White Sky, Black Ice

Jones, Stan. White Sky, Black Ice. New York: Soho Press, 1999.

Reason read: Alaska’s Seward Day takes place in March.

The first book in Stan Jones’s Nathan Active series has the task of painting a picture of who Nathan Active is. The character development is slow in regards to Active’s personality. Jones spends a lot of time building the backstory of Active’s adoption after his fifteen year old Inupiat mother gave him up. He was raised by a white couple in Anchorage and grew up to be a state trooper. Here’s the rub: he has been posted back in his little birth village of Chukchi where he feels torn between the cultures of his upbringing and the traditions in his blood. He’s an obvious outsider, being raised in the big city. But when atypical suicides start happening one right after the other Active decides to listen to his ancestral roots and dig in.

Confessional: because White Sky, Black Ice takes an environmental spin I kept thinking of Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. She also tackles the theory that our planet is going to hell.

Author fact: Stan Jones launched the Kotzubue newspaper. He was also an editor for a couple of other newspapers.

Book trivia: White Sky, Black Ice is the first in the Nathan Active series.

Nancy said: Pear said nothing specific except to say White Sky, Black Ice is the first in a series.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the interesting chapter “All Set For Alaska” (p 14).


Alone in the Crowd

Garcia-Roza, Luis Alfredo. Alone in the Crowd. Translated by Benjamin Moser. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2007.

Reason read: Brazil’s Carnival takes place in February.

Espinosa, the book worm police chief in Rio de Janeiro has a problem. An elderly woman in his district was struck dead by a bus. Despite this happening in a crowd of people, no one can say for sure what really happened. Had she been pushed or not? She could have slipped off the curb and fallen into the path of the bus. Given her age this was the likely scenario. Dozens of witnesses and no one saw a thing. Ordinarily, a police chief with dozens of other more pressing cases would call this an accident and move on, but Espinosa can’t for some reason. This same elderly woman tried to visit him earlier in the day. She had something to say to him and him alone. That one detail has Chief Inspector Espinosa thinking and the more he thinks the more his past haunts him.

Lines I liked, “The chief didn’t much believe in coincidences, especially when they resulted in death” (p 67).

Confessional: once again, I am reading books in a series out of order. Luckily, this time I only have two. Not a big deal.

Author fact: Garcia-Roza’s first claim to fame was writing textbooks for philosophy and psychology.

Book trivia: Alone in the Crowd was super short. You could read this in a weekend, which is a good thing because you will want to jump to the next book in the series immediately.

Nancy said: Pearl said mystery fans “can rejoice in reading Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza’s complex novels” (Book Lust To Go p 45).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the straightforward chapter “Brazil” (p 43).


Edge of the Crazies

Harrison, Jamie. The Edge of the Crazies. New York: Hyperion, 1995.

Reason read: November is the month Montana became a state.

As an aside, I love it when a book introduces me to new music. “If Love was a Train” by Michelle Shocked is an example.

Be prepared to meet a lot of people. Jamie Harrison likes to introduce her readers to a bunch of people (kind of reminded me of Batya Gur). Jules Clement (sheriff) of Blue Deer is the main character but you’ll meet his family (sister and father). You’ll even meet an old girlfriend and her family. Don’t forget current girlfriends and arch enemies. Then there’s attempted murder victim George Blackwater and his entire entourage of family and friends (brother, wife, son, housekeeper, assistant – past and present. Don’t forget his love life, too). The introductions continue with a bunch of reporters, police officers, lawyers, doctors, coroners, personal assistants, paramedics, even the principal, a librarian, a caterer, and a banker.
But, back to the plot. Someone has tried to kill George. He has plenty of enemies but it’s up to Jules Clement to figure out who hates him the most. Is it his wife? His girlfriend? His brother? His agent? But, there is a bigger mystery at play. Who hates Jules Clement even more?

Confessional: I had a hard time pinning down in what decade Edge of the Crazies was supposed to happen. Even though it was published in 1995 the story seems to take place much earlier. An hourly wage was $4.50, you could buy a truck for $700 and a house for $30,000 and yet a couch was $1,000 “back in the eighties.” Harrison quotes a Lucinda Williams tune from 1992….
Another observation: I was surprised Jules wasn’t used to seeing his father’s name in print, especially since he is sheriff of the same town as his father. As sheriff of Blue Deer in 1972, wouldn’t Jules’s father’s signature be on a lot of things at the station?

Lines worth mentioning, “they both mulled over the educational properties of cheap fiction in silence” (p 104),

Author fact: Harrison definitely puts a little of herself in a few of her characters. In her former life she was a caterer and script reader. In Edge of the Crazies there is a caterer and script writer.

Book trivia: There was a section of timeline that didn’t sit well with me at all. Around pages 279-281 Jules goes to the Baird Hotel for lunch. The meal lasts two hours. When he returns to the station Grace fills him in on what happened while he was at lunch. After the conversation he “grabbed his coat and eyed the clock. It was 11, and he had plenty of time” (p 281). 11 in the morning? That would make lunch sometime between 8:30 and 8:45am depending on how long it took him to have his conversation with Grace. Further muddying the waters is that when Jules goes back to the hotel he sees the waitress who served him “an hour earlier.” Obviously, Harrison meant to say Jules had breakfast that lasted two hours. Although I still found it odd that the meal took two hours but he was only served his meal an hour earlier. Does that mean he sat around for an hour before the waitress served him?

Nancy said: Nancy called Edge of the Crazies a “good police procedural” (p 121).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust twice. First, in the easy chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 117) and again the chapter called “Montana: In Big Sky Country” (p 156).


Man on the Bus

A true story.

The man needed to take his cat to the vet. She had stopped eating and was starting to vomit. All the time. He had her in a carrier. He had a carrier for his cat, but no car for himself. His cat came first, always. So he took a bus and took his cat to the vet. Cancer, they said. Nothing we can do, they said. They did not charge him. So the man left to take his cat home. Went to the same bus stop he got off from. When the bus pulled up he slowly climbed aboard, holding his carrier more carefully than before. A cat dying of cancer needs more care. He took his seat with a sigh.  “No animals on the bus” the driver said looking up in the mirror. What do you mean no animals? But, that is how I got here, the man replied. “I don’t care. No animals on the bus.” The bus driver was louder now, glaring back at him in the reflection. “You’re holding up my schedule. Get off my bus.” But, this isn’t your bus. The man argued back. So, I’m not leaving. The bus driver, furious now, ordered everyone else off the bus and called the police. The man with the cat stayed where he was.
When the police arrived they questioned the driver. The man with the cat looked down on the interrogation from his high bus window. The police officer’s arms were folded across his chest. The bus driver was gesturing wildly. Soon, the officer climbed onto the bus and headed back to the man with the cat. “What seems to be the problem here?” he asked. No problem, the man answered. I just want to take my cat home. She’s sick. “It’s a law – no animals on the bus.” The police officer looked at the cat. You will have to arrest me because I have no other way home. Take me in handcuffs, the man replied. And that is what the officer did.

But, the story doesn’t end there. On the ride to the station the man with the cat and the cop got to talking. The officer mentioned he had a cat. The man with the cat mentioned he was bipolar and relied on the goodness of strangers to help him cope with his disease. The officer mentioned his sister was bipolar. Soon they were exchanging stories about the ups and downs of illness, human and feline. Instead of taking the man with the cat downtown he asked him where he lived. Then, he took the sick man and his sick cat home.