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

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Whodunit Meeting November 27, 2012

The last Whodunit meeting of 2012 was a lively gathering of eighteen diverse mystery lovers.  We all know each other fairly well by this time which makes the club discussions even more interesting.
Those who were absent were missed, but we realize that this busy time of year - on a clear and crisp November evening there are many reasons why members might miss a meeting. To those members we wish a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The novel discussed this evening was "Fall from Grace" by Canadian novelist Wayne Arthurson. Set in Edmonton, Alberta, the novel's protagonist is a journalist who is struggling to get his life back on track after losing everything he held dear.

Leo Desroche is assigned to cover the murder of a young native prostitute named Grace. His article starts a chain of events that leads him to a much, much bigger story, and puts his life in danger. Meanwhile he tries to re-establish relations with his family with whom he has been estranged since his own personal 'fall from grace'.

As is our usual custom we canvassed the group to vote for the novel out of ten.  Our votes reflect our reading experience overall and do not necessarily reflect directly on the plot. Other factors can influence our vote such as cover art, poor editing, etc.  It was the latter that was mentioned frequently at tonight's meeting.  The editor missed omitted words, misspelled names and added words where there should have been none.  Many readers (of which I am one) find this very off-putting.
The group's overall rating was 6.47 out of a possible 10 points.  Only five of the members in attendance said they would likely read another book by this author.

The protagonist of the novel was deeply flawed.  A flawed central character is often appealing, but we must ask ourselves "How much will we accept?"  Leo Desroche is a compulsive gambler, a dead-beat Dad, a bank-robber and a recovering addict who formerly lived on the streets.  He is an army brat who comes from a mixed race family with Cree blood on his mother's side. These two factors seems to have created issues for him growing up.

Some readers found his many flaws acceptable, others found that though he seemed very intelligent he was a narcissist who tried to blame others for his many problems.  He appeared to be a character you either love or hate. He seemed to be constantly calculating risks. The title "Fall from Grace" seemed well chosen and reflected the novel's plot.  There seemed to be too many story lines happening concurrently.  However, there were many gripping passages that showed the true potential of the author's writing.

Wayne Arthurson is a journalist in real life, so his descriptions of the busy newsroom come from first-hand knowledge. The setting was well described and accurate according to those members familiar with the Edmonton area.  The descriptions were well written with the imagery so skillfully done that the reader could vividly picture the places and feel the cold...

"Fall from Grace" won the 2012 Alberta Reader's Choice Award.
Visit Wayne Arthurson's blog "Big Time Writer? Yeah right!".

The lucky winners of this month's book giveaways were:

There will be no Whodunit meeting in December.  The club will reconvene January 29th when we will discuss Mark Billingham's novel "Sleepy Head".

Review of "Three Graves Full"

My latest book review for Simon & Schuster has just been posted to my 'Fictionophile' blog.
I reviewed "Three Graves Full" by Jamie Mason.  This is a debut novel that I highly recommend.
See my review: http://fictionophile.wordpress.com/2012/11/27/three-graves-full-by-jamie-mason/

Thursday, November 8, 2012

October 30, 2012 Whodunit Meeting

The Whodunit Book Club met on a dark and blustery October 30 to discuss the Reluctant Detective by P.E.I. writer, Finley Martin. Twelve members attended and one sent an assessment in absentia. The reluctant detective of the title refers to a young, recently widowed mother (Anne with an “e”) who returns to Prince Edward Island to work as a receptionist for her Uncle Billy, a private detective. When Billy dies and leaves her the agency she decides to keep it and become a detective as well. 

As we went around the circle to give our assessments of the book the comments were not favourable. They included: improbable, far-fetched, unbelievable, cartoonish and silly. We discussed the structure of the book, its short chapters and uneven pacing. Most liked the way it started by introducing a new, reluctant, detective, finding her way, but then found it veered off into improbable action thriller mode. There was some humour in the book but many readers wanted more. One person pointed out inaccuracies concerning Africa and the use of the derogatory term “natives” when referring to African people. Despite these negative comments about 5 people said they would consider reading another book if it were to become a series. The Charlottetown setting rang true and the characters around the detective, although not necessarily the detective herself, were likeable. This combination has potential for another book. It was agreed that the blurb and publicity around the book created high expectations which were not met, especially when compared to other books we have been reading lately. The average rating was 5/10.
Gaye recommended a British writer, Sophie Hannah, and a book, "The Keeper of Lost Causes" by Danish writer Jussi Adler-Olsen.
Congrats to the winners of the book draw: Marlene, Cathy, Carolyn and Heather.

Many thanks to Marlene for writing this post in my absence.  I did read the book and heartily agree with the above comments.  I think it very unlikely that I will read another book my this author.
Next month’s book is Fall from Grace by Edmonton writer Wayne Arthurson

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

They are making a movie from Louise Penny's award-winning first novel "Still Life".  
Louise Penny announced on FaceBook that the movie will star none other than Nathaniel Parker!  Very exciting!

Louise Penny with Nathaniel Parker

See Louise Penny's FaceBook page for more information.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Whodunit September 25, 2012

It's beginning to feel like autumn!  Eighteen members attended the September meeting to discuss the novel "Blacklands" by Belinda Bauer This novel was not a 'whodunit' or even a 'whydunit'.  It was a superb example of a psychological thriller. A debut suspense/crime novel.

After much lively discussion as we went around the circle, the overall consensus rating was 8.5 out of 10.  The highest score from Whodunit so far I think.

What made the novel such a strong contender?  Without a doubt it was the characterization.  Belinda Bauer has the enviable ability to get inside the minds of her characters in such a way that the reader completely understands what drives them.  Whodunit members agreed it was an extremely well written book.

Everyone agreed that the novel was 'dark' with sometimes disturbing subject matter.  Some who don't really like that type of novel gave it a good rating despite this - based on the writing and character development.

The novel centers on a twelve year old boy, Stephen Lamb.  He lives with his dysfunctional family in the tiny village of Shipcott on the border of Exmoor.  Years before when his uncle Billy was roughly the same age as Stephen is now - he disappeared from the village and was presumed the victim of a serial murderer.  This family tragedy has had such an impact on the Lamb family that Stephen becomes the victim of emotional neglect.  He is used by his only and only friend Lewis.  He is bullied by older boys. His grandmother waits beside the window each day for Billy's return.  His mother is overwhelmed by the hardships and drudgery of her life and takes it out on her sons.  Their lives are an endless cycle of poverty, disappointment and despair.

Despite his horrific background Stephen is a determined, bright, mature, sensible, courageous and perserverant character.  He becomes almost invisible to those around him.  His plight is such that the reader wants to 'mother' him with attention and praise as he is so lacking in these attributes.  When he does get a modicum of praise from his teacher on one occasion he treasures it.

Exmoor plays a huge part in the novel.  Stephen believes that his Uncle Billy is buried there.  He believes that if only he can find his uncle's body then he will be able to 'fix' his family.  To that end he spends every available hour up on the moor digging...  He realizes the vastness of the arduous task he has set himself and decides to write to the convicted child killer in prison to ask if he will tell him the location of Billy's body.

A correspondence develops between the prisoner and the boy.

Belinda Bauer made an excellent job of her characterization of the killer.  He was creepy and all too believeable.  The prison atmosphere was almost as chilling as the mind of the paedophile killer.

The only weakness in the plot seemed to center around the shooting of the escapee.  Some readers thought that the manner in which it came about didn't seem credible.

The pages leading up to the ending held the reader in a vice grip.  The tension was palpable, the scenes perfectly described and the finale was very satisfactory.

Belinda Bauer won the Gold Dagger for Best Crime Novel of 2010 for her debut novel "Blacklands".   She lives in Wales and is working on the third novel set in the fictional village of Shipcott.

The lucky winners of the book giveaways for September were:
1. Kim
2. Lynne  (yipee  - I won a hardcover copy of the latest Peter Robinson)
3. Betty
4. Melanie
5. Cathy

When we meet again on October 30th we will discuss the novel "The reluctant detective" by Finley Martin.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Discovered a new author over the summer

It is SO nice when you discover an author that you know you will avidly read for years to come.
Karen Campbell
Such an author is Karen Campbell.    She reminds me a little of Denise Mina, but darker.

From Fantastic Fiction -- "
Scottish writer Karen Campbell is a graduate of Glasgow University's prestigious Creative Writing Masters, and author of The Twilight Time.

A former police officer, Karen can legitimately claim to have worked the streets of Glasgow, and her debut novel, described as 'gritty as hell, shot through with black humour', weaves personal insights and experiences to take a look at life behind the uniform - and the choices women make in life.

The two titles of hers I read this summer were:
"The Twilight Time"
"After the fire"

The first two novels in a series set in inner city Glasgow which feature a triangle of protagonists.

ANNA CAMERON is a new Sergeant in the Flexi Unit. On her first day in the new job she discovers she'll be working with her ex, Jamie. In at the deep end emotionally, she's also plunged headlong into the violent underworld of Glasgow's notorious Drag - the haunt of working girls, drug dealers and sad, seedy men.
JAMIE WORTH a former lover of Anna - though now married and a father - finds himself still attracted to his new boss.  Even more so when his wife Cath makes home life difficult due to the fact that she is suffering from postpartum depression.
CATH WORTH, Jamie's wife, watches jealously from the sidelines, having given up police work to raise their child. Anna's life could have been hers; hers could have been Anna's. When Cath attempts to get involved in a situation she is no longer equipped or entitled to tackle, the consequences for both women could be far-reaching...

Karen Campbell's novels have received high praise from such authors as Mark Billingham and Kate Atkinson.  Since these are also some of my favourites, this only strengthens her regard in my book.
I think any fan of Denise Mina, Val McDermid, Ruth Rendell or Ian Rankin will appreciate her writing.  Highly recommended.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Whodunit August 29, 2012

The Whodunit group met on August 29 after a two-month break. Eighteen  members showed up to discuss The Ghost by Robert Harris (and to comment on how beautiful the summer had been, despite the welcome rain that was falling outside.) 

The Ghost, a political thriller, tells the story of a man hired to write the autobiography of charismatic former British Prime Minister, Adam Lang, a fictional character with a strong resemblance to the real-life Tony Blair. A former political aide to Lang has made a draft of his leader’s memoirs but apparently drowns by falling from a ferry. The ghostwriter, who narrates the story, is hired to complete the project and re-locates from London to Martha’s Vineyard. There he quickly begins to suspect that his predecessor’s death was no accident and comes across evidence that Lang, who has had to leave politics because of his close association with the US and its unpopular war on terror, has secrets in his past that have implications for international security.    

Before going around the circle to give our individual assessments Pam filled us in on a few facts about The Ghost and its author, Robert Harris, a former political journalist and BBC reporter.  The book was published in the UK as The Ghostwriter and a number of group members felt this was a more appropriate title. The book was made into a movie, also entitled The Ghostwriter, directed by Roman Polanski, screenplay by Polanski and Harris. The ghostwriter in the movie was excellently portrayed by Ewan McGregor. Pam asked us to suggest actors we would like to see portray the Ghost and/ or Adam Lang. Trying to “visualize” the Ghost brought home how little Harris had revealed about his narrator, in fact we didn’t even know his name. We discussed the many “ghosts” in the book.

The average of the scores was 8.06/10, almost identical to June’s book, The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo.  Almost all commented on the quality of the writing and, although a few did not find the story compelling, most liked the use of setting, especially Martha’s Vineyard in winter, which evoked a bleak and sinister feeling, the mix of characters, and the suspenseful writing with its surprise ending.  

Thanks to Marlene who was this month's 'reporter'.

Four lucky Whodunit members won books this month: Judy, Nancy, Marlene, and Brian.
We meet again on Sept. 25 to discuss  Blacklands by Belinda Bauer.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Whodunit June 26, 2012

It was hard to leave the house on this wet and windy evening, but getting together with the Whodunit group was worth it!  Fifteen members braved the night to attend June's meeting.
This month we discussed "The redbreast" by Norwegian novelist Jo Nesbo.  Remarkably, it received a score of 8.03 out of 10 when we went around the circle.  This is slightly behind last month's novel, but a good score all the same.  12 of the 15 members present said they would read more by this author.

"The Redbreast" by Jo Nesbo
The score is all the more outstanding when you realize that almost all of us found the book hard to get into, with a complex and intricate plot which meant that it was a slow read.  It was a book that you couldn't skim through.  There was just 'enough' detail and description that proved that Jo Nesbo is a really top quality writer.  The book was so well translated from the Norwegian that it maintained the underlying humour amidst the often bleak and serious plot. It had a slightly different rhythm than other books we have read.  Most agreed that the second half of the novel was a faster read and more than made up for the slow start.

"The Redbreast" features Detective Harry Hole of the Oslo police. He is an alcoholic but has been pulled back together with the help of his work partner Ellen Gjelten. Harry Hole was a character liked by the group overall.  He had a lot of baggage and flaws, but we seem to like our protagonists that way. :-)  A favourite character for many Whodunit members was Ellen Gjelten.  She seemed the perfect foil to the flawed and needy protagonist Harry Hole.  Readers were very disappointed when she was killed off in the story, but realized at length that her death was a much needed catlayst to ensure that Harry Hole moved on with his life.  The scenes where Harry telephoned her after her death and left messages touched the readers and showed the compassion and empathy of the author.

The plot featured flashbacks to WWII which showed the North American reader a different perspective on the war.  It portrayed the brutality of war which is equally devastating for both sides of the fight.

It is important to note that although "The Redbreast" is actually the third entry in the Harry Hole series of novels, it is the first in the series to be translated into the English language.
Jo Nesbo

We learned a little bit about the author.  Although he didn't begin writing until he was in his late thirties, he has sold millions of books that have been translated into over forty languages and won many literary prizes.  He is a member of a rock band in Norway called "Di Derre" which translates to "Them there".  He has worked both as a journalist and as a stockbroker before he began his writing career.  He was also a talented footballer (ie. soccer player).

The lucky Whodunit members of the book giveaways this month were:
1. Jane
2. Lynne
3. Melanie
4. Cathy

There will be no Whodunit meeting during July.  The club will reconvene Tuesday, August 28, 2012.  Have a good summer everyone!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Who reads crime fiction?

According to a recent survey from the Crime Writers’ Association in the United Kingdom, a typical crime reader is a woman, aged sixty-plus, married but with no children living at home  – and they may increasingly prefer to read their crime as an ebook. 

 Do you fall into this category?

The CWA has specially commissioned a Bowker Market Research survey to celebrate Crime Writing Month, which shows crime fiction is booming.

To read more of the article see "Who reads crime?"
By the way.... it's worth following the link just to see the graphic.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Whodunit May 29, 2012

Fifteen Whodunit members came out to Chapters on a chilly spring evening to discuss "The river of darkness" by Rennie Airth.

It was one of the most universally liked novels that we have done in club.  When the members were asked to rate the book out of 10, the average mark was 8.66 - with 12 of the 15 members in attendance saying that they would like to read more novels in the series.  Wow!  High praise indeed!

More of a 'Whydunit" than a whodunit, the murderer's identity was revealed early on in the plot by having the narrative at times switch from the voices of the crime fighters with the criminal himself.  It was a multi-layered novel with well-rounded characterizations.

The male protagonist is John Madden, a Scotland Yard inspector who is also a veteran of WWI.  His personal tragedy of losing his wife and young daughter to influenza coupled with his time in the trenches have damaged his psyche and left him grave and despondent.

Set in a sleepy Surrey village, the crime is a particularly brutal one.  A whole family have been murdered in their home by a bayonet wielding psychopath.   Madden's experience in the military makes him particularly well suited to find the killer who he rightfully guesses is also ex-military.

The local doctor, who has strong views in the new field of forensic psychology, aids his endeavors.  When they discover that another similar crime was committed, they realize that they are looking for a serial killer who must be stopped before more blood is shed.  The character of Dr. Helen Blackwell is very strong.  She is forward thinking, bright, caring and just the person who can heal the damages suffered by John Madden.

With well written red herrings and relentless suspense, this is a novel which invites positive criticism.  The time period and sense of place are well portrayed and the descriptions stay with the reader long after the pages bearing them are turned.

The only negative comments from Whodunit members concerned the peripheral characters.  They found it hard to keep straight who was who, what rank they were etc. when at times the author referred to them by their first name, sometimes by their surname and sometimes by their rank. With three policeman having a surname beginning with 'S', this seemed a valid criticism.

The following two novels in the trilogy are: "The blood-dimmed tide" and "The dead of winter".

Lucky Whodunit Book Club members who won the book giveaways this month were:
1. Betty
2. Heather
3. Marilyn
4. Marlene

In June we will be discussing "The redbreast" by Norwegian novelist Jo Nesbo. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Whodunit April 24, 2012

It was a foggy, dreary night and 20 souls braved the murk to meet for the monthly Whodunit Book Club. The book discussed this evening was "The Complaints" by Ian Rankin.
The first in a new series featuring Malcolm Fox, of the Complaints and Conduct Dept. of the Edinburgh Police Dept. (The Scottish version of what we call 'Internal Affairs', this department investigates police wrong-doing).

As is our usual practice, we rated the novel out of ten points. The score was 7.075. Members seemed to either like it a lot, or very little, with only one person giving it a mediocre vote of 5 points.

Those who liked it were mostly fans of Ian Rankin's previous novels. They connected with the character of Malcolm Fox and liked the story and character development. Also, the setting played a big part making wintery Edinburgh almost a character unto itself. It was generally agreed that a map of Edinburgh would have been a welcome addition to the book.  The setting is described early on in the novel as being just down the street from Fettes College. Wanting to get an image in my mind I Googled Fettes College images.  I just loved the headmaster's house!

Those who liked it least believed that there was too much description, too much talk of the traffic in Edinburgh, and too many characters which they found confusing.

The premise was that Malcolm Fox, himself a member of the 'Complaints' is being investigated and he is suspended from duty. The story centers around his attempts at trying to find out why this has happened.  Rankin aptly described police corruption and the human foibles which make officers susceptible to it.  The character of Malcolm Fox - his relationships with his co-workers, sister and father is written in such a way that the reader is drawn to his personality.

The sequel to "The Complaints" is available now and is titled "The impossible dead".

It is interesting to note that in an earlier draft of the novel the character of Jamie Breck was written as corrupt, while as we found out the final draft proved the opposite to be true.

For those who like reviews see The Guardian's review of the Complaints.
Also... the NPR review of the Complaints

Congratulations to the lucky winners of this month's free book draw:
1. Heather
2. Jane
3. Brian
4. Brenda

Next month's novel will be "River of Darkness" by Rennie Airth.  It is a historical police procedural mystery set in Surrey, England.  A great read!
Remember, Whodunit members receive a discount off the price of Book Club novels at Chapters Dartmouth!

New Canadian legal thriller

For those of you who enjoy a good legal thriller I have a recommendation. "Stray Bullets" by Robert Rotenberg See my review on my Fictionophile blog.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Whodunit Book Club March 27, 2012

Fifteen Whodunit members blew in to the Dartmouth Chapters store on this blustery March evening.
The novel under discussion this month was the classic hard-boiled detective novel "The Maltese Falcon" by Dashiell Hammett. Written in 1929 it was a departure from the traditional mystery stories of the time.
As is our new custom, we went around the group giving this month's novel a rating out of ten. The average score was 6.066
Although it was not everyone's book of choice, almost all of us agreed that marks were given due to the book's importance as a prototype for the modern day detective story. What contributes to a book to make it a 'classic'? we wondered "What books of our time will become classics of future generations?

"The Maltese Falcon" read almost like a screenplay. It was agreed that it was for this reason that it probably translated so well to the big screen. Those Whodunit members who viewed the famous movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor agreed that it was very enjoyable and a classic film noir.
You can view the trailer of this classic film on YouTube.

The character of Brigid O'Shaughnessy was the epitome of the classic femme fatale. The character of Sam Spade was the prototype for the classic hard-drinking, hard-smoking detective upon which so many other detective stories were based.
The novel did not develop the characters - so much so that the characters appeared shallow. It was mentioned that at no time were the thoughts of the characters revealed. Only the verbose descriptions and the actions of the characters moved the plot along. This was another factor that made the novel read like a screenplay. Some thought that the prevalence of lies told by the characters made the story confusing. There was no real sense of place, which seemed a shame given the setting of San Francisco. There was however a keen sense of time period. Written during a time when sexist comments and actions were commonplace and smoking was socially accepted by all.

Tracey shared her take on the deeper meaning of the novel. She referred to the story/parable told by Sam Spade about Flitcraft in which he maintains that people never change and that essentially they will repeat the same life patterns regardless of the different circumstances they find themselves in. She maintains that this was the underlying philosophy of "The Maltese Falcon". She enlightened us all, as we seem to have neglected looking beyond the surface to the deeper meaning of the plot.
I found an interesting review of the novel which shares some of Tracey's thoughts.

Dashiell Hammett had many jobs during his lifetime. One of which was working for the Pinkerton Detective Agency!

The lucky book winners this month were:
Marilyn, Tracey, Gaye and Shawna.

Our next meeting will be held on Tuesday, April 24th at which time we will discuss the Ian Rankin novel "The Complaints".

Reminder: Facebook users can join the Facebook group: "Chapters Dartmouth book clubs"

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Whodunit Book Club February 28, 2012

Fourteen brave souls attended Whodunit Mystery Book Club on this frigid February evening.
And... everyone in attendance actually finished the book!

Pam's 'magical question' this evening: "When you hear that a book that you've enjoyed is being made into a movie, do you cheer or cringe?"
Eleven members said they would cringe. Of course there were provisos attached. Most said that they wanted to read the book first. Many said that the movie rarely lived up to the book but they want to view the movie out of curiosity just to see what the screenwriters did with it. Three members cheered as they usually enjoy the movie even when it is vastly changed from the book's plot.
As usual we all had the opportunity to rate this month's novel out of 10.
Fourteen members voted at club and two more voted in absentia(see blog comments) for an overall average rating of 6.4375

The novel we discussed this month was "The 13th hour" by Richard Doetsch. For many of us this was a memorable novel, mostly because it was told in reverse! At the opening (Chapter 12), the protagonist, Nick Quinn is being questioned at the police station as a suspect in his wife's murder. He is given the opportunity to travel back in time, in one hour increments, in order that he might save her.
A fascinating premise, it took the author only 30 days to complete the novel! Some of our members commented that there was too much repetition in the book, but many viewed the repetition as necessary due to the time travel element. We were quite surprised to discover that the author wrote it in reverse, just the same way we read it. He claims that the protagonist, Nick Quinn was actually based on himself. Julia Quinn was based on his wife. The character of his best friend, Marcus, was based upon an amalgam of his friends.

The novel was definitely a page-turner with a 'happily ever after' ending. A thriller/love story which explored the age-old question of 'What if?"
For those readers who did enjoy it,there WILL be a sequel with the characters of Nick and Julia Quinn returning.

The "13th hour" has been optioned by New Line Cinema to be made into a movie.

There are several video interviews with Richard Doetsch available on his website.

The lucky Whodunit winners of free books this month were:
1. Carolyn
2. Myrtle
3. Melanie
4. Margaret
Congratulations all!

Next month's novel is the classic Dashiell Hammett novel "The Maltese Falcon".
Hope to see you at club!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I learned a new word today!

I subscribe to a daily word email.
Today's word seemed relevant to the interests of my fellow mystery readers - so I thought I'd share...

(noun) A plot element or other device used to catch the audience's attention and maintain suspense but whose exact nature has fairly little influence over the storyline.
While the origin of 'MacGuffin' is obscure, the first recorded usage was in a lecture given by Alfred Hitchcock at Columbia University in 1939. A 'red herring' differs in that it purposely draws attention away from the central issue.
"But the microfilm that the bad guys are smuggling out of the country — that's just what Hitchcock called the MacGuffin, the pretense for the movie, the silly excuse upon which he pinned his real story: a man is mistaken for another man and nearly murdered because of this mistake."
--The Mother of All Horror Films, Newsweek, January 6, 2010

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Whodunit Book Club January 31, 2012

Twenty die-hard Whodunit members braved the January cold to attend tonight's meeting. The book discussed this month was "Skin and bones" by Tom Bale.
Pam asked the group two 'magical' questions: a) Do you think that this book was as good as a Linwood Barclay book? and, b) Does a book have to 'grab' you from the beginning? Also, as is our usual custom we rate the title from 1-10.
Taking into account the 20 members in attendance (one of whom abstained because they didn't read the book) and the one who voted in absentia the average rating was 7.9 which pretty much lets you know that it was a Whodunit favourite.

Eleven members said they enjoyed the book more than Linwood Barclay. Most agreed that it is nice when a book grabs you from the beginning, but that it doesn't have to in order for them to enjoy it as it may have other redeeming qualities. One member used the analogy that reading a book is like a relationship. It is nice to be 'grabbed' sometimes but you wouldn't want a steady diet of it. Like a marriage of many years, it is sometimes nice to have the 'grabbing' after a gradual build up.
Some wait 3 chapters, some 5 chapters, some just have to finish a book once they've begun with the view that it must get better... Some open the potential book at a certain page and judge that way. I have recently read a blog that was called "The page 69 test" where the reader opens the book to page 69 and reads. If that page passes muster, then the book will be deemed worthy of reading in its entirety.

Although there was much lively discussion about "Skin and bones" there were some negative comments. The most prevalent of these was that it was implausible that the character of Julia could have endured what she did and was so physically active given her internal injuries. Also the portrayal of Vanessa who was dying of cancer, but still had the strength to come down stairs and try to attack someone was more than a little unrealistic. A few thought the book could have been a little shorter with better editing.

It was noted that of all the books covered in Whodunit, "Skin and bones" probably had the highest body count.

The device of using the draft function of e-mail to remain untraceable was fascinating. Tom Bale writes with an almost cinematic storytelling style. The descriptions were well written and stayed with the reader long after the final page. In particular the feeling of stillness and absence of life in the idyllic rural Sussex village. The scene where the killer's mother's garden and kitchen were described. The gory scene where the Toby cut off a man's hands...

We learned a little about the author, Tom Bale. "Skin and bones" was his second novel following "Sins of the father" which he wrote under his real name David Harrison. He has written since he was a child and had many, many rejections when starting out. He actually dreamed the whole opening sequence for "Skin and bones". Upon hearing this some members agreed that the novel had an almost surreal feeling to it.

The free book winners this month were:
Betty, Heather, Caroly and Tracy.

It was requested that we should read a true crime book at some future time.
Also, it was announced that Whodunit members get 10% off their bookclub books in future.

Next month's selection is "13th hour" by Richard Doetsch.

Saturday, January 21, 2012