Murder in the Latin Quarter – Cara Black

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On the whole, the group liked this book, as evidenced by the number of stars given to it.  But someone (Joan!) didn’t finish it and someone else thought it was just “eh.”  Some found the scope broad and confusing, and thought that it bounced around a lot. While the map was helpful, it could have provided more detail and the overabundance of French words just created a lot of work for readers.

That being said, the group enjoyed the book and not all of them threw it against the wall (Joan!).

Favorite characters – Generally, there weren’t too many to choose from, but in the end, Aimée Leduc, even though she was called lawless criminal liar, Mademoiselle Léonie, and René Friant.

Least favorite characters – Jérôme Castaing, Dr. Severat, Professeur Benoît because of the way he stirred things up, and the illegal Haitians.

 

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Mrs. Pollifax and the Golden Triangle – Dorothy Gilman

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While we had a good turnout for the meeting, only three of us actually read this book all the way to the end.  It made for a rather lopsided discussion because we who finished it, liked it.

Mrs. Pollifax is a fascinating mix of grandmotherly and kick-ass determination, all set in a rather awful place and time. She’s reminded us of an edgy Miss Marple.

Joan had recently finished a Colin Cotterill, also set in Thailand, so there was a familiar atmosphere and language to this.  She particularly liked the two contrasting points of view, which added a sinister tint to things.

So many things are going on, from a coup, to smuggling, to kidnapping, to drug production, and running.  And threaded through it all is the theme of love, be it romantic, friendship, Buddhist, or familial.

At times we found Emily a little annoying, but that can happen when a reader spends too much time in a character’s head.  All that internal monologues usually slow the action down too much.

This book is full of angst and worry about the missing Cyrus, as would be expected.  But there are also some lovely sections where Emily just soaks in her experiences.  The meditation scene is particularly memorable.

Favorite characters – Bonchoo (I love his hat).  Emily, Cyrus, though we don’t really see him enough, the holy man.

Least favorite – Mornajay, with his mean shiny boots (he’s not really bad, he’s just drawn that way).

Please note that revisions have been made to the 2018 Reading List.  Out with Sandford and Grimes and in with Ed McBain and Jussi Adler-Olsen!

The Bishop at the Lake – Andrew M. Greeley

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A rather mixed review for this.  Some people loved it and have read more by the author, while others either didn’t start it or didn’t finish it.  We lost Byanka with the title.

It was declared to be interesting, though oddly constructed.  While some liked the Catholic stuff, others were less enthused, particularly those who had grown up Catholic.  It also felt dated, though it came out in 2007.

We had a very interesting discussion about what we perceived to be Spike trying desperately to retain an old way of life.  There was an argument for the fact that this is how the rich live, but also an argument for the fact that long summer vacations at the lake are just not a thing any more, even for those can afford it.

But in general, we agreed that it was a fun read.  Light, no death, a little romance, interesting Catholic Church details.  Some declared them to be over done.  But since the author and the main character are priests, it seemed appropriate.

The setting was great and it was a nice summer read.  Makes Joan want to go away to a lake for a month! Joan also liked how Margaret referred to God as a she.  Fun!

Favorite – Joseph, Spike, Lady Anne, Blackie, Margaret, Loretta because she was so wonderfully awful.

Least favorite – Loretta, Blackie (people got very tired of “arguably”), Iggy, Spike (because he didn’t seem “real”), Consuela, Malachi (distasteful, name-dropping boob).

Motive – Jonathan Kellerman

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A small group, to include a paper review, but we did have our opinions!

Some of us found this book less than memorable and had to be reminded of the story, while others loved it but thought it was too long.  It was declared to be a page-turner, yet a little slap dash.  Someone said that it felt as if the author, a psychologist, threw a couple of random cases together and made a book.

It had all the things we take issue with and/or find entertaining — psychological weirdness, creepy murderer, snobby girls, smarmy lawyers, bitchy ex-wives, prized pets being sent away to slaughter, eating and descriptions of food, and exotic dancers entertaining cops.  A lot to like or at least be entertained by.

And yet….

We didn’t understand the title.  And what’s with the maze on the cover of the book?  We didn’t think Alex contributed all that much to the investigation even though we were dealing with a serial killer.

Not a stunning recommendation, and yet we gave this book a lot of stars.  Except for someone, who shall remain nameless.

Favorite characters – Milo, the busty broad Kashmeer (Joan loved her antics in the interrogation room), Earl Cohen, Alex’s girlfriend, Kleffer, and the arrogant chef.

Least favorite characters – Creepy bad guy John Jensen Williams, Ursula, Corey, all the murderers, and the daughters

Make Me — Lee Child

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Welcome to Mother’s Rest. <shiver of terror>

While the group found this to be a compelling read, we agreed that in the end, the subject matter was extremely distasteful.  Watching the story unfold, being in the minds of both the good guys and the bad guys, and looming question of just what the heck was going on kept us moving through the story.  But it was the last quarter of the book or so where most of us started to turn away in disgust.

We had a real problem with Jack Reacher, who does have has some sort of code of conduct, but his brand of vigilante justice operates so far outside the law, that he seems to be thisclose to being just like the bad guys.  We agreed that it was hard to care about the story when we didn’t care about the main character.  We found it very disturbing, seeing as how he doesn’t express remorse and feels he’s totally justified in his actions.

Favorite – Westwood, the journalist; Chang, who was called faithful; Keever; the waitress in the cafe; the maid at the motel; and Peters’ neighbor lady.

Least favorite – Everybody else; Reacher; the bad guys; the boss guy with the ironed jeans and blow-dried hair; Russian mob guy; the main gang; the Moynahan brothers.

Midnight in Peking – Paul French

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The group found this to be a compelling story and an interesting look at an era and part of the world with which not all of us were terribly familiar.

It was also an interesting look at the politics within the politics.  The investigation of the murder was doomed from the start, what with the Chinese detective being hamstrung by his superiors and the English detective being hamstrung by his superiors.  Then there was just poor detecting and general muck ups by people.  The English guy seemed to do okay, but one of his guys mucked up.  And the Chinese guy mucked up and/or was on the take.  But they were encouraged not to solve anything.

We found that the author did a good job of making the reader feel a certain way about certain characters at certain times in the book.  And then was able to make the reader have the complete opposite take about those characters in a different part of the book.

The dad was originally portrayed as a goofball, but then later portrayed as a together, driven kind of guy.  The two detectives were originally portrayed as having their poop together and then later, the holes in their investigations were pointed out in a way to make them look bad.

All in all, a rather creative way to deal with a nonfiction subject.

The group mostly liked the story, even if they found it a bit tedious.  The history was fascinating, though there too many characters and they were hard to keep track of.  There were also issues with understanding the locale.  While a map was provided in the book, it wasn’t necessarily the clearest thing to understand.

The victim herself came up for analysis and we agreed that while the common photo of her made her look mature beyond her years, in reality, we understood that she really was quite young and could relate to her attempts to move in more grown-up circles.

As is often the case in true stories, there wasn’t a clear resolution, so therefore, some found the ending unsatisfactory in a literary sense.  In a historical sense, however, it rang true.

Favorite character — English detective Dennis, Werner, Pamela

Least favorite – Chinese detective Han, Sydney Yeates, the schoolmaster, Prentice the dentist, Fitzmaurice and his successor because they were more interested in protecting the British image than in solving the murder, Werner.

 

Family Jewels – Stuart Woods

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The group was pretty underwhelmed with our book this month.  It was described as “eh,” “average,” and “not that interesting”.  We felt the last quarter was filler tied to current events and the story fell apart at the end.  The characters were declared to be empty and kind of bland, and we felt there were plot holes galore.

Its one redeeming quality seemed to be that it was easy to read and so the torture didn’t last long, though one of us didn’t finish it because it wasn’t worth the effort.

It was a different writing style in that there wasn’t much in the way of description.  Just unattributed dialogue.  And then everything ends up peachy keen and perfect, which really annoyed people.

Favorite Characters– Bob the Dog, Joan, Fred, the necklace, the Female Supreme Court Nominee, Stone, the bed-hopping whore-man.  Nothing there, but he got things done.

Least Favorite – While one of our group said all of the characters were “blech”, others called out Harvey, the ex-husband, Stone, the thieves, Nicky, Carrie, and Bob the Dog, because he was fickle.  Joan was going to go back and re-visit the people who actually did the deed, but has now decided that it’s just not worth the energy.

 

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