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Book Nook - 08-01-2019

Tuesday, January 08, 2019
By Deepa Gahlot

There are Lit Fests taking place all over the country, but the community of readers is dwindling. Still, passionate book lovers would like to know what others like themselves are reading. This Book Nook suggests some books, but would also like to connect with serious readers, or even casual airport book browsers. Do write in about books you have loved or hated and why. The best entries will be shared on this page. Please send your recommendations to adc.booknook@gmail.com

Three Pines Revisited
The bleak, snowy winters do not hamper the warmth of the people of Three Pines, the fictional Canadian village, that Louise Penny created for bestselling novels about Armand Gamache—the cop who rose over fourteen books to become the Head of the Surete in the French Canadian city of Quebec. In the last book, Glass Houses, he was suspended from his post, ironically for doing his job too well, because he stepped over some inconvenient lines.

In the latest, Kingdom Of The Blind, he is still off-duty, but has not stopped working on the case that led to his suspension. Meanwhile, his wife Reine-Marie and his friends in Three Pines keep him sane. The popular watering hole of the village is run by Gabri and Olivier, who provide excellent food, wine, hospitality and emotional support to all those who gather at their bistro, including the mad, old poet Ruth Zardo and her pet duck.

When this book opens, Gamache has received a mysterious invitation from a lawyer—who happens to be dead-- to come to an isolated farmhouse a few miles away from the village. He drives there in terribly inclement weather to be confronted by a derelict structure that looks like it could collapse any minute. If that is not disconcerting enough, Gamache’s neighbour Myrna Landers (owner of the village book shop) turns up too, having being summoned by a letter by the same lawyer. The two are joined by an oddly-dressed young construction worker, Benedict, who had also got a similar letter. The three are completely mystified to learn, from the late lawyer’s son, Maitre Mercier, a notary, that they have been named as executors of the will of a dead woman none of them knew.

The woman, Bertha Baumgartner, worked as a cleaning lady but insisted on being called Baroness, claiming to belong to European aristocracy. She left her three children huge sums of money, that she could not possibly have had. Out of curiosity, the three of them agree to take up the assignment. A storm makes it impossible for Benedict to leave, so he stays back to enjoy the generosity of the Gamaches. Then, the oldest Baumgartner son is found dead in the house that finally falls down, and murder is suspected.

Meanwhile, the problems from the last case are still in existence—the drugs Gamache had to let into the country in order to break a huge narcotics ring, threaten to hit the streets any day and kill thousands of people, unless they can be traced before that happens. Gamache has to descend into the Montreal underworld to hunt for the missing drugs, as his trusted deputy and beloved son-in-law Jean-Guy Beauvoir faces pressure from higher-ups to betray Gamache and save his own career.

Penny writes with love and empathy for her characters, whether it’s the beleaguered Gamache, Beauvoir or the scrappy young woman, Amelia Choquet, whom the senior cop pulled off the streets, and inducted into the police force, in spite of her past as a hooker and junkie. If Gamache is capable of incredible kindness, he is also equally capable of cruelty, as he takes unpopular decisions to stop the impending disaster.

Kingdom Of The Blind is a wonderful book by a writer who expertly blends into a story of violence and destruction, her ingredients of lyricism, philosophy and pointers on how to live better. If Three Pines actually existed, it would be a tourist attraction for fans of Louise Penny’s books.

Kingdom Of The Blind
By Louise Penny
Publisher: Minotaur
Page count: 400pp

 

Excerpt of  Kingdom Of The Bline
Armand Gamache slowed his car to a crawl, then stopped on the snow-covered secondary road.

This was it, he supposed. Pulling in, he drove between the tall pine trees until he reached the clearing.

There he parked the car and sat in the warm vehicle looking out at the cold day. Snow flurries were hitting the windshield and dissolving. They were coming down with more force now, slightly obscuring what he saw outside. Turning away, he stared at the letter he’d received the day before, lying open on the passenger seat.

Putting on his reading glasses, he rubbed his face. And read it again. It was an invitation of sorts, to this desolate place.

He turned off the car. But didn’t get out.

There was no particular anxiety. It was more puzzling than worrisome.

But still, it was just odd enough to raise a small alarm. Not a siren, yet. But he was alert.

Armand Gamache was not by nature timid, but he was a cautious man. How else could he have survived in the top echelons of the Sûreté du Québec? Though it was far from certain that he had survived.

He relied on, and trusted, both his rational mind and his instincts.

And what were they telling him now?

They were certainly telling him this was strange. But then, he thought with a grin, his grandchildren could have told him that.

Bringing out his cell phone, he listened as the number he called rang once, twice, and then was answered.

“Salut, ma belle. I’m here,” he said.

It was an agreement between Armand and his wife, Reine-Marie, that in winter, in snow, they called each other when they’d arrived at a destination.

“How was the drive? The snow seems to be getting worse in Three Pines.”

“Here too. Drive was easy.”

“So where are you? What is the place, Armand?”

“It’s sort of hard to describe.”

But he tried.

What he saw had once been a home. Then a house. And was now simply a building. And not even that for much longer.

“It’s an old farmhouse,” he said. “But it looks abandoned.”

“Are you sure you’re at the right place? Remember when you came to get me at my brother’s home and you went to the wrong brother? Insisting I was there.”

“That was years ago,” he said. “And all the houses look alike in Ste.-Angélique, and, honestly, all your hundred and fifty-seven brothers look alike. Besides, he didn’t like me, and I was fairly sure he just wanted me to go away and leave you alone.”

“Can you blame him? You were at the wrong house. Some detective.”

Armand laughed. That had been decades ago, when they were first courting. Her family had since warmed to him, once they saw how much she loved him and, more important to them, how much he loved Reine-Marie.

“I’m at the right place. There’s another car here.”

Light snow covered the other vehicle. It had been there, he guessed, for about half an hour. Not more. Then his eyes returned to the farmhouse.

“It’s been a while since anyone lived here.”

It took a long time to fall into such a state. Lack of care, over the years, would do that.

It was now little more than a collection of materials.

The shutters were askew, the wooden handrail had rotted and gone its separate way from the sloping steps. One of the upper windows was boarded up, so that it looked like the place was winking at him. As though it knew something he did not.

He cocked his head. Was there a slight lean to the house? Or was his imagination turning this into one of Honoré’s nursery rhymes?

There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile,

He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile;

He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse,

And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

This was a crooked house. And Armand Gamache wondered if, inside, he’d find a crooked man.

He cocked his head. Was there a slight lean to the house? Or was his imagination turning this into one of Honoré’s nursery rhymes?

There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile,

He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile;

He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse,

And they all lived together in a little crooked house. This was a crooked house. And Armand Gamache wondered if, inside, he’d find a crooked man.

 

Romancing The Snow
Bestselling author Debbie Macomber’s latest, Alaskan Holiday, is a lightweight romance, a quick-read-and-forget sort of novel about an aspiring chef, Josie Avery, who takes up a short-term job of cooking in a resort in Ponder, a remote Alaskan town. She befriends the shy and quiet Palmer Saxon, who lives alone and makes beautiful swords to order. Till Josie arrived, Palmer was content with his life in Ponder. He falls madly in love with Josie, and is encouraged by his gluttonous friend, Jack Corcoran, to propose marriage to her. Josie is attracted to Palmer, but does not want to give up her ambition and her busy life in Seattle to be stuck in Ponder, which is snowed under and inaccessible for the better part of the year.

She misses the last ferry out of Ponder before the town shuts down for the winter, and after her anger dies down, she is forced to spend time with Palmer and Jack, and faces a dilemma—whether she should sacrifice her hard-won career opportunities for love, or give up a unique man like Palmer for the chance to work with a famous chef. Macomber describes the dreamy beauty of Alaska, but the love story has predictable up and downs and ends exactly like it is expected to.  Not one of Macomber’s better books.

Alaskan Holiday
By Debbie Macomber
Publisher: Ballantine
Pages: 256

 

SHORT TAKES
The Three Secret Cities is Matthew Reilly’s fifth Jack West Jr. book,. The synopsis reads, “A shadow world behind the real world. When Jack West, Jr. won the Great Games, he threw the four legendary kingdoms into turmoil. A world with its own history, rules and prisons. Now these dark forces are coming after Jack... in ruthless fashion. That is reaching into our world... explosively“With the end of all things rapidly approaching, Jack must find the Three Secret Cities, three incredible lost cities of legend.  It’s an impossible task by any reckoning, but Jack must do it while he is being hunted...by the greatest hunters in history.”

The Three Secret Cities
By Matthew Reilly
Publisher: Hachette India; Pages: 448


Well-known nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar has whipped many a celebrity into shape, but her new book is aimed at children. According to the synopsis, “This is Rujuta’s most important book to date, and an attempt to future-proof the health of our next generation. A book that is as much for parents as it is for kids, Notes for Healthy Kids focuses on clearing the underlying food confusion that leads to endless diet trends. It empowers kids to make the right food choices for themselves. Rujuta also calls out the food industry for targeted and misleading advertisements, as well as policymakers for failing to protect the interests of our children. On the practical side, the book combines the latest in nutrition science with the time-tested wisdom of our grandmothers, and offers easy-to-follow advice for all aspects of a child’s life.”

Notes For Healthy Kids
By Rujuta Diwekar
Pages: 256

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