Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘mystery’

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.

Wash, Rinse and Repeat

51azfjj8D1LDeath by Corporate America: Climbing the Corporate Ladder One Murder at a Time by Lex Ramsay. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

A great murder-mystery where the murderess is known from the start. Death by Corporate America turns this genre around by showing clearly who the perpetrator is of a series of murders at the fictional San Francisco conglomerate Mondrian Corporation (Mondo). There is no doubt that Adrian Banner, a 44-year-old African-American business geek, who is temporarily made an Executive Secretary on the companies board when one of their members dies in a balloon accident, is the culprit.

Adrian has had her fill of sexism, racism, and invisibility, by the board members of this company and decides to make the initial death just the beginning. “Commute, meetings, con calls, emails, IMs, PowerPoints and a hurried lunch eaten at her desk… wash, rinse and repeat. This was death by Corporate America, and she was one of the walking dead.” Ms. Ramsay has created a character that you root for, and hope she succeeds. The question isn’t did she do it, but how is she going to do it, and will she get away with it?

Ms. Banner is one smart woman. She learns about everyone’s vulnerabilities, what methods will work and how, and the means to have them go undetected. She is a mastermind in business. Everyone diminishes and dismisses her, assuming she is not the culprit and not able to have carried out such murders. The people she kills are assholes, and deserve to die (especially in her mind). There is also a homeless man, Jerome, who gives her ideas (unknowingly) about how to vanquish her business foes.

Death by Corporate America is rich in possibility for a good screenwriter and producer to bring the story to the screen. It is suspenseful, well-plotted, and never stops. Lex Ramsay has made revenge seem possible and satisfying, while also creating a character that you want to succeed, even though she is a cold-blooded killer. That is a hard feat to carry off, but she does it with class. This is not the kind of story I usually read, or enjoy, but there are exceptions, and this is one of them.

If the Truth Be Told

The Story That Had No Beginning by Daniel Kemp.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51eGvdQIgBLTom Collins, and his sister Alice (Alicia), are twins who were separated into foster homes when they were 8 years of age. As adults, they’ve taken different paths. Tom becomes a thug, in and out of prison, and Alicia is a famous photographer, care of the graces of her mentor and mother figure (Mary O’Donnell). The Story That Had No Beginning, takes a close look at these siblings as adults, and explores their lives together with friends, co-workers, and acquaintances, and the inter-connections that take place. What appears to be straight-forward, and obvious, may or may not be so.

Mr. Kemp has written a superb crime story, with the actions, thoughts, feelings, and consequences of the main characters being told by way of deceased Tom Collins, who can see into the past. Tom says, “All I can do is recount the story as it is shown to me without any interpretation, but bear this in mind as you continue to read. As I have been granted this ability to see the mistakes made in lives other than my own, are similar people such as I reading your thoughts and your hidden secrets as you indulge yourself with me? If so, then the skeletons in your past are being interrogated as I hold your attention.”

That is the rub, really. What is the truth? Who’s truth is it? Is what we think we know, what actually is? These questions are discussed in the beginning dinner party (that is not really the beginning), which includes Alicia, Giles Milton (Queen’s counsel – lawyer), Susan Rawlinson (national newspaper editor and novelist), and Rupert Barrett (owner of Bear Cave nightclubs). Tom returns to observe this dinner-party in the non-conclusion conclusion of the storyand learns about secrets, collusion, alternative facts, and circumstances that were not apparent at the time they occurred.

The Story That Had No Beginning is an intriguing, thoughtful, and intricate observation of how to write a good murder mystery. It is unique, complicated, and takes readers’ around the block for an insider’s eye view of cut-throat business, politics, sex, media, and the law. Everyone is suspect, and none are innocent. Like the best of a good soap opera, almost anything can, and does, happen to Tom and Alicia. There is order and insight behind the writing and the characters. I would think that this story would be easily adaptable as a four-part series for Masterpiece Mystery on BBC or PBS.

Talking Behind Our Backs

Private Eye Cats: Book One: The Case of the Neighborhood Burglers
by S. N. Bronstein. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

517t6UgzCvL.jpgCatwoman has nothing on these cats. They may seem like your everyday, ordinary felines, but there is something quite different about sisters Nugget and Scooter in Private Eye Cats: The Case of The Neighborhood Burglers. They aren’t superheroes, but it becomes apparent that they speak English (when humans aren’t around). Turns out cats all over the world speak their native language, and they’ve kept is secret, until now. That’s the author’s premise, and for all I know, S. N. Bronstein may have the real skinny.

This story reminds me a little of the film The Secret Life of Pets. In addition to the cats conversing when their people (Tony and Misty) are gone, as the animals do in the movie, it also has sharp dialogue and humor. Nugget shares some of their secrets. “We play the games that most humans fall for such as waking them up on weekends at 6:00 in the morning by knocking something over, or crying over nothing so they come running to see if we are hurt or in some kind of trouble.

While figuring out a way to catch some local burglars in their neighborhood, Nugget and Scooter accidentally let slip a few words out loud to a local English teacher (Tyronne Williams). After recovering from shock, Mr. Williams says, “And if I did write this all down and turned it into a book, who would believe it? Would they say it was a funny story but none of it could ever really happen?” Read Mr. Bronstein’s Private Eye Cats and decide for yourself. Are your cats talking behind your back, or just meowing around?

A Story to Savor

5168cuV1J3LMy White Dahlia (A Lesbian Romance) by C. M. Blackwood. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

I’m bowing down with gratitude to the literary goddesses that brought this book to my attention. C. M. Blackwood is a damn good writer, and My White Dahlia is a hell of a good book. Weave together some of the best suspense and mystery novels with a first-rate romance, and you’ll end up with this gem, which takes place in 1949 England, in the town of Kingston. It doesn’t take long before you will understand and love these characters. It is with that knowledge, and the author’s ability to reveal their history and past experiences, that your own emotions will become entangled with theirs.

The heroine’s name is Adette Salazar. This tale is told from her point of view. While listening to her friend, Henry, drone on about what he knows about the famous novelist who just hired Adette to be her personal assistant, she realizes, “At the ring of that final word, I finally began to be curious. It was the first moment I market it. It was the moment I remembered as the starting point, through all those long months that followed.” As Adette becomes more familiar with her new surroundings, memories from the past threaten to diss-rail her and ruin all she has come to adore.

Flashes of Adette’s childhood in Georgia (USA), before she is taken to the UK to live with her Uncle Henry after her mother has died, arise at crucial moments within her caring for her now invalid uncle, her new job, and ever changing relationship with Dahlia Frobisher (her boss). Dhalia’s housekeeper, Edwina, and Dahlia’s literary agent, Archie Willoughby, are first-rate characters and supporting players in the drama, as are Susan Heyward and Jane Albright. Though the focus is on Adette and Dhalia, everyone makes a difference, and has an impact upon readers.

One of the reasons that Agatha Christie is the best-selling author of all time, is because she had a knack for understanding human emotion and motives, and was able to describe place, time, characteristics, thoughts, and actions, with such clarity and insight. Everything and everyone, seemed somewhat familiar, yet one never knew for sure who did what and why until the end. Ms. Blackwood is cut from the same cloth of storytellers. My White Dahlia should definitely be made into a film. When you read the story the reasons will become self evident.

 

What Might Be

51+1RXtBEpLspirits at the dawn of day by simon boylan.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Spirits at the Dawn of Day isn’t a light happy romance, or straight up suspense. It’s more like a search for meaning in an internal mystery. If you want fluff, or continued conditioning for an unconscious life, don’t read this. If, on the other hand (or two), you don’t mind looking inside and at the world, with new perspectives and insights, then climb aboard. The story literally crashes itself into existence and takes readers’ on an inner journey, by following the external travels of Josh, an Australian company CEO, who is leaving Japan after a business trip.

All Josh is thinking about is his usual drink, sex, money, and status. After a tragic incident turns his world inside out, Josh seeks out his old friend from college (Alex), and travels around the world looking for answers. He meets up with a philosophy professor on a New England farm (who is reminiscent of Dr. Richard Alpert, who left academia and became Baba Ram Dass); a Kundalini yoga teacher, at a retreat center in Sedona, Arizona; a doctor in Dalian, China; the doctor’s martial arts instructing wife; and a man in Japan; whom he had a connection with from the beginning of the story.

There are in-depth and far-reaching conversations and debates that take place between Josh, and each of those he meets, which include science, philosophy, spirituality, suffering, meaning, love, the environment, business, society, and how they all do, or don’t, intersect and effect one another. The dialogue is not stuffy, or the least bit boring. They contain many of the elements that exist within our lives when we talk personally with a friend, therapist, clergy, teacher, or relative. In many ways, these conversations remind me of the film My Dinner With Andre, in which two men sit down for dinner at a New York restaurant and talk about everything under the sun (and moon).

In Spirits at the Dawn of Day, Mr. Boylan has taken an honest and striking look at what might (or can) happen when the world (and our perceptions of it) becomes something different than we have previously known, or allowed ourselves to see. Perhaps, he may be asking, is it possible to awaken to our inner and outer environment without having to fall from the sky in order to do so? If so, how do we do that? If so, how can we use this story about Josh and his awakening in our own lives? The final question in this story says, “We are all creating the world of tomorrow… Are you consciously creating your part?”

After School Class

51DkXJGlttL._SY346_Ninja School Mum by Lizzie Chantree
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Skye is not an ordinary mother in a small town, and it turns out not everyone else is either. Reluctantly, Skye (and her son Leo), allows herself to become friends with Thea (and her daughter Florence, and niece, Allie). She also becomes “very close” to the landowner (Zack). Nobody knows Skye’s work history (or so she thinks), and she wants to keep it that way.

Ninja School Mum isn’t strictly a romance, suspense novel, or mystery, but more of a delicious stew with all three mixed in. Told from different points of view by the main characters (Skye, Thea, and Zack), it feels like you’re being taken into their confidence. It is impossible to not like them all, and understand their motivations for what they do, and how they interact with others.

The writing is pragmatic, with thoughts, feelings, and situations, clearly defined and explained. There is lots of drama, tension, emotion, and humor within these pages. Soon after Thea has met Skye, and they are in a bakery with her infant daughter (“Flo”), Thea thinks, “Im lusting after a slice of cake while my breasts have a mind of their own and are ready to combust with enough milk to flood this shop.”

If you think you know who did what when, and whether someone is tracking down Skye because of her previous job, you should be forewarned to not make any bets on your conclusions. Ms. Chantree has taken several genres and story lines and converted them into something familiar, yet also entirely different. Ninja School Mum is entertaining, romantic, suspenseful, and well worth the money and time.

Tag Cloud