Music is everywhere in Notorious. From the opening scene at the venerable Bluebird Cafe to the Schermerhorn Symphony to the rusty strings of a down-and-out songwriter forgotten by radio and time. And so, like a great country song, Notorious descends into the trouble in Music City in search of its truth.
The book is fast paced, drawing you in from the first chapter, and progressing with exciting turns in a way that the book is always pleasurable and satisfying, and even the worst antagonists are treated with empathy. It’s hard not to like Gus, who is always ready to lend a helping hand or a basket of fresh picked zucchinis and corn. Lazar is a master craftsman and pays careful attention to language, plot, pacing and character so that all of the elements tie together neatly and seamlessly, description charged with rich nostalgia
The stories told through these columns crosses over the other two stories until the three stories line up, weaving together like a helix, linking Jo with her mother in a way that is slightly mystical. Jo’s own reintegration into Arthurville is managed with just the right blend of nostalgia and irony, Jo’s intelligence providing a lens that is both loving and critical, allowing the town’s homey beauty and its decline to come through her perception.
Water Bodies is a bleakly enjoyable wade through the vice and folly that have got us into our catastrophic predicament. Its humour and wit are dry and acerbic; it meanders this way and that, revealing the illogicality and the primitivism, the superstition and the hate brandished by those who seek to expel, to exclude, to neutralize the demons whom they believe wish to devour them.
The story line travelled along at a comfortable trot, characters make their introductions and the chapters were just the perfect length to hold my interest, and before I knew it, a couple of hundred of pages had quickly passed by. Was this The Great Gatsby meets Alistair Crowley? Wrong again. Eye of the Moon is a classic gothic tale flawlessly composed with the author’s persona that is evident on every page.
Ranging from downtrodden pensioners to wealthy villa owners to ineptly corrupt bureaucrats, Leon’s secondary characters lead Brunetti through complex situations imbued with Italian history and passion, but often tainted by modern Italy’s ineffectual political system.
It’s January and absolutely frigid in Fox’s world. Her little town of Hodgekiss really exists with one bar/restaurant, a new vet but no doctor, and eccentric, white characters who either work for the railroad or are ranchers. A few refer to ‘yotes, which intrigued me as I’ve never heard it before. It’s the dimunitive version of coyotes.
Spann skillfully navigates us through a large cast and new setting with multiple pivotal locations, as well as Hiro’s hidden emotional landscape. As the investigation goes on, tensions between Iga and Koga escalate. The flashpoint is coming; daggers and katana swords are drawn, Hiro and Neko grapple, and when it finally happens, the book’s title takes on more than one meaning.
Spann effortlessly brings us into Hiro’s world of both violence and grace where katana swords and ritual burial armor coexist with the intricate art of flower arranging. The details reflect rigorous research, down to the measure of a room based on the number of tatami mats and the cadence of the characters’ speech. You can almost smell the cherry blossoms.
Lazar is the master of the extended series, building his characters over years, slowly and richly so they become real to the reader. Little by little the characters backstories are revealed, even as we move forward in time and meet children and grandchildren. For readers coming back to the stories, there are plenty of ‘easter eggs’ or references to pick up on.