Denise Mina. The Red Road. Toronto: HarperCollins, 2014.
A well-structured, compact puzzle offered by the acknowledged mistress of tartan noir. Sensitivity alert: the noir has its gory moments. However, the story revolves around a sad child now struggling to be grown up. Readers are well into the characters' lives before we know what the crime is. Then, solving the case hinges on contradictory forensic evidence. It's not so much a mystery of who committed a few murders, but how the system was perverted in a strange interlocking collusion of corrupt authority figures.
As the revelations unfold, DI Alex Morrow chews her nails over exposing the insidious mess and how badly that will affect her career. Her new-motherhood glow is breeding a creeping empathy at times, with Brown, a convicted killer and Atholl, the self-destructive lawyer. Morrow's criminal brother Danny makes his usual appearance, perhaps his last. This is definitely the dark side of Glasgow but if you're a Mina or Morrow fan, don't miss this one.
[Grace] We're grateful for the food we eat and thank you for the comfy seat. (208)
A wind so sharp, Robert thought, it could strip a soul of original sin. (216)
She longed for some high ground to scramble towards but there wasn't any. (261)
After the crime-scene walk-through:
"Well," Wainwright stood tall, looking over her head, "back to the glamour.""So, what's on your board?""Got this," he nodded back at the flats, "got another murder, a domestic. Got two big lassies that stabbed a pal with their jaggy heels at a club. And a missing person." He leaned over her, smiling. "The missing person's a lawyer.""Aye? What does that mean?""Nicer biscuits," he said, and they laughed loud and long because they weren't dead. (113)
Father on life support:
Robert was trying to feel something, devastation, some loss. He was embarrassed at how little he felt for the man. When the staff consoled him with hollow pleasantries he dropped his eyes and nodded. A very difficult time, yes. Keep hoping, he knows you're here, yes. Make sure you get enough sleep, yes.So he sat by the bed with his own cold heart, hoping his emotions were in there somewhere and he would be feeling big things shortly. Then came the hand, crawling towards him like the sea coming in, and the dry lips trying to move under the oxygen mask. (210)
"Do you remember what you were doing the night Princess Diana died?"He did remember it and again tried to derail her. "In Paris?""You were in Paris?""No." He laughed, light, sparkling. "She was in Paris. She died in Paris. Very sad." And he made a face that told her he was feeling sad and he shook his head to tell the world that it shouldn't have happened and it made him sad."Where were you the next day?" Morrow sounded flat but she felt righteousness flare in her chest. They were all lying, all of them, dodging the truth out of fear or self-interest or for a few quid. But she wasn't. (270-271)
Lisa Gardner. Catch Me. New York: Dutton, 2012.
Gardner is one of those best-selling suspense novelists but this time she went so far into abnormal psychology it strained credibility. Crime authors are still trying to outdo each other with original, new scenarios. Charlene, who suffered childhood abuse, has found a good niche working as a police dispatcher. Except someone is killing her friends, on the same day every year. It's looking like she will be next and self-survival is paramount. Charlene pulls in Boston detective D.D. Warren who is investigating paedophile crimes originating online. "Everyone has to died sometime. Be brave" is a recurring theme.
My patience is sorely tried when we are forced to dwell in a seven-year-old's tedious thoughts far too long. As well as extended dreary talk of babies, living and dead. It doesn't help that editing oversights such as "undo caution" and "pour" through old memories and slapping with "the heal of his hand" catch my attention and stop the flow. If you are not into convoluted psychology dealing with repressed memories and conditioned responses, Catch Me is probably only for die-hard Gardner fans.
One-liner: I never asked, unanswered questions being the whole key to my relationships. (186)
Jackie and Randi used to tease me I'd forget my own head if it wasn't attached to my shoulders. I'd laugh with them, but often self-consciously. Jackie had really called me on the phone last night, we'd talked for two hours, and I'd forgotten all of it? Randi had told me all about her first date with local heartthrob Tom Eastman, and I couldn't recall a single detail?Small glitches in the operating system, I'd tell myself. I mean, given the amount of resources I'd dedicated to wiping eight entire years from my general consciousness, some errors were bound to occur. Besides, no matter how much I screwed up, forgot, genuinely overlooked, those occasions were still better than the few times I began to remember. (101)
Her mother had gotten that look again. Like she was sucking on lemons. Which had pissed D.D. off, because if memory served, her mother hadn't exactly played house when D.D. was a baby. Her mother had gone back to teaching, too close to tenure to give up now. D.D. had gone to day care. Hell, D.D. remembered loving day care. There were other kids who rolled and tumbled and got dirty and laughed hard. Day care was nirvana. Home was all "Sit still, don't make that face, for God's sake can't you stop fidgeting for just one minute?" (257-258)
Joan Barfoot. Exit Lines. Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2008.
Barfoot was recommended as a Canadian author, of Scotiabank Giller calibre. Set in the Idyll Inn retirement lodge (not a nursing home, the residents are quick to point out), the residents seemed to promise dry humour but for the most part I found it dry, period. In other words, simply not my taste and no reflection whatsoever on the author's literary merits. Four different souls ―cynical Sylvia, amenable Greta, cranky George, and plucky Ruth ― meet up here and establish friendship, as their backgrounds reveal both mutual thoughts and differences. One of them wants the others to assist in a death plot. The weak suspense is lost in interminable discussions of morality and human failings. The book really requires more concentration than I was prepared to give.
One liner on dying: My time, my place, my way. (189)
An eighty-year-old man gets up in the night because he has a bad headache that requires an Aspirin. He makes his way to the bathroom cupboard in darkness, because after years and years in a house, who needs lights? Then he's off to the kitchen for a glass of water, and next thing he's waking up on the floor with the strangest dead-fish quality to at least half his limbs and an inability to picture just what a fish would be, much less say the word. He lies waiting for answers, and learns that getting up, or unscrambling the sense of things, is not going to come naturally. (22)
They're used, almost, to the faltering of their own bodies, toppling in interesting and dull ways like dominoes, one ailment or pain leading to a medication that threatens to create another kind of ailment or pain and―on and on it goes, in careful kill-or-cure calibrations. Sylvia's specialist measures dicey bones and swollen joints, and while doling out anti-inflammatories and supplements and pain meds, may or may not recommend trying a newly authorized drug, that may or may not cascade into happy or unhappy long-term effects. Tough decisions. (250)