Kathy Fiscus:A Tragedy that Transfixed the Nation, by William Deverell

Eight stars

While scrolling through my library’s offerings one day, this book caught my eye and I felt intrigued to give it a try. Not onle to read about sensationalism in any form, I was temporarily hesitant, but changed my tune when I discovered that it was all about a little girl falling into a well. William Deverell does well to recount the story from many angles and keeps the reader involved throughout, never trying to candy coat what took place over those three days in 1949. A great piece and one that I devoured in a single sitting.

It was in April, 1949 that young Kathy Fiscus was playing with her siblings and cousins before she disappeared. A frantic mother scoured the local playground in hopes of finding her daughter engaged in some game, but little Kathy was nowhere to be found. Soon, here whereabouts was known when someone heard her small voice at the bottom of an open well, which began a major community effort to save her.

As Deverell recounts, these type of open wells were not uncommon in Southern California, though they were usually better tended to, ensuring that an event like this one could not occur. IN an area rich with water, these wells served a significant purpose, but al that was put arise as the rescue effort to save Kathy Fiscus began. The authorities sought to communicate with the little girl, successful speaking to her, before hatching a plan to get her out. Thoughts of using a rope were soon stymied because of the danger that Kathy might stranger herself trying to affix it to her body or an oscillating Kathy might come in contact with some protruding metal or rock along hr side of the shaft. It’s would b a slow process and one requiring many minds working in tandem.

As the hours turned into a full day, Kathy Fiscus was still in the well and no one was quite sure what to do. The event was gaining notoriety, both by massive numbers of spectators and media coverage. Still, noting concrete had been devised to help Kath out of the hole. Hours soon grew and things became somewhat silent, leaving many to wonder what was taking place. By Sunday night, over fifty hours since Kathy fell into the well, she was recovered, though the news was anything but joyous. The body of the little girl was brought to the surface, though she had died of causes never determined by Deverell. She might have drowned or lacked for oxygen, but it did not matter. Hearts across the city and around the country were broken at the news of Kathy Fiscus’ death. A tragedy that could likely have been prevented, though it was no time for finger pointing.

In a short book like this, narrative flow is key. William Deverell uses things effectively through the early pages and pushes onward as the story gains momentum. A strong story that grips the reader from the outset, there is much to share as time passes. Deverell hits on all the poignant points and keeps the reader engaged until the closing moments of the story. With many photos to complement to story being told, Deverell does well to bring the story to life for all those involved and makes it known just how much effort was put into helping Kathy Fiscus over those fifty-plus hours. While I may not rush out to read a great deal more about the subject, I was intrigued by what I did take away from this book and hope others feel the same.

Kudos, Mr. Deverell, for a highly informative piece that had been pushing forward as I sat and educated myself.

The Mystery of the Blue Train (Hercule Poirot #6), by Agatha Christie

Eight stars

Having recently become addicted with the Hercule Poirot series, I looked to another in the collection by Agatha Christie. While just as on point, this book was far ‘deeper’ and denser than others in the series to date, offering a great deal more backstory for those who want to see the build up to the crime. Christie offers much to the reader, in hopes that they will be able to piece things together, as Poirot does effectively. Another great mystery that has me reaching for the next in the series.

After long feeling that there is something wrong in her marriage, Mrs. Ruth Kettering admits as much to her father. He directs her not to waste time ending things, officially, warning Ruth that any delay could prove problematic for all involved. Still, she is not sure and will use her scheduled travel time away to ponder all her options.

After boarding The Blue Train, a luxurious travel experience like no other, Ruth Kettering encounters young Katherine Grey, who has recently come into money of her own and wants to live lavishly. After dining together, the pair say their goodbyes and turn in for the night. It is only the next morning that Ruth Kettering is found brutally murdered in her berth and Katherine Grey is sure it relates to her acquaintance’s marital worries.

As luck would have it, Hercule Poirot is also on board and helps begin the process of investigating the crime, complementing the work the French officials are doing. He pieces things together from interviews and his sharp eye for clues, slowly building a case to show who the killer might be and how it all happened. All the while, young Katherine Grey sees the self-proclaimed “world’s greatest detective” at work and how he uses deductive reasoning to make sense of all he sees, before a killer can escape for good. Katherine is happy to add her two cents, for what it’s worth, to bring about some form of justice. Another great story by the Dame of Mystery, which has me exciting to push onwards with this hefty series.

While I only began reading the Agatha Christie books recently, I have always wanted to do so. I find that her writing is straightforward and clear, even if she can sometimes take longer to reveal something than I might normally like. Her narratives flow well and create a wonderful pathway for the curious reader to enjoy, making sure that they are entertained. While the pile of books in the series is high, I am happy to chip away at them, one by one.

Hercule Poirot is an interesting character to say the least. While little backstory is ever really revealed about him, Poirot is surely one not to be trifled with at any point. He knows his stuff and uses a keen ability to sit and wait for all to fall into place, making him an even more alluring character. He seems to always appear when needed and is keen to let everyone know that he is the best they have. Surely, some Belgian ego fuels him, but he gets the job done. I am aware that he will soon be asked to work on another train-based mystery in a future novel and hope that tale stays ‘on the tracks’ as this one did.

Agatha Christie does not need my praise to show how effective an author she is, though I am happy to add to the pile. Her stories are always entertaining and usually steer away from the fluff that seems to fill many books in the genre today. Shorter and to the point, Christie uses a strong narrative to push the story along. Always using unique and engaging characters, there is never anything drab about what she has to say through the eyes of others. Well-paced plot twists keep the story on point and help the reader develop an attachment to everything going on. Christie’s books most likely could be read as standalone, but I am not sure why anyone would want to ruin a good series by doing so. Perhaps the better approach would be, as I am doing to read a few, walk away, then return for more. Either way, it’s a wonderful reading experience for all involved.

Kudos, Dame Christie, for a wonderful piece that kept me wondering how you’d tie this one up. I am eager to see what else you have in store for us!

And Every Word is True, by Gary McAvoy

Eight stars

After reading In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, I wanted to know a little more about the subject matter. Interestingly enough, I was given a book by an author friend of mine, which recounts his research and analysis into the story of the Clutter murders and how the truth was much more complicated than first revealed in Capote’s stellar book. Gary McAvoy sought to turn the hunt for the real story behind those slayings in 1959 into this wonderful piece of non-fiction. Riveting until the final page turn, McAvoy shows how versatile his writing can be, as this is nothing like those novels of his I have come to enjoy over the past few years.

White Truman Capote’s most popular book surely stirred up some interesting emotions since its publication in 1965, many are left to wonder if it is the full story. When Ron Nye reached out to Gary McAvoy, the two hit it off immediately and their thirst for knowledge around the slaying of the Clutter family began. Nye, son of the former head of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, had some documents that his father kept from the crimes, which told not only the public version of events that Capote documented in his book, but deeper and more troubling ideas. Nye and McAvoy worked tirelessly to peel things back and discover truths relating to the murders, the victims, as well as the two men collared for committing the crimes.

While all this seems reasonable and should open up new lines of communication, it would seem that Kansas officials wanted nothing to do with the investigation, nor were they forthcoming about releasing documents held under lock and key. As McAvoy posits, it was as though they did not want to truth to come out. The author delves deeper into the goings-on in the small Kansas town and makes some substantiated assumptions about how the Clutters lived their lives and the popularity they had around the community. There are also some curious discussions about how Dick Hickock and Perry Smith might have been raised to turn them into killers. These men were surely cold-blooded killers, but there is more to the story that never made it into Capote’s book. McAvoy shines a light on them and their motive throughout the latter portion of the tome.

McAvoy does not seek to smear anyone, or even point fingers at a cover-up, but the push back for information makes it clear that there are many who feel the case is closed and best left that way. Some might surmise that Kansas officials felt Capote’s piece went about as far as it should have in revealing what happened on that November night in 1959, choosing not to allow any further extrapolation to open new veins of analysis. The truth is out there and yet it seems stymied by some unspoken reason that McAvoy could not crack.

While I am so used to the Vatican style thrillers that Gary McAvoy has penned, I was highly impressed with this piece of non-fiction. It sought not to turn over stones for the sake of making a ruckus, but actually connect dots that have long been left hidden or unanswered. McAvoy presents his findings in a clear and concise manner, allowing the reader to follow what is going on with ease throughout. I am glad that I read In Cold Blood recently, as the arguments from that book are fresh in my mind, allowing me to draw needed parallels whenever possible and see how McAvoy connected his research to the public record. I am coming to really enjoy true crime and will have to read more of it, when time permits. McAvoy surely made this an interesting experience and he forced me to stop waiting around wondering about Truman Capote’s famous work.

Kudos, Mr. McAvoy, for opening my eyes to many of the happenings in this case of which I was not familiar. I am eager to see what else I can find to whet my appetite.

In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

Nine stars

While I have heard a great deal about Truman Capote and this book, it is only now that I have taken the time to read it. Full of a wonderful narrative, the book explores a horrific murder in the American Midwest, as well as the hunt for those responsible. In this stellar piece of true crime, Capote also takes the reader into the justice and punishments phases, offering a well-rounded piece of writing that is sure to captivate and shock in equal measure.

The town of Holcomb, Kansas would never be the same after November 15, 1959. Four members of the Clutter family were found murdered in their beds, shotgun blasts destroying their faces. With the blood still congealing, the authorities began piecing together what happened and who might have been responsible. With no motive and few locals expressing a beef with the farming family, the investigation stalled in the early stages.

Capote takes the reader on a slow and methodical analysis of the case, the local lore surrounding the Clutter family, as well as those who did not belong around town. Two men, Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock, were two no one could readily place and whose time in the small community oddly matched the time of the Clutter murders. Exploring their backstory, Capote shows how reprehensible these two men were, as well as the trouble they brought with them to Holcomb.

Taking the reader through the events leading up to the murders, the night itself, and the aftermath that led to the capture of the men, Capote shows significant journalistic prowess. The reader can feel as though they are in the middle of the hunt before before offered a front row seat at the courthouse, while Smith and Hickcock await their fate. Told in such a way that the reader cannot help but delve deeper throughout the narrative, Capote shows stunning abilities and has left me wanting to explore more of his work. I am kicking myself for waiting this long to read the book, which held my attention throughout.

Kudos, Mr. Capote, for a riveting piece of true crime that has me wanting to reach for more in the genre, if only to feed a sadistic curiosity. What a pleasant surprise as I made my way through this book.

The Cutting Season (Washington Poe #4.5), by M.W. Craven

Seven stars

A long-time fan of M.W. Craven and all that he has written, I was drawn to this novella that serves as a series teaser before the next full-length book arrives. Craven’s Washington Poe series is addictive and alluring, which makes reading anything with this cast of characters just as great. This short piece does not have the same pizzazz as the rest of the series, but does well to remind readers of the two main protagonists and how well they work together; those being Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw. One, a DS in the National Crime Agency; the other, a quirky, tech-savvy woman who appears able to help in the oddest ways.

DS Washington Poe enjoys his team within the National Crime Agency, particularly when they can help chase down some of England’s worst serial killers. Working alongside Poe is a civilian who has been contracted to help, one Tilly Bradshaw. Tilly is very… unique, yet her skills are some of the best in the world. Her factoid knowledge is amazing and she always seems to have different ways to squeeze answers out of people, which makes Poe’s job a lot smoother.

When they body of a man is found tied to a chair, with only superficial injuries, it baffles Poe and his team, However, the ‘pound of flesh’ is soon revealed to have been part of a piece of retribution related to another crime. An apparent suicide by train may be more than it first seems, leading Poe and Bradshaw to dig a little deeper.

In doing so, Poe puts himself out there to get answers and winds up in the hands of a criminal enterprise, trying to convince them to reveal the truth behind the murder and apparent suicide. What follows is a quirky (yet to be expected) roll out of events at the hands of M.W. Craven’s brilliant mind.

While I usually go on for a few paragraphs about a book, I wanted to be brief, as Craven was with this story. The premise is great and I enjoyed a little teaser when it comes to waiting for a full novel. The short chapters had me reading this in one evening and I do not regret it. I did feel, however, as though Craven did not put the full effort into the depth and delivery of this piece. It seemed almost rushed and superficial, as though it was penned by a middle schooler who wanted to tell a lot without giving too much detail. While I enjoyed it, for sure, I hoped for more in the same number of pages. Great writing, wonderful characters, and a lot going on… but give me the depth Craven does in full novels (not length, but grip me by the collar and chill me to the bone)!

Kudos, Mr. Craven, on reminding me why Poe and Bradshaw make such a great pair!

Thunderstruck, by Erik Larson

Nine stars

When it comes to historical crime stories, one need look no further than Erik Larson. His ability to take non-fiction and turn it into something so very exciting is second to none, leaving readers begging for more. This story, which explores the lives of two men—Hawley Crippen and Guglielmo Marconi—takes the reader on a sensational journey through the late Victorian Era and into the early 20th century. Crippen, a popular doctor, devises a plan to commit the perfect murder and seems as though he might just get away with it. Marconi, a scientist and inventor, works to perfect communication through the air. Both men, while unaware of the other, are intertwined as it relates to this ‘’almost perfect murder’, which Larson recounts in a thrilling manner. Brilliant once again, fans of Larson’s work will not be disappointed.

Hawley Crippen was a man of some means, with a medical degree to validate many of his ideas. While the late Victorian Era was one where people turned to any possible cure for their ailments, Crippen was the peddler of new and innovative ones through the guise of homeopathy. He would make even the most confident snake oil salesman gasp with some of his antics. Outside of his work, Crippen found a wife who was just as eccentric as he, one Belle Elmore. Larson recounts their connection and how Crippen appeared to adore her for all the time they were together. However, Crippen’s eye soon turned elsewhere and he had to dispose of his wife, wanting her terminated and no longer a thorn in his side. Thus began a series of choices that Crippen felt would ensure he was in the clear, with a new lover by his side.

All the while, Guglielmo Marconi sought to revolutionise the world by delving into communication. As a scientist and inventor, he posited that he could create a system of communication whereby the message could pass from one device to another without the aid of wires. While the process was slow and cumbersome, Marconi set his eyes on being able to create a system where people could speak from far distances in the blink of an eye. Seen by some as part of the realm of the supernatural, Marconi worked hard to develop the technology, as others sought to steal it from him through patents of their own. Marconi showed that he could create such a device, adding practicality to it when he got it onto the transatlantic steamships who could now communicate with one another and posts on either side of the ocean. Marconi, likely suffering from some mental illness, saw this as his contribution to the larger scientific discovery of mass communication, in hopes of making a lasting impact into the 20th century.

The curious reader will want to know how these two men are tied together, seemingly from two different worlds. The details related to the final chase and apprehension of Hawley Crippen are not only chilling, but told in such a way that the reader will have to check that this is not a piece of fiction, with all the excitement coming from each page turn. All in all, it is a riveting story that shows how a seemingly innocuous invention could be at the centre of bringing a murderer to justice once and for all. Who would assume Hawley Crippen, who was ‘such a nice man’, of committing such a heinous crime and then lengths to which he would go to elude capture? Marconi’s relentless work on radio transmissions not only saw him rise to a certain fame, but also proved essential in the capture of Hawley Crippen right under the criminal’s own nose.

Larson does well to find the point at which both men’s lives intersected and uses this as lauding point for the crux of the tome. He works well to link the men, who were not acquainted beforehand, and weaves a story that captivates the attention of many while also turning it into a piece of criminal non-fiction. His use of historical events, both related to the men and the general goings-on of the times, helps put everything into context. The detail offered by Larson throughout the narrative breathes life into the story, without bogging things down too much. Clear explanations throughout help the lay-reader better understand what’s going on and how the information connects with the larger story, as well as the scientific discoveries of the day. Larson is to be applauded yet again for pulling the reader in with easy delivery and captivating perspectives. Chapters keep the reader wanting to know more and provide wonderful opportunity for those who need breaks to gather their thoughts after everything that has come to pass. I am eager to get my hands on another piece soon, as Erik Larson is one of those authors whose writing makes you want to learn more at the earliest opportunity.

Kudos, Mr. Larson, for another captivating tale of crime in history. Your abilities are not lost on me and I can only hope others see it as well.

Revolution Day, by Blair Denholm

Eight stars

After recently discovering the work of Blair Denholm, I have not been able to get enough. Having devoured his Australian police procedural series, I turned to this standalone, with rumours that it is actually a series debut. A gritty procedural inside Soviet-era Russia, the story exemplifies the hold communism has over its people in the waning days of the ideology’s grip during the Cold War. It’s only a short time before the 70th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution and the country is preparing for major celebrations. Captain Viktor Voloshin, working for Moscow’s Militsiya Police, has been called to the scene of a grisly murder. An African student at a local university has been found murdered. Voloshin and his team must not only find out what’s been going on, but also try to quell riots to what could be a repeat of a similar crime 24 years earlier. Working through leads and clues, Voloshin has a few potential persons of interest, but will need to lock it down before spooking anyone. Time is running out, as this needs to be solved and shelved before the big celebration, as pressure mounts. Denholm shows just how fabulous a writer he is with this piece, taking the. reader well behind the Iron Curtain!

In late October 1987, plans are being finalized for the 70th anniversary celebrations of the Bolshevik Revolution. Russia is abuzz, with Moscow sure to be the centre of worldwide attention before long. All the while, Captain Viktor Voloshin of the Moscow Militsiya Police is called out to a grisly scene. A man, soon identified as an African student at a local university, has been found hanging, his genitalia missing. As if this were a sign of some sort, Voloshin and his team begin investigating.

Early on, they cannot help but remember a similar case when another student of African descent was found in 1963, leaving some to wonder if this is a repeat offence to denote a similar struggle,. Voloshin probes deeper, only to discover that there are a few students who had issue with the young Nigerian. While the case is running up against the clock of the Revolution Day celebrations, Voloshin runs into numerous other hurdles, including someone who has taken the body away.

With a few suspects on Voloshin’s radar, one in particular is proving harder to find than the others. He may hold the clue to everything, but has been able to stay one step ahead of the investigation. With time running out and pressures mounting, Voloshin will have to risk it all to bring justice to a man who had only scholastic ties to Russia and has made a point of stirring up trouble. Denholm does a masterful job at taking the reader deep into Moscow’s Soviet underbelly in this procedural that screams for a series.

While this is not the first novel of Blair Denholm’s that I’ve read, it was supposed to be. Through a series of gaffes, I was not able to get my hands on the ARC for this book, after it was recommended to me by another stellar writer. Still, I knew I would return to find it and am pleased that I have. While I thoroughly enjoyed another of Denholm’s series, this book was much more complex and highly entertaining. It left me feeling as though I were on the streets of Moscow as well, trying to find a killer while the world waited for communist celebrations to occur. Anyone who has read any of Denholm’s work ought to give this a try, as it will blow your mind. For those who have not heard of the author or tried any of his writing, this is the place to start. However, be prepared to read for long stretches and be amazed!

Captain Viktor Voloshin offers much as the protagonist in this piece. His personal and professional lives literally cross over one another, making it all the more impactful. He is a hard-working police detective who wants nothing more than to make his way through each day, but he cannot shake the issues that his work has on the relationship he is seeking to create with his young daughter. Voloshin tries to balance things, foiling horribly, but that is also much like Denholm’s other protagonist from the Jack Lisbon series. There is a lot more to Voloshin that has yet to be revealed, leaving me to hope that this was not simply a standalone novel.

Blair Denholm is a master at his craft and has proven it yet again. While I enjoyed the Jack Lisbon novels, this was something deeper and even better. Pulling the reader into the heart of Moscow during the Soviet-era, the narrative exemplify just how dire things were. The story grows from there, with strong characters and a plausible plot to keep the reader engaged. Adding some foreign flavouring, the story takes many twists throughout until all comes crashing together against the backdrop of Russia’s largest celebration to date. Should more come of this book in the form of a series, I will be first in line to read them, as Blair Denholm has intrigued me once again!

Kudos, Mr. Denholm, for another winner. I hope others take note and see what I have discovered. Stellar work worthy of much praise.

The Big Four (Hercule Poirot #5), by Agatha Christie

Seven stars

Back for another instalment of the Agatha Christie collection, I looked to the fifth book in the Hercule Poirot collection. Christie moves away from the whodunit and into the world of a thriller for this piece, which offers some vastly different things for those who have come to enjoy her sly writing style. Captain Arthur Hastings is back from some time away, only to find his old flat mate, Hercule Poirot in the thick of things. It would seem that he is alerted to the presence of The Big Four, a group of international criminals that many do not believe exist. When members of the group appear in England, Poirot works to identify them and shine a light on their existence, all while Hastings finds himself caught in the web of the Four and must act withou the Belgian’s assistance, at least for a time. A fast-paced story that leaves the reader panting to catch up. A different side to Agatha Christie to be sure.

Colonel Arthur Hastings is back in England after some time away. His first stop is to see Hercule Poirot, his former flatmate, the retired Belgian detective. While Hastings is eager to catch up, Poirot is preparing to depart for the other side of the world on a mystery. However, all that is stopped when mention of The Big Four enters the discussion. Poirot explains that this is an international cabal prepared to do their dirty work whenever time permits. While many governments and police authorities believe they are a myth, Poirot is sure they are real and committing crimes all over them lace, leaving calling cards in their wake.

After an apparent poisoning, Poirot is sure it is the work of the Big Four, noticing a note that has been left behind. Hastings concurs, but cannot simply accept things without more proof. Poirot does his best to provide it, while remaining one step ahead of the killers in hopes of catching them in the act. Hastings is along for the ride, worried about what might happen if the littler Belgian is left to his own devices.

With more bodies piling up, Poirot is sure that he is hot on the trail, only to have something monumental occur. When Hastings is alone, he receives a note stating that someone has his wife and that she will come to great harm if he does not follow immediately, Bringing Poirot could endanger everyone, something that Hastings does not want. It will take some sly work to ensure the Big Four are caught and that Poirot is alerted to the danger, but Hastings cannot be sloppy about it, forcing him to use all the wits he has about him to make the correct move in a timely manner. Christie does well yet again, though purists will surely bemoan the move away from the traditional work she has made popular with this series to date.

Agatha Christie has rightfully earned her title as the Dame of Mystery, though this novel shows how she steps outside the cookie-cutter nature of her writing to test out some new approaches. Some like them, while others prefer the traditional whodunit recipe for Poirot to use to his advantage. Still, it proves to be an entertaining piece that is full of adventure and intrigue. Strong plot ideas develop throughout the story, allowing the reader to enjoy some banter between Poirot and Hastings, who returns after some time away.

Hercule Poirot takes centre stage again in this piece, offering up more of his Belgian eccentricities. Christie has yet to offer a great deal about his past, though there is something offered up here with regards to his family. The reader can see how the suave detective moves throughout this piece, picking up some of the small clues in order to make a name for himself. His ego and pompous nature are, once again, on offer, and the reader must watch how Hastings seeks to wrest control of the situation at various points. I am eager to learn more about Poirot and hope the series offers new ways in which that can be accomplished.

Agatha Christie remains one of the best-known mystery writers of all times, using Poirot to help her keep this title all these years later. Christie uses strong narrative development to propel the story along, capturing the reader’s attention throughout. The characters are clearly defined, even more sinister than usual, and plots gain momentum in a straightforward fashion, yet still requires that the reader to pay close attention. Use of a second-person narrative in the form of Arthur Hastings offered a unique approach and leaves me wanting to learn more as the series propels itself forward at breakneck speed.

Kudos, Dame Christie, for a wonderful piece that kept me intrigued.

The Rising Tide, by Sam Lloyd

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Sam Lloyd, and Penguin Random House Canada for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Happy to finds new authors to enjoy, I turned to this piece by Sam Lloyd, as the dust jacket blurb caught my attention. Lloyd tells a gripping tale that is sure to make the reader take notice. While living in a seaside town, Lucy soon discovers that her family yachts is missing, as is her husband. When the boat is located, it’s empty and there’s no sign of her husband either. Thus begins a series of events that not only forces Lucy to take notice, but also leaves a chill running down her spine. How quickly things can change, changing a bucolic town to a place of worry. Lloyd weaves quite the tale and forces the reader to take note throughout this mysterious story.

Lucy is living the life that she always wanted on the Devon Coast, with a family that she loves and all the dreams she’s ever hoped to acquire.All comes crashing down and changes in the blink of an eye one day, forcing Lucy to rethink everything she thought that she knew.

A hard knock at the door changes it forever, when Lucy’s alerted that the family yacht has been recovered out in the water. There’s no trace of her husband, which sends Lucy into a fit of panic. However, it all comes into perspective soon thereafter and Lucy is forced to wonder whether her husband may have orchestrated something as part of a larger plan, one that she was not privy to at any point.

When the rescue mission begins, Lucy has high hopes that it will come to provide answers quickly and everything will prove to be a major mistake. However, a horrible storm blows in and Lucy discovers something that changes her mind in an instant. Still, she has hopes that it is all a bad dream, one from which she can wake soon and hit the rest button, once at for all. However, there is that lingering feeling in the back of her mind that emerges, leaving Lucy to ponder if she might be the one being played in all this. A chilling tale that proves Sam Lloyd has what it takes to develop a great thriller for readers to enjoy.

I’ve had a mix of success and disappointment when it comes to new writers over the past while. Even as some praise the work of a writer, I feel as though I might have missed the mark and am left to scratch my head. While I did enjoy Sam Lloyd’s piece, I am left feeling as though everyone else got something that I could not find, at least based on the reviews I have seen. Lloyd knows how to tell a story and keeps the reader in the middle, but it was not as impactful as I would have liked.

Lucy remains a wonderful protagonist, at the centre of the entire piece. Her early revelations of having the ‘perfect life’ left her vulnerable throughout the piece, something Lloyd uses to his advantage in the writing process. There is a grittiness to her, especially as the story unfolds, leaving Lucy one who refuses to stand down or deny what’s going on. She needs answers and will stop at nothing to get them, even as she is deceived with every step she takes. It is surely Lloyd’s superior abilities that puts all this on display for the reader to synthesise.

Thrillers are sometimes the hardest novel for me to enjoy, as I need a hook from the early stages to pull me into the middle. Many authors prefer the slow reveal, which may work for some, but I am overly fickle when it comes to narrative development. Lloyd does well to set the scene in this book, offering the reader something they can enjoy, while also keeping it innocent for the early pages of the book. A handful of well-developed characters keep the reader learning on a constant basis and forces the reader to attach early on. The plot was sound and kept me wanting to know more, even if things did not go in the direction I had hoped most of the time. I am curious to see how Sam Lloyd writes its other parameters and so I think that it might bode well to give the other novel out there a chance to see how it stands up to this one. All in good time.

Kudos, Mr. Lloyd, for a decent piece of writing. I am happy so many found it so impactful and wonder if I am the anomaly here.

Off the Record, by Peter Mansbridge

Nine stars

A fan of all things Canadian, I was excited to get my hands on this book by Canadian news icon, Peter Mansbridge. A collection of vignettes about the man’s storied career, from airport employee in Churchill, Manitoba to anchor of The National, Canada’s premier nightly newscast, Mansbridge tells of his various adventures in a way many Canadians have come to love. Showing how adored he was, no matter who crossed his path, Mansbridge brings something to the table to entertain and educate in equal measure while regaling the reader with factoids they had no idea existed.

Born in England, Mansbridge and his family moved around for a number of years while his father had posts in the British Civil Service. When they eventually made it to Canada, the Mansbridges were never a wealthy family, but filled their house with love and admiration of one another and anyone who crossed their paths. Peter speaks of his love for family and inquisitive side, which earned him a number of accolades by those who knew him in his formative years. His life led him along a number of interesting paths, none of which as exciting as when he was ‘discovered’ while announcing a flight in the tiny airport of Churchill, Manitoba, where someone from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) heard his deep baritone and offered him a radio job on the spot.

Mansbridge tells of his emerging in the world of media and reporting soon thereafter, climbing the ranks of the CBC as he made a name for himself. His love of people shone through and he was soon interviewing people of some importance all over the country. He continued to impress and was soon given key postings in television, making the Mansbridge name one that senior members of CBC could not deny.

Through a series of short entries, Mansbridge tells how he was given a great path to success and eventually handed the anchor seat of the CBC’s flagship news program, The National, the nightly summary of the day’s events. Mansbridge would serve as the chief correspondent for the CBC for years, making an impact on the viewer, as the likes of Cronkite, Jennings, and even Tom Broken had in the era when news was still a valued commodity, well before the 24 hour news cycle. These years would help make him into the respective journalist he was up until his retirement.

Mansbridge mixes work with pleasure throughout the piece, showing that he is more than a man behind the desk reading the news. His passion for family and those he loved made all the difference to him. Those stories that he shares about personal events touch the reader as much as reporting on major historical, political, and military goings-on in the world. It is, perhaps, this personal side that makes all the difference in the book’s delivery and helps the reader connect well with Mansbridge. While he was loved by many and respected by even more, it was his ‘real’ side that made him all the more affable.

While I knew some of the stories that Mansbridge offered up in the book, there were so many that were new to me. This ‘behind the curtain’ look at his life made the read all the more enjoyable and left me hungering for even more. I cannot say that I walked away with as many juicy tidbits in another book over the last while and yet I feel as though I want to know more. Those looking for salacious admissions can look elsewhere, but Mansbridge delivers with a hint of dignity and a great deal of grace, peppering his narrative with just enough humour to keep the reader smiling. I am not sure what to say, other than to recommend that those who know of Peter Mansbridge and The National will likely want to get their hands on this book to learn more about the man and the many stories he has to share. If I were a betting man, I would venture to say that there are MANY more stories that could fill numerous other volumes, given the time and energy.

Kudos, Mr. Mansbridge, for this brilliant piece. I grew up watching you on television and admire you even more now!