Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Illusion of Death: A Belinda Lawrence Mystery by Brian Kavanagh

Illusion of Death: A Belinda Lawrence Mystery. Brian Kavanagh. Fontaine Press.  November 2018; pb, 196 pp.; ISBN: 9781925846430.

Yes, Belinda Lawrence is back in business!  This indomitable, no-nonsense, sharp observer and investigator is quickly drawn into a case involving film fans from the Australian Centre for the Moving Image.  They’re completely involved with viewing and evaluating films from bygone errors, from the 1920s forward, more than contemporary movies, that is those usually only found on reels or tapes and early digital formats.  Some of these films apparently are extremely valuable and several characters are searching for one series of films, in particular a negative of specific film, “Soldiers of the Cross.”  One member, Max, is found beaten and dead.

The group who gather to watch and discuss all films are possible suspects in the ensuing investigation.  Each has a motive and most of them have rather vague or questionable alibis for where they were the night of Max’s death.  Complicating Belinda and her friend Bridie’s analysis and investigation, even those under suspicion continue to search for the valuable film and will be followed by a second death.  It remains unclear whether Jake’s death was a murder or suicide, with only a needle and cocaine bottle found as evidence.

While the investigations follow and a somewhat solution will be found for everyone’s questions, the dialogue between Belinda, Bridie, and the other members of the film society are fascinating to follow.  There are also some interesting conversations in which some of the characters are what this reviewer would call “benignly interested;” that is they love the films and love to talk about them; but when they are asked about the films, they appear to have a blasĂ© attitude that makes the discovery of the murderers or murderer more difficult to deduce.  It’s also quite amusing! 

The Belinda Lawrence Mystery is crafted more in the style of “who done it” mysteries that turn over every possible clue, introduce some regular and dynamic characters and allow the reader to feel involved right up to the very last page!  Some lovely descriptions of homes, gardens and architecture are included that enable the reader to envision in the Australian setting.

Illusion of Death… is a delightful, brief and more than satisfactory read!  Nicely presented, Brian Kavanagh - Keep writing!

Monday, February 4, 2019

I Owe You One: A Novel by Sophie Kinsella

I Owe You One: A Novel. Sophie Kinsella. Random House Publishing Group. February 2019. 448 pp. ISBN #: 9781524799014.

In Fixie Farr’s world, everything must be just so.  She and her family run a housewares shop that sells low-priced, practical goods.  The reality is that her mother makes all the decisions about the store, since Fixie’s father had recently passed away.  A brother, Jake, and a sister, Nicole occasionally help but that’s not really too much as Nicole is “into herself” through yoga and affirmations and Jake lives like a millionaire without the millions to go with it.

One afternoon while having a drink at a nearby cafĂ©, Fixie rescues a laptop from a nearby table when the ceiling collapses and a flood ensues.  It’s owner, Sebastian, insists he owes her one and he really means that as he hands her his card with that message written on it, “I owe you one.”

Soon thereafter Fixie’s Mom has a heart attack and Fixie’s old romance, Ryan, shows up and pours out his pitiful story.  Fixie is always trying to make things better, doomed to trying so hard that she misses the forest for the trees.  So now that Mom is moving away to get some mandatory “rest,” Fixie’s problems increase between her siblings’ ineptness or obstructive ways and the control of her Uncle who hasn’t got a clue as to what’s going on.  Uncle Ned just reminds everyone of how much he’s done for them.

Fixie will finally have enough and get to truly getting rid of the losers, even after she trusts Ryan to Sebastian’s care.  That almost turns disastrous!

I Owe You One… is a light-hearted chic lit book that makes for some pleasant reading, even if the characters are seriously lacking in responsibility.  That includes Fixie who has too much of the opposite.  All in all, though a lovely romance builds with an airy, pleasant end that Sophie Kinsella fans will love. Enjoy!

Thank you to Penguin/Random House Publishing Group and Netgalley for providing this novel for a review!

We Shall See the Sky Sparkling by Susana Aikin

We Shall See the Sky Sparkling. Susana Aikin. Kensington. January 2019. 416 pp. ISBN#:  9781496717658.

Lily Throop, despite her father’s vehement disapproval, has a dream to become a famous actress and leaves home to accomplish that plan.  Although she has no recommendations or supporting patron, she manages to obtain an apprenticeship or low-paid position as an actress at London’s Imperial Theatre.  She meets an actor/mentor, Wade, who truly helps to hone her already special skills but unfortunately she becomes a prisoner to him by way of a contract which she cannot break.  That relationship also ruins a budding romance with a poor stagehand, Chet, who loves Lily but cannot get past Wade’s hold on her.

Lily does become famous and meets numerous wealthy men and women when she is not working very hard.  Finally, she meets a Russian count, Sergei, who is also a true revolutionary supporter.  Lily by that point has heard about the playwright and teacher, Stanislavsky, who is teaching a new method of acting.  During one of Lily’s crisis scenes with Wade, Lily elopes to Russia with Sergei.  The descriptions of her journey and of Russian cities and the country are stunning and make one want to visit there.  After Lily becomes pregnant, her opportunities to return to England are stymied by the arrest of Sergei.  Because of his noble background, he is exiled to the cold Siberian countryside, one which Lily shares.  There they learn to endure and to support each other.  However, their relationship begins to dim when Sergei refuses to give up his political visionary dreams and disaster occurs.

Lily will eventually find her true love but not until a lifetime of work, travel and dedication have welded her to both her career and her child. 

This is a beautiful novel, written with great attention to setting, history and the arts.  Lily is a dynamic character who although not deeply depicted moves readers profoundly because of the depth she expresses in her art.  The Russian pre-Revolutionary period is also depicted with stark accuracy.  Lily is the one who sees they skies sparkling but also becomes the same for her devoted fans.

Nicely crafted historical fiction, Susana Aikin!