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Glass Houses by Louise Penny

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Glass Houses by Louise Penny Glass Houses by Louise Penny
Narrator: Robert Bathurst
Series: Inspector Gamache #13
Published by Macmillan Audio on August 29, 2017
Source: Purchased
Genres: Mystery
Length: 13 hrs 23 mins
Format: Audiobook
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When a mysterious figure appears on the village green on a cold November day in Three Pines, Armand Gamache, now Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté du Québec, knows something is seriously wrong. Yet he does nothing. Legally, what can he do? Only watch and wait. And hope his mounting fears are not realized.

From the moment its shadow falls over Three Pines, Gamache suspects the creature has deep roots and a dark purpose. When it suddenly vanishes and a body is discovered, it falls to Gamache to discover if a debt has been paid or levied.

In the early days of the investigation into the murder, and months later, as the trial for the accused begins in a Montreal courtroom on a steamy day in July, the Chief Superintendent continues to struggle with actions he’s set in motion, from which there is no going back. “This case began in a higher court,” he tells the judge, “and it’s going to end there.”

And regardless of the trial’s outcome, he must face his own conscience.

I love Louise Penny’s Armand Gamache series. If you haven’t read it, you should. Do start at #1 though, you’ll appreciate them most that way.

That being said, this was not my favorite of the series. I liked the whole concept the book is built around, the ideas of Conscience and guilt and judgement. As always, the characters are well-done and I am happiest when a large part of the book revolves around the familiar village of Three Pines, as it does here. There are some new folks in town, most of whom have secrets, but finding out who they are and what they know/have done was interesting. Our old friends are all pretty much the same as always, which is good.

Things that didn’t work for me:

1. The construction of the story. This story jumps back and forth in time too much and too abruptly. We are at a courtroom trial in the present, but for half of the book we don’t know who’s on trial or who they killed. We jump back to the time when the figure appeared on the square and the crime that soon follows. I didn’t like the set-up and it’s not what I expect from Penny. Yes, I know authors can broaden their styles, try new things, but bah. I did listen to it on audio, maybe the transitions worked better in print. I didn’t really notice if they happened around chapter breaks or not.

2. It’s a bigger story than I like. It deals with the opioid epidemic and drug cartels. Yes, there was the murder and a small list of suspects, but I prefer a book to stay there. I don’t need the larger story, in this case it was the “war on drugs” but it could be any government/society altering scenario. They’re just not my cup of tea (or cafe au lait, since we are in Three Pines).

3. Gamache seemed a little off here. He’s always serious and caring, but I think the serious and, I don’t want to say guiltiness, but maybe the pressure of what he’s doing is weighing a bit too heavy, and repeated a bit too much.

And then there were the last two chapters, which were just excellent and almost redeemed the entire book for me.

About Louise Penny

Louise Penny (born 1958) is a Canadian author of mystery novels set in the Canadian province of Quebec centred on the work of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec. Penny’s first career was as a radio broadcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. After she turned to writing, she won numerous awards for her work, including the Agatha Award for best mystery novel of the year five times and the Anthony Award for best novel of the year five times.

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The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

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The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
Series: Inspector Alan Grant #5
Published by Dell on 1968 (first published 1951)
Source: Purchased
Genres: Vintage Mystery
Pages: 189
Format: Paperback
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Scotland Yard Inspector Alan Grant is intrigued by a portrait of Richard III. Could such a sensitive face actually belong to a heinous villain — a king who killed his brother's children to secure his crown? Grant seeks what kind of man Richard was and who in fact killed the princes in the tower.

I picked up The Daughter of Time at the local used bookstore a year or so ago. i had no idea what it was about and had never read anything by Josephine Tey before, but it’s one of those mysteries – the ones that make it onto the “best” lists, the ones that any true mystery lover should read.

The title refer to a quote from Francis Bacon: “Truth is the daughter of time, not of authority.” It’s the same idea as history is written by the victor. Not all “history” is strictly truth, it’s a version someone has told that has stuck. I wish I knew more about British history, particularly Richard III, or that I had read Shakespeare’s play. If I go back to read this again, I may do a little research first. That being said, it is truly an enjoyable book on its own.

Our detective, Alan Grant, is laid up in the hospital and a friend, Marta, brings him a bunch of pictures including one of Richard III to help soothe his boredom. He becomes fascinated with the portrait, not seeing in the face the murderer that Richard III is known to be.

King Richard III by an unknown artist, late 16th century. Image from the National Portrait Gallery http://www.npg.org.uk/

What follows is a mystery unlike any I’ve read, at least as far as I can remember. Grant, along with the help of a young historian, sets out to learn the truth about whether Richard was truly responsible for his nephews’ deaths. We never leave the hospital room, no one is ever in danger, the players in the mystery are all long-dead, but it still grabbed my attention. It’s a fascinating story and Tey does an excellent job at presenting the evidence. It’s also a good reminder that not all facts can be taken at face value. I don’t know if he killed the nephews or not, but I don’t know that it matters to this particular story.

I don’t pass mysteries onto my mother very often, but I think this is one that I’ll send her way. It’s that good. Really, it’s amazing how engrossing a story it manages to be for nothing really happening, except lots and lots of research and reasoning. I did get a little confused with all the names and positions at times, but there are several times when Grant reviews everything which always helped straighten me out.

About Josephine Tey

Josephine Tey was a pseudonym used by Elizabeth MacKintosh (25 July 1896 – 13 February 1952), a Scottish author best known for her mystery novels. As Josephine Tey, she wrote six mystery novels including Scotland Yard’s Inspector Alan Grant.

The first of these, ‘The Man in the Queue’ (1929) was published under the pseudonym of Gordon Daviot, whose name also appears on the title page of another of her 1929 novels, ‘Kit An Unvarnished History’. She also used the Daviot by-line for a biography of the 17th century cavalry leader John Graham, which was entitled ‘Claverhouse’ (1937). Mackintosh also wrote plays (both one act and full length), some of which were produced during her lifetime, under the pseudonym Gordon Daviot. These plays often featured biblical or historical themes.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan

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Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on June 13, 2017
Source: Purchased
Genres: Mystery
Length: 8 hrs 59 mins
Format: Audiobook
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Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the BookFrogs—the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.

But when Joey McGinty, a young, beguiling BookFrog, kills himself in the bookstore’s back room, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has been bequeathed his meager worldly possessions. Trinkets and books; the detritus of a lonely, uncared for man. But when Lydia flips through his books she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?

As Lydia untangles the mystery of Joey’s suicide, she unearths a long buried memory from her own violent childhood. Details from that one bloody night begin to circle back. Her distant father returns to the fold, along with an obsessive local cop, and the Hammerman, a murderer who came into Lydia’s life long ago and, as she soon discovers, never completely left. Bedazzling, addictive, and wildly clever, Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is a heart-pounding mystery that perfectly captures the intellect and eccentricity of the bookstore milieu and will keep you guessing until the very last page.​

I admit it – I picked up Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore based mostly on the title and cover. I have trouble passing up mysteries centered in bookstores. While it was not really what I expected, I enjoyed it. I expected a lighter mystery, more cozy. While not gory or violent, this one is disturbing at times.

Lydia is the only survivor of the night the Hammerman killed her friend and her friend’s parents, but she hides this fact from everyone. She was a child at the time, but the Hammerman was never caught. Fast forward and now she’s an adult, working at a bookstore, living with her boyfriend, who she has not told about her past.

As the story opens, Lydia discovers one of the bookfrogs, Joey, has committed suicide in the book store. That would be devastating enough, but in his pocket he has a picture of Lydia as a child, with two of her friends, which is odd because Lydia didn’t even know Joey when she was young. Turns out Joey also left her all of his belongings, mostly junk and books. The books, however, are a code that leads her into his life and back into the mystery that has haunted her. There is some minor new coverage of the suicide, which gets Lydia’s picture in the paper. Several people recognize her and now know where to find her, including a childhood friend and a detective who was obsessed with the Hammerman case.

The characters were well-done, even the ones we only meet briefly. Lydia, as the main character, is the most developed, and a lot of the story revolves around her relationships. I don’t necessarily understand her all the time and I don’t think I’d want her as a friend, but I liked her and I liked how much she cared about Joey. The characters are colorful in a way that fits the darker tone of the book. They have their obsessions and secrets. They are all dealing with the consequences of actions, taken by themselves of others.

I listened to the audio and was so-so on the narrator. She did Lydia quite well, but men’s voices and dialogue was just too slow.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore has many layers and deals with relationship, truths, secrets and how our actions can hurt others, sometimes beyond repair. I guess it’s a rather sad book. At the same time, it is definitely a mystery for and about booklovers. I wish I had chosen print over audio, though.

About Matthew Sullivan

Matthew Sullivan grew up in a family of eight children in suburban Denver, Colorado. He received his B.A. from the University of San Francisco, his M.F.A. from the University of Idaho, and has been a resident writer at Yaddo, Centrum, and the Vermont Studio Center. His writing has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and other awards, and has won the Florida Review Editor’s Prize and the Robert Olen Butler Fiction Prize. In addition to working for years at Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver and at Brookline Booksmith in Boston, he has taught writing and literature at colleges in Boston, Idaho, and Poland, and currently teaches writing, literature, and film at Big Bend Community College in the high desert of Washington State. He is married to a librarian, Libby, and has two children and a scruffy dog named Ernie.

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