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, 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.