the ride.
The one thing I really did not understand was how McRae, who is allegedly in the Police Standards department, and therefore investigates corrupt police officers, ended up working to solve an serious criminal case promoted by an organised criminal gang with so little police support. I do not want to issue a spoiler, so suffice to say, I found that incredible.
I have been told The Blood Road is not the strongest of MacBride’s books and that I should have started with something else – a bit late to tell me that now! I did enjoy humour in the novel and the banter between the characters was believable. However, on the basis of this book, I would not seek out another book by Stuart MacBride any time soon.