September 2019 – Reading Roundup

I realize that my September 2019 reading round up is a couple of days early. However, I just finished reading my fourth book of the month, and I know I won’t get any more read in the next couple of days. Plus, There is another post that I intend to put out on Monday.

The reading material this month is either detective or dystopian. Below you’ll find links to my most recent monthly round ups.

August 

July

June

September 2019 Handmaids Tale
Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

The Handmaid’s TaleMargaret Atwood

Let me start by saying I have not seen the television. Nor is it my intention to watch it. I saw the book on a table and I decided I would give it a read.

On the whole I found the story of Offred quite interesting. Set in a period shortly after a political and moral revolution that has turned sex into a highly regulated act whose only purpose is to produce children. Offred is a potentially fertile woman assigned to an older leader, the commander, to produce a child, because his wife is incapable of doing so.

The ways in which men tend to control women’s bodies for their own purposes is clear throughout the book. Wrapping such behaviour in religious symbolism is a common enough occurrence to connect it to our everyday world. As well, the recruitment of women into the system to keep it going comes through well.

The Handmaid’s Tale also captures well the idea of a police state. No one is who they seems to be, and one never knows who one can trust.

Yet, the one thing that strikes me as odd in the story is how compliant the men are. This doesn’t seem be the kind of world that would produce a Brock Turner, a Harvey Weinstein, or Brett Kavanaugh. This is not to imply that such a world is a good trade-off. Instead, I simply wonder if the reality of women’s lives to day would be even more of a nightmare in the world Atwood writes about.

I plan on picking up The Testaments. Perhaps there is more to the story than meets the eye.


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Black DogStephen Booth

I like to find new series, and see if I can start them from the beginning, and go all the way through. Black Dog is the first book by Stephen Booth featuring the detective pair of Ben Cooper and Diane Fry.

The novel is set in the Peak District of Darbyshire. This is an area, where urban growth is slowly creeping in on a centuries old way of life. Ben Cooper is a native of the area, and Diane Fry has recently transferred in from an urban police setting.

The story begins with a search for a missing 15 yr old girl. A couple of days in the girl’s body is found and it becomes a murder investigation. As is typical with small town murders, there are a lot of dark secrets that linger beneath the surface of the small town. Among the characters not being straight forward is old Mr. Dickinson, whose granddaughter has long had a crush on Cooper.

Dickinson is the one who found the girl’s missing shoe. He spends most of his time hanging around with two old friends. Comrades since before WWII, they also served together during the war. Cooper is sure the old man is hiding something, but he’s not sure what.

The girl’s parents. nouveau riche newcomers to the area, are also not what they seem. They portray their daughter as a perfect child, while everyone else around them is suggesting the daughter is more of a wild child. They point the police in the direction of an ex-employee, a gardener’s assistant.  The young man has a record, which makes the top police think they have an obvious candidate.

As the investigation unwinds, Fry and Cooper develop a love-hate relationship. This is due, in part, to the m both being rivals for promotion. In part, it’s because they both have painful pasts they are trying to live down. In part there’s also a strong attraction between the two of them.

The intensity of their relationship causes mistakes to be made. Both are troubled by their lives outside the force an that only serves to make matters worse. In the end, by the time they solve the case, the result is a sad, and tragic death, with it’s roots in the past of the three old men.

This is a really good first novel, and I look forward to reading more of this series.

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A Better Man Louise Penny

Inspector Gamache is back. The consequences of his decisions at the end of Kingdom of the Blind are continuing to play out. Forced to share duties as head of homicide with his son-in-law Jean-Guy Beauvoir, Gamache is asked to look into the disappearance of a young woman. The father of the young woman, blames her abusive husband.

Meanwhile both Gamache and Clara Morrow are subject to vicious social media campaigns. Reputations are under attack, and the question comes can they be salvaged?

The missing woman case turns into a murder case. As it does so the father increasingly seeks to take justice into his own hands to avenge his daughters death. While sworn to uphold the law, Gamache finds himself sympathizing with the father. He also wonders what he would do it someone threatened his own daughter, Annie.

In the end the actual killer is a bit of a surprise. Gamache’s reputation on social media is restored, his defender a surprise. Clara on the other hand, is not spared. This  could lead to interesting developments in the series.

On the whole, this would rank among my least favourite Gamache novels. I’m finding the defending Gamache’s actions and reputation story line quite tiresome, now that the series is 15 novels in. Also, the social media subplot has a certain pearl clutching quality to it.

Still, I’m committed to this series. I’m looking forward to the event at Knox United in October, and hope it’s as interesting as Ian Rankin’s visit to Winnipeg last year.

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Two Kinds of TruthMichael Connelly

I’ve been trying to read series in order, but I haven’t seen many of the early novels around. So, seeing this one on a discount table, a couple of weeks ago, I decided to pick it up.

Two Kinds of Truth features both Harry Bosch and his half-brother Mickey Haller, a lawyer.

The story revolves around two crimes. One is the execution of a father and son pharmacist pair. The second is a cold case. A killer that Bosch had previously sent to jail makes a plea for a new trial based on newly discovered DNA evidence.

The pharmacy murders revolve around Russian gangsters using drug addicts to fill multiple prescriptions at multiple pharmacies. These pharmacies are in on the scam. Bosch, now retired, ends up going under cover to try and catch the killers.

Meanwhile, the cold case is in danger of derailing Bosch’s reputation and leaving him broke. Eventually Mickey cracks the case, but perhaps drives a wedge into his relationship with Harry at the same time.

I found the pharmacy murder storyline, really interesting. On the other hand, the cold case stretched believability. Still, Bosch is an interesting, and complex character who is worth following on a regular basis.

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