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, December 29, 2015

Top 15 of 2015

I’ve read 70 novels in 2015, many of them excellent.  So you can understand my dilemma in choosing only 15 titles as my personal favorites.  I’ve been very lucky to have enjoyed about 90% of my reading this year.  Subsequently there are a lot of ‘honorable mentions’ that didn’t quite make my

Top 15  of 2015 list


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Whodunit Book Club ~ November 24, 2015

"What kills good men" by David Hood
For the last Whodunit meeting of 2015 we discussed "What kills good men" by David Hood.  Of the twelve members who voted, this novel garnered an average score of 7/10.  Most of the scores were high, though two very low scores brought the average down.
All but two members stated they would read another book by this author.  It turns out that there will be a sequel featuring many of the same characters - so they are in luck!

David Hood's novel, set in 1899 Halifax, Nova Scotia follows one week of a murder investigation.  The victim was a prominent member of society, a city alderman, who was living a double life.  The policemen were a duo of high integrity and morals.  The elder, Culligan Baxter, was a married man and a Catholic who was burnt out, embittered, and highly judgmental.  The younger,  Kenny Squire, was just learning the ropes and was working his very first murder investigation.  There was obviously a lot of respect between the two policemen and their rapport was a pleasure to read.

Of the book club members who thought highly of the novel - these are a few of the positive comments:
  • vivid descriptions which transported the reader to both time and place of the book's setting
  • well-developed characters
  • well researched historical data
  • thoughtful prose
  • enjoyed the language
  • good rendering of class distinction 
  • realistic and believable ending
Here are a few of the more negative comments:
  • long chapters  (each representing a day)
  • too much emphasis put on descriptive passages
  • too much tedious police procedure
  • unsatisfactory ending - justice denied
Both those who liked the novel and those who didn't felt that the book could have benefited from a map.
The message of the novel was that power corrupts and nothing is black or white.

The title was discussed and we felt that the 'good man' of the title was not the murder victim, but rather the policeman, Culligan Baxter.  What 'kills' him is the fact that justice is often denied, and that the world is not black or white, but a shade of gray as murky as the Halifax fog.

Halifax City Police on the steps of the Grand Parade, c1914

The winners of the book giveaways this month were:
  1. Cathy
  2. Marilyn
  3. Jane
  4. Carolyn
  5. Margaret 
The next meeting of the Whodunit Book Club will be January 26, 2016
We are trying something different next time... a true crime novel!
"Blood will out" by Walter Kirn
Hope to see you there!

Anyone interested in looking at some photos of 'old' Halifax might want to take a gander at this blog:  https://oldnorthend.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Whodunit Book Club - October 27, 2015

Whodunit Book Club is a great place to catch up with folk who share a penchant for reading mystery fiction.  Tonight fourteen members met at Chapters store, MicMac Mall, Dartmouth.  Some faces were regulars, some not so much.  All were welcome.

Tonight we discussed "Once upon a lie" by Maggie Barbieri.  The first novel in a series, the book features Maeve Conlon, a divorced mother of two teenage girls, and a businesswomen who owns and runs a bakery/cafe.  Her life is kept very busy doing the balancing act of the sandwich generation.  Her father, Jack, is a retired policeman who is suffering from early stage dementia and resides in an assisted living facility near Maeve's home.  Her ex-husband is remarried and has a new baby.  Her bakery is just barely making ends meet.

We begin reading just about the time when Maeve's cousin Sean Donovan has been murdered.  Maeve grew up living next door to Sean, but their relationship was complicated.  Maeve's mother died when she was only seven.  While Jack worked as a policeman to support himself and his only daughter, he left Maeve under Sean's supervision.
Now that Sean is gone - murdered in a rather sordid way - Maeve worries that bad blood between Sean and her father might have precipitated Jack into murdering Sean.  She tries to discern if he could have done it...

As we usually do at Whodunit, we polled the members to rate the novel out of a possible 10 points - asking those in attendance if they would read another book by this author.   The average score for "Once upon a lie" was 5.6 out of 10 with only one member saying they would read further in the series.

Lively discussion prevailed.  First off we discussed if we thought the book was a 'thriller' as the cover proclaimed.  Most of us agreed that it was not.  A mystery perhaps... but one in which it was fairly easy to discern the culprit.
Members appreciated the fact that the author employed humor to lighten the often dark subject matter.
Although many members were empathetic toward the protagonist Maeve, others thought her unsympathetic and one-dimensional.  Most members agreed that the writing was good on the whole, but was at times tedious and unrealistic.  One scene in particular was said to be 'over the top'!   There were some interesting secondary characters, but even they were at times caricature-like.  Some members disliked the fact that justice did not prevail.

Anyone interested in reading further in this series will need to purchase #2 "Lies that bind" and #3 "Lie in plain sight".  Maggie Barbieri is the author of the Murder 101 series and this new series starring baker Maeve Conlon.

Five lucky Whodunit members won books this evening:
1. Heather 
2. Cathy
3. Marilyn
4. Nancy
5. Margaret

During November's meeting of the Whodunit Book Club we will discuss "What kills good men" by local author David Hood.  Set in Halifax in 1899, this historical mystery should be of interest to all.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Whodunit Book Club - September 29, 2015

We had an interesting discussion this evening as we reminisced about our own individual 'first time' attending Whodunit Book Club.    The club was founded in January of 1998, so members had joined at various times and thus had varied memories of their first meeting.  Most members come for the social interaction with fellow mystery readers.  They liked that Whodunit enables them to try new authors that they would not have tried on their own.  The club attendance varies from month to month, with numbers ranging from 10 to 24 on any one given evening.

The novel we discussed this evening was the first in a series set in London, England, featuring Frieda Klein, a psychoanalyst.  "Blue Monday" by Nicci French generated many diverse opinions, though the majority really liked the novel.  Our average score was 7.25 points out of 10 -  with ten out of the thirteen members present saying that wanted to read more novels in the series.

There were many positive comments about the book.  Most agreed it was a fast-paced thriller, that it was thought-provoking, and contained some canny twists and at least one 'gobsmacking' revelation.

Members who did not enjoy the novel thought that Frieda's character acted very non-professionally and that the twin angle was more than a little bit creepy.

We marveled at the way that the writing couple of Nicci Gerrard and Sean French made writing novels together seem so easy with their seamless narrative.
Nicci French is the married couple: Nicci Gerrard & Sean French
 I have written a review of the novel "Blue Monday" on my blog Fictionophile (in case anyone is interested in my personal observations)

The winners of the book giveaways this month were very lucky indeed as there were some very new ARCs on offer.  The winners of the 5 prizes were:
1. Carolyn
2. Margaret  (who declined the win and we drew again)
3. Jane
4. Cathy
5. Heather
6. Carmella 

The novel we will discuss at our next meeting on October 27th will be "Once upon a lie" by Maggie Barbieri.  Hope to see you there! 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Whodunit Book Club - August 25, 2015

After a two month break (there was no meeting in July), 13 members attended the August meeting of the Whodunit Mystery Book Club.

This month we discussed the novel "The Drop Zone" by Bob Kroll.
Opinions about the novel were varied.  A positive for us because the discussion is always livelier and more interesting when that is the case.  As is our usual practice, the members each rated the novel out of a possible 10 points stating whether or not they would read another book by the author.  With thirteen votes the average rating was  
6 1/4 points with six members saying they would read another title by Bob Kroll.

The Drop Zone” introduces T. J. Peterson.  A police detective in an unnamed urban municipality in Eastern Canada.  Peterson has lost his wife, his daughter, his faith in God and his fellow man – and quite possibly… his job.    His wife he lost to a traffic accident while she was with another man.  His daughter is a teenage runaway who torments him with silent video calls of a derelict room furnished with an unmade bed and empty syringes.

Peterson, burnt out and hungover, is tasked with solving the brutal murder of a Catholic priest.  His investigations lead him to the dark and depraved world of teenage prostitution and sex trafficking.

The subject matter was dark and most considered it to be a 'noir' novel.

Although some thought it a fast-paced and interesting novel with a likable protagonist, others thought less of it.  The members who gave it low marks seemed to find that the protagonist was too flawed - a cliche who wallowed in his misery.
While some thought the ending clear and 'tied up', others didn't understand the ending and found it obscure. 

Although the setting was unnamed, and the fact that artistic license was taken by the author, we acknowledged that the novel was loosely set in our home city of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The author's vivid descriptions ensured that there remained a frisson of recognition for certain places described.
The lucky winners of book giveaways:
1. Marilyn
2. Nancy
3. Carmella
4. Carolyn
5. Cathy

Members will meet again on September 29th when we will discuss "Blue Monday" by Nicci French.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Whodunit Book Club - June 30, 2015

Ten members of Whodunit attended the June meeting.  We discussed the historical novel "The last Dickens" by Matthew Pearl.

As is our usual custom we each gave the book a rating out of a possible 10 points.  "The last Dickens" garnered an average score of  5.66 with only two members saying they would read another title by this author.

Plot summary from Wikipedia:
The novel is set in the US, England, and India in 1867 and 1870. When news of Charles Dickens’s untimely death reaches the office of his struggling American publisher, Fields & Osgood, partner James R. Osgood sends his trusted clerk Daniel Sand to await Dickens’s unfinished last novel – The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
But when Daniel’s body is discovered by the docks and the manuscript is nowhere to be found, Osgood must embark on a transatlantic quest to unearth the novel that will save his venerable business and reveal Daniel’s killer. Danger and intrigue abound on the journey, for which Osgood has chosen Rebecca Sand, Daniel’s older sister, to help clear her brother’s name and achieve their singular mission. As they attempt to uncover Dickens’s final mystery, Osgood and Rebecca find themselves racing the clock through a dangerous web of literary lions and drug dealers, sadistic thugs and blue bloods, and competing members of the inner circle. They soon realize that understanding Dickens’s lost ending is a matter of life and death, and the hidden key to stopping a murderous mastermind.
The novel also includes interspersed sections about Charles Dickens's 1867 reading tour of the United States
Positive comments:

The novel was well researched and had a lot of potential.
The cover was attractive.
Members enjoyed finding out about the remarkable and fascinating Charles Dickens.
It was interesting to read about the social conditions of the 1870s.

Negative comments:

It was hard to connect with the myriad characters, thus it was hard to connect with the novel.
The novel was verbose and over-long, with a subplot set in India which seemed unnecessary.
Amazingly researched, but poor execution of the fictional rendition.
The novel didn't live up to its potential.

The novel was described as an historical thriller.  The Whodunit members could not find anything 'thrilling' about it.
Some suggested that this author, with his talents for historical research would be more suited to writing narrative non-fiction.

There will be NO July meeting of the Whodunit Book Club.  Our next meeting will be held on August 25th when we will discuss "The Drop Zone" by Bob Kroll.

The lucky winners of free books this month were:
1. Jane
2. Heather
3. Marilyn
4. Cathy

BritCrime Festival Giveaway

To celebrate the launch of BritCrime’s first free online crime fiction festival, 11-13 July, I have teamed up with BritCrime authors to give away one fabulous prize.
You could win a gift bundle of ten print books, including new releases by Colette McBeth and Sarah Hilary, and MJ McGrath’s Gold Dagger longlisted White Heat. This giveaway is open internationally. One lucky winner will win all ten books.

Brit Crime Festival

Please complete the entries in the Rafflecopter before midnight 10th July for a chance to win.
To learn more about the BritCrime festival, please visit http//britcrime.com and sign up to the newsletter. There will be giveaways and live Q&As with bestselling British crime fiction authors hosted on BritCrime’s Facebook page 11 & 12 July.
The Magpies + What You Wish For by Mark Edwards
No Other Darkness by Sarah Hilary
The Life I Left Behind + Precious Thing by Colette McBeth
White Heat by M J McGrath
Beyond the Rage by Michael J Malone
Follow the Leader + Watching Over You by Mel Sherratt
The Harbour Master by Daniel Pembrey

Visit my other blog Fictionophile to enter to win!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Whodunit Book Club - May 26, 2015

A dozen loyal Whodunit members attended the May meeting.  The novel under discussion this month was "The devotion of Suspect X" by Keigo Higashino.  This is the first novel we've discussed as a group that was set in Japan.
 We always rate the novel we are discussing out of a possible 10 points.  "The devotion of Suspect X" garnered a score of 7.75 with 8 out of 12 members stating they would read another book by this author.

Curiously it was the members with little or no expectations that rated the book the highest.  Most members stated that the plot was ingenious and that they were surprised and amazed by the ending.   This was not a 'Whodunit' per say.  It was a howdunit. A multi-layered puzzle created by the very clever author.

The novel contained one after another brilliant and unforeseen twists that appealed to many.  It was commented that there was little character development and a rather choppy flow to the narrative - but we speculated that this might have been caused by the translation from Japanese to English.
The protagonist Ishigami was a mathematician and his character was dispassionate about most things with his heart entirely taken up with mathematics and his obsession, his beautiful neighbour, Yasuko. 
Ishigami was a solitary man who had little if any social life.  His genius set him apart from society.  As Oscar Lavent said, “There's a fine line between genius and insanity".

Some members said that they were disappointed that the novel did not give a more detailed description of Japanese society.  One member said that the novel portrayed an interesting snapshot of society.  Perhaps that was to show that no matter where we live some things remain constant.  Love, hate, abuse, despair, loneliness, homelessness, poverty etc.

This novel is highly regarded in the author's native Japan garnering numerous awards, including the 134th Naoki Prize, which is a highly regarded award. The novel also won the 6th Honkaku Mystery Grand Prize, which is one of the most prestigious awards in the mystery novels category in Japan. 2006 Honkaku Mystery Best 10 and Kono Mystery ga Sugoi! 2006, annual mystery fiction guide books published in Japan, ranked the novel as the number one!
The English translation was nominated for the 2012 Edgar Award for Best Novel and the 2012 Barry Award for Best First Novel.

Read my personal review on my blog: Fictionophile

Congratulations go out to the winners of this month's book giveaways:
1. Marilyn
2. Gaye
3. Heather
4. Marlene

The next Whodunit Book Club meeting will be held on June 30th - when we will discuss the stand-alone historical novel "The last Dickens" by Matthew Pearl.
There will be NO meeting in July.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Read by the Sea - Saturday July 11, 2015

Come to this year's Read by the Sea in beautiful River John, Nova Scotia.
This year's illustrious group of authors include: Maureen Jennings, Giles Blunt, Linden MacIntyre and Isabel Huggan

What better way to spend a Saturday?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Whodunit Book Club - April 28, 2015

Eleven members gathered this evening to discuss Jamie Mason's debut novel "Three Graves Full".
We were all over the map in our rating of this novel.  Some high scores of 9/10 and some low scores or 2/10 and 3/10.   This disparity of views always makes for lively discussion.  The average score tallied 6/10 with half of the members saying they would read another novel by this author.

Written with wit - some of the Whodunit members found the humor to their taste while others did not.  We discussed that how you approached this novel greatly influenced the level of enjoyment.  If you looked upon it as a serious mystery - it came across as farcical.   If you approached it as a humorous novel, then your enjoyment was increased.

Many agreed that the author employed great descriptions (though some thought there were too many of those).  Some thought that there were too many disturbingly gory scenes, while others viewed those scenes as being a tool the author used to relay black humor.

The protagonist was a sympathetic character - even though he was a murderer.  Favorite characters were the entire Ford family with many readers really liking the Ford's dog, Tess.  Some loved the parts that were written from Tess's point of view, while others expressed that this was way too farfetched.   One astute reader cited that the novel was a good study of human nature.  The characters seemed to take no responsibility for their own actions - claiming that other people or factors were at fault.

We learned that Jamie Mason had "great kindling" for this novel.  She based it upon a headline she read "Landscaper finds skull in mulch bed".

I personally read this novel back in 2012 and reviewed it on my blog: Fictionophile.  As you'll see by my review, I enjoyed it tremendously.

Jamie Mason now has a second novel published "Monday's Lie".

Tonight's lucky winners of book giveaways were:
1. Marilyn
2. Nancy
3. Cathy
4. Brenda
5. Carmella

The next meeting of the Whodunit Book Club will be held on May 26, 2015 when we will discuss the novel "The devotion of Suspect X" by Keigo Higashino

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

"Whodunit Book Club" March 31, 2015

There was animated and lively discussion tonight at Whodunit.  As usual, not all of the discussion was on topic - but enjoyable all the same.
Fourteen members attended to discuss the novel "Walt" by Canadian author Russell Wangersky.

When we went around the circle and voted out of a possible ten points, there was little agreement.  Three members voted an even 5/10 while the others voted either very low or very high.  The result was a score of 6/10.  Only six members stated they would read another work by Russell Wangersky and some expressed an interest in reading his short stories.

Some of the negative comments were: slow, disjointed, dry, different, ambiguous.
Positive comments included: well-written, creepy, descriptive, understated, memorable.
Readers wondered why Alisha, one of Walt's stalking victims, did not have her locks changed, or why the police did not advise her to do so.

"Walt" was advertised as a psychological thriller.   Some readers greatly disagreed with this assessment, while others thought it was 'spot on'.  Set in St. John's, Newfoundland the novel is the story of Walt, a grocery store janitor, who has deep insight into his fellow man through the grocery lists they abandon.  A solitary individual who has creepily disturbing habits...

My personal opinion of the novel was favourable.  It was simple but deceptively deep.  My review can be found on my blog: Fictionophile.

The lucky winners of the book giveaways this month were:
1. Brian
2. Gaye
3. Kim
4. Heather
5. Nancy

 Next month's Whodunit selection is: "Three graves full" by Jamie Mason.  We meet again on Tuesday, April 28th at 7:00 p.m.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Whodunit Meeting February 24, 2015

It was nice to see everyone who attended Whodunit tonight.  The wintery weather was a topic of conversation among the twelve in attendance - at least for the first few minutes. 

Tonight we discussed the stand-alone novel "The perfect ghost" by Linda Barnes.

The story was about one member of a ghost-writing team.   Her partner, Teddy, has recently died in a tragic car accident.  Emily, the remaining partner is attempting to fulfill obligations to a publisher by completing the biography of a famous actor/director.   She has always been the 'writer'.  Teddy had been the public face of the pair.  He did the interviews, the socializing, the public relations.  Now all those aspects of the job were hers as well...

As is our usual custom we rated the novel out of a possible ten points.  Sadly the group's average rating was a mere 4.6 points!
Touted as a novel of suspense, "The perfect ghost" was a prime example of unrealized potential.  A good premise, a great setting, an attractive cover, yet the novel was not generally liked.

The reasons for our opinion:  The protagonist was a flat, unlikeable, unemphatic character whom we really didn't care about.  Since she narrated the entire book (with the exception of the interview sequences), that was a critical failing.  Emily, the ghost writer of the title, was self-deprecating, and supposedly mentally ill... or was she?   She turned out to be narcissistic and manipulative.

The Cape Cod setting was well portrayed and described.  In fact the author handled the setting better than the characters.  The characterizations were lacking depth and made the reader unable to invest much interest in them.

The twists were appreciated by some, but many found them to be thrown in the novel with little build up to maximize tension.  Therefore they felt anti-climatic.

All the members who read it seemed disappointed.  Many lost interest long before the end...

Tonight the lucky winners of the book giveaways were:
1. Kim
2. Jane
3. Carmella
4. Brian

Next month - on March 31st - we will discuss "Walt" by Russell Wangersky

Comments are welcomed.  Any Whodunit members who could not attend tonight's meeting, as well as those who did attend and want to add their opinions, please submit a comment.

Whodunit Meeting February 3, 2015

The weather was so foul on the scheduled date for our Book Club meeting that it was rescheduled to tonight.  That being said - only seven brave souls were in attendance. February 2015 will be memorable for its nasty winter weather.

I am awaiting notes on the meeting from a member who attended.
I believe the general concensus was that the group very much enjoyed the novel discussed.
The group read was "Cuckoo's Calling" by Robert Galbraith  (aka J.K Rowling)

Although I did not attend the meeting, I personally loved the novel and have written a review on my other blog:  Fictionophile

Of the six (not including the moderator, Pam) who attended - everyone won a prize!  Congrats all!

During our next Whodunit meeting we will discuss "The perfect ghost" by Linda Barnes