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Penance by Kanae Minato

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Penance by Kanae Minato Penance by Kanae Minato
Published by Mulholland Books on April 11, 2017
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Crime Fiction
Pages: 240
Format: eARC
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When they were children, Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko were tricked into separating from their friend Emily by a mysterious stranger. Then the unthinkable occurs: Emily is found murdered hours later.

Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko weren't able to accurately describe the stranger's appearance to the police after the Emili's body was discovered. Asako, Emily's mother, curses the surviving girls, vowing that they will pay for her daughter's murder. PENANCE is a dark and voice-driven tale of revenge and psychological trauma that will leave readers breathless.

The novel revolves around a group of friends in a small, rural town. The town is known for its fresh and clean air, which results in a company which makes precision instruments moving there. The workforce is not thrilled with the move, most come from Tokyo and don’t fit in well with the locals. One of the newcomers’ children, Emily, makes friends with a group of local girls – Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko. As the blurb states, one holiday the five schoolgirls, who were 10 at the time, are playing when they are approached by a man who chooses Emily to help him with a task. An hour or more later, Emily is found violated and murdered.

At the time of this book, there was a statute of limitations during which criminals could be charged and so there is fifteen years to find the murderer. When the girls are thirteen, Emily’s mother invites them to her house and informs them that they have a choice – they must either discover who the murderer is or she will expect a penance from them, otherwise she would get revenge on them.

As the statute of limitations draws near, each of the four survivors tells us her story, both how she saw the event then and how her life has turned out. No one is unscathed, but the mother’s curse is as damaging to the girls as the actual murder was. It’s an absorbing story, both fascinating and disturbing. It’s not just about the crime, but about culture and identity, about family relationships, about rural life versus city life. It’s also about secrets and how they can haunt us.

About Kanae Minato

Kanae Minato (born 1973) is a Japanese writer of crime fiction and thriller.

She started writing in her thirties. Her first novel Confessions became a bestseller and won the Japanese Booksellers Award.

She has been described in Japan as “the queen of iyamisu”(eww mystery), a subgenre of mystery fiction which deals with grisly episodes and the dark side of human nature. Readers blurt out “eww” when they are reading iyamisu novels.

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Of Books and Bagpipes by Paige Shelton

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Of Books and Bagpipes by Paige Shelton Of Books and Bagpipes by Paige Shelton
Series: Scottish Bookshop Mystery #2
Published by Minotaur Books on April 4, 2017
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
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Delaney Nichols has settled so comfortably into her new life in Edinburgh that she truly feels it’s become more home than her once beloved Kansas. Her job at the Cracked Spine, a bookshop that specializes in rare manuscripts as well as other sundry valuable historical objects, is everything she had dreamed, with her new boss, Edwin MacAlister, entrusting her more and more with bigger jobs. Her latest task includes a trip to Castle Doune, a castle not far out of Edinburgh, to retrieve a hard-to-find edition of an old Scottish comic, an “Oor Wullie,” in a cloak and dagger transaction that Edwin has orchestrated.

While taking in the sights of the distant Highlands from the castle’s ramparts, Delaney is startled when she spots a sandal-clad foot at the other end of the roof. Unfortunately, the foot’s owner is very much dead and, based on the William Wallace costume he’s wearing, perfectly matches the description of the man who was supposed to bring the Oor Wullie. As Delaney rushes to call off some approaching tourists and find the police, she comes across the Oor Wullie, its pages torn and fluttering around a side wall of the castle. Instinct tells her to take the pages and hide them under her jacket. It’s not until she returns to the Cracked Spine that she realizes just how complicated this story is and endeavors to untangle the tricky plot of why someone wanted this man dead, all before getting herself booked for murder.

I liked Of Books and Bagpipes much more than the first in the series. Delaney has been in Scotland for a while now and has come to care about the people she works with and her friends. I felt like her reason for investigating felt more natural this time around, a combination of natural curiosity and wanting to help.

As a mystery, it worked well. There were plenty of clues and suspects and secrets that went back decades. It takes a lot of unraveling and I was surpised by the whodunnit, although I felt the motive was bit weak. And of course, Delaney gets herself trapped, but I didn’t feel like it was because of stupidity on her part, which was nice. Sometimes female amateur detectives annoy me by taking risks that no sane woman would. Delaney didn’t do that here. She has someone with her when there’s a potential for danger, and always lets someone know where she is going. I like a woman with some common sense.

The characters are an interesting mix. Each has his/her own quirks but they fit well together. Delaney’s bookish voices weren’t too obtrusive. They add an interesting touch to the story. She hears voices from books she’s read that are kind of like her subconscious guiding her. It’s a bit odd, but it works, at least for me. The dialogue is well done. A couple of folks speak in a Scottish dialect, but it was easy to follow and words that were unfamiliar were explained, since they are unfamiliar to Delaney too.

I do admit that a large part of the appeal of this series for me is the setting. What could be a more perfect setting for a cozy mystery than a bookstore in Scotland? It makes me want to visit the castles, and library, and pub. And of course, hang out at the bookstore.

About Paige Shelton

Paige studied journalism at Drake College in Iowa. She has only ever wanted to be a writer. She’s had good jobs, bad jobs, great bosses, and terrible bosses, but through it all she has only wanted to write. She’s grateful to have the opportunity now.
Paige and her husband currently live in Arizona and have a college-age son.

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Earthly Remains by Donna Leon

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Earthly Remains by Donna Leon Earthly Remains by Donna Leon
Series: Commissario Brunetti #26
Published by Atlantic Monthly Press on April 4, 2017
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
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Donna Leon bestselling mystery novels have won a multitude of fans for their insider’s portrayal of Venice. From family meals to vaporetti rides, the details and rhythms of everyday life are an integral part of this beloved series. But so are the never-ending influx of tourists and the suffocating corruption. Through it all, Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti, a good man who loves his family and his city, has been an enduring figure, but in Earthly Remains, Brunetti’s endurance is tested more than ever before. During an interrogation, Brunetti acts rashly, doing something he quickly comes to regret, and in the fallout, he realizes that he needs a break.

Granted leave from the Questura, Brunetti’s wife Paola ships him off to a villa owned by a wealthy relative on Sant’Erasmo, one of the largest islands in the laguna. There he intends to pass his days rowing, and his nights reading Pliny’s Natural History. The recuperative stay goes according to plan until David Casati, the caretaker of the house, goes missing following a sudden storm. Now, Brunetti feels compelled to investigate, to set aside his leave of absence and understand what happened to the man who had become his friend.

I’ve read or listened to a fair number of the Commissario Brunetti series, but I read them out of order. It’s a bit of bad luck that both this and the one I listened to before it both deal with pollution. Yes, it’s a topic Leon keeps coming back to, apparently a major issue in Venice, but usually it’s spread out a little than it was for me this time. I would have liked a different topic, but that’s more my fault than Leon’s.

I liked that Brunetti gets out of town for a while this time around. I enjoy the early part of the story where he’s relaxing and rowing; it’s different than we usually see him. I like the people in the smaller towns, their relationships. I enjoyed the bees and how much they meant to David Casati. I missed his family a bit, but I’m sure they’ll be in the next one.

The investigation was interesting, with it’s digging into the present and the past. I was a bit disappointed, which I feel like I said about the last book of hers. I tend to want a little more resolution than she gives.

This is a great series and I enjoyed this installment. They don’t need to be read in order, however, if you’re just meeting Brunetti for the first time, I’d suggest starting with an earlier one in the series, one that’s set in Venice itself.

About Donna Leon

Donna Leon is the author of the international best-selling Commissario Guido Brunetti series. The winner of the CWA Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction, among other awards, Leon was born in New Jersey and lived in Venice for over thirty years. She now makes her home in Switzerland.

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