Fine and Bitter Snow

Stabenow, Dana. A fine and Bitter Snow.  New York: St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2002.

Reason read: to continue the sequel started in January in honor of the month Alaska became a state.

Kate is back. It’s been awhile since we last caught up with the feisty private investigating crime solver. In A Cold-Blooded Business she and single dad, Jack, were hot and heavy. Now several books later Jack is dead and Kate is sort of looking after his son from a previous marriage. As an FYI – Kate’s grandmother has also passed. In time, this detail will become important to the plot. For now, Kate needs a distraction from the grief these dual deaths have caused and, oddly enough, it comes in the form of oil drilling in southeast Alaska. Drilling in general has been a sensitive subject to all involved but when longtime friend and park ranger, Dan O’Brien, is deemed too environmentally friendly and is forced into early retirement, it becomes Kate’s mission to save his job. It becomes even more personal when a good friend of her grandmother’s is found murdered just days after agreeing to help Dan keep his job. Is the drilling in the wildlife preserve connected to this most recent death? State trooper, Jim Chopin, is on the case and he asks Kate to help…in more ways than one.

Confessional – I that this was the perfect pairing with Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior which is also an environmental drama.

Like I liked, “The moose might kick your ass and the grizzly might rip it off and the wolf might eat it, but they wouldn’t talk you to deal while they got on with the job” (p 232). This is Dana’s way of saying yeah, I know the woman is holding shotgun to Kate’s face and talking way too much, but I need to explain some motives here before she pulls the trigger.

Author fact: Stabenow also writes science fiction.

Book trivia: A Fine and Bitter Snow is Stabenow’s twelfth story.

Nancy said: nothing specific about A Fine and Bitter Snow.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter “I Love a Mystery” (p 117).


Cold-Blooded Business

Stabenow, Dana. A Cold-Blooded Business. New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 1994.

Reason read: Alaska became a state in January.

Disclaimer: A Cold-Blooded Business is part of a series and since this is my first Kate Shugak mystery I feel like I jumped into it blind.

Kate Shugak is a private investigator for the Anchorage District Attorney’s office. In A Cold-Blooded Business her assignment is to go undercover at RPetCo, short for Royal Petroleum Company based in Prudhoe Bay up in the Arctic Circle. John King, CEO of RPetCo wants to know who has been dealing cocaine to his employees on company time. His main concern is overdoses are on the rise. There has even been a death by drowning linked to drug use. “Get that dope off my slope” he urges poetically.

Small pet peeve. Teeny tiny, really. On page 142 Kate is yearning for peace and quiet since her boyfriend’s young son, Johnny, “had the television on from the time he woke up till the time he went to bed.” However, not even eleven pages later Kate’s exposure to television is described as limited to Bernie’s television at the Roadhouse “eternally tuned into a basketball game” or Bobby’s set which existed “solely to be hooked up to a VCR” (p 152 – 153). I probably wouldn’t have squawked if the contradictory details weren’t so close together.

As an aside, what irked me from the beginning is that Kate is supposed to go undercover as a roustabout on the slope but within her first week on the job she meets a former medic/acquaintance from another job and a trooper who knows her name. She has to lie and say she’s no longer an investigator. Later she rushes to the first overdose on the job. Bursting into the room she encounters the victim is her cousin and he’s just as surprised to see her as she is him. Finally, Cindy Sovaluk, a woman she meets in the sauna turns out to know her grandmother. So much for undercover when four different people know your name or are related to you!
As another aside, are yearling bears really harmless enough to tug on their tails?

Author fact: Stabenow lives in Alaska and definitely knows the culture. That’s the obvious. What isn’t as obvious is just how many books Ms Stabenow has written. Check out her website here.

Book trivia: A Cold-Blooded Business is part of a series. I counted nineteen Shugak mysteries and I’m only reading two.

Nancy said: Pearl said Cold-Blooded Business is “her favorite Shugak mystery” (Book Lust p 18).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the unimaginative chapter called “Alaska” (p 17). I would have riffed off a Phish tune and called it “Alaska? I’ll Ask Her”.


January Come Lately

I try not to think about white rabbits running around with time pieces muttering about being late. Whenever I do I am reminded this is being written three days behind schedule. Nevertheless, here are the books:

Fiction:

  • Foundation by Isaac Asimov – in honor of Asimov’s birth month.
  • Lamb in Love by Carrie Brown – this is a stretch…All Creatures Great and Small first aired as a television show in January and there is a creature in the title.
  • The Good Times are Killing Me by Lynda Barry – in honor of Barry’s birth month.
  • A Cold Blooded Business by Dana Stabenow – in honor of Alaska becoming a state in January.

Nonfiction:

  • Daisy Bates in the Desert by Julia Blackburn – in honor of Australia’s National Day on January 26th.
  • The Turk by Tom Standage in honor of Wolfgang Von Klempelen’s birth month.
  • Freedom in Meditation by Patricia Carrington – in honor of January being National Yoga month.
  • Sibley’s Guide to Bird Life and Behavior by David Allen Sibley – in honor of Adopt a Bird Month. I read that somewhere…

Series continuations:

  • To Lie with Lions by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.
  • Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman – to continue the series started in November in honor of National Writing Month (Fantasy).

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim – I know what you are thinking. I am neither black nor a girl. I am a middle-aged white woman who barely remembers being a girl. I requested this book because I work in an extremely diverse environment and let’s face it, I want to be known as well-read, regardless of color.

For fun:

  • Sharp by Michelle Dean – my sister gave this to me as a Christmas gift. I wonder if she is trying to tell me something.

Fuzz

McBain, Ed. Fuzz. New York: Warner Books, 2000.

Reason read: to finish the series started in July in memory of McBain’s passing.

McBain is a master of character development and dialogue detail.

The 87th Precinct has met its match in Fuzz. After a prominent citizen of a fictitious New York City is gunned down witnesses can only say they saw a man wearing a hearing aid. Dubbed the Deaf Man, it isn’t long before he strikes again. His modus operandi is to call the precinct to extort a sum of money or else someone is going to die. In the case of Parks Commissioner Cowper, it was $5,000. The next threat was aimed at the deputy mayor for $50,000. Finally, it was the mayor’s turn to die. Meanwhile on a different assignment, Steve Carella tries to figure out who is setting homeless people on fire. Dressed as a derelict Carella puts himself in danger and isn’t fast enough to get out of harm’s way…

Quotes I liked, “In a city notorious for its indifference, the citizens were obviously withdrawn now, hurrying past each other without so much as eyes meeting, insulating themselves, becoming tight private cocoons that defied the cold” (p 23),

Author fact: So, here’s a really odd one. McBain can describe the weather so well the heat detailed on the page can send trickles of sweat down your back or the lack of it can freeze your fingertips. Impressive, considering all the while you are in the comfort of your own temperature controlled home.

Book trivia: Fuzz was made into a movie in  starring Burt Reynolds.

Nancy said: I read Fuzz and Big Bad City out of order because Pearl listed Big Bad City before Fuzz. I should have known better than to trust Pearl to put the series in the order in which they should be read. It’s an attention to detail I would have appreciated.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust  in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 120).


Big, Bad City

McBain, Ed. Big Bad City. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999.

Reason read: to continue the series started in July in memory of McBain’s passing (2005). Confessional: I don’t know how I continue to do this, but I read Big Bad City out of order. Big Bad City was published in 1999.

As with Cop Hater, the locale in Big Bad City bears a strong resemblance to gritty real-life New York City. While McBain never writes the words “New” or “York” together readers can imagine a 1990s version of the Big Apple. The three different story lines weave around each other like a Celtic knot in The Big Bad City: first, a young nun with breast implants is discovered murdered on a park bench. Unbeknownst to Carella, the man who murdered his father has been stalking him, waiting for the right time to gun him down survival-of-the-fittest style; and speaking of guns, how did notorious Cookie Boy the burglar go from petty theft to two counts of murder in fell swoop? Precinct 87 has their hands full with these seemingly unrelated crimes.

Quotes I liked enough to mention here, “Do it. do it, but he had not done it, he had not killed the man who’d killed his father because he’d felt somewhere deep inside him that becoming a beast of prey was tantamount to having been that beast all along” (p 54), and “…and he drew his own nine at once, so there were three nines on this bright September morning, all facing each other with nowhere to go but murder” (p 270).

Author fact: Have you seen the number of things McBain has written? The list goes on and on and on. Most surprising was the screenplay for “The Birds.”

Book trivia: This was the first time I had seen COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) referenced in a mystery novel.

Nancy said: nothing specific about Big Bad City.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p ).


Jar City

Indridason, Arnaldur. Jar City. Read by George Guidall. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 2011.

Reason read: Icelandic National Day is in June.

Arnaldur Indridason doesn’t sugarcoat his protagonists with sweet personalities. They aren’t perfect people with mundane lives. Inspector Erlender is a divorced father with a drug addicted daughter living on the fringe of society. She occasionally scrounges Erlender’s flat for money or a meal. And like any parent who loves his child to the brink of insanity, Erlender takes whatever attention he can get from her. In the meantime, he has a murder to solve. An elderly man has been bashed in the head with an ashtray. It wasn’t a robbery so who would want to kill a frail and quiet man in his 70s? As Erlender digs into the victim’s past he uncovers horrible truths about the dead man. An unsolved cold case suddenly heats up and Erlender discovers just how complicated blood ties can be.

Author fact: Arnaldur won the Glass Key award in 2002.

Narrator fact: Guidall also narrated A Widow For One Year by John Irving. I knew his voice sounded familiar.

Book trivia: Jar City is not the first in a series of Reykjavik thrillers. Sons of Dust is the first to feature Erlender.

Nancy said: “The mysteries of Arnaldur Indridason are fine examples of police procedurals” (Book Lust To Go p 99). She also mentioned reading them in order which I really appreciated since she doesn’t often do that.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called simply “Iceland” (p 99).


Thousand Hills

Kinzer, Stephen. A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It. Read by Paul Boehmer. Tantor Audio, 2008.
Kinzer, Stephen. A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2008.

Reason read: April 22, 2000 Paul Kagame became President of Rwanada. He is credited for bringing an end to the Rwanda genocide in 1994.

Kinzer had one simple motive for writing Thousand Hills. It is an amazing untold story that needed to be shared. One the one hand, it is the condense biography of a remarkable man who, born into poverty and nearly killed when he was only two years old, rose in military rank to single-handedly lead a rebel force that ended the largest genocide in Rwanda. On the other hand, it is the telling of a nation struggling with a metamorphosis of epic proportions. After the holocaust, Paul Kagame insisted on bringing Tutsi and Hutu together, demanding that murderer and victim work as one to repair relations.

Author fact: In 2008 Kinzer went on C-Span BookTV to talk about Thousand Hills. The video is over an hour long and still available for viewing on the C-Span site.

Nancy said: nothing.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Africa: the Greenest Continent” (p 8).