Wednesday, October 3, 2018

A Knife in the Fog: A Mystery Featuring Margaret Harkness and Arthur Conan Doyle by Bradley Harper

A Knife in the Fog: A Mystery Featuring Margaret Harkness and Arthur Conan Doyle. Bradley Harper. Prometheus Books. October 2018. 288 pp. ISBN#:  9781633884861.

Arthur Conan Doyle is a physician who spends his days practicing medicine.  He has also written a novel, A Study in Scarlet which gets the attention of the Prime Minister of England.  So unique are the skills in that novel that Prime Minister William Gladstone asks Sir Doyle to help with solving a series of murders that have been terrorizing London, murders that have the same characteristics.  The victims have had their throats slit but also have had parts of their internal female organs cut open or removed. 

To accomplish this task, Arthur Conan Doyle engages the help of Margaret Harkness, an inquisitive and bright lady who knows “street life” and can guide Doyle to places he would not know.  Also helping is Professor Bell, a renowned surgeon and thinker.  The police “allow” the threesome to join the investigation but initially regard them as an intrusive presence.  The killer knows of the search and is timing his murders to their work, mocking their search and investigation.

The public eventually would come to know this serial killer as “Jack the Ripper” but at this time far little is known about details and even causes for these murders; but eventually the reader will discover the minutiae behind many murders through the wiliness of these three investigators who fear neither man nor beast.

The answers to questions that arise through one’s readings are satisfying, including the more than satisfactory ending.  Stay tuned!  Kudos to the author who has fashioned the investigation of a notorious killer.

The Kennedy Debutante: A Novel by Kerri Maher

The Kennedy Debutante: A Novel. Kerri Maher. Penguin Publishing Group. October 2018. 384 pp. ISBN#: 978451492043.

Kathleen (“Kick”) Kennedy is the vivid debutante of this novel, a story that captures the essence of the Kennedy clan’s powerful presence, but which presents this famous woman as complex, fearless, socially adept, and devout. She’s a woman of her own character, living out her blend of service and compassion for and within the formidable issues of her time.

The novel begins with Kick’s “coming out” party.  Like any normal debutante, Kick loves to party and is only held in check by her mother Rose, a formidable woman who monitors “everything” about every one of her children.  Kick’s father, Joe, is obsessed with his effect and that of his children and we later see how he comes to respect Kick’s presence and then her ideas which might enhance his position as America’s Ambassador to England.  But Kick is definitely her own woman!

Two challenging issues face Kick within this account.  One is falling in love with a member of British aristocracy, Billy Harrington.  He and his family are staunchly Protestant and Kick’s equally strong practice of Catholicism seem initially like an unbreachable impasse and a painful one at that!  Their love will evolve with some wise counsel of friends, family and mentors.

In the midst of this constant partying and pleasurable activities, WWII is looming.  Hitler’s aggressive behavior is threatening the world and that includes England.  Kick’s family is deeply affected.  Kick chooses her own way of donating her time to help in the war effort.  Billy signs up for Royal service, realizing how patriotic he really is and wanting to make a difference, with a later painful cost.  Kick’s father returns to America, his doubt about Hitler making many consider him a failure.  Kick’s brothers, Joe Jr. and Jack, join the Air Force and Navy respectively.  Kick’s mentally and emotionally challenged sister, Rose, undergoes a change that is tragic for her and the entire family.  Other difficult results of the war loom large, making it almost unbearable but which the Kennedys address with amazing strength.

Almost everyone has heard of the Kennedy family.  But Kennedy Debutante… plunges the reader into the everyday, real life of Kick Kennedy and her family in a way that doesn’t hide flaws but acknowledges “service” and “duty” to the world as the sound principles that made a difference to so many – yes, politically, but also personally.  Memorable, engaging biography and history reading!!!

The Carpet Weaver of Usak by Kathryn Gauci

The Carpet Weaver of Usak. Kathryn Gauci. Ebony Publishing. September 2018. 254 pp. ISBN#:  9780648123545.

Aspasia and Saniye, the former Greek Orthodox and the other Turkish, are two friends whose love and care for each other endures the terrible Greek-Turkish conflict between 1914 and 1919. These women live in Anatolia, a place of beauty and joy, where Greek and Turkish families celebrate frequently in the town center or meydan between the towns of Stavrodomi and Pinarbasi.

Usak is the nearby center of the carpet weaving industry.  In the early period of 1914, Greeks and Turks work together to create these masterpieces that one can virtually see in the wonderful descriptions of old classical and new styles of designing and weaving rugs.  Even the methods of creation are described as women work from home and some work from factories in hand-tying the strands that eventually become a completed rug.  During those times of work, some workers have conversations that grow and unite these women stronger by the year.  Husbands, lovers, pregnancies, family lives and death are united to the point that when the wars between Greeks and Turks begin, these women help each other give birth and survive with each other when their spouses are forced to serve for opposing sides.  The carpet weaving industry almost disappears as war becomes more dangerous to all sides!

In the beginning, even in war, soldiers on both sides do their jobs.  Many die and the sorrow is evident everywhere.  But that doesn’t stop some from rescuing those who are in danger of capture.  In 1919 the war becomes worse with the arrival of the Greeks at Smyrna.  In the meydan, the Fountain of the Sun and Moon now becomes the place where punishments, mainly death sentences, carried out. The treasured unity is shattered!

Throughout this novel, many die or suffer from prevailing grief, lack of food, loss of children and spouses, and so much more.  The author does such a good job at describing each scene that the reader is drawn into the entire account by numerous images that make one think and feel.  What stands out, beside the horrors of this war that too few people are aware of, is the ties that bind these two friends and families when distrust prevails.

This is a story that readers will not soon forget, one that celebrates love, laughter, trust and endurance as well as what denies, divides and shatters tradition! Outstanding!!!