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Reading roundup at the farmette

The day is dreary at the farmette and we’re having our biannual meeting with the financial planner, which is something I look forward to about as much as a mammogram - you know you have to do it, but it doesn’t mean you’ll like it.

So, to cheer myself up and to maybe give you some ideas, I thought I’d do a bit of a roundup of the stuff I’ve been reading lately.

Every Christmas, Rob and I go out and rummage through the local booksellers for treasures to give to each other. Because we have fairly similar tastes - especially when it comes to murder mysteries - we have, on occasion, bought the exact same book for one another. Not so this year.

Rob got me the latest book from Ian Rankin, which is truly a ripper of a yarn. The Scottish author never fails to delight, entertain and grip with his plots and his prose. His backdrop - and actually a main character - is the seedy underbelly of Edinburgh - a fantastically historic town. John Rebus - the protagonist - is now a retired cop who just can’t stay away from the gumshoe work.

While Rebus tends to work at the margins of what’s actually legal, he usually unravels whodunit with the help of long-suffering and loyal colleagues like Siobhan (pronounced Shivon - gotta love Gaelic). This one’s especially juicy since it has a very dark Ukrainian connection and a cold case that has always niggled at the back of Rebus’s brain.

Peter Robinson is another favourite. He’s a Canadian who splits his time between Yorkshire and Toronto. He, too, writes about murder and mayhem, and his main character is Alan Banks.

In this story, Banks has been promoted, and he has to helm two very public investigations that have many parallels, even though the incidents took place 40-plus years apart. It cleverly weaves a tale about how women who are sexually assaulted are treated suspiciously. It also has some very topical overtones, taking on the touchy subject of racism in the slums of northern England. Banks, too, has a lot of help from other cops, including Annie Cabbot, who tends to chafe under the collar of authority.

Finally, as a diversion from dead bodies, I got Rob a book from the author of Downton Abbey, Julian Fellowes. Set just before the battle of Waterloo, this one promises to be just as absorbing as his previous books, with the strong characters and families plotting good and evil moves. Can’t wait to dig into this one, and I may just have to read it before Rob does.

I’ve only touched on the tip of my reading iceberg. I like lots of women authors, too. Like the latest book from Louise Penny called “A Great Reckoning” which continues the story of now-retired Quebec Surete police officer Armand Gamache. The little village of Three Pines where he lives offers up a lot of complexity, darkness, a touch of comedy and good old-fashioned mystery for a place that’s so out of the way. It, too, melds history to modern-day with a map used by soldiers in the first World War and young cadets at the Surete police academy. A highly-recommended read.

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