Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Idyll Hands: A Thomas Lynch Novel by Stephanie Gayle

Idyll Hands: A Thomas Lynch Novel. Stephanie Gayle. Prometheus Books. September 2018. 304 pp. ISBN#: 9781633884823.

Michael Finnegan is a rookie cop who puts up with a lot of newbie banter in his job on the Charleston, Massachusetts police force.  One matter, however, consumes his life in many ways.  In 1972 his sister Susan disappeared.  At first no one even called the police as she had run away two years previously.  Now, Michael is riddled with guilt wishing he had initially taken her absence more seriously and his attempts to find her are fierce.

Twenty plus years later, an arm and then the entire body of a murdered woman is found in the woods.  It turns out it’s not Susan but a different woman named Elizabeth.  Police Chief Thomas Lynch is a gay cop who is ultra-sensitive about his life style but has “come out,” albeit shyly and quietly.  However, he is a sensitive guy internally, albeit gruff externally, who agrees to help Finnegan with his search for his sister if Finnegan agrees to help with the investigation into the murdered woman’s killer.

The story is told from two points of view of the past and present which enables the reader to think he or she is also doing the investigation into these two mysteries.  It works well even though the course of the searches seems to progress quite slowly, more like the real world and not a TV 60-minute crime story.

Small towns have large secrets and there are plenty in Idyll, Massachusetts.  No spoilers here!  Obviously, the mysteries will be solved as the police pick through the facts and fiction of the town where everyone knows everyone else but are careful about what they reveal. This is a satisfying mystery because the pace is perfect and the revelations about the families, friends, neighbors and acquaintances are clearly clues as to the loves and hates of seemingly innocent, quiet residents.  New relationships are forged in the process.

Idyll Handsis a cleverly crafted novel that will truly satisfy mystery fans and even contemporary fiction fans.  Nicely fashioned fiction, Stephanie Gayle!

Sunday, September 2, 2018

The Storyteller's Secret: A Novel by Sedal Badani

The Storyteller’s Secret: A Novel. Sedal Badani. Amazon Publishing. September 2018. 411 pp. ISBN#: 9781503949089.

Jaya loses her marriage after suffering three miscarriages.  The latter sorrows weren’t what destroyed her bond with Patrick; instead their lack of communication increased over time until there was nothing left to say.  Jaya also has the same chasm separating her and her mother Lena.  Suddenly, Java decides to travel to India after her mother receives a note that her father is dying.  Lena refuses to go, saying she was told to leave India and never return.  But the story behind that directive remains unknown, trapped in Lena’s sorrowful stubbornness to tell the story behind that exile. 

Indeed, Jaya will discover the parts of herself that she has refused to own by discovering her grandmother and grandfather’s story, through the benign goodness of Ravi, an “untouchable” who for years served as Jaya’s grandmother’s servant.  A strict tradition mandates every contact and rule in the small-town Jaya visits.  Ravi agrees to tell the story Jaya so longs to hear.  Over time, Jaya learns of what it means when an Indian woman, Amisha, dares to dream of learning to read and write, to tell stories.  Her passion about it and the bond she forms with Stephen, a British soldier and the man in charge of the local small school for Indian girls.  Their passion becomes one after a beautifully depicted series of events and conversations.  The end of their bond is heart-wrenching but true to reality.

Amisha is indeed like the Indian goddess she so admires, Durga, “…the universal source of all power, energy and creativity,” a link of strength demonstrating the similarities of Amisha and her granddaughter, Jaya.  Jaya must tell stories and does so with great skill.  Amish did the same, and the exercises she gave her students are simple but profound catalysts for eliciting “real” and “powerful” stories.  One example of her teaching is stunningly painful but true to reality.

The Storyteller’s Secret…  is a grand work of historical fiction that one will always remember!  Highly recommended reading crafted by a skilled, gifted author!!!