Tuesday, June 27, 2017

UNSUB: A Novel by Meg Gardiner

UNSUB: A Novel. Meg Gardiner. Penguin Publishing Group. June 2017. 384 pp. ISBN #: 9781101985526.

Mercury, the Prophet, the Messenger is a serial killer.  He’s been silent since the 1990s but now has returned in malicious, blood-curdling ways.  His first killing in years is a double homicide, accompanied by his message pounded into his victims’ chests.  UNSUB stands for unknown subject.  

Detective Caitlin Hendrix cannot believe he has returned and is obsessed with finding him.  Her problem is that this killer is responsible for undoing her own father’s sanity and yet her father is probably the one who truly knows the psyche of this killer.  But insisting he unload all he holds in his mind may enable them to find the killer but destroy her father in the process. His partner had died in that investigation years ago and he had tried to kill himself.  This is obviously no mundane, predictable killer!

Clues begin to make sense, as more deaths occur and the killer sets his sights on Caitlin.  Caitlin seems like a vulnerable woman instead of an intrepid detective.  Her anxiety and fear of getting sucked into the power and control of this killer keeps the reader on edge as much as the grisly details of the killings set the reader’s psyche on shaky ground.  The plot’s intensity increases as Caitlin and other detectives figure out the time and even place where the next killing will occur but something always goes awry so they fail to nail the psychopathic killer.

The Prophet has some kind of affinity to the poet Dante and his famous work, The Inferno.  However, even knowing that doesn’t enable the reader to predict what the killer is thinking, feeling and how he will next act.

This is a superb psychological thriller that forces readers’ adrenaline to flow galore.  The twist at the end of the story makes one gasp with shock, an ending that guarantees a sequel to this novel.  Deftly plotted, Meg Gardiner!  We look forward to the follow-up to this amazing crime novel!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Decent Woman: A Novel by Eleanor Parker Sapia

A Decent Woman: A Novel. Eleanor Parker Sapia. Libertary Co. February 2015. 270 pp.  ISBN #: 9781620154007. 

Ana Belen Opaku is a midwife in turn of the 20th century Ponce, Puerto Rico (the author uses the old spelling of Porto Rico).  She’s working without a midwife certificate which could make a great deal of trouble.  She’s also illiterate which makes matters worse!  But Ana is a truly remarkable, perceptive, sensitive, skilled and compassionate woman! She delivers children for Serafina and becomes a good friend over time. 

The beauty of this story lies in Ana’s description of her fears and strength during fierce storms and hurricanes; her following African Yoruba spiritual practices and Western religious rites, combined with her skilled application of medicinal plants to facilitate easy births and protect the newborn lives she cherishes.  Folklore from Africa and Cuba make this a multi-layered tale that truly evokes understanding of Puerto Rico’s culture and society.

One of Serafina’s children is born stillborn and because her last child died shortly after birth, she must defend herself against criminal charges.  Ana provides the testimony Serafina needs to be judged innocent and that cements their close relationship forever.

Ana now must deal with the opposition of a local parish priest, Padre Vicente, and a local physician, Dr. Hector Rivera.  Their action pushes Ana to learn to read and obtain her certificate.  Serafina’s husband dies and she later marries a rich man. Ana follows her and their friendship grows even more as Ana’s life dramatically changes.

A Decent Woman... has no huge plot but instead gives the reader a gracefully evolving story of the struggle for women to survive independently in a male-dominated culture, the dignity of women who are treated as possessions meant to serve men, the need for women to share dangerous secrets which may bring trust or betrayal, and most of all the sharing of the beauty of the cycles of life and death.

A remarkable account that is obviously well-researched, understood and conveyed with grace and passion!  Highly recommended!