Tag Archives: mysteries

Literary Dinner and a Movie

In the remarkable 2010 BBC/PBS television series Sherlock, fictional Dr. John Watson writes his first blog, A Study in Pink, based on the 1887 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novel A Study in Scarlet.  Benedict Cumberbatch, as a rather particular version of Holmes, has replaced the original dusty library with banks of laptops and a smartphone, and the thought-inducing meerschaum pipe with nicotine patches – a three-pipe problem has now become a three-patch problem.   Have you ever wondered what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would think of all this?  Brilliant, obsessed, and quite rude his detective has remained, but have these modern innovators stretched the original Sherlock Holmes too far?  The Thursday evening Charleswood Library Mystery Book Club had jolly good fun discussing this and other aspects of the whole affair after reading the novel in The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes and enjoying a delightful evening of movie-watching and popcorn.

sherlock   annotatedsherlock


Not to be outdone, the Saturday morning Charleswood Library Book club, which tends to steer away from mysteries, tried their hand with a Dinner and a Movie night out. After reading Paula Hawkins’ popular and engaging thriller The Girl on the Train, they had a rather enjoyable night out for a screening of Emily Blunt’s movie of the same name, and a dinner afterward.

Cover image for "The Girl on the Train" by Paula Hawins.

The two book clubs at The Charleswood Library seem to be engaged in a healthy competition with one another. If one has an author visit, the other does likewise.  If one goes out for dinner and a movie, the others will head out for a more civilized theatrical version of the book they’re reading, as they did with Simon Stephens’ MTC play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, based on the novel by Mark Haddon.


At year’s end, the competition culminates in a worlds-colliding Holiday Pot Luck Dinner, where the mystery lovers, the fiction lovers, and the cross-overs all bring the most delicious, warm, and satisfying book discussion of the year. This wonderful event brings to mind the 1942 Nabokov poem A Literary Dinner, which will be read at next December’s meeting:

Come here, said my hostess, her face making room
for one of those pink introductory smiles
that link, like a valley of fruit trees in bloom,
the slopes of two names.
I want you, she murmured, to eat Dr. James.

I was hungry. The Doctor looked good. He had read
the great book of the week and had liked it, he said,
because it was powerful. So I was brought
a generous helping. His mauve-bosomed wife
kept showing me, very politely, I thought,
the tenderest bits with the point of her knife.
I ate–and in Egypt the sunsets were swell;
The Russians were doing remarkably well;
had I met a Prince Poprinsky, whom he had known
in Caparabella, or was it Mentone?
They had traveled extensively, he and his wife;
her hobby was People, his hobby was Life.
All was good and well cooked, but the tastiest part
was his nut-flavored, crisp cerebellum. The heart
resembled a shiny brown date,
and I stowed all the studs on the edge of my plate.* 


~ Ian

*This poem can be found in Poems and Problems by Vladimir Nabokov, p. 152.


Mysteries becoming Movies

If you’re not currently reading a (hopefully) great mystery novel this summer, you may be planning to soon as you head off to the cottage or beach, or enter a well-earned staycation at home. But which mystery books are being turned into worthwhile movies as we speak? What are the films on the horizon that may tempt us to read the book now – potentially during this summer’s vacation – before we see it on Netflix or at the theatre down the road?

Here are just a few of these mysteries-turned-movies that will soon be released. When I say ‘soon’, this may mean a 2016 release date!

One of my most anticipated movies is the new Sherlock Holmes movie. No, not one of the Benedict Cumberbatch TV movies, although they are excellent, especially if you like frenetic place, and neither is it a new installment of the Robert Downey Jr. version that leaves me underwhelmed. I’m talking here about an Ian McKellen – of Gandolf fame – Holmes, who is offering his charming “gravitas” to the role. I’m hoping for great things!

MV5BMTg5MjE0Njk0MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTgwMjQ4NTE@._V1_SX214_AL_Mr. Holmes based on the books by Arthur Conan Doyle
(Starring Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Hiroyuki Sanada)
“A new twist on the world’s most famous detective. 1947, an aging Sherlock Holmes returns from a journey to Japan, where, in search of a rare plant with powerful restorative qualities, he has witnessed the devastation of nuclear warfare. Now, in his remote seaside farmhouse, Holmes faces the end of his days tending to his bees, with only the company of his housekeeper and her young son, Roger. Grappling with the diminishing powers of his mind, Holmes comes to rely upon the boy as he revisits the circumstances of the unsolved case that forced him into retirement, and searches for answers to the mysteries of life and love — before it’s too late.”

519-o3RWj3L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Adderall Diaries: A Memoir by Stephen Elliott
(Starring Amber Heard, James Franco, Christian Slater)
“Part memoir, part true-crime expose, this book balances two distinct stories: that of the Adderall-addicted author Stephen Elliot and his estranged relationship with his father; and coverage of the trial of computer programmer Hans Reiser, who was accused of killing his mail-order Russian bride/ex-wife, Nina. Ultimately, this novel explores the reality of addiction, the mind of a narcissistic killer, and what it means to really get to know your true self.”

1405885413062The Martian by Andy Weir
(Starring Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, and Matt Damon)
“For fans of this year’s Gravity, Andy Weir’s tale of astronaut Mark Watney, who becomes the first person to walk on Mars and likely the first to die, is for you. The book chronicles his struggle to survive as he’s stranded on the deserted planet for over a year.”

41bWDtBLTLLFrankenstein by Mary Shelley
(Starring Andrew Scott, Daniel Radcliffe, and James McAvoy)
“It’d be good to brush up on the classic Frankenstein tale before watching this contemporary film adaptation that’s told from the perspective of the hunchbacked young assistant, Igor. Here, we get an inside look at the dark origins of the conflicted young man and the early beginnings of his friendship with the young medical student, Viktor Von Frankenstein. Definitely a book (and movie) to enjoy with the lights on.” Note: The movie will be titled Victor Frankenstein.

81sc7DMQEVL._SL1500_Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
(Starring Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Nicholas Hoult)
“(This) year’s Gone Girl, this dark novel follows the story of Libby Day, whose mother and sisters were murdered in ‘The Satan Sacrifice’ of Kansas when she was just 7 years old. Day testified against her 15-year-old brother and is responsible for putting him in prison for life. Now, 24 years later, a secret society obsessed with absolving her brother of the crime hires Day to reconnect with the individuals associated with the crime and unearth what really happened.”

sand-1517641-1Cell by Stephen King
(Starring Samuel L. Jackson, John Cusack, and Isabelle Fuhrman)
The Walking Dead enthusiasts will be sucked into this horror/sci-fi tale where a signal transmitted through cell phones wipes the brains of millions of people around the world, turning them into animalistic zombies. We follow along as Clayton Riddel, a comic book artist who wasn’t affected by the plague, struggles to survive as he searches for his estranged wife and young son.”


MV5BNTUzNzczODQ1OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDkxNzgxNjE@._V1_SX214_AL_The Secret in their Eyes by Eduardo Sacheri
(Starring Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, Dean Norris)
“A tight-knit team of FBI investigators, along with their District Attorney supervisor, is suddenly torn apart when they discover that one of their own teenage daughters has been brutally murdered.”

black-mass-book-cover1Black Mass by Dick Lehr and Gerald O’Neill
(Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Johnny Depp, and Joel Edgerton)
“This true-crime novel tells the story of South Boston brothers, Jim “Whitey” Bulger, a notorious gangster, and Billy Bulger, a political bigwig and president of the state Senate. When their childhood friend and now FBI agent, John Connolly, returns to Boston in the ’70s to take down the Italian Mafia, Whitey gets pulled into being an informant in exchange for protection. But things quickly spiral out of control when Whitey starts manipulating Connolly and a group of corrupt FBI agents, leading to one of the worst scandals in FBI history.”

86236Into the Forest by Jean Hegland
(Starring Ellen Page, Evan Rachel Wood, Max Minghella)
“In the not too distant future, two young women who live in a remote ancient forest discover the world around them is on the bring of an apocalypse. Informed only by rumor, they fight intruders, disease, loneliness & starvation.”

missperegrine_334x518Miss Peregrine’s Home for Unusual Children by Ransom Riggs
(Starring Evan Green, Samuel L. Jackson, Asa Butterfield – 2016 release)
“Teenager Jacob follows clues that take him to a mysterious island, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores the abandoned bedrooms and hallways, he discovers that its former occupants were far more than peculiar; they possessed incredible powers. And they may still be alive.”

Room by Emma Donoghue 
(Starring Brie Larson, William H. Macy, Jacob Tremblay – release TBA)
About a kidnapped woman living in captivity in a small room with her 5-year-old son. “Though the story’s chilling circumstances reflects the horrors endured by tabloid-famous abductees, Donoghue avoids all sensationalism. Instead, she gracefully distills what it means to be a mother – and what it’s like for a child whose entire world measures just 11 x 11.”

– Lyle

Reading for the Long Weekend

The May long weekend is here! A time for gardening, sunning, camping, hiking, partying, sleeping, cycling, reading, and more (Okay some of that is dependent on the weather!). Whatever you have in mind to do this ‘unofficial’ start of Winnipeg summer, I hope it contains some form of rest. Even when we are trying to relax our mind can easily race — overthinking some troubling  issue or another. I find reading is a great way to leave my usual ways of thinking aside, and focus on another, usually more interesting, narrative. Give regular thinking a break!

But what to read this long weekend? I compiled a random set of books (and movies) that contain only two unifying threads: the title has the word ‘weekend’ in it and the item is borrowable from Winnipeg Public Library. As you may discover, having ‘weekend’ in a title doesn’t guarantee a book about relaxing with a mug of coffee and a purring cat in the sun room. Not that that’s a bad thing. ‘Weekend’ is a portal into many interesting worlds.


The Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray
“Who doesn’t dream of writing a novel while holding on to a day job. Ray and coauthor Bret Norris can help readers do just that, with this proven practical and accessible step-by-step guide to completing a novel in just a year’s worth of weekends.”

index.aspxWeekend Cooking by Ricardo Larrivée
“Indispensable inspiration for weekend chefs. This welcome edition has 140 recipes, with wine recommendations, dedicated to weekend gatherings…The recipes are straightforward yet allow for improvisation.”

Learn to Play Golf in a Weekend
by Edward Craig

“Anyone wanting to take the direct route to mastering golf will appreciate this professional, no-nonsense book. Complete with straightforward, jargon-free instructions, it leads readers through all the basics of the game with the aim of producing competent players in just two days.”

the_long_weekendThe Long Weekend by Julie Ellis
“A group of old friends, who knew each other during the war, are reunited. They are all, in their different ways, involved in the arts. But when the Hollywood big-shot turns up, full of his success, the others start to ponder what they’ve accomplished or haven’t.”

Llearntodrawearn to Draw in a Weekend by Richard S. Taylor
“Perfect for beginners and leisure artists, this book guides the reader from the most basic shapes and objects through to fully developed and varied projects. Readers will find encouraging advice and instruction for a variety of drawing media, including graphite pencils, colored pencil, Conte, pastel charcoal and more.”

mad_weekendMad Weekend by Roddy Doyle
“Dave, Pat and Ben have been best friends since they were kids. They do everything together, and they all love Liverpool FC. On a trip to see their favourite team in action, they have a few too many drinks before the match. But when it is time to leave for Anfield, Ben is nowhere to be found.”

outdoor_wood_projectsOutdoor Wood Products: 24 projects you can build in a weekend by Steve Cory

“…24 projects for the backyard and garden that can be completed with basic DIY tooling, inexpensive materials, and beginner skills — and that should take no more than a weekend to build. (Some) projects are constructed from reclaimed or recycled wood.”

weekend_handmadeWeekend handmade: more than 40 projects + ideas for inspired crafting by Kelly Wilkinson
“…author Kelly Wilkinson encourages readers to celebrate the joy of crafting, both for the satisfaction of making something by hand, and because the finished items serve as reminders of time taken to slow down and create – no matter the day of the week.”

Wow, this is a long “weekend” title:

The Citizen Kane crash courseindex-1.aspx in cinematography: a wildly fictional account of how Orson Welles learned everything about the art of cinematography in half an hour. Or was it a weekend? by David Worth
“This book brings to life the 60-plus year urban legend of the infamous weekend between Orson Welles and the Oscar winning cinematographer, Gregg Toland (Wuthering Heights, Citizen Kane). Guaranteed to provoke controversy as it instructs and entertains…”

index-2.aspx60 Easy Suppers: enjoy deliciously tasty recipes for midweek meals and relaxed weekend dishes, shown in over 280 step-by-step photographs by Leicestershire Wigston
“These delicious supper recipes are perfect for anyone with a busy life who enjoys good food without effort. Packed with dishes that are both easy to prepare and easy to serve, this is a highly practical book full of recipes. Chapters include vegetable dishes, rice and pasta, pies, fish and shellfish, and poultry and game.”

index-3.aspxA Weekend with Degas by Rosabianca Skira-Venturi
“The nineteenth-century French artist talks about his life and work as if entertaining the reader for the weekend. Includes reproductions of the artist’s work and a list of museums where works are on display.”


index-1.aspxThe Lost Weekend (DVD) directed by Billy Wilder
“The heartrending Hollywood masterpiece about alcoholism, depicting a single weekend in the life of a writer, who cannot believe he’s addicted.”


These last two unfortunately are not currently found in WPL’s collection. But I have made requests that they someday will be. They sound intriguing.

Tthe_long_weekendhe Long Weekend by Savita Kalhan
“Sam knows that he and his friend Lloyd made a colossal mistake when they accepted the ride home. They have ended up in a dark mansion in the middle of nowhere with a man who means to harm them. But Sam doesn’t know how to get them out. They were trapped, then separated. Now they are alone. Will either of them get out alive? This gripping and hypnotic thriller will have you reading late into the night.”

the_lost_weekendThe Lost Weekend by Charles Jackson
“So powerful and understanding that many readers will find themselves riveted to their chairs until the end… A mystery story, a horror story and a revelation of the forces that can move a man; a journey into fear, into the abyss.”


Enjoy your weekend!
– Lyle

A blog post 65 Million Years in the Making

“Now, eventually you do plan to have dinosaurs on your dinosaur tour, right?”
– Dr. Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park


It’s cool to talk about dinosaurs again, you guys! On June 12th, Universal Pictures will be releasing Jurassic World. Jurassic World is a direct sequel to 1993’s original Jurassic Park, pretty much ignoring the events of Jurassic Parks 2 and 3. This is probably a smart move, as I tend to remember those second and third movies being sad echoes of Spielberg’s brilliant original masterpiece. I still remember seeing the original Jurassic Park at the Grant Park cinemas. It was the first movie I saw after those theatres converted to digital sound, and I’ll never forget the scene when the T-Rex attacks and the first sign of it was when those cups of water started to shake. The sound was so crisp and clear in the theatre that our seats actually rumbled a bit.

But enough about me and my sudden geeking out about Jurassic Park. Did I mention I was at opening night when they re-released the movie in 3D a couple of years back? And I don’t even LIKE 3D. I even have a Jurassic Park coffee mug.

So to celebrate the 12 year old in all of us, let’s take a quick look at some of WPL’s dinosaur related fiction in preparation for Jurassic World. See you opening night!


Jurassic Park: Michael Crichton

Well it’s probably best to start with the original novel. Arguably Crichton’s most famous novel, it tells the story of a mysterious theme park on an island off of Costa Rica on the eve of it’s opening. I’m trying to stay spoiler free, but is there such a thing as spoiling something that’s 25 years old and has had movies and book sequels spun off of it? Okay, let’s just say there are dinosaurs on the island and stuff happens.


The Lost World: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Best known for creating Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Conan Doyle also wrote a series of fantasy novels. The first one in this series was called The Lost World and followed the adventures of Professor Challenger as he led an expedition to a plateau in the Amazon Basin where prehistoric creatures have somehow survived. This series of books became very influential for other 20th century fantasy writers including Edgar Rice Burroughs and Ray Bradbury.  J.J. Abrams said that The Lost World was one of the inspirations for his TV Series Lost, and Michael Crichton himself paid tribute to it by calling his 1995 Jurassic Park sequel The Lost World.

Dinosaur Summer: Greg Bear

Another homage to Conan Doyle, Greg Bear sets this novel in Conan Doyle’s “Lost World” universe. Dinosaurs are real and have been “domesticated” to the point where they are a part of “dinosaur circuses.” The plot of this novel concerns an expedition to return the remaining dinosaurs from the last dinosaur circus to the plateau in the Amazon Basin where they came from. I’m sure it all goes fine.

Journey to the Centre of the Earth: Jules Verne

Another scientifically questionable tale ( I guess that’s why they call it FANTASY), this novel is about an expedition to the centre of the Earth that starts through an Icelandic volcano. Now I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty sure going into a volcano, especially one of those disruptive Icelandic ones, is a bad idea. But guess what? They are okay and there are all kinds of prehistoric things living down there. It’s a pretty fun tale if you just decide to go with it.

Dinosaur Thunder: James F. David

Speaking of “going with it,” Dinosaur Thunder makes Jurassic Park look like a PBS documentary. This book has so many temporal disturbances and alternative timelines it even has a T-Rex living on the Moon, you guys. It’s a pretty high concept thriller, but if dinosaurs are your thing, check it out.

Kamandi Archives: Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby was a giant in the world of 20th century comics, creating (or co-creating) most of the original Marvel lineup including Captain America, The Avengers, and the Fantastic Four. He also worked for DC comics where he created Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth. Kamandi actually takes place in the distant future, after “The Great Disaster” reduces the Earth to a prehistoric state. Granted, there aren’t dinosaurs as much as super-intelligent mutated animals in this series, but it was an excuse to mention Jack Kirby.

Anonymous Rex: Eric Garcia

It seems like I’ve been listing these titles in order of “most plausible” to “least plausible.” If this is the case then let’s finish up with Anonymous Rex, possibly the least plausible of the whole bunch. The idea in this story is that the dinosaurs only faked their extinction and live among humans in latex costumes. Vincent Rubio is one of these disguised Dinos ( a Velociraptor, no less!) who also happens to work as a Los Angeles P.I. The story itself is quite funny and fast-paced, and might be just the thing for a quick backyard read this summer. It even hatched a sequel called Hot and Sweaty Rex. If you read the first one, you might as well keep going.


What’s New This March?

New library materials arrive every day, and it can sometimes seem overwhelming when you’re looking for something new to read. I thought I would help by putting together a list of the books I’m most looking forward to this month. Hopefully you will too.

Dark rooms Secret History meets Sharp Objects in Dark Rooms by Lili Anolik, a stunning debut about murder and glamour set in the ambiguous and claustrophobic world of an exclusive New England prep school. Death sets the plot in motion: the murder of Nica Baker, beautiful, wild, enigmatic, and only 16. The crime is solved, and quickly – a lonely classmate, unrequited love, a suicide note confession – but memory and instinct won’t allow Nica’s older sister, Grace, to accept the case as closed. Working at the private high school from which she recently graduated, Grace becomes increasingly obsessed with identifying and punishing the real killer.

17 carnations17 Carnations: The royals, the Nazis and the biggest cover-up in history, by Andrew Morton, is the story of the feckless Edward VIII, Duke of Windsor, and his wife Wallis Simpson, whose affair with Joachim von Ribbentrop embroiled the duke in a German plot to use him as a puppet king during their takeover of the British Empire. The Duke’s collaboration with Hitler had resulted in piles of correspondence between them; this damning correspondence could forever tarnish the reputation of the royal family. For the first time in history, the story of the cover-up of those letters, starting with a daring heist–by order of Churchill and the King–to bring the letters back safely to England, out of American hands is revealed.

pocket wifeSusan Crawford makes her debut with The Pocket Wife, a stylish psychological thriller. Dana Catrell is shocked when her neighbor Celia is brutally murdered. To Dana’s horror, she was the last person to see Celia alive. Dana’s mind is rapidly deteriorating. Suffering from a debilitating mania, the by-product of her bipolar disorder, she has holes in her memory, including what happened when she saw Celia the day of the murder. As evidence starts to point in her direction, Dana struggles to clear her name before she descends into madness. Dana couldn’t be the killer. Or could she?

life from scratchLife from Scratch: A memoir of food, family, and forgiveness is a culinary journey like no other. Over the course of 195 weeks, food writer and blogger Sasha Martin set out to cook – and eat–a meal from every country in the world. As cooking unlocked the memories of her rough-and-tumble childhood and the loss and heartbreak that came with it, Martin became more determined than ever to find peace and elevate her life through the prism of food and world cultures. Martin’s heartfelt, brutally honest memoir reveals the power of cooking to bond, to empower, and to heal – and celebrates the simple truth that happiness is created from within.

clash of eaglesClash of Eagles by Alan Smale is perfect for fans of military and historical fiction–including novels by such authors as Bernard Cornwell, Naomi Novik, and Harry Turtledove. This stunning work of alternate history imagines a world in which the Roman Empire has not fallen and the North American continent has just been discovered. A legion under the command of general Gaius Marcellinus invades the newly-discovered North American continent. But Marcellinus and his troops have woefully underestimated the fighting prowess of the Native American inhabitants. When Gaius is caught behind enemy lines and spared, he must re-evaluate his allegiances and find a new place in this strange land.

better on toastBetter On Toast: Full meals on a slice of bread—with a little room for dessert, by Jill A. Donenfeld, features delicious, quick, easy-to-follow recipes for toasts with every possible topping – from hot to cold and savoury to sweet. Anyone can make delicious toasts, no matter his or her level of experience or kitchen size. Whether you use thick-cut French bread, slices of whole wheat, or her gluten-free bread recipe, Jill puts emphasis on flavour, using quality, wholesome ingredients to make each recipe stand out. You can enjoy these elegant yet simple meals anytime and for any occasion, using classic ingredients in new ways and playing with interesting ingredients you’ve always wondered about.

girl underwaterGirl Underwater, by Claire Kells, sees college student Avery is on her way home to Boston for the holidays with some fellow members of her swim team. When their plane goes down in a Colorado mountain lake, she and the other four survivors fight to stay alive in an icy wilderness. Following their rescue, Avery must come to terms with the crash, the secret she is keeping, and some specific new phobias, such as airports and water. She is also torn between two men: boyfriend Lee, who wasn’t aboard the plane and doesn’t know how to help her; and teammate and fellow survivor Colin, who understands the trauma she endured. Skillfully interspersing flashbacks with current events, debut novelist Kells has written an absorbing tale that will grip anyone who enjoys survival stories or psychological dramas. It is also a great choice for readers looking for new adult fiction with a bit more adventure.

strangler vineThe Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter was longlisted for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. This dazzling historical thriller is set in the untamed wilds of 19th-century colonial India. William Avery is a young soldier with few prospects; Jeremiah Blake is a secret political agent gone native, a genius at languages and disguises, disenchanted with the whole ethos of British rule, but who cannot resist the challenge of an unresolved mystery. What starts as a wild goose chase for this unlikely pair – trying to track down a missing writer who lifts the lid on Calcutta society – becomes very much more sinister.

reluctant midwifeThe Reluctant Midwife by Patricia Harman is the heartfelt sequel to Midwife of Hope River. The Great Depression has hit West Virginia hard. Men are out of work; women struggle to feed hungry children. Luckily, Nurse Becky Myers has returned to care for them. While she can handle most situations, Becky is still uneasy helping women deliver their babies. For these mothers-to-be, she relies on an experienced midwife, her dear friend Patience Murphy. But becoming a midwife and ushering precious new life into the world is not Becky’s only challenge. Her skills and courage will be tested when a calamitous forest fire blazes through a Civilian Conservation Corps camp.

mademoiselle chanelFor readers of Paris Wife and Z comes Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner,  a vivid novel full of drama, passion, tragedy, and beauty that stunningly imagines the life of iconic fashion designer Coco Chanel. Born into rural poverty, Gabrielle Chanel and her siblings are sent to orphanage after their mother’s death. The sisters nurture Gabrielle’s exceptional sewing skills, a talent that will propel the willful young woman into a life far removed from the drudgery of her childhood. Transforming herself into Coco, the petite brunette burns with ambition, and an incandescence that draws a wealthy gentleman who will become the love of her life.


Detective Work

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries Series 1 Box Set CoverLast year I stumbled upon the Australian television series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. Phryne Fisher is a detective in the 1920s in Melbourne, which is an interesting change from the historical British detective murder mysteries I’m used to.  Miss Fisher grew up very poor in Melbourne with her sister, Jane, who disappeared mysteriously at a young age.  When the Great War ended the lives of several of her English royal relatives, Phryne and her family were suddenly plucked from poverty to riches and royalty.  Phryne’s parents shipped her off to boarding school in England and she spent several years in Paris living la vie boheme.  At the beginning of the series she returns to England because she learns that the man who was imprisoned for the disappearance of her sister is possibly going to be released and she wants to make sure that it will never happen.  In the meantime, her curious nature leads her to start working as a private detective, going after illegal abortionists and human traffickers.   She ends up gathering a little family around her, comprised of two taxi drivers called Bert and Cec; Janie, an orphan girl who she rescues from a cruel innkeeper who was working her to the bone; and Dot, a maid who Phryne hires after being unjustly fired from her last job.  Phryne is often butting heads with the reserved and handsome Detective Jack Robinson, and their chemistry is irresistible.  However, Phryne is not sitting around and pining.  She drives a fast car, wears amazing outfits, drinks whiskey and takes many lovers.  She never forgets her less glamorous roots and always lends a hand to those, especially women, who are less fortunate than her.

index (3)You can borrow both seasons of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries from the library.  The third season is in the process of being filmed, so in the meantime I found out that the series was based on novels by Kerry Greenwood and decided to start reading.  The books are different than the television adaptation—there is no missing sister and the romantic tension between Phryne and Jack is non-existent—Jack is middle aged and happily married, and a lot more willing to accept Phryne’s help right off the bat.  Phryne is also a little younger in the books and a little less level-headed, though she is still just as eager to help those who need it.  She is still a fan of fast cars, whiskey and handsome men.  Both the show and the books don’t shy away from difficult topics (such as the aforementioned illegal abortionist) as well as racism, sexism and homophobia. If you’re like me and eagerly awaiting the third season, I recommend reading the books to help with the wait.

The No. 1 La{3B05C3DD-4145-4442-8C9F-5AF3F40EF584}Img200dies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith is another book series that has also been made into an excellent, albeit unfortunately short -lived television series.  The series was shot on location in Botswana, which makes for some stunning cinematography.  This is another case where I started to read the books after I saw the show, and even though there were only seven episodes, the actors did so well that they are firmly who I see in my head when I read the books (though there are a few characters in the show which I was a bit disappointed to find out were not in the books).  Mma Precious Ramotswe decides to open a detective agency, the first woman in Botswana to do so.  She escaped an abusive husband who caused the death of her unborn child, and recently mourned the death of her father who raised her alone.  She hires Mma Grace Makutsi to be her secretary, and the two women become friends.  Mma Makutsi starts off as Mma Ramotswe’s secretary but ends up helping her with cases and opens a typing school for men.  The sense of place really lends to the stories, and you learn a lot about Botswana’s culture and traditions as seen through the eyes of the characters.  Unlike Phryne Fisher, Mma Ramotswe normally does not often solve murders and only sometimes works criminal cases (though in one book she goes after a child who is suspected to have been taken by a witch doctor for sinister purposes).   For example, she has a close relationship with the local orphanage and helps its matron figure out the mysterious background of the orphan who appears to have been raised by lions.

As much as I love Agatha Christie and “who put arsenic in the tea” types of mysteries, it is interesting to discover mysteries with well-developed female characters that take place in a different location and that tackle heavier and unusual subjects.

Other cool female detectives with interesting and unique stories:

index (1)

Veronica Mars

index (2)

Joan Watson Elementary








Books turning into Movies in 2015

Watching your favourite book as a movie is like watching your child turn into something you weren’t expecting. You want to hold on to what was, but you know you have to let what “is” be free.

Recently I watched the Danish film adaptation of Jussi Adler-Olsen’s crime-thriller The Keeper of Lost Causes. The movie is actually quite good, but I first cringed when I saw the film version of my favourite character, Carl Morck the bumbling, wildly sarcastic cop who solves cold cases. My imagination of who he  needed to be was retooled when I saw him on the screen – he wasn’t as funny and awkward as I thought he was. But he was still Carl, a newly reimagined character who had more subtle contours in his personality. I learned to like the new Carl, and that made all the difference. By the way, I recommend the movie (but only if you like subtitles)!

Here are some notable books being made into (hopefully) interesting movies this year:


Serena: “Newlyweds George and Serena move from Boston to North Carolina in 1929 to start a timber business. The pair are ruthless in building their empire, and when Serena finds out that she can’t have children, she sets out to kill George’s illegitimate son.” Based on the novel from noted Southern author Ron Rash.


The Zookeeper’s Wife: “This true story follows the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo, who helped to save hundreds of people from the Nazis in World War II by smuggling them into empty cages.” Based on the novel by Diane Ackerman.

Walk-Woods-Bill-Bryson A Walk in the Woods: “The humorous memoir follows an Iowa-born man who returns to America after 20 years in England to walk the Appalachian Trail.” Based on the memoir by Bill Bryson.



Silence: “Set in 17th-century Japan, the book follows the story of Jesuits who are trying to bring Christianity into Japan.” Based on the book by Shusaku Endu.


The Secret in Their Eyes: “An M15 agent trying to solve a murder works for the FBI and uncovers a terrifying new truth.” Based on the book by Eduardo Sacheri.



Room: “A 5-year-old boy grows up in a small shed, which becomes the only world he knows because his mother hides the truth — they’re being held captive.” Based on the novel by Emma Donoghue.


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: “In this YA novel, a teenager named Jacob explores the ruins of a strange house on an island near Wales.” Based on the book by Ransom Riggs. The movie may be delayed until 2016.

Martian-Andy-WeirThe Martian: “Astronaut Mark Watney gets stranded on Mars and must survive alone while NASA tries to rescue him in this sci-fi novel.” Based on the fantastic novel, in more ways than one, by Andy Weir.


A Hologram for the King: “A struggling businessman heads to Saudi Arabia for a fight to save his finances, hoping to steer clear of foreclosure and pay his daughter’s college tuition.” Based on the book by Dave Eggers.

Frankenstein (Movie title is ‘Victor Frankenstein’): “Told from Igor’s perspective, we see the troubled young assistant’s dark origins, his redemptive friendship with the young medical student Victor Von Frankenstein, and become eyewitnesses to the emergence of how Frankenstein became the man – and the legend – we know today.”  Note that Igor is not actually in the original novel but a welcome addition in the early movie versions.

Far from the Madding Crowd: “A young woman named Bathsheba Everdene has to deal with the difficult, sometimes tragic consequences of being in a relationship with three different suitors at the same time.” Based on the novel by Thomas Hardy.

Dark-Places-Gillian-FlynnDark Places: “This thriller from the author of Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn) tells the story of Libby Day, whose mother and sisters were murdered at the family’s farmhouse when she was only seven. Her testimony sent her older brother, Ben, to prison for life, and 25 years later, Libby decides to meet with the Kill Club, a group of crime enthusiasts who investigate the case and force her to rethink what really happened.”

A Book of Common Prayer: “An American woman travels to Central America to reunite with her fugitive daughter. The country is on the brink of a violent revolution, and she is anything but prepared for what she sees.” Based on the novel by Joan Didion.

Black Mass: “The true crime novel follows the infamous mobster Whitey Bulger, the head of the Irish mob in the ’70s, and his relationship with childhood friend John Connolly, who grew up to work for the FBI.” Based on the novel by Dick Lehr and Gerald O’Neill.

The Secret Scripture: “A 100-year-old mental patient, Roseanne McNulty investigates her past and unearths some troubling memories.” Based on the novel by Sebastian Barry.

More movie-based-on-book descriptions at PopSugar.

– Lyle

Summer is a time for mystery

The mystery book columnist for the Globe and Mail, Margaret Cannon, recently said, “Nothing goes better with warm, sunny, summer days than gory, urban mystery novels.”  If you agree with that fine sentiment you may like some of these new or seems-like-new mysteries, perfect for reading at the lake or mosquito-free sun room, for when your regular work can wait:

Gone Girl by Gillian FlynnGone-Girl-Gillian-Flynn

This 2012 mystery thriller, to be released as a movie this October, is the one I’m tackling the first part of the summer. Recently married Nick and Amy, having both lost their jobs in the literary world in New York, move back to his hometown in Missouri to start a new life. Cracks in their relationship are revealed before she goes missing one unassuming day, after which their worlds go completely topsy-turvy. Because the story is told from both his and her points of view – and they are not the same – readers have the freedom to make interesting observations that are only implied in the text. Please don’t tell me how it ends!


The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

Cormoran Strike is a likeable misfit of a London private detective created by J.K. Rowling, I mean ‘Robert Galbraith’, her pseudonym. ‘His’ first novel The Cuckoo’s Calling was quite the page-turner so I’m looking forward to the second. Strike, by the way, lives with several strikes against him, including few clients, a large debt, no home due to a break-up, and he has lost a leg in the Afghan war.

“When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days–as he has done before–and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home. But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives–meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced. When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before… A compulsively readable crime novel with twists at every turn….” (Goodreads)

p.txtThe Son by Jo Nesbo

“A serial killer is at work in Oslo, and a maverick cop with his share of personal demons is on his trail. But beneath that surface, there is a complex psychological thriller churning its way into the reader’s nightmares. Sonny Lofthus is in prison for crimes he didn’t commit but for which he has agreed to take the fall in exchange for an unending supply of heroin. The drugs are Sonny’s way of dealing with the knowledge that his father, an apparent suicide, was a dirty cop. As the novel begins, however, Sonny has new information about his father’s death and has engineered a daring escape from prison. His revenge-fueled plan is to kill those responsible for the crimes he was convicted of by re-creating the murders with the real killers now the victims. A terrific thriller but also a tragic, very moving story of intertwined characters swerving desperately to avoid the dead ends in their paths.” (Discover)


Body Count by Barbara Nadel

“Any bloody death will lead Inspectors Ikmen and Skuleyman out onto the dark streets of Istanbul. On 21 January, a half-decapitated corpse in the poor multicultural district of Tarlabasi poses a particularly frustrating and gruesome mystery. But as the months pass and the violence increases, it turns into a hunt for that rare phenomenon in the golden city on the Bosphorus: a serial killer. Desperate to uncover the killer’s twisted logic as the body count rises, Ikmen and Skuleyman find only more questions. How are the victims connected? What is the significance of the number 21? And how many people must die before they find the answers?” (Discover)

death of a nightingaleDeath of a Nightingale by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnet Friis

Protecting the young daughter of an illegal immigrant who has escaped police custody in the aftermath of a brutal murder, Danish Red Cross nurse Nina Borg struggles with a belief in the woman’s innocence as she learns about her violent past. (publisher)

18775152Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

“In a mega-stakes, high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely and winning heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands. In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes. In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the perp; and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy. Mr. Mercedes is Stephen’s first ‘hard-boiled detective tale.’ It will transport you into a vibrant and dangerous world filled with gritty characters living on the bleeding edge of reason. Be prepared.” (GoodReads) 

 The Farm by Tom Rob Smithindex-1.aspx

“Caught between his parents, and unsure of who to believe or trust, Daniel becomes his mother’s unwilling judge and jury as she tells him an urgent tale of secrets, of lies, of a crime and a conspiracy that implicates his own father.” (publisher)

imageloaderVertigo 42 by Martha Grimes

“At Vertigo 42, a bar high above London’s financial district, Richard Jury meets Tom Williamson – a friend of a friend who is convinced his wife, Tess, was murdered 17 years ago. Tess’s death was ruled accidental – a fall caused by vertigo – but Jury agrees to re-examine the case. A young girl’s fatal fall at a children’s party 22 years ago at Tom and Tess’s home may be connected. After an elegantly dressed woman falls from a tower near a pub that Jury and his cronies frequent, and her estranged husband is later found dead, Jury begins to suspect that the now grown ‘children’ from Tess’s ill-fated party are the key to solving these interwoven mysteries.” (publisher)

Enjoy your reading this summer.

– Lyle

New Futuristic Thrillers

In this paranoid yet still somewhat-hopeful age, fiction of the “futuristic thriller” bent take us to places we would perhaps rather not be but which we can’t stop imagining. Unworldly space travel. Technological advancement. End of the world fears. What better way to explore our shared images of the future than through the safety of reading? Here are a few delightful books that have recently been published in this compelling vein:

SafariScreenSnapz002The Martian by Andy Weir
This wild ride considers what could happen if a Martian wind storm scares a handful of astronauts off the red planet — but they leave one of their own behind, mistakenly believing him dead. Can he survive until eventual rescue, that is, if anybody on earth ever realizes he is alive? The book, truth be told, exercises your powers of credulity, but I think it’s still worth the roller coaster of adventure it takes you on!

SafariScreenSnapz003The Giver is an older classic by Lois Lowry (1993) made into a promising new movie (August 2014) directed by Phillip Noyce, with screenplay by Michael Mitnick. The book “is the quintessential dystopian novel… Jonas’s world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community. When Jonas turns 12 he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.”

I vividly remember the palpable tension as characters considered the risk of making choices against the tyranny in power. Looking forward to the movie!

index.aspxAnnihilation by Jeff Vandermeer. “Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization, and the government is involved in sending secret missions to explore Area X. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer. Annihilation opens with the twelfth expedition. The group is composed of four women, including our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all of their observations, scientific and otherwise; and, above all, to avoid succumbing to the unpredictable effects of Area X itself. What they discover shocks them: first, a massive topographic anomaly that does not appear on any map; and second, life forms beyond anything they’re equipped to understand. But it’s the surprises that came across the border with them that change everything—the secrets of the expedition members themselves, including our narrator. What do they really know about Area X—and each other?”

index-1.aspxThe Omega Project by Steve Alten. “On the brink of a disaster that could end all human life on earth, tech genius Robert Eisenbraun joins a team of scientists on a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa to mine a rare ore that would provide for Earth’s long-term energy needs. But as he and the rest of the team train under the Antarctic ice shelf in preparation for the long journey, trouble erupts, and before they embark Eisenbraun is the odd man out, put into cold sleep against his will… When Robert wakes, he finds the ship deserted and not functional. He escapes to the surface of an Earth terribly changed. The plan has gone horribly wrong, but as he adapts to a hostile environment, he realizes that there is still a way to accomplish what his mission had set out to achieve. But he also discovers that he faces a new adversary of the most unlikely sort. For now,  his own survival and that of the woman whose love has sustained him in his darkest hours depend on the defeat of a technological colossus partly of his own making.”

index-2.aspxInflux by Daniel Suarez. The bestselling author of Daemon — “the cyberthriller against which all others will be measured” according to Publishers Weekly — imagines a world in which decades of technological advances have been suppressed in an effort to prevent disruptive change.

“Are smart phones really humanity’s most significant innovation since the moon landings? Or can something else explain why the bold visions of the 20th century–fusion power, genetic enhancements, artificial intelligence, cures for common disease, extended human life, and a host of other world-changing advances–have remained beyond our grasp? Why has the high-tech future that seemed imminent in the 1960’s failed to arrive?

Perhaps it did arrive…but only for a select few.”

Happy e-reading!



These books were borrowed a lot last year!

2012 was a great year for reading library books! The library loaned out well over 5 million items – books, CDs, DVDs, audiobooks, eBooks – to thousands upon thousands of Winnipeg Public Library members. That’s a lot of borrowing, and reading, and listening! But which books were enjoyed the most by you, the reading public? If the “top circulating adult books” list is any indication, you really, really like thrillers, mysteries, and historical dramas.

Here is a quick survey of the most borrowed adult books. (The top children’s books borrowed in 2012 may be highlighted in a later blog post; stay tuned.)


1. Taking the top spot is Suzanne Collins’ 2008 gripping, dystopian young adult novel The Hunger Games, which inspired the popular movie. It’s written in the voice of a brave 16-year-old girl who gets entangled in the deadliest reality TV show of the future. Hold onto your seats.

2. UnknownSecuring second place is John Grisham’s 2011 legal thriller The Litigators. (Grisham really is getting the hang of it; this is his 25th novel.) This one is about a tiny Chicago law firm attempting to strike it rich with a class action lawsuit against a major drug company.

help3. Kathryn Stockett’s 2009 The Help is in third place. Originally a summer sleeper hit, the book is a fascinating historical novel portraying the lives of African-American maids working in upper class white households in Mississippi during the 1960s. (The movie is excellent too.)

explosiveeighteen4. Janet Evanovich’s bestseller Explosive Eighteen is next in fourth place. The premise: “Before bounty hunter Stephanie Plum can even step foot off Flight 127, she’s knee deep in trouble. Her dream vacation turned into a nightmare. Her seat mate never returned to the plane after a layover. Now he’s dead and everybody is looking for a photograph he was supposed to be carrying. Only one person has seen the missing photo: Stephanie Plum. Now she’s the target.” A tale of murder and intrigue; pour yourself a drink.

visforvengeance5. Sue Grafton’s V is for Vengeance settles for fifth (or Vth?) place. A dangerous story featuring a dead woman with a murky past, a professional shoplifting ring working for the mob, a ruthless wandering husband, a dirty cop, a lonely widower, and a single determined private detective.

zeroday6. David Baldacci’s Zero Day is in sixth. This is apparently a “wild ride,” a “nifty, paranoid thriller disguised as a murder mystery.” A lone American army special agent takes on the toughest crimes facing the country.

thedrop7.  Michael Connelly’s The Drop holds the seventh position. I enjoy Connelly’s wry and raw take on crime stories from the Los Angeles basin featuring clever detective Harry Bosch. This one features a serial killer case and a political conspiracy that goes way back into the dark history of the venerable LAPD.

killalexcross8 & 9. Prolific writer James Patterson takes both eighth and ninth places! Kill Alex Cross is a thriller with detective Alex Cross hoping to solve two troublesome crimes – the poisoning of the water supply and the president’s kidnapped 10830444children. Guilty Wives seems downright light in comparison, at first. Four women friends go on vacation and have a good time… until they’re arrested and forced to fight for their own survival.

index.aspx10. Nicholas Sparks’ The Best of Me rounds out the top 10 borrowed books at Winnipeg Public Library in 2012. The book spins out the story of two small-town former high school sweethearts who meet in mid-life, and have to confront the choices they’ve made. So crime stories have finally given way to one about love and growing older? Hmm, what does that say about us readers…?

Places 11 – 50 on the list, briefly speaking, contain more thrillers by James Patterson, John Grisham and David Baldacci; the Stieg Larsson ‘Dragon Tattoo’ trilogy; and biographical comedy by Tina Fey (Bossypants). My personal favourites on the list include Stephen King’s time travel thriller (1963-11-22), the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, and the latest novel by Jeffrey Eugenides (The Marriage Plot). What seems most surprising is the book at #49: Harper Lee’s enduring tale of justice and loyalty first published back in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird. We seem to love classics amidst our crime thrillers and historical dramas too. That’s classy.