Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘mystery’

The Nature of Being

51cq5sixWzL._SY346_The Mystery: Zen Stories by Dan Glover.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Unlike my book of satirical stories (Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire), which was a take-off on the insightful wisdom stories in the classic collection Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, Mr. Glover has put together a serious, and in-depth look, at the nature of our being, by presenting eighty-one stories in eleven sections. Here is a glimpse from the introduction, of what The Mystery: Zen Stories lays bare.

This book seeks to illuminate the subtle relationship between the unknowable world and what we know by experiencing the world. It is based in part upon ancient texts written down some two thousand five hundred years ago brought up to date so as to be more applicable to the present day Western culture. In many respects, these tales sound autobiographical, though no one person has “likely” experienced everything within.

The different sections, which are titled as a season (Breath of Spring, Autumn Giving Way, etc.) each begin with a beautiful haiku, then dive into topics such as acceptance, loss, water, stillness, perception, and non-attachment, but in the context of stories and experiences. Mr. Glover has a delicious way with words and is able to see things from many perspectives, and not what may always be expected.

“I once heard of a man who was said to be in possession of a great understanding far surpassing any other. Making many inquiries I discovered where this man lived. The journey was long; the way very difficult and arduous. After months of travails, I reached this man’s abode. He seemed to have been expecting me; looking delighted to see me standing at his door he waved a hand for me to enter.

Without saying a word he brought refreshments. Sitting silently together we ate and we drank. When the meal was finished I got up and I left. When I arrived back home my wife inquired if I had found the man who I had been seeking for so long. I nodded my head. She asked if he had shared his great understanding with me. I smiled at her and looking into her eyes I could see she knew without being told.”

There is so much to be said about this book, yet I am hesitant to say anymore, as my words seem insufficient to describe the breadth and depth of its spirit. I think it best, at this moment, to let The Mystery: Zen Stories speak for itself.

“I hold that we come forth without roots. We enter the world by no aperture. We have real existence but this has nothing to do with place, such as our relation to space; we have continuance but it has nothing to do with beginnings or ends, such as our relation to time. The door of the mystery is non-existence. All things come from non-existence; non-existence is the same as not existing. This is the secret of the ages.”

Like Night and Day

41sUKwJHjgLA Secret Love by Brigitta Moon.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

A Secret Love is told from Christina’s and Derek’s perspectives about their marriage, and events before Christmas, with one another and their family. They have two children, and Derek is a successful stockbroker. Christina’s feelings and behavior towards Derek change dramatically, without any rhyme or reason (to Derek). There’s also another persons perspective, which is shared much later in the story.

Ms. Moon has written a clever tale that doesn’t make much sense, until it does. It’s a hard act to bring off, and she does so with depth and precision. Reviewers often say that there are “a lot of twists and turns” in this or that book. This tale goes beyond twists and turns to inside out and upside down. Nothing is as obvious as it seems. Secret, threatening calls to Christina, and Derek’s jealous secretary (Frannie) add to the mix.

When everything comes out in the wash, it is quite a load to try to separate, fold, and put back together. A Secret Love is not quite like anything I’ve read, or thought of before, and that’s good. If you’re ready for something completely different, and unexpected, this is a book for you. Just when you think you know who your partner really is, you discover they aren’t quite the same person you married.

 

 

Midwife Murder Mystery

Death Of A Sad Face  (A Serafina Florio Short Mystery)
by Susan Russo Anderson. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51oL7gL-3fLShe’s gotta knack. A real knack for wonderful writing. In Death Of A Sad Face, Ms. Russo Anderson takes readers’ to the end of the eighteenth century, to a small town called Oltramari (on the coast of Sicily), where we meet midwife, and sleuth, Serafina Florio. Serafina is a mother of six children, and an orphaned 10-year-old child (Teo). Teo’s sudden disappearance the previous night, may have some connection to the murder of Cecco, the butler for Barron Ignazio Lanza, and his very pregnant wife Lucia.

While investigating who killed Cecco, and Teo’s whereabouts, Serafina comforts Mrs. Lanza, gets gossip from her lifelong friend (Rosa), and questions how much she really understands her own family. “Of all her children, Maria was the most puzzling, not at all like her siblings. She had adult responses to most situations and was concerned only with her piano. Seemingly unaware of her talent, she was kind, humble, gracious – or was Serafina blind? As her daughter stood before her, Serafina realized that she could cajole or insist, but in the end if Maria didn’t want to do what her mother suggested, Serafina had little recourse. She could solve most murders and already knew who had killed Cecco and why and where to find him. But her children? They were difficult. She felt helpless.”

One of the highlights of this story, is how intricately the characters interact, and know one another. A small town has its advantages, and disadvantages, as does a large family. Serafina doesn’t just go off by herself to track down Cecco’s killer, but gets information from various village members, the head of the local orphanage, and enlists her own family in catching the culprit. Even though she is a midwife, and amateur detective, Ms. Florio doesn’t see herself as special, just good at what she does. The author (Susan Russo Anderson) of Death Of A Sad Face is similar to Serafina – she’s good at what she does.  

Is He or Isn’t He?

41Ks4pk78-LJacqueline and the Judge by Jaye C. Blakemore.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

I don’t recall any murder mystery that has a judge as the suspect. Their surely must be one, or some, but Jacqueline and the Judge is the first one I’m aware of. Wether it is the first, or one of many, it is a damn good story. The style of writing, by Ms. Blakemore, reminded me of some of the best films from the forties and fifties, where an innocent man is accused of murder and must prove his innocence (or is found to be guilty).

This contemporary tale is told from the perspective of Judge Luca Valentino, whose wife has just died in a car accident. He is deep in grief, and the Judge’s mourning is portrayed with great insight and understanding. Here is an example. “It felt like someone had reached into his stomach and pulled his guts out. A whoop of air came out of his mouth and before he knew it, he was hunched over and uncontrollably weeping.”

In the beginning, it is clear that the judge is grief-stricken and truly loved his wife (Sylvia). He is soon spending time with a younger woman (Jacqueline), whom he happens to meet at the diner he and Sylvia frequented. Jacqueline is upset over a breakup. Luca tries to comfort her, as is his custom. His wife said he always had a soft spot for those in trouble. Jacqueline and the Judge become friends and talk frequently.

Then, out of the blue, shit hits the fan. Detectives (Teagen and Smith) show up at the judge’s house, incriminating evidence is found, and Judge Valentino’s entire life comes into question. Jacqueline and the Judge is a great story. If I didn’t have to sleep, I would have kept reading it nonstop to the end. Jaye C. Blakemore is a very good writer. I’d suggest you get a copy of this story and find out for yourself who is, or isn’t, guilty.

 

Short Lines Speak Volumes

Haiku: Natures Meditation by Nora D’Ecclesis.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51BDcJpjIXL._SY346_This lovely book is the best description of haiku that I’ve come across in many years. Haiku: Natures Meditation is beautifully laid out, with accompanying photos. The term (Haiku) is described as, “Haiku is three short little lines in a small poem that speaks volumes about how we think when viewing nature.” Ms. D’Ecclesis also provides a history of haiku, what “haiku” style means, and where it originated from (zen Buddhism, Taoism, and Shintoism).

The author includes historical, and popular masters of haiku, such as Basho.

Spring rain
Leaking through the roof
Dripping from the wats’ nest

Haiku involves the what, where, and when, of a moment, as well as juxtaposition, crescendo, mystery, and realism. Here is one by the author that encompasses many of these traits.

Watching the white tail
The deer steps eloquently
Chunks of ice float by

There are are many famous ancestors, proponents, and writers, of haiku in Japan and around the world. Haiku: Natures Meditation is an excellent introduction to this poetry if you are unfamiliar with the style, and a welcome edition, if you are already well versed in the art. Here is another one of my favorites by Ms. D’Ecclesis.

Nor’easter brings ice –
Snow like a Russian novel
A single finch chirps

Voodoo, Sex & Murder

517ndEmmrJL._SY346_Inside Sam Lerner by Gwen Banta.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Gwen Banta has it nailed to the floor. Inside Sam Lerner is a delightful, and descriptive, murder-mystery that doesn’t pull any punches. Combine the best of Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler, stir them up in some gumbo, and you’ve got a first-class tale that keeps you rooting for the ex LA cop (Sam), and his close friends in New Orleans. Before Sam knows whats hit him, he’s embroiled in looking for Madsen, who has gone missing.

The place, people, atmosphere, and actions, of all those involved in this story, jump off the pages and linger inside your head. Here’s a glimpse of the writer’s  style. “When he arrived at the corner of St. Claude and Ursulines, Sam parked on the street and stared at a stately guest house known as Maire’s Gentlemen’s Club. A soft pink glow backlit the windows, and the sound of Fats Waller clung to the thick air like the smell of sex.”

Sam’s old flame (Maire), who is the madam at Maire’s Gentlemen’s Club, has reignited the fire she and Sam had in their younger days, letting him momentarily forget the loss of his wife, who died in Los Angeles. There are a few people that Sam trusts without hesitation – his Mami (Jem), his best friend’s father (Antoine), and old buddy, a New Orleans cop (Leon Duval). There’s also the sadistic killer, who is known early on.

To find out who is who, and who comes through, get yourself a copy of Inside Sam Lerner, and treat yourself to a nail-biting finish. In the process, enjoy some fine dining on The Big Easy’s hot, wet environment, sexual appetites, and underlying beliefs in voodoo. Just when you think you know what’s what, and which way is up, you get taken for a ride. Trust me, and trust Ms. Banta, this story smolders.

 

As the Mind Turns

Reprobates by Louise Blackwick.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

417SIUTkDtLNothing is what it seems when Marc Whitehouse and Chantal Innes check into the Totermann Inn to join the thousands coming to England to witness the once every 4000 years solar eclipse, which has all the planets aligned at the same time. Everything becomes disorienting and bizarre, as Marc tries to get some sleep in a room that has a window nailed shut, and a large rat he calls Chubby. There is also a mysterious elderly lady (Chantal Innes), who innkeeper (Rob Sequies) says, “practically lives here”.

Reprobates reminded me of the film Barton Fink, where John Torturro plays a screenwriter frantically trying to finish a screenplay. He doesn’t sleep for days, starts to see things, and begins to question his sanity. The twists and turns in his mind, as to what is real and what isn’t, are seen as he sees them. It also has elements of the movie Shutter Island, though I will not say anything further about, especially the ending.

Here are a few brief lines from Ms. Blackwick’s well written tale. “He couldn’t bring the last of his memories into focus; he couldn’t bring order to the chaos of his mind. He shut his eyes, allowing his mind to be flooded by the maddening sound of falling rain, the escape attempts of the fly and the squealing of a hungry Chubby. A little past midnight, Marc no longer looked forward to any future.”

If you enjoy a story that doesn’t give anything away, and keeps you guessing about what is going on, then you’re in for a treat with Reprobates. The author writes believable scenes, and takes readers’ inside the head of Marc, as he loses his bearings, and questions how he go to where he is, what his life is about, and why his father keeps coming back to visit him in dreams and visions.

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