About the Whodunit Book Club

Whodunit Book Club has met in its present location for almost seventeen years! If you would like to join us, our meetings are held on the last Tuesday of every month (except December).
We meet at the Chapters Store located at 41 MicMac Blvd., Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Phone (902) 466-1640

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A disappointment...

For some years now I have been a fan of the mystery novelist Val McDermid. I was very keen to read one of her most recent novels "A Darker Domain".
Well.... I read about half of it. I just couldn't reconcile reading it when I have dozens of great books waiting to be read.
The plot was disjointed and did not hold my attention. I felt no real empathy or connetion to any of the characters.
Have you read this novel? Was I too hasty in dismissing it? I'd love to hear from you with your opinions...

Whodunit Book Club - August 25, 2009

Summer book club meeting attendance usually reflects that many are on vacation. We were a small group of a dozen, but very vocal!
The monthly question: What attracts you to your next book?
The answers were varied but mostly boiled down to: Setting, cover, reviews, and referrals by people with similar reading tastes.

The book this month was "The Calling" by Inger Ash Wolfe. Voted one of the Best Mystery Books of 2008 by Publisher's Weekly, much hoopla has been made about this book's author. A pseudonym of a well known North American writer. There have been many speculations including Jane Urquhart, David Adams Richards, Margaret Atwood and many more. We wondered why. Did the author want this title to be considered separate from his/her other works? Did they feel that this was a less 'literary' work than their previous works? An online interview with the author stated that the name Inger Ash Wolfe was chosen to honour a relative of the author's who likes mysteries. Click here to view another online response by Inger Ash Wolfe.
There was some lively discussion about the book's plot and protagonist(s). Some felt that the plot didn't 'ring true' based upon the protagonist's personality. He was not depicted as a true serial killer because initially his victims came to him. They were consenting adults who were terminally ill. However the euthanasia angle fell flat with the terrible act he committed while in Quebec. It was felt that when he desecrated the bodies to mask his compassionate euthanasia, he was eventually corrupted by his own acts and became evil over time.
Whodunit members were disappointed that the character of Hazel Metcalf was not more fully developed as she was flawed and interesting.
Of the twelve members present, seven felt they would like to read the sequel "The taken".

Monday, August 17, 2009

"Bad things" by Michael Marshall

When bad things happen to people is it because they deserve it? When bad things happen to you do you say to yourself “What did I do to deserve this?” The whole concept of action and consequence is brought into play… At least in your mind. In the case of Michael Marshall’s protagonist in Bad Things it seems that the very ultimate in bad things has happened, his four year old son has died. As an indirect result of this tragedy his marriage has ended and his legal career waylaid.

When we meet John Henderson he is living in coastal Oregon and working as a waiter in a seaside restaurant. His is a solitary life with little to no contact with his former wife and remaining son, or, for that matter, any of his former friends or co-workers. Then one night he receives an ominous e-mail message that reads “I know what happened”. John himself does not know what happened even though he was a witness to his son’s death. Naturally he follows up the message by returning to Black Ridge where he once lived and where the tragedy occurred.

Black Ridge is depicted by Michael Marshall with an ominous sense of foreboding reminiscent of the early works of the master Stephen King. An eerily real, small Pacific Northwest community surrounded by a menacing forest with local inhabitants who seem chillingly distant and a prominent town family who seem to have local authority figures and all the townsfolk under their power. The setting in this novel is as much a ‘character’ as the human characters.

Once there, John meets up with the sender of the email message, Ellen Robertson. She maintains that the death of John’s son has eerie similarities to the death of her husband. She intimates that she is being watched and that her emails and phone messages are being monitored. John recognizes her sincerity and decides to remain in Black Ridge to discover if there is any basis to her paranoia.

John is not the only person to have recently returned to Black Ridge. Kristina has been away for a decade, but has now returned. She doesn’t like the place and doesn’t understand herself why she has made her way back to her home town. John also reunites with a former co-worker who has remained in the area, and whose history seems tied to John’s buried past.

The mounting suspense and the revelations of the plot culminate in a page-turning climax where John’s past is explained and he is temporarily reunited with his ex-wife and son. The periphery characters are tied into the revelations in a satisfying way.

More of a supernatural thriller than a mystery, this novel evokes a sense of imminent evil. The reader wonders if this is all in the mind of the protagonist somehow brought about by his sense of guilt for past wrongdoings, or whether the evil is an entity unto itself. The ending leaves the reader with just the right amount of unease and a feeling that the evil encountered in the pages of the novel could resurface at any time to dishevel someone else’s world.

I will read more of Michael Marshall’s fiction even though his novels do not follow the criteria for the mystery genre which is my favourite. After reading this novel I have become a fan of his writing style. Written with a flair for stating profound truths which make the reader nod his/her head in agreement, while at the same time evoking a sense of looming dread, this novel is a masterwork of supernatural suspense.