Rebecca Scherm’s Unbecoming is a heist tale, a bildungsroman, a love story, and above all, a compelling psychological study of a likeable young woman with strong anti-social tendencies. As the novel progresses, Grace, the protagonist, not only behaves in “unbecoming” ways, but “unbecomes” the promising girl she once was. She grows in independence, strength and daring, but it is impossible to approve of her.
Besides being a very fine mystery, Stout’s novel is as well a provocative meditation on contemporary history. He reminds us that the primary source for the recent past lies in the memories of the living. Such memories, fragile as they are, may indeed be the only resource, if you want to challenge the written record.
Hidden Impact is a well-crafted narrative chockablock with turns and twists. I enjoyed meeting each of the numerous characters through the eyes of Norberg as he gauges those he had known before along with those who are new to his experience on this expedition. Populated with CIA operatives, dedicated American colleagues, Nicaraguan and activists, devious millionaires, and their insensitive associates; the cast of players is believable, plausible and acceptable.
All the characters are terrific, utterly convincing; there is an authentic sense of place: Chelsea, N.Y., a blue-collar neighbourhood where authority figures, police officers most of all, are treated with suspicion; and there’s Fortune’s voice, streetwise but by no means hard-boiled, compassionate yet missing nowt. And with a nice line in epigrams: ‘A man in prison needs a human word.’ ‘Unanswered questions are like lurking monsters.’
Marwood makes clever use of cliffhanger endings and shifts from one point of view character to another to build suspense. The Epilogue begins grimly, showing Cher back in the social welfare system, but surprises us with a gratifying conclusion. Readers who enjoyed Marwood’s earlier mystery/suspense novel, The Wicked Girls, will like this one for its many surprises.
I think it’s probably fair to say that Aaron Paul Lazar is one of the most readable of authors. His books are engaging, warm, and moving in a way that, if it’s a tad old-fashioned, still retains a modern sensibility and drama that comes from the real issues the work tends to address. I’ve been reading his mysteries for a long time now, and as someone who doesn’t tend to like genre novels, have always been drawn in by the way the plot is shaped by a deep sense of character development.
One of the many virtuous attributes of the novel, is the warm and tender friendship between the characters which remain intact even after they go their separate ways after school and university. Another, is the idea of the spiritual search each character is pursuing in order to discover their own personal, ultimate Truth. Macgregor has created a witty, intelligent read, well-suited to those who love an intricate, well-managed mystery.
The warmth between the characters, the families, and the characters they meet is obvious in this tight-knit community, with the mystery unfolding gently. The book doesn’t shy from real issues, including homophobia, historical lies, murder, betrayal, and massacre, everything unfolds so gently, and with such good humour, that reading the book is an absolute joy. Despite the serious issues that the book addresses, this is as suitable for a young adult reader as for an adult, and will appeal to wide audience. It’s clear that Lazar has come to know and love his characters and every time he revisits them, he brings out new nuances and depths, so that returning to a Gus Lazar mystery is like meeting an old friend once again.
One of the attractive features of the novel is the use of old style font for some of the 1780s passages, and the illustrations in silhouette, popular in the 18th century. The novel is smoothly written, the 1920s slang authentic-sounding.
Peter’s healing develops naturally through the chapters, and ultimately makes The Bookman’s Tale an immensely satisfying and pleasurable read that combines a range of genres and above all else, celebrates the beauty and wonder of the literary word.