The Wilder Aisles 

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

March 2018

Gleebooks Bookshop - Tuesday, March 06, 2018
The Book of Summer by Michelle Gable is a novel set in Nantucket, on the East Coast of the US. The story revolves around Cliff House—a once grand house, that like others around it, is in danger of falling into the sea. Fierce storms, high tides and wild weather have caused serious slippage—the houses, threatened by erosion, are losing their backyards and swimming pools. The story goes back and forward in time, a device I don’t usually like, but it works in this case. The eponymous book of summer is the guest book of Cliff House—full of stories from previous female inhabitants. These include Ruby, who, just married, to Sam, goes to live in Cliff House on the eve of WWII. Her daughter Cissy is now living at Cliff House, determined to stay there, even though day by day there is less of it. Cissy’s daughter Bess arrives to try and get her mother to leave, but Cissy has always been a troublemaker, and is enjoying the battle with the locals. While Cissy attempts to enlist support, Bess discovers the book of summer and its secrets—stories of her grandmother, her uncles and her aunt Mary—those about Ruby and Sam and their marriage Bess finds quite distressing. This is a book about female lives, about love and marriage, about resilience and the strength to carry on despite whatever life has in store. Cissy’s battle to save the house, no matter how futile, shows a strong person, unwilling to be defeated. In the end all secrets are revealed, including Bess’s—ghosts are laid to rest and people are able to resume their lives and carry on the best they can. This is what I call a picture book—by which I mean I could see everything Gable describes—the house falling into the sea, the landscape, the stormy sea. I love wild weather. There is of course a lot more to this book than I can reveal here. I really enjoyed it, and the fact that some of it is based on real events, made it of even greater interest.
I’ve just caught up with Barbara Nadel’s On The Bone. Nadel has a couple of crime series—the one set in Turkey with the chain-smoking Inspector Çetin İkmen and his sidekicks, Mehmet Süleyman and Armenian pathologist Arto Sarkissian is the one I’ve been following. I hadn’t read one for a while, and when I opened On the Bone (18th in the series) I had the pleasure of remembering how much I enjoy them. I particularly like his two police men, Ikmen and Süleyman. In the smart Istanbul district of Beyoğlu a young man, Umit Kavas, suddenly drops dead in the street. Although his death is from natural causes, his autopsy reveals, much to the policemen’s astonishment, his last meal was of human flesh—perhaps the very last taboo, or at least one of them. Not wanting to alarm the populace, they begin a secret investigation into who Umit’s last meal was—where they came from, how they were killed. The fact that Umit’s father is General Abdullah Kavas, doesn’t make things any easier. Their search leads to a Grand hotel and American celebrity chef, Boris Myskow. What goes on at this hotel? Who are the well-dressed men who eat in the upstairs private dining room served by Myskow himself? And who are the not so well-dressed men who eat in the restaurant? To find out more the detectives plant a young undercover policewoman in the hotel’s kitchen. Along side this investigation is a squat in the town, housing dissidents who object to the secularisation of the country, gay and trans people, prostitutes and people with no where else to live. This interlinking story is about Imam Ozgur Ayan and his two sons, and Radwan a Syrian refugee, and young men disappearing—some going to join the Jihad. How this all ties together makes for a great story—and one very pertinent to our own times. Highly recommended. Having re-engaged with my old friends Ikmen and Suleyman, I am looking forward to the latest in the series, released last year—The House of Four.
As I was browsing the crime shelves the other day the title Zen and the Art of Murder called out to me—its cover picture of a Japanese zen monk, in robes and sandals, walking through the snow, further intrigued me ... and then there was the setting—the Black Forest, on the border between France and Germany. What is a monk doing in the icy Black Forest you ask. So does Chief Inspector Louise Boni, who is dreading another cold winter, when she receives the strangest assignment of her career—to follow a zen buddhist monk. The monk has been injured, and he seems to be escaping some terrible evil. He is reluctant to make contact, and as he doesn’t speak German or English, and Louise has no Japanese, any communication proves difficult. Louise is, however, not the only one following the monk, and when shots are fired, she realises they are both in trouble—so she turns to a man who has a Japanese wife and a knowledge of buddhism. When tragedy strikes, Louise finds herself involved in something much bigger and more dangerous than it first seemed. As some of the action goes across the border into France, the investigation becomes a joint operation between the  police of the two countries. This is only a small part of what is a very engaging story, so I suggest you buy a copy, settle down with a cuppa and enjoy. If the front cover is to be believed the author, Oliver Bottini, is planning further ‘Black Forest investigations’, so hopefully more to look forward to in the future. Janice Wilder

Trackback Link
Post has no trackbacks.