People Who Walk in Darkness

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We had a large turnout for this month’s meeting and we were so glad to see that even though some people had experienced health issues and/or hadn’t read the book, they still made the effort to come to the meeting.

This month, we read Stuart Kaminsky‘s People Who Walk in Darkness and most members enjoyed the book.  Though Mr. Kaminsky was not Russian, we felt that he did an excellent job of presenting the Russian lifestyle and mindset and the general feel of the country.  A few of our members have been to Russia/USSR or Eastern Europe and/or have family members from that part of the world and the general consensus was that Mr. Kaminsky captured the essence of the area.

Some basic questions were thrown out for discussion —

Rostnikov was declared to be a favorite character mostly because he was not like a typical Russian.  He had a dry sense of humor and interesting ability to see the beauty in a very drab world.  James, the Botswanan was also named a favorite because of his strength in the face of such adversity. 

We agreed the bad guy was creepy bad and someone didn’t like the Inspector’s brother.

We learned new stuff about diamond smuggling and some of us were surprised to learn there are actually diamond mines in Siberia.

Personally, I found the book to be both compelling and dreary as all get out. Compelling because the author did a good job of building suspense and keeping me on my toes in anticipation of what was going to happen next, but dreary because this story presents post-Soviet Russia as a place where there’s little hope, corruption is a rampant fact of life and there’s no color except for a nearly perfect orange in Siberia. I finished this at 8:00 in the evening and even though I read something light before going to bed, my dreams were still filled with dark, depressing imagery.

There were many aspects of the book I found interesting: The way the author jumped from locale to locale and even jumped in time. It was a little choppy, but it kept the suspense up. I also found it fascinating that everyone in the story was some sort of philosopher, whether they were investigators, murderers, torturers or just out to make merry mayhem. They all had some philosophical take on the situation. I also thought Rostnikov had a very weird sense of humor, with the whole leg in a jar thing, and Emil Karpo really reminded me of Spock from Star Trek.

Best of all was the cross/double-cross at the end. No spoilers here, but WOW!

We reviewed Mr. Kaminsky’s biography and were impressed with his television work and his education background.  We were also surprised by how prolific he had been and how each of his mystery series have such different flavors. Personally, I’m looking forward to reading some of his Toby Peters stuff.

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In the Woods

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The group met, as scheduled, on February 20th (oops!) January 16th.  I, however, was tromping around the wilds of the Southwest on a family vacation and so missed the meeting.  This post has been gleaned from second-hand sources.

The mystery this month was “In the Woods” by Tana French.  A few members of our group don’t want to read about violence against children and the blurb for this book suggests that it deals with this.  So some of the group didn’t read it for that reason.  Others, myself included, didn’t read it for lack of time and/or opportunity. 

However, the ones that did read it (I believe there were three), enjoyed it immensely and are eager to read more by this author.  They report that there was no gratuitous violence against children and that the story was well-paced and exciting.  Though set in Ireland, there were many current references easily recognized by an American audience, which one reader found surprising.  More pubs and leprechauns were expected and less American Idol.

If Pam had a pick, by the time I returned from my travels, she had forgotten what it was.  Oh, but she does add that:

“The big complaint about the book was the ending.  Ms French didn’t solve the mystery of the missing children.  So, most people didn’t think it was like a typical mystery.”  I think this is an interesting point. 

Join us later this month for a visit to deepest, darkest Russia in People Who Walk in Darkness by Stuart Kaminsky