A Beeline to Murder
A Henny Penny Farmette Mystery #1
Kensington, September 2015
Abigail Mackenzie was once a cop in Las Flores but an accident left her right hand too weak to hold a gun. She hasn’t lost her investigative nose, though. Now living on a small farm, raising bees and selling the honey, she keeps her hand in doing investigative work for the district attorney. When she finds the body of her best customer, the pastry chef Jean-Louis Bonheur, she asks that vital question, “Why?”
This is a cozy debut by Meera Lester with good bones, but a tad overweight for my tastes. A nicely intricate plot unfolds, red herrings and possible Persons of Interest, a debonair love interest—even a rescued dog—keep Abby on the go as she searches for the motive and the killer.
Closer editing—she makes $22 for 16 ounces of honey but sells it in 20 ounce jars—would have kept me better in the story-line.
This is a gentle cozy that should appeal to readers of the genre.
Reviewed by Michele Drier, October 2015.
Author of Delta for Death and SNAP: All That Jazz.
An Arctic Thriller
Dale and Hill Publications, February 2015
This novel begins right away with a conflict – a Russian icebreaker is trying to sneak through the Northwest Passage in Nunavut, but is warned off by two people on snow machines: Leetia Quilliq, daughter of the deputy-premier of Nunavut, and RCMP Inspector Nils Christendorp. Leetia and Nils advise the Russian captain that he’s in Canadian waters, and that he must leave immediately. However, without the power to stop the large icebreaker, the Russians move ahead anyway, while Leetia and Nils are left behind, determined to investigate further into what the Russians were doing.
Nunavut is subtitled “An Arctic Thriller”, which is a fair description. Its premise is based on real issues – global warming is having a big impact on the Canadian North, allowing access to areas that were previously inaccessible, and opening up the potential to tap into its vast reserves of oil and uranium. While such a remote area, so sparsely populated, has not previously been a place to battle over, it may become very desirable in the future, and Canada has already begun to increase its military presence in the Arctic. In addition to the possible fights over Nunavut’s untapped wealth, Nunavut is Canada’s newest territory, still establishing itself and finding ways to become economically viable, while sustaining an Inuit way of life.
Herst explores all of these issues in his thriller, as well as describing the negative impact of the changing environment on the area’s wildlife. Leetia Quilliq, the heroine of the novel, is a veterinarian who operates Seafarers, a clinic that exists to heal injured sea mammals. As the daughter of the deputy-premier, she is also under pressure to enter politics. But as a young woman, she is also trying to choose between having a professional life that takes up all of her time, or starting a family with her plastic surgeon boyfriend, Steven. She is torn between Steven, her RCMP ally Nils, and her father’s friend Siggy, a lawyer and an artist who has been inspired by Nunavut’s famous Cape Dorset sculptors.
Nunavut makes for a fascinating setting. I live in Canada, and I have travelled through a lot of it, but the far North seems like another country even though it is a large part of my country. The characters were interesting as well, with Leetia being the most complex, as she identifies strongly with the Inuit people and yet is herself half-Korean, half-French-Canadian. The mystery aspect of the book centres around the death of a politician, and whether or not it was an accident or an assassination.
For all its strengths, however, Nunavut never completely came alive for me. It seemed overwritten in places, with convoluted sentences that drew me out of the narrative. As well, there were numerous shifts from the past tense to the present tense that I found disconcerting. Herst seemed to be trying to combine not only a thriller scenario, but also a bit of a mystical story, with injured animals magically finding their own way to Seafarers to be treated, and then to mix all of that with romantic suspense, as Leetia tries to choose between the various men pursuing her.
Admittedly, though, Nunavut did make me curious and get me thinking, and I appreciated that. The issues this arctic thriller raises seem important, and I was inspired to do some research and become more aware of what is happening in Nunavut. Herst was successful in painting a strong picture of the challenges that Nunavut is facing, which are so intertwined with its potential for wealth and prominence.
Reviewed by Andrea Thompson, October 2015.