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Monday, October 31, 2011

The Tenderness of Wolves

Scottish author Stef Penney sets her first novel in the small settlement of Dove River in the Canadian wilderness of 1867. After Mrs. Ross discovers the body of her neighbor Laurent Jammett, a trapper and former employee for the Hudson Bay Company, she dutifully reports the apparent murder to the de facto legal representative Andrew Knox. Immediately, the authorities are called in: representatives of the Hudson Bay Company including the youthful Donald Moody who becomes involved in a romantic subplot. Also arriving are half-breed Indian and trapper William Parker who originally is suspected of the murder, and American trader Thomas Sturrock who, years earlier, was involved in an attempt at tracking the disappearance of two local girls.

Mrs. Ross soon regrets her discovery; she realizes that her teenage son Francis has been missing since about the time of the murder. With William Parker as her guide, she sets off in search of Francis. The company representatives are in close pursuit, interested in determining if Francis is the murderer. Surprises abound as the chase continues, with a somewhat unexpected denouement. The reader is presented with more than one mystery to solve. The multi-dimensional characters, richly detailed text, and energetic plot add interest to this novel.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Big Sleep

Author Raymond Chandler’s first Philip Marlowe mystery packs a big punch for hard-boiled detective novel devotees. Set in late 1930’s Los Angeles, Marlowe is hired by General Sternwood, a dying millionaire to find out who is blackmailing his daughter. His investigation leads to a situation that is more than he bargained for when he discovers that the General’s two daughters, leading immoral lives, are involved with pornography and murder. Chandler’s poetically descriptive language and precise depiction of his gritty characters enhances the novel’s ambiance. Philip Marlowe is a noble individual who rises above the fray to bring about justice.