The Wilder Aisles 

Janice Wilder has been a legend of Sydney bookselling for over 40 years.

August 2018

 - Tuesday, July 24, 2018
A new Martin Walker is always a delight, & his latest, A Taste for Vengeance, is no exception. Bruno, formerly chief of police in St Denis, has been promoted, & is now head of the whole Vézère Valley. He’s not entirely happy about this as he prefers the intimacy of small town policing. His new  assistants, Juliette and Louis are a mixed blessing—Juliette quickly becomes one of the team but Louis is a bit of a troublemaker. Bruno’s horsey friend Pamela, has asked him to help with her new cookery school—which makes him more anxious than his new job. Especially when Monica Felder, a client for the new school disappears—and then her body and that of a man who seems to have many enemies are found. Felder’s husband—a retired British Major—also seems to have disappeared. A rumour starts up that the three are connected, and Bruno sets out to uncover a long buried secret, accompanied as always  by some good red wine and great food. A couple of journalists get involved, including local scribe Phillippe Delaron, and Katherine—a pretty young English woman, who has signed up for the cookery class to try and get an inside scoop regarding the murders. Paris sticks their nose in, and Bruno’s off and on lover, Isabelle, comes to stay to assist in the investigation. Aside from the crimes, Bruno is concerned about the star of his beloved female football team. Paulette is pregnant and won’t say who the father is—and she has been tipped to be chosen for a major team. Thankfully, when all is resolved, Bruno along with his beloved dog, Balzac, return to cooking, hosting dinner parties and feeding the chooks. To quote the back cover: ‘A wish you were there read!’ 

A Bird in the Hand is Anne Cleeves’ (she of the Vera Stanhope and Shetland series) first published crime novel. Cleeves is one of my favourite authors and I was surprised and pleased to see this book back in print. I was also surprised and pleased to see that I have a few of these reprints to catch up on, as the fourth book is now available. The story revolves around a bird-watching group on the Norfolk coast. One of their best birders, Tom French, is found dead, his binoculars still around his neck. Elderly birdwatcher, George Palmer-Jones and his wife, Molly, decide to investigate the crime. From Norfolk, Scotland and the Isles of Scilly Isles, George and Molly seek for a motive—unrequited love, jealousy, or something else again. Was Tom the man everyone thought he was? Adam Anderson, a nervous young twitcher, with a very difficult relationship with his father, the local magistrate, hears of the murder and becomes distraught. His father, for once seeming to care, puts pressure on our senior investigators to help Adam cope. In due course their investigations turn up a potentially murderous competition between birders and twitchers. Birders make careful notes of the birds they observe, contributing to knowledge of our feathered friends; Twitchers on the other hand are only interested in finding rare birds and crossing them off their list. They will go anywhere, anytime to see a rarity. Needless to say there is not much love lost between these bird-watching clans. This is an entertaining read, with a bit of a twist at the end. I am looking forward to reading the others.

The new Anne Tyler, Clock Dance, is set in a Pennsylvanian (not much of a) small town called Lark City. Willa aged eleven and sister Rita, six, live with their parents. Mom has problems, and Pop has given up trying to help—going about his teaching job with his head down. As the story begins Mom has driven off in the family car, leaving no note. As their father reassures them, she does return, and life goes on as usual—Mom with extreme highs and lows and disappearances. Willa grows up, goes to college where she discovers an interest in linguistics. She meets Derek, big man on campus, who insists they marry, although this means Willa has to give up her dreams of further study, and move to sunny California where she misses the cold and snow. They have two sons, Ian and Sean. When an accident causes Willa to review her life, she comes to the conclusion that she has always followed a path laid down by others, and with both sons having left home she feels quite lost. Then a phone call comes from a stranger in Baltimore where her son Sean has moved to. Callie has found Willa’s number on her neighbour’s refrigerator. Her neighbour, Denise, has been hospitalised after being shot. She was Sean’s partner and has a child, Cheryl—who Callie assumes to be Willa’s grandchild. Callie wants Willa to take care of Cheryl, and despite knowing she is not Cheryl’s grandmother, Willa heads to Baltimore. What follows is true Tyler country, with all the complications, hopes and regrets, love and redemption that can occur in families. In this strange community Willa finds that it is not too late to stop following the paths set by others and plot her own way in this new world she finds herself in. Wonderful stuff. I love Anne Tyler. She is so clever—she makes the small things of life valuable, she shows that there is a chance to change things, that having the knowledge and strength to do so can make new and surprising things occur in our lives. Janice Wilder