Friday, December 31, 2010

Unsolved: True Canadian Cold Cases

by Robert Hoshowsky,
Dundurn Press, 2010

Hoshowsky's second book of true crime examines twelve Canadian cases that remain unsolved, but that are still considered solvable, with the oldest case dating back to 1967. Most of the cases have some Toronto connection, so in this sense the book doesn't represent the whole of Canada well, but the author is based in Toronto and likely most familiar with the cases he's chosen to include. In addition, he'd have the best access to local police and family members and friends of the victims by focusing on Toronto-related stories.

The goal is admirable: to solve these crimes by providing known and new information and jogging readers' memories surrounding the reported events. Some of the cases are undoubtedly well-remembered by the public (think Sharin' Morningstar Keenan, Nicole Morin, and Nancy and Domenic Ianiero - the latter with a Mexican venue, but involving Canadian victims), others have receded in memory (Ingrid Bauer and Veronica Kaye, for example). The final case in the book documents the mysterious instances of feet washing up on west coast shores in recent years. The stories are well-researched and presented, though some stories are necessarily longer than others, since more information is available about them. There is some repetition throughout the book, possibly because each story stands alone and does not need to be read in the order in which it appears. Weblinks designed to aid in the solving of cold cases are also provided.

I recommend this book to avid true-crime readers, and hope the author is successful in seeing his book used as a tool by ordinary citizens who may have crime-solving information to share with police. This is a much- needed addition to Canadian crime collections.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Faith Like Potatoes: the Story of a Farmer who Risked Everything for God

by Angus Buchan
Monarch Books, 2009

Recently released as a movie as well, Faith Like Potatoes, tells the story of Angus Buchan, his wife Jill, and their ministry, Shalom.

Of Scottish descent, but originally from Zambia, Angus and Jill accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour two years after settling in Greytown, South Africa in 1979. Ten years later they felt God calling them to full-time ministry, with Angus preaching and training others in evangelism, and Jill providing aid to orphans and widows. They also felt it was important that they not ask for financial support, but that their farm operations sustain the ministry.

While the movie is inspiring, it is also a good lead-in to the book, which provides many more stories of God's faithfulness and miracle-working power. Angus describes himself as an "ordinary" person, but through him many extraordinary things have been accomplished to the glory of God. After reading this book, I am encouraged to be a better Christ-follower, more often found in prayer and in God's Word, and living out more fully the love of one of His servants.

Recommended reading for all who want to be serious about their faith.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop: 'tis the season to be deadly: stories of mistletoe and mayhem from 17 masters of suspense

edited by Otto Penzler,
Vanguard Press, 2010

Each year, for the past seventeen years, Otto Penzler, owner of the legendary Mysterious Bookshop in New York City, has commissioned an original story by a leading mystery writer. The requirements were that it be a mystery/ crime/suspense story, that it be set during the Christmas season, and that at least some of the action take place in The Mysterious Bookshop. In most cases, the authors also make reference to the store's owner, Penzler himself.

Now, all of these stories have been collected in one volume. Contributors include Lawrence Block, Mary Higgins Clark, Ed McBain, Anne Perry, and Donald E. Westlake. Some of the tales are humorous, others suspenseful or even mystifying. I enjoyed some more than others, but all were well-written, as would be expected, and I got a kick out of the different ways the authors chose to include the bookshop and its owner. I am also inspired to try some of their other stand-alone work.

A great read, and an excellent choice for the mystery reader on your gift list.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Busy Body: an Agatha Raisin Mystery

by M.C. Beaton,
Minotaur Books, 2010

M.C. Beaton is back in fine form with this latest installment in the Agatha Raisin mystery series. When John Sunday, terror of the local Health and Safety Board, is murdered, there is no shortage of suspects. The man has been the bane of all who delight in Christmas - from Agatha's own minister, the Reverend Bloxby, to ladies in the nearby village of Odley Cruesis where the stabbing takes place.

The murder takes Agatha out of her depression as she seeks to determine its perpetrator. When the killing of Sunday is quickly followed by that of Miriam Courtney, a local would-be socialite, the plot thickens. The violent hanging of Sharon, one of Agatha's employees, by biker-gang boyfriend, Jazz Belter, results in the hiring of Simon Black, detective-in-training. With his help, and that of Agatha's able assistants, Toni and Patrick, the hunt for the Sunday and Courtney killer(s) is on.

Appearances by Raisin regulars Roy, Charles, James, and Mrs. Bloxby add to the fun, and readers will enjoy the addition of Black as a love interest for Toni and foil for indomitable former-PR queen, Agatha. Agatha has all her usual insecurity, angst, and ill-humour, as well as intelligence and rough charm.

An easy-reading romp through the Cotswolds, with plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. A satisfying Christmas mystery.