Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Corpse Will Keep and Farthing (two reviews)

The Corpse Will Keep by Pat CapponiIf mysteries fall on a continuum from light and fluffy cosies to dark and gritty thrillers, the ones I read are found on a narrow strip somewhere in the middle. I want a realistic plot (which means most cosies are out) but no psychopaths or serial killers, no terror and no blow-by-blow descriptions of murder or its results. This means that I’m always on the lookout for new authors, since there are relatively few mysteries that fit my specifications. So I was pleased to discover Pat Capponi’s new series featuring Dana Leoni, of which The Corpse Will Keep is the second. (I read and enjoyed the first in the series, Last Stop Sunnyside, a few years ago.) Although this series is a bit more unrealistic than my favourite mysteries, the characters in these books are what keep me hooked. Dana, a budding PI, lives in a rooming house in Parkdale, a fairly down-and-out working-class neighbourhood in Toronto. The other residents in the rooming house help her solve the mystery, and through them, Capponi gives us a glimpse into the lives of some of Canada’s most marginalized citizens without turning them into problems or statistics. This is a fun, relatively light read.

Luanne at A Bookworm’s World also reviewed this book.

Thank you to Harper Collins Canada for sending me this book to review.

Farthing by Jo WaltonAnother mystery series I just discovered (thanks to a LibraryThing recommendation) is the Small Change books by Jo Walton, of which Farthing is the first. This novel is set in an alternate history in which the Allies didn’t win World War 2, Britain has “made peace” with Hitler and Lindbergh is president of the United States. For the first half of the book, I felt slightly perplexed as the whole thing reads just like a traditional country house whodunit. Although the story is intriguing, the characters well-drawn and I enjoyed the alternating points of view of the inspector who is investigating the murder and Lucy Kahn, the daughter of the house who has fallen out of favour by marrying a Jew, what was the point of the alternate setting? It turns out I was being impatient because the second half of the book suddenly veers sharply to the right and the results are chilling in their implications. The book definitely lives up to its dedication (to “everyone who has ever studied any monstrosity of history, with the serene satisfaction of being horrified while knowing exactly what was going to happen, rather like studying a dragon anatomized upon a table, and then turning around to find the dragon’s present-day relations standing close by, alive and ready to bite”); however, the ending does feel like a set-up for the next two books, Ha’penny and Half a Crown. Regardless, I highly recommend it and am looking forward to reading the next two instalments.

This was one of my favourite books in 2008.

Other reviews of this book:
bookshelves of doomGiraffe DaysMy Individual Take (On the Subject)OF Blog of the FallenRat’s ReadingStella Matutina


  1. I'm always on the lookout for good mysteries. And like you, I want something in the middle. I used to only read cozies until I thought a lot of them were just ridiculous. I still read cozies but I want them to have a bit more substance to them.

    The Jo Walton books sound interesting and different. I'm curious how she'd carry the alternate reality world through a mystery series.

  2. I think the first one sounds interesting. There are some realistic cozies but a lot of the time I just roll my eyes and continue reading anyway.

  3. What exactly is a cosie, Avis? I've seen the term and always wondered. A certain flavor of mystery, I'm thinking ...

    Farthing looks so very good. I think you've mentioned it before and I was anticipating your review. I'm going to add it to my TBR list.


  4. I love alternate-history books and this one escaped my notice. I'm so glad you reviewed 'Farthing'! On to the list it goes!

  5. Iliana and Michele, do read Farthing and let me know what you think! I want to compare notes with other bloggers!

    Ladytink, I don't think you'll find this one too worthy of eye rolling. There were just a couple of things that stretched credibility, but not too much.

    Shana, Wikipedia defines a cosy (or cozy, if you prefer American spelling) as "a subgenre of crime fiction whereby sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously." Usually, the main character is an amateur detective (which is generally a problem for me because that often leads to really unrealistic situations). The Miss Marple books qualify as cosies, for example (and I do enjoy those). And yes, I did mention Farthing in a Tuesday Teasers post!

  6. I believe that one of the inspirations for the Small Change series was the way some post-War mysteries managed read as if they were in some inf of neverending 1930s....

  7. Jo Walton mentioned my review on her LiveJournal site here (see her October 15th entry)!

  8. Ooh...Farthing sounds like a must-read for me! Thanks for the review!


  9. Just realized I never answered your comment, Anna! I hope you get a chance to read this book!

    My review is mentioned on Jo Walton's blog here (this is the link to the right day).